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Theatre was working late; it had been a quiet morning with a couple of straightforward cases, but the two o'clock list had started badly, when a perfectly simple appendix had turned out to be a diverticulitis; and even though the next three cases had gone smoothly, an emergency strangulated hernia, pushed in ruthlessly towards the end of the afternoon, had made nonsense of the list. With barely a tenminute break for tea, Mr GoreSymes, the senior consultant at the Royal City Hospital, was already three hours behind time.
Loveday Pearce, Sister in charge of the main theatre, had disposed her staff as best she might, sending them off duty at last, although late, so that now, at almost eight o'clock in the evening, she was left with only her senior staff nurse, Peggy Cross, a secondyear student nurse who didn't much care for theatre work, and was consequently not of much use, Bert the technician and the admirable Mrs Thripps, a nursing auxiliary who had worked so long in theatre that Loveday sometimes declared that in an emergency, she would be quite capable of scrubbing up and taking a case. She nodded to that good lady now as she slid forward to change the
bowls, and Mrs Thripps, understanding the nod, finished what she was doing and took herself off duty too. She was already very late and although Loveday knew that she would have stayed uncomplainingly as long as she was required, she had a husband and three children at home; it would have been unfair to have asked her to stay any longerthey would have to manage without her.
Mr GoreSymes, assisted by his registrar, Gordon Blair, was tidily putting together those portions of his patient's anatomy which had needed his skilled attention; he would be quickly finished now, there remained only the sigmoidoscopy, an examination which would take but a few minutes. Loveday raised a nicely shaped eyebrow at her staff nurse as a signal for her to start clearing away those instruments no longer needed, and nodded again at the student nurse, impatient to be gone. That left herself, Staff and Bertshe nodded to him too. He was a rather dour Scot, devoted to her, but with stern views as to just how much overtime he should do. He disappeared also, leaving the theatre looking empty. Loveday collected the rest of the instruments in a bowl, gave them to Staff, handed the registrar the stitch scissors, Mr GoreSymes his own particular needle holder and the needle he fancied, and allowed her thoughts to turn to supper: it had been a long, tiring afternoon and she was beginning to flag just a little.
Mr GoreSymes stood back presently, put the needle holder on to the Mayo's table, said: 'Finish off, Gordon, will you?' and wandered off to shed his gown. As he
went he said over his shoulder in a satisfied voice: 'One more, eh?'
The last patient was wheeled in ten minutes later, and Mr GoreSymes, perched on a stool, applied his trained eye to the sigmoidoscope. He was by nature a midtempered man, but now the language which passed his lips was anything but mild. Loveday, used to rude words of all kinds after four years as a Theatre Sister, raised her eyebrows briefly, accepted her superior's apology with calm, and thanked God silently that she had had the forethought to lay up a trolley against just such an unfortunate eventuality as this one.
'Another ' the surgeon bit back another word, 'diverticulitis, Loveday. How long will you need?'
'I'm ready when you are, sir.' She forced her voice to cheerfulness; if she was weary, how must he feel? He wasn't a young man any more. She whispered to the everwatchful Staff to let the ward know, and with the calm of long training, handed Gordon the first of the sterile towels.
The operation went very well; it was a little before ten o'clock when the patient was wheeled away and the night runner, who had been sent to give a hand, was dispatched to make coffee for everyone. But Loveday wasted no time over hers; she gulped half of it down, excused herself and went back to theatre, to be joined within minutes by Peggy Cross. They knew their work well; with barely a word they cleared, scrubbed instruments, put them ready for the CSD in the morning, wiped and washed, polished and tidied away until the
theatre looked as pristine as Loveday's high standards demanded. Only then did she say:
'Lord, what a day, Peggythank heaven there's no list until eleven tomorrow.' She was pulling off her gown as she spoke and then the cap and mask she hadn't bothered to take off earlier, to reveal a charming face despite its tiredness; big brown eyes thickly fringed with black lashes, a straight nose and a generously curved mouth above a determined chin. Her hair was very dark; a rich, deep browna shade untidy by now, but normally drawn back into a thick twist above her slender neck. She was a tall girl and not thin, but she had a graceful way of moving which made her seem slimmer than she was. She walked slowly across the theatre now, flung her discarded garments into the bin, rolled down her sleeves, and stood waiting for her staff nurse, a small, plump girl with a round cheerful face, which, even after several hours of overtime for which she wouldn't get paid, was still smiling.
'Supper?' she asked Loveday as they left the theatre together. Loveday shut the doors carefully behind her and paused at her office. 'Not for me, thanksyou go on. I'm going to do the books and make a pot of tea when I get over to the Home.' She yawned widely, added a good night, and sat down at her desk. The night sister who took theatre would be along presently; she would hand the keys over to her, in the meantime she could get the operation list finished.
She reached her room finally, tossed off her cap, crammed her feet into her slippers and prepared to go along to the pantry and make tea. Most of her friends
were out, and for once she was glad to be on her own; bath and bed seemed very attractive.
She was half way to the door when it was flung open and a girl came in. She was a tall young woman, as tall as Loveday, but whereas Loveday was vividly dark, this girl was fair, with ashblonde hair and bright blue eyes and generous curves. She stopped in the doorway and cried dramatically and with faint pettishness, 'LovedayI thought you would never come! I have waited and waited. I am in the greatest trouble.'
Loveday saw that the tea kettle would have to wait. She started to take off her uniform instead; Rimada was her greatest friend and she liked her enormously, even while she was sometimes impatient of her inability to accept life as it came. Possibly this was because the Dutch girl was an only child, hopelessly spoilt by a doting mother and used to having her own way. When Loveday had first become friendly with her, she had asked why she had ever taken up nursingand in a country other than her own, tooto be told that it had all been the doing of her guardian, a cousin older than herself, a man, Rimada had declared furiously, who delighted in making her do things she had no wish to do.
'Didn't you want to be a nurse, then?' Loveday had asked.
'Of course,' Rimada had insisted vehemently, 'but when I wished it, not he. There was a young man, you understandhe wanted to marry me and I thought it might be rather fun, but Adam would not allow it, so I told him that I would retire from the world and be a nurse, and he arranged it all so quickly that I had no
time to change my mind.' She had turned indignant blue eyes upon Loveday, who had said roundly: 'Oh, Rimmy, what rubbishno one can make people do things they don't want to do, not these days.'
'Adam can,' Rimada had said simply, 'until I am twentyfive.'
Now Loveday eyed Rimada's stormy countenance as she got into her dressing gown. 'What's up?' she asked. 'Don't tell me that Big Bertha has been at you again?'
Big Bertha was the Senior Nursing Officer on the Surgical Block where Rimada was in charge of a women's surgical ward.
'Far worse,' breathed Rimada, 'it is Adam.'
Loveday took the pins out of her hair and allowed it to fall in a thick curtain down her back. 'Look,' she began, 'I've had a simply foul time since two o'clock do you mind if we talk about it over a cup of tea?'
Rimada was instantly contrite. 'I am a selfish girl,' she declared in the tones of one who doesn't really believe what she is saying. 'We will make tea and I will myself go to the warden's office and request sandwiches.'
Loveday was making for the pantry. 'You do that,' she advised. 'You're the only one of us who can wheedle anything out of Old Mossy.' Which was indeed true; perhaps because Rimada had, for the whole of her life, expectedand hadher wishes fulfilled as soon as she uttered them, and Old Mossy had recognized the fact that to say no would have been a useless waste of time. Rimada, Loveday reflected as she spooned tea into the pot, had an arrogance of manner when she wanted her
own waynot arrogance, she corrected herself, merely a certainty that no one would gainsay her.
She bore the teatray back to her room and found Rimada already there, the promised sandwiches on a plate and a packet of crisps besides.
'Wherever did you get those?' she demanded.
'I asked Old Mossy for them,' Rimada smiled in triumph. 'I can get anything I want,' she stated without conceit. Her face clouded. 'Excepting when the horrible Adam does not wish it.'
Loveday drank tea and bit into a sandwich. There were a nice lot of them, all cheese, and the teapot was a large one. She relaxed, tucked her feet under her on the bed, added more sugar to her tea and said briefly:
'I am in love with Terry,' began Rimada, a statement which drew forth no surprise on Loveday's part; Rimada fell in and out of love with almost monotonous frequency.
'That new houseman on Surgical? He's a head shorter than you are!'
Rimada frowned. 'That has nothing to do with itI do not care in the least. He thinks of me as a Rhine Maiden.' She looked rapt.
Loveday looked astonished. 'A what? But you're Dutchthey were Germans, weren't they, with enormous bosoms and dreadfully warlike.' She studied her friend. 'He's got it all wrong,' she finished in a kindly way, and took another bite of her sandwich.
Rimada looked put out. 'It is a compliment.'
'What happened to Arthur?' asked Loveday. Arthur
had been in evidence for some weeks; he worked in the Path Lab, and while a young man of unassuming manner, had been more or less harmless. 'He wears glasses.'
Loveday nodded. 'Yes, I see what you mean.' She didn't much care for glasses herself, although several of the young gentlemen who had engaged her fancy from time to time had worn them. She poured more tea for them both. 'Well, even if this Terry's shorter than you are, I don't suppose it matters. You said something about your guardiando they know each other or something?'
Rimada's eyes glinted with rage. 'Nohow could they? But Terry wants to marry me, and this evening I telephoned Adam and told him that I wished it also. He laughed ' her voice shook with temper. 'He said that Terry sounded like a young idiot who was after my money and I could count on him never giving his consent.'
'You'll be twentyfive in a year's time,' Loveday reminded her. 'That's not long to wait, he can't stop you
'I do not wish to wait,' stated Rimada heatedly. 'I wish to marry now, and so also does Terry.'
'But he doesn't earn enough to keep you,' Loveday pointed out.
'I know that, but we can live on my money. I have a great deal of it, you know.'
'But your guardian won't let you have it; you've just said so.' Loveday frowned. 'And I can't say that I altogether blame him, however dreary he is about it. You
don't know much about Terry, do you? I mean, he's only been here about three weeks. I know you've been out with him, but that's not very.'
'Do not be an old maid,' begged her friend tartly. 'At twentyseven you are perhaps getting ' She paused, at a loss for a word.
'Stuffy,' supplied Loveday cheerfully. 'I daresay I am.' Rimada was instantly penitent. 'Oh, Loveday, I did not mean that! You are so pretty, and all the men like you and really you do not look as old as you are.' She smiled engagingly. 'But you do not love easily, do you? I do not know whyit is so easy a thing to do.'
'Oh, well, I daresay I'll meet a man I want to marry one day.'
'And if you do not?'
'I'll not marry. Now, let's get back to Terry. What's he got to say about all this?'
'He is most unhappy; he wished to marry me as soon as he could get a licence.'
'Then why doesn't he? You're twentyfour, you know.'
'But if I marry before I am twentyfive without Adam's consent, I do not have any money.'
Loveday stared at her friend. The conversation was getting repetitive. Terry might be in love, but he might be in love with money as well. The guardian, cagey old dragon though he might be, would naturally think that. 'I should wait a bit,' she counselled. 'Why not go over to Holland and talk to him?'
'Talk to Adam?' Rimada asked with something like horror. 'He supposes me to be a child; he laughs a little
and tells me to grow up and that I am foolish.' Her eyes narrowed. 'But perhaps, if I have an idea, dear Loveday, you will help me.'
'Not now, I won'tI'm dog tired.'
'Sillynot now, of course. But if I should have a very clever idea perhaps I could not carry it out without your help.'
'I am not making any promises.'
'It will be nothing bad, I promise you, but I want my own way and there must be something I can do to make Adam give inif we were already married, how could he help it? We are a large familyeveryone would be angry with him if he leaves me to live in poverty when I have so big a fortune.'
Loveday shook her head. 'No, I couldn't do that,' she protested. 'It wouldn't be cricket.'
'Cricket? But I do not wish to play cricket, I wish to get married.' Rimada looked put out. 'You English and your games!' she added irritably.
'Sorry, ducky.' Loveday got off the bed and stacked the teathings on to the tray. 'I'd love to help you, but not to go behind your guardian's back. I still think that youand Terry, why not?should go to Holland and see him. He can't be that awful.' She paused as a thought struck her. 'Why not get at him through his wife?'
Rimada giggled. 'He has no wife, he is a footloose bachelor.'
Loveday padded along to the pantry, Rimada behind her. The guardian, she imagined, was a Professor Higgins without the charm, and with a middleaged eye for the girls. 'Let's sleep on it,' she suggested. 'There
must be somethingsome way of getting round him. And there's no hurry, is there? I mean, you've only known Terry for a few weeks, haven't you?'
'I shall love him for ever,' declared her friend dramatically. 'But I will have patience for a day or two while you think of something, dear Loveday; you are so clever.'
She smiled winningly, said good night and tripped away to her own room, to reappear a moment later. 'There is a hat in a little shop in Bond Street,' she rolled her fine eyes, 'it is so charmingit would do for my weddingpale blue.'
'And wildly expensive, I'll be bound.'
Rimada shrugged. 'Oh, yes, but I want it.' She smiled with great charm. 'And I shall buy it tomorrow.' She disappeared once more, and Loveday, left alone, got ready for her bath while she pondered Rimada's wish to marry Terry Wilde. She felt sure that if she could persuade her to wait a week or two, she would either have fallen out of love, or realized that the only thing to do was to get her guardian on her side. Loveday, brushing her hair as she paced round her room, frowned in thought, she didn't like Terry very muchhe was young and goodlooking and had a charm of manner which somehow didn't ring true; there were quite a number of nurses in the hospital who found him attractive, but she thought that there was very little underneath the facile charm. He had worked in theatre once or twice and she hadn't been impressed; she had had the feeling that he wasn't very good at his job and hid the fact under a showy pretence of knowledge. She got into bed and turned out
the light, quite resolved to have nothing to do with her friend's harebrained schemes.
A resolve she was to break within a very short timethe next day in fact. The list had been short and had gone without a hitch; there was a heavy list for the afternoon, though, and the first operation was to be done by some specialist, Gordon had told her, apologizing at the same time for not having warned her earlier in the day, but Mr GoreSymes hadn't been perfectly certain that he was coming; it was some new technique this professor somethingorother had perfected, and the old man was deeply interested in it. 'I believe the fellow brings his own instruments,' he concluded.
'In that case,' Loveday had told him, 'he'd better hand them over pretty smartish, or we shall all be standing around waiting for them. Do the CSD do them or am I supposed to see to it, I wonder? Why doesn't someone