While he was deriving spiritual entertainment from the great battle between Christian and Apollyon and consolation from the latter’s discomfiture, Septimus was walking down the road to the post-office, a letter in his hand. The envelope was addressed to “Mrs. Middlemist, White Star Co.’s S.S. Cedric, Marseilles.” It contained a blank sheet of headed note-paper and the tail of a little china dog.
As soon as a woman knows what she wants she generally gets it. Some philosophers assert that her methods are circuitous; others, on the other hand, maintain that she rides in a bee line toward the desired object, galloping ruthlessly over conventions, susceptibilities, hearts, and such like obstacles. All, however, agree that she is unscrupulous, that the wish of the woman is the politely insincere wish of the Deity, and that she pursues her course with a serene sureness unknown to man. It is when a woman does not know what she wants that she baffles the philosopher just as the ant in her aimless discursiveness baffles the entomologist. Of course, if the philosopher has guessed her unformulated desire, then things are easy for him, and he can discourse with certitude on feminine vagaries, as Rattenden did on the journeyings of Zora Middlemist. He has the word of the enigma. But to the woman herself her state of mind is an exasperating puzzle, and to her friends, philosophic or otherwise, her consequent actions are disconcerting.
Zora went to California, where she was hospitably entertained, and shown the sights of several vast neighborhoods. She peeped into the Chinese quarter at San Francisco, and visited the Yosemite Valley. Attentive young men strewed her path with flowers and candy. Young women vowed her eternal devotion. She came into touch with the intimate problems of the most wonderful social organism the world has ever seen, and was confronted with stupendous works of nature and illimitable solitudes wherein the soul stands appalled. She also ate a great quantity of peaches. When her visit to the Callenders had come to an end she armed herself with introductions and started off by herself to see America. She traveled across the Continent, beheld the majesty of Niagara and the bewildering life of New York. She went to Washington and Boston. In fact, she learned many things about a great country which were very good for her to know, receiving impressions with the alertness of a sympathetic intellect, and pigeonholing them with feminine conscientiousness for future reference.
It was all very pleasant, healthful, and instructive, but it no more helped her in her quest than gazing at the jewelers’ windows in the Rue de la Paix. Snow-capped Sierras and crowded tram-cars were equally unsuggestive of a mission in life. In the rare moments which activity allowed her for depression she began to wonder whether she was not chasing the phantom of a wild goose. A damsel to whom in a moment of expansion she revealed the object of her journeying exclaimed: “What other mission in life has a woman than to spend money and look beautiful?”