As Madame Ratignolle sews, Robert and Mrs. Pontellier chat intimately. Robert has been spending a great deal of time with Mrs. Pontellier this summer, as is his habit—he usually attaches himself to a married or unmarried woman for the vacation season; once he even admired Madame Ratignolle, and he speaks of it freely. Mrs. Pontellier is glad he is not so shameless with her. She looks admiringly at Madame Ratignolle’s saint-like beauty and sketches her idly. She is not a professional artist, but she is naturally gifted.
Sewing children’s clothes cannot hold Edna’s attention – she would rather draw and talk to Robert. She would rather develop her own sense of self, both socially and artistically, than cater to the needs of her children. We learn that Robert’s relationship with Edna is not quite like his flirtations with other women on the island. It is more sincere and more respectful; it is a relationship of equals.
Robert compliments her drawing, but Mrs. Pontellier does not think much of it. He tries to lay his head on her arm, but she pushes him away. Her two children run in from outside and beg for candies. Madame Ratignolle says she feels ill, as she often does; Mrs. Pontellier suspects that it’s only an affectation. Her friend picks up her children and goes home. Robert convinces Mrs. Pontellier to come to the beach.
Robert tries to steer his friendship with Edna in a more conventional romantic direction, with small displays of physical affection and exaggerated praise, but Edna resists him. She is learning to demand respect and exert control over her relationships with men.