The wet Paris spring was beginning to give way to summer and tables cluttered the sidewalks. Eden sat at one of them now, arguing with three young men, all students at the Beaux Arts, about whether Picasso was a genius or an imbecile.
“He has no respect,” Giles said.
“Respect for what? Outmoded rules that could never express life in the new century?” Larousse countered.
Giles was English, Larousse French. The other, Decker, was an American, like Eden. He was twenty-years old and his blazing red hair and freckles drew attention to him wherever he went. Ironically, Eden found him to be almost girlishly shy. He looked at her expectantly now as if she might break the impasse.
She only dug into her breast pocket and offered him a cigarette. He shook his head. She lit it for herself instead.
“Monsieur Smith,” Larousse said, “a modern woman such as yourself must surely agree that only a way like Picasso’s can lead us into a new century.”
Eden weighed her answer. “I like him,” she said.
“You must, of course,” Giles interrupted her. “I heard a rumor yesterday that you were his model for Garcon a la Pipe!” He roared with laughter at his own joke.
“What if she was?” Larousse asked. “Perhaps that is exactly the way to finally rid ourselves of the skulking remnants of the ancien regime!”
“Women in trousers?” Giles said. “Isn’t that going a bit far, even for you, Larousse?” He turned to Eden. “With all due respect of course.”
But Eden didn’t feel respected. She hoped she wasn’t blushing. Decker was, and she gave him a little smile and put her hand in the air to signal the waiter to refill his glass.
“Too far? Not far enough I say,” Larousse told Giles.
“So I suppose you’ll be putting on skirts next?” Giles said, laughing again.
“If he does, I’ll take him dancing,” Eden said, grinning at Larousse. “But I don’t agree that Picasso’s is the only way. I think we’ll need the best of the past too, to sustain us in the future.”
“I agree with Eden—Mademoiselle Smith,” Decker said, finally looking Giles in the eye.
“Eden is all right,” Eden smiled. Decker was from Chicago. His mother was dead and he had a rich father whom, Decker claimed, quietly but persistently hated his son. He had been more than happy to send the boy to Paris to learn to paint while he courted his daughter’s husband as a business partner.
Eden wondered if Decker might in fact like to put on a skirt and be taken dancing—but not by Eden.
Just as she was thinking so, Giles snapped open his watch and announced, “I’ve got to be going. I have to collect Mademoiselle Ninon for dinner this evening. You can all dance with each other if you like. I’ll be dancing with a proper lady—and a rich one at that.” He rose and left them, clipping his way down the street, walking stick tapping the paving stones self-importantly.
“I loathe the English,” Larousse said, tossing the end of his cigarette into the dregs of the drink Giles had left sitting on the table. “They think they own the world.”
“Giles isn’t so bad,” Eden said. “He’s just not a very good artist.”
At this, Decker grinned but Larousse was still scowling. Eden looked from one to the other. “I should go too,” she said. “I’m meeting George for dinner at the Continental.”
And she rose and headed to the rue Rivoli.