Cherry Ames 24 Companion Nurse (8 page)

BOOK: Cherry Ames 24 Companion Nurse
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“Here’s to you as good as you are
And here’s to me as bad as I am
And as bad as I am, and as good as you are,
I’m as good as you are as bad as I am.”

CHERRY MEETS PETER AGAIN

65

He took one gulp of his orange squash, said goodbye, and shot out of the tearoom.

“What an extraordinary young man!” Martha said, and the three of them exploded with pent-up laughter.

“Why did he run away from us like that?” Cherry wanted to know. Peter shrugged.

Martha Logan asked, “Is he genuinely interested in Shakespeare?”

“Well, Ryder tags along with us to exhibits and asks questions,” Peter said. He explained that when he and his students arrived in Stratford on Friday afternoon, Rodney Ryder was wandering around looking for a tennis partner. “He saw me carrying a racket, and that was the beginning of our constant companionship. Ryder certainly is giving me a rush,” Peter said, a little ruefully. “I told him I’m here to teach, and to learn, too—

that my students and I would be busy, really busy. I’m fortunate enough to have a letter through a university contact to a Shakespeare curator who’s here in charge of a special exhibit. But Rodney Ryder is not a man you can discourage easily.” Peter smiled and shook his head. “I guess he really
is
interested. He seems fairly well educated, nice manners, probably quite bright if and when he’s ever serious. Anyway, Ryder plays a good game of tennis, and my students think he’s entertaining company.”

Martha Logan asked, “What does your learned curator make of your Rodney Ryder?”

“They haven’t met yet, and frankly I can’t visual-ize such a meeting,” Peter said. “By the way, you two 66
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AMES,

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mustn’t miss seeing the paintings of characters from the Shakespearean plays.”

“Oh, yes, the London newspapers have been full of news of this exhibit for weeks,” Martha said. “Well, we’ll be in Stratford for several days, so there’s no hurry.”

“Tomorrow is the last day to see it,” Peter said. “After tomorrow, the paintings will be shipped to Edinburgh to go on public exhibit there.” They were all going on to Edinburgh, but agreed it would be more appropriate to see the Shakespearean paintings here. Peter invited Martha and Cherry to come along the next afternoon, with his students “and probably with Rodney Ryder,” to see the paintings and meet the curator.

They compared notes for a while on what they had seen and done in London. Mention of the art museums reminded Peter of Archibald Hazard. “He’s awfully knowledgeable about paintings, isn’t he?” Martha Logan answered, “I rather thought so, too, on the plane. But do you know, I’ve been thinking, and I’ve changed my mind about him. I wonder if he isn’t bluffi ng some of his knowledge. Oh, Mr. Hazard knows the main facts, and he knows the fi nancial value of paintings, but that’s about all.” Cherry was interested to hear Martha confi rm her own impression—that Mr. Hazard might be rather a phony. Not that it mattered, they’d probably never see Mr. Hazard again.

Their glasses of orange squash were emptied, and Cherry thought Martha Logan looked tired. As they

CHERRY MEETS PETER AGAIN

67

rose to go to their rooms, thanking Peter, he asked,

“Who would like to go for a walk this evening?”

“Cherry is a great walker,” Martha said with a straight face. “As for me, I plan to work on my notes this evening. . . . Yes, Nurse Ames, I promise to go to bed early.”

So, after dinner, Cherry found herself strolling along the riverbank with Peter. She enjoyed the country quiet, and the clear, sweet air, and the snatches of Shakespeare that Peter recited for her. His choices all were so romantic that she giggled.

“What’s funny,” he demanded, “about ‘Lady, by yonder blessed moon I swear, That tips with silver all these fruit-tree tops—’?”

“I’m sorry,” Cherry said. “I’ve had such matter-of-fact training in the sciences that I guess I don’t have your appreciation of poetry.”

“That’s no reason why we can’t be friends, and good friends, is it?” Peter said. “I have to confess to you that I fl unked biology
twice.
” Cherry laughed. “Wouldn’t it be a dull world if we were all alike?”

“I like you,” Peter announced, and took her hand as they walked. He told her about his students, whom he was fond of. They all were staying at a small pension in Stratford. Later in the week they planned to rent bicycles, and cycle part of the way to Edinburgh.

“You really see the country from a bicycle,” Peter said. “We stop and study along the way, of course—

otherwise, the kids wouldn’t get university credit for 68
CHERRY

AMES,

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NURSE

this study tour. Yesterday we cycled over to see War-wick Castle. Good hiking around here, too. For a start you and I could stroll out to see Anne Hathaway’s cottage and garden. She was Mrs. Shakespeare, you know. I should say, Mistress Shakespeare. Anyway, it’s not far, and you like to walk.” Cherry was about to say she walked miles on hospital duty, that on a trip she’d prefer a bicycle or even a ride on the handlebars of his bicycle, when a laughing crowd of young people appeared at a bend in the lane.

“There’s Mr. Holt!” a boy cried out. “We’ve been looking for you!” A girl called out, “We thought you might be with Rodney Ryder.”

“Not exactly,” Peter said to Cherry under his breath.

His students emerged from leafy shadows into bright moonlight, and surrounded them. Peter did not appear much older than these boys and girls in their late teens.

He introduced them to Cherry—a brother and sister from a ranch, Douglas and Deborah Kimball; Nancy Cerutti, who came from St. Louis; quiet, big Ken Eck-lund; Mary McBride who was animatedly explaining something to Masakiyo Yamonoto, a classmate and an exchange student from Japan, and several other lively students. Cherry liked them all, and liked the respect and affection they showed to Peter. But romance was over for the evening, as they all walked back to the inn.

Next day Martha, too, eventually met Peter’s students. She and Cherry made morning visits to Shakespeare’s church, and to the thatch-roofed cottage where

CHERRY MEETS PETER AGAIN

69

the poet and his wife Anne and their children had lived.

The cottage still held its crude wooden settles and cradles, its pewter vessels and candlesticks at the fi replaces. The goose-feather beds were still made with lavender-scented fl ax sheets. After a rest in the hedge-walled garden, Cherry insisted on a leisurely lunch and on her patient’s necessary nap. Then they went downstairs to the lobby of the inn, where students swarmed around them, and they were off to the exhibit of paintings, with Peter in the lead.

Martha Logan disengaged herself from the admiring students and asked, “Where is Mr. Ryder?” Peter, still fl ushed from tennis, said, “I think Rodney Ryder is shy of you, ma’am. At any rate, he said he’d

‘pop up to meet the curator after I’ve been a bit mel-lowed with food.’ Guess Ryder wanted a bite fi rst.”

“What is he doing in Stratford, of all unlikely places to fi nd that frivolous character?” Cherry asked.

“Says he’s on vacation and wants to soak up culture,” Peter answered. “He seems to have plenty of leisure and money. I tried asking Ryder what he does, but he said ‘Don’t be idiotic, my dear chap, I have no talent for work.’ ”

Everyone laughed, and someone said, “Rodney’s a lot of fun.”

At one of the larger houses they went in and waited while Peter sought out the curator, Philip Lawrence.

Waiting, they looked at the extraordinary collection of paintings temporarily hung in these rooms. Here were King Lear, Macbeth, Ophelia, and Caesar, here 70
CHERRY

AMES,

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NURSE

a brooding Hamlet looked out of the frame, and here were the English kings and jesters and ladies of Shakespeare’s plays.

Martha Logan said in delight, “Look, some of these are portraits of the great Shakespearean actors of the past.

And look at this murky old picture! Why, these paintings must cover a span of three or four hundred years.” She agreed with the students that the curator had brought together a marvelous collection. “I’ve heard of Mr. Lawrence,” Martha said, “though I’ve never had the privilege of meeting him. He’s widely known as an Elizabethan scholar, a very able man.” Mr. Lawrence came out with Peter, to meet the American writer and her companion, and Peter’s students. The curator was a gentle, dignifi ed, gray-haired man, eager to tell his visitors all he could.

“This collection is unique, I believe,” Mr. Lawrence said, “in that the paintings have come from all over England, some from other countries. Everything here is on loan from museums and universities and private owners. It’s most unusual to have so comprehensive—

so rare—a Shakespeare display assembled all in one place at one time.”

Peter, Martha Logan, and the students had a great many questions. Mr. Lawrence obligingly answered all of them. Cherry listened, enjoying the pictures, and half looking for Rodney Ryder who amused her so much. He did not come. Ryder did not show up for tea later. Peter remarked, “He knew where we’d be all afternoon. Well, I guess Ryder latched onto another tennis partner.”

CHERRY MEETS PETER AGAIN

71

“Someone who can teach him about Shakespeare while batting a tennis ball?” Martha joked.

“Perhaps that
is
my fascination for him,” Peter said.

“He’s pinned me down to a regular tennis date for every day we’re here.”

“You,” Cherry said gently to Martha, “have a date any minute now to rest. . . . Yes, you do. Particularly if we’re to go to the Shakespeare Memorial Theater this evening.” This was like offering a carrot to a rabbit.

Martha Logan made a sweeping theatrical gesture.

“Sweet nurse, let us away. To you, my good lord Peter, and young friends all”—she stood up grandly—“I must begone. Mistress Cherry hath decreed it. Adieu.” Peter and his students rose too. “ ‘Parting is such sweet sorrow,’ ” said Peter, and doffed an imaginary plumed hat.

Between the acts that evening, they all met on the theater’s outdoor promenade beside the river. Peter obviously wanted to speak to Cherry alone, but had no chance. And next day they all met briefl y again, in the sunny meadows outside the town, where ferns and blackberries grew near the streams. Peter and his students and Rodney Ryder had bicycled out for a picnic. Ryder, trying to catch a cow, stumbled all over his long, lean self. Everybody watched in amusement as the cow triumphed and got away. Cherry was sorry when Martha Logan, after a few minutes, declined Peter’s invitation to join the picnic and instructed their taxi driver to drive them on. Later that day Peter came by their hotel, and returned in the evening, but 72
CHERRY

AMES,

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NURSE

Cherry was not free to see him, except for a moment each time.

“No, Mrs. Logan isn’t sick,” Cherry answered Peter’s question. “In fact, she’s regaining her strength in this country air. But she has to work on her research notes for her next book. I help her, you see.” Peter understood about working hard and systematically on these trips. “Tomorrow, then?” he asked Cherry. “Right after my tennis date with Ryder? We could spend most of the afternoon together.” Cherry smiled. “I think you’re as mad about tennis as Rodney Ryder is. Are all college instructors as ath-letic as you?”

Peter ignored her teasing. “Please come. We’re leaving late tomorrow afternoon, darn it. Come and watch me play. Two on the tick, at the tennis courts?” Cherry promised to try to arrange for time off. Of course her amiable employer said Yes. On the following day, Wednesday, Cherry arrived a little after two, to fi nd Peter alone on one of the grass courts.

“Hi, Peter!” said Cherry. “Where’s Rodney Ryder?”

“He hasn’t showed up yet. I’m annoyed with him for another reason, too. Am I glad to see you!”

“Is that a compliment, or do you just see me as a substitute tennis partner?” Cherry asked with a grin.

“Compliment,” Peter said. “Let’s sit at that table under the umbrella while we wait for him. I have something to tell you.” He smiled at her as they sat down together. “You’re so pretty. I’ll bet you look wonderful in a nurse’s uniform, all in white.”

CHERRY MEETS PETER AGAIN

73

“Thank you,” Cherry said, smiling back at him. “Now what’s on the Holt mind?”

“Well, I saw Mr. Lawrence this morning, and he told me that Rodney Ryder came in alone to see him late Monday afternoon—after we left the exhibit hall.

Ryder introduced himself as a friend of mine, and somehow gave Mr. Lawrence the impression that he’s one of our student group.” Peter frowned. “I feel Ryder took rather a liberty. He never mentioned his visit to me, either, unless he forgot. What bothers me is that he asked the curator so many questions.”

“What sort of questions?” Cherry asked. “Mr. Lawrence is so gracious, I suppose he answered Ryder’s questions?”

“Well, he answered within limits. Mr. Lawrence didn’t know whether to think Rodney Ryder is simply foolish and ignorant, or else inordinately inquisitive. The point is, though, that Ryder had no right to impose on the curator for a private interview without my knowledge. Ryder
knew
we were all going to have tea at that hour on Monday afternoon, and where—he could have joined us and asked me to introduce him to the curator.”

“Or Rodney Ryder could have come when we all went to meet the curator,” Cherry said. “Hmm. Did Ryder have any special reason for wanting to talk with Mr. Lawrence privately?”

“I can’t imagine any sensible reason,” Peter said. “Oh, he’s just scatterbrained—just wandered to the exhibit an hour late, and went rambling on to the curator the 74
CHERRY

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way he’s been throwing aimless questions at me.

Ryder probably has no idea that one shouldn’t waste the time of a distinguished scholar in that irrespon-sible way.”

BOOK: Cherry Ames 24 Companion Nurse
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