Eden was laughing again, this time, at a caricature of Wil, drawn by Decker, who had, by some means, made the acquaintance of Mr. James and been staying in Rye for a fortnight. Wil, who, unlike Eleanor, had no qualms about introducing Eden to the great novelist, had included him in a long weekend party at which writers and artists made up the bulk of the guest list. The party had been, Eden supposed, the idea of one Miss Strether, an actress of whom Wil was obviously fond, as she was placed every evening at dinner in the position of hostess, opposite Wil as host.
Mr. James himself, for all his appearance of austerity had written a comical play mocking them one and all, and Miss Strether had both directed its performance and starred in it on Sunday evening in the music room. Decker had sat quietly smiling, a sketchbook on his lap, through the entire thing. Now Monday at breakfast, when the others were at lawn tennis or riding or angling or pairing up in secluded corners of the wood, he and Eden sat laughing over his results.
“If only they weren’t quite so scandalous,” Eden grinned. “You could sell them to a magazine in London.”
“Perhaps I could sell them to one in Paris, anyway,” Decker suggested.
But Eden thought not. “No, you’re too good for nonsense. Really, you ought to go home and take up reporting. Can you write?”
Decker seemed to be considering it, when Eden flipped a page and frowned. “What’s this?” she said.
It was a picture of herself standing aloof, cigarette in hand, smoke ringing her head like a haloed saint. But beside her stood Alice Chamberlain, eyes begging for Eden’s attention. And at Alice’s feet sat George in evening clothes, plus a collar and leash, the end of which was held as lightly and absently as a fan in Alice’s gloved fingers.
Puppy Love, a caption in Decker’s careless scrawl read.
“Oh—” Decker looked up and blushed a little. “Sorry Eden, but it is funny.”
“It’s ridiculous. And wrong. This isn’t the way it is with George and me,” Eden insisted.
“No?” Decker said. “Perhaps my impression was mistaken. You three were sitting together at the play, and it looked…”
But a glare from Eden silenced him. He tore the page from the sketchbook and handed it to her.
“Thanks,” she said.