“Yes. I don’t want him.”
“I don’t want you, Mills. I’m tired of being a prop; I’m tired of planning your meals, I’m tired of deciding whether you shall have mushrooms with your steak or—onions. You can have him, Dulcie. I know you think I’ve lost my mind.” She came forward within the radius of the light. “But I haven’t. As long as I thought Mills cared I could stick it out. But I have learned to-night that he loved you before he married me. You gave him to me, Dulcie, and now you want him back.”
Indian giver! Like a flash Dulcie’s mind went to the little Mary of the pigtails and pointing forefinger.
“You want him and you can have him. Perhaps if you had taken him years ago he might have been different. I don’t know. Perhaps even now he can live up to all the lovely, lovely things that you and he are always talking about. But I’ve had to talk to Mills about what he likes to eat and what we have to pay for things; I’ve had to push him and prod him and praise him, and it has been hard work. If you want him you can have him, Dulcie.”
Mills had a stunned look.
“Don’t you love me, Mary?”
“I think I’ve proved it,” she said quietly; “but I couldn’t possibly go on loving you now. You have Dulcie to love you, and one woman is enough for any man. I don’t know what you are planning to do, but you needn’t run away or do anything spectacular. I’ll make it as easy for you as possible. And now if you don’t mind I’ll go up and take a headache powder; my head is splitting.”
Left alone, they tried to regain their air of high romance.
But the words rang hollow. One couldn’t possibly call a woman poor who had given away so much with a single gesture.
They tried to talk it over but found nothing to say. At last Mills took Dulcie home. She asked him in and he went. Aunt Priscilla was out, and tea was served for the two of them from a lacquered tea cart—Orange Pekoe and Japanese wafers. It was delicious but unsubstantial. Dulcie with her coat off was like a wood sprite in leaf green. Her hair was gold, her eyes wet violets; but Mills missed something. He had a feeling that he wanted to get home and talk things over with Mary.
At last he rose, and it was then that Dulcie laid her hand on his arm.
“Mills, I can’t.”
“Let you leave Mary.”
“It wouldn’t be right.”
“It would be as right as it has ever been, Dulcie.”
“I know how it must look to you, but—but I knew all the time that wrong is wrong. I thought I was a different Dulcie from the girl of long ago, but I’m not. I still have a conscience; I can’t take you away from Mary.”
“You’re not taking me away. You heard what she said—she doesn’t want me.”
And Dulcie didn’t want him! He saw it in that moment! The things that Mary had said had scared her. She didn’t want to prod and push and praise. She didn’t want to decide what he should have for dinner. She didn’t want to weigh the merits of beefsteak and mushrooms or beefsteak and onions—onions!