“Perhaps—perhaps not. I don’t know him so well as all that,” Eden demurred.
“He said, the other day, that he didn’t believe in marriage—that women should be free. Giles said he didn’t know any real women who wanted any such a thing.”
“What did you say?”
“What do you think?”
“I don’t know. I don’t imagine I will ever want to marry myself. But my sister seems happy enough with her husband. Not that she would share her complaints with me, if she had them.” Decker frowned a little and looked down at the cigarette burning itself to a stub, unsmoked, in his hands. “Larousse said—” he began again, but Eden stopped him.
“Larousse doesn’t want to marry either, of course. So it’s easy enough for him to play with such theories.”
“You don’t think he’ll ever marry?” Decker asked.
“Oh, I doubt it very much,” Eden smiled a little again and tried to catch Decker’s eye. The boy’s face was nearly as red as his hair.
“He can’t marry Chloe of course,” Decker ventured.
“Chloe—the model he’s been working with?” Eden frowned. “I didn’t realize she and he…”
“I don’t know anything for certain, but he’s taken her places and she looks like a girl in love,” Decker said.
“He’s taken her places?” Eden wondered what these places were. She frowned down into her lap and brushed away some invisible lint from her knee. Trousers or not, the young men from the Beaux Arts regarded her as a woman. There were secrets of sex they would never, she despaired, reveal to her.
“Have you seen his studio?” Decker asked now.
“Not as yet,” Eden said.
“It’s small, but the light is fantastic—it’s the troisieme and there are skylights. The stars at night—”
“I was just there once. Last week, for a coffee after the opera.”
“The two of you went to the opera?”
“With some others…I thought they asked you too, had they not?”
Eden just shrugged. She wanted to know more about Decker’s visit to Larousse’s atelier.
“He has some lovely things—especially for someone with no money to speak of.”
“I’m not surprised,” Eden said. “Larousse has exquisite taste.”
“He’s wonderful, really,” Decker said, reddening again.
“I like his work.” Eden pretended not to notice Decker’s discomfort.
“He likes yours!” Decker looked up and met Eden’s eye. “He talked on and on about it, when I was there. He’s bought one of your desert pictures from Durand—did you know? And him, with no money…”
Eden’s eyebrows shot up. “He bought one of my pictures? Why would he do that? I’d have given him one, surely he knows he could ask.”
“Perhaps he didn’t want you to know. Now I’ve told you.” Decker made a pained face.
“I won’t let on that you did.”
Sophia came through the doors into the garden in her work clothes and her everyday hat. “I’m so sorry I’m late,” she told Eden. Then, “Hello Mr. Decker. I do apologize. I’ll just go up and dress as quick as I can.”
Eden smiled and rose. “It’s all right, darling.” She kissed Sophia’s cheek. “The exhibition will be there all afternoon.”
Sophia dressed and the three of them went out to see the latest offerings of Eden and her friends.