Part 5 out of 5
With subtle and finely wrought temperaments it is always so.
Their strong passions must either bruise or bend. They either
slay the man, or themselves die. Shallow sorrows and shallow
loves live on. The loves and sorrows that are great are destroyed
by their own plenitude. Besides, he had convinced himself that
he had been the victim of a terror-stricken imagination, and looked
back now on his fears with something of pity and not a little
After breakfast, he walked with the duchess for an hour in the garden
and then drove across the park to join the shooting-party. The crisp frost
lay like salt upon the grass. The sky was an inverted cup of blue metal.
A thin film of ice bordered the flat, reed-grown lake.
At the corner of the pine-wood he caught sight of Sir Geoffrey Clouston,
the duchess's brother, jerking two spent cartridges out of his gun.
He jumped from the cart, and having told the groom to take the mare home,
made his way towards his guest through the withered bracken and
"Have you had good sport, Geoffrey?" he asked.
"Not very good, Dorian. I think most of the birds have gone to the open.
I dare say it will be better after lunch, when we get to new ground."
Dorian strolled along by his side. The keen aromatic air,
the brown and red lights that glimmered in the wood,
the hoarse cries of the beaters ringing out from time to time,
and the sharp snaps of the guns that followed, fascinated him
and filled him with a sense of delightful freedom.
He was dominated by the carelessness of happiness, by the high
indifference of joy.
Suddenly from a lumpy tussock of old grass some twenty yards in front
of them, with black-tipped ears erect and long hinder limbs throwing
it forward, started a hare. It bolted for a thicket of alders.
Sir Geoffrey put his gun to his shoulder, but there was something
in the animal's grace of movement that strangely charmed Dorian Gray,
and he cried out at once, "Don't shoot it, Geoffrey. Let it live."
"What nonsense, Dorian!" laughed his companion, and as the hare
bounded into the thicket, he fired. There were two cries heard,
the cry of a hare in pain, which is dreadful, the cry of a man in agony,
which is worse.
"Good heavens! I have hit a beater!" exclaimed Sir Geoffrey.
"What an ass the man was to get in front of the guns!
Stop shooting there!" he called out at the top of his voice.
"A man is hurt."
The head-keeper came running up with a stick in his hand.
"Where, sir? Where is he?" he shouted. At the same time,
the firing ceased along the line.
"Here," answered Sir Geoffrey angrily, hurrying towards the thicket.
"Why on earth don't you keep your men back? Spoiled my shooting for
Dorian watched them as they plunged into the alder-clump,
brushing the lithe swinging branches aside. In a few moments
they emerged, dragging a body after them into the sunlight.
He turned away in horror. It seemed to him that misfortune
followed wherever he went. He heard Sir Geoffrey ask if the man
was really dead, and the affirmative answer of the keeper.
The wood seemed to him to have become suddenly alive with faces.
There was the trampling of myriad feet and the low buzz of voices.
A great copper-breasted pheasant came beating through the
After a few moments--that were to him, in his perturbed state,
like endless hours of pain--he felt a hand laid on his shoulder.
He started and looked round.
"Dorian," said Lord Henry, "I had better tell them that the shooting
is stopped for to-day. It would not look well to go on."
"I wish it were stopped for ever, Harry," he answered bitterly.
"The whole thing is hideous and cruel. Is the man ... ?"
He could not finish the sentence.
"I am afraid so," rejoined Lord Henry. "He got the whole charge of shot
in his chest. He must have died almost instantaneously. Come; let us
They walked side by side in the direction of the avenue for nearly fifty
yards without speaking. Then Dorian looked at Lord Henry and said,
with a heavy sigh, "It is a bad omen, Harry, a very bad omen."
"What is?" asked Lord Henry. "Oh! this accident, I suppose.
My dear fellow, it can't be helped. It was the man's own fault.
Why did he get in front of the guns? Besides, it is nothing to us.
It is rather awkward for Geoffrey, of course. It does not do to
pepper beaters. It makes people think that one is a wild shot.
And Geoffrey is not; he shoots very straight. But there is no use talking
about the matter."
Dorian shook his head. "It is a bad omen, Harry. I feel
as if something horrible were going to happen to some of us.
To myself, perhaps," he added, passing his hand over his eyes,
with a gesture of pain.
The elder man laughed. "The only horrible thing in the world
is ennui, Dorian. That is the one sin for which there is
no forgiveness. But we are not likely to suffer from it unless
these fellows keep chattering about this thing at dinner.
I must tell them that the subject is to be tabooed.
As for omens, there is no such thing as an omen.
Destiny does not send us heralds. She is too wise or too cruel
for that. Besides, what on earth could happen to you, Dorian?
You have everything in the world that a man can want.
There is no one who would not be delighted to change places
"There is no one with whom I would not change places, Harry.
Don't laugh like that. I am telling you the truth. The wretched
peasant who has just died is better off than I am. I have no
terror of death. It is the coming of death that terrifies me.
Its monstrous wings seem to wheel in the leaden air around me.
Good heavens! don't you see a man moving behind the trees there,
watching me, waiting for me?"
Lord Henry looked in the direction in which the trembling gloved hand
was pointing. "Yes," he said, smiling, "I see the gardener waiting for you.
I suppose he wants to ask you what flowers you wish to have on the table
to-night. How absurdly nervous you are, my dear fellow! You must come
and see my doctor, when we get back to town."
Dorian heaved a sigh of relief as he saw the gardener approaching.
The man touched his hat, glanced for a moment at Lord Henry in a
hesitating manner, and then produced a letter, which he handed
to his master. "Her Grace told me to wait for an answer,"
Dorian put the letter into his pocket. "Tell her Grace that I am coming in,"
he said, coldly. The man turned round and went rapidly in the direction of
"How fond women are of doing dangerous things!" laughed Lord Henry.
"It is one of the qualities in them that I admire most. A woman
will flirt with anybody in the world as long as other people are
"How fond you are of saying dangerous things, Harry! In the present instance,
you are quite astray. I like the duchess very much, but I don't love her."
"And the duchess loves you very much, but she likes you less,
so you are excellently matched."
"You are talking scandal, Harry, and there is never any basis for scandal."
"The basis of every scandal is an immoral certainty," said Lord Henry,
lighting a cigarette.
"You would sacrifice anybody, Harry, for the sake of an epigram."
"The world goes to the altar of its own accord," was the answer.
"I wish I could love," cried Dorian Gray with a deep note
of pathos in his voice. "But I seem to have lost the passion
and forgotten the desire. I am too much concentrated on myself.
My own personality has become a burden to me. I want to escape,
to go away, to forget. It was silly of me to come down here at all.
I think I shall send a wire to Harvey to have the yacht got ready.
On a yacht one is safe."
"Safe from what, Dorian? You are in some trouble. Why not tell
me what it is? You know I would help you."
"I can't tell you, Harry," he answered sadly. "And I dare say it
is only a fancy of mine. This unfortunate accident has upset me.
I have a horrible presentiment that something of the kind may happen
"I hope it is, but I can't help feeling it. Ah! here is
the duchess, looking like Artemis in a tailor-made gown.
You see we have come back, Duchess."
"I have heard all about it, Mr. Gray," she answered. "Poor Geoffrey is
terribly upset. And it seems that you asked him not to shoot the hare.
"Yes, it was very curious. I don't know what made me say it.
Some whim, I suppose. It looked the loveliest of little
live things. But I am sorry they told you about the man.
It is a hideous subject."
"It is an annoying subject," broke in Lord Henry. "It has no psychological
value at all. Now if Geoffrey had done the thing on purpose, how interesting
he would be! I should like to know some one who had committed a real murder."
"How horrid of you, Harry!" cried the duchess. "Isn't it,
Mr. Gray? Harry, Mr. Gray is ill again. He is going to faint."
Dorian drew himself up with an effort and smiled. "It is nothing, Duchess,"
he murmured; "my nerves are dreadfully out of order. That is all.
I am afraid I walked too far this morning. I didn't hear what Harry said.
Was it very bad? You must tell me some other time. I think I must go and
lie down. You will excuse me, won't you?"
They had reached the great flight of steps that led from the conservatory
on to the terrace. As the glass door closed behind Dorian, Lord Henry turned
and looked at the duchess with his slumberous eyes. "Are you very much
in love with him?" he asked.
She did not answer for some time, but stood gazing at the landscape.
"I wish I knew," she said at last.
He shook his head. "Knowledge would be fatal. It is the uncertainty
that charms one. A mist makes things wonderful."
"One may lose one's way."
"All ways end at the same point, my dear Gladys."
"What is that?"
"It was my debut in life," she sighed.
"It came to you crowned."
"I am tired of strawberry leaves."
"They become you."
"Only in public."
"You would miss them," said Lord Henry.
"I will not part with a petal."
"Monmouth has ears."
"Old age is dull of hearing."
"Has he never been jealous?"
"I wish he had been."
He glanced about as if in search of something. "What are you looking for?"
"The button from your foil," he answered. "You have dropped it."
She laughed. "I have still the mask."
"It makes your eyes lovelier," was his reply.
She laughed again. Her teeth showed like white seeds in a scarlet fruit.
Upstairs, in his own room, Dorian Gray was lying on a sofa,
with terror in every tingling fibre of his body. Life had suddenly
become too hideous a burden for him to bear. The dreadful death
of the unlucky beater, shot in the thicket like a wild animal,
had seemed to him to pre-figure death for himself also.
He had nearly swooned at what Lord Henry had said in a chance mood
of cynical jesting.
At five o'clock he rang his bell for his servant and gave
him orders to pack his things for the night-express to town,
and to have the brougham at the door by eight-thirty. He
was determined not to sleep another night at Selby Royal.
It was an ill-omened place. Death walked there in the sunlight.
The grass of the forest had been spotted with blood.
Then he wrote a note to Lord Henry, telling him that he was going up to town
to consult his doctor and asking him to entertain his guests in his absence.
As he was putting it into the envelope, a knock came to the door, and his
valet informed him that the head-keeper wished to see him. He frowned and bit
his lip. "Send him in," he muttered, after some moments' hesitation.
As soon as the man entered, Dorian pulled his chequebook out of a drawer
and spread it out before him.
"I suppose you have come about the unfortunate accident
of this morning, Thornton?" he said, taking up a pen.
"Yes, sir," answered the gamekeeper.
"Was the poor fellow married? Had he any people dependent on him?"
asked Dorian, looking bored. "If so, I should not like them to be left
in want, and will send them any sum of money you may think necessary."
"We don't know who he is, sir. That is what I took the liberty
of coming to you about."
"Don't know who he is?" said Dorian, listlessly. "What do you mean?
Wasn't he one of your men?"
"No, sir. Never saw him before. Seems like a sailor, sir."
The pen dropped from Dorian Gray's hand, and he felt as if his
heart had suddenly stopped beating. "A sailor?" he cried out.
"Did you say a sailor?"
"Yes, sir. He looks as if he had been a sort of sailor;
tattooed on both arms, and that kind of thing."
"Was there anything found on him?" said Dorian, leaning forward and looking
at the man with startled eyes. "Anything that would tell his name?"
"Some money, sir--not much, and a six-shooter. There was no name of any kind.
A decent-looking man, sir, but rough-like. A sort of sailor we think."
Dorian started to his feet. A terrible hope fluttered past him.
He clutched at it madly. "Where is the body?" he exclaimed.
"Quick! I must see it at once."
"It is in an empty stable in the Home Farm, sir. The folk
don't like to have that sort of thing in their houses.
They say a corpse brings bad luck."
"The Home Farm! Go there at once and meet me. Tell one of the grooms
to bring my horse round. No. Never mind. I'll go to the stables myself.
It will save time."
In less than a quarter of an hour, Dorian Gray was galloping down the long
avenue as hard as he could go. The trees seemed to sweep past him in
spectral procession, and wild shadows to fling themselves across his path.
Once the mare swerved at a white gate-post and nearly threw him. He lashed
her across the neck with his crop. She cleft the dusky air like an arrow.
The stones flew from her hoofs.
At last he reached the Home Farm. Two men were loitering in the yard.
He leaped from the saddle and threw the reins to one of them.
In the farthest stable a light was glimmering. Something seemed
to tell him that the body was there, and he hurried to the door
and put his hand upon the latch.
There he paused for a moment, feeling that he was on the brink
of a discovery that would either make or mar his life.
Then he thrust the door open and entered.
On a heap of sacking in the far corner was lying the dead body
of a man dressed in a coarse shirt and a pair of blue trousers.
A spotted handkerchief had been placed over the face.
A coarse candle, stuck in a bottle, sputtered beside it.
Dorian Gray shuddered. He felt that his could not be the hand to take
the handkerchief away, and called out to one of the farm-servants to come
"Take that thing off the face. I wish to see it," he said,
clutching at the door-post for support.
When the farm-servant had done so, he stepped forward.
A cry of joy broke from his lips. The man who had been shot in
the thicket was James Vane.
He stood there for some minutes looking at the dead body.
As he rode home, his eyes were full of tears, for he knew
he was safe.
"There is no use your telling me that you are going to be good,"
cried Lord Henry, dipping his white fingers into a red copper bowl
filled with rose-water. "You are quite perfect. Pray, don't change."
Dorian Gray shook his head. "No, Harry, I have done too many
dreadful things in my life. I am not going to do any more.
I began my good actions yesterday."
"Where were you yesterday?"
"In the country, Harry. I was staying at a little inn by myself."
"My dear boy," said Lord Henry, smiling, "anybody can be good in the country.
There are no temptations there. That is the reason why people who live out
of town are so absolutely uncivilized. Civilization is not by any means an
easy thing to attain to. There are only two ways by which man can reach it.
One is by being cultured, the other by being corrupt. Country people have no
opportunity of being either, so they stagnate."
"Culture and corruption," echoed Dorian. "I have known something of both.
It seems terrible to me now that they should ever be found together.
For I have a new ideal, Harry. I am going to alter. I think I
"You have not yet told me what your good action was.
Or did you say you had done more than one?" asked his companion
as he spilled into his plate a little crimson pyramid of seeded
strawberries and, through a perforated, shell-shaped spoon,
snowed white sugar upon them.
"I can tell you, Harry. It is not a story I could tell to any one else.
I spared somebody. It sounds vain, but you understand what I mean.
She was quite beautiful and wonderfully like Sibyl Vane. I think it was
that which first attracted me to her. You remember Sibyl, don't you?
How long ago that seems! Well, Hetty was not one of our own class,
of course. She was simply a girl in a village. But I really loved her.
I am quite sure that I loved her. All during this wonderful May that we
have been having, I used to run down and see her two or three times a week.
Yesterday she met me in a little orchard. The apple-blossoms kept tumbling
down on her hair, and she was laughing. We were to have gone away together
this morning at dawn. Suddenly I determined to leave her as flowerlike as I
had found her."
"I should think the novelty of the emotion must have given you
a thrill of real pleasure, Dorian," interrupted Lord Henry.
"But I can finish your idyll for you. You gave her good advice
and broke her heart. That was the beginning of your reformation."
"Harry, you are horrible! You mustn't say these dreadful things.
Hetty's heart is not broken. Of course, she cried and all that.
But there is no disgrace upon her. She can live, like Perdita, in her
garden of mint and marigold."
"And weep over a faithless Florizel," said Lord Henry,
laughing, as he leaned back in his chair. "My dear Dorian,
you have the most curiously boyish moods. Do you think this girl
will ever be really content now with any one of her own rank?
I suppose she will be married some day to a rough carter
or a grinning ploughman. Well, the fact of having met you,
and loved you, will teach her to despise her husband,
and she will be wretched. From a moral point of view,
I cannot say that I think much of your great renunciation.
Even as a beginning, it is poor. Besides, how do you know
that Hetty isn't floating at the present moment in some
starlit mill-pond, with lovely water-lilies round her,
"I can't bear this, Harry! You mock at everything, and then
suggest the most serious tragedies. I am sorry I told you now.
I don't care what you say to me. I know I was right in acting
as I did. Poor Hetty! As I rode past the farm this morning,
I saw her white face at the window, like a spray of jasmine.
Don't let us talk about it any more, and don't try to persuade
me that the first good action I have done for years,
the first little bit of self-sacrifice I have ever known,
is really a sort of sin. I want to be better.
I am going to be better. Tell me something about yourself.
What is going on in town? I have not been to the club
"The people are still discussing poor Basil's disappearance."
"I should have thought they had got tired of that by this time,"
said Dorian, pouring himself out some wine and frowning slightly.
"My dear boy, they have only been talking about it for six weeks,
and the British public are really not equal to the mental
strain of having more than one topic every three months.
They have been very fortunate lately, however. They have
had my own divorce-case and Alan Campbell's suicide.
Now they have got the mysterious disappearance of an artist.
Scotland Yard still insists that the man in the grey ulster
who left for Paris by the midnight train on the ninth of November
was poor Basil, and the French police declare that Basil never
arrived in Paris at all. I suppose in about a fortnight we shall
be told that he has been seen in San Francisco. It is an odd thing,
but every one who disappears is said to be seen at San Francisco.
It must be a delightful city, and possess all the attractions
of the next world."
"What do you think has happened to Basil?" asked Dorian,
holding up his Burgundy against the light and wondering how it
was that he could discuss the matter so calmly.
"I have not the slightest idea. If Basil chooses to hide himself,
it is no business of mine. If he is dead, I don't want to think
about him. Death is the only thing that ever terrifies me.
I hate it."
"Why?" said the younger man wearily.
"Because," said Lord Henry, passing beneath his nostrils the gilt trellis
of an open vinaigrette box, "one can survive everything nowadays except that.
Death and vulgarity are the only two facts in the nineteenth century that one
cannot explain away. Let us have our coffee in the music-room, Dorian.
You must play Chopin to me. The man with whom my wife ran away played
Chopin exquisitely. Poor Victoria! I was very fond of her. The house
is rather lonely without her. Of course, married life is merely a habit,
a bad habit. But then one regrets the loss even of one's worst habits.
Perhaps one regrets them the most. They are such an essential part of
Dorian said nothing, but rose from the table, and passing into the next room,
sat down to the piano and let his fingers stray across the white and black
ivory of the keys. After the coffee had been brought in, he stopped,
and looking over at Lord Henry, said, "Harry, did it ever occur to you that
Basil was murdered?"
Lord Henry yawned. "Basil was very popular, and always
wore a Waterbury watch. Why should he have been murdered?
He was not clever enough to have enemies. Of course,
he had a wonderful genius for painting. But a man can
paint like Velasquez and yet be as dull as possible.
Basil was really rather dull. He only interested me once,
and that was when he told me, years ago, that he had a wild
adoration for you and that you were the dominant motive of
"I was very fond of Basil," said Dorian with a note of sadness in his voice.
"But don't people say that he was murdered?"
"Oh, some of the papers do. It does not seem to me to be at all probable.
I know there are dreadful places in Paris, but Basil was not the sort of man
to have gone to them. He had no curiosity. It was his chief defect."
"What would you say, Harry, if I told you that I had murdered Basil?"
said the younger man. He watched him intently after he had spoken.
"I would say, my dear fellow, that you were posing for a character
that doesn't suit you. All crime is vulgar, just as all vulgarity
is crime. It is not in you, Dorian, to commit a murder.
I am sorry if I hurt your vanity by saying so, but I assure you
it is true. Crime belongs exclusively to the lower orders.
I don't blame them in the smallest degree. I should fancy that
crime was to them what art is to us, simply a method of procuring
"A method of procuring sensations? Do you think, then, that a man
who has once committed a murder could possibly do the same crime again?
Don't tell me that."
"Oh! anything becomes a pleasure if one does it too often,"
cried Lord Henry, laughing. "That is one of the most important secrets
of life. I should fancy, however, that murder is always a mistake.
One should never do anything that one cannot talk about after dinner.
But let us pass from poor Basil. I wish I could believe that he had
come to such a really romantic end as you suggest, but I can't. I
dare say he fell into the Seine off an omnibus and that the conductor
hushed up the scandal. Yes: I should fancy that was his end.
I see him lying now on his back under those dull-green waters,
with the heavy barges floating over him and long weeds catching
in his hair. Do you know, I don't think he would have done much
more good work. During the last ten years his painting had gone off
Dorian heaved a sigh, and Lord Henry strolled across the room
and began to stroke the head of a curious Java parrot, a large,
grey-plumaged bird with pink crest and tail, that was balancing
itself upon a bamboo perch. As his pointed fingers touched it,
it dropped the white scurf of crinkled lids over black,
glasslike eyes and began to sway backwards and forwards.
"Yes," he continued, turning round and taking his handkerchief
out of his pocket; "his painting had quite gone off.
It seemed to me to have lost something. It had lost an ideal.
When you and he ceased to be great friends, he ceased to be a
great artist. What was it separated you? I suppose he bored you.
If so, he never forgave you. It's a habit bores have.
By the way, what has become of that wonderful portrait
he did of you? I don't think I have ever seen it since
he finished it. Oh! I remember your telling me years ago
that you had sent it down to Selby, and that it had got mislaid
or stolen on the way. You never got it back? What a pity!
it was really a masterpiece. I remember I wanted to buy it.
I wish I had now. It belonged to Basil's best period.
Since then, his work was that curious mixture of bad painting
and good intentions that always entitles a man to be called
a representative British artist. Did you advertise for it?
"I forget," said Dorian. "I suppose I did. But I never really liked it.
I am sorry I sat for it. The memory of the thing is hateful to me.
Why do you talk of it? It used to remind me of those curious lines
in some play--Hamlet, I think--how do they run?--
"Like the painting of a sorrow,
A face without a heart."
Yes: that is what it was like."
Lord Henry laughed. "If a man treats life artistically,
his brain is his heart," he answered, sinking into an arm-chair.
Dorian Gray shook his head and struck some soft chords on the piano.
"'Like the painting of a sorrow,'" he repeated, "'a face without
The elder man lay back and looked at him with half-closed eyes.
"By the way, Dorian," he said after a pause, "'what does it profit
a man if he gain the whole world and lose--how does the quotation run?--
his own soul'?"
The music jarred, and Dorian Gray started and stared at his friend.
"Why do you ask me that, Harry?"
"My dear fellow," said Lord Henry, elevating his eyebrows in surprise,
"I asked you because I thought you might be able to give me an answer.
That is all. I was going through the park last Sunday, and close by the
Marble Arch there stood a little crowd of shabby-looking people listening
to some vulgar street-preacher. As I passed by, I heard the man yelling
out that question to his audience. It struck me as being rather dramatic.
London is very rich in curious effects of that kind. A wet Sunday,
an uncouth Christian in a mackintosh, a ring of sickly white faces under
a broken roof of dripping umbrellas, and a wonderful phrase flung into
the air by shrill hysterical lips--it was really very good in its way,
quite a suggestion. I thought of telling the prophet that art had
a soul, but that man had not. I am afraid, however, he would not have
"Don't, Harry. The soul is a terrible reality. It can be bought,
and sold, and bartered away. It can be poisoned, or made perfect.
There is a soul in each one of us. I know it."
"Do you feel quite sure of that, Dorian?"
"Ah! then it must be an illusion. The things one feels
absolutely certain about are never true. That is the fatality
of faith, and the lesson of romance. How grave you are!
Don't be so serious. What have you or I to do with the superstitions
of our age? No: we have given up our belief in the soul.
Play me something. Play me a nocturne, Dorian, and, as you play,
tell me, in a low voice, how you have kept your youth.
You must have some secret. I am only ten years older than
you are, and I am wrinkled, and worn, and yellow. You are
really wonderful, Dorian. You have never looked more charming
than you do to-night. You remind me of the day I saw you first.
You were rather cheeky, very shy, and absolutely extraordinary.
You have changed, of course, but not in appearance.
I wish you would tell me your secret. To get back my youth
I would do anything in the world, except take exercise,
get up early, or be respectable. Youth! There is nothing
like it. It's absurd to talk of the ignorance of youth.
The only people to whose opinions I listen now with any respect
are people much younger than myself. They seem in front of me.
Life has revealed to them her latest wonder. As for the aged,
I always contradict the aged. I do it on principle.
If you ask them their opinion on something that happened yesterday,
they solemnly give you the opinions current in 1820,
when people wore high stocks, believed in everything, and knew
absolutely nothing. How lovely that thing you are playing is!
I wonder, did Chopin write it at Majorca, with the sea weeping
round the villa and the salt spray dashing against the panes?
It is marvellously romantic. What a blessing it is
that there is one art left to us that is not imitative!
Don't stop. I want music to-night. It seems to me that you
are the young Apollo and that I am Marsyas listening to you.
I have sorrows, Dorian, of my own, that even you know nothing of.
The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one
is young. I am amazed sometimes at my own sincerity.
Ah, Dorian, how happy you are! What an exquisite life
you have had! You have drunk deeply of everything.
You have crushed the grapes against your palate. Nothing has
been hidden from you. And it has all been to you no more than
the sound of music. It has not marred you. You are still the
"I am not the same, Harry."
"Yes, you are the same. I wonder what the rest of your life will be.
Don't spoil it by renunciations. At present you are a perfect type.
Don't make yourself incomplete. You are quite flawless now.
You need not shake your head: you know you are. Besides, Dorian,
don't deceive yourself. Life is not governed by will or intention.
Life is a question of nerves, and fibres, and slowly built-up
cells in which thought hides itself and passion has its dreams.
You may fancy yourself safe and think yourself strong. But a chance
tone of colour in a room or a morning sky, a particular perfume
that you had once loved and that brings subtle memories with it,
a line from a forgotten poem that you had come across again,
a cadence from a piece of music that you had ceased to play--
I tell you, Dorian, that it is on things like these that our lives depend.
Browning writes about that somewhere; but our own senses will imagine
them for us. There are moments when the odour of lilas blanc passes
suddenly across me, and I have to live the strangest month of my life
over again. I wish I could change places with you, Dorian. The world
has cried out against us both, but it has always worshipped you.
It always will worship you. You are the type of what the age
is searching for, and what it is afraid it has found. I am
so glad that you have never done anything, never carved a statue,
or painted a picture, or produced anything outside of yourself!
Life has been your art. You have set yourself to music. Your days are
Dorian rose up from the piano and passed his hand through his hair.
"Yes, life has been exquisite," he murmured, "but I am not going
to have the same life, Harry. And you must not say these
extravagant things to me. You don't know everything about me.
I think that if you did, even you would turn from me. You laugh.
"Why have you stopped playing, Dorian? Go back and give me
the nocturne over again. Look at that great, honey-coloured moon
that hangs in the dusky air. She is waiting for you to charm her,
and if you play she will come closer to the earth. You won't?
Let us go to the club, then. It has been a charming evening,
and we must end it charmingly. There is some one at White's who wants
immensely to know you--young Lord Poole, Bournemouth's eldest son.
He has already copied your neckties, and has begged me to introduce
him to you. He is quite delightful and rather reminds me of you."
"I hope not," said Dorian with a sad look in his eyes.
"But I am tired to-night, Harry. I shan't go to the club.
It is nearly eleven, and I want to go to bed early."
"Do stay. You have never played so well as to-night. There was something
in your touch that was wonderful. It had more expression than I had ever
heard from it before."
"It is because I am going to be good," he answered, smiling.
"I am a little changed already."
"You cannot change to me, Dorian," said Lord Henry. "You and I will always
"Yet you poisoned me with a book once. I should not forgive that.
Harry, promise me that you will never lend that book to any one.
It does harm."
"My dear boy, you are really beginning to moralize. You will
soon be going about like the converted, and the revivalist,
warning people against all the sins of which you have grown tired.
You are much too delightful to do that. Besides, it is no use.
You and I are what we are, and will be what we will be.
As for being poisoned by a book, there is no such thing as that.
Art has no influence upon action. It annihilates the desire
to act. It is superbly sterile. The books that the world
calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.
That is all. But we won't discuss literature. Come round
to-morrow. I am going to ride at eleven. We might go together,
and I will take you to lunch afterwards with Lady Branksome.
She is a charming woman, and wants to consult you about some
tapestries she is thinking of buying. Mind you come. Or shall we
lunch with our little duchess? She says she never sees you now.
Perhaps you are tired of Gladys? I thought you would be.
Her clever tongue gets on one's nerves. Well, in any case, be here at
"Must I really come, Harry?"
"Certainly. The park is quite lovely now. I don't think there
have been such lilacs since the year I met you."
"Very well. I shall be here at eleven," said Dorian.
"Good night, Harry." As he reached the door, he hesitated
for a moment, as if he had something more to say. Then he sighed
and went out.
It was a lovely night, so warm that he threw his coat over his arm and did
not even put his silk scarf round his throat. As he strolled home,
smoking his cigarette, two young men in evening dress passed him.
He heard one of them whisper to the other, "That is Dorian Gray."
He remembered how pleased he used to be when he was pointed out,
or stared at, or talked about. He was tired of hearing his own name now.
Half the charm of the little village where he had been so often lately
was that no one knew who he was. He had often told the girl whom
he had lured to love him that he was poor, and she had believed him.
He had told her once that he was wicked, and she had laughed at him
and answered that wicked people were always very old and very ugly.
What a laugh she had!--just like a thrush singing. And how pretty she had
been in her cotton dresses and her large hats! She knew nothing, but she had
everything that he had lost.
When he reached home, he found his servant waiting up for him.
He sent him to bed, and threw himself down on the sofa in the library,
and began to think over some of the things that Lord Henry had said
Was it really true that one could never change? He felt
a wild longing for the unstained purity of his boyhood--
his rose-white boyhood, as Lord Henry had once called it.
He knew that he had tarnished himself, filled his mind with
corruption and given horror to his fancy; that he had been
an evil influence to others, and had experienced a terrible joy
in being so; and that of the lives that had crossed his own,
it had been the fairest and the most full of promise that
he had brought to shame. But was it all irretrievable?
Was there no hope for him?
Ah! in what a monstrous moment of pride and passion he had
prayed that the portrait should bear the burden of his days,
and he keep the unsullied splendour of eternal youth!
All his failure had been due to that. Better for him that each sin
of his life had brought its sure swift penalty along with it.
There was purification in punishment. Not "Forgive us our sins"
but "Smite us for our iniquities" should be the prayer of man to a
most just God.
The curiously carved mirror that Lord Henry had given
to him, so many years ago now, was standing on the table,
and the white-limbed Cupids laughed round it as of old.
He took it up, as he had done on that night of horror
when he had first noted the change in the fatal picture,
and with wild, tear-dimmed eyes looked into its polished shield.
Once, some one who had terribly loved him had written
to him a mad letter, ending with these idolatrous words:
"The world is changed because you are made of ivory and gold.
The curves of your lips rewrite history." The phrases came back
to his memory, and he repeated them over and over to himself.
Then he loathed his own beauty, and flinging the mirror on
the floor, crushed it into silver splinters beneath his heel.
It was his beauty that had ruined him, his beauty and the youth
that he had prayed for. But for those two things, his life
might have been free from stain. His beauty had been to him
but a mask, his youth but a mockery. What was youth at best?
A green, an unripe time, a time of shallow moods,
and sickly thoughts. Why had he worn its livery? Youth had
It was better not to think of the past. Nothing could alter that.
It was of himself, and of his own future, that he had to think.
James Vane was hidden in a nameless grave in Selby churchyard.
Alan Campbell had shot himself one night in his laboratory,
but had not revealed the secret that he had been forced to know.
The excitement, such as it was, over Basil Hallward's
disappearance would soon pass away. It was already waning.
He was perfectly safe there. Nor, indeed, was it the death
of Basil Hallward that weighed most upon his mind.
It was the living death of his own soul that troubled him.
Basil had painted the portrait that had marred his life.
He could not forgive him that. It was the portrait that had
done everything. Basil had said things to him that were unbearable,
and that he had yet borne with patience. The murder had
been simply the madness of a moment. As for Alan Campbell,
his suicide had been his own act. He had chosen to do it.
It was nothing to him.
A new life! That was what he wanted. That was what he was waiting for.
Surely he had begun it already. He had spared one innocent thing,
at any rate. He would never again tempt innocence. He would be good.
As he thought of Hetty Merton, he began to wonder if the portrait in the
locked room had changed. Surely it was not still so horrible as it had been?
Perhaps if his life became pure, he would be able to expel every sign of evil
passion from the face. Perhaps the signs of evil had already gone away.
He would go and look.
He took the lamp from the table and crept upstairs. As he unbarred the door,
a smile of joy flitted across his strangely young-looking face and lingered
for a moment about his lips. Yes, he would be good, and the hideous thing
that he had hidden away would no longer be a terror to him. He felt as if
the load had been lifted from him already.
He went in quietly, locking the door behind him, as was
his custom, and dragged the purple hanging from the portrait.
A cry of pain and indignation broke from him. He could see
no change, save that in the eyes there was a look of cunning
and in the mouth the curved wrinkle of the hypocrite.
The thing was still loathsome--more loathsome, if possible,
than before--and the scarlet dew that spotted the hand
seemed brighter, and more like blood newly spilled.
Then he trembled. Had it been merely vanity that had made
him do his one good deed? Or the desire for a new sensation,
as Lord Henry had hinted, with his mocking laugh?
Or that passion to act a part that sometimes makes us do
things finer than we are ourselves? Or, perhaps, all these?
And why was the red stain larger than it had been? It seemed
to have crept like a horrible disease over the wrinkled fingers.
There was blood on the painted feet, as though the thing
had dripped--blood even on the hand that had not held
the knife. Confess? Did it mean that he was to confess?
To give himself up and be put to death? He laughed.
He felt that the idea was monstrous. Besides, even if
he did confess, who would believe him? There was no trace
of the murdered man anywhere. Everything belonging to him
had been destroyed. He himself had burned what had been
below-stairs. The world would simply say that he was mad.
They would shut him up if he persisted in his story.
. . . Yet it was his duty to confess, to suffer public shame,
and to make public atonement. There was a God who called
upon men to tell their sins to earth as well as to heaven.
Nothing that he could do would cleanse him till he had
told his own sin. His sin? He shrugged his shoulders.
The death of Basil Hallward seemed very little to him.
He was thinking of Hetty Merton. For it was an unjust mirror,
this mirror of his soul that he was looking at.
Vanity? Curiosity? Hypocrisy? Had there been nothing more
in his renunciation than that? There had been something more.
At least he thought so. But who could tell? . . . No. There
had been nothing more. Through vanity he had spared her.
In hypocrisy he had worn the mask of goodness. For curiosity's
sake he had tried the denial of self. He recognized that
But this murder--was it to dog him all his life? Was he always to be
burdened by his past? Was he really to confess? Never. There was
only one bit of evidence left against him. The picture itself--
that was evidence. He would destroy it. Why had he kept it so long?
Once it had given him pleasure to watch it changing and growing old.
Of late he had felt no such pleasure. It had kept him awake at night.
When he had been away, he had been filled with terror lest other eyes
should look upon it. It had brought melancholy across his passions.
Its mere memory had marred many moments of joy. It had been
like conscience to him. Yes, it had been conscience. He would
He looked round and saw the knife that had stabbed Basil Hallward.
He had cleaned it many times, till there was no stain left upon it.
It was bright, and glistened. As it had killed the painter,
so it would kill the painter's work, and all that that meant.
It would kill the past, and when that was dead, he would be free.
It would kill this monstrous soul-life, and without its hideous warnings,
he would be at peace. He seized the thing, and stabbed the picture
There was a cry heard, and a crash. The cry was so horrible
in its agony that the frightened servants woke and crept
out of their rooms. Two gentlemen, who were passing in
the square below, stopped and looked up at the great house.
They walked on till they met a policeman and brought him back.
The man rang the bell several times, but there was no answer.
Except for a light in one of the top windows, the house was all dark.
After a time, he went away and stood in an adjoining portico
"Whose house is that, Constable?" asked the elder of the two gentlemen.
"Mr. Dorian Gray's, sir," answered the policeman.
They looked at each other, as they walked away, and sneered.
One of them was Sir Henry Ashton's uncle.
Inside, in the servants' part of the house, the half-clad
domestics were talking in low whispers to each other.
Old Mrs. Leaf was crying and wringing her hands. Francis was
as pale as death.
After about a quarter of an hour, he got the coachman and one of the footmen
and crept upstairs. They knocked, but there was no reply. They called out.
Everything was still. Finally, after vainly trying to force the door,
they got on the roof and dropped down on to the balcony. The windows
yielded easily--their bolts were old.
When they entered, they found hanging upon the wall a splendid
portrait of their master as they had last seen him, in all
the wonder of his exquisite youth and beauty. Lying on the floor
was a dead man, in evening dress, with a knife in his heart.
He was withered, wrinkled, and loathsome of visage.
It was not till they had examined the rings that they
recognized who it was.