Nurse Errant

By: Lucilla Andrews
For DOROTHY and GEORGE





Chapter One


MAN OFF A ROOF

The telephone woke me that morning. ‘Nurse, I do apologise for disturbing you so early on your day off,’ said old Dr Grimmond’s voice, ‘but I want to say good-bye to you before leaving for hospital.’

‘Hospital, Dr Grimmond?’ I was awake now.

‘I’m afraid so, Nurse. You know that specialist, Ferguson, I mentioned to you? I spoke to him yesterday, and he thinks I should go into St Martin’s for a spell to-day. When I said I could not possibly get away at such short notice he even produced a locum for me. A man called Ellis, who has recently been his registrar. Ellis came down last night and takes over this morning. So my wife and I are taking the fast eight-thirty to London.’

‘Doctor, I am sorry.’ I was, too. ‘I do hope all goes well with you in Martin’s.’

‘It will. Ferguson’s a good man. He’ll put me right. I’m only sorry to have to leave my practice. But I expect Ellis will do very well ‒ and, incidentally, Nurse, there’s one thing more ‒ those bulbs.’

‘Bulbs?’ I echoed absently, my mind on his news.

‘Those assorted daffodil bulbs I said I’d let you have last week after our Baby Clinic. They ought to go in at once, so I’ll get Ellis to drop them in some time this morning when he comes over to your village to look at the Withers children. Get them in quickly. They should make a good show next spring.’

I promised I would, wished him good luck, and he rang off. I put down the receiver thoughtfully. I had known he had not been well for some time, but it had never occurred to me his condition was as serious as it obviously was. No specialist would have insisted on removing a busy country G.P. in midweek without good reason. He was going to be missed by many people, including myself. Ever since my arrival in the village a few months ago, he had helped me tremendously. He really was a family doctor, had built his scattered practice into an enormous family during the last thirty years, knew every other person on the marsh by his or her Christian name, and was known as the Old Doctor in each of the seventeen marsh villages.

I was far too awake to consider going back to sleep. I dressed, and went down to cook breakfast and wear off some of my concern in energy.

My sister Ann came into the kitchen a few minutes after me. ‘Lesley, darling, what are you doing up? Forgotten it’s your day off? And my promise to bring you breakfast in bed?’

‘I felt energetic,’ I said, and explained.

‘Darling, I am sorry. He’s an old pet. How sweet of him to remember the bulbs.’

‘And typical. He’s a good man, Annie. Bacon?’

‘Thanks.’ She helped herself to tea. ‘Who’s this Ellis? Another old-timer?’

‘Doubt it. He’s recently been a registrar at Martin’s.’ The frying-pan began to splutter, so I moved it off the hotplate. ‘I’ll tell you more this evening. He’s bringing the bulbs when he comes over to see the Withers infants. Measles.’ I glanced at the clock. ‘Honey, if you’re going to get that train you’ll have to move.’

‘When I’ve had some food.’ She reached for the cereal, and ate standing. ‘I’m hollow this morning.’

Ann was always hollow despite a massive appetite. No matter how much she ate, she never put on extra weight. She was very fair, very slim, not exactly pretty, but in certain moods could look quite beautiful.

I was four years older. Our parents had been killed in a car accident when she was in her last term at boarding-school and I was half-way through my general hospital training. We had been left with only one living relative, a great-aunt who had come magnificently to our rescue, paid for Ann’s secretarial training, and later bequeathed us the cottage that was now our home.

The cottage and our village stood on the edge of the great marsh over a hundred miles from London. During our great-aunt’s lifetime she had seemed to us to live in a different world to our own, and we had only been able to afford visiting her occasionally. It had never dawned on us that we would one day live in her village. Then she died a few years back, and her solicitor travelled to London to show us her will and discuss the cottage. ‘No doubt you wish me to sell it for you, Miss Sanders? It is too far off the map for your hospital work or your sister’s commercial career.’

When he said that, Ann and I had looked at each other and had the same idea. The cottage meant we could have a home again. A home was something we had lost with our parents. We were instantly determined to work out some scheme that would allow us to work and keep the cottage.

It was the matron of my hospital who showed us the way. She advised me to train as a district nurse. ‘Let the cottage furnished for the time being, Nurse Sanders. Once trained, apply to work in or near the village. There must be a market-town reasonably near in which your sister could obtain a secretarial post. Good secretaries are in demand all over the country.’

At first our plans seemed to drag, then quite suddenly they speeded up. Seven months ago I was given the job I wanted in our village. Ann followed me from London after six of those months. She had had to stay in town, as she had promised her previous boss not to leave until the holiday season was over.

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