Yet it was not upon their parting that her mind busied itself most, but upon thoughts of their remeeting. The relations which she had thought to exist between them had, it was clear, been violently reversed. The one point now was for her to meet the topsy-turveyed situation as swiftly, as generously, and as humbly as was possible.
If she had been a man, she would have gone to him at once, hunted him up this very night, and told him in the most groveling language at her command, how infinitely sorry and ashamed she was. Lying wide-eyed in her little white bed, she composed a number of long speeches that she, as a man, would have made to him; embarrassing speeches which he, as a man, or any other man that ever lived, would never have endured for a moment. But she was not a man, she was a girl; and girls were not allowed to go to men, and frankly and honestly say what was in their hearts. She was not in the least likely to meet him by accident; the telephone was unthinkable. There remained only to write him a letter.
Yes, but what to say in the letter? There was the critical and crucial question. No matter how artful and cajoling an apology she wrote, she knew exactly how he would treat it. He would write a civil, formal reply, assuring her that her apology was accepted, and there the matter would stand forever. For she had put herself terribly in the wrong; she had betrayed a damning weakness; it was extremely probable that he would never care to resume friendship with one who had proved herself so hatefully mistrustful. Then, too, he was evidently very angry with her about the money. Only by meeting for a long, frank talk could she ever hope to make things right again; but not to save her life could she think of any form of letter which would bring such a meeting to pass.
Pondering the question, she fell asleep. All next day, whenever she had a minute and sometimes when she did not, she pondered it, and the next, and the next. Her heart smote her for the tardiness of her reparation; but stronger than this was her fear of striking and missing fire. And at last an idea came to her; an idea so big and beautiful that it first startled and dazzled her, and then set her heart to singing; the perfect idea which would blot away the whole miserable mess at one stroke. She sat down and wrote Mr. Surface five lines, asking him to be kind enough to call upon her in regard to the business matter about which he had written her a few weeks before.
She wrote this note from her house, one night; she expected, of course, that he would come there to see her; she had planned out exactly where they were each to sit, and even large blocks of their conversation. But the very next morning, before 10 o’clock, there came a knock upon the Departmental door and he walked into her office, looking more matter-of-fact and businesslike than she had ever seen him.