They had been engaged three months when Dulcie came home from college. There was nothing independent or practical about Dulcie. She was a real romantic lady, and she appealed to Mills on the aesthetic side. He saw her first in church with the light shining on her from a stained-glass window. In the middle of that same week Mrs. Cowan gave a garden party as a home-coming celebration for her daughter. Dulcie wore embroidered white and a floppy hat, and her eyes when she talked to Mills were worshipful.
He found himself swayed at last by a grand passion. He thought of Dulcie by day and dreamed of her by night. Then he met her by accident one afternoon on Connecticut Avenue, and they walked down together to the Speedway, where the willows were blowing in the wind and the water was ruffled; and there with the shining city back of them and the Virginia hills ahead, Mills, flaming, declared his passion, and Dulcie, trembling, confessed that she too cared.
Mills grew tragic: “Oh, my beloved, have you come too late?”
Dulcie had not heard of his engagement to Mary. Mills told her, and that settled it. She had very decided ideas on such matters. A man had no right to fall in love with two women. If such a thing happened, there was only one way out of it. He had given his promise and he must keep it. He begged, but could not shake her. She cared a great deal, but she would not take him away from Mary.
Mary knew nothing of what had occurred; she thought that Mills was working too hard. She was working hard herself, but she was very happy. She had a hope chest and sat up sewing late o’ nights.
Before Mary and Mills were married Dulcie’s mother died, and Dulcie went abroad to live with an aunt. Five years later she married an American living in Paris. He was much older than she, and it was rumored that she was not happy. Ten years after her marriage she returned to Washington a widow.
It was at once apparent that she had changed. She wore charming but sophisticated clothes, made on youthful lines so that she seemed nearer twenty-five than thirty-five. Her hair was still soft and shining. She had been a pretty girl, she was a beautiful woman. But the greatest change was in her attitude toward life. In Paris her golden-rule philosophy had been turned topsy-turvy.
Hence when she met Mills and found the old flames lighted in his eyes, she stirred the ashes of her dead romance and discovered a spark. It was pleasant after that to talk with him in dim corners at people’s houses. Now and then she invited him and Mary to her own big house with plenty of other guests, so that she was not missed if she walked with Mills in the garden. She meant no harm and she was really fond of Mary.