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Authors: Elizabeth Gilzean

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“Thank you very much, Matron. Good night, Matron.”

Sally wiped the palms of her hands on the skirt of her uniform and then pushed the button. The signal light flashed it

s
come in,
and there was no escape.

Turn the door handle, open the door, close it without letting it slip through nervous fingers and slam, take two steps forward, hands neatly behind one

s back, and say, “Good evening, Matron,” and wait for the gray-haired woman behind the desk to acknowledge one

s presence and
wait ...
to hear whether she was going to suggest sitting down. If she did one felt a little
safer...

“Good evening, Nurse Conway. Something very disagreeable has been brought to my notice, I regret to say. Would you like to explain why you have been giving parties when you

re on duty ... in Theater?”

 

CHAPTER FIVE

Sally saw Matron

s face vanish in a whirl of mist for a brief second and then the features of the older woman seemed to emerge into clarity one by one like something out of
Alice
in Wonderland.

“I

m afraid I don

t understand, Matron,” Sally stammered.

And she
didn’t ...
whatever she had expected it hadn

t been this. But who could have gone to Matron with a story like this? Not
Claris
...
there were no contacts on matters of this kind between medical and nursing staff except where very grave charges were involved.

Matron

s face seemed to relax its sternness just a little at Sally

s obvious distress and Sally remembered a rumor that the older woman had once been a theater sister herself.

Sally tried to pull herself together, but she found herself trembling and hoped that Matron wouldn

t notice. She licked her lips and waited for the conversation to be continued.

“You had better sit down, Nurse Conway. Did you sleep properly today?”

Sally sat on the edge of the chair, her hands gripping its sides nervously. “Oh, yes, Matron. I was in bed just after nine and never stirred until my alarm went and Home Sister came in with your message.”

“I

m very glad to hear that, Nurse. Some of your set aren

t quite so sensible ... but we

re getting away from the point. Did you have a party last night?”

“No, Matron,” Sally said thankfully.

The older woman glanced down at some papers on her desk. “I understand that you had two cases last night. Did you come out of Theater in between?”

“Yes, Matron ... for a cup of coffee. I was ready for the second case and Nurse Smithers was waiting to take the instruments out and the patient was still down in Casualty,” Sally said steadily.

“I see. Who else had coffee?”

“Dr.
Brown ...
his was the first case”—Sally realized with dismay that sheer fright was making her chatty ... Matron would know all these details—“and Dr. Tremayne ... he was waiting to start on his.”

“Was anyone else there?”

Sally was puzzled. “No, Matron. Dr. Gerrard had gone down to Casualty to see the next patient.”

Could it have been Claris after all? Sally waited tensely for the next question.

Matron hesitated. “Did your nurse make the coffee?”

Sally shook her head. “No, Matron. I only had the one nurse from Mary Ward ... then. It was ready on the tray when I came out.”

Had Claris been listening at the door before she phoned? But that didn

t make sense ... unless she had used the phone in the theater superintendent

s
office...

“Did anyone come up to Theater while you were having coffee, Nurse?”

So Matron
didn

t
know—or was she merely cross-checking? “Only Dr. Stornoway that I know of, Matron,” Sally said slowly.

“I see. Was she sent for?”

It was coming now and Sally braced herself. “No, Matron.”

“She was just coming up to see if she could give a hand?”

“Something like that, Matron.” Sally prayed that she wouldn

t be asked for the details of Claris

s humiliation.

“And what happened?”

“Dr. Tremayne told her that he could manage with Dr. Brown and suggested she go back to bed.” Sally hoped that that simple truth would be sufficient.

“And she left the
department...”

“As far as I know, Matron.”

Would that be all?

“And how was
Dr. Tremayne ... I
mean toward Dr. Stornoway?” Matron sounded a trifle embarrassed.

“He sounded rather annoyed, Matron. Dr. Stornoway wasn

t on call or anything.”

“I see. So you merely happened to be a witness to something purely personal. Dr. Stornoway seems to have a knack for upsetting staff and not
only medial...”
Matron sighed and began to put the papers on her desk into a folder. “How have you found her, Nurse Conway?”

“I haven

t had much to do with her,” Sally answered truthfully, “but she seems to regard nurses as inferior
beings...”

She wondered if she had said too much, but Matron only nodded. “Some women find it difficult to handle the power that comes with professional freedom,” she said slowly and then added, more briskly, “I

m very thankful to discover that I had been misinformed, Nurse Conway, or at least that what I had been told
had been grossly exaggerated. That

s all, but try to remember that everyone of us has the responsibility of guarding the reputation of St. Bride

s and one person alone could tarnish it.”

“Thank you, Matron. I

ll remember.” Sally got to her feet and backed toward the door. “Good night, Matron.”

The gray-haired woman smiled unexpectedly. “Good night, Nurse Conway. I trust you have a more peaceful night, but I would suggest that another time when you have a hungry surgeon on your hands you inform the night
chef ...
through the proper channels.”

Sally was outside the door before the impact of what Matron had just said struck her. So Matron had known all of it all the time and hadn

t made her tell any of the difficult bits that might have involved other people to their hurt. What a wonderful woman she was and how wise. Sally went sailing along the corridor on winged feet and her heart was singing. Just wait until she told John and George what had happened. Then her feet slowed. If she told them wouldn

t she be undoing all that Matron had done and
she
might be the one person who would tarnish the reputation of St. Bride

s? Had Matron realized that and put her on her honor in a way?

Sally went very thoughtfully up the stairs. All her set who were on nights would be busy taking the report from the day staff and there was no one she could discuss it
with ...
not now. George would be up later. It wasn

t often that he didn

t drop in on his way around the hospital—“George

s progress” it had been affectionately dubbed by the night nurses, and Sally knew that he spent almost as much time on the wards as he did visiting her. But could she tell him or John or anyone beyond giving them a warning to be careful?

The theater superintendent was off duty and Sally was very glad.

Staff Nurse Smithers greeted her cheerfully. “Hello, Conway. Have a good sleep? All the drums have been packed ... at least all that can be ... no more linen left. If you could make some gauze dressings and stitch some mops, we

d be most grateful. And if you really have any spare time we could do with some new gloves ... sixes and eights ... if you

d powder them and leave them in their boxes. No rumors of any cases or—”

“—anything,” Sally offered.

But her bait brought nothing fresh.

“Just the usual. Theater Super

s been biting everyone but she does that most days now. Oh, you might like to know Gloria and Mike are holding their own, and there

s a piece in the daily paper—but perhaps you

ve seen it.”

“Not I. Someone had pinched it from the sitting room. What did it say?”

“Nothing much, just saying that Mike was the king of the

ton

boys or whatever that means.”

“That

s the guys who do over a hundred miles on their bikes,” said a voice behind them.

Sally whirled round and then wished she hadn

t. A pair of light blue eyes were giving her a look that wasn

t quite as casual as ... last night.

“Good evening, sir,” she said with more calm than she was feeling.

“How was your bed? Did it feel as good as you thought it would?”

“Yes, sir, it did.”

Sally knew she was sounding stiff and stilted and it didn

t help to see Smithers trying to make a tactful
withdrawal ...
and she hadn

t a chance to ask her a very important question, and she couldn

t very well run after
her...

John showed no signs of following Nurse Smithers

s example, and he settled himself comfortably on a corner of the table in the staff room.

Sally picked up the big roll of gauze and began to fold it into lengths.

John watched her for a moment. “Cat got your tongue—or am I upsetting the precious system again?”

Sally moved restlessly. “It isn

t
that ...
it

s because you

re too ... senior!”

Sally had to laugh. “You

re hopeless! It isn

t that I don

t want to talk to you ... and don

t you dare take that the wrong way! It

s that I

m
on duty ...
but when you

re up in the theater doing
a case you

ve got an official reason for being here, but—”

“—but not otherwise, eh? I get you, but how come George doesn

t come on the restricted list—or is that a forbidden question?”

Sally hesitated. “George is different. He goes around all the wards every night he

s on and he usually calls in here before he goes off to let me know whether anyone

s likely to come in for surgery.”

“So George is different. He sweet on you or something?”

Sally was very much aware of the watchful blue eyes. “No, I don

t think so ... not as far as I know,” she said frankly. “We

ve known one another a long time and—”

“—so you can cut out the frills and the red tape and enjoy one another

s company ... nice work. What do I have to do to get on that basis?”

Sally concentrated on the gauze she was folding. “I don

t know,” she said slowly.

“That

s honest, I guess, but not much help. Can I take you out?”

Sally laughed helplessly but he only looked puzzled.

“What

s the joke? Don

t you want to be seen with me or something?”

Sally mopped her eyes. “I

m sorry! I didn

t mean to be rude but you see ... I

m on nights so that you can have your operating session—and as long as I

m on nights I

m not free to go out!”

“I get you,” he said gloomily. “

So unless I get up at the crack of dawn and take you out like this morning I don

t get to see you. Don

t you get nights off or something?”

“I don

t know what

s going to happen about that. You see, normally you do a short period of night duty and have your nights off when you finish it. But it

s different now you

re working here.”

“I should hope so, too. But seriously, Sally, isn

t there any way? Can

t you hop out of bed early or something?”

Sally hesitated. “Some of the juniors do sometimes but it

s not worth the risk.”

“You mean they lock you in or something?” His tone was incredulous.

“Not quite,” she admitted.

“Well, in that case will you come with me tomorrow morning?”

Sally tried to hide her dismay. “I

d like to but I

d better not,” she said finally.

“Why not?” he demanded. “Did someone see us?”

Sally shook her head and repressed a shudder. Matron might not have been quite so understanding if
that
item had been reported to her.

BOOK: Yankee Surgeon
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