At nine o'clock the next morning his servant came in with a cup of
chocolate on a tray and opened the shutters. Dorian was sleeping quite
peacefully, lying on his right side, with one hand underneath his
cheek. He looked like a boy who had been tired out with play, or study.
The man had to touch him twice on the shoulder before he woke, and as
he opened his eyes a faint smile passed across his lips, as though he
had been lost in some delightful dream. Yet he had not dreamed at all.
His night had been untroubled by any images of pleasure or of pain.
But youth smiles without any reason. It is one of its chiefest charms.
He turned round, and leaning upon his elbow, began to sip his
chocolate. The mellow November sun came streaming into the room. The
sky was bright, and there was a genial warmth in the air. It was
almost like a morning in May.
Gradually the events of the preceding night crept with silent,
blood-stained feet into his brain and reconstructed themselves there
with terrible distinctness. He winced at the memory of all that he had
suffered, and for a moment the same curious feeling of loathing for
Basil Hallward that had made him kill him as he sat in the chair came
back to him, and he grew cold with passion. The dead man was still
sitting there, too, and in the sunlight now. How horrible that was!
Such hideous things were for the darkness, not for the day.
He felt that if he brooded on what he had gone through he would sicken
or grow mad. There were sins whose fascination was more in the memory
than in the doing of them, strange triumphs that gratified the pride
more than the passions, and gave to the intellect a quickened sense of
joy, greater than any joy they brought, or could ever bring, to the
senses. But this was not one of them. It was a thing to be driven out
of the mind, to be drugged with poppies, to be strangled lest it might
strangle one itself.
When the half-hour struck, he passed his hand across his forehead, and
then got up hastily and dressed himself with even more than his usual
care, giving a good deal of attention to the choice of his necktie and
scarf-pin and changing his rings more than once. He spent a long time
also over breakfast, tasting the various dishes, talking to his valet
about some new liveries that he was thinking of getting made for the
servants at Selby, and going through his correspondence. At some of
the letters, he smiled. Three of them bored him. One he read several
times over and then tore up with a slight look of annoyance in his
face. "That awful thing, a woman's memory!" as Lord Henry had once
After he had drunk his cup of black coffee, he wiped his lips slowly
with a napkin, motioned to his servant to wait, and going over to the
table, sat down and wrote two letters. One he put in his pocket, the
other he handed to the valet.
"Take this round to 152, Hertford Street, Francis, and if Mr. Campbell
is out of town, get his address."
As soon as he was alone, he lit a cigarette and began sketching upon a
piece of paper, drawing first flowers and bits of architecture, and
then human faces. Suddenly he remarked that every face that he drew
seemed to have a fantastic likeness to Basil Hallward. He frowned, and
getting up, went over to the book-case and took out a volume at hazard.
He was determined that he would not think about what had happened until
it became absolutely necessary that he should do so.
When he had stretched himself on the sofa, he looked at the title-page
of the book. It was Gautier's Emaux et Camees, Charpentier's
Japanese-paper edition, with the Jacquemart etching. The binding was
of citron-green leather, with a design of gilt trellis-work and dotted
pomegranates. It had been given to him by Adrian Singleton. As he
turned over the pages, his eye fell on the poem about the hand of
Lacenaire, the cold yellow hand "du supplice encore mal lavee," with
its downy red hairs and its "doigts de faune." He glanced at his own
white taper fingers, shuddering slightly in spite of himself, and
passed on, till he came to those lovely stanzas upon Venice:
Sur une gamme chromatique,
Le sein de peries ruisselant,
La Venus de l'Adriatique
Sort de l'eau son corps rose et blanc.
Les domes, sur l'azur des ondes
Suivant la phrase au pur contour,
S'enflent comme des gorges rondes
Que souleve un soupir d'amour.
L'esquif aborde et me depose,
Jetant son amarre au pilier,
Devant une facade rose,
Sur le marbre d'un escalier.
How exquisite they were! As one read them, one seemed to be floating
down the green water-ways of the pink and pearl city, seated in a black
gondola with silver prow and trailing curtains. The mere lines looked
to him like those straight lines of turquoise-blue that follow one as
one pushes out to the Lido. The sudden flashes of colour reminded him
of the gleam of the opal-and-iris-throated birds that flutter round the
tall honeycombed Campanile, or stalk, with such stately grace, through
the dim, dust-stained arcades. Leaning back with half-closed eyes, he
kept saying over and over to himself:
"Devant une facade rose,
Sur le marbre d'un escalier."
The whole of Venice was in those two lines. He remembered the autumn
that he had passed there, and a wonderful love that had stirred him to
mad delightful follies. There was romance in every place. But Venice,
like Oxford, had kept the background for romance, and, to the true
romantic, background was everything, or almost everything. Basil had
been with him part of the time, and had gone wild over Tintoret. Poor
Basil! What a horrible way for a man to die!
He sighed, and took up the volume again, and tried to forget. He read
of the swallows that fly in and out of the little cafe at Smyrna where
the Hadjis sit counting their amber beads and the turbaned merchants
smoke their long tasselled pipes and talk gravely to each other; he
read of the Obelisk in the Place de la Concorde that weeps tears of
granite in its lonely sunless exile and longs to be back by the hot,
lotus-covered Nile, where there are Sphinxes, and rose-red ibises, and
white vultures with gilded claws, and crocodiles with small beryl eyes
that crawl over the green steaming mud; he began to brood over those
verses which, drawing music from kiss-stained marble, tell of that
curious statue that Gautier compares to a contralto voice, the "monstre
charmant" that couches in the porphyry-room of the Louvre. But after a
time the book fell from his hand. He grew nervous, and a horrible fit
of terror came over him. What if Alan Campbell should be out of
England? Days would elapse before he could come back. Perhaps he
might refuse to come. What could he do then? Every moment was of
They had been great friends once, five years before--almost
inseparable, indeed. Then the intimacy had come suddenly to an end.
When they met in society now, it was only Dorian Gray who smiled: Alan
Campbell never did.
He was an extremely clever young man, though he had no real
appreciation of the visible arts, and whatever little sense of the
beauty of poetry he possessed he had gained entirely from Dorian. His
dominant intellectual passion was for science. At Cambridge he had
spent a great deal of his time working in the laboratory, and had taken
a good class in the Natural Science Tripos of his year. Indeed, he was
still devoted to the study of chemistry, and had a laboratory of his
own in which he used to shut himself up all day long, greatly to the
annoyance of his mother, who had set her heart on his standing for
Parliament and had a vague idea that a chemist was a person who made up
prescriptions. He was an excellent musician, however, as well, and
played both the violin and the piano better than most amateurs. In
fact, it was music that had first brought him and Dorian Gray
together--music and that indefinable attraction that Dorian seemed to
be able to exercise whenever he wished--and, indeed, exercised often
without being conscious of it. They had met at Lady Berkshire's the
night that Rubinstein played there, and after that used to be always
seen together at the opera and wherever good music was going on. For
eighteen months their intimacy lasted. Campbell was always either at
Selby Royal or in Grosvenor Square. To him, as to many others, Dorian
Gray was the type of everything that is wonderful and fascinating in
life. Whether or not a quarrel had taken place between them no one
ever knew. But suddenly people remarked that they scarcely spoke when
they met and that Campbell seemed always to go away early from any
party at which Dorian Gray was present. He had changed, too--was
strangely melancholy at times, appeared almost to dislike hearing
music, and would never himself play, giving as his excuse, when he was
called upon, that he was so absorbed in science that he had no time
left in which to practise. And this was certainly true. Every day he
seemed to become more interested in biology, and his name appeared once
or twice in some of the scientific reviews in connection with certain
This was the man Dorian Gray was waiting for. Every second he kept
glancing at the clock. As the minutes went by he became horribly
agitated. At last he got up and began to pace up and down the room,
looking like a beautiful caged thing. He took long stealthy strides.
His hands were curiously cold.
The suspense became unbearable. Time seemed to him to be crawling with
feet of lead, while he by monstrous winds was being swept towards the
jagged edge of some black cleft of precipice. He knew what was waiting
for him there; saw it, indeed, and, shuddering, crushed with dank hands
his burning lids as though he would have robbed the very brain of sight
and driven the eyeballs back into their cave. It was useless. The
brain had its own food on which it battened, and the imagination, made
grotesque by terror, twisted and distorted as a living thing by pain,
danced like some foul puppet on a stand and grinned through moving
masks. Then, suddenly, time stopped for him. Yes: that blind,
slow-breathing thing crawled no more, and horrible thoughts, time being
dead, raced nimbly on in front, and dragged a hideous future from its
grave, and showed it to him. He stared at it. Its very horror made
At last the door opened and his servant entered. He turned glazed eyes
"Mr. Campbell, sir," said the man.
A sigh of relief broke from his parched lips, and the colour came back
to his cheeks.
"Ask him to come in at once, Francis." He felt that he was himself
again. His mood of cowardice had passed away.
The man bowed and retired. In a few moments, Alan Campbell walked in,
looking very stern and rather pale, his pallor being intensified by his
coal-black hair and dark eyebrows.
"Alan! This is kind of you. I thank you for coming."
"I had intended never to enter your house again, Gray. But you said it
was a matter of life and death." His voice was hard and cold. He
spoke with slow deliberation. There was a look of contempt in the
steady searching gaze that he turned on Dorian. He kept his hands in
the pockets of his Astrakhan coat, and seemed not to have noticed the
gesture with which he had been greeted.
"Yes: it is a matter of life and death, Alan, and to more than one
person. Sit down."
Campbell took a chair by the table, and Dorian sat opposite to him.
The two men's eyes met. In Dorian's there was infinite pity. He knew
that what he was going to do was dreadful.
After a strained moment of silence, he leaned across and said, very
quietly, but watching the effect of each word upon the face of him he
had sent for, "Alan, in a locked room at the top of this house, a room
to which nobody but myself has access, a dead man is seated at a table.
He has been dead ten hours now. Don't stir, and don't look at me like
that. Who the man is, why he died, how he died, are matters that do
not concern you. What you have to do is this--"
"Stop, Gray. I don't want to know anything further. Whether what you
have told me is true or not true doesn't concern me. I entirely
decline to be mixed up in your life. Keep your horrible secrets to
yourself. They don't interest me any more."
"Alan, they will have to interest you. This one will have to interest
you. I am awfully sorry for you, Alan. But I can't help myself. You
are the one man who is able to save me. I am forced to bring you into
the matter. I have no option. Alan, you are scientific. You know
about chemistry and things of that kind. You have made experiments.
What you have got to do is to destroy the thing that is upstairs--to
destroy it so that not a vestige of it will be left. Nobody saw this
person come into the house. Indeed, at the present moment he is
supposed to be in Paris. He will not be missed for months. When he is
missed, there must be no trace of him found here. You, Alan, you must
change him, and everything that belongs to him, into a handful of ashes
that I may scatter in the air."
"You are mad, Dorian."
"Ah! I was waiting for you to call me Dorian."
"You are mad, I tell you--mad to imagine that I would raise a finger to
help you, mad to make this monstrous confession. I will have nothing
to do with this matter, whatever it is. Do you think I am going to
peril my reputation for you? What is it to me what devil's work you
are up to?"
"It was suicide, Alan."
"I am glad of that. But who drove him to it? You, I should fancy."
"Do you still refuse to do this for me?"
"Of course I refuse. I will have absolutely nothing to do with it. I
don't care what shame comes on you. You deserve it all. I should not
be sorry to see you disgraced, publicly disgraced. How dare you ask
me, of all men in the world, to mix myself up in this horror? I should
have thought you knew more about people's characters. Your friend Lord
Henry Wotton can't have taught you much about psychology, whatever else
he has taught you. Nothing will induce me to stir a step to help you.
You have come to the wrong man. Go to some of your friends. Don't
come to me."
"Alan, it was murder. I killed him. You don't know what he had made
me suffer. Whatever my life is, he had more to do with the making or
the marring of it than poor Harry has had. He may not have intended
it, the result was the same."
"Murder! Good God, Dorian, is that what you have come to? I shall not
inform upon you. It is not my business. Besides, without my stirring
in the matter, you are certain to be arrested. Nobody ever commits a
crime without doing something stupid. But I will have nothing to do
"You must have something to do with it. Wait, wait a moment; listen to
me. Only listen, Alan. All I ask of you is to perform a certain
scientific experiment. You go to hospitals and dead-houses, and the
horrors that you do there don't affect you. If in some hideous
dissecting-room or fetid laboratory you found this man lying on a
leaden table with red gutters scooped out in it for the blood to flow
through, you would simply look upon him as an admirable subject. You
would not turn a hair. You would not believe that you were doing
anything wrong. On the contrary, you would probably feel that you were
benefiting the human race, or increasing the sum of knowledge in the
world, or gratifying intellectual curiosity, or something of that kind.
What I want you to do is merely what you have often done before.
Indeed, to destroy a body must be far less horrible than what you are
accustomed to work at. And, remember, it is the only piece of evidence
against me. If it is discovered, I am lost; and it is sure to be
discovered unless you help me."
"I have no desire to help you. You forget that. I am simply
indifferent to the whole thing. It has nothing to do with me."
"Alan, I entreat you. Think of the position I am in. Just before you
came I almost fainted with terror. You may know terror yourself some
day. No! don't think of that. Look at the matter purely from the
scientific point of view. You don't inquire where the dead things on
which you experiment come from. Don't inquire now. I have told you
too much as it is. But I beg of you to do this. We were friends once,
"Don't speak about those days, Dorian--they are dead."
"The dead linger sometimes. The man upstairs will not go away. He is
sitting at the table with bowed head and outstretched arms. Alan!
Alan! If you don't come to my assistance, I am ruined. Why, they will
hang me, Alan! Don't you understand? They will hang me for what I
"There is no good in prolonging this scene. I absolutely refuse to do
anything in the matter. It is insane of you to ask me."
"I entreat you, Alan."
"It is useless."
The same look of pity came into Dorian Gray's eyes. Then he stretched
out his hand, took a piece of paper, and wrote something on it. He
read it over twice, folded it carefully, and pushed it across the
table. Having done this, he got up and went over to the window.
Campbell looked at him in surprise, and then took up the paper, and
opened it. As he read it, his face became ghastly pale and he fell
back in his chair. A horrible sense of sickness came over him. He
felt as if his heart was beating itself to death in some empty hollow.
After two or three minutes of terrible silence, Dorian turned round and
came and stood behind him, putting his hand upon his shoulder.
"I am so sorry for you, Alan," he murmured, "but you leave me no
alternative. I have a letter written already. Here it is. You see
the address. If you don't help me, I must send it. If you don't help
me, I will send it. You know what the result will be. But you are
going to help me. It is impossible for you to refuse now. I tried to
spare you. You will do me the justice to admit that. You were stern,
harsh, offensive. You treated me as no man has ever dared to treat
me--no living man, at any rate. I bore it all. Now it is for me to
Campbell buried his face in his hands, and a shudder passed through him.
"Yes, it is my turn to dictate terms, Alan. You know what they are.
The thing is quite simple. Come, don't work yourself into this fever.
The thing has to be done. Face it, and do it."
A groan broke from Campbell's lips and he shivered all over. The
ticking of the clock on the mantelpiece seemed to him to be dividing
time into separate atoms of agony, each of which was too terrible to be
borne. He felt as if an iron ring was being slowly tightened round his
forehead, as if the disgrace with which he was threatened had already
come upon him. The hand upon his shoulder weighed like a hand of lead.
It was intolerable. It seemed to crush him.
"Come, Alan, you must decide at once."
"I cannot do it," he said, mechanically, as though words could alter
"You must. You have no choice. Don't delay."
He hesitated a moment. "Is there a fire in the room upstairs?"
"Yes, there is a gas-fire with asbestos."
"I shall have to go home and get some things from the laboratory."
"No, Alan, you must not leave the house. Write out on a sheet of
notepaper what you want and my servant will take a cab and bring the
things back to you."
Campbell scrawled a few lines, blotted them, and addressed an envelope
to his assistant. Dorian took the note up and read it carefully. Then
he rang the bell and gave it to his valet, with orders to return as
soon as possible and to bring the things with him.
As the hall door shut, Campbell started nervously, and having got up
from the chair, went over to the chimney-piece. He was shivering with a
kind of ague. For nearly twenty minutes, neither of the men spoke. A
fly buzzed noisily about the room, and the ticking of the clock was
like the beat of a hammer.
As the chime struck one, Campbell turned round, and looking at Dorian
Gray, saw that his eyes were filled with tears. There was something in
the purity and refinement of that sad face that seemed to enrage him.
"You are infamous, absolutely infamous!" he muttered.
"Hush, Alan. You have saved my life," said Dorian.
"Your life? Good heavens! what a life that is! You have gone from
corruption to corruption, and now you have culminated in crime. In
doing what I am going to do--what you force me to do--it is not of your
life that I am thinking."
"Ah, Alan," murmured Dorian with a sigh, "I wish you had a thousandth
part of the pity for me that I have for you." He turned away as he
spoke and stood looking out at the garden. Campbell made no answer.
After about ten minutes a knock came to the door, and the servant
entered, carrying a large mahogany chest of chemicals, with a long coil
of steel and platinum wire and two rather curiously shaped iron clamps.
"Shall I leave the things here, sir?" he asked Campbell.
"Yes," said Dorian. "And I am afraid, Francis, that I have another
errand for you. What is the name of the man at Richmond who supplies
Selby with orchids?"
"Yes--Harden. You must go down to Richmond at once, see Harden
personally, and tell him to send twice as many orchids as I ordered,
and to have as few white ones as possible. In fact, I don't want any
white ones. It is a lovely day, Francis, and Richmond is a very pretty
place--otherwise I wouldn't bother you about it."
"No trouble, sir. At what time shall I be back?"
Dorian looked at Campbell. "How long will your experiment take, Alan?"
he said in a calm indifferent voice. The presence of a third person in
the room seemed to give him extraordinary courage.
Campbell frowned and bit his lip. "It will take about five hours," he
"It will be time enough, then, if you are back at half-past seven,
Francis. Or stay: just leave my things out for dressing. You can
have the evening to yourself. I am not dining at home, so I shall not
"Thank you, sir," said the man, leaving the room.
"Now, Alan, there is not a moment to be lost. How heavy this chest is!
I'll take it for you. You bring the other things." He spoke rapidly
and in an authoritative manner. Campbell felt dominated by him. They
left the room together.
When they reached the top landing, Dorian took out the key and turned
it in the lock. Then he stopped, and a troubled look came into his
eyes. He shuddered. "I don't think I can go in, Alan," he murmured.
"It is nothing to me. I don't require you," said Campbell coldly.
Dorian half opened the door. As he did so, he saw the face of his
portrait leering in the sunlight. On the floor in front of it the torn
curtain was lying. He remembered that the night before he had
forgotten, for the first time in his life, to hide the fatal canvas,
and was about to rush forward, when he drew back with a shudder.
What was that loathsome red dew that gleamed, wet and glistening, on
one of the hands, as though the canvas had sweated blood? How horrible
it was!--more horrible, it seemed to him for the moment, than the
silent thing that he knew was stretched across the table, the thing
whose grotesque misshapen shadow on the spotted carpet showed him that
it had not stirred, but was still there, as he had left it.
He heaved a deep breath, opened the door a little wider, and with
half-closed eyes and averted head, walked quickly in, determined that
he would not look even once upon the dead man. Then, stooping down and
taking up the gold-and-purple hanging, he flung it right over the
There he stopped, feeling afraid to turn round, and his eyes fixed
themselves on the intricacies of the pattern before him. He heard
Campbell bringing in the heavy chest, and the irons, and the other
things that he had required for his dreadful work. He began to wonder
if he and Basil Hallward had ever met, and, if so, what they had
thought of each other.
"Leave me now," said a stern voice behind him.
He turned and hurried out, just conscious that the dead man had been
thrust back into the chair and that Campbell was gazing into a
glistening yellow face. As he was going downstairs, he heard the key
being turned in the lock.
It was long after seven when Campbell came back into the library. He
was pale, but absolutely calm. "I have done what you asked me to do,"
he muttered "And now, good-bye. Let us never see each other again."
"You have saved me from ruin, Alan. I cannot forget that," said Dorian
As soon as Campbell had left, he went upstairs. There was a horrible
smell of nitric acid in the room. But the thing that had been sitting
at the table was gone.
That evening, at eight-thirty, exquisitely dressed and wearing a large
button-hole of Parma violets, Dorian Gray was ushered into Lady
Narborough's drawing-room by bowing servants. His forehead was
throbbing with maddened nerves, and he felt wildly excited, but his
manner as he bent over his hostess's hand was as easy and graceful as
ever. Perhaps one never seems so much at one's ease as when one has to
play a part. Certainly no one looking at Dorian Gray that night could
have believed that he had passed through a tragedy as horrible as any
tragedy of our age. Those finely shaped fingers could never have
clutched a knife for sin, nor those smiling lips have cried out on God
and goodness. He himself could not help wondering at the calm of his
demeanour, and for a moment felt keenly the terrible pleasure of a
It was a small party, got up rather in a hurry by Lady Narborough, who
was a very clever woman with what Lord Henry used to describe as the
remains of really remarkable ugliness. She had proved an excellent
wife to one of our most tedious ambassadors, and having buried her
husband properly in a marble mausoleum, which she had herself designed,
and married off her daughters to some rich, rather elderly men, she
devoted herself now to the pleasures of French fiction, French cookery,
and French esprit when she could get it.
Dorian was one of her especial favourites, and she always told him that
she was extremely glad she had not met him in early life. "I know, my
dear, I should have fallen madly in love with you," she used to say,
"and thrown my bonnet right over the mills for your sake. It is most
fortunate that you were not thought of at the time. As it was, our
bonnets were so unbecoming, and the mills were so occupied in trying to
raise the wind, that I never had even a flirtation with anybody.
However, that was all Narborough's fault. He was dreadfully
short-sighted, and there is no pleasure in taking in a husband who
never sees anything."
Her guests this evening were rather tedious. The fact was, as she
explained to Dorian, behind a very shabby fan, one of her married
daughters had come up quite suddenly to stay with her, and, to make
matters worse, had actually brought her husband with her. "I think it
is most unkind of her, my dear," she whispered. "Of course I go and
stay with them every summer after I come from Homburg, but then an old
woman like me must have fresh air sometimes, and besides, I really wake
them up. You don't know what an existence they lead down there. It is
pure unadulterated country life. They get up early, because they have
so much to do, and go to bed early, because they have so little to
think about. There has not been a scandal in the neighbourhood since
the time of Queen Elizabeth, and consequently they all fall asleep
after dinner. You shan't sit next either of them. You shall sit by me
and amuse me."
Dorian murmured a graceful compliment and looked round the room. Yes:
it was certainly a tedious party. Two of the people he had never seen
before, and the others consisted of Ernest Harrowden, one of those
middle-aged mediocrities so common in London clubs who have no enemies,
but are thoroughly disliked by their friends; Lady Ruxton, an
overdressed woman of forty-seven, with a hooked nose, who was always
trying to get herself compromised, but was so peculiarly plain that to
her great disappointment no one would ever believe anything against
her; Mrs. Erlynne, a pushing nobody, with a delightful lisp and
Venetian-red hair; Lady Alice Chapman, his hostess's daughter, a dowdy
dull girl, with one of those characteristic British faces that, once
seen, are never remembered; and her husband, a red-cheeked,
white-whiskered creature who, like so many of his class, was under the
impression that inordinate joviality can atone for an entire lack of
He was rather sorry he had come, till Lady Narborough, looking at the
great ormolu gilt clock that sprawled in gaudy curves on the
mauve-draped mantelshelf, exclaimed: "How horrid of Henry Wotton to be
so late! I sent round to him this morning on chance and he promised
faithfully not to disappoint me."
It was some consolation that Harry was to be there, and when the door
opened and he heard his slow musical voice lending charm to some
insincere apology, he ceased to feel bored.
But at dinner he could not eat anything. Plate after plate went away
untasted. Lady Narborough kept scolding him for what she called "an
insult to poor Adolphe, who invented the menu specially for you," and
now and then Lord Henry looked across at him, wondering at his silence
and abstracted manner. From time to time the butler filled his glass
with champagne. He drank eagerly, and his thirst seemed to increase.
"Dorian," said Lord Henry at last, as the chaud-froid was being handed
round, "what is the matter with you to-night? You are quite out of
"I believe he is in love," cried Lady Narborough, "and that he is
afraid to tell me for fear I should be jealous. He is quite right. I
"Dear Lady Narborough," murmured Dorian, smiling, "I have not been in
love for a whole week--not, in fact, since Madame de Ferrol left town."
"How you men can fall in love with that woman!" exclaimed the old lady.
"I really cannot understand it."
"It is simply because she remembers you when you were a little girl,
Lady Narborough," said Lord Henry. "She is the one link between us and
your short frocks."
"She does not remember my short frocks at all, Lord Henry. But I
remember her very well at Vienna thirty years ago, and how decolletee
she was then."
"She is still decolletee," he answered, taking an olive in his long
fingers; "and when she is in a very smart gown she looks like an
edition de luxe of a bad French novel. She is really wonderful, and
full of surprises. Her capacity for family affection is extraordinary.
When her third husband died, her hair turned quite gold from grief."
"How can you, Harry!" cried Dorian.
"It is a most romantic explanation," laughed the hostess. "But her
third husband, Lord Henry! You don't mean to say Ferrol is the fourth?"
"Certainly, Lady Narborough."
"I don't believe a word of it."
"Well, ask Mr. Gray. He is one of her most intimate friends."
"Is it true, Mr. Gray?"
"She assures me so, Lady Narborough," said Dorian. "I asked her
whether, like Marguerite de Navarre, she had their hearts embalmed and
hung at her girdle. She told me she didn't, because none of them had
had any hearts at all."
"Four husbands! Upon my word that is trop de zele."
"Trop d'audace, I tell her," said Dorian.
"Oh! she is audacious enough for anything, my dear. And what is Ferrol
like? I don't know him."
"The husbands of very beautiful women belong to the criminal classes,"
said Lord Henry, sipping his wine.
Lady Narborough hit him with her fan. "Lord Henry, I am not at all
surprised that the world says that you are extremely wicked."
"But what world says that?" asked Lord Henry, elevating his eyebrows.
"It can only be the next world. This world and I are on excellent
"Everybody I know says you are very wicked," cried the old lady,
shaking her head.
Lord Henry looked serious for some moments. "It is perfectly
monstrous," he said, at last, "the way people go about nowadays saying
things against one behind one's back that are absolutely and entirely
"Isn't he incorrigible?" cried Dorian, leaning forward in his chair.
"I hope so," said his hostess, laughing. "But really, if you all
worship Madame de Ferrol in this ridiculous way, I shall have to marry
again so as to be in the fashion."
"You will never marry again, Lady Narborough," broke in Lord Henry.
"You were far too happy. When a woman marries again, it is because she
detested her first husband. When a man marries again, it is because he
adored his first wife. Women try their luck; men risk theirs."
"Narborough wasn't perfect," cried the old lady.
"If he had been, you would not have loved him, my dear lady," was the
rejoinder. "Women love us for our defects. If we have enough of them,
they will forgive us everything, even our intellects. You will never
ask me to dinner again after saying this, I am afraid, Lady Narborough,
but it is quite true."
"Of course it is true, Lord Henry. If we women did not love you for
your defects, where would you all be? Not one of you would ever be
married. You would be a set of unfortunate bachelors. Not, however,
that that would alter you much. Nowadays all the married men live like
bachelors, and all the bachelors like married men."
"Fin de siecle," murmured Lord Henry.
"Fin du globe," answered his hostess.
"I wish it were fin du globe," said Dorian with a sigh. "Life is a
"Ah, my dear," cried Lady Narborough, putting on her gloves, "don't
tell me that you have exhausted life. When a man says that one knows
that life has exhausted him. Lord Henry is very wicked, and I
sometimes wish that I had been; but you are made to be good--you look
so good. I must find you a nice wife. Lord Henry, don't you think
that Mr. Gray should get married?"
"I am always telling him so, Lady Narborough," said Lord Henry with a
"Well, we must look out for a suitable match for him. I shall go
through Debrett carefully to-night and draw out a list of all the
eligible young ladies."
"With their ages, Lady Narborough?" asked Dorian.
"Of course, with their ages, slightly edited. But nothing must be done
in a hurry. I want it to be what The Morning Post calls a suitable
alliance, and I want you both to be happy."
"What nonsense people talk about happy marriages!" exclaimed Lord
Henry. "A man can be happy with any woman, as long as he does not love
"Ah! what a cynic you are!" cried the old lady, pushing back her chair
and nodding to Lady Ruxton. "You must come and dine with me soon
again. You are really an admirable tonic, much better than what Sir
Andrew prescribes for me. You must tell me what people you would like
to meet, though. I want it to be a delightful gathering."
"I like men who have a future and women who have a past," he answered.
"Or do you think that would make it a petticoat party?"
"I fear so," she said, laughing, as she stood up. "A thousand pardons,
my dear Lady Ruxton," she added, "I didn't see you hadn't finished your
"Never mind, Lady Narborough. I smoke a great deal too much. I am
going to limit myself, for the future."
"Pray don't, Lady Ruxton," said Lord Henry. "Moderation is a fatal
thing. Enough is as bad as a meal. More than enough is as good as a
Lady Ruxton glanced at him curiously. "You must come and explain that
to me some afternoon, Lord Henry. It sounds a fascinating theory," she
murmured, as she swept out of the room.
"Now, mind you don't stay too long over your politics and scandal,"
cried Lady Narborough from the door. "If you do, we are sure to
The men laughed, and Mr. Chapman got up solemnly from the foot of the
table and came up to the top. Dorian Gray changed his seat and went
and sat by Lord Henry. Mr. Chapman began to talk in a loud voice about
the situation in the House of Commons. He guffawed at his adversaries.
The word doctrinaire--word full of terror to the British
mind--reappeared from time to time between his explosions. An
alliterative prefix served as an ornament of oratory. He hoisted the
Union Jack on the pinnacles of thought. The inherited stupidity of the
race--sound English common sense he jovially termed it--was shown to be
the proper bulwark for society.
A smile curved Lord Henry's lips, and he turned round and looked at
"Are you better, my dear fellow?" he asked. "You seemed rather out of
sorts at dinner."
"I am quite well, Harry. I am tired. That is all."
"You were charming last night. The little duchess is quite devoted to
you. She tells me she is going down to Selby."
"She has promised to come on the twentieth."
"Is Monmouth to be there, too?"
"Oh, yes, Harry."
"He bores me dreadfully, almost as much as he bores her. She is very
clever, too clever for a woman. She lacks the indefinable charm of
weakness. It is the feet of clay that make the gold of the image
precious. Her feet are very pretty, but they are not feet of clay.
White porcelain feet, if you like. They have been through the fire,
and what fire does not destroy, it hardens. She has had experiences."
"How long has she been married?" asked Dorian.
"An eternity, she tells me. I believe, according to the peerage, it is
ten years, but ten years with Monmouth must have been like eternity,
with time thrown in. Who else is coming?"
"Oh, the Willoughbys, Lord Rugby and his wife, our hostess, Geoffrey
Clouston, the usual set. I have asked Lord Grotrian."
"I like him," said Lord Henry. "A great many people don't, but I find
him charming. He atones for being occasionally somewhat overdressed by
being always absolutely over-educated. He is a very modern type."
"I don't know if he will be able to come, Harry. He may have to go to
Monte Carlo with his father."
"Ah! what a nuisance people's people are! Try and make him come. By
the way, Dorian, you ran off very early last night. You left before
eleven. What did you do afterwards? Did you go straight home?"
Dorian glanced at him hurriedly and frowned.
"No, Harry," he said at last, "I did not get home till nearly three."
"Did you go to the club?"
"Yes," he answered. Then he bit his lip. "No, I don't mean that. I
didn't go to the club. I walked about. I forget what I did.... How
inquisitive you are, Harry! You always want to know what one has been
doing. I always want to forget what I have been doing. I came in at
half-past two, if you wish to know the exact time. I had left my
latch-key at home, and my servant had to let me in. If you want any
corroborative evidence on the subject, you can ask him."
Lord Henry shrugged his shoulders. "My dear fellow, as if I cared!
Let us go up to the drawing-room. No sherry, thank you, Mr. Chapman.
Something has happened to you, Dorian. Tell me what it is. You are
not yourself to-night."
"Don't mind me, Harry. I am irritable, and out of temper. I shall
come round and see you to-morrow, or next day. Make my excuses to Lady
Narborough. I shan't go upstairs. I shall go home. I must go home."
"All right, Dorian. I dare say I shall see you to-morrow at tea-time.
The duchess is coming."
"I will try to be there, Harry," he said, leaving the room. As he
drove back to his own house, he was conscious that the sense of terror
he thought he had strangled had come back to him. Lord Henry's casual
questioning had made him lose his nerve for the moment, and he wanted
his nerve still. Things that were dangerous had to be destroyed. He
winced. He hated the idea of even touching them.
Yet it had to be done. He realized that, and when he had locked the
door of his library, he opened the secret press into which he had
thrust Basil Hallward's coat and bag. A huge fire was blazing. He
piled another log on it. The smell of the singeing clothes and burning
leather was horrible. It took him three-quarters of an hour to consume
everything. At the end he felt faint and sick, and having lit some
Algerian pastilles in a pierced copper brazier, he bathed his hands and
forehead with a cool musk-scented vinegar.
Suddenly he started. His eyes grew strangely bright, and he gnawed
nervously at his underlip. Between two of the windows stood a large
Florentine cabinet, made out of ebony and inlaid with ivory and blue
lapis. He watched it as though it were a thing that could fascinate
and make afraid, as though it held something that he longed for and yet
almost loathed. His breath quickened. A mad craving came over him.
He lit a cigarette and then threw it away. His eyelids drooped till
the long fringed lashes almost touched his cheek. But he still watched
the cabinet. At last he got up from the sofa on which he had been
lying, went over to it, and having unlocked it, touched some hidden
spring. A triangular drawer passed slowly out. His fingers moved
instinctively towards it, dipped in, and closed on something. It was a
small Chinese box of black and gold-dust lacquer, elaborately wrought,
the sides patterned with curved waves, and the silken cords hung with
round crystals and tasselled in plaited metal threads. He opened it.
Inside was a green paste, waxy in lustre, the odour curiously heavy and
He hesitated for some moments, with a strangely immobile smile upon his
face. Then shivering, though the atmosphere of the room was terribly
hot, he drew himself up and glanced at the clock. It was twenty
minutes to twelve. He put the box back, shutting the cabinet doors as
he did so, and went into his bedroom.
As midnight was striking bronze blows upon the dusky air, Dorian Gray,
dressed commonly, and with a muffler wrapped round his throat, crept
quietly out of his house. In Bond Street he found a hansom with a good
horse. He hailed it and in a low voice gave the driver an address.
The man shook his head. "It is too far for me," he muttered.
"Here is a sovereign for you," said Dorian. "You shall have another if
you drive fast."
"All right, sir," answered the man, "you will be there in an hour," and
after his fare had got in he turned his horse round and drove rapidly
towards the river.
A cold rain began to fall, and the blurred street-lamps looked ghastly
in the dripping mist. The public-houses were just closing, and dim men
and women were clustering in broken groups round their doors. From
some of the bars came the sound of horrible laughter. In others,
drunkards brawled and screamed.
Lying back in the hansom, with his hat pulled over his forehead, Dorian
Gray watched with listless eyes the sordid shame of the great city, and
now and then he repeated to himself the words that Lord Henry had said
to him on the first day they had met, "To cure the soul by means of the
senses, and the senses by means of the soul." Yes, that was the
secret. He had often tried it, and would try it again now. There were
opium dens where one could buy oblivion, dens of horror where the
memory of old sins could be destroyed by the madness of sins that were
The moon hung low in the sky like a yellow skull. From time to time a
huge misshapen cloud stretched a long arm across and hid it. The
gas-lamps grew fewer, and the streets more narrow and gloomy. Once the
man lost his way and had to drive back half a mile. A steam rose from
the horse as it splashed up the puddles. The sidewindows of the hansom
were clogged with a grey-flannel mist.
"To cure the soul by means of the senses, and the senses by means of
the soul!" How the words rang in his ears! His soul, certainly, was
sick to death. Was it true that the senses could cure it? Innocent
blood had been spilled. What could atone for that? Ah! for that there
was no atonement; but though forgiveness was impossible, forgetfulness
was possible still, and he was determined to forget, to stamp the thing
out, to crush it as one would crush the adder that had stung one.
Indeed, what right had Basil to have spoken to him as he had done? Who
had made him a judge over others? He had said things that were
dreadful, horrible, not to be endured.
On and on plodded the hansom, going slower, it seemed to him, at each
step. He thrust up the trap and called to the man to drive faster.
The hideous hunger for opium began to gnaw at him. His throat burned
and his delicate hands twitched nervously together. He struck at the
horse madly with his stick. The driver laughed and whipped up. He
laughed in answer, and the man was silent.
The way seemed interminable, and the streets like the black web of some
sprawling spider. The monotony became unbearable, and as the mist
thickened, he felt afraid.
Then they passed by lonely brickfields. The fog was lighter here, and
he could see the strange, bottle-shaped kilns with their orange,
fanlike tongues of fire. A dog barked as they went by, and far away in
the darkness some wandering sea-gull screamed. The horse stumbled in a
rut, then swerved aside and broke into a gallop.
After some time they left the clay road and rattled again over
rough-paven streets. Most of the windows were dark, but now and then
fantastic shadows were silhouetted against some lamplit blind. He
watched them curiously. They moved like monstrous marionettes and made
gestures like live things. He hated them. A dull rage was in his
heart. As they turned a corner, a woman yelled something at them from
an open door, and two men ran after the hansom for about a hundred
yards. The driver beat at them with his whip.
It is said that passion makes one think in a circle. Certainly with
hideous iteration the bitten lips of Dorian Gray shaped and reshaped
those subtle words that dealt with soul and sense, till he had found in
them the full expression, as it were, of his mood, and justified, by
intellectual approval, passions that without such justification would
still have dominated his temper. From cell to cell of his brain crept
the one thought; and the wild desire to live, most terrible of all
man's appetites, quickened into force each trembling nerve and fibre.
Ugliness that had once been hateful to him because it made things real,
became dear to him now for that very reason. Ugliness was the one
reality. The coarse brawl, the loathsome den, the crude violence of
disordered life, the very vileness of thief and outcast, were more
vivid, in their intense actuality of impression, than all the gracious
shapes of art, the dreamy shadows of song. They were what he needed
for forgetfulness. In three days he would be free.
Suddenly the man drew up with a jerk at the top of a dark lane. Over
the low roofs and jagged chimney-stacks of the houses rose the black
masts of ships. Wreaths of white mist clung like ghostly sails to the
"Somewhere about here, sir, ain't it?" he asked huskily through the
Dorian started and peered round. "This will do," he answered, and
having got out hastily and given the driver the extra fare he had
promised him, he walked quickly in the direction of the quay. Here and
there a lantern gleamed at the stern of some huge merchantman. The
light shook and splintered in the puddles. A red glare came from an
outward-bound steamer that was coaling. The slimy pavement looked like
a wet mackintosh.
He hurried on towards the left, glancing back now and then to see if he
was being followed. In about seven or eight minutes he reached a small
shabby house that was wedged in between two gaunt factories. In one of
the top-windows stood a lamp. He stopped and gave a peculiar knock.
After a little time he heard steps in the passage and the chain being
unhooked. The door opened quietly, and he went in without saying a
word to the squat misshapen figure that flattened itself into the
shadow as he passed. At the end of the hall hung a tattered green
curtain that swayed and shook in the gusty wind which had followed him
in from the street. He dragged it aside and entered a long low room
which looked as if it had once been a third-rate dancing-saloon. Shrill
flaring gas-jets, dulled and distorted in the fly-blown mirrors that
faced them, were ranged round the walls. Greasy reflectors of ribbed
tin backed them, making quivering disks of light. The floor was
covered with ochre-coloured sawdust, trampled here and there into mud,
and stained with dark rings of spilled liquor. Some Malays were
crouching by a little charcoal stove, playing with bone counters and
showing their white teeth as they chattered. In one corner, with his
head buried in his arms, a sailor sprawled over a table, and by the
tawdrily painted bar that ran across one complete side stood two
haggard women, mocking an old man who was brushing the sleeves of his
coat with an expression of disgust. "He thinks he's got red ants on
him," laughed one of them, as Dorian passed by. The man looked at her
in terror and began to whimper.
At the end of the room there was a little staircase, leading to a
darkened chamber. As Dorian hurried up its three rickety steps, the
heavy odour of opium met him. He heaved a deep breath, and his
nostrils quivered with pleasure. When he entered, a young man with
smooth yellow hair, who was bending over a lamp lighting a long thin
pipe, looked up at him and nodded in a hesitating manner.
"You here, Adrian?" muttered Dorian.
"Where else should I be?" he answered, listlessly. "None of the chaps
will speak to me now."
"I thought you had left England."
"Darlington is not going to do anything. My brother paid the bill at
last. George doesn't speak to me either.... I don't care," he added
with a sigh. "As long as one has this stuff, one doesn't want friends.
I think I have had too many friends."
Dorian winced and looked round at the grotesque things that lay in such
fantastic postures on the ragged mattresses. The twisted limbs, the
gaping mouths, the staring lustreless eyes, fascinated him. He knew in
what strange heavens they were suffering, and what dull hells were
teaching them the secret of some new joy. They were better off than he
was. He was prisoned in thought. Memory, like a horrible malady, was
eating his soul away. From time to time he seemed to see the eyes of
Basil Hallward looking at him. Yet he felt he could not stay. The
presence of Adrian Singleton troubled him. He wanted to be where no
one would know who he was. He wanted to escape from himself.
"I am going on to the other place," he said after a pause.
"On the wharf?"
"That mad-cat is sure to be there. They won't have her in this place
Dorian shrugged his shoulders. "I am sick of women who love one.
Women who hate one are much more interesting. Besides, the stuff is
"Much the same."
"I like it better. Come and have something to drink. I must have
"I don't want anything," murmured the young man.
Adrian Singleton rose up wearily and followed Dorian to the bar. A
half-caste, in a ragged turban and a shabby ulster, grinned a hideous
greeting as he thrust a bottle of brandy and two tumblers in front of
them. The women sidled up and began to chatter. Dorian turned his
back on them and said something in a low voice to Adrian Singleton.
A crooked smile, like a Malay crease, writhed across the face of one of
the women. "We are very proud to-night," she sneered.
"For God's sake don't talk to me," cried Dorian, stamping his foot on
the ground. "What do you want? Money? Here it is. Don't ever talk
to me again."
Two red sparks flashed for a moment in the woman's sodden eyes, then
flickered out and left them dull and glazed. She tossed her head and
raked the coins off the counter with greedy fingers. Her companion
watched her enviously.
"It's no use," sighed Adrian Singleton. "I don't care to go back.
What does it matter? I am quite happy here."
"You will write to me if you want anything, won't you?" said Dorian,
after a pause.
"Good night, then."
"Good night," answered the young man, passing up the steps and wiping
his parched mouth with a handkerchief.
Dorian walked to the door with a look of pain in his face. As he drew
the curtain aside, a hideous laugh broke from the painted lips of the
woman who had taken his money. "There goes the devil's bargain!" she
hiccoughed, in a hoarse voice.
"Curse you!" he answered, "don't call me that."
She snapped her fingers. "Prince Charming is what you like to be
called, ain't it?" she yelled after him.
The drowsy sailor leaped to his feet as she spoke, and looked wildly
round. The sound of the shutting of the hall door fell on his ear. He
rushed out as if in pursuit.
Dorian Gray hurried along the quay through the drizzling rain. His
meeting with Adrian Singleton had strangely moved him, and he wondered
if the ruin of that young life was really to be laid at his door, as
Basil Hallward had said to him with such infamy of insult. He bit his
lip, and for a few seconds his eyes grew sad. Yet, after all, what did
it matter to him? One's days were too brief to take the burden of
another's errors on one's shoulders. Each man lived his own life and
paid his own price for living it. The only pity was one had to pay so
often for a single fault. One had to pay over and over again, indeed.
In her dealings with man, destiny never closed her accounts.
There are moments, psychologists tell us, when the passion for sin, or
for what the world calls sin, so dominates a nature that every fibre of
the body, as every cell of the brain, seems to be instinct with fearful
impulses. Men and women at such moments lose the freedom of their
will. They move to their terrible end as automatons move. Choice is
taken from them, and conscience is either killed, or, if it lives at
all, lives but to give rebellion its fascination and disobedience its
charm. For all sins, as theologians weary not of reminding us, are
sins of disobedience. When that high spirit, that morning star of
evil, fell from heaven, it was as a rebel that he fell.
Callous, concentrated on evil, with stained mind, and soul hungry for
rebellion, Dorian Gray hastened on, quickening his step as he went, but
as he darted aside into a dim archway, that had served him often as a
short cut to the ill-famed place where he was going, he felt himself
suddenly seized from behind, and before he had time to defend himself,
he was thrust back against the wall, with a brutal hand round his
He struggled madly for life, and by a terrible effort wrenched the
tightening fingers away. In a second he heard the click of a revolver,
and saw the gleam of a polished barrel, pointing straight at his head,
and the dusky form of a short, thick-set man facing him.
"What do you want?" he gasped.
"Keep quiet," said the man. "If you stir, I shoot you."
"You are mad. What have I done to you?"
"You wrecked the life of Sibyl Vane," was the answer, "and Sibyl Vane
was my sister. She killed herself. I know it. Her death is at your
door. I swore I would kill you in return. For years I have sought
you. I had no clue, no trace. The two people who could have described
you were dead. I knew nothing of you but the pet name she used to call
you. I heard it to-night by chance. Make your peace with God, for
to-night you are going to die."
Dorian Gray grew sick with fear. "I never knew her," he stammered. "I
never heard of her. You are mad."
"You had better confess your sin, for as sure as I am James Vane, you
are going to die." There was a horrible moment. Dorian did not know
what to say or do. "Down on your knees!" growled the man. "I give you
one minute to make your peace--no more. I go on board to-night for
India, and I must do my job first. One minute. That's all."
Dorian's arms fell to his side. Paralysed with terror, he did not know
what to do. Suddenly a wild hope flashed across his brain. "Stop," he
cried. "How long ago is it since your sister died? Quick, tell me!"
"Eighteen years," said the man. "Why do you ask me? What do years
"Eighteen years," laughed Dorian Gray, with a touch of triumph in his
voice. "Eighteen years! Set me under the lamp and look at my face!"
James Vane hesitated for a moment, not understanding what was meant.
Then he seized Dorian Gray and dragged him from the archway.
Dim and wavering as was the wind-blown light, yet it served to show him
the hideous error, as it seemed, into which he had fallen, for the face
of the man he had sought to kill had all the bloom of boyhood, all the
unstained purity of youth. He seemed little more than a lad of twenty
summers, hardly older, if older indeed at all, than his sister had been
when they had parted so many years ago. It was obvious that this was
not the man who had destroyed her life.
He loosened his hold and reeled back. "My God! my God!" he cried, "and
I would have murdered you!"
Dorian Gray drew a long breath. "You have been on the brink of
committing a terrible crime, my man," he said, looking at him sternly.
"Let this be a warning to you not to take vengeance into your own
"Forgive me, sir," muttered James Vane. "I was deceived. A chance
word I heard in that damned den set me on the wrong track."
"You had better go home and put that pistol away, or you may get into
trouble," said Dorian, turning on his heel and going slowly down the
James Vane stood on the pavement in horror. He was trembling from head
to foot. After a little while, a black shadow that had been creeping
along the dripping wall moved out into the light and came close to him
with stealthy footsteps. He felt a hand laid on his arm and looked
round with a start. It was one of the women who had been drinking at
"Why didn't you kill him?" she hissed out, putting haggard face quite
close to his. "I knew you were following him when you rushed out from
Daly's. You fool! You should have killed him. He has lots of money,
and he's as bad as bad."
"He is not the man I am looking for," he answered, "and I want no man's
money. I want a man's life. The man whose life I want must be nearly
forty now. This one is little more than a boy. Thank God, I have not
got his blood upon my hands."
The woman gave a bitter laugh. "Little more than a boy!" she sneered.
"Why, man, it's nigh on eighteen years since Prince Charming made me
what I am."
"You lie!" cried James Vane.
She raised her hand up to heaven. "Before God I am telling the truth,"
"Strike me dumb if it ain't so. He is the worst one that comes here.
They say he has sold himself to the devil for a pretty face. It's nigh
on eighteen years since I met him. He hasn't changed much since then.
I have, though," she added, with a sickly leer.
"You swear this?"
"I swear it," came in hoarse echo from her flat mouth. "But don't give
me away to him," she whined; "I am afraid of him. Let me have some
money for my night's lodging."
He broke from her with an oath and rushed to the corner of the street,
but Dorian Gray had disappeared. When he looked back, the woman had
A week later Dorian Gray was sitting in the conservatory at Selby
Royal, talking to the pretty Duchess of Monmouth, who with her husband,
a jaded-looking man of sixty, was amongst his guests. It was tea-time,
and the mellow light of the huge, lace-covered lamp that stood on the
table lit up the delicate china and hammered silver of the service at
which the duchess was presiding. Her white hands were moving daintily
among the cups, and her full red lips were smiling at something that
Dorian had whispered to her. Lord Henry was lying back in a
silk-draped wicker chair, looking at them. On a peach-coloured divan
sat Lady Narborough, pretending to listen to the duke's description of
the last Brazilian beetle that he had added to his collection. Three
young men in elaborate smoking-suits were handing tea-cakes to some of
the women. The house-party consisted of twelve people, and there were
more expected to arrive on the next day.
"What are you two talking about?" said Lord Henry, strolling over to
the table and putting his cup down. "I hope Dorian has told you about
my plan for rechristening everything, Gladys. It is a delightful idea."
"But I don't want to be rechristened, Harry," rejoined the duchess,
looking up at him with her wonderful eyes. "I am quite satisfied with
my own name, and I am sure Mr. Gray should be satisfied with his."
"My dear Gladys, I would not alter either name for the world. They are
both perfect. I was thinking chiefly of flowers. Yesterday I cut an
orchid, for my button-hole. It was a marvellous spotted thing, as
effective as the seven deadly sins. In a thoughtless moment I asked
one of the gardeners what it was called. He told me it was a fine
specimen of Robinsoniana, or something dreadful of that kind. It is a
sad truth, but we have lost the faculty of giving lovely names to
things. Names are everything. I never quarrel with actions. My one
quarrel is with words. That is the reason I hate vulgar realism in
literature. The man who could call a spade a spade should be compelled
to use one. It is the only thing he is fit for."
"Then what should we call you, Harry?" she asked.
"His name is Prince Paradox," said Dorian.
"I recognize him in a flash," exclaimed the duchess.
"I won't hear of it," laughed Lord Henry, sinking into a chair. "From
a label there is no escape! I refuse the title."
"Royalties may not abdicate," fell as a warning from pretty lips.
"You wish me to defend my throne, then?"
"I give the truths of to-morrow."
"I prefer the mistakes of to-day," she answered.
"You disarm me, Gladys," he cried, catching the wilfulness of her mood.
"Of your shield, Harry, not of your spear."
"I never tilt against beauty," he said, with a wave of his hand.
"That is your error, Harry, believe me. You value beauty far too much."
"How can you say that? I admit that I think that it is better to be
beautiful than to be good. But on the other hand, no one is more ready
than I am to acknowledge that it is better to be good than to be ugly."
"Ugliness is one of the seven deadly sins, then?" cried the duchess.
"What becomes of your simile about the orchid?"
"Ugliness is one of the seven deadly virtues, Gladys. You, as a good
Tory, must not underrate them. Beer, the Bible, and the seven deadly
virtues have made our England what she is."
"You don't like your country, then?" she asked.
"I live in it."
"That you may censure it the better."
"Would you have me take the verdict of Europe on it?" he inquired.
"What do they say of us?"
"That Tartuffe has emigrated to England and opened a shop."
"Is that yours, Harry?"
"I give it to you."
"I could not use it. It is too true."
"You need not be afraid. Our countrymen never recognize a description."
"They are practical."
"They are more cunning than practical. When they make up their ledger,
they balance stupidity by wealth, and vice by hypocrisy."
"Still, we have done great things."
"Great things have been thrust on us, Gladys."
"We have carried their burden."
"Only as far as the Stock Exchange."
She shook her head. "I believe in the race," she cried.
"It represents the survival of the pushing."
"It has development."
"Decay fascinates me more."
"What of art?" she asked.
"It is a malady."
"The fashionable substitute for belief."
"You are a sceptic."
"Never! Scepticism is the beginning of faith."
"What are you?"
"To define is to limit."
"Give me a clue."
"Threads snap. You would lose your way in the labyrinth."
"You bewilder me. Let us talk of some one else."
"Our host is a delightful topic. Years ago he was christened Prince
"Ah! don't remind me of that," cried Dorian Gray.
"Our host is rather horrid this evening," answered the duchess,
colouring. "I believe he thinks that Monmouth married me on purely
scientific principles as the best specimen he could find of a modern
"Well, I hope he won't stick pins into you, Duchess," laughed Dorian.
"Oh! my maid does that already, Mr. Gray, when she is annoyed with me."
"And what does she get annoyed with you about, Duchess?"
"For the most trivial things, Mr. Gray, I assure you. Usually because
I come in at ten minutes to nine and tell her that I must be dressed by
"How unreasonable of her! You should give her warning."
"I daren't, Mr. Gray. Why, she invents hats for me. You remember the
one I wore at Lady Hilstone's garden-party? You don't, but it is nice
of you to pretend that you do. Well, she made it out of nothing. All
good hats are made out of nothing."
"Like all good reputations, Gladys," interrupted Lord Henry. "Every
effect that one produces gives one an enemy. To be popular one must be
"Not with women," said the duchess, shaking her head; "and women rule
the world. I assure you we can't bear mediocrities. We women, as some
one says, love with our ears, just as you men love with your eyes, if
you ever love at all."
"It seems to me that we never do anything else," murmured Dorian.
"Ah! then, you never really love, Mr. Gray," answered the duchess with
"My dear Gladys!" cried Lord Henry. "How can you say that? Romance
lives by repetition, and repetition converts an appetite into an art.
Besides, each time that one loves is the only time one has ever loved.
Difference of object does not alter singleness of passion. It merely
intensifies it. We can have in life but one great experience at best,
and the secret of life is to reproduce that experience as often as
"Even when one has been wounded by it, Harry?" asked the duchess after
"Especially when one has been wounded by it," answered Lord Henry.
The duchess turned and looked at Dorian Gray with a curious expression
in her eyes. "What do you say to that, Mr. Gray?" she inquired.
Dorian hesitated for a moment. Then he threw his head back and
laughed. "I always agree with Harry, Duchess."
"Even when he is wrong?"
"Harry is never wrong, Duchess."
"And does his philosophy make you happy?"
"I have never searched for happiness. Who wants happiness? I have
searched for pleasure."
"And found it, Mr. Gray?"
"Often. Too often."
The duchess sighed. "I am searching for peace," she said, "and if I
don't go and dress, I shall have none this evening."
"Let me get you some orchids, Duchess," cried Dorian, starting to his
feet and walking down the conservatory.
"You are flirting disgracefully with him," said Lord Henry to his
cousin. "You had better take care. He is very fascinating."
"If he were not, there would be no battle."
"Greek meets Greek, then?"
"I am on the side of the Trojans. They fought for a woman."
"They were defeated."
"There are worse things than capture," she answered.
"You gallop with a loose rein."
"Pace gives life," was the riposte.
"I shall write it in my diary to-night."
"That a burnt child loves the fire."
"I am not even singed. My wings are untouched."
"You use them for everything, except flight."
"Courage has passed from men to women. It is a new experience for us."
"You have a rival."
He laughed. "Lady Narborough," he whispered. "She perfectly adores
"You fill me with apprehension. The appeal to antiquity is fatal to us
who are romanticists."
"Romanticists! You have all the methods of science."
"Men have educated us."
"But not explained you."
"Describe us as a sex," was her challenge.
"Sphinxes without secrets."
She looked at him, smiling. "How long Mr. Gray is!" she said. "Let us
go and help him. I have not yet told him the colour of my frock."
"Ah! you must suit your frock to his flowers, Gladys."
"That would be a premature surrender."
"Romantic art begins with its climax."
"I must keep an opportunity for retreat."
"In the Parthian manner?"
"They found safety in the desert. I could not do that."
"Women are not always allowed a choice," he answered, but hardly had he
finished the sentence before from the far end of the conservatory came
a stifled groan, followed by the dull sound of a heavy fall. Everybody
started up. The duchess stood motionless in horror. And with fear in
his eyes, Lord Henry rushed through the flapping palms to find Dorian
Gray lying face downwards on the tiled floor in a deathlike swoon.
He was carried at once into the blue drawing-room and laid upon one of
the sofas. After a short time, he came to himself and looked round
with a dazed expression.
"What has happened?" he asked. "Oh! I remember. Am I safe here,
Harry?" He began to tremble.
"My dear Dorian," answered Lord Henry, "you merely fainted. That was
all. You must have overtired yourself. You had better not come down
to dinner. I will take your place."
"No, I will come down," he said, struggling to his feet. "I would
rather come down. I must not be alone."
He went to his room and dressed. There was a wild recklessness of
gaiety in his manner as he sat at table, but now and then a thrill of
terror ran through him when he remembered that, pressed against the
window of the conservatory, like a white handkerchief, he had seen the
face of James Vane watching him.
The next day he did not leave the house, and, indeed, spent most of the
time in his own room, sick with a wild terror of dying, and yet
indifferent to life itself. The consciousness of being hunted, snared,
tracked down, had begun to dominate him. If the tapestry did but
tremble in the wind, he shook. The dead leaves that were blown against
the leaded panes seemed to him like his own wasted resolutions and wild
regrets. When he closed his eyes, he saw again the sailor's face
peering through the mist-stained glass, and horror seemed once more to
lay its hand upon his heart.
But perhaps it had been only his fancy that had called vengeance out of
the night and set the hideous shapes of punishment before him. Actual
life was chaos, but there was something terribly logical in the
imagination. It was the imagination that set remorse to dog the feet
of sin. It was the imagination that made each crime bear its misshapen
brood. In the common world of fact the wicked were not punished, nor
the good rewarded. Success was given to the strong, failure thrust
upon the weak. That was all. Besides, had any stranger been prowling
round the house, he would have been seen by the servants or the
keepers. Had any foot-marks been found on the flower-beds, the
gardeners would have reported it. Yes, it had been merely fancy.
Sibyl Vane's brother had not come back to kill him. He had sailed away
in his ship to founder in some winter sea. From him, at any rate, he
was safe. Why, the man did not know who he was, could not know who he
was. The mask of youth had saved him.
And yet if it had been merely an illusion, how terrible it was to think
that conscience could raise such fearful phantoms, and give them
visible form, and make them move before one! What sort of life would
his be if, day and night, shadows of his crime were to peer at him from
silent corners, to mock him from secret places, to whisper in his ear
as he sat at the feast, to wake him with icy fingers as he lay asleep!
As the thought crept through his brain, he grew pale with terror, and
the air seemed to him to have become suddenly colder. Oh! in what a
wild hour of madness he had killed his friend! How ghastly the mere
memory of the scene! He saw it all again. Each hideous detail came
back to him with added horror. Out of the black cave of time, terrible
and swathed in scarlet, rose the image of his sin. When Lord Henry
came in at six o'clock, he found him crying as one whose heart will
It was not till the third day that he ventured to go out. There was
something in the clear, pine-scented air of that winter morning that
seemed to bring him back his joyousness and his ardour for life. But
it was not merely the physical conditions of environment that had
caused the change. His own nature had revolted against the excess of
anguish that had sought to maim and mar the perfection of its calm.
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 of contempt.
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 rough undergrowth.
"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
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
"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 go home."
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
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 with you."
"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," he murmured.
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 the house.
"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 looking on."
"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
"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 to me."
"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,
"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?" she inquired.
"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
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
"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
"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
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
"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 to him.
"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
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.