The action of the play is fairly straightforward and should not present any great difficulty in production. The main interest lies in the fate of Nurse Sinclair; linked with this are the Sparrow-Macready romance (which precipitates the crisis in Nurse Sinclair's career), and Russell Keane, whose transfusion provides the way out for her. The sub-plot of the Dr. Clayton Sister Rankin-Mrs. Clayton triangle runs separately from the main plot but hos a parallel theme—sacrifice. The theme could be illustrated in Matron’s speech to Nurse Sinclair: "For the first time since you've been here you placed your patient’s welfare before your own interests. I am only sorry that your sacrifice was—futile..." Still, for Nurse Sinclair her sacrifice was a beginning, while, for Dr. Clayton and Sister Rankin, theirs meant the end of all they had been hoping for.
Mention to the actors the touch of dramatic irony in the scene between Russell Keane and Nurse Sinclair—"You did things together when you were kids, didn’t you—went for picnics, the, whole family, didn’t you?" Draw their attention to the scene later on when Nurse Sinclair tells Sister Rankin how unhappy she had been at home. She can hint at this by the way she says: "We did when we were little—when my own mother was alive. All families do, don’t they?"—But must be careful not to do anything to detract from the interest centering at that moment in Keane.
The most difficult part in the play will probably be the scene between Mrs. Clayton and her husband towards the end of Act II. Indeed the success of the ploy will depend on the casting of these two parts, especially the woman. The scene should be taken fairly quietly at first, with Leila trying to win her husband over by references to their early married life, while he is quite unmoved by it until she mentions Frances Rankin. There is a slight easing of the tension that is being worked up, when Dr. Clayton tries to get his wife to go back to bed. From Leila’s speech, "No, no—don't touch me…" until she falls sobbing at her husband's feet there must be a gradual increase in tempo and intensity. (See that it is gradual—don't let the actress expend all her thunder too soon.) Clayton turns to Frances, but she says "You must make up your own mind." Then slowly, half to himself, not really believing it, Clayton says " it’s all phantasy...There's none of it true"; but when his decision comes—"We could never forget this"—we know that the struggle is over.
There is a fair amount of telephoning throughout the play. A common fault is to take the lines too quickly without waiting to give the person at the other end time to say anything. It might help to suggest to the actors they should think up what the unexpressed half of the conversation might have been so that they can time their replies to give the impression they are really "hearing" the other person.
The set and the furniture should be limited to bare essentials.
If possible try to borrow genuine hospital furniture and uniforms—dresses, aprons, caps and stiff belts, collars and cuffs. Mrs. Clayton's dressing should be easy. Dr. Clayton will wear a lounge suit; Russell Keane, pyjamas and dressing gown; Macready, white doctor's coat in Acts 1 and 2, lounge suit in Act 3; Matron, white dress or long white coat.
For a reading keep your props to what can be managed with one hand. Remember the players have to cope with books. If you are not able to dress your cast the nurses might be suggested by caps; but the other characters should be able to get something approaching the costumes.
If you place the buzzing indicator in the fourth wall—that is, the audience—it will save a tricky and expensive prop and will enable the audience to see Patsy's reactions to the various summons.
Choose your lesser characters as foils to your more important ones; for instance, Williams should set Sparrow off.
Sinclair - about 29
Firm, brisk, efficient.
Sparrow - 20
Young, small, pretty, tendency to fluff.
Patsy - 18-20
Plenty of bounce not boisterous, just bubbling over with youthful spirits.
Mrs Clayton - 30-40
If possible should be frail, pretty, spoilt-looking, but looks in this part count less than acting ability.
Russel Keane - 19
Sophisticated—educated voice—well-mannered; guard against hysterical tone in his scene.
Dr. Clayton - 40-45
Tired, older than years, sensitive, should move quietly.
PEOPLE IN THE PLAY - In the order in which they speak
Sister Rankin (Frances)
Nurse Ruth Sinclair—3rd Year
Nurse Jean Sparrow—1st Year
Nurse Williams—1st Year
Nurse Patsy Curtin—Junior
Dr. Angus Macready
Resident Doctor at the Hospital
Mrs. Leila Clayton
Dr. Richard Clayton
(Note.—The orderly, patient, etc., in the Second Act can be omitted without making necessary more than very minor alterations to the movement and dialogue.)
The service section of the Memorial Ward of St. Agnes' Hospital. There is a desk on either side of the stage, each with its own greenshaded desk light and telephone. Doors left and right upstage lead to the entrance lobby and to the main corridor of the ward. A door downstage left leads to the kitchen. If possible the door of the kitchen should open so that cupboards and shining electrical equipment can be seen. The kitchen may be arranged at the centre back of the stage with its door next to another leading to the sterilising room. The doors should be labelled in neat letters. Centre back of the stage and above the door to the sterilising room is a dimly lighted indicator which shows the numbers of the various rooms when the indicator buzzes. Glass partitions, about 4' 6" should, if possible, screen the doors right and left. They should be low enough to let persons entering be seen properly, but high enough to give a suggestion of privacy to the two desks.
Inside the glass partition on one side are shelves on which the probationers put the vases of flowers.
Everything should be neat, workmanlike and shining. There is a cupboard downstage right for linen and a small wooden box for filing patients' history cards on the Sister's desk.
All the nurses must dress in strict nursing uniform. In the original production, all except the probationers wore white, with scarlet capes; the probationers wore lilac print dresses, white aprons and black shoes and stockings. Only the Sisters and the Matron wear flowing muslin caps; the others wear small nurses' caps.
The Time - The Present.
When the curtain rises, Sister Murphy (Day Sister) is seated at the desk writing her report. She looks tired and her hair is untidy. As she writes, she pushes up wisps of her hair under her cap with her free hand. She finishes writing, blots the report and closes the book, then stretches herself wearily. Meanwhile, a probationer has entered left carrying a tray of used dishes. She crosses to kitchen and leaves tray, goes off left and returns with another similar tray. While she is on stage, Murphy straightens up and becomes business-like. As she is crossing to the kitchen the second time, Murphy speaks.
Murphy: Is that the last?
Probationer: Yes, Sister.
Murphy: Do the flowers as quickly as you can; the night staff will be here in a moment.
Probationer: Yes, Sister.
(Exit left. During the next speeches—until Patsy’s entrance—she goes on and off with vases of flowers which she stacks close together on shelf behind desk left.)
(Enter Sister Frances Rankin and Nurse Ruth Sinclair. They are fresh and brisk.)
Murphy: Don't be so offensively fresh. I'm tired as hell.
Rankin (picking up report book and reading it): Bad day?
Murphy: Foul. Which one of your nitwits put Mrs. Clayton's roses in Mrs. Spanner's room? It just about precipitated a major crisis to-day.
Sinclair: Little Patsy probably. She is practically not with us most of the time. Didn't you get them back for her?
Murphy (striking an appealing attitude): "I couldn't possibly have them now, Sister—not in my state of health. I know Mrs. Spanner's only got a broken arm—but in a hospital one never knows, does one?" God, that woman makes me sick. If she really had anything wrong with her, I wouldn't mind. Sorry, Rankin—I keep forgetting she's a friend of yours.
Rankin (stiffly): Not exactly a friend of mine—I worked with Dr. Clayton for a while, that's all.
Murphy: Ah ha! Not exactly a friend—
Sinclair (breaking in hurriedly): She may have nothing but imaginitis, but she pays, my dear, she pays. And she keeps another patient who can't pay.
Murphy (rises): Economics shouldn't be mixed up in a job like ours.
Rankin (recovering herself): Poor lamb, you are tired. I always know you're completely done when you get high-minded.
(Enter Nurse Jean Sparrow and Nurse Williams right.)
Rankin: Good evening, Nurse Sparrow. Good evening, Nurse Williams.
Sparrow & Williams: Good evening, Sister.
Rankin: Have a nice day off, Sparrow?
Sparrow: Lovely, thank you, Sister.
(Rankin hands Sparrow the report book. She and Williams take it to other desk and read reports. Rankin seats herself at desk where Murphy was sitting. She takes a small card index from drawer and starts to read entries on cards. Enter Patsy right, explosively.)
Rankin: You're late.
Patsy (almost in tears): I'm sorry, Sister. Someone's pinched my belt again.
Rankin: No belt, eh? Well, if Matron notices, don't expect me to protect you.
Patsy: No, Sister.
Rankin: What do you mean—"No, Sister"? (Gives her a playful smack on the rear.) Go and read the reports.
Patsy: Yes, Sister. (Shyly) You're a dear. (She goes over to desk and pushes Williams away from report book.)
Murphy: You all spoil that kid.
Sinclair: Much less trouble than slanging her, isn't it, Frances?
Rankin: She makes me laugh.
(Enter Nurses Smith and Roberts left. They are tired and crumpled. Smith carries a tray with clinical thermometer in jar of sterilising fluid and a small blackcovered notebook.)
Murphy: Haven't you two gone off yet?
Smith: Just finished, Sister. (She hands Rankin the black notebook.)
Murphy: Get along then.
Smith: Very well, Sister. (Takes tray into sterilising room.)
Murphy (reading notebook): Good night for you, Rankin. You'll all be able to get some sleep. Mrs. Nelson went home today and there's not a soul on the danger list.
Sinclair: Now if only dear Mrs. Clayton will behave herself—
Roberts: I'm afraid she isn't going to. She wants to see you before you go off, Sister. She says she feels one of her spasms coming on and she’s sure Dr. Moore would let her have a hypodermic.
Murphy: Is she indeed! What does she think the man is trying to do to her—turn her into a dope fiend? Will you have a look at her later on, Rankin?
Rankin: I'll see her when I go round.
Roberts (respectfully): She's rather anxious to see you, Sister Murphy.
She says Sister Rankin would poison her as soon as look at her.
Sinclair (interposing rapidly): You're quite right, Murphy; we shouldn't have to waste our time with people like her. It's nothing but pure hysteria. All she needs is half a dozen good hearty belts across the buttocks. (Roberts exits to kitchen.)
Rankin: Don't be coarse, Ruth. The young are listening.
Patsy: Oh, Sinclair, you're cruel. I think Mrs. Clayton's quite lovely—that gorgeous pale hair. And have you seen that green chiffon nightie; it's heavenly. (She sighs with envy.)
Sinclair: I know she's lovely to look at; but so's poison ivy. I can't make out how any man could stand her for twenty years, let alone a sensitive thing like Dr. Clayton.
Rankin: I can assure you she was quite irresistible twenty years ago. Patsy would have raved about her then—
Sinclair: I think you're just being charitable—
Rankin: Let's change the subject. Rounds, please, Patsy. You too, Nurse (to Sparrow). Nurse Williams, see if all the visitors have gone.
Williams: Yes, Sister.
(Williams goes into kitchen. Sparrow and Patsy go off left. Smith enters from sterilising room and goes into kitchen.)
Rankin: What's Smith doing here? I thought she was downstairs somewhere.
Murphy: Of course, you haven't heard the news. I forget you've been asleep all day while things are happening. My dear, little Burgess got the sack this morning—tipped out bag and baggage in about an hour.
Sinclair: What happened?
Murphy (shrugging): Matron just decided she "was not the right type for a nurse." Just that, nothing else.
Sinclair: She's a beast, that woman. It frightens me that I can hate anyone as I hate her.
Rankin: That's fear, my lass.
Sinclair: Oh yes, I admit it is. I've lived in fear every day for three years; I've wakened up in the night in a cold sweat because I'd dreamt I heard that sniveling little voice of hers—"I'm afraid you're not the right type for a nurse, Nurse Sinclair. Nursing is a noble profession—“. Only five more days of it, Francie—think of it. Five more days—and I'll be out of her power forever. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
Murphy: I'll keep mine crossed for you, Sinclair. I'll admit none of us ever thought you'd stay the distance. Matron's sure had it in for you the whole time you've been here. She's done everything except sack you—
Sinclair: She wouldn't sack me—she likes power too much for that. She knows just exactly what getting through means to me; it's amused her to play cat-and-mouse with me for three years. In five days, it'll be beyond her power to hurt me—and I'm frightened—
(The indicator buzzes.)
Rankin: You'll have to snap out of that, my dear. (Raising her voice)
Nurse, Number 5.
(Enter Williams from kitchen.)
Williams: Yes, Sister. (She goes off left.)
Murphy: Heavens, look at the time.
(As she speaks Smith and Roberts enter from kitchen. They carry their capes and one carries some brightly coloured knitting. The other has a magazine under her arm. They are going off duty.)
Smith: Good-night, Sister.
Murphy: Good-night. You're off tomorrow, aren't you, Nurse Roberts?
Roberts: I certainly am.
Murphy: Well, have a good day.
Roberts: I'll do my best. Good-night. (She and Smith exit right.)
(Enter Patsy and Probationer. They have their heads together and are giggling over something. Murphy has been gathering up her cape, etc.)
Murphy (to Probationer): Good heavens, child; I thought I’d sent you off half an hour ago. Go on, get along with you.
Probationer: I'm just going. Good-night, Sister.
(She goes off right.)
Murphy: "And so saying, she swept out."
(She gives a mock salute and goes off right.)
Sinclair (picking up temperature book): I suppose I may as well do these first as last. (Sits at desk.)
Rankin: I'll do rounds—avoiding Leila Clayton, if possible.
Sinclair: She'll be asleep by now.
(Enter Williams from ward.)
Williams: Patsy, Mrs. Spanner wants a pan.
Patsy: She can't, not already.
Rankin (speaking as she goes off left): She probably knows her own mind best on that, Patsy.
Patsy: All I can say is, she's no camel, that woman.
(She goes into sterilising room, re-entering almost immediately with a bed pan covered with a blue cotton cloth. She goes off left.)
Williams: Shall I do Miss Maughton's foment, Nurse?
Sinclair: Yes, Nurse. Where is Sparrow?
Williams: She’s settling Mrs. Watson for the night. Her visitors just went.
Sinclair: When she's done that, she'd better go down and get the milk. I'm ready for my cocoa.
(She begins entering temperatures on charts.)
Williams: I'll tell her.
Sinclair (sharply): Alright, get on with it.
(Williams, offended, goes back into kitchen. She reenters in a few seconds, carrying a small bowl of steaming water. She crosses stage, carefully avoiding looking at Sinclair.)
Sinclair: Sorry, Bill. I'm all of a twit these days.
Williams: You certainly are pretty edgy.
Sinclair: So will you be when you've only got five days to go.
(Enter Russell Keane in pyjamas and slippers, left. His right arm is bound closely to his body; his dressing-gown is properly on his left shoulder and he clutches it round him with his left hand.)
Williams: When I've only five days to go, I'll be a little ray of sunshine.
Russell: You're a little ray of sunshine already.
Sinclair: Here, what are you doing out of bed. You'll have to go back, you know.
Russell (coming downstage and seating himself on edge of other desk):
Don't be so damn nursey. I don't want to go to bed.
Sinclair: You'll have to—
Russell: You'll have to carry me, the n.
Williams: I'll leave it to you, Sinclair. (She goes off left.)
Sinclair: You're an awful nuisance, you know. There'd be the devil to pay if Matie found you here.
Russell: What a down you've all got on Matron! She's quite a decent old scout—been nice and motherly to me.
Sinclair: She would be. You're personable and male.
Russell: We are nice and catty to-night, aren't we? So you've noticed my charm too, have you?
Sinclair: I've noticed that you're completely spoiled. Now, please go back to bed. We will carry you, you know, if you won't walk—
Russell: Don't send me back there, by myself, with no one to talk to and nothing to do but listen to that awful woman in the next room. She's done nothing but whine all day. What’s wrong with her?
Sinclair: Mostly nerves.
Russell: I'll be as bad as she is soon, if I have to listen to much more of her.
Sinclair: I'll move your bed to the other side of the room; you won't hear her then.
Russell: No, no, don't do that.
Sinclair: Do you know what you do want.
Russell: Yes, I want company.
Sinclair: You sound like a very little boy. Is 'ums afraid of the dark then? Is that what made you come out here—or just sheer cussedness?
Russell: I'm unhappy—and I'm sick.
Sinclair: You don't give yourself a chance, you know. You'll get better much quicker if you stick to the rules—
Russell: It isn't just this. (He touches his injured arm and his dressing gown falls back.) It's everything.
Sinclair: Even if everything is out of tune, you may as well be comfortable. (She comes across and pulls his dressing gown round him, buttons it and ties the cord.) There, is that better? How did you get this? (Touches his injured arm.)
Russell: Car turned over. (Proudly) I should have been killed by rights—I was doing ninety.
Sinclair: I don't think that's anything to brag about. It sounds stupid to me. What were you doing it for?
Russell: Experience. You see, I'm trying everything—
Sinclair: How old are you?
Russell: I'm twenty next month. Dad is giving me a Gipsy Moth for my birthday.
Sinclair: And by the time you're twenty-one, there'll be nothing left for you to try.
Russell: Oh, yes, there will. I'm going to sheep-farm later on; but I've got to sow a few oats first. I've got it all mapped out. When I'm twenty-two, I'm going to have a mistress—install her in a flat. You know—champagne out of shoes, mink coats and diamond bracelets and all the trimmings.
Sinclair: A bit old-fashioned, but nice work—if you can afford it.
Russell: Oh, I can afford it alright. If Mother won't finance me, Dad will. That's one thing there's always plenty of—money.
Sinclair: Are there things there aren't plenty of?
Russell (moodily, after a minute's silence): What's the first thing you can remember?
Sinclair: A cup and saucer my gran gave me. It had violets and maidenhair fern painted inside the cup. I'll never forget it; I still think it's the prettiest cup I've ever seen.
Russell: You see—that's the kind of first memory most people have. The first thing I remember is my father fondling my nurse and my mother catching them at it.
Sinclair: You poor kid! What did your mother do about it?
Russel: Nothing. She forgave him gracefully—and has gone on forgiving him ever since. It suited her very nicely.
Sinclair: Aren’t you being rather hard?
Russell: You've got brothers and sisters, haven't you?
Sinclair: Brothers—lots of them.
Russell: You did things together when you were kids didn't you— went for picnics, the whole family, didn't you?
Sinclair·: We did when we were little—when my own mother was alive. All families do, don't they?
Russell: The Keanes don't. I can never remember going out with both my father and mother—not once.
Sinclair: I'd be sorry for you if you weren't so sorry for yourself.
Russell: I don't go in for self-pity as a rule—there isn't time. But you get too much time when you're in bed, doing nothing all day.
Sinclair: No visitors to-day?
Russell: Mother came. She brought one of her platonic boy friends. And he brought a bottle of whisky. So good for a fractured clavicle and two broken ribs. (With sudden passion) Can you wonder I'm rotten right through—with a mother like that?
Sinclair: Look, you really must go back to bed—this isn't doing you a bit of good.
Russell: Oh, for God's sake let me get it off my chest. I've never had time to think about it before—there's always been some way of running away from thoughts. But there isn't here—there's nothing to do but think, and think, and go on thinking.
Sinclair: If you want my private opinion, you can't be so bad, or you wouldn’t have thoughts to run away from. Your parents have been good to you, haven't they? You'd have been worse off if there'd been a divorce.
Russell: I don't know that I would. There's something cleaner about an absolute cut. Anyway, I don't believe either of them want a divorce. Technically, I suppose Mother is quite guiltless—she goes in for mental infidelity, if you know what I mean. The old man's more natural—but I've got an idea he finds the fact that he's married makes things less complicated for him. Nobody can expect anything from a man whose wife won't divorce him. He plays it up for all it's worth, and it's worth plenty, women being what they are.
Sinclair: I don't know whether you're a cynical young beast or something that ought to make me weep tears of blood—
(Enter Sparrow, right. She carries a tray with large Jug and two or three covered plates.)
Sparrow: Heavens, is he still out?
Sinclair: He's been telling me the story of his life, and I can't make up my mind whether to feel sorry for him or to go and have a nice clean drink of cool water.
Russell (bitterly): Thanks. Perhaps I'd better go back to bed—
Sparrow: Come along and I'll tuck you in.
(Sparrow takes Russell by his uninjured arm and they turn to go off left. As they go out, Sinclair speaks.)
Sinclair: I'll bring you a drink in a few minutes, Russell—and I'll ask Sister if you can have something to chase those thoughts off for the night.
Russell: Thank you, Nurse. You don't really think I'm a beast, do you?
Sinclair: Of course not, you young rabbit. There's some way out, you know.
Russell: Perhaps. I'll let you know if I find it. I'll be glad to get back to bed—I feel a little sick—
Sparrow: My goodness, come along then.
(Exit Sparrow and Russell, left.)
(Sinclair picks up the tray and takes it into the kitchen. Returns to stage and reseats herself at desk and goes on with charts. Enter Patsy with bed pan covered with cloth. She takes it into sterilising room. As she does so, the indicator buzzes. Patsy re-enters, looks up at indicator, then goes off left. Enter Rankin, right; she seats herself at other desk.)
Rankin: They're having a fine time downstairs in nine. A visitor gave some cream cakes to an appendicectomy.
Sinclair: Visitors ought to be searched.
Rankin: I suppose it's too much to expect them to use just ordinary common sense.
(Enter Patsy left.)
Patsy: Nurse Sparrow would like you to come and see Mr. Keane, please. Sister. She doesn't like the look of him.
Rankin: Neither do I, for that matter. Rather a nasty Iittle boy, I thought—
Sinclair: So did I, until I talked to him to-night. I think he might be quite a decent lad if only he got the chance.
Patsy (respectfully): If you would please hurry Sister. I think he's spitting blood—
Rankin (horrified): What! (She hurries competently out, left.)
Patsy: Would that be hemorrhage, Nurse?
Sinclair: It would, my child. He must have bumped his broken rib into his lung, the stupid young fool. How about some cocoa, Patsy; I need it.
Patsy: Yes, Nurse. (She goes into kitchen. Enter Williams left with tray and bowl she carried out. The bowl is no longer steaming.)
Sinclair: Is everyone settled for the night, Nurse?
Williams (pausing at door of sterilising room): Only Mr. Patterson still to do. He was reading—and feeling ill-used—
Sinclair: I'm sorry for Mrs. Patterson.
Williams: I saw her last night. I think maybe he doesn't get much chance at home, so he's taking it out on us.
Sinclair: It's a way they have.
(Williams goes into sterilising room. The indicator buzzes.)
Sinclair (raising her voice slightly): Number 9 is ringing, Patsy.
Patsy (entering from kitchen): He wants a drink of water and the window open if it's shut and shut if it's open. Watch the cocoa, please, Nurse.
(Enter Sparrow left, and goes straight across to telephone, speaking as she crosses the stage.)
Sparrow: Ice, please, Nurse—lots of it, as quickly as you can.
Patsy: Yes, Nurse. (Goes out right. Comes back and puts head round corner) Look after Number 9, Williams. The cocoa will have to take its chance. (Goes off right.)
Sparrow (at phone): Dr. Macready, please…Sister Rank in would be glad if you would come straight away to Number 6. Special...Mr. Keane; hemorrhage…Dr. Clayton's case; shall I ring him?...Very well, Doctor. (Puts down phone.)
Sparrow: I wish Patsy would hurry with the ice.
Sinclair: She won't be long. Never mind Nine, Nurse—watch the cocoa.
Williams: Yes, Nurse Sinclair. (She goes into kitchen.)
Sparrow: Will he die, Sinclair?
Sinclair: Not necessarily—if the bleeding can be stopped before he loses too much.
Sparrow (miserably): I'll never be a good nurse. I can't just be competent and do the right things. My feelings get tangled up with the patients themselves—as people, I mean, not as patients.
(Enter Williams with steaming jug and cups and saucers on tray which she sets on Sinclair's desk.)
Sinclair: You'll grow out of that. If you're worth your salt, you get interested in the things that are wrong with them. It's almost as though their illnesses are something apart from the people themselves—
Williams: We haven't all got your brains.
(She pours out cups of cocoa.)
Sinclair (ignoring the interruption): That's why Mrs. Clayton fascinates me so. I think as a woman she's thoroughly despicable; but I've always wanted to nurse a case of pure hysteria…
(Enter Patsy right with bowl covered carefully with white cloth.)
Sparrow: Oh, thank goodness. Did you have to wait till it froze, Patsy?
(Takes bowl and goes off left.)
Patsy: That's gratitude for you. Did you give Nine his drink, Nurse?
Williams: Good lord, I forgot him. Fix him, Patsy, while I pour your cocoa.
Patsy (going off left): What a life! I wish I'd stuck to something quiet, like charing. (Exit.)
Williams: Do you mean to say Mrs. Clayton just imagines those spasms of pain? If she does, the stage has lost a real actress.
Sinclair: Oh, no—she feels them alright, but the cause of them is mental, not physical. She's using them as a barrier to protect herself from something she doesn't want to face—something she'll have to face as soon as she's better.
Williams: Sounds weak to me. I suppose it's all this divorce business she's funking. She told me last night she was letting Dr. Clayton divorce her because if she divorced him, it might injure his practice, and she didn't want to do that. I didn't say anything, but she must think we're dumb if she thinks she can get away with that. Everyone knows she's been round the world with that Harrington man.
(Enter Patsy left.)
Patsy: He only wanted the window closed and a touch of womanly pillow-thumping. A bachelor, too—I don't think it's seemly.
Williams: Don't interrupt, infant. What she can see in a beefy red—faced man like Harrington, I can't imagine. Perhaps as a contrast to Dr. Clayton—he's the gentlest thing I've ever seen.
Sinclair: He's probably spoiled her hopelessly ever since they've been married. All this business about her allowing him to divorce her to save his practice is just the kind of thing a spoiled woman would say—and there's dozens who'll believe it too. Most people are fools.
(Enter Sparrow left.)
Sparrow: Sister sent me to get my supper. You’re to relieve me if you've finished, Bill.
Williams: Just about; I'll snatch another cup-a when I get a chance.
(She takes a last gulp of cocoa· then goes off left.)
(Sparrow sits down wearily at desk. Patsy pours a cup of cocoa and hands it to her.)
Sinclair: Does it seem worse because he's so good-looking and so young?
Sparrow: Please don't be sarcastic, Sinclair—I can't bear it. It just seems such unutterable waste.
Sinclair: You'll learn detachment—it's the only way.
Sparrow: I don't think I ever will. I was born soft.
(Enter Dr. Macready right. He wears a white linen double breasted tunic and a stethoscope sticks out of his pocket.)
Macready (looking over the partition at Sparrow): Hullo there, young Jeanie.
Sparrow (primly): Good evening, Dr. Macready.
Macready: Whist there, wuman. Smile when ye speak to me .
Sparrow: I see nothing to smile at, Dr. Macready.
Macready: And what's more, I have a bone to pick with ye.
Sparrow: I suppose you'd still pick bones if Matron were sitting round the corner—
Macready: I had the presence of mind to notice that yon wuman is on the ground floor being impressive to Sir Edwin Aitken, no less. And so she ought to be—she's just lost his best patient for him—
Sparrow: And meantime, your patient is bleeding to death—
Macready: You're a bad-tempered wench—but I still like ye.
(He goes off left.)
Patsy: And amid all the sickness, pain and one thing and another, lurve blossomed like a red, red rose.
Sparrow (dimpling): I'll screw your neck, young Patsy.
Patsy: Oh, I'll say, "Bless you, my children" with tears in my voice.
I'm not jealous—I never did like Scotchmen.
Sparrow (involuntarily): Scots.
(Patsy picks up used cups and goes into kitchen.)
Sinclair: Watch your step, Twitter. You know what would happen if you were caught together outside the hospital. It'd mean the sack for you, without the option. Matron could do Macready a lot of harm too. Theoretically, she can't, but you know what she is—
Sparrow: Don't worry. I've never been out with him yet—he wanted me to last night—gosh, I was tempted. It's—rotten, you know—
Sinclair: He won't stay here long—he's really brilliant—although he is such a young fool.
Sparrow: He isn't really.
(The buzzer rings.)
Sinclair: Mrs. Clayton. I suppose she's heard the disturbance in Keane's room and wants to know what's doing. I'll go; Patsy, you'd better wash up.
(Enter Williams left.)
Williams: Sister wants you to phone Dr. Clayton, Nurse Sinclair.
Williams: She said to ask him to come right away. I think Scotch Angus is worried.
Sinclair (picking up phone): I don't wonder; it's rather a shock. (Into phone) Get Dr. Clayton. Urgent…Yes, I'll hang on.
Williams: Sister got out of him that he fell when he got out of bed.
Sinclair: If only the silly young idiot had told me instead of sitting here talking—
Williams: I don't see how you can be blamed.
(Enter left Mrs. Clayton, very quietly. She is dressed in a rather exotic dressing gown beneath which shows the hem of a chiffon nightdress. Her feet are thrust into high-heeled mules decorated with feathers. None of the nurses notice her and she stands just at the corner of the partition listening.)
Sinclair (at phone): Dr. Clayton please. St. Agnes' Hospital here...Is there any way of getting on to him? The matter is very urgent. Please do so, if it's possible…Mr. Russell Keane; hemorrhage…Yes, thank you. (Puts down phone. Exit Williams.) He's out; he would be. (Turns and sees Mrs. Clayton.) Is anything the matter, Mrs. Clayton?
Mrs. Clayton: I've been waiting and waiting for Sister Murphy; I sent for her and she didn't come. I must have something to make me sleep—I can't do without sleep. It's most unprofessional of Sister Murphy. Of course, I wouldn't expect anything at all of Sister Rankin; she has always disliked me. I had to keep her in her place, of course, when she was my husband's attendant. But Sister Murphy—I did expect consideration from her—I sent for her—
Sinclair: Sister Murphy went off duty an hour or more ago, Mrs. Clayton; you've been asleep since then.
Mrs. Clayton: Asleep! How can you say such a thing, Nurse—I haven't closed my eyes for forty-eight hours.
Sinclair: I assure you you were sound asleep when I looked in as I was coming on duty, Mrs. Clayton. Come along now, back to bed, there's a dear. (She goes over and endeavours to slip her arm under Mrs. Clayton's.)
Mrs. Clayton: Please don't touch me, Nurse. You are a most unsympathetic person—
(Enter Patsy from kitchen; she goes over to collect Sparrow's cup.)
Sinclair: Yes, I know, and you can't bear to be touched by anyone unsympathetic—but you'll have to put up with it to-night, because all the sympathetic members of the staff are looking after a very bad case.
Mrs. Clayton: You hate me, don't you? Everybody here hates me—I can feel it like a mist around me. It blots out everything else; it confuses me. I shall complain to Matron in the morning and demand to be moved—
Sparrow (moving over to her): Come along with me—I don't hate you.
Patsy here thinks you're beautiful, don't you, Patsy?
Mrs. Clayton: Do you really? Of course, when I'm dressed—
Patsy: Oh, I think your things are lovely, Mrs. Clayton—that chiffon nightdress—
Mrs. Clayton (with pathetic satisfaction): It is sweet, isn't it?
Patsy (sighing with envy): Heavenly—just like a trousseau.
Mrs. Clayton (violently): No, no, no, it isn't. Not a bit like a trousseau
Sparrow (hurriedly pouring oil on troubled waters): Would you like a nice fresh cup of tea when you get into bed—and perhaps Sister will let you have something to help you to sleep—
Mrs. Clayton: Frances Rankin! Don't let her give me anything; she's hoping to poison me, you know-
Sinclair: I'll pour it out myself. You needn't be afraid. Go on back to bed now. You must give yourself a chance, you know, or it will take you longer to get well.
Mrs. Clayton: Do you think I'm any better?
Sinclair (with the air of one watching an insect on a pin): No. I think you're worse.
Mrs. Clayton (with satisfaction, allowing herself to be led away): I feel worse; I feel much worse.
Sparrow (as she walks towards exit left with Mrs. Clayton): You are very bad, you know, coming out here. If Matron caught you there'd be a terrible row—
Mrs. Clayton: That horrid young man in the next room to mine walks about—I hear him going in and out—
Sparrow: He's made himself really sick to-night, anyhow.
Mrs. Clayton (stopping to talk about it): That's why you were phoning my husband, wasn’t it? I heard you.
Sinclair: Mrs. Clayton, you really must go back to bed—
Mrs. Clayton: My husband is coming here to-night, isn't he? Isn't he?
Sinclair: He may not think it necessary.
Mrs. Clayton: He'll think it necessary—he thinks of nothing but his patients. What time is he coming?
Sparrow: Mrs. Clayton, you must come to bed now, at once. If you don't be nice to us, you can't expect us to be nice to you, now can you? (Mrs. Clayton allows herself to be led off left by Sparrow.)
Sinclair: That woman's pathological. She should be in a bughouse, not here.
Patsy: I feel sorry for her. She's not really mad, is she?
Sinclair: She's on the way, I should say. Imagining someone is trying to poison them is one of the signs.
Patsy: How do you know these things, Nurse? Will I have to learn about them?
Sinclair: Oh, I've always been interested in mental cases. The old doctor up home used to lend me books and talk to me about cases. (She is talking more to herself than to Patsy.) I understand them better now when I think about them than I did then.
Patsy (enviously): You're so clever, Nurse Sinclair.
Sinclair: I'm keen. I've thought about nothing but being a nurse since I was about twelve—You'll have to make Sister some fresh cocoa, Patsy—
Patsy: Yes, Nurse.
(Enter Sparrow left.)
Sinclair: Did you get her off?
Sparrow: She's terribly excited about something. I wish we could give her something to calm her down.
Sinclair: She could have some aspirin. Here you are. (Opens drawer of desk and takes out bottle of white mixture.) Make out it's something very strong and it'll settle her down.
Sparrow: She's just about a borderline case, isn't she?
Sinclair: Patsy here feels sorry for her.
Sparrow: So do I a bit—I suppose because she's so pretty—
Sinclair: Don't waste your sympathy. I'd bet ten pounds if I had it to a penny she's responsible herself for everything that's happened to her. Divorce looked nice and romantic and she's always had everything she wanted; but now she's in it, it doesn't look so good and she's trying to bury her head in the sand.
Sparrow: She's gone beyond the stage of being responsible now, I should think—
Sinclair: Probably always been unstable emotionally. And now someone else will have to be responsible for her—it isn't fair, somehow. Patsy, you'd better take the ten o'clock temperatures, instead of standing there looking impressed. I'm going to relieve Sister.
Patsy: Very well, Nurse Sinclair.
(Sinclair goes off left.)
Patsy: That's a soda—there's only about half a dozen of them. You'll have to do the two o'clocks now, Twitter.
(As they talk, Patsy goes into sterilising room and comes out with tray, with thermometer in jar and small night lamp. She lights the lamp, picks up small black notebook from Sinclair's desk, finds pencil and places them on tray. Sparrow goes into kitchen, returns with tray and medicine glass. Measures mixture into glass. Makes entry in book. Puts bottle of mixture on tray.)
Sparrow: I do feel sorry for Mrs. Clayton, in spite of all Sinclair says.
Patsy: Sinclair's marvelous—she gives you the feeling that she's so sure always—
Sparrow: She is, too. I wish sometimes I could be as detached about cases as she is—but I'm not made that way, so there it is.
Patsy: Just as well she is keen—she'll still be a nurse when you and Angus are crooning to your grandchildren.
Sparrow: You're a cheeky young devil. Sinclair's quite attractive really—or she would be if she'd only let herself be soft now and again. She's so determined to get through brilliantly—
Patsy: I wonder why she's so keen.
Sparrow: I believe she's pretty hard up—ran away from home to do her training, or something like that. She never seems to get any letters or have any friends outside the hospital. It’s a queer, lonely kind of existence. I don't know what I'd do without interests outside the hospital—
Patsy: It seems to me your hands are pretty full with interest inside the hospital.
Sparrow: I haven't seen Dr. Macready go down, have you? He must still be in with Russell.
Patsy: Association of ideas they call it, don't they? (Sarcastically) He might have gone down without saying anything to anyone as he went past.
Sparrow (seriously): I don't think he'd do that.
Patsy: What I like about love, it sharpens the sense of humour so.
Sparrow: You're quite ridiculous, Patsy. There's simply no question of—anything like that. He just amuses me.
(Enter Angus left.)
Patsy: Enter the angels, tripping lightly.
Angus: Good evening, Nurse Patsy. Is it me then you're likening to an angel?
Patsy: Good evening, Doctor. (Demurely) It was Nurse Sparrow that more or less dragged your name into the conversation. (The buzzer rings) Mrs. Spanner—the usual, I presume.
(Goes off left.)
Angus: Tactful girl, young Patsy.
Sparrow: That's a quality you should admire.
Angus: Now you're just being provocative in the hope that you'll deflect me from my purpose.
Sparrow: I'm sure nothing could do that.
Angus: You're right there. I've made up my mind to pick a bone with ye and pick it I will. What do you mean by backing out like you did last night—after I'd bought the tickets and all?
Sparrow: It must have bitten into your Scotch soul to waste them.
Angus: Waste them, waste them! Losh, wuman, I didna waste them.
You're not the only lassie in Melbourne, ye ken.
Sparrow: You're lucky to be able to pick and choose, Dr. Macready.
Angus: I believe you're jealous. Jeanie, you're sweet when you're jealous.
Sparrow: Jealous! Me jealous! You flatter yourself, Dr. Macready.
Angus: And you've got a bit of fire in you too. I like a woman to have a bit of fire in her.
Sparrow: An experienced man like you should know.
Angus: Ye know, they've got a word for girls like you in Scotland.
Sparrow: They've got words for lots of things in Scotland. Superlative place—I wonder you didn't stay there.
Angus: Have I ever told you why I came out here?
Sparrow: It must be the only thing you haven't told me.
Angus: I haven't told you that I love you, have I?
Sparrow: Not since last Tuesday—about this time. Why don't you keep to the subject—"Why I left Scotland"—doubt less for Scotland's good.
Angus: It all started when I was but a little lad. My mother used to have lodgers—what you'd call "roomers," do ye ken?
Sparrow: Now you've gone all American. Try "boarders," then maybe I'll get your meaning.
Angus: Boarders, is it? Well, one of my mother's boarders was a young man from this very town of Melbourne. Up at the University he was studying medicine. And I remember how in my childish thirst for knowledge, I asked him why he'd come to Edinburgh to study medicine and he said, if you'll believe it, that Melbourne was too hard for him. Twice they'd canned him here in Melbourne, so here he was in Edinburgh to get through there, because it was easier. That very day, I said to my mother, "Mother, when I grow large enough"—I was only a little laddie in those days, with curls, if you'll believe it—"Mother," I said, "I'm going to Melbourne to study medicine. It's harder there." And Mother said, "That's a noble ambition, my son, and a noble profession." And I said, "Yes, Mother, for I'd like fine to have a handle to my name and have all the nurses saying, respectfully mind you, 'Yes, Dr. Macready' and 'Certainly, Dr. Macready.'"
Sparrow: What a pity most of them say, "No, Dr. Macready." Still, it's a pretty story—if true.
Angus: And romantic. Romance, that's what appeals. Everything I do has a touch of romance—even to falling in love with a pigheaded wench who won't even let me touch her hand—
Sparrow (melting): Darling Angus.
Angus: May I touch your hands, Jeanie? (He holds out both his hands. She crosses to meet him and he takes her hands and kisses the palms, first one, then the other—very slowly.) They taste of carbolic.
Sparrow (laughing): How very disappointing.
Angus: If you ever smell of disinfectant when we're married, I'll divorce you.
Sparrow (gasping): When we're married—
Angus: Well, what else did you think all this was leading up to?
Sparrow: But you hardly know me—
Angus: I know that I love you, love you most truly, Jeanie. Losh, wuman, you're not going to be coy, are you?
Sparrow: No, Angus.
Angus (meaning it): Thank goodness. (He starts to draw her into his arms.)
Sparrow (evading him): Angus—we must be careful. If Matron saw us—
Angus: What could she do?
Sparrow: She could give me the sack—she'd be glad of an excuse, I'm sure—I 'II never be a good nurse—
Angus: Well, it wouldn't matter then.
Sparrow: My people are making sacrifices to let me do this, Angus. I can't let them down as easily as that. Matron could do you a lot of harm, too—she's pretty powerful, you know—
Angus: We'll think of some way of seeing each other—the old besom couldn't growl if you went to tea with my mother, could she?
Sparrow: Do you think your mother would want me?
Angus: She's sick of the sound of your name already.
(Enter Sinclair left. She crosses kitchen, speaking as she goes.)
Sinclair: Don't mind me. I'm deaf and practically blind. (Goes into kitchen.)
Sparrow: Let me go, Angus—someone else might come.
Angus: Not till you've promised to go to tea with my mother on your next day off—
Sparrow: That's next Wednesday. Angus, I'll be so shy.
Angus: You mustn’t be, my sweet. Jeanie, it is true, isn't it?
Sparrow (breathlessly): Yes-oh, yes, Angus. .
(He kisses her, taking a long time about it. Enter Matron and Dr. Clayton right.)
Matron: (speaking as they come on): It was fortunate the message reached you so promptly.
(Sparrow gives a startled gasp, breaks away from Angus and runs across to kitchen.)
Clayton: Another two seconds and I'd have been away. Ah, there you are, Dr. Macready.
Angus (recovering his sang froid with scarcely an effort): Good evening Dr. Clayton. I'm glad you were able to get here so soon.
Matron (putting a lot of meaning into her words): We caught him in the nick of time, Dr. Macready.
Angus: That was very lucky, Matron. (As they speak, they go off left. The stage is empty for a moment, then Sparrow enters from the kitchen, drops into chair behind desk left. Speaks to Sinclair who is still in kitchen.)
Sparrow: Oh, goodness, what on earth will I do? I'm sure she saw us—I don't see how she could help it.
Sinclair (entering from kitchen): For heaven's sake, pull yourself together; act as though nothing's happened and just sit tight.
Sparrow: I can't Nurse, really I can't. If she speaks to me for the next three days, I’ll just burst into tears. I'm a fool, I know—
Sinclair: Well, keep out of her way. (Sees medicine) What's this?
Sparrow: Good heavens—I forgot Mrs. Clayton.
Sinclair: Take it along at once-—and if you do run into Matron, for heaven's sake don't look self-conscious.
Sparrow: Alright, I'll try—but I know I'll do something stupid—I know me so well. Sinclair, she couldn't really do Angus any harm, could she?
Sinclair: She could—if she wanted to. But I don't think she would, not spitefully. She does what she thinks is her duty. Here, buzz off before she comes back—
(Sparrow takes tray and goes off left. Sinclair makes entry in report book. The telephone on desk rings.)
Sinclair (at telephone): Yes— Yes, Matron is here. Just hang on for a moment and I'll get her. (Puts down phone and exits left, returning almost immediately, followed by Matron. Matron picks up phone.)
Matron: Yes…Yes, do that please. I'll be down in a few minutes. (She replaces phone slowly and precisely.) Nurse Sinclair, when I came into this wing a few minutes ago, I was astounded to see one of the nurses here with Dr. Macready. It was not you, was it?
Sinclair: No, Matron, it was not I.
Matron: I think you know who it was. (Sinclair is silent.) Don't you?
Sinclair: Yes, Matron.
Matron (impatiently): Well? I am waiting, Nurse.
Sinclair: You surely don't expect me to tell you—
Matron: I do expect you to tell me. You know the rules of this hospital as well as I do, Nurse Sinclair.
Sinclair (half to herself, as though she is not sure it is really happening): I suppose one excuse is as good as another. I am not going to tell you—
Matron: Nurse Sinclair, the whole time you have been in this hospital, you have been most impatient of discipline. I have overlooked breaches of the hospital rules on several occasions, but this time. I refuse to have my authority flouted. You will see me in my study in the morning as you go off duty. I have grave doubts of your suitability for nursing—
Sinclair: And less than five minutes ago, I said you weren't spiteful.
Matron: Don't try me too far, Nurse.
Sinclair: You can't do this to me—
Matron: You are getting hysterical, Nurse. (She turns abruptly and goes out right. Sinclair stands in the same tense attitude without moving until the curtain falls. Enter Patsy with temperature tray. The buzzer rings and Patsy looks up at indicator.)
Patsy (as one who has learnt a lesson): Mrs. Spanner wants a pan. (She goes into sterilising room, returning with covered pan. As she does so, the buzzer rings again and both telephones ring.)
Patsy: The telephone, Nurse. (Sinclair takes no notice. Patsy comes to centre stage with pan under arm and picks up one phone; the other phone rings again. She tries to take it up and drops the pan. Enter Sparrow left.)
Sparrow: Patsy, Number 9 wants a pan—
Patsy (endeavoring to answer both phones at once): No, Matron isn't here. She went downstairs ten minutes ago. (Puts one phone down.) Hullo... Hullo... Special Ward here (she drops the pan.) Patsy! They should have called me "Pansy."
Scene: The same
When the curtain rises, Rankin is seated at desk left writing up reports. The reading lamp on desk is only light, although light shines through from main entrance, right. The kitchen door opens-the kitchen is lighted and Sinclair enters, closing the door behind her. She seats herself wearily at the other desk and leans her head on her hands. There is a moment or so of silence before Rankin speaks.
Rankin: Can't you sleep?
Sinclair: Sleep! Don't be stupid. I'm sorry, Frances. (Rankin goes on writing. After a second or two of silence, a clock strikes two. Very softly.) Have you ever wished you had the guts to kill someone?
Rankin (startled into telling the truth): Yes, oh yes. I could have too—quite easily—
Sinclair: She said to-night you were hoping to poison her—
Rankin: Who said that?
Sinclair: Leila Clayton—that's whom you meant, isn't it?
Rankin: I didn't know—anyone knew—
Sinclair: I don't suppose anyone else does, except Dr. Clayton himself. You glow when he's in a room—
Rankin (stiffy): I didn't know I was so transparent—
Sinclair: Don't mind my talking, Frances—if I don't I'll probably do something desperate. After all, we've lived pretty close together all these years. You helped me when I first came here—I was so green. Pity it's all going to be wasted.
Rankin: Aren't you rather jumping to conclusions? You may have misunderstood Matron. You were anticipating something—I'm wondering if you didn't go more than halfway to meet it.
Sinclair: I wish I could persuade myself I did misunderstand her. I've thought and thought ...but it was just an excuse. She knows perfectly well it was Sparrow. Nothing in this hospital ever gets past her. She knew before she asked that I wouldn't say. (With rising passion) Frances, she can't do this to me—she can't...There must be some way of stopping her; she shouldn't have so much power...
Rankin: Ruth, you mustn't let yourself be stampeded. Take it for granted you're only going to get a dressing-down in the morning. You've had them before—they're no novelty. Don't go into Matron's study with your mind already mode up—it's inviting trouble. I'll talk to Sparrow; she'll have to go to Matron herself and confess.
Sinclair: You musn't do that, Frances. This is my business
Rankin: Do I have to remind you that wing at night is my business.
Sinclair (bitterly): I'm afraid I think of you as my friend, not as Night Sister in charge of the Memorial Wing.
Rankin: I didn't mean it that way Ruth, and you know I didn't. But you must realise that it is my business and my responsibility.
Sinclair: Yes, I know-I know. I think Matron was right. I am a bit hysterical. But when your whole life falls about your ears, you're surely allowed to be—just a little bit hysterical—
Rankin: Your whole life, Ruth? You're exaggerating—you're young, you've got any amount of ability; there are a dozen things you can do—
Sinclair: When I leave here to-morrow—yes, it will be to-morrow, it's no good saying it won't—when I leave here, I'll have exactly £11 in the world, and you know how long a woman con live on that.
Rankin (a bit embarrassed at talking about money): I didn't know that…What about your people?
Sinclair: As far as they're concerned, I don't exist.
(A buzzer rings. The kitchen door opens and Sparrow comes out, yawning and huddled under her cape.)
Rankin: It's Mr. Mortimer, Nurse. You'd better do the two o'clock temperatures too. Don't let Mr. Mortimer talk—he makes him self too excited.
Sparrow (stifling another yawn): Yes, Sister.
Rankin: Didn't you have any sleep to-day?
Sparrow: I've had my night off—I never can settle down after it.
Rankin: Mr. Mortimer may have some A.P.C. if his throat is troublesome.
Sparrow: Yes, Sister. (She goes out left, still yawning and shivering with her arms folded under her cape.)
Rankin: Have you told her (indicating the retreating Sparrow) about the rumpus?
Rankin: Why not?
Sinclair: I tell you she's only an excuse—
Rankin: I still think you're wrong. Matron probably honestly wanted to know who it was—you know how down she is on any goings-on between the meds. and the staff. Sparrow's a nice kid, but she'll never finish her training. She's the sort that marries—if not Macready, then someone else. It's unthinkable for you to ruin yourself for her—
Sinclair: Sparrow doesn't come into it. It's a personal matter— between Matron and me. She was wonderful to me when I first started here—I'd have done anything for her, and she knew it. That was when she changed—as soon as she knew how much power she had over me, she started to use it. I hate her now; she's a sadist, Frances—you've said it yourself—
Rankin: I know I have—but I don't think I ever really meant it. At the back of my mind, I've always known her reason for the things she's done that looked—well, deliberately cruel.
Sinclair: Like sacking young Burgess this morning, with an hour's notice!
Rankin: I happen to know why Burgess was sacked. Matron told me herself this evening. It was something to do with one of the furnace men—oh, quite disgusting. That's not for publication, Ruth. Matron would rather be slanged herself than brand the girl forever.
Sinclair: Young Burgess!
Rankin: Probably there have been reasons just as good for the other things she's done.
Sinclair: I didn't know you admired her so much
Rankin: I'm trying to make you reasonable—that's all.
(Enter Sparrow left.)
Sparrow: Mr. Mortimer's throat seems very sore, Sister. I told him he could have some A. P.C.
Rankin: Has he had some already this evening?
Sparrow: Yes, Sister. Five grains.
Rankin: Give him another five then, Nurse. And perhaps he'll see that his children have their tonsils out at a reasonable age.
Sparrow: I didn't know he was married even. Gosh, and here have I been wasting my ammunition on an old married man!
Rankin: I didn't say he was married. I'm interested in his tonsils, not his eligibility.
Sparrow (going into kitchen as she speaks): Fancy saying a word like that at two o'clock in the morning. (She comes back almost immediately with a bottle of white mixture and a medicine glass on a small tray. She comes across to Rankin, who reads the inscription on the medicine bottle and nods. Rankin replaces bottle on tray.)
Rankin: You'd better get the junior to help you with the temperatures.
Sparrow: Patsy! She's sound asleep still. She snores.
Rankin: Does she? I believe she's got adenoids. I'll ward her one of these days and get one of the specialists to run over her. She gets far too many colds.
Sinclair: You fuss over that child like a mother.
Rankin: She's a nice kid, Ruth—and she makes me laugh.
(Exit Sparrow left.)
Sinclair: I believe you'd forgive anyone anything who made you laugh.
Rankin: Well, life isn't so amusing that we can afford to miss any laughs.
Sinclair: Poor Frances—and here am I shelving my worries on to you too.
Rankin: There's no need to pity me. I think that perhaps-very soon—I shall be very happy. We haven't dared to make plans—
Sinclair: Well, it looks as though the sooner the lovely Leila gets better and out of here, the sooner the divorce can go through.
Rankin: I suppose I'm a fool, but I can't reconcile myself to building our happiness on a broken marriage. I might have happened much sooner if I could have. Anyway, Leila asked for the divorce herself.
Sinclair: I said to-night that we'd been pretty close together all these years—but I don't believe I know you very well, after all.
Rankin: I was just thinking the same when Sparrow came in. And now I do want to know things. Why did you say that as far as your people were concerned, you don't exist?
Sinclair: I swept out—just like the heroine of a melodrama. Only not into the snow. My mother died when I was only eight—I used to try and wait on her when she was ill. I think it was that that made me want to be a nurse—I knew she needn't have died if she'd had proper attention—
Rankin: I didn't even know your mother was dead; you never talk about yourself—
Sinclair: I've tried, subconsciously most of the time, to shut all that went before behind a wall of silence. It kept it further away when I didn't talk about it. My father married again within a few months—I suppose you can’t blame him—I have three brothers all younger than I am, and in the shortest possible time thereafter, I had three half-brothers. You can perhaps imagine what my life was like from the moment I was old enough to lift a kettle on to the stove. I don't think my father meant to be cruel—he just can't conceive Iife that isn't made up of a ceaseless round of work...If you'd ever lived on a poor farm, you'd know what I mean—
Rankin: You're an amazing person, Ruth; all these years, and you've never shown the slightest sign of all this—
Sinclair: I'm adaptable—it didn't take me long to absorb the atmosphere you others are used to. Some of the time it's been like walking on eggshells—
Rankin: But why?
Sinclair: I couldn't be myself-at least, I think I've been more myself here. That other Ruth Sinclair who walked five miles to school and milked eight cows morning and afternoon, who fed and mended for six brothers—that was the sham. I was always obsessed with the idea of being a nurse. The moment I was eighteen, I wrote to Matron—I don't know what made me choose St. Agnes'—it might just as well have been one of the provincial hospitals. But I'd seen a photo of St. Agnes'; it satisfied something in me. Matron wrote back—you know the usual letter. I showed it to my father—he just laughed and threw it into the fire. After that, I never mentioned it again at home; I just saved like mad. It took me nine years to save the £50 I needed to come down to town; and all the time I was terrified I wouldn't be able to get enough before I turned thirty. I'm talking too much, Frances—why don't you stop me? I'll be ashamed in the morning that I said all this—
Francis: Why should you be? You've got people all wrongly, Ruth your background doesn't matter—it's you yourself that counts. I'm saying it badly—
Sinclair: It may seem like that to you, Frances. Your background is so safe, so sure—it may seem just background to you—to me, it's the whole picture—
Rankin: I wish I could somehow make you see how unimportant it is.
Sinclair: I wish I could make you understand what those outback farms are like. You might understand my point of view then. I've been in your home; I know how much has been spent on making life easier and more pleasant. On the farm, we just didn't spend a penny except on the grimmest necessities. It wasn't conscious saving, not miserliness—just sheer, stark lack of money—that, and a total ignorance that any other kind of life is possible.
Rankin: Ruth, where did you learn to speak the way you do? That's not the kind of thing you can absorb as you can atmosphere—
Sinclair: There's an old doctor up home—a dipsomaniac, if the truth must be told. It's queer the things that shape one's life, Frances—we had two cases of diphtheria at the school when I was about twelve and he came to take swabs of our throats. I helped him—I was the oldest girl at the school—our neighbourhood went in for boys in a big way. He got interested in me and after that, he used to lend me books to read—I read the Lancet and Rutledge on Forensic Medicine before I read Anne of Green Gables.
Rankin: This is like slabs of a romantic novel, you know—
Sinclair: It wasn't romantic—romance in Gunnersen's Crossing was limited to being taken down behind the cowshed by one of the boys on Sunday afternoon after church. Why the cowshed, Frances? I've often wondered.
Rankin: l suppose it had some kind of esoteric symbolism—
Sinclair: You're telling me!
Rankin: Ruth, will you· promise me something? Promise me you won't be defiant. Give her a chance to back down gracefully—I think she'll take it. Please, Ruth—
Sinclair: And give her another chance to crow over me—
Rankin: After all you've put up with, are you going to throw it all away—everything you've worked and slaved for all these years. Can't you eat humble pie—just once? It’d only be for five days—
Sinclair: Supposing she asks me again about Sparrow; would you tell if you were me? Of course, you wouldn’t; you know darn well you wouldn't—
Rankin (slowly): I think I would—if I were you.
Sinclair: What do you mean by that?
Rankin: Your career's so much more important than any schoolgirl ideas about not sneaking. After all, Sparrow and Macready are so obvious, Matron's sure to see for herself—if she hasn’t done so already.
Sinclair: She knows alright—that's what makes it worse. She's using it as an excuse.
Rankin: Stop that, Ruth, it's no good going over and over that. She won't sack you out of hand, she couldn’t over a thing like that. She has a committee she has to report to—no, she’ll give you another chance—and you take it. Tell her anything she asks—do anything she says—but get through these five days somehow—
Sinclair: I suppose I must—
Rankin: Of course you must. I'll speak to Matron if I get a chance—it won't do any harm and it may give her an excuse for backing down.
Sinclair: Thanks, Francie—I wish I thought it worthwhile. I'd better wake the adenoidal junior, I suppose, and show her how to do a foment. (She stands up and stretches herself) God, I'm tired! You must be too—and I've kept you here airing my family history. (She touches Rankin's shoulder affectionately as she passes her. She goes into kitchen and closes the door behind her.)
(Rankin makes entry in report book and closes it. She takes out a magazine which she props up against the base of the desk light and produces some knitting. She goes on with the knitting, reading at the same time. Enter Sparrow with tray, with bottle of mixture and medicine glass empty.)
Rankin: Good heavens, I forgot you were still with Mr. Mortimer. Has he settled down?
Sparrow: I've heard the story of his life for the fourth night in succession—
Rankin: You'll have to learn to be firm with the patients; you can't have them talking all night—it does them no good, you know, no matter how sleepless they feel—
Sparrow: I know, Sister. I really did try to get away—but he's so terribly persistent. I think his throat was paining too.
Rankin: All right. You'd better get on with the temperatures at once.
Sparrow: I peeped in to see that Williams was getting on alright with Russell. He wasn't asleep—
Rankin: Neither was she, I hope—
Sparrow: No, she wasn't. (She goes into kitchen and leaves tray, she comes back on to stage; as she does so, the telephone rings)
Rankin (at phone): Yes, Sister…Yes. How long will they be? Alright, we'll be ready by then…Number 7, that's right. (She puts down phone) There's a pneumonia case coming in in about half an hour, Nurse. Leave the temperatures. Nurse Curtin will have to do them. Prepare number seven.
Sparrow: Yes, Sister. (She goes off left. Enter Sinclair from kitchen.)
Sinclair: Did I hear you say prepare number seven?
Rankin: Pneumonia; coming in in about half an hour. Patsy will have to do the two o'clocks; Williams can't leave young Keane. You might have a look in as you go past, Ruth—
Sinclair: I believe they borrowed our kettle in number three about a week ago; did we get it back?
Rankin: I don't remember. (Enter Patsy with tray and bowl of steaming water with small folded towel on tray.) When you've done that foment, Nurse, go down to Three and see if they still have our pneumonia kettle—
Patsy: Are we getting a pneumonia? That's one thing about Special, we do see life.
Rankin: You talk too much for your age; juniors should be seen only occasionally and heard still less.
Patsy (respectfully): Yes, Sister. (She goes off left, speaking as she goes) All the same, I think you like variety too.
Sinclair: She's incorrigible.
Rankin: Absolutely uninhibited—lucky child. It's pleasant though, isn't it, to strike a youngster so natural and fearless—
Sinclair: Much pleasanter than a mass of complexes like me, you mean.
Rankin: Oh, for heaven's sake, Ruth—don't be self-centred all the time.
Sinclair: Am I self-centred? I suppose I am—it's always been me against the world—
Rankin: Only in your own mind. You face the world with a sword in your hand—and the world answers back with swords. Good lord I'm talking in metaphors; it’s the effect you have on me, Ruth. (Enter Williams left.) What is it, Nurse?
Williams: His breathing is very shallow, Sister.
Williams: Very quick, and it seems to me to be getting weaker.
Rankin: I'll be there in a moment, Nurse.
Williams: Yes, Sister. (She goes off left.)
Rankin: Saline injection.
Sinclair: Seems indicated. I'll get it.
Rankin: I'll fix it; you do the temperatures, Ruth. I wonder if Sparrow has finished number seven—
Sinclair: (going into sterilising room as she speaks) Patsy's right—we do get variety.
(Rankin goes into kitchen and can be seen through the open door arranging dishes on a tray. Sinclair returns to stage with tray, thermometer in jar of fluid, night lamp. She picks up black notebook from desk and places a pencil on tray, then consults report book. Enter Dr. Clayton right.)
Clayton: Good-night, Nurse.
Sinclair (starting): Goodness! Oh, good-night, Doctor.
Clayton: I'm sorry I startled you.
Sinclair: I was a million miles away.
Clayton: As far as that! I was passing on my way home; thought I’d have a look at young Keane. How is he?
Sinclair: Sister Rankin is just preparing a saline injection.
Clayton: H'm. I'll have a look at him.
Sinclair: Sister's in the kitchen—
(Enter Rankin from kitchen. Her tray has on it several small enamel lishes.)
Rankin: I was just going to ring you, Doctor.
Clayton: Lucky I called in—I was getting, back from a case. (Sinclair picks up tray and goes off left.) You’re tired, Frances—
Rankin: Not as tired as you look, my dear. (He kisses her.)
Clayton: I hate this hole and corner business of snatching moments with you, Frances. Thank goodness it will soon be over—
Rankin (sharply): Don't let us plan ahead, Richard—
Clayton: Still feeling it isn't right, Francie—
Rankin: It might be unlucky. Now you'll laugh at me—I'm not generally superstitious. But luck seems to hang to lucky people—and Leila’s been lucky all her life.
Clayton: Lucky to marry an unsatisfactory man like me?
Rankin: You know you wouldn't be unsatisfactory with anyone else.
Clayton: I won’t be to you, Frances?
Rankin: You do need a lot of reassuring, Richard. I thought it was generally women who needed all the reassurance—
Clayton: Don't believe it. Women are always ten times surer of themselves and what they want than men are.
Rankin: Another illusion gone!
Clayton: Do you stiII have iIIusions, Frances?
Rankin: I still think people can live happily ever after, Richard.
Clayton: Can they, Frances? I wonder. Fairy tale come true.
Rankin: Why not, oh, why not? We've earned it, Richard.
Clayton: It doesn't always follow, my dear.
Rankin: We can make it follow.
Clayton: You've altered, Frances; you've made up your mind at last—
Rankin: l've been watching Leila since she's been in here—I've realized what I’ve been condemning you to all these years. I should have had the nerve to face the business squarely—although there was still your practice to think of.
Clayton: Never mind; it's behind us now. We can forget it.
Rankin: Are we being middle-aged fools, Richard?
Clayton: I don't feel middle-aged when I'm with you, Frances.
Rankin: You are a darling…You've forgotten your patients for five whole minutes, Richard.
Clayton: And I've made you forget yours—that's an achievement. I'II have a look at him before you give him that injection. Are you coming along, Sister Rankin?
Rankin: Certainly, Doctor.
Clayton: You're like a small girl playing at nurses when you talk like that—
Rankin: We are middle-aged fools, Richard-I'm quite sure of that—
(Enter Patsy with tray, bowl, etc., which she carried out.)
Clayton: Good evening, Nurse.
Patsy: Good evening, Doctor Clayton. Is it still evening? I was hoping it was getting along towards morning.
Patsy: Not really: We all talk like that, but it's a pose of course.
Rankin: Don't forget the kettle, Nurse.
Patsy: No, Sister…I'll go down for it now—
(While they are speaking, Clayton goes off left followed by Rankin. Patsy goes into kitchen and leaves tray, etc. Sparrow enters left, goes into sterilising room and comes out again immediately with folded sheets. Enter Patsy from kitchen.)
Sparrow: Where's everybody?
Patsy: Sinclair's doing the temps, I think. Williams's still with Russell and Sister went along there with Dr. Clayton. Twitter, I think I know something.
Sparrow: Not really! Darling, you amaze me.
Patsy: Don't be sarky—it doesn’t fit your sweet jeune-fille type. You know, when I came in a few minutes ago, I'd have sworn Rankin and Dr. Clayton were gazing into each other's eyes, view above—you know—
Sparrow: Old stuff, my sweet. She thinks it's a grim dark secret, but practically everybody in the State knows, I should think.
Patsy: The things that happen in this hospital that I know nothing about! You'd think Rankin would put in a word for Sinclair with Matron, wouldn't you?
Sparrow: What for?
Patsy (uncomfortably realising that Sparrow knows nothing): Oh, just on general principles—
Sparrow: Look here, young Patsy, what did you mean?
Patsy: I thought you knew all about it—there was a bit of a rumpus to-night; Matie arrived here at the wrong moment—
(As she speaks, Sinclair enters left with tray, thermometer, etc.)
Sinclair: Shut up, Patsy.
Sparrow: It's too late, Sinclair; she's not to shut up. Matron did catch Angus and me? What's she going to do—and what is it to do with you? She didn't think it was you, did she?
Sinclair: She knows darn well it wasn't. She's just using the whole incident as an excuse to sack me, probably.
Sparrow: But she can't do that!
Sinclair: She won't ask your permission, my dear. Now don't get all upset, Sparrow—it's nothing to do with you. Patsy, have you got that kettle yet?
Patsy: Not yet, Nurse. I was—
Sinclair: Well, get along and get it. And keep your mouth shut for the rest of the night. You've done enough harm already.
Patsy: I'm terribly sorry—
Sinclair: Get out, will you? (Exit Patsy right.)
Sparrow: This is terrible—I had no idea—why didn't somebody tell me?
Sinclair: Will you stop getting excited about it? As far as you are concerned the incident is closed…Although it might be as well for you and Macready to be a bit more discreet if you both want to stay in this hospital—
Sparrow: Does Angus know? What will he think of me, letting someone else in for all this?
Sinclair: If he has any sense, he'll lie low—
Sparrow: I'll go in and see Matron as I go off duty—
Sinclair: Once and for all, Sparrow, keep out of this. Go and finish that room; the patient will be here any moment—
Sparrow: Yes, Nurse. (She turns to go off left.)
Sinclair: Don't worry, Sparrow. Rankin thinks Matie will only slang me—and I'm used to that.
Sparrow: You're putting me in rather a rotten position, but I suppose it's my own fault—
Sinclair: I think Matie's just showing off; you know how she loves picking on me—it must be biting into her soul that she’s only got a few more days of that sport. Now stop it once and for all. Is number seven ready?
Sparrow: Yes, at once.
(Sparrow goes into sterilising room; comes out almost immediately with stone or aluminium water bottles. Sinclair makes entries in report book.)
Sinclair: Hurry, Nurse. I think I hear the lift coming up now. Come straight back.
(Enter Williams left. She crosses to phone.)
Sparrow: Yes, Nurse. (She goes off left returning without bottles just as patient arrives.)
Williams: (at phone): Records? Send up Mr. Russell Keane’s card immediately, please…Alright, I’ll come down and get it; but keep calm for Gawd’s sake. (She puts down phone) She hates being wakened, lazy hound.
Williams: Looks like. Poor kid—it’s all such stupid waste.
Sinclair: He’s not dead yet. You’d better go and get that card.
Williams: I’m going. Gee, here’s your case. (Door right is held open and tray wheeled in. The patient is bolstered up with pillows. An orderly wheels the tray; a nurse walks beside it, also a woman in outdoor clothes. Williams goes off right.)
Sinclair: Alright, Nurse. (She takes her place beside tray and other nurse exits right.) Oxygen, Nurse (to Sparrow).
Sparrow: Yes, Nurse. (She goes off right. Orderly wheels tray off left. Sinclair accompanying and followed by woman. Enter Patsy right with pneumonia kettle. Goes into sterilising room. Enter Sparrow right carrying cylinder of oxygen. Patsy comes out of sterilising room.)
Patsy: Oxygen, eh? Is the case in?
Sparrow: yes. Is that the kettle? You’ve taken long enough getting it.
Patsy: Had to search the whole damn hospital. Found it down in Path. Now what would they be wanting it for in the looney-bin?
Sparrow: Lots of loonies get pneumonia. They die of that mostly—not from being nit-witted. Here, give me that. (She takes kettle from Patsy and goes off left.)
Patsy: Well, that saves me wigging. (She goes over and reads the report book. The buzzer rings. Patsy looks up at it.) Mrs. Spanner! Not a pan, surely, Mrs. Spanner. So very unusual, Mrs. Spanner. (She goes towards sterilising room and phone rings. Comes back and answers phone.) Hullo…No, I’m sorry Nurse Sparrow is not here at the moment. Could I take any message for her, Doctor? (The orderly walks through wheeling empty tray.)...Ni, just as you please, Doctor. (She laughs.) Shall I tell her exactly that?...Very well, Doctor. (Puts down phone and goes into sterilising room; comes out with covered bedpan. Enter Williams right, carrying large blue record card.)
Patsy: Hullo, what’s records for?
Williams: You’re an inquisitive child.
Patsy: Yes, I know. It’s always been one of my strong points. Still, I do get to know things—
Williams: It’s Russell Keane’s. And much good will it do you.
Patsy: What do they want it for?
Williams: I politely refrained from questioning Dr. Clayton—although I suppose you wouldn’t have. But I gathered they desire to study his card in order to find out into which category his blood falls, so that, when making the necessary transfusion, they will not give him the wrong type blood.
Patsy: A transfusion! Gosh, that’s exciting—I’ve never seen one done. (Comes over and looks at card.) Where does it say?
Williams: There—see. “O” type.
Patsy: That’s the type there’s hardly any of, isn’t it?
Williams: Not as our best grammarians would put it. But you’re quite right. There’s hardly any of them—which is unlucky for Russell Keane.
Patsy: But suppose they can’t get a donor—at this time of night—
Williams: That, thank goodness, is not our pigeon. May I ask what you’re doing with that pan?
Patsy: God! Mrs. Spanner! (She goes off left in a hurry. Williams follows more quietly. The phone rings once, then again more insistently. Enter Sparrow, answers phone.)
Sparrow: Hullo…Oh, Angus…Yes, of course…No, no, not on the phone. Angus, something’s happened. Can you come up?...Alright, darling, but hang round if I’m not visible, we are busy…No, I won’t—not on the telephone. (She puts down phone. Williams enters left; she crosses over and sits behind desk right.)
Williams: Lord, I’m weary through and through. When do we eat?
Sparrow: You’re a terror; you never think of anything but your stomach.
Williams: I know you’ve gone off your food lately—
Sparrow: I have not.
Williams: Oh, have you not?
Sparrow: I’m not going to argue with you. If you’re so hungry, why don’t you heat the coffee?
Williams: That’s an idea. I think I will. (She gets up and goes into kitchen as she speaks) Where’s Patsy?
Sparrow: Mrs. Spanner. It’s no good waiting for her. Sister will be ready for a cup too. Is Dr. Clayton sill there?
Williams: (in kitchen): Yes—they’re going to try a transfusion, I think.
Sparrow: What a business getting a donor in the middle of the night!
Williams: He’s an “O” type—
Sparrow: About one chance in a million.
Williams: (coming back out of kitchen): If that. Will you watch the coffee, Twitter? I suppose I’d better go back and see if I’m wanted.
(Enter Angus right.)
Williams: I’m certainly not wanted here.
Angus: Who said so?
Williams: I don’t need to be told in so many vulgar words. Don’t forget the coffee, Nurse.
Sparrow: No, I won’t—at least, I’ll try not to. (Williams goes off left.) Angus, the most dreadful thing happened to-night—
Angus: Dreadful, do you call it? And here I was thinking I was all your maiden dreams come true—
Sparrow: No, you ass, I didn’t mean…No, Angus, please don’t kiss me. (He kisses her)…No, not again; we’ve got something serious to talk about—
Angus: Marriage, I’d have you know, my lass, is a very serious matter—
Sparrow: Really, really, Angus darling, I mean it. Matron caught us to-night—and she’s going to sack Sinclair—
Angus: I don’t follow. She caught me kissing my affianced bride—that’s you. Am I right? Yes? And she’s going to sack Sinclair? My sweet, I think being engaged to me has turned your brain.
Sparrow: If it hasn’t now, it will in time.
Angus: Will it, darling? Will you be quite daft in time?
Sparrow: Quite. Then we’ll really match, won’t we?
Angus: I’m afeared you’ve no the proper respect for me that a wuman should give her lord and master—
Sparrow: Angus, let’s be sensible. It’s true; Matie’s cooked the business up and turned it round so that she’s got an excuse to sack Sinclair—at least, I’m terribly afraid that’s what it means. Angus, you do understand, don’t you, darling? I’ll have to go and see Matie first thing in the morning and tell her—it was me.
Angus: It’s really true then. One of the girls down in Path. told me, but I just didn’t believe it. Don’t you do anything, Jeanie; I’ll beard the old bitch myself—After all, she can’t do anything to me—
Sparrow: I’m afraid, Angus. She can—and she will; you know what she is—
Angus: Well, we’ll just have to pray that I get that Rockhampton job.
Sparrow: What Rockhampton job?
Angus: I was keeping it—just a surprise. If I get it, I’ll get the surprise. It’s a hospital job with a grant for special research into sub-tropical diseases. Six fifty a year and quarters—for a married man—
Sparrow: Oh, Angus—it’s just what you have been longing for. But Rockhampton—it’s a thousand miles away—
Angus: For a married man, I said—
Sparrow: Do you think you’ll get it?
Angus: Not one chance in a million, my sweet. Still I’ll just imagine I’ve already got it and I’ll go see Matron as soon as she’s out of her bath in the morning.
Sparrow: I believe you’re as scared of her as I am.
Angus: More, darling, much more. You are better armed to face her than I am. You’ve got all the things she hasn’t—youth and loveliness and love wrapped around you like a cloak—
Sparrow: Angus, I do love you so terribly—
Angus: Do you, my darling? What’s the matter, my little sweet, my darling little sweet—
Sparrow: Angus, quick, quick, let me go—
Angus: Don’t struggle, you lovely shy little sparrow—
Sparrow: Shy, nothing. The coffee’s boiling over. (She breaks free and runs into kitchen. She comes back to door of kitchen with jug in her hand.) All over everything; such a mess. Patsy’ll have to clean it up. Will you have a cup?
Angus: I don’t mind if I do—forbye coffee is awfu’ bad for the nerves.
Sparrow: It would take more than a cup of this to affect yours. (As she speaks she goes back into kitchen, coming back with a steaming cup of coffee. She gives it to Angus, then goes back and gets one for herself.) I’m a bit doubtful about your bearding Matie—I’m afraid I’m just thinking it might work because I’m dreadfully scared of going to her myself—
Angus: I have spoken! The matter is closed.
Sparrow: You don’t get away with that kind of stuff, my lad—
Angus: You’re not going to quarrel with me. I refuse to be quarreled with—
(Enter Patsy with covered pan which she takes into sterilising room. She comes back sniffing loudly.)
Patsy: That coffee sounds just like what the doctor ordered.
Sparrow: You’ll find most of your cup down the side of the stove.
Patsy: Not if I know it, I won’t. (She goes into kitchen and comes back with cup of coffee.) I trust I don’t interrupt.
Angus: You do.
Patsy: Don’t be hard on me, Doctor. I’m just a young and innocent girl.
Angus: You didn’t deliver my message.
Patsy: I didn’t get a chance. It may be hard to imagine, but we work here, between times, as it were.
Sparrow: Don’t brag, Patsy.
(Enter Rankin and Clayton. Rankin goes straight to phone. Clayton stops to speak to Angus. Patsy goes back into kitchen, taking own and Angus’ cups.)
Rankin (at phone): Records?...We want an “O” type donor immediately…Yes, I know all that. Do your very best…Half an hour at the outside…Alright, ring as soon as you can…Yes. (Puts down phone.) It would be an “O”. Would you like a cup of coffee, Doctor?
Clayton: I would indeed. It’s a long time since dinner time.
(Exit Sparrow to kitchen.)
Angus: Best coffee in the hospital, here in Special.
Rankin: I notice you like lots of things in Special, Doctor.
Angus: Now don’t you start teasing me too. I’ve had as much as a man can stand this very night. I’ll leave you.
Rankin: Don’t let us drive you away.
Angus: Duty, my dear Sister, is a stern taskmaster. And duty calls. (He thrusts his hand inside his tunic and walks off right in a Napoleonic attitude.)
Rankin: He’s quite mad, that lad.
Clayton: He’s a very able youngster. I had him in my clinic, you remember.
(Enter Sparrow from kitchen with two cups of coffee which she hands to Rankin and Clayton.)
Rankin: I remember your saying that he’d make his mark if he didn’t marry too early. (Sparrow looks up at her.)
Clayton: I probably said if he didn’t marry foolishly—
Rankin: Do you think he’s likely to marry foolishly, Nurse?
Sparrow (Primly): It all depends on what one calls foolishly, Sister. (She takes up her own cup and goes into kitchen.)
Clayton: Is that a case?
Clayton: It’s in the air.
Rankin: Hush, my dear. There are staff everywhere. (Calls out) Nurse.
Patsy: Yes, Sister. (Goes back into kitchen. Sparrow enters from kitchen and crosses stage, going off left.)
Rankin: Another cup?
Clayton: Yes, please. That was good.
Rankin: (Taking cup over to kitchen): Another cup for Dr. Clayton, Nurse. (Comes back) You’re definitely overdoing things, Richard. When are you going to relax?
Clayton: When all this is over. You’ve infected me, Frances—(He breaks off as Patsy enters with his coffee.)
Rankin (as buzzer rings): Number 22, Nurse. And you might look in and see that Nurse Williams is alright—
Patsy: Yes, Sister. (She goes off left.)
Rankin: What do you mean—I’ve infected you?
Clayton: I’m restless; I’ve begun to feel it’s unlucky for us to plan ahead—
Rankin: Sounds weak when you say it like that, doesn’t it? Yet I feel it too.
Clayton: We’ve been looking forward to it too long; it’s lost the sense of reality.
Rankin: It will be real, my dear. I promise you that.
Clayton: You’ll keep your promise too; I know you, Frances. I’ve kept in the back of my mind for so many years, the thought of the home we’d make together—
With a wall of peace and quietude around us. I will do that for you, Richard, I swear I will. To give you quiet content where she has given you nothing but shame and despair—Every woman wants to do well what some other woman has done badly—but it’s more than that. Leila has nearly killed the essential you—I want to see you come alive again, Richard—
Clayton: Am I a weakling to rest so much in your strength, Frances?
Rankin: You’re not, you’re not— (She breaks off as Sinclair enters left.) I wish Records would hurry up and find us that donor. You’d better have some coffee, Nurse.
Sinclair: I’d be glad of it.
Rankin: How’s the case?
Sinclair: Settling down. He’d be alright if his wife would go home, but I can’t move her. Dr. Moore told her she could stay—
Clayton: Darn nuisances, these doctors.
Sinclair: Yes, aren’t they? (She goes into kitchen.)
Rankin: There’s not much Sinclair doesn’t know.
Clayton: (significantly): I wondered. She had a kind of glint in her eye.
Rankin: I’ll leave you to drink your coffee. Sinclair will answer if Records rings.
Clayton: Go ahead. I’m alright. (He seats himself behind desk left, idly turning over pages of a magazine Rankin has left there. Rankin goes off left.)
(The buzzer rings. Sinclair comes in from kitchen; speaks as she crosses stage.)
Sinclair: Another cup?
Clayton: No, no. I’m spoiled enough already.
Sinclair (glancing up at indicator): Our prize nuisance—one of those women who make you feel ashamed you’re one of the same. (She goes off left. Clayton goes on glancing through magazine and finishes his coffee. As he trains the last dregs, Leila enters. She has made up her face and her hair is properly done. Clayton does not notice her and she stands for a moment before she speaks.)
Clayton: Good lord, Leila. You should be up—
Leila: I had to see you, Richard. I had to see you—I knew you were coming to-night. I heard the nurse ringing up for you. I’ve been lying there in the dark, listening, listening for your footsteps—I know them so well. All the nights I’ve lain awake and listened for you—you remember, Richard.
Clayton: I don’t know that I do. I think I stayed awake more nights listening for yours, Leila.
Leila: You are so cruel, Richard. Cruel—you’ve always been the same. I should have known—
Clayton: You must go back to bed, Leila—
Leila: Didn’t I tell you I had to see you…There was no other way; all this conspiracy round me to keep me away from you—
Clayton: Suppose you stick to the truth, Leila. A couple of months ago you said you were relieved you’d never have to see me again. There’s no conspiracy, only your own wish.
Leila: That isn’t true, Richard, and you know it. It was never my own wish. I thought of your happiness; I had to give you your chance of happiness—
Clayton: Leila, don’t be a fol. You thought of nothing but your own desires—you always have.
Leila: It isn’t like you to be so unkind, Richard. She’s made you like that—
Clayton: Leave Frances out of this.
Leila: So it is Frances then. I thought so; all these years she’s been planning this—
Clayton: Yes, she’s been planning—planning to give me a home instead of the shell of misery you made of the house, planning to give me peace and rest and contentment, instead of the travesty of living you make it. She loves me, Leila, loves me—but that’s something you’d never understand. Love to you is something that takes, and takes, and goes on taking.
Leila: You don’t understand me; you never have understood me. I must have love; I need it, just as flowers need sunlight. You used to tell me I was like a lily, Richard. Do you remember you called me “Lily” for quite a long time.
Clayton: I was very young then, Leila. It must have amused you.
Leila: How hard you’ve grown.
Clayton: All your own work, my dear!
Leila: That isn’t you talking, Richard. It’s all the hideous poison she’s pumped into you—it takes a woman to know a woman, Richard; I know all the vindictiveness and venom she’s capable of—
Clayton: Shut your foul mouth, woman! (He controls himself with a visible effort.) You had better go back to your bed, Leila—you’re in no fit condition to be out of it.
Leila: I’m not getting better here, I’m getting worse. They are trying to poison me. I never drink the medicine; I’m afraid.
Clayton: That’s nonsense, Leila. You must take your medicine or you will never get better. Now go back to bed.
(Rankin enters left. She crosses to cupboard and takes out linen, speaking as she works.)
Rankin: You must come back to bed immediately, Mrs. Clayton. This is the second time you’ve been out to-night—I shall have to speak to Matron about you, you know.
Leila: I must speak to my husband—no one will deliver my messages to him—all my letters have been intercepted.
Rankin: We can’t have you saying things like that, you know. You’re excited to-night—
Leila: Leave me alone, leave me alone—
(Enter Sinclair left.)
Clayton: Leila, all this is so useless. Why don’t you go back to bed?
Sinclair: Shall I take you back, Mrs. Clayton? Come along. (She takes hold of Leila who flings herself free.)
Leila: No, no—don’t touch me—I can’t bear it, I can’t bear it—all this hatred round me; I can’t think—my head, my head—Richard, don’t let them touch me—you’re the only person I’m safe with. Richard, Richard, let me come back—I’ll be good to you—no one else cares for me the way you do—Let me come back, oh, let me come back—
Clayton: Leila, you must control yourself, my dear. You’ll be sorry you said all this in the morning. You’re forgetting Harrington—he cares for you—
Leila (dropping her voice) No, no, not Leslie. He’s the worst of the lot—don’t send me to him. I can’t bear him, I can’t bear him—Those horrible hairy hands of his touching me—I’ll kill myself if you send me back to him. I don’t love him, I don’t love him—
Clayton (guardedly to Rankin): Has she ever been like this before?
Rankin: Not as bad. Dr. Moore said definitely no hypo; I’ll ring him—
Leila: Why are you two whispering to each other? Don’t let her put you against me, Richard—she doesn’t love you like I do; I love you—I love you, do you hear—
Rankin (to Sinclair): Go downstairs and ring Dr. Moore, Nurse. Dr. Clayton will get her back—(Sinclair goes off right.)
Leila: Promise me you’ll stop the divorce, Richard—I can’t stand being parted from you—
Clayton: You should have thought of that years ago, Leila.
Leila: You loved me then, you worshipped me, until that woman came—
Clayton: That’s nonsense; you were finished with me years before I met Frances. It’s no use, Leila—
Leila: You wouldn’t let me have a baby—you wouldn’t let me. I wanted one so much—
Clayton: You were not strong enough; it would have killed you—
Leila: That’s what you said; but I knew why it was—it was because there was something wrong with me. It’s cancer, isn’t it? I can always feel the pain—it never leaves me. It is cancer—
Clayton: Good God, no! What on earth are you saying—
Leila: It’s no good, Richard. I’ve known it always—the thought has burned into my brain till I can think of nothing else…Don’t make me marry Leslie—let me come back to you—I can’t stand any more—(She lies sobbing at his feet.)
Clayton: Help me, Fances!
Rankin: I can’t, Richard. You must make up your own mind.
Clayton: It is all phantasy…There’s none of it true—
Rankin: It’s real to her, poor devil.
Clayton: We could never forget this.
Rankin: She’s too strong for us, Richard.
(Sinclair enters right. She nods to Rankin, then comes over and tries to lift Leila from the floor. Leila resists her and clings to Clayton’s ankles.)
Sinclair: Come along, Mrs. Clayton. I’ve got a draught for you that will stop the pain at once—
Leila: No, no, no—Richard, you must promise, you must promise—never let me go again—Only you can help me when the pain gets bad—
Clayton (raising her): Alright, Leila, I promise—I’ll never let you go again.
Leila: Promise me—give me your solemn oath—
Clayton: I give you my solemn oath. Let Nurse take you to bed now, and in the morning, I’ll come for you—
(Sinclair takes Leila and leads her off left.)
Clayton: Frances—(Rankin crosses to him; he takes both her hands and preses his face against them.)
Rankin: Perhaps she won’t remember in the morning—
Clayton: And if she doesn’t?
Rankin: You were right—we could never forget this.
Clayton: To crucify you like this! There is no justice—
Rankin: Was that true—that you wouldn’t let her have a child?
Clayton: Yes—I have only myself to blame—I knew even when I married her that she was emotionally unstable. She was very lovely when she was twenty, Frances—
Rankin: She is still lovely, Richard. I am jealous of her, I think I always have been jealous—at this moment, I could strangle her with these bare hands—a woman half insane—(She breaks away from him, sits at desk and drops her head on her arms.)
Clayton: Don’t, Frances—
Rankin: Just—in a minute—my dear—
Clayton: I lean on your strength, Frances.
(There is silence for a few seconds, then Sparrow enters left. She goes into kitchen. Sinclair enters left.)
Sinclair: She is settling down quite quietly; she’ll be asleep before we can get the hypo ready.
(The phone rings.)
Rankin: That will be records. Thank goodness. (Into phone) Yes…What?...two hours;—is that the best you can get?...Alright. Do that. (She puts down the phone slowly.) The only donor she can get—he lives twenty miles away. It will take him two hours to get here—
Clayton: That will be two hours too late.
Sinclair: We should have a blood bank. What’s the difficulty?
Rankin: He’s an “O” type.
Sinclair: An “O.” Well, so am I—will you let me give the transfusion, Doctor?
Clayton: It’s against the regulations, isn’t it?
Sinclair: Does that matter? He’s dying—
Rankin: You know what it will mean, Ruth. You would have no chance with matron—not a hope.
Sinclair: That boy is dying—what does anything else matter? He’s never had a chance. Oh, come on—what are you waiting for? (She rolls her sleeve up over right elbow.)
Rankin: I take no responsibility—
Sinclair: You’re not asked to. Will you let me, Doctor?
Clayton: Yes, Nurse. Have someone prepare your arm.
(Enter Williams hurriedly.)
Williams: Will you come quickly, Sister? (She hurries off left. Rankin and Claytono follow. Clayton speaks at exit.)
Clayton: As quickly as you can, Nurse. (Exit.)
Sinclair: Sparrow, quickly. (She runs into sterilising room, comes back with wad of cotton wool, razor, etc., on tray. Enter Sparrow.)
Sparrow: What’s up?
Sinclair: Come on—my arm—transfusion—Russell’s going—oh, hurry, hurry, Sparrow—(As Sparrow swabs her arm in the crook of the elbow and runs the safety razor down it
THE CURTAIN FALLS SLOWLY.
When the curtain rises, the bleak light of early morning is coming in Rankin is seated at the desk writing up reports The other nurses are coming in and out, sparrow to cupboard for fresh linen, Williams to sterilising room for bowls of hot water and towels. The movement is rapid, but they are all looking crumpled and tired.
(Patsy enters left and goes over to Rankin)
Patsy (in subdued voice): Could Mr. Dyson have sugar in his tea? He said he craves sugar.
Rankin: No, he’ll have to crave. (She looks up sharply at Patsy.) Have you been crying?
Patsy (in small voice): Yes, Sister.
Rankin: You must get used to it, Patsy.
Patsy: I know, Sister But he was such fun—we laughed at the same things—
Rankin: There’ll be plenty of boys to laugh with you, my dear.
Patsy: It seems so callous—his room all tidied up and impersonal already as though he had never been. I’m worried about Nurse Sinclair too, Sister—when I took her in some tea, she didn’t seem to notice me—
Rankin: She had a sedative, you know. I didn’t mean you to disturb her. (Sinclair enters left; she wears no cap and her arm is bandaged at the elbow.) Is she awake?
Sinclair: Yes, I’m awake. (She crosses to other desk and sits down behind it.)
Rankin: You shouldn’t have moved yet, Ruth. (To Patsy) Just forget to go back to Mr. Dyson, Nurse; he’ll drink his tea without sugar and like it. Has Mr. Patterson had his sponge yet?
Patsy: Sparrow is doing his back now. Shall I wake Mrs. Clayton for her tea, or just let her sleep on?
Rankin: Let her sleep on—there’s peace while she’s asleep. You can begin putting back the flowers
Patsy: Yes, Sister. (She goes over to shelf, takes down two vases of flowers and takes them into kitchen: she returns in a few minutes with the flowers rearranged and takes them off left, continues to do the same thing till flowers are all off.)
Sinclair: All for nothing.
Rankin: You musn’t think of it that way, Ruth. It was just bad luck.
Sinclair: Don’t begrudge me my whimper. After all, your heroic gestures don’t turn out to be clowning.
Rankin: When I make a heroic gesture, my dear, people think I’m hailing a tram—
Sinclair: Is this just the morning-after cynicism, Frances—or was last night out-of-the-way sinister?
Rankin: Dr. Clayton is coming this morning to take his wife home.
Sinclair: Frances. No! She’ll have forgotten by this morning—he couldn’t do that.
Rankin: He gave his promise, Ruth—and he’ll stick to it; anyhow there is nothing else he can do. She’s so close to the borderline—we would feel ourselves forever responsible if she went quite insane.
Sinclair: She’s the type who’ll live to eighty.
Rankin: Ruth, need you?
Sinclair: I’m sorry, Frances. I didn’t realise I was so utterly, utterly selfish—I’m so soft with self-pity, I’m glad you are unhappy too
Rankin: Why? If you could go back over the night, would you undo what you did?
Sinclair: No—no, I couldn’t. His life was more important, much more important than anything else at the time. There is an intoxication in throwing one’s cap so far over the windmill—if it had succeeded, would I have been preening myself and feeling myself justified, instead of feeling the sentimental fool I do this morning? O, Lord, I’m lightheaded—I didn’t know a pint of blood could make so much difference.
Rankin: It isn’t just the pint of blood—you gave it at the end of a day’s work and under emotional stress. It’s no wonder you feel lightheaded.
(Enter Leila from ward. She is dressed—fur coat, high-heeled shoes, etc., no hat. She carries a handful of flowers in each hand; they are dripping as through just removed from vases.)
Rankin (in exasperated voice): Oh, Leila—
Leila: I brought you these—I thought they might brighten up your room a little I won’t need them any more—Richard always has the house a mass of flowers when I come home.
Sinclair: You shouldn’t have dressed yet, Mrs. Clayton—it’s very bad of you.
Leila (sweetly): Oh, I’m going home-to-day, didn’t you know? (Enter Patsy evidently seeking Leila. She starts to speak, but doesn’t and stands and watches.) So you’ll have to get someone else to boss now—My husband is coming for me quite early—Poor lamb, I didn’t realise how much I meant to him—
Sinclair: I think you might reserve that for people it impresses—
Rankin (wearily): Hush, Ruth. Go back to your room, Leila—you had better get into your dressing gown and lie down again. You don’t want to be tired out before Richard comes—
Leila: No, I must be bright, musn’t I? Dear Frances, how thoughtful you are—
Rankin (shrilly): Go back to your room—at once.
Leila (still speaking with concentrated sweetness): You shouldn’t meddle with married men, Frances—it doesn’t pay.
Sinclair: You should know.
(Enter Sparrow hurriedly from ward.)
Sparrow (breathlessly): Goodness, Mrs. Clayton, what a fright you gave me. I’ve been looking everywhere for you.
Leila: I’m just coming, Nurse. I just brought out some flowers for Sister Rankin—nurses’ rooms are always so dull and lonely, aren’t they? (She goes off ward as she speaks. Sparrow goes with her.)
Sinclair: I suppose there is a hell.
Rankin: It’s not far to seek.
Sinclair: She’s saner than we are, Frances.
Rankin: Perhaps—but Richard doesn’t think so.
Patsy (disappearing into sterilising room as she speaks): I think she’s a bitch.
Rankin (horrified): Patsy! (Sinclair begins to laugh weakly.) Ruth, you’d better go over to quarters and go to bed at once.
Sinclair: You forget I have to interview Matron as I go off duty.
Rankin: How about doing as you’re told for a change. After all, I’m senior in charge. I’ll see Matron—
Sinclair: There isn’t much point in it, my dear. I’ve burned my boats finally and irretrievably; I’ve given her a real reason to sack me. And she’ll take it.
Rankin: The rule is a good one, Ruth. It wouldn’t do for nurses to give transfusions—if they were allowed to, the whole staff would be disorganised more often than not. They’ve got a duty to the other patients—
Sinclair: I’m not arguing, Ruth. It is a good rule—but I’ve broken it and that will be the end of me. I’ll have to have some sleep before I pack—I feel bloody—(she giggles) or bloodless—
Rankin: I can’t imaging St. Agnes’ without you, Ruth—me still here and you away. I thought it would be the other way—
Sinclair: Don’t let’s get sloppy or I’ll pass out—
(Enter right Nurse Smith. She is dressed in freshly laundered apron, wears her cape, is fresh and bright and brisk. She is coming on duty.)
Rankin: Good morning, Nurse. (She hands Smith the report book.)
Smith: Good morning, Sister. (She stands at the end of Rankin’s desk reading the reports.)
Sinclair: Is it a good morning?
Smith: Passable, there’s a bit of a nip—
Rankin: We noticed it.
Smith: It’s warm in here after outside.
(Phone rings. Smith answers it.)
Smith: No, Nurse Sparrow is busy. Can I give her a message?...Very well, Doctor. (Puts down phone.)
Rankin: Macready? (Smith nods.) What did he want?
Smith: Just Sparrow. No message.
Sinclair: He ought to exercise a bit of sense; he must know she’s busy at this time of the morning.
Rankin: He’s probably going off duty and sees no reason why she shouldn’t be doing likewise. The egotism of the young passes comprehension.
(Enter Probationer right, coming on duty. She stands at the end of desk until Rankin notices and speaks to her. Smith hands her the report book.)
Rankin: Good morning.
Probationer: Good morning, Sister. Shall I help Nurse Curtin?
Rankin: Yes, you may as well, till Sister Murphy comes on.
Sinclair: Roberts is off to-day, isn’t she?
Smith: Yes. We’ll be shorthanded with Burgess gone too.
Sinclair: I wonder if all hospitals are as bad as this place—
(Sparrow enters with bowl of water and used towels. Goes into sterilising room. She comes out almost immediately with bowl of hot water and towels.)
Rankin: Every hospital I’ve ever been in. (Exit Probationer into kitchen with vases of flowers.)
Sinclair: It’s a pity they don’t stick to the keen ones when they get them—
(Enter Angus. He is almost bursting with suppressed excitement.)
Angus: Good morning, Sister. Is Nurse Sparrow about—it’s vair-r-ry urgent—
Rankin: Good morning, Doctor. I think she’s in the sterilising room—
Sinclair: Washing pans.
Smith: No, I think she went back into ward. Shall I go and take over?
Rankin: Thank you, Nurse. (Exit Smith left.)
Angus: I am going to see Matron as soon as I have had a word with Nurse Sparrow, Nurse Sinclair. You will oblige me very much by not reporting it to Matron until I’ve seen her—
Sinclair: Why will you people make all these unnecessary sacrificial gestures?
Angus (belligerently): I beg your pardon, Nurse Sinclair, but neither Jean nor I will shelter behind you; you should know that without being told—
Rankin: How about stopping all this dignified argument—our tempers are all frayed this morning.
(Enter Sparrow left. Her sleeves are rolled up and her hands and arms wet. She holds her arms out stiffly so that they do not touch her apron.)
Sparrow: You wanted me, Dr. Macready?
Angus: Jeanie—(he stops and looks at her for a moment, relaxing and softening) Jeanie—I’ve got it. I’ve got it—the Rockhampton job.
Sparrow: Angus—oh, Angus. It’s a thousand miles—
Angus: But you’re coming too! (In the background, Rankin makes a resigned gesture and goes into kitchen. Sinclair sits with her chin in her hands not noticing what is going on.) Jeanie, I told them—I told them we were married—
Sparrow: You’re quite mad!
Angus: Not mad—just saying we were married already seemed to make it come nearer being true.
Sparrow (laughing helplessly): I suppose you thought that was romantic.
Angus: Well, so it is. We’ve got to be there by Monday week—that means leaving here on Saturday week.
Sparrow: And to-day’s Tuesday—oh, Angus, you are quite, quite mad—
Angus: Won’t you—darling Jeanie, won’t you? (He goes to take hold of her.)
Sparrow: No, no, don’t touch me till I’ve scrubbed up.
Angus: For God’s sake, go and scrub and then come back and be sensible.
Sparrow (going into sterilising room): You should talk!
(Enter Matron right.)
Angus (to Sinclair): So you see, Nurse, I can just politely tell Matron where she gets off.
Matron: And where do I get off, Dr. Macready?
(Sinclair rises automatically when she sees Matron.)
Angus: That’s just in the manner of speaking, Matron.
Matron: I would nevertheless, like to know. I’ve often wondered where one did get off.
Angus: You will be interested to know, Matron, that I have a new appointment—at Rockhampton. And I’m taking Nurse Sparrow with me.
Matron: Congratulations—on both counts, Doctor. I am not surprised.
Angus: Which doesn’t surprise you, Matron?
Matron: Neither surprises me, Dr. Macready. You’ve no need to be told you’re a very clever young doctor—and I’ve no need to be told that Nurse Sparrow is going with you. Nurse Sinclair, you should not be out of bed—
(Angus moves across to door of sterilising room. Sparrow comes out and both stand and watch from upstage.)
Sinclair: I was just coming down to report—I didn’t think you’d be up yet—
Matron: Russell Keane’s father was a friend of mine once; I have not been to bed. But you should be; go to your quarters at once—and I’ll arrange for you to be relieved from duty to-night.
Sinclair: You mean—relieved from duty—for always—
Matron: I said for to-night, Nurse. Sit down, Nurse Sinclair. You know you have broken one of the special rules of this hospital—
Sinclair: What else could I do? What would you have done yourself—there was nothing else to do—
Matron: If you hadn’t, you would have left the hospital to-day. I’ve watched you from the first moment you entered this hospital, Nurse Sinclair; I’ve watched you turn from a raw country girl into a very competent and self-confident nurse. But of all the women who’ve trained under me, I’ve never know another who was so single-minded, so entirely impervious to every other idea by that of attaining efficiency. You’ve hated discipline and rebelled against it and I’ve done everything I could to break that rebellious spirit. There is only room for one head in every hospital. Neither the hospital nor its traditions have meant anything to you—they have been a means to an end. I confess I was in despair about you, until last night. For the first time since you’ve been here, you placed your patient’s welfare before your own interests. I am only more sorry than I can say that your sacrifice was—futile—
Sinclair: Then you’re not going to sack me—
Matron (shaking her head): No. (Sinclair drops her face into her hands.) You complete your training at the end of this week, Nurse—Staff-Nurse Graham is going to another hospital—when you have had your leave, perhaps you would come back to St. Agnes’ as Staff-Nurse—
Sinclair: Don’t be kind to me—I can’t hate you—
Matron: A good hate is as good as a good love, isn’t it? I expect my Staff-Nurses to work harmoniously with me, Nurse—
Sinclair: I will work—I will work—
Matron: Nurse Sparrow, go across to quarters with Nurse Sinclair, and see that she is comfortably in bed before you go off duty—that is, if you are still on my staff—
Sparrow (very confused): Oh, yes Matron—my people don’t know anything—I don’t know what they’ll say—
Matron: You’ll probably be able to persuade them it is all var-r-ry romantic. (She sails out right.)
(Enter Rankin from Kitchen.)
Rankin: I’ve been shameless listening at the door—Ruth, I’m so glad—
Sinclair (vaguely): I forgot to tell her, the Keanes have all gone out together, just once.
Rankin: Take her to bed, Sparrow.
Sparrow: Come along, Sinclair. Angus, I’ll meet you outside in an hour.
Angus: An hour and a half—a man must eat.
Sparrow: I said an hour. (She and Sinclair go off right.)
(Enter Williams left; she goes into kitchen and comes out almost immediately with her cape and cardigan in her hand. She is going off duty.)
Rankin: The henpecked Dr. Macready.
Angus: Ye ken, that wuman’ll boss me.
Rankin: Don’t expect me to pity you.
Angus: I think I’ll like it. (He goes off right holding the door open for Sister Murphy who enters briskly looking fresh and ready for work.)
Murphy: Good morning, Doctor! Good morning, Rankin, how’s tricks?
Rankin: What a foul expression!
Murphy (sympathetically—picking up report book and looking through it): Pneumonia in seven. How is he?
Murphy: H’m. Young Keane—what happened?
Rankin (snappishly): Oh, read about it, read about it, it’s all there.
Murphy: Bad time, eh?
Rankin (she picks up her magazine and knitting and goes off right. Speaks at door): Just the usual quiet night.
(Murphy sits down at desk, looking at charts, etc. Day staff nurses come in with trays of breakfast which they carry straight along to ward. Enter Patsy, she goes across to kitchen; Murphy goes across stage and goes off left leaving the stage empty; Patsy enters from kitchen laden with book, knitting bag, cardigan, cape, etc. The buzzer rings insistently. Patsy looks up at indicator.)
Patsy: Mrs. Spanner wants a pan. (She makes derisive gesture at indicator, then goes off right wagging her tail. She is going off duty.)
(Murphy comes back and sits down at desk. Probationer hurries into sterilising room. Smith comes on left and goes into kitchen, comes out and goes off left. Nurses pass briskly along from right entrance to ward. There is a purposeful bustle and activity. The day staff is on.)
THE CURTAIN FALLS SLOWLY