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The Picture of Dorian

Gray

Oscar Wilde

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The Picture of Dorian Gray

Chapter I

The studio was filled with the rich odor of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.

From the corner of the divan of Persian saddle-bags on which he was lying, smoking, as usual, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-colored blossoms of the laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flame-like as theirs; and now and then the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted across the long tussore-silk curtains that were stretched in front of the huge window, producing a kind of momentary Japanese effect, and making him think of those pallid jade-faced painters who, in an art that is necessarily immobile, seek to convey the sense of swiftness and motion. The sullen murmur of the bees shouldering their way through the long unmown grass, or circling with monotonous insistence round the black-crocketed spires of the early June hollyhocks, seemed to make the stillness 2 of 250

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more oppressive, and the dim roar of London was like the bourdon note of a distant organ.

In the centre of the room, clamped to an upright easel, stood the full-length portrait of a young man of extraordinary personal beauty, and in front of it, some little distance away, was sitting the artist himself, Basil Hallward, whose sudden disappearance some years ago caused, at the time, such public excitement, and gave rise to so many strange conjectures.

As he looked at the gracious and comely form he had so skilfully mirrored in his art, a smile of pleasure passed across his face, and seemed about to linger there. But he suddenly started up, and, closing his eyes, placed his fingers upon the lids, as though he sought to imprison within his brain some curious dream from which he feared he might awake.

‘It is your best work, Basil, the best thing you have ever done,’ said Lord Henry, languidly. ‘You must certainly send it next year to the Grosvenor. The Academy is too large and too vulgar. The Grosvenor is the only place.’

‘I don’t think I will send it anywhere,’ he answered, tossing his head back in that odd way that used to make 3 of 250

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his friends laugh at him at Oxford. ‘No: I won’t send it anywhere.’

Lord Henry elevated his eyebrows, and looked at him in amazement through the thin blue wreaths of smoke that curled up in such fanciful whorls from his heavy opium-tainted cigarette. ‘Not send it anywhere? My dear fellow, why? Have you any reason? What odd chaps you painters are! You do anything in the world to gain a reputation. As soon as you have one, you seem to want to throw it away.

It is silly of you, for there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about. A portrait like this would set you far above all the young men in England, and make the old men quite jealous, if old men are ever capable of any emotion.’

‘I know you will laugh at me,’ he replied, ‘but I really can’t exhibit it. I have put too much of myself into it.’

Lord Henry stretched his long legs out on the divan and shook with laughter.

‘Yes, I knew you would laugh; but it is quite true, all the same.’

‘Too much of yourself in it! Upon my word, Basil, I didn’t know you were so vain; and I really can’t see any resemblance between you, with your rugged strong face and your coal-black hair, and this young Adonis, who 4 of 250

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looks as if he was made of ivory and rose-leaves. Why, my dear Basil, he is a Narcissus, and you—well, of course you have an intellectual expression, and all that. But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins.

Intellect is in itself an exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face. The moment one sits down to think, one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or something horrid. Look at the successful men in any of the learned professions. How perfectly hideous they are! Except, of course, in the Church. But then in the Church they don’t think. A bishop keeps on saying at the age of eighty what he was told to say when he was a boy of eighteen, and consequently he always looks absolutely delightful. Your mysterious young friend, whose name you have never told me, but whose picture really fascinates me, never thinks. I feel quite sure of that. He is a brainless, beautiful thing, who should be always here in winter when we have no flowers to look at, and always here in summer when we want something to chill our intelligence. Don’t flatter yourself, Basil: you are not in the least like him.’

‘You don’t understand me, Harry. Of course I am not like him. I know that perfectly well. Indeed, I should be sorry to look like him. You shrug your shoulders? I am telling you the truth. There is a fatality about all physical 5 of 250

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and intellectual distinction, the sort of fatality that seems to dog through history the faltering steps of kings. It is better not to be different from one’s fellows. The ugly and the stupid have the best of it in this world. They can sit quietly and gape at the play. If they know nothing of victory, they are at least spared the knowledge of defeat.

They live as we all should live, undisturbed, indifferent, and without disquiet. They neither bring ruin upon others nor ever receive it from alien hands. Your rank and wealth, Harry; my brains, such as they are,—my fame, whatever it may be worth; Dorian Gray’s good looks,—

we will all suffer for what the gods have given us, suffer terribly.’

‘Dorian Gray? is that his name?’ said Lord Henry, walking across the studio towards Basil Hallward.

‘Yes; that is his name. I didn’t intend to tell it to you.’

‘But why not?’

‘Oh, I can’t explain. When I like people immensely I never tell their names to any one. It seems like surrendering a part of them. You know how I love secrecy. It is the only thing that can make modern life wonderful or mysterious to us. The commonest thing is delightful if one only hides it. When I leave town I never tell my people where I am going. If I did, I would lose all 6 of 250

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my pleasure. It is a silly habit, I dare say, but somehow it seems to bring a great deal of romance into one’s life. I suppose you think me awfully foolish about it?’

‘Not at all,’ answered Lord Henry, laying his hand upon his shoulder; ‘not at all, my dear Basil. You seem to forget that I am married, and the one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception necessary for both parties.

I never know where my wife is, and my wife never knows what I am doing. When we meet,—we do meet occasionally, when we dine out together, or go down to the duke’s,— we tell each other the most absurd stories with the most serious faces. My wife is very good at it,—

much better, in fact, than I am. She never gets confused over her dates, and I always do. But when she does find me out, she makes no row at all. I sometimes wish she would; but she merely laughs at me.’

‘I hate the way you talk about your married life, Harry,’ said Basil Hallward, shaking his hand off, and strolling towards the door that led into the garden. ‘I believe that you are really a very good husband, but that you are thoroughly ashamed of your own virtues. You are an extraordinary fellow. You never say a moral thing, and you never do a wrong thing. Your cynicism is simply a pose.’

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‘Being natural is simply a pose, and the most irritating pose I know,’ cried Lord Henry, laughing; and the two young men went out into the garden together, and for a time they did not speak.

After a long pause Lord Henry pulled out his watch. ‘I am afraid I must be going, Basil,’ he murmured, ‘and before I go I insist on your answering a question I put to you some time ago.’

‘What is that?’ asked Basil Hallward, keeping his eyes fixed on the ground.

‘You know quite well.’

‘I do not, Harry.’

‘Well, I will tell you what it is.’

‘Please don’t.’

‘I must. I want you to explain to me why you won’t exhibit Dorian Gray’s picture. I want the real reason.’

‘I told you the real reason.’

‘No, you did not. You said it was because there was too much of yourself in it. Now, that is childish.’

‘Harry,’ said Basil Hallward, looking him straight in the face, ‘every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the colored canvas, 8 of 250

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reveals himself. The reason I will not exhibit this picture is that I am afraid that I have shown with it the secret of my own soul.’

Lord Harry laughed. ‘And what is that?’ he asked.

‘I will tell you,’ said Hallward; and an expression of perplexity came over his face.

‘I am all expectation, Basil,’ murmured his companion, looking at him.

‘Oh, there is really very little to tell, Harry,’ answered the young painter; ‘and I am afraid you will hardly understand it. Perhaps you will hardly believe it.’

Lord Henry smiled, and, leaning down, plucked a pink-petalled daisy from the grass, and examined it. ‘I am quite sure I shall understand it,’ he replied, gazing intently at the little golden white-feathered disk, ‘and I can believe anything, provided that it is incredible.’

The wind shook some blossoms from the trees, and the heavy lilac blooms, with their clustering stars, moved to and fro in the languid air. A grasshopper began to chirrup in the grass, and a long thin dragon-fly floated by on its brown gauze wings. Lord Henry felt as if he could hear Basil Hallward’s heart beating, and he wondered what was coming.

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‘Well, this is incredible,’ repeated Hallward, rather bitterly,— ‘incredible to me at times. I don’t know what it means. The story is simply this. Two months ago I went to a crush at Lady Brandon’s. You know we poor painters have to show ourselves in society from time to time, just to remind the public that we are not savages. With an evening coat and a white tie, as you told me once, anybody, even a stock-broker, can gain a reputation for being civilized. Well, after I had been in the room about ten minutes, talking to huge overdressed dowagers and tedious Academicians, I suddenly became conscious that some one was looking at me. I turned half-way round, and saw Dorian Gray for the first time. When our eyes met, I felt that I was growing pale. A curious instinct of terror came over me. I knew that I had come face to face with some one whose mere personality was so fascinating that, if I allowed it to do so, it would absorb my whole nature, my whole soul, my very art itself. I did not want any external influence in my life. You know yourself, Harry, how independent I am by nature. My father destined me for the army. I insisted on going to Oxford.

Then he made me enter my name at the Middle Temple.

Before I had eaten half a dozen dinners I gave up the Bar, and announced my intention of becoming a painter. I 10 of 250

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have always been my own master; had at least always been so, till I met Dorian Gray. Then—But I don’t know how to explain it to you. Something seemed to tell me that I was on the verge of a terrible crisis in my life. I had a strange feeling that Fate had in store for me exquisite joys and exquisite sorrows. I knew that if I spoke to Dorian I would become absolutely devoted to him, and that I ought not to speak to him. I grew afraid, and turned to quit the room. It was not conscience that made me do so: it was cowardice. I take no credit to myself for trying to escape.’

‘Conscience and cowardice are really the same things, Basil. Conscience is the trade-name of the firm. That is all.’

‘I don’t believe that, Harry. However, whatever was my motive,— and it may have been pride, for I used to be very proud,—I certainly struggled to the door. There, of course, I stumbled against Lady Brandon. ‘You are not going to run away so soon, Mr. Hallward?’ she screamed out. You know her shrill horrid voice?’

‘Yes; she is a peacock in everything but beauty,’ said Lord Henry, pulling the daisy to bits with his long, nervous fingers.

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‘I could not get rid of her. She brought me up to Royalties, and people with Stars and Garters, and elderly ladies with gigantic tiaras and hooked noses. She spoke of me as her dearest friend. I had only met her once before, but she took it into her head to lionize me. I believe some picture of mine had made a great success at the time, at least had been chattered about in the penny newspapers, which is the nineteenth-century standard of immortality.

Suddenly I found myself face to face with the young man whose personality had so strangely stirred me. We were quite close, almost touching. Our eyes met again. It was mad of me, but I asked Lady Brandon to introduce me to him. Perhaps it was not so mad, after all. It was simply inevitable. We would have spoken to each other without any introduction. I am sure of that. Dorian told me so afterwards. He, too, felt that we were destined to know each other.’

‘And how did Lady Brandon describe this wonderful young man? I know she goes in for giving a rapid précis of all her guests. I remember her bringing me up to a most truculent and red-faced old gentleman covered all over with orders and ribbons, and hissing into my ear, in a tragic whisper which must have been perfectly audible to everybody in the room, something like ‘Sir Humpty 12 of 250

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Dumpty—you know—Afghan frontier—Russian intrigues: very successful man—wife killed by an elephant—quite inconsolable—wants to marry a beautiful American widow—everybody does nowadays—hates Mr.

Gladstone—but very much interested in beetles: ask him what he thinks of Schouvaloff.’ I simply fled. I like to find out people for myself. But poor Lady Brandon treats her guests exactly as an auctioneer treats his goods. She either explains them entirely away, or tells one everything about them except what one wants to know. But what did she say about Mr. Dorian Gray?’

‘Oh, she murmured, ‘Charming boy—poor dear mother and I quite inseparable—engaged to be married to the same man—I mean married on the same day—how very silly of me! Quite forget what he does— afraid he—

doesn’t do anything—oh, yes, plays the piano—or is it the violin, dear Mr. Gray?’ We could neither of us help laughing, and we became friends at once.’

‘Laughter is not a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is the best ending for one,’ said Lord Henry, plucking another daisy.

Hallward buried his face in his hands. ‘You don’t understand what friendship is, Harry,’ he murmured,—‘or 13 of 250

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what enmity is, for that matter. You like every one; that is to say, you are indifferent to every one.’

‘How horribly unjust of you!’ cried Lord Henry, tilting his hat back, and looking up at the little clouds that were drifting across the hollowed turquoise of the summer sky, like ravelled skeins of glossy white silk. ‘Yes; horribly unjust of you. I make a great difference between people. I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their characters, and my enemies for their brains. A man can’t be too careful in the choice of his enemies. I have not got one who is a fool. They are all men of some intellectual power, and consequently they all appreciate me. Is that very vain of me? I think it is rather vain.’

‘I should think it was, Harry. But according to your category I must be merely an acquaintance.’

‘My dear old Basil, you are much more than an acquaintance.’

‘And much less than a friend. A sort of brother, I suppose?’

‘Oh, brothers! I don’t care for brothers. My elder brother won’t die, and my younger brothers seem never to do anything else.’

‘Harry!’

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‘My dear fellow, I am not quite serious. But I can’t help detesting my relations. I suppose it comes from the fact that we can’t stand other people having the same faults as ourselves. I quite sympathize with the rage of the English democracy against what they call the vices of the upper classes. They feel that drunkenness, stupidity, and immorality should be their own special property, and that if any one of us makes an ass of himself he is poaching on their preserves. When poor Southwark got into the Divorce Court, their indignation was quite magnificent.

And yet I don’t suppose that ten per cent of the lower orders live correctly.’

‘I don’t agree with a single word that you have said, and, what is more, Harry, I don’t believe you do either.’

Lord Henry stroked his pointed brown beard, and tapped the toe of his patent-leather boot with a tasselled malacca cane. ‘How English you are, Basil! If one puts forward an idea to a real Englishman,— always a rash thing to do,—he never dreams of considering whether the idea is right or wrong. The only thing he considers of any importance is whether one believes it one’s self. Now, the value of an idea has nothing whatsoever to do with the sincerity of the man who expresses it. Indeed, the probabilities are that the more insincere the man is, the 15 of 250

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more purely intellectual will the idea be, as in that case it will not be colored by either his wants, his desires, or his prejudices. However, I don’t propose to discuss politics, sociology, or metaphysics with you. I like persons better than principles. Tell me more about Dorian Gray. How often do you see him?’

‘Every day. I couldn’t be happy if I didn’t see him every day. Of course sometimes it is only for a few minutes. But a few minutes with somebody one worships mean a great deal.’

‘But you don’t really worship him?’

‘I do.’

‘How extraordinary! I thought you would never care for anything but your painting,—your art, I should say.

Art sounds better, doesn’t it?’

‘He is all my art to me now. I sometimes think, Harry, that there are only two eras of any importance in the history of the world. The first is the appearance of a new medium for art, and the second is the appearance of a new personality for art also. What the invention of oil-painting was to the Venetians, the face of Antinoüs was to late Greek sculpture, and the face of Dorian Gray will some day be to me. It is not merely that I paint from him, draw from him, model from him. Of course I have done all 16 of 250

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that. He has stood as Paris in dainty armor, and as Adonis with huntsman’s cloak and polished boar- spear. Crowned with heavy lotus-blossoms, he has sat on the prow of Adrian’s barge, looking into the green, turbid Nile. He has leaned over the still pool of some Greek woodland, and seen in the water’s silent silver the wonder of his own beauty. But he is much more to me than that. I won’t tell you that I am dissatisfied with what I have done of him, or that his beauty is such that art cannot express it. There is nothing that art cannot express, and I know that the work I have done since I met Dorian Gray is good work, is the best work of my life. But in some curious way—I wonder will you understand me?—his personality has suggested to me an entirely new manner in art, an entirely new mode of style. I see things differently, I think of them differently.

I can now re-create life in a way that was hidden from me before. ‘A dream of form in days of thought,’—who is it who says that? I forget; but it is what Dorian Gray has been to me. The merely visible presence of this lad, —for he seems to me little more than a lad, though he is really over twenty,—his merely visible presence,—ah! I wonder can you realize all that that means? Unconsciously he defines for me the lines of a fresh school, a school that is to have in itself all the passion of the romantic spirit, all the 17 of 250

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perfection of the spirit that is Greek. The harmony of soul and body,—how much that is! We in our madness have separated the two, and have invented a realism that is bestial, an ideality that is void. Harry! Harry! if you only knew what Dorian Gray is to me! You remember that landscape of mine, for which Agnew offered me such a huge price, but which I would not part with? It is one of the best things I have ever done. And why is it so?

Because, while I was painting it, Dorian Gray sat beside me.’

‘Basil, this is quite wonderful! I must see Dorian Gray.’

Hallward got up from the seat, and walked up and down the garden. After some time he came back. ‘You don’t understand, Harry,’ he said. ‘Dorian Gray is merely to me a motive in art. He is never more present in my work than when no image of him is there. He is simply a suggestion, as I have said, of a new manner. I see him in the curves of certain lines, in the loveliness and the subtleties of certain colors. That is all.’

‘Then why won’t you exhibit his portrait?’

‘Because I have put into it all the extraordinary romance of which, of course, I have never dared to speak to him. He knows nothing about it. He will never know anything about it. But the world might guess it; and I will 18 of 250

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not bare my soul to their shallow, prying eyes. My heart shall never be put under their microscope. There is too much of myself in the thing, Harry,—too much of myself!’

‘Poets are not so scrupulous as you are. They know how useful passion is for publication. Nowadays a broken heart will run to many editions.’

‘I hate them for it. An artist should create beautiful things, but should put nothing of his own life into them.

We live in an age when men treat art as if it were meant to be a form of autobiography. We have lost the abstract sense of beauty. If I live, I will show the world what it is; and for that reason the world shall never see my portrait of Dorian Gray.’

‘I think you are wrong, Basil, but I won’t argue with you. It is only the intellectually lost who ever argue. Tell me, is Dorian Gray very fond of you?’

Hallward considered for a few moments. ‘He likes me,’

he answered, after a pause; ‘I know he likes me. Of course I flatter him dreadfully. I find a strange pleasure in saying things to him that I know I shall be sorry for having said. I give myself away. As a rule, he is charming to me, and we walk home together from the club arm in arm, or sit in the studio and talk of a thousand things. Now and then, 19 of 250

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however, he is horribly thoughtless, and seems to take a real delight in giving me pain. Then I feel, Harry, that I have given away my whole soul to some one who treats it as if it were a flower to put in his coat, a bit of decoration to charm his vanity, an ornament for a summer’s day.’

‘Days in summer, Basil, are apt to linger. Perhaps you will tire sooner than he will. It is a sad thing to think of, but there is no doubt that Genius lasts longer than Beauty.

That accounts for the fact that we all take such pains to over-educate ourselves. In the wild struggle for existence, we want to have something that endures, and so we fill our minds with rubbish and facts, in the silly hope of keeping our place. The thoroughly well informed man,—

that is the modern ideal. And the mind of the thoroughly well informed man is a dreadful thing. It is like a bric-à-

brac shop, all monsters and dust, and everything priced above its proper value. I think you will tire first, all the same. Some day you will look at Gray, and he will seem to you to be a little out of drawing, or you won’t like his tone of color, or something. You will bitterly reproach him in your own heart, and seriously think that he has behaved very badly to you. The next time he calls, you will be perfectly cold and indifferent. It will be a great 20 of 250

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pity, for it will alter you. The worst of having a romance is that it leaves one so unromantic.’

‘Harry, don’t talk like that. As long as I live, the personality of Dorian Gray will dominate me. You can’t feel what I feel. You change too often.’

‘Ah, my dear Basil, that is exactly why I can feel it.

Those who are faithful know only the pleasures of love: it is the faithless who know love’s tragedies.’ And Lord Henry struck a light on a dainty silver case, and began to smoke a cigarette with a self-conscious and self-satisfied air, as if he had summed up life in a phrase. There was a rustle of chirruping sparrows in the ivy, and the blue cloud- shadows chased themselves across the grass like swallows. How pleasant it was in the garden! And how delightful other people’s emotions were!—much more delightful than their ideas, it seemed to him. One’s own soul, and the passions of one’s friends,—those were the fascinating things in life. He thought with pleasure of the tedious luncheon that he had missed by staying so long with Basil Hallward. Had he gone to his aunt’s, he would have been sure to meet Lord Goodbody there, and the whole conversation would have been about the housing of the poor, and the necessity for model lodging-houses. It was charming to have escaped all that! As he thought of 21 of 250

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his aunt, an idea seemed to strike him. He turned to Hallward, and said, ‘My dear fellow, I have just remembered.’

‘Remembered what, Harry?’

‘Where I heard the name of Dorian Gray.’

‘Where was it?’ asked Hallward, with a slight frown.

‘Don’t look so angry, Basil. It was at my aunt’s, Lady Agatha’s. She told me she had discovered a wonderful young man, who was going to help her in the East End, and that his name was Dorian Gray. I am bound to state that she never told me he was good-looking. Women have no appreciation of good looks. At least, good women have not. She said that he was very earnest, and had a beautiful nature. I at once pictured to myself a creature with spectacles and lank hair, horridly freckled, and tramping about on huge feet. I wish I had known it was your friend.’

‘I am very glad you didn’t, Harry.’

‘Why?’

‘I don’t want you to meet him.’

‘Mr. Dorian Gray is in the studio, sir,’ said the butler, coming into the garden.

‘You must introduce me now,’ cried Lord Henry, laughing.

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Basil Hallward turned to the servant, who stood blinking in the sunlight. ‘Ask Mr. Gray to wait, Parker: I will be in in a few moments.’ The man bowed, and went up the walk.

Then he looked at Lord Henry. ‘Dorian Gray is my dearest friend,’ he said. ‘He has a simple and a beautiful nature. Your aunt was quite right in what she said of him.

Don’t spoil him for me. Don’t try to influence him. Your influence would be bad. The world is wide, and has many marvellous people in it. Don’t take away from me the one person that makes life absolutely lovely to me, and that gives to my art whatever wonder or charm it possesses.

Mind, Harry, I trust you.’ He spoke very slowly, and the words seemed wrung out of him almost against his will.

‘What nonsense you talk!’ said Lord Henry, smiling, and, taking Hallward by the arm, he almost led him into the house.

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Chapter II

As they entered they saw Dorian Gray. He was seated at the piano, with his back to them, turning over the pages of a volume of Schumann’s ‘Forest Scenes.’ ‘You must lend me these, Basil,’ he cried. ‘I want to learn them.

They are perfectly charming.’

‘That entirely depends on how you sit to-day, Dorian.’

‘Oh, I am tired of sitting, and I don’t want a life-sized portrait of myself,’ answered the lad, swinging round on the music-stool, in a wilful, petulant manner. When he caught sight of Lord Henry, a faint blush colored his cheeks for a moment, and he started up. ‘I beg your pardon, Basil, but I didn’t know you had any one with you.’

‘This is Lord Henry Wotton, Dorian, an old Oxford friend of mine. I have just been telling him what a capital sitter you were, and now you have spoiled everything.’

‘You have not spoiled my pleasure in meeting you, Mr.

Gray,’ said Lord Henry, stepping forward and shaking him by the hand. ‘My aunt has often spoken to me about you.

You are one of her favorites, and, I am afraid, one of her victims also.’

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‘I am in Lady Agatha’s black books at present,’

answered Dorian, with a funny look of penitence. ‘I promised to go to her club in Whitechapel with her last Tuesday, and I really forgot all about it. We were to have played a duet together,—three duets, I believe. I don’t know what she will say to me. I am far too frightened to call.’

‘Oh, I will make your peace with my aunt. She is quite devoted to you. And I don’t think it really matters about your not being there. The audience probably thought it was a duet. When Aunt Agatha sits down to the piano she makes quite enough noise for two people.’

‘That is very horrid to her, and not very nice to me,’

answered Dorian, laughing.

Lord Henry looked at him. Yes, he was certainly wonderfully handsome, with his finely-curved scarlet lips, his frank blue eyes, his crisp gold hair. There was something in his face that made one trust him at once. All the candor of youth was there, as well as all youth’s passionate purity. One felt that he had kept himself unspotted from the world. No wonder Basil Hallward worshipped him. He was made to be worshipped.

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‘You are too charming to go in for philanthropy, Mr.

Gray,—far too charming.’ And Lord Henry flung himself down on the divan, and opened his cigarette-case.

Hallward had been busy mixing his colors and getting his brushes ready. He was looking worried, and when he heard Lord Henry’s last remark he glanced at him, hesitated for a moment, and then said, ‘Harry, I want to finish this picture to-day. Would you think it awfully rude of me if I asked you to go away?’

Lord Henry smiled, and looked at Dorian Gray. ‘Am I to go, Mr. Gray?’ he asked.

‘Oh, please don’t, Lord Henry. I see that Basil is in one of his sulky moods; and I can’t bear him when he sulks.

Besides, I want you to tell me why I should not go in for philanthropy.’

‘I don’t know that I shall tell you that, Mr. Gray. But I certainly will not run away, now that you have asked me to stop. You don’t really mind, Basil, do you? You have often told me that you liked your sitters to have some one to chat to.’

Hallward bit his lip. ‘If Dorian wishes it, of course you must stay. Dorian’s whims are laws to everybody, except himself.’

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Lord Henry took up his hat and gloves. ‘You are very pressing, Basil, but I am afraid I must go. I have promised to meet a man at the Orleans.—Good-by, Mr. Gray.

Come and see me some afternoon in Curzon Street. I am nearly always at home at five o’clock. Write to me when you are coming. I should be sorry to miss you.’

‘Basil,’ cried Dorian Gray, ‘if Lord Henry goes I shall go too. You never open your lips while you are painting, and it is horribly dull standing on a platform and trying to look pleasant. Ask him to stay. I insist upon it.’

‘Stay, Harry, to oblige Dorian, and to oblige me,’ said Hallward, gazing intently at his picture. ‘It is quite true, I never talk when I am working, and never listen either, and it must be dreadfully tedious for my unfortunate sitters. I beg you to stay.’

‘But what about my man at the Orleans?’

Hallward laughed. ‘I don’t think there will be any difficulty about that. Sit down again, Harry.—And now, Dorian, get up on the platform, and don’t move about too much, or pay any attention to what Lord Henry says. He has a very bad influence over all his friends, with the exception of myself.’

Dorian stepped up on the dais, with the air of a young Greek martyr, and made a little moue of discontent to 27 of 250

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Lord Henry, to whom he had rather taken a fancy. He was so unlike Hallward. They made a delightful contrast.

And he had such a beautiful voice. After a few moments he said to him, ‘Have you really a very bad influence, Lord Henry? As bad as Basil says?’

‘There is no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray.

All influence is immoral,—immoral from the scientific point of view.’

‘Why?’

‘Because to influence a person is to give him one’s own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of some one else’s music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him. The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly,—that is what each of us is here for. People are afraid of themselves, nowadays. They have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty that one owes to one’s self. Of course they are charitable. They feed the hungry, and clothe the beggar. But their own souls starve, and are naked.

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the terror of God, which is the secret of religion,—these are the two things that govern us. And yet—‘

‘Just turn your head a little more to the right, Dorian, like a good boy,’ said Hallward, deep in his work, and conscious only that a look had come into the lad’s face that he had never seen there before.

‘And yet,’ continued Lord Henry, in his low, musical voice, and with that graceful wave of the hand that was always so characteristic of him, and that he had even in his Eton days, ‘I believe that if one man were to live his life out fully and completely, were to give form to every feeling, expression to every thought, reality to every dream,—I believe that the world would gain such a fresh impulse of joy that we would forget all the maladies of mediaevalism, and return to the Hellenic ideal,— to something finer, richer, than the Hellenic ideal, it may be.

But the bravest man among us is afraid of himself. The mutilation of the savage has its tragic survival in the self-denial that mars our lives. We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind, and poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification.

Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret. The only way to get rid of a 29 of 250

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temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also. You, Mr. Gray, you yourself, with your rose-red youth and your rose-white boyhood, you have had passions that have made you afraid, thoughts that have filled you with terror, day-dreams and sleeping dreams whose mere memory might stain your cheek with shame—‘

‘Stop!’ murmured Dorian Gray, ‘stop! you bewilder me. I don’t know what to say. There is some answer to you, but I cannot find it. Don’t speak. Let me think, or, rather, let me try not to think.’

For nearly ten minutes he stood there motionless, with parted lips, and eyes strangely bright. He was dimly conscious that entirely fresh impulses were at work within him, and they seemed to him to have come really from himself. The few words that Basil’s friend had said to him—words spoken by chance, no doubt, and with wilful paradox in them—had yet touched some secret chord, that 30 of 250

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had never been touched before, but that he felt was now vibrating and throbbing to curious pulses.

Music had stirred him like that. Music had troubled him many times. But music was not articulate. It was not a new world, but rather a new chaos, that it created in us.

Words! Mere words! How terrible they were! How clear, and vivid, and cruel! One could not escape from them.

And yet what a subtle magic there was in them! They seemed to be able to give a plastic form to formless things, and to have a music of their own as sweet as that of viol or of lute. Mere words! Was there anything so real as words?

Yes; there had been things in his boyhood that he had not understood. He understood them now. Life suddenly became fiery-colored to him. It seemed to him that he had been walking in fire. Why had he not known it?

Lord Henry watched him, with his sad smile. He knew the precise psychological moment when to say nothing.

He felt intensely interested. He was amazed at the sudden impression that his words had produced, and, remembering a book that he had read when he was sixteen, which had revealed to him much that he had not known before, he wondered whether Dorian Gray was passing through the same experience. He had merely shot 31 of 250

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an arrow into the air. Had it hit the mark? How fascinating the lad was!

Hallward painted away with that marvellous bold touch of his, that had the true refinement and perfect delicacy that come only from strength. He was unconscious of the silence.

‘Basil, I am tired of standing,’ cried Dorian Gray, suddenly. ‘I must go out and sit in the garden. The air is stifling here.’

‘My dear fellow, I am so sorry. When I am painting, I can’t think of anything else. But you never sat better. You were perfectly still. And I have caught the effect I wanted,—the half-parted lips, and the bright look in the eyes. I don’t know what Harry has been saying to you, but he has certainly made you have the most wonderful expression. I suppose he has been paying you compliments. You mustn’t believe a word that he says.’

‘He has certainly not been paying me compliments.

Perhaps that is the reason I don’t think I believe anything he has told me.’

‘You know you believe it all,’ said Lord Henry, looking at him with his dreamy, heavy-lidded eyes. ‘I will go out to the garden with you. It is horridly hot in the 32 of 250

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studio.—Basil, let us have something iced to drink, something with strawberries in it.’

‘Certainly, Harry. Just touch the bell, and when Parker comes I will tell him what you want. I have got to work up this background, so I will join you later on. Don’t keep Dorian too long. I have never been in better form for painting than I am to-day. This is going to be my masterpiece. It is my masterpiece as it stands.’

Lord Henry went out to the garden, and found Dorian Gray burying his face in the great cool lilac-blossoms, feverishly drinking in their perfume as if it had been wine.

He came close to him, and put his hand upon his shoulder. ‘You are quite right to do that,’ he murmured.

‘Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.’

The lad started and drew back. He was bareheaded, and the leaves had tossed his rebellious curls and tangled all their gilded threads. There was a look of fear in his eyes, such as people have when they are suddenly awakened.

His finely-chiselled nostrils quivered, and some hidden nerve shook the scarlet of his lips and left them trembling.

‘Yes,’ continued Lord Henry, ‘that is one of the great secrets of life,— to cure the soul by means of the senses, and the senses by means of the soul. You are a wonderful 33 of 250

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creature. You know more than you think you know, just as you know less than you want to know.’

Dorian Gray frowned and turned his head away. He could not help liking the tall, graceful young man who was standing by him. His romantic olive-colored face and worn expression interested him. There was something in his low, languid voice that was absolutely fascinating. His cool, white, flower-like hands, even, had a curious charm.

They moved, as he spoke, like music, and seemed to have a language of their own. But he felt afraid of him, and ashamed of being afraid. Why had it been left for a stranger to reveal him to himself? He had known Basil Hallward for months, but the friendship between then had never altered him. Suddenly there had come some one across his life who seemed to have disclosed to him life’s mystery. And, yet, what was there to be afraid of? He was not a school-boy, or a girl. It was absurd to be frightened.

‘Let us go and sit in the shade,’ said Lord Henry.

‘Parker has brought out the drinks, and if you stay any longer in this glare you will be quite spoiled, and Basil will never paint you again. You really must not let yourself become sunburnt. It would be very unbecoming to you.’

‘What does it matter?’ cried Dorian, laughing, as he sat down on the seat at the end of the garden.

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‘It should matter everything to you, Mr. Gray.’

‘Why?’

‘Because you have now the most marvellous youth, and youth is the one thing worth having.’

‘I don’t feel that, Lord Henry.’

‘No, you don’t feel it now. Some day, when you are old and wrinkled and ugly, when thought has seared your forehead with its lines, and passion branded your lips with its hideous fires, you will feel it, you will feel it terribly.

Now, wherever you go, you charm the world. Will it always be so?

‘You have a wonderfully beautiful face, Mr. Gray.

Don’t frown. You have. And Beauty is a form of Genius,—is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation. It is one of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or spring-time, or the reflection in dark waters of that silver shell we call the moon. It cannot be questioned.

It has its divine right of sovereignty. It makes princes of those who have it. You smile? Ah! when you have lost it you won’t smile.

‘People say sometimes that Beauty is only superficial.

That may be so. But at least it is not so superficial as Thought. To me, Beauty is the wonder of wonders. It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.

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The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.

‘Yes, Mr. Gray, the gods have been good to you. But what the gods give they quickly take away. You have only a few years in which really to live. When your youth goes, your beauty will go with it, and then you will suddenly discover that there are no triumphs left for you, or have to content yourself with those mean triumphs that the memory of your past will make more bitter than defeats.

Every month as it wanes brings you nearer to something dreadful. Time is jealous of you, and wars against your lilies and your roses. You will become sallow, and hollow-cheeked, and dull-eyed. You will suffer horribly.

‘Realize your youth while you have it. Don’t squander the gold of your days, listening to the tedious, trying to improve the hopeless failure, or giving away your life to the ignorant, the common, and the vulgar, which are the aims, the false ideals, of our age. Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing.

‘A new hedonism,—that is what our century wants.

You might be its visible symbol. With your personality there is nothing you could not do. The world belongs to you for a season.

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‘The moment I met you I saw that you were quite unconscious of what you really are, what you really might be. There was so much about you that charmed me that I felt I must tell you something about yourself. I thought how tragic it would be if you were wasted. For there is such a little time that your youth will last,—such a little time.

‘The common hill-flowers wither, but they blossom again. The laburnum will be as golden next June as it is now. In a month there will be purple stars on the clematis, and year after year the green night of its leaves will have its purple stars. But we never get back our youth. The pulse of joy that beats in us at twenty, becomes sluggish. Our limbs fail, our senses rot. We degenerate into hideous puppets, haunted by the memory of the passions of which we were too much afraid, and the exquisite temptations that we did not dare to yield to. Youth! Youth! There is absolutely nothing in the world but youth!’

Dorian Gray listened, open-eyed and wondering. The spray of lilac fell from his hand upon the gravel. A furry bee came and buzzed round it for a moment. Then it began to scramble all over the fretted purple of the tiny blossoms. He watched it with that strange interest in trivial things that we try to develop when things of high import 37 of 250

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make us afraid, or when we are stirred by some new emotion, for which we cannot find expression, or when some thought that terrifies us lays sudden siege to the brain and calls on us to yield. After a time it flew away. He saw it creeping into the stained trumpet of a Tyrian convolvulus. The flower seemed to quiver, and then swayed gently to and fro.

Suddenly Hallward appeared at the door of the studio, and made frantic signs for them to come in. They turned to each other, and smiled.

‘I am waiting,’ cried Hallward. ‘Do come in. The light is quite perfect, and you can bring your drinks.’

They rose up, and sauntered down the walk together.

Two green-and- white butterflies fluttered past them, and in the pear-tree at the end of the garden a thrush began to sing.

‘You are glad you have met me, Mr. Gray,’ said Lord Henry, looking at him.

‘Yes, I am glad now. I wonder shall I always be glad?’

‘Always! That is a dreadful word. It makes me shudder when I hear it. Women are so fond of using it. They spoil every romance by trying to make it last forever. It is a meaningless word, too. The only difference between a 38 of 250

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caprice and a life-long passion is that the caprice lasts a little longer.’

As they entered the studio, Dorian Gray put his hand upon Lord Henry’s arm. ‘In that case, let our friendship be a caprice,’ he murmured, flushing at his own boldness, then stepped upon the platform and resumed his pose.

Lord Henry flung himself into a large wicker arm-chair, and watched him. The sweep and dash of the brush on the canvas made the only sound that broke the stillness, except when Hallward stepped back now and then to look at his work from a distance. In the slanting beams that streamed through the open door-way the dust danced and was golden. The heavy scent of the roses seemed to brood over everything.

After about a quarter of an hour, Hallward stopped painting, looked for a long time at Dorian Gray, and then for a long time at the picture, biting the end of one of his huge brushes, and smiling. ‘It is quite finished,’ he cried, at last, and stooping down he wrote his name in thin vermilion letters on the left-hand corner of the canvas.

Lord Henry came over and examined the picture. It was certainly a wonderful work of art, and a wonderful likeness as well.

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‘My dear fellow, I congratulate you most warmly,’ he said.—‘Mr. Gray, come and look at yourself.’

The lad started, as if awakened from some dream. ‘Is it really finished?’ he murmured, stepping down from the platform.

‘Quite finished,’ said Hallward. ‘And you have sat splendidly to- day. I am awfully obliged to you.’

‘That is entirely due to me,’ broke in Lord Henry.

‘Isn’t it, Mr. Gray?’

Dorian made no answer, but passed listlessly in front of his picture and turned towards it. When he saw it he drew back, and his cheeks flushed for a moment with pleasure.

A look of joy came into his eyes, as if he had recognized himself for the first time. He stood there motionless, and in wonder, dimly conscious that Hallward was speaking to him, but not catching the meaning of his words. The sense of his own beauty came on him like a revelation. He had never felt it before. Basil Hallward’s compliments had seemed to him to be merely the charming exaggerations of friendship. He had listened to them, laughed at them, forgotten them. They had not influenced his nature. Then had come Lord Henry, with his strange panegyric on youth, his terrible warning of its brevity. That had stirred him at the time, and now, as he stood gazing at the 40 of 250

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shadow of his own loveliness, the full reality of the description flashed across him. Yes, there would be a day when his face would be wrinkled and wizen, his eyes dim and colorless, the grace of his figure broken and deformed.

The scarlet would pass away from his lips, and the gold steal from his hair. The life that was to make his soul would mar his body. He would become ignoble, hideous, and uncouth.

As he thought of it, a sharp pang of pain struck like a knife across him, and made each delicate fibre of his nature quiver. His eyes deepened into amethyst, and a mist of tears came across them. He felt as if a hand of ice had been laid upon his heart.

‘Don’t you like it?’ cried Hallward at last, stung a little by the lad’s silence, and not understanding what it meant.

‘Of course he likes it,’ said Lord Henry. ‘Who wouldn’t like it? It is one of the greatest things in modern art. I will give you anything you like to ask for it. I must have it.’

‘It is not my property, Harry.’

‘Whose property is it?’

‘Dorian’s, of course.’

‘He is a very lucky fellow.’

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‘How sad it is!’ murmured Dorian Gray, with his eyes still fixed upon his own portrait. ‘How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrid, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June…. If it was only the other way! If it was I who were to be always young, and the picture that were to grow old! For this—for this—I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give!’

‘You would hardly care for that arrangement, Basil,’

cried Lord Henry, laughing. ‘It would be rather hard lines on you.’

‘I should object very strongly, Harry.’

Dorian Gray turned and looked at him. ‘I believe you would, Basil. You like your art better than your friends. I am no more to you than a green bronze figure. Hardly as much, I dare say.’

Hallward stared in amazement. It was so unlike Dorian to speak like that. What had happened? He seemed almost angry. His face was flushed and his cheeks burning.

‘Yes,’ he continued, ‘I am less to you than your ivory Hermes or your silver Faun. You will like them always.

How long will you like me? Till I have my first wrinkle, I suppose. I know, now, that when one loses one’s good 42 of 250

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looks, whatever they may be, one loses everything. Your picture has taught me that. Lord Henry is perfectly right.

Youth is the only thing worth having. When I find that I am growing old, I will kill myself.’

Hallward turned pale, and caught his hand. ‘Dorian!

Dorian!’ he cried, ‘don’t talk like that. I have never had such a friend as you, and I shall never have such another.

You are not jealous of material things, are you?’

‘I am jealous of everything whose beauty does not die.

I am jealous of the portrait you have painted of me. Why should it keep what I must lose? Every moment that passes takes something from me, and gives something to it. Oh, if it was only the other way! If the picture could change, and I could be always what I am now! Why did you paint it? It will mock me some day,—mock me horribly!’ The hot tears welled into his eyes; he tore his hand away, and, flinging himself on the divan, he buried his face in the cushions, as if he was praying.

‘This is your doing, Harry,’ said Hallward, bitterly.

‘My doing?’

‘Yes, yours, and you know it.’

Lord Henry shrugged his shoulders. ‘It is the real Dorian Gray,— that is all,’ he answered.

‘It is not.’

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‘If it is not, what have I to do with it?’

‘You should have gone away when I asked you.’

‘I stayed when you asked me.’

‘Harry, I can’t quarrel with my two best friends at once, but between you both you have made me hate the finest piece of work I have ever done, and I will destroy it.

What is it but canvas and color? I will not let it come across our three lives and mar them.’

Dorian Gray lifted his golden head from the pillow, and looked at him with pallid face and tear-stained eyes, as he walked over to the deal painting-table that was set beneath the large curtained window. What was he doing there? His fingers were straying about among the litter of tin tubes and dry brushes, seeking for something. Yes, it was the long palette-knife, with its thin blade of lithe steel.

He had found it at last. He was going to rip up the canvas.

With a stifled sob he leaped from the couch, and, rushing over to Hallward, tore the knife out of his hand, and flung it to the end of the studio. ‘Don’t, Basil, don’t!’

he cried. ‘It would be murder!’

‘I am glad you appreciate my work at last, Dorian,’ said Hallward, coldly, when he had recovered from his surprise. ‘I never thought you would.’

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‘Appreciate it? I am in love with it, Basil. It is part of myself, I feel that.’

‘Well, as soon as you are dry, you shall be varnished, and framed, and sent home. Then you can do what you like with yourself.’ And he walked across the room and rang the bell for tea. ‘You will have tea, of course, Dorian? And so will you, Harry? Tea is the only simple pleasure left to us.’

‘I don’t like simple pleasures,’ said Lord Henry. ‘And I don’t like scenes, except on the stage. What absurd fellows you are, both of you! I wonder who it was defined man as a rational animal. It was the most premature definition ever given. Man is many things, but he is not rational. I am glad he is not, after all: though I wish you chaps would not squabble over the picture. You had much better let me have it, Basil. This silly boy doesn’t really want it, and I do.’

‘If you let any one have it but me, Basil, I will never forgive you!’ cried Dorian Gray. ‘And I don’t allow people to call me a silly boy.’

‘You know the picture is yours, Dorian. I gave it to you before it existed.’

‘And you know you have been a little silly, Mr. Gray, and that you don’t really mind being called a boy.’

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‘I should have minded very much this morning, Lord Henry.’

‘Ah! this morning! You have lived since then.’

There came a knock to the door, and the butler entered with the tea- tray and set it down upon a small Japanese table. There was a rattle of cups and saucers and the hissing of a fluted Georgian urn. Two globe-shaped china dishes were brought in by a page. Dorian Gray went over and poured the tea out. The two men sauntered languidly to the table, and examined what was under the covers.

‘Let us go to the theatre to-night,’ said Lord Henry.

‘There is sure to be something on, somewhere. I have promised to dine at White’s, but it is only with an old friend, so I can send him a wire and say that I am ill, or that I am prevented from coming in consequence of a subsequent engagement. I think that would be a rather nice excuse: it would have the surprise of candor.’

‘It is such a bore putting on one’s dress-clothes,’

muttered Hallward. ‘And, when one has them on, they are so horrid.’

‘Yes,’ answered Lord Henry, dreamily, ‘the costume of our day is detestable. It is so sombre, so 46 of 250

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depressing. Sin is the only color- element left in modern life.’

‘You really must not say things like that before Dorian, Harry.’

‘Before which Dorian? The one who is pouring out tea for us, or the one in the picture?’

‘Before either.’

‘I should like to come to the theatre with you, Lord Henry,’ said the lad.

‘Then you shall come; and you will come too, Basil, won’t you?’

‘I can’t, really. I would sooner not. I have a lot of work to do.’

‘Well, then, you and I will go alone, Mr. Gray.’

‘I should like that awfully.’

Basil Hallward bit his lip and walked over, cup in hand, to the picture. ‘I will stay with the real Dorian,’ he said, sadly.

‘Is it the real Dorian?’ cried the original of the portrait, running across to him. ‘Am I really like that?’

‘Yes; you are just like that.’

‘How wonderful, Basil!’

‘At least you are like it in appearance. But it will never alter,’ said Hallward. ‘That is something.’

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‘What a fuss people make about fidelity!’ murmured Lord Henry.

‘And, after all, it is purely a question for physiology. It has nothing to do with our own will. It is either an unfortunate accident, or an unpleasant result of temperament. Young men want to be faithful, and are not; old men want to be faithless, and cannot: that is all one can say.’

‘Don’t go to the theatre to-night, Dorian,’ said Hallward. ‘Stop and dine with me.’

‘I can’t, really.’

‘Why?’

‘Because I have promised Lord Henry to go with him.’

‘He won’t like you better for keeping your promises.

He always breaks his own. I beg you not to go.’

Dorian Gray laughed and shook his head.

‘I entreat you.’

The lad hesitated, and looked over at Lord Henry, who was watching them from the tea-table with an amused smile.

‘I must go, Basil,’ he answered.

‘Very well,’ said Hallward; and he walked over and laid his cup down on the tray. ‘It is rather late, and, as you have to dress, you had better lose no time. Good-by, 48 of 250

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Harry; good-by, Dorian. Come and see me soon. Come to-morrow.’

‘Certainly.’

‘You won’t forget?’

‘No, of course not.’

‘And … Harry!’

‘Yes, Basil?’

‘Remember what I asked you, when in the garden this morning.’

‘I have forgotten it.’

‘I trust you.’

‘I wish I could trust myself,’ said Lord Henry, laughing.—‘Come, Mr. Gray, my hansom is outside, and I can drop you at your own place.— Good-by, Basil. It has been a most interesting afternoon.’

As the door closed behind them, Hallward flung himself down on a sofa, and a look of pain came into his face.

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Chapter III

One afternoon, a month later, Dorian Gray was reclining in a luxurious arm-chair, in the little library of Lord Henry’s house in Curzon Street. It was, in its way, a very charming room, with its high panelled wainscoting of olive-stained oak, its cream-colored frieze and ceiling of raised plaster-work, and its brick-dust felt carpet strewn with long-fringed silk Persian rugs. On a tiny satinwood table stood a statuette by Clodion, and beside it lay a copy of ‘Les Cent Nouvelles,’ bound for Margaret of Valois by Clovis Eve, and powdered with the gilt daisies that the queen had selected for her device. Some large blue china jars, filled with parrot- tulips, were ranged on the mantel-shelf, and through the small leaded panes of the window streamed the apricot-colored light of a summer’s day in London.

Lord Henry had not come in yet. He was always late on principle, his principle being that punctuality is the thief of time. So the lad was looking rather sulky, as with listless fingers he turned over the pages of an elaborately-illustrated edition of ‘Manon Lescaut’ that he had found in one of the bookcases. The formal monotonous ticking of 50 of 250

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the Louis Quatorze clock annoyed him. Once or twice he thought of going away.

At last he heard a light step outside, and the door opened. ‘How late you are, Harry!’ he murmured.

‘I am afraid it is not Harry, Mr. Gray,’ said a woman’s voice.

He glanced quickly round, and rose to his feet. ‘I beg your pardon. I thought—‘

‘You thought it was my husband. It is only his wife.

You must let me introduce myself. I know you quite well by your photographs. I think my husband has got twenty-seven of them.’

‘Not twenty-seven, Lady Henry?’

‘Well, twenty-six, then. And I saw you with him the other night at the Opera.’ She laughed nervously, as she spoke, and watched him with her vague forget-me-not eyes. She was a curious woman, whose dresses always looked as if they had been designed in a rage and put on in a tempest. She was always in love with somebody, and, as her passion was never returned, she had kept all her illusions. She tried to look picturesque, but only succeeded in being untidy. Her name was Victoria, and she had a perfect mania for going to church.

‘That was at ‘Lohengrin,’ Lady Henry, I think?’

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‘Yes; it was at dear ‘Lohengrin.’ I like Wagner’s music better than any other music. It is so loud that one can talk the whole time, without people hearing what one says.

That is a great advantage: don’t you think so, Mr. Gray?’

The same nervous staccato laugh broke from her thin lips, and her fingers began to play with a long paper-knife.

Dorian smiled, and shook his head: ‘I am afraid I don’t think so, Lady Henry. I never talk during music,—at least during good music. If one hears bad music, it is one’s duty to drown it by conversation.’

‘Ah! that is one of Harry’s views, isn’t it, Mr. Gray? But you must not think I don’t like good music. I adore it, but I am afraid of it. It makes me too romantic. I have simply worshipped pianists,— two at a time, sometimes. I don’t know what it is about them. Perhaps it is that they are foreigners. They all are, aren’t they? Even those that are born in England become foreigners after a time, don’t they? It is so clever of them, and such a compliment to art.

Makes it quite cosmopolitan, doesn’t it? You have never been to any of my parties, have you, Mr. Gray? You must come. I can’t afford orchids, but I spare no expense in foreigners. They make one’s rooms look so picturesque.

But here is Harry!—Harry, I came in to look for you, to ask you something,—I forget what it was,—and I found 52 of 250

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Mr. Gray here. We have had such a pleasant chat about music. We have quite the same views. No; I think our views are quite different. But he has been most pleasant. I am so glad I’ve seen him.’

‘I am charmed, my love, quite charmed,’ said Lord Henry, elevating his dark crescent-shaped eyebrows and looking at them both with an amused smile.—‘So sorry I am late, Dorian. I went to look after a piece of old brocade in Wardour Street, and had to bargain for hours for it. Nowadays people know the price of everything, and the value of nothing.’

‘I am afraid I must be going,’ exclaimed Lady Henry, after an awkward silence, with her silly sudden laugh. ‘I have promised to drive with the duchess.—Good-by, Mr.

Gray.—Good-by, Harry. You are dining out, I suppose?

So am I. Perhaps I shall see you at Lady Thornbury’s.’

‘I dare say, my dear,’ said Lord Henry, shutting the door behind her, as she flitted out of the room, looking like a bird-of-paradise that had been out in the rain, and leaving a faint odor of patchouli behind her. Then he shook hands with Dorian Gray, lit a cigarette, and flung himself down on the sofa.

‘Never marry a woman with straw-colored hair, Dorian,’ he said, after a few puffs.

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The Picture of Dorian Gray

‘Why, Harry?’

‘Because they are so sentimental.’

‘But I like sentimental people.’

‘Never marry at all, Dorian. Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious: both are disappointed.’

‘I don’t think I am likely to marry, Harry. I am too much in love. That is one of your aphorisms. I am putting it into practice, as I do everything you say.’

‘Whom are you in love with?’ said Lord Henry, looking at him with a curious smile.

‘With an actress,’ said Dorian Gray, blushing.

Lord Henry shrugged his shoulders. ‘That is a rather common-place début,’ he murmured.

‘You would not say so if you saw her, Harry.’