The narrator, a writer for a literary newspaper, prides himself on his astute review of Hugh Vereker's latest novel. Vereker inadvertently dismisses his efforts, and then to repair his incivility, confides in the narrator that all critics have missed my little point, the particular thing I've written my books most for, the thing for the critic to find, my secret, like a complex figure in a Persian carpet. The narrator racks his brains and, in desperation, tells his friend Corvick of the puzzle. Corvick and his novelist fiancée, Gwendolen, pursue the trick without success until Corvick, traveling alone in India, wires Gwendolen and the narrator Eureka! Immense. He refuses, however, to divulge the secret to Gwendolen until after they are married, and then dies in an accident. Since Gwendolen refuses to share her knowledge, the narrator speculates, the figure in the carpet [was] traceable or describable only for husbands and wives-for lovers supremely united. She remarries, and after her death, the narrator approaches her new husband to discover the secret. But the widowed husband is surprised and humiliated by the news of his late wife's great secret, and he and the narrator conclude by sharing the same curiosity.
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