Then, of a sudden, memory struck at his heart with the thrust of a more vital, more personal, dread. For one day, wandering about in the stricken territory, he had seen Esme Elliot entering a tenement doorway.
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 Esme 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 fiancee. The lawyer’s super-respectful attitude toward his principal client disgusted Esme. 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. Esme 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 practice.