24. A Failure In Tactics
Miss Eleanor Stanley Maxwell Elliot, home from her wanderings, stretched her hammock
and herself in it between two trees in a rose-sweet nook at Greenvale, and gave herself up
to a reckoning of assets and liabilities. Decidedly the balance was on the wrong side.
Miss Esmé could not dodge the unseemly conclusion that she was far from pleased with
herself. This was perhaps a salutary frame of mind, but not a pleasant one. If possible, she
was even less pleased with the world in which she lived. And this was neither salutary
nor pleasant. Furthermore, it was unique in her experience. Hitherto she had been
accustomed to a universe made to her order and conducted on much the same principle.
Now it no longer ran with oiled smoothness.
Her trip on the Pierce yacht had been much less restful than she had anticipated. For this
she blamed that sturdy knight of the law, Mr. William Douglas. Mr. Douglas's offense
was that he had inveigled her into an engagement. (I am employing her own term
descriptive of the transaction.) It was a crime of brief duration and swift penalty. The
relation had endured just four weeks. Possibly its tenure of life might have been longer
had not the young-middle-aged lawyer accepted, quite naturally, an invitation to join the
cruise of the Pierce family and his fiancée. The lawyer's super-respectful attitude toward
his principal client disgusted Esmé. She called it servile.
For contrast she had the memory of another who had not been servile, even to his dearest
hope. There were more personal contrasts of memory, too; subtler, more poignant, that
flushed in her blood and made the mere presence of her lover repellent to her. The status
became unbearable. Esmé ended it. In plain English, she jilted the highly eligible Mr.
William Douglas. To herself she made the defense that he was not what she had thought,
that he had changed. This was unjust. He had not changed in the least; he probably never
would change from being the private-secretary type of lawyer. Toward her, in his time of
trial, he behaved not ill. Justifiably, he protested against her decision. Finding her
immovable, he accepted the prevailing Worthingtonian theory of Miss Elliot's royal
prerogative as regards the male sex, and returned, miserably enough, to his home and his
Another difficulty had arisen to make distasteful the Pierce hospitality. Kathleen Pierce,
in a fit of depression foreign to her usually blithe and easy-going nature, had become
confidential and had blurted out certain truths which threw a new and, to Esmé,
disconcerting light upon the episode of the motor accident. In her first appeal to Esmé, it
now appeared, the girl had been decidedly less than frank. Therefore, in her own
judgment of Hal and the "Clarion," Esmé had been decidedly less than just. In her
resentment, Esmé had almost quarreled with her friend. Common honesty, she pointed
out, required a statement to Harrington Surtaine upon the point. Would Kathleen write
such a letter? No! Kathleen would not. In fact, Kathleen would be d-a-m-n-e-d, darned, if
she would. Very well; then it remained only (this rather loftily) for Esmé herself to
explain to Mr. Surtaine. Later, she decided to explain by word of mouth. This would