Juliet could see by the way the sun hung over the distant hill that it was twelve o’clock. Her Nurse had been gone three hours! She had promised to return in half an hour.
Perhaps she hadn’t found him! No, that couldn’t be. Oh, Nurse. was pathetic. The messengers of love should be as light as thoughts, traveling ten times faster than sunbeams, pushing all doubts and fears away, as light does to threatening shadows.
That’s why Love’s coach is always drawn by swiftly flying doves: that’s why Cupid has wings!
If her Nurse had any feelings – any passion whatsoever – her message would travel as fast as a tennis ball. The Nurse would be the ball. Juliet would serve and Romeo would return it just as fast. But like all old people, the Nurse might as well be dead. She was clumsy, slow, heavy and dull, like lead.
Juliet stuck her head out of the window every few seconds, searching the alleyway along which the Nurse would come.
And at last, there she was!
Juliet flew downstairs and into the garden, meeting the Nurse as a servant was opening the gate for her. She flung herself at her old friend.
‘Oh honey Nurse! What did he say? Did you find him? Send your servant away.’
‘Peter,’ said the Nurse. ‘Stay here at the gate.’
‘Now, dear sweet Nurse,’ said Juliet as they got out of earshot of the men at the gate. She turned and stood right in front of the Nurse. ‘Oh Lord! why are you looking so sad? Even if it’s bad news, tell it with a smile. Please Nurse? Or if it’s good don’t spoil the music of good news with such a sour face!’
They were passing a shady bower with a garden bench. ‘Whew, I ‘m exhausted,’
said the Nurse. ‘Leave me alone for a while.’ She sank down on to the bench. ‘Oh, my legs ache. Such a tiring journey.’
Juliet wanted to scream with impatience. ‘You can have my legs if you would just give me your news! Please, Nurse, I beg of you, tell me. Please, dear, dear Nurse, tell me!’
‘Jesus,’ said the Nurse, leaning back, panting. ‘What a hurry you’re in! Can’t you wait a minute. Can’t you see I’m out of breath?’
‘How can you be out of breath when you’ve got enough breath to tell me you’re out of breath? Your excuse for not telling me is longer than the simple yes or no which is all I want.’
Juliet knelt on the grass in front of the Nurse. ‘Is it good or is it bad?’
The Nurse shook her head sadly. ‘Well, all I can say is that you’ve made a bad choice. You’ve no idea how to choose a man. Romeo! No, not him, he’s not the one.’
Juliet drew back, giving the Nurse a look of incredulity. But the Nurse hadn’t even paused to draw breath. ‘Although he’s more handsome than any other man. And he’s got better legs. And as for the rest of him, his hands and feet, and the whole of his body, for that matter…’ She leant forward and whispered ‘…although we mustn’t talk about those things – they are beyond compare.’
Juliet didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry with frustration as the Nurse went on.
‘He’s not the absolute flower of good manners, of course, but I’ll bet he’s as gentle as a lamb.’ Prodding Juliet playfully in the ribs.
She got up, suddenly and yawned. ‘Off with you now, girl. Get on with it. Have you had your dinner?’
‘No,’ said Juliet. ‘But I knew all those things about Romeo before. What did he say about us getting married? What about that?’
The Nurse slid back on to the bench and lay, reclining. ‘Lord, what a headache I’ve got. It’s pounding so hard that it feels as though it’s going to break into twenty pieces.’
She tried to stand up. ‘Oh, my back. Shame on you, sending me all over the place like that. It’ll be the death of me.’
‘Honestly,’ said Juliet, ready to burst. ‘I’m very sorry you’re not well. Sweet, sweet, sweet Nurse. What did my love say?’
The Nurse heaved a huge sigh. ‘Your love says, like an honest man, and a courteous, and a kind and a handsome, and, I have no doubt, a good -’ She stopped suddenly and looked towards the house. ‘Where’s your mother?’
‘Where is my mother?’ Juliet threw up her hands. ‘In there, of course. Where do you think she is? What a strange answer. “Your love says, like an honest man, where is your mother?”’
‘Good God, my dear young woman,’ said the Nurse. Bad tempered with me? Is this the thanks I get for my aching bones? Do your own dirty work from now on.’
‘This is impossible,’ groaned Juliet. ‘Come on, what did Romeo say?’
The Nurse stopped rubbing her back and took Juliet’s hands. ‘Have you got permission to go to confession today?’
‘Then get yourself to Friar Lawrence’s cell as fast as you can. There’s a husband waiting there to make you a wife. Hurry. I have one more thing to do. I have to get a rope ladder so that your lover can climb up to your love nest as soon as it’s dark.’ She turned. ‘Off with you. I’m going to have my dinner. Go on Hurry.’