The Sphinx Without A Secret centres around two college friends, who, after not seeing each other in ten years, meet by chance in Paris. The first is our narrator, who notices that his friend, Gerald Murchison, is much changed and concludes his problem must be a woman.
So, he proceeds to ask his friend about it, who shares his tale over dinner. It all begins when Murchison shows a photograph of a beautiful woman, and he asks, ‘does she look trustworthy?’
It transpires that the woman is Lady Alroy, a mysterious beauty whom Murchison fell in love with instantly. Even though they see a lot of each other, she remains quite mysterious and has a tendency to disappear for an afternoon without explanation. Murchison believes she has a secret she is unable to share.
One day, as Murchison is walking home, he takes a short cut through ‘a lot of shabby little streets’ when he sees Lady Alroy walking ahead of him, veiled and walking very quickly. So, he decides to follow her. She enters a house a little further along. Murchison decides to go home and speak to the lady about it when they next meet. On meeting Lady Alroy that evening, she denies she went out that day, but Murchison presses her, at which point she bursts into tears and claims there isn’t anything to tell and she met no one.
But does he believe her? Can it be as simple as she makes out? Is she really a ‘sphinx without a secret’?
A nice, enjoyable, quick read. My favourite quote:
‘…women are meant to be loved, not to be understood.’
I came across this short story in Short Stories from the Nineteenth Century, selected by David Stuart Davies.