He passed out of the room and began the ascent, Basil Hallward
following close behind. They walked softly, as men do instinctively at
night. The lamp cast fantastic shadows on the wall and staircase. A
rising wind made some of the windows rattle.
When they reached the top landing, Dorian set the lamp down on the
floor, and taking out the key, turned it in the lock. "You insist on
knowing, Basil?" he asked in a low voice.
"I am delighted," he answered, smiling. Then he added, somewhat
harshly, "You are the one man in the world who is entitled to know
everything about me. You have had more to do with my life than you
think"; and, taking up the lamp, he opened the door and went in. A
cold current of air passed them, and the light shot up for a moment in
a flame of murky orange. He shuddered. "Shut the door behind you," he
whispered, as he placed the lamp on the table.
Hallward glanced round him with a puzzled expression. The room looked
as if it had not been lived in for years. A faded Flemish tapestry, a
curtained picture, an old Italian cassone, and an almost empty
book-case--that was all that it seemed to contain, besides a chair and
a table. As Dorian Gray was lighting a half-burned candle that was
standing on the mantelshelf, he saw that the whole place was covered
with dust and that the carpet was in holes. A mouse ran scuffling
behind the wainscoting. There was a damp odour of mildew.
"So you think that it is only God who sees the soul, Basil? Draw that
curtain back, and you will see mine."
The voice that spoke was cold and cruel. "You are mad, Dorian, or
playing a part," muttered Hallward, frowning.
"You won't? Then I must do it myself," said the young man, and he tore
the curtain from its rod and flung it on the ground.
An exclamation of horror broke from the painter's lips as he saw in the
dim light the hideous face on the canvas grinning at him. There was
something in its expression that filled him with disgust and loathing.
Good heavens! it was Dorian Gray's own face that he was looking at!
The horror, whatever it was, had not yet entirely spoiled that
marvellous beauty. There was still some gold in the thinning hair and
some scarlet on the sensual mouth. The sodden eyes had kept something
of the loveliness of their blue, the noble curves had not yet
completely passed away from chiselled nostrils and from plastic throat.
Yes, it was Dorian himself. But who had done it? He seemed to
recognize his own brushwork, and the frame was his own design. The
idea was monstrous, yet he felt afraid. He seized the lighted candle,
and held it to the picture. In the left-hand corner was his own name,
traced in long letters of bright vermilion.
It was some foul parody, some infamous ignoble satire. He had never
done that. Still, it was his own picture. He knew it, and he felt as
if his blood had changed in a moment from fire to sluggish ice. His
own picture! What did it mean? Why had it altered? He turned and
looked at Dorian Gray with the eyes of a sick man. His mouth twitched,
and his parched tongue seemed unable to articulate. He passed his hand
across his forehead. It was dank with clammy sweat.
The young man was leaning against the mantelshelf, watching him with
that strange expression that one sees on the faces of those who are
absorbed in a play when some great artist is acting. There was neither
real sorrow in it nor real joy. There was simply the passion of the
spectator, with perhaps a flicker of triumph in his eyes. He had taken
the flower out of his coat, and was smelling it, or pretending to do so.
"What does this mean?" cried Hallward, at last. His own voice sounded
shrill and curious in his ears.
"Years ago, when I was a boy," said Dorian Gray, crushing the flower in
his hand, "you met me, flattered me, and taught me to be vain of my
good looks. One day you introduced me to a friend of yours, who
explained to me the wonder of youth, and you finished a portrait of me
that revealed to me the wonder of beauty. In a mad moment that, even
now, I don't know whether I regret or not, I made a wish, perhaps you
would call it a prayer...."
"I remember it! Oh, how well I remember it! No! the thing is
impossible. The room is damp. Mildew has got into the canvas. The
paints I used had some wretched mineral poison in them. I tell you the
thing is impossible."
"Ah, what is impossible?" murmured the young man, going over to the
window and leaning his forehead against the cold, mist-stained glass.
"You told me you had destroyed it."
"I was wrong. It has destroyed me."
"I don't believe it is my picture."
"Can't you see your ideal in it?" said Dorian bitterly.
"My ideal, as you call it..."
"As you called it."
"There was nothing evil in it, nothing shameful. You were to me such
an ideal as I shall never meet again. This is the face of a satyr."
"It is the face of my soul."
"Christ! what a thing I must have worshipped! It has the eyes of a
"Each of us has heaven and hell in him, Basil," cried Dorian with a
wild gesture of despair.
Hallward turned again to the portrait and gazed at it. "My God! If it
is true," he exclaimed, "and this is what you have done with your life,
why, you must be worse even than those who talk against you fancy you
to be!" He held the light up again to the canvas and examined it. The
surface seemed to be quite undisturbed and as he had left it. It was
from within, apparently, that the foulness and horror had come.
Through some strange quickening of inner life the leprosies of sin were
slowly eating the thing away. The rotting of a corpse in a watery
grave was not so fearful.
His hand shook, and the candle fell from its socket on the floor and
lay there sputtering. He placed his foot on it and put it out. Then
he flung himself into the rickety chair that was standing by the table
and buried his face in his hands.
"Good God, Dorian, what a lesson! What an awful lesson!" There was no
answer, but he could hear the young man sobbing at the window. "Pray,
Dorian, pray," he murmured. "What is it that one was taught to say in
one's boyhood? 'Lead us not into temptation. Forgive us our sins.
Wash away our iniquities.' Let us say that together. The prayer of
your pride has been answered. The prayer of your repentance will be
answered also. I worshipped you too much. I am punished for it. You
worshipped yourself too much. We are both punished."
Dorian Gray turned slowly around and looked at him with tear-dimmed
eyes. "It is too late, Basil," he faltered.
"It is never too late, Dorian. Let us kneel down and try if we cannot
remember a prayer. Isn't there a verse somewhere, 'Though your sins be
as scarlet, yet I will make them as white as snow'?"
"Those words mean nothing to me now."
"Hush! Don't say that. You have done enough evil in your life. My
God! Don't you see that accursed thing leering at us?"
Dorian Gray glanced at the picture, and suddenly an uncontrollable
feeling of hatred for Basil Hallward came over him, as though it had
been suggested to him by the image on the canvas, whispered into his
ear by those grinning lips. The mad passions of a hunted animal
stirred within him, and he loathed the man who was seated at the table,
more than in his whole life he had ever loathed anything. He glanced
wildly around. Something glimmered on the top of the painted chest
that faced him. His eye fell on it. He knew what it was. It was a
knife that he had brought up, some days before, to cut a piece of cord,
and had forgotten to take away with him. He moved slowly towards it,
passing Hallward as he did so. As soon as he got behind him, he seized
it and turned round. Hallward stirred in his chair as if he was going
to rise. He rushed at him and dug the knife into the great vein that
is behind the ear, crushing the man's head down on the table and
stabbing again and again.
There was a stifled groan and the horrible sound of some one choking
with blood. Three times the outstretched arms shot up convulsively,
waving grotesque, stiff-fingered hands in the air. He stabbed him
twice more, but the man did not move. Something began to trickle on
the floor. He waited for a moment, still pressing the head down. Then
he threw the knife on the table, and listened.
He could hear nothing, but the drip, drip on the threadbare carpet. He
opened the door and went out on the landing. The house was absolutely
quiet. No one was about. For a few seconds he stood bending over the
balustrade and peering down into the black seething well of darkness.
Then he took out the key and returned to the room, locking himself in
as he did so.
The thing was still seated in the chair, straining over the table with
bowed head, and humped back, and long fantastic arms. Had it not been
for the red jagged tear in the neck and the clotted black pool that was
slowly widening on the table, one would have said that the man was
How quickly it had all been done! He felt strangely calm, and walking
over to the window, opened it and stepped out on the balcony. The wind
had blown the fog away, and the sky was like a monstrous peacock's
tail, starred with myriads of golden eyes. He looked down and saw the
policeman going his rounds and flashing the long beam of his lantern on
the doors of the silent houses. The crimson spot of a prowling hansom
gleamed at the corner and then vanished. A woman in a fluttering shawl
was creeping slowly by the railings, staggering as she went. Now and
then she stopped and peered back. Once, she began to sing in a hoarse
voice. The policeman strolled over and said something to her. She
stumbled away, laughing. A bitter blast swept across the square. The
gas-lamps flickered and became blue, and the leafless trees shook their
black iron branches to and fro. He shivered and went back, closing the
window behind him.
Having reached the door, he turned the key and opened it. He did not
even glance at the murdered man. He felt that the secret of the whole
thing was not to realize the situation. The friend who had painted the
fatal portrait to which all his misery had been due had gone out of his
life. That was enough.
Then he remembered the lamp. It was a rather curious one of Moorish
workmanship, made of dull silver inlaid with arabesques of burnished
steel, and studded with coarse turquoises. Perhaps it might be missed
by his servant, and questions would be asked. He hesitated for a
moment, then he turned back and took it from the table. He could not
help seeing the dead thing. How still it was! How horribly white the
long hands looked! It was like a dreadful wax image.
Having locked the door behind him, he crept quietly downstairs. The
woodwork creaked and seemed to cry out as if in pain. He stopped
several times and waited. No: everything was still. It was merely
the sound of his own footsteps.
When he reached the library, he saw the bag and coat in the corner.
They must be hidden away somewhere. He unlocked a secret press that
was in the wainscoting, a press in which he kept his own curious
disguises, and put them into it. He could easily burn them afterwards.
Then he pulled out his watch. It was twenty minutes to two.
He sat down and began to think. Every year--every month, almost--men
were strangled in England for what he had done. There had been a
madness of murder in the air. Some red star had come too close to the
earth.... And yet, what evidence was there against him? Basil Hallward
had left the house at eleven. No one had seen him come in again. Most
of the servants were at Selby Royal. His valet had gone to bed....
Paris! Yes. It was to Paris that Basil had gone, and by the midnight
train, as he had intended. With his curious reserved habits, it would
be months before any suspicions would be roused. Months! Everything
could be destroyed long before then.
A sudden thought struck him. He put on his fur coat and hat and went
out into the hall. There he paused, hearing the slow heavy tread of
the policeman on the pavement outside and seeing the flash of the
bull's-eye reflected in the window. He waited and held his breath.
After a few moments he drew back the latch and slipped out, shutting
the door very gently behind him. Then he began ringing the bell. In
about five minutes his valet appeared, half-dressed and looking very
"I am sorry to have had to wake you up, Francis," he said, stepping in;
"but I had forgotten my latch-key. What time is it?"
"Ten minutes past two, sir," answered the man, looking at the clock and
"Ten minutes past two? How horribly late! You must wake me at nine
to-morrow. I have some work to do."
"All right, sir."
"Did any one call this evening?"
"Mr. Hallward, sir. He stayed here till eleven, and then he went away
to catch his train."
"Oh! I am sorry I didn't see him. Did he leave any message?"
"No, sir, except that he would write to you from Paris, if he did not
find you at the club."
"That will do, Francis. Don't forget to call me at nine to-morrow."
The man shambled down the passage in his slippers.
Dorian Gray threw his hat and coat upon the table and passed into the
library. For a quarter of an hour he walked up and down the room,
biting his lip and thinking. Then he took down the Blue Book from one
of the shelves and began to turn over the leaves. "Alan Campbell, 152,
Hertford Street, Mayfair." Yes; that was the man he wanted.