Mademoiselle Reisz is not home one afternoon when Edna comes to visit her, so Edna lets herself in to wait in the living room. Earlier that day, Madame Ratignolle had interrupted Edna’s painting with a social visit. She advised Edna not to spend so much time alone with Arobin—people had been gossiping about them. Then Mrs. Highcamp and Mrs. Merriman visited her and invited her to a card game.
Edna feels guilt about her relationship with Arobin because she does not love him, but she is invulnerable to society’s reproaches – Madame Ratignolle’s advice is irrelevant. She is unsatisfied by most of her friendships, because they are only skin-deep.
While Edna waits for Mademoiselle Reisz, she plays a song on the piano. Suddenly, Robert comes in. She is dismayed to hear that he has been back in New Orleans for two days without coming to see her. He is embarrassed and offers half-hearted excuses. He has come back, he says, because business in Mexico did not go well. Edna thinks she detects love in his eyes, but he is cool and polite. When she asks why he did not write to her, he avoids the question.
Edna is passionate and forthright, in the little attic room where she is usually free to act on her thoughts and feelings, but Robert conceals his emotions beneath a bland, polite veneer. Society has demanded that they act according to a complicated set of social rules; Edna has refused, but Robert has acquiesced.
Robert walks Edna home. He refuses her invitation to dinner, but decides to stay when he sees her dismay. He asks jealously about a photograph of Arobin on her living room table, and she explains that she had been sketching his head. When they try to talk about the few months they’d been apart, they confess that they’ve been doing little but thinking about the summer at Grand Isle.
Though he has determined to act properly, Robert teeters between politeness and sincerity. Edna’s unhappiness and Robert’s jealousy tip him into sincerity. Finally, they speak (almost!) openly about their feelings for one another. They are instantly close again.