She did not sleep that night. Excitement, anger, shame kept her wakeful and tossing, hour after hour. Susan’s head ached, her face burned, her thoughts were in a mad whirl. What to do—what to do— what to do——! How to get out of this tangle; where to go to begin again, away from these people who knew her and loved her, and would drive her mad with their sympathy and curiosity!
The clock struck three—four—five. At five o’clock Susan, suddenly realizing her own loneliness and loss, burst into bitter crying and after that she slept.
The next day, from the office, she wrote to Peter Coleman:
My dear Peter:
I am beginning to think that our little
talk in the office a
week ago was a mistake, and that you think so. I don’t say
anything of my own feelings; you know them. I want to ask
you honestly to tell me of yours. Things cannot go on this
This was on Monday. On Tuesday the papers recorded everywhere Mr. Peter Coleman’s remarkable success in Mrs. Newton Gerald’s private theatricals. On Wednesday Susan found a letter from him on her desk, in the early afternoon, scribbled on the handsome stationery of his club.
My dear Susan:
I shall always think that you are
the bulliest girl I ever knew,
and if you throw me down on that arrangement for our old
age I shall certainly slap you on the wrist. But I know you
will think better of it before you are forty-one! What you
mean by “things” I don’t know. I hope you’re not calling me
Forrest is pulling my arm off.
See you soon.
Yours as ever,
The reading of it gave Susan a sensation of physical illness. She felt chilled and weak. How false and selfish and shallow it seemed; had Peter always been that? And what was she to do now, to-morrow and the next day and the next? What was she to do this moment, indeed? She felt as if thundering agonies had trampled the very life out of her heart; yet somehow she must look up, somehow face the office, and the curious eyes of the girls.
“Love-letter, Sue?” said Thorny, sauntering up with a bill in her hand. “Valentine’s Day, you know!”
“No, darling; a bill,” answered Susan, shutting it in a drawer.
She snapped up her light, opened her ledger, and dipped a pen in the ink.
The days that followed were so many separate agonies, composed of an infinite number of lesser agonies, for Susan. Her only consolation, which weakened or strengthened with her moods, was that, inasmuch as this state of affairs was unbearable she would not be expected to bear it. Something must happen. Or, if nothing happened, she would simply disappear,—go on the stage, accept a position as a traveling governess or companion, run away to one of the big eastern cities where, under an assumed name, she might begin life all over again.