The maid announced “Mr. Mordaunt Prince,” and a handsome man with finely cut, dark features and black hair parted in the middle and brushed tightly back over the head, entered the room. Emmy presented him to Zora, who recognized him as the leading man at the theater where Emmy was playing. Zora exchanged a few polite commonplaces with the visitor and then took her leave. Emmy accompanied her to the front door of the flat.
“Isn’t he charming?”
“That creature?” asked Zora.
Emmy laughed. “In your present mood you would find fault with an archangel. Good-bye, darling, and take care of yourself.”
She bore no malice, having a kind heart and being foolishly happy. When she returned to the drawing-room the man took both her hands.
“My sister wanted to carry me off to Italy.”
“What did you say?”
“Guess,” said the girl, lifting starry eyes.
The man guessed, after the manner of men, and for a moment Emmy forgot Zora, who went her own way in pursuit of happiness, heedless of the wisdom of the wise and of the foolish.
For five months Zora wandered over the world—chiefly Italy—without an experience which might be called an adventure. When the Literary Man from London crossed her mind she laughed him to scorn for a prophetic popinjay. She had broken no man’s heart, and her own was whole. The tribes of Crim Tartary had exhibited no signs of worry and had left her unmolested. She had furthermore taken rapturous delight in cathedrals, expensive restaurants, and the set pieces of fashionable scenery. Rattenden had not a prophetic leg to stand on.
Yet she longed for the unattainable—for the elusive something of which these felicities were but symbols. Now the wanderer with a haunting sense of the Beyond, but without the true vagabond’s divine gift of piercing the veil, can only follow the obvious; and there are seasons when the obvious fails to satisfy. When such a mood overcame her mistress, Turner railed at the upsetting quality of foreign food, and presented bicarbonate of soda. She arrived by a different path at the unsatisfactory nature of the obvious. Sometimes, too, the pleasant acquaintances of travel were lacking, and loneliness upset the nice balance of Zora’s nerves. Then, more than ever, did she pine for the Beyond.
Yet youth, receptivity, imagination kept her buoyant. Hope lured her on with renewed promises from city to city. At last, on her homeward journey, he whispered the magic name of Monte Carlo, and her heart was aflutter in anticipation of wonderland.
She stood bewildered, lonely, and dismayed in the first row behind the chairs, fingering an empty purse. She had been in the rooms ten minutes, and she had lost twenty louis. Her last coup had been successful, but a bland old lady, with the white hair and waxen face of sainted motherhood, had swept up her winnings so unconcernedly that Zora’s brain began to swim. As she felt too strange and shy to expostulate she stood fingering her empty purse.