Nurse in Waiting

Nurse in Waiting by Jane Arbor Read Free Book Online

Book: Nurse in Waiting by Jane Arbor Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jane Arbor
expecting my first visit from your doctor — Do you mind?” Again it was the cool
    assurance that she would be obeyed which constrained Roger to take from her the preferred teacup.
    He gulped its contents and looked up with a grimace. “What have they made this from? Last night’s washing-up water?”
    “I had it freshly made. I thought you would prefer it.”
    “But we like our tea with a bit of body to it! You’re not going to anglicize that! Take it away.
    I can’t drink it.”
    He set down the cup petulantly. After a second’s hesitation Joanna, her fair skin flushed with annoyance at his rudeness, picked up the tray and moved towards the door. But before she reached it a voice from the bed said:
    “I’m sorry. You couldn’t know. I’ll have a stab at it if you like.” He was thinking as she turned about, smiling now, that he had been wrong when he had decided that in uniform she would look utterly inhuman. All that stiff, immaculate whiteness, which you would expect to drain color from anyone so fair, seemed to serve this girl by its very severity and simplicity. And fractiousness had been worth it, to bring that sort of morning flush to her cheeks!
    She was saying: “It doesn’t matter. I’ll see that it’s as you like it another morning.” But he beckoned rather imperiously towards the tray, and so she brought it back to him.
    She had left his room and was crossing the hall when the baize door leading to the kitchen regions was flung open as three lumbering golden bodies jostled each other for place. They were followed by Shuan, who held their leashes gathered into one hand, while she held her dressing gown from her feet with the other.
    Her lovely eyes were bright with the hurt indignation of a child as, at sight of J oanna, she accused:
    “You’ve taken Roger’s tea! I always do it! And Mums told you that she wanted me to go on. I know she did, because I asked her after you’d gone to bed. You haven’t any right to interfere like this!”
    Rather pointedly—perhaps even a little cruelly, she thought afterwards —Joanna glanced at her watch. “I’m sorry,” she said. “ I asked Mrs. Carnehill whether you would like to go on as before. But Dr. Beltane is coming this morning, and it is getting late —”
    “Late! As though Beltie cares, so long as he can get asked to lunch! Why, it isn’t half-past eight! And Roger hates being dragged out of sleep just for tea !”
    “He was already awake,” Joanna pointed out dryly. Then she went on more gently: “But does it really matter who takes his tea? He is still drinking it. Why don’t you take the dogs in and talk to him as you usually do, until I am ready to give him his blanket bath?”
    Shuan stared, hostility mixed with incredulity in her eyes. “You don’t really want the dogs in Roger’s room. He said you didn’t.”
    “It’s a matter of entire indifference to me, until I’ve had the doctor’s orders to the contrary.” Joanna felt suddenly that, given a little more provocation, she might smack Shuan—quite pleasurably.
    “Well, you won’t get those. Beltie doesn’t care what we do so long as we keep Roger happy.” And Shuan swept on across the hall towards Roger’s room, the dogs dragging tautly on the leash and her head held very high in an absurdly childish attempt at dignity.
    As Joanna went about her work her feeling alternated between extreme irritation and an odd sympathy for Shuan. She felt irritated when she remembered that Mrs. Carnehill had told her she was eighteen, so that was fully old enough to control her manners, and she felt sympathetic when, from her own superior heights of twenty-five, she looked back and realized how pitifully easy it was to be hurt—at eighteen!
    She began to wonder, too, what sort of an ally this ‘Beltie’—Dr. Beltane—would prove to be. On the telephone she had liked the sound of his voice, but Shuan seemed to set such store by his authority that she had already begun to

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