"I think I'm dying."
Prefaced with a cough, this pathetic statement was accompanied by a look of such intense self-pity that Kathie found herself hard pressed not to giggle.
"My poor darling. What's the matter with you, then?"
"Everything," was the comprehensive reply, followed by some rather doleful sniffling. "I can't breathe, and I've got a cough, and I'm shivery, and my head hurts, and I ache all over."
"Shall I go and get Matey?" Kathie suggested, already scrambling out of bed.
"I don't want Matey," Nancy protested, coughing again. "I just want not to be sick." There was a pause, and another cough. "Kathie, my throat hurts too."
"That's from the coughing, my love."
"Well, I don't like it. Make it stop."
"Oh, sweetheart, if only I could. Let me go and get Matey, she's bound to have something she can dose you with."
Duly appealed to for assistance, Matey arrived, took in the situation at a glance, and proceeded to deal with Nancy thoroughly.
"I gave you strict instructions to go to your own room last night, not come in here to breathe your germs all over Kathie," Matey said trenchantly, as she looked down at the sufferer coccooned in Kathie's blankets. "Well, as of right now, you're in quarantine. I won't have you spreading infection all round the staff room. Now, how do you feel? Shivery and achey?"
"Yes," Nancy admitted mournfully.
"You look feverish. I think you're in for a bout of flu," Matey told her, sticking a thermometer under Nancy's tongue. "Don't bite that." As Nancy made an inarticulate sound of protest, Matey added, "And keep your mouth closed until it's time to take that thermometer out."
Turning to Kathie, she enquired, "What other symptoms has she been complaining of?"
But Kathie's recital of Nancy's long list of woes was interrupted by Nancy herself, who tugged at Matey's sleeve, a piteous expression on her face.
"I haven't forgotten you, child," Matey told her. "You can tell me whatever it is once we've taken your temperature."
With a weird and wonderful grimace, Nancy pointed to the thermometer in her mouth with such urgency that Matey was on to her like a shot. "You haven't bitten that, have you?"
Frowning, Nancy shook her head and tried again, this time pointing significantly to her wrist. As Matey regarded her with blank incomprehension, Nancy seemed to realise there was something missing and she looked around vaguely for it until Kathie came to the rescue.
"I think," she offered, retrieving Nancy's watch from the dressing table and handing it to her partner, "that she wants to know how long more until she can take the thermometer out?"
"Not long," Matey said - in Nancy's view, rather unhelpfully.
At this point, the rising bell sounded, and Kathie found herself banished to Nancy's room to dress, leaving Matron to deal as best she could with the invalid without assistance.