The Inner Shrine asks if wife’s flirtation is harmless

American George Evelath uses a duel over his wife’s honor to stage his suicide in Paris.

Friends conceal the details from George’s mother and his wife, Diane, but it’s soon clear George had lost his fortune.
Diane at her desk holding a telegram.

The Inner Shrine: A Novel of Today by Basil King*

Frank Craig, illus. ©1908, 1909 Harper & Brothers. 1909 bestseller #1.
Project Gutenberg Ebook #14393. My grade B.

Sure that George trusted her, and sincerely repenting her extravagance, Diane secretly makes over her dot to her mother-in-law.

The women go to New York.

Mrs. Evelath unwittingly lives on Diane’s dowry while Diane becomes companion to a spoiled debutante whose widowed father, Derek Pryn, proposes marriage.

Pryn meets a Frenchman who says he shot his lover’s husband in a duel. Since Diane’s husband was shot in Paris, Pryn concludes Diane was the lover.

Pryn is willing to marry Diane anyway, but she doesn’t want to marry anyone who thinks she’s promiscuous, though she realizes she gave that impression:

George always knew that I loved him, and that I was true to him. He trusted me, and was justified in doing so. …I played with fire, and while George knew it was only playing, it was fire all the same.

Basil King tangles personalities into an exploration of whether behavior observers interpret as a sexual liaison is actually a “harmless flirtation.”

King does it admirably while dropping a trail of bon mots, such as: “There are times in life when words become as dangerous as explosives.”

If only King didn’t shift focus from one character to another with such unconcern, there would be nothing in The Inner Shrine for me to complain about.

*The author’s name does not appear in the text, nor does the name of the illustrator, Frank Craig, but the drawings are signed.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni