Cherry Ames 24 Companion Nurse (5 page)

BOOK: Cherry Ames 24 Companion Nurse
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FLIGHT TO LONDON

35

“How do you feel?” Cherry asked. Cherry knew that Martha must walk up and down the plane aisle at least once every hour, to avoid stiffness.

“I feel wonderful,” Martha said. . . . “Well, yes, my arm aches.”

Cherry reached for a pillow from the rack overhead, to prop under the aching arm. Instantly the breezy-looking young man in the seat ahead jumped up as Cherry stood up. “Let me help you,” he said. “I—uh—

I’m the one who swapped seats with you at the airline’s request so you could sit together—so I’m sort of interested.” Cherry smiled at him and sat down.

At eleven, after Martha had rested, Cherry took her for the fi rst slow, uncertain walk along the plane aisle.

The plane rolled only very slightly. Her shaky patient managed to walk. A few passengers glanced up, and the young steward hurried to assist, but Cherry shook her head. As the injured woman and her nurse neared his seat, the important-looking little man rose and offered Martha Logan “a moment’s rest in my seat.” She smiled and declined.

An hour later, at noon, when they attempted the walk again, the man rose and deferentially spoke to them.

“I beg your pardon, madam, but I’ve long been a great admirer of your books. Aren’t you Martha Logan?

I believe I recognize you from the photograph on the book jackets.”

Martha colored with pleasure. “How very kind of you.”

36
CHERRY

AMES,

COMPANION

NURSE

“Would it be an imposition if—it would mean so much to me to chat with you for a few minutes—

unless,” the man glanced tactfully at Cherry, “your nurse feels it would tire you?”

“Not at all,” Martha answered. “I’d be delighted to have some conversation.”

After they resumed their seats, the portly little man came and stood in the aisle beside them. He presented Mrs. Logan with his card—his name was Archibald Hazard. Martha introduced him to Cherry, and he gave her a charming, if faintly condescending, smile.

He was a New Yorker, an economist, on the staff of a magazine in that fi eld, he said briefl y. “But my private enthusiasm is art and art history. Particularly those of England. You can imagine, Mrs. Logan, how much enjoyment your distinguished books give me.” Mr. Hazard seemed rather distinguished himself, Cherry thought, as the other two conversed. Mr. Hazard also seemed to possess an impressive knowledge of art, judging from Martha’s interest in what he said. Yes, he had often been abroad; yes, sometimes collecting a few works of art, he admitted, “but chiefl y for study and the refreshment of travel and to see my friends.

“Tell me, Mrs. Logan,” he asked, “what do you think of the historical portraits in the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace?”

Martha Logan said she admired the Rembrandt and Holbein portraits very much, then asked his opinion about other paintings in the collection. Cherry noticed that Mr. Hazard quickly, deftly changed the subject.

FLIGHT TO LONDON

37

Martha did not seem to mind, but Cherry wondered.

Was he pretending to know more than he actually did?

They were deep in conversation, agreeing, disagreeing, comparing notes. In the seat ahead the young man’s head was cocked out in the aisle as if he were listening—until a stewardess came by carrying lunch trays. The stewardess wanted to serve the injured passenger fi rst. Mr. Hazard seemed to be annoyed at the interruption, thanked Martha Logan, and excused himself.

“He’s an interesting man,” Martha said, as Cherry cut up her meat for her. “It’s fun fi nding an art enthusiast on the plane!”

“Well, cheers,” Cherry said, “and now please try to eat something.” Her patient, still remarking on the conversation, had to be coaxed, all but fed. After lunch Cherry opened the small canvas fl ight bag she had packed with a few comforts for her patient, took out soft knitted slippers, and helped Martha put them on.

“How you spoil me,” her patient said. “I feel like an overgrown infant. Don’t be surprised if I give forth with baby talk.”

“You’ll be self-reliant soon,” Cherry said. “Try to sleep now,” she advised, offering her dark glasses. The light up here above the clouds was brilliant, though less bright than before. In fact, although Cherry’s wristwatch—on New York time, Eastern Daylight Sav-ing Time—read one o’clock, actually noon, outside it looked like midafternoon.

38
CHERRY

AMES,

COMPANION

NURSE

Her patient napped for only about twenty minutes.

Then Cherry slipped Martha’s shoes on for her, and they started for a shaky walk again. This time, the young man in the seat ahead gave Martha a hand as the plane swayed. In his quick movement, he dropped his book, and Martha noticed it was a mystery story.

“I love these,” she said to the young man. Cherry looked surprised. “Oh, yes, I put two mysteries into my big suitcase when you weren’t looking. You know, tracking down historical facts that are half lost is a kind of detective work.”

“I’ve read your historical novels, Mrs. Logan,” the young man said. “In fact, I assign them to my classes for background reading. I’m Peter Holt. I teach English literature at—” He named a state university in the Northwest.

“What—not American literature?” Cherry asked teasingly.

“That’s a point,” Martha Logan said, laughing. “This is Cherry Ames, Mr. Holt. She bullies me into walking.

Come and talk to us after our parade.” They moved off. Most of the passengers were dozing after lunch. Cherry noticed that Mr. Hazard was asleep. A stewardess came and asked if Mrs. Logan or her nurse needed anything, but Cherry answered, “No, thanks.” On their return to their seats, Martha seemed ready to rest. Cherry settled her comfortably, and in a few minutes she closed her eyes.

Someone whispered, “Can you come out and talk to me?” It was Peter Holt. Cherry decided her patient

FLIGHT TO LONDON

39

might sleep for a while, so she crawled past her and followed the young man. They went to stand in an open area at the end of the cabin. She could watch Martha from there.

“I was surprised to hear you’re a professor,” Cherry said. “Aren’t professors supposed to be old and solemn?”

“I’ll be old eventually,” he assured her. “In the meantime, I’m only an assistant professor.”

“Are you terribly learned?”

“Well, I have a Ph.D., but I ask my students not to call me ‘doctor.’ Plain ‘mister’ is good enough. I’m on my way to meet a dozen of my students now,” he volunteered. “We’re taking a student tour through England.

They went ahead on a charter plane, with the Kimball kids’ parents as chaperones temporarily—I was delayed, I had to take care of some business for my mother. I’ll meet the students in London and take over.”

“A student tour sounds like a wonderful way to study,” Cherry said. “Where are you going?” Peter described their three-week itinerary—a stay in London, on to Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon, north through the Lake Country of Wordsworth, and fi nally into Scotland to Edinburgh.

“We’ll go on bicycles part of the way. I’ve done that before,” he said, his face bright with the memory.

“We’ll fl y home just in time for the opening of the fall semester.”

“Your itinerary is much the same as Mrs. Logan’s and mine,” Cherry said.

40
CHERRY

AMES,

COMPANION

NURSE

“I hope we’ll see each other along the way.” They compared the timing of their routes. It seemed possible they would meet. “At least perhaps in London, these next few days,” Peter Holt said. Cherry told him the name of their hotel, sure her employer would not mind. He said, “You know, I’d like a chance to get to know Martha Logan a little. Her work is—”

“Oh-ho, so it’s not me you’d like to see again,” Cherry teased.

Peter simply grinned and shook his head. “Mrs.

Logan is charming, but she’s not my reason.” He looked squarely at Cherry. “By the way, have you noticed the honeymoon couple sitting next to me? Their clothes are brand new; she’s wearing orchids or something; and they’re so absorbed in each other they don’t know the other passengers exist. Ah, well, I’m for romance.” Cherry smiled and said nothing. Their conversation hung there, unfi nished. She peered down the aisle.

“Excuse me, but I think Mrs. Logan is awake now.” They started to their seats. Martha looked refreshed, and remarked on how rapidly the afternoon was fading.

The clouds below them glowed with sunset refl ections as the plane fl ew ahead into a dusk-darkened sky. It was two o’clock by Cherry’s wristwatch. Martha had already set her watch fi ve hours forward to London time.

They took another slow, unsteady walk. Mr. Hazard rose to ask if he might come back to continue their chat. On returning to their seats, they found Mr. Hazard persuading the brisk young businessman across the aisle to trade seats with him for a while.

FLIGHT TO LONDON

41

This time Peter Holt joined in the conversation, perched on the arm of his seat. Martha introduced the young man to Archibald Hazard, who half ignored him.

Perhaps Mr. Hazard felt entitled to a monopoly on Martha Logan’s attention, Cherry thought, and did not want Peter’s competition. For Peter more than held his own in their far-ranging conversation. Peter outshone the older man, who cut him short by saying:

“Do you plan to be in London long, Mrs. Logan?”

“For about a week,” she replied.

“So shall I. Then possibly to Paris. You, too?”

“No, a leisurely trip through central England—

Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, the Midlands, up to Lake Windermere to the Carewe Museum—”

“The Carewe Museum!” Mr. Hazard interrupted her. “What a privilege! How I envy your having entree there! Such a jealously guarded collection. I’ve never even
tried
to get in.”

“Well, I suppose they’d never have let me in, either,” Martha said, “except that I need to see those famous old portraits for my next book.”

“I’ve heard,” Mr. Hazard said, “that John Carewe is an eccentric and one must write far in advance for a card of admission, and then, there’s a tremendous, long-winded fuss about references. Did that character give you a specifi c date for your visit?”

“Oh, very specifi c.” At this, Mr. Hazard raised his eyebrows. He looked so amused and interested that Martha Logan said, “We are to visit on Monday, September twenty-third, at exactly ten o’clock in the morning, and 42
CHERRY

AMES,

COMPANION

NURSE

we are allowed to stay no more than two hours. Oh, yes, I was required to give references. I still don’t know whether they’ll let my nurse come in with me.” Archibald Hazard laughed so hard that his potbelly shook.

“Yes, I’ve heard other stories like that about the leg-endary John Carewe,” Peter said. He and Cherry had been left out of the conversation. Martha turned to include them.

“Have you, Mr. Holt? Well, possibly Mr. Carewe
is
eccentric,” Martha Logan said, “or perhaps he’s just taking no chances of being robbed.”

“I believe he was robbed once, about ten years ago,” Archibald Hazard put in. “Fortunately, the thieves were caught very quickly, and the paintings recovered.

Undamaged.”

“Oh, really?” Martha said. “That might explain his being so careful about whom he admits. I hear Mr.

Carewe will not honor every application. He’s very selective, or choosy, or whatever else you want to call it.”

“He’s frankly a snob,” Mr. Hazard declared. “He wants only distinguished visitors. I heard an art dealer quote Carewe as saying he ‘won’t waste his time on commonplace visitors who fail to appreciate works of art.’ You, Miss Cherry, had better wear ermine and emer-alds instead of your nurse’s uniform, or the old man may not admit you.”

Cherry and Peter began to laugh. The conversation was interrupted by the stewardesses serving light refreshments. Peter had to take his seat. It was evening

FLIGHT TO LONDON

43

now, and in London it was half past eight. But it was half past three by Cherry’s wristwatch and by her stomach. She and Martha declined the refreshments, and when the aisle was clear, went for their hourly walk.

“Our walk is late,” Martha said, “we talked so much.

Mr. Hazard certainly is interesting company.”

“I suppose so,” Cherry said, “but don’t let him tire you. I wish he wouldn’t lead you to talk so much.”

“His interest is perfectly natural in an art lover,” Martha defended him. “I’m enjoying talking with him.” Resuming their places, they found Mr. Hazard had stayed in his borrowed seat, across the aisle. His tray was barely touched.

“Vile food,” he complained, “invariably awful on every airline.” Martha remarked that she thought the food quite good, and what better did he expect six miles up? “I suppose I am spoiled,” he conceded. “Our family always had a fi rst-rate chef in the kitchen, so I am a stickler about food.”

They talked about the fi ne restaurants in London, and then about London’s art collections. Peter Holt tried to join the conversation, but Mr. Hazard snubbed him and managed to monopolize both ladies. In embarrassment Cherry smiled at the young man, and Martha made a point of giving Peter her undivided attention. Cherry turned to Mr. Hazard and asked him about something interesting she’d read of late in the newspapers—a controversy going on among art his-torians, as to whether certain Michelangelo drawings were not actually done by other artists. Mr. Hazard just 44
CHERRY

AMES,

COMPANION

NURSE

looked blank. Then he remarked that such discussions bored him, and glanced away.

“Hmm,” Cherry thought. “This is the second time Mr. Hazard has avoided answering a direct question.

He doesn’t know nearly as much as he’d like us to believe. The old faker, posing as an art connoisseur!” She wondered whether Martha Logan had noticed, but she was absorbed in talking with Peter. Mr. Hazard made a fresh bid for her attention, by naming modern painters whose work was currently being displayed for sale by London art dealers.

BOOK: Cherry Ames 24 Companion Nurse
12.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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