By May, Judy has gone traveling and Dexter is busy with Irene. The relationship brings him tranquility, compared to the “turbulence” he had felt the previous May with Judy. Despite his “tranquility of spirit,” he worries that his life with Irene will offer domestic security, but neither the “fire and loveliness” nor “the wonder of the varying hours and seasons” that he had experienced with Judy.
Dexter cannot let go of his past with Judy and seeks to relive his past summers with her. His obsession with memories from his youth prevents him from progressing into an adult relationship with Irene.
One evening, in mid-May, Dexter and Irene plan to go to the University Club’s lounge to watch the dancers. However, Irene’s mother informs Dexter that she has a “splitting headache,” prompting Mrs. Scheerer to send her to bed. Dexter returns to the University Club alone, but finds himself bored with the dancers. In the midst of a yawn, he hears a familiar voice greeting him: it is Judy, dressed in gold from head to toe, who has left her date alone across the room so that she can reunite with Dexter. She prompts him to leave with her, this time in his car, and he gladly goes along. He is enchanted by her once again.
Dexter’s yawn is a sign of his boredom with his current life, which becomes reinvigorated once Judy reenters it. She appears to him in gold, like the ”glittering object” he had always desired. Whereas she had expressed indifference toward him during their last meeting, she refocuses her attention on him once again. As they had once before, they leave together in a car.
Together, Dexter and Judy drive downtown, then back toward the University Club. He wonders if she is aware of his engagement to Irene, and he is confused by her sudden desire to marry him. Judy insists that he could never love anyone in the way that he loved her and expresses a wish to repeat their past, though Dexter is skeptical.
Judy wants Dexter back because he is promised to someone else. Judy’s mention of his desperate love for her is an attempt to lure him away from Irene and to possess his love as her own. Her ego, which relies on her desirability, cannot tolerate Dexter choosing another woman.
Judy acknowledges Dexter’s engagement to Irene and the mention of Irene’s name causes a feeling of shame in Dexter. Judy asks that he drive her home, then she begins to cry, wondering why her beauty has not brought her happiness. She makes a final appeal to Dexter for marriage, which inspires a wave of feelings in him. He settles on accepting her as “his own, his beautiful, his pride.” He decides to take Judy back.
Judy is eager for Dexter to accept her as a beautiful object. His decision confirms the value of her beauty which, for a woman of her time and social class, is supposed to offer her comfort and security in the way in which Dexter thinks economic success will offer him comfort and security. Judy’s failure to find satisfaction in her beauty, however, casts a pall over Dexter’s own attempts to find happiness in social status.
Judy then invites Dexter into her house. He accepts and spends the night with her. The decision leads him to break his engagement with Irene and to become engaged to Judy, whose “flare for him endured just one month.” After their final break-up, Dexter accepts that he will go on loving her, but he tells himself again that “he could not have her.”
Judy cannot reconcile her need to be wanted with the fact that she does not really want Dexter. Her fickleness does not diminish his love but rather renders her, once again, an object that he cannot have.
Dexter soon enters World War I as a first officer and, ironically, views the war as a welcome distraction from his emotional turmoil. After the war, he sells his laundries and settles in New York, as he had long planned.
The war—an annihilating force—gives Dexter an excuse to start over, to overcome his obsession with Judy and to start a new life in New York, but one still aligned with his dream of social prestige.
One day, seven years later, a business associate from Detroit, a man named Devlin, comes to visit Dexter. Devlin mentions that “the wife of one of his best friends,” Lud Simms, comes from Dexter’s town. Dexter acknowledges having known Judy, but is surprised to hear that Devlin feels sorry for her, due to her husband drinking and carousing while she “stays at home with her kids.” He is even more appalled to hear that Devlin thinks that Judy is too old for Simms and has lost her looks.
There is a cruel irony in Judy—one of the “glittering people”—meeting such a degrading fate. In Dexter’s imagination, Judy’s beauty and wealth were supposed to have protected her from vulnerability. At twenty-seven, it is absurd that Judy is too old for Lud Simms, but recognition of her age also makes Dexter aware of his growing older.
The news causes Dexter to feel like rushing out and getting a train to Detroit. He feels disoriented by Devlin’s underwhelming response to Judy. Devlin remembers that Judy was “a pretty girl” when she first arrived in Detroit, while Dexter remembers her as “a great beauty.” He studies Devlin, wondering if there is some “insensitivity” or “private malice” in him that explains his assessment. Devlin, however, attributes the loss of Judy’s looks to the inevitable tendency of women’s beauty to fade, nothing more.
Dexter is overwhelmed by a romantic desire to rescue Judy, but also confused by how Devlin could view Judy, “a great beauty” in Dexter’s eyes, as ordinary. Devlin is attuned to the fact that people age—though, his sexism makes him think that this only applies to women—while Dexter’s illusion convinces him that Judy will always be as he remembered her.
For the first time in his life, Dexter feels like getting drunk to rid himself of the dullness that overwhelms him. He lays down and watches the sun set over the New York skyline, realizing that his wealth had not rid him of the feeling of having nothing to lose. The news of Judy causes the loss of his winter dreams, or his youthful fantasies of grandeur. Suddenly, his memories of Sherry Island and summer evenings on Judy’s veranda fade from his mind. He realizes that he cannot recover the past, and he cannot retrieve what he felt when he was young.
The “dullness” that Dexter feels contrasts with the brightness (“glittering”) and warmth he had envisioned and felt in Judy’s presence. With Judy’s beauty gone, Dexter must confront that his pursuit of status has not brought him any happiness, either. The setting sun signals, not only the end of the day, but also the end of his dream. For the first time, he realizes that he cannot go back and that he will not re-live his past experiences with Judy.