She sat thinking, thinking. She applied herself first to stimulate the revolt that rose within her against Golightly Ticke’s advice—his intolerably, no, his forgetfully presumptuous advice. She would be just to him: he talked so often to women with whom such words would carry weight, for an instant he might fail to recognize that she was not one of those. It was absurd to be angry, and not at all in accordance with any theory of life that operated in Paris. Instinctively, at the thought of a moral indignation upon such slender grounds in Paris she gave herself the benefit of a thoroughly expressive Parisian shrug. And how they understood, success in Paris! Beasts!
And yet it was all in the game. It was a matter of skill, of superiority, of puppet-playing. One need not soil one’s hands—in private one could always laugh. She remembered how Nadie had laughed when three bunches of roses from three different art critics had come in together—how inextinguishably Nadie had laughed. It was in itself a, success of a kind. Nadie had no scruples, except about her work. She went straight to her end, believing it to be an end worth arriving at by any means. And now Nadie would presently be tres en vue—tres en vue! After all, it was a much finer thing to be scrupulous about one’s work—that was the real morality, the real life. Elfrida closed her eyes and felt a little shudder of consciousness of how real it was. When she opened them again she was putting down her protest with a strong hand, crushing her rebellious instincts unmercifully. She did not allow herself a moment’s self-deception. She did not insult her intelligence by the argument that it was a perfectly harmless and proper thing to offer a piece of work to an editor in person—that everybody did it—that she might thereby obtain some idea of what would suit his paper if her article did not. She was perfectly straightforward in confronting Golightly Ticke’s idea, and she even disrobed it, to her own consciousness, of any garment of custom and conventionality it might have had to his. Another woman might have taken it up and followed it without an instant’s hesitation, as a matter concerning which there could be no doubt, a matter of ordinary expediency—of course a man would be nicer to a woman than to another man; they always were; it was natural. But Elfrida, with her merciless insight, had to harden her heart and ply her self-respect with assurances that it was all in the game, and it was a superb thing to be playing the game. Deliberately she chose the things she looked best in, and went out.