Skirmish (noun) – a minor fight in war usually incidental to larger movements.
From “The Complete Fiction of Nella Larson” by Nella Larsen, “Quicksand” Chapter 13 Page 100
“She came away from the coffee feeling that she had acquitted herself well in the first skirmish.”
In this statement, the word skirmish is used to describe how Helga was able to please the crowd that came to see her. She was worried about disappointing her aunt and uncle, so after successfully meeting with the people she felt lightened.