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Dr. Bates And Miss Sally
by [?]

Sometimes Ferdie’s jokes were successful; sometimes they were not. This was one of the jokes that didn’t succeed; but as it led to a chain of circumstances that proved eminently satisfactory, Ferdie’s wife praised him as highly for his share in it as if he really had done something rather meritorious.

At the time it occurred, however, nobody praised anybody, and feeling even ran pretty high for a time between Ferdie and Elsie, his wife, and her sister Sally, and Dr. Bates.

Dr. Samuel Bates was a rising young surgeon, plain, quiet, and kindly. He was spending a few busy months in California, and writing dutifully home to friends and patients in Boston that he really could not free his hands to return just yet. But Sally knew what that meant; she had known business to keep people in her neighborhood before. So she was studiously unkind to the doctor, excusing herself to Elsie on the ground that nothing on earth would ever make her consider a man with fuzzy red hair and low collars.

Sally was a “daughter” and a “dame”; the doctor was the son of “Bates’s Blue-Ribbon Hair Renewer”–awful facts against which the additional fact that he was rich and she was not, counted nothing. Sally talked all the time; the doctor was the most silent of men. Sally was twenty-two, the doctor thirty-five. Sally loved to flirt; the doctor never paid any attention to women. Altogether, it was the most impossible thing ever heard of, and Elsie might just as well stop thinking about it!

“It’s a wonderful proof of what he feels,” said Elsie, “to have him so gentle when you are rude to him, and so eager to be friends when you get over it!”

“It’s a wonderful example of hair-tonic spirit!” Sally responded.

“There’s a good deal behind that quiet manner,” argued Elsie.

“But NOT the three generations that make a gentleman!” finished Sally.

Sally was out calling one hot Saturday afternoon when Ferdie, as was his habit, brought Dr. Bates home with him to the Ferdies’ little awninged and shingled summer home in Sausalito. Elsie, with an armful of delightfully pink and white baby, led them to the cool side porch, and ordered cool things to drink. Sally, she said, as they sank into the deep chairs, would be home directly and join them.

Presently, surely enough, some one ran up the front steps and came into the wide hall, and Sally’s voice called a blithe “Hello!” There was a little rattle to show that her parasol was flung down, and then the voice again, this time unmistakably impeded by hat-pins.

“Where’s this fam-i-ly? Did the gentlemen come?”

This gave an opening for the sort of thing Ferdie thought he did very well. He grinned at his guest, and raised a warning finger.

“Hello, Sally!” he called back. “Elsie and I are out here! Bates couldn’t come–operation last minute!”

“What–didn’t come?” Sally called back after an instant’s pause. “Well, what has happened to HIM? But, thank goodness, now I can go to the Bevis dinner to-morrow! Operation? I must say it’s mannerly to send a message the last minute like that!” She hummed a second, and then added spitefully: “What can you expect of hair-tonic, anyway?” The frozen group on the porch heard her start slowly upstairs. “Well, I might be willing to marry him,” added Sally, cheerfully, as she mounted, “but it’s a real relief to snatch this glorious afternoon from the burning! Down in a second–keep me some tea!”

Nobody moved on the porch. The doctor’s face was crimson, Elsie’s kind eyes wide with horror. Sally called a final reflection from the first landing:

“Too bad not to have him see me looking so beautiful!” she sang frivolously. “Operation–h’m! An important operation–I don’t believe it!”

She proceeded calmly to her room, and was buttoning herself into a trim linen gown when Elsie burst in, flushed and furious, cast the baby dramatically upon the bed, and hysterically recounted the effects of her recent remarks. Sally, at first making a transparent effort to seem amused, and following it with an equally vain attempt at being dignified, finally became very angry herself.