he was sitting at breakfast next morning, Basil Hallward was
shown into the room.
"I am so glad I have found
you, Dorian," he said gravely. "I called last night,
and they told me you were at the opera. Of course, I knew that
was impossible. But I wish you had left word where you had really
gone to. I passed a dreadful evening, half afraid that one tragedy
might be followed by another. I think you might have telegraphed
for me when you heard of it first. I read of it quite by chance
in a late edition of The Globe that I picked up at the
club. I came here at once and was miserable at not finding you.
I can't tell you how heart-broken I am about the whole thing.
I know what you must suffer. But where were you? Did you go down
and see the girl's mother? For a moment I thought of following
you there. They gave the address in the paper. Somewhere in the
Euston Road, isn't it? But I was afraid of intruding upon a sorrow
that I could not lighten. Poor woman! What a state she must be
in! And her only child, too! What did she say about it all?"
"My dear Basil, how do I
know?" murmured Dorian Gray, sipping some pale-yellow wine
from a delicate, gold-beaded bubble of Venetian glass and looking
dreadfully bored. "I was at the opera. You should have come
on there. I met Lady Gwendolen, Harry's sister, for the first
time. We were in her box. She is perfectly charming; and Patti
sang divinely. Don't talk about horrid subjects. If one doesn't
talk about a thing, it has never happened. It is simply expression,
as Harry says, that gives reality to things. I may mention that
she was not the woman's only child. There is a son, a charming
fellow, I believe. But he is not on the stage. He is a sailor,
or something. And now, tell me about yourself and what you are
"You went to the opera?"
said Hallward, speaking very slowly and with a strained touch
of pain in his voice. "You went to the opera while Sibyl
Vane was lying dead in some sordid lodging? You can talk to me
of other women being charming, and of Patti singing divinely,
before the girl you loved has even the quiet of a grave to sleep
in? Why, man, there are horrors in store for that little white
body of hers!"
"Stop, Basil! I won't hear
it!" cried Dorian, leaping to his feet. "You must not
tell me about things. What is done is done. What is past is past."
"You call yesterday the
"What has the actual lapse
of time got to do with it? It is only shallow people who require
years to get rid of an emotion. A man who is master of himself
can end a sorrow as easily as he can invent a pleasure. I don't
want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to
enjoy them, and to dominate them."
"Dorian, this is horrible!
Something has changed you completely. You look exactly the same
wonderful boy who, day after day, used to come down to my studio
to sit for his picture. But you were simple, natural, and affectionate
then. You were the most unspoiled creature in the whole world.
Now, I don't know what has come over you. You talk as if you
had no heart, no pity in you. It is all Harry's influence. I
The lad flushed up and, going
to the window, looked out for a few moments on the green, flickering,
sun-lashed garden. "I owe a great deal to Harry, Basil,"
he said at last, "more than I owe to you. You only taught
me to be vain."
"Well, I am punished for
that, Dorian or shall be some day."
"I don't know what you mean,
Basil," he exclaimed, turning round. "I don't know
what you want. What do you want?"
"I want the Dorian Gray
I used to paint," said the artist sadly.
"Basil," said the lad,
going over to him and putting his hand on his shoulder, "you
have come too late. Yesterday, when I heard that Sibyl Vane had
killed herself "
"Killed herself! Good heavens!
is there no doubt about that?" cried Hallward, looking up
at him with an expression of horror.
"My dear Basil! Surely you
don't think it was a vulgar accident? Of course she killed herself."
The elder man buried his face
in his hands. "How fearful," he muttered, and a shudder
ran through him.
"No," said Dorian Gray,
"there is nothing fearful about it. It is one of the great
romantic tragedies of the age. As a rule, people who act lead
the most commonplace lives. They are good husbands, or faithful
wives, or something tedious. You know what I mean
middle-class virtue and all that kind of thing. How different
Sibyl was! She lived her finest tragedy. She was always a heroine.
The last night she played the night you saw her
she acted badly because she had known the reality of love. When
she knew its unreality, she died, as Juliet might have died.
She passed again into the sphere of art. There is something of
the martyr about her. Her death has all the pathetic uselessness
of martyrdom, all its wasted beauty. But, as I was saying, you
must not think I have not suffered. If you had come in yesterday
at a particular moment about half-past five,
perhaps, or a quarter to six you would have found
me in tears. Even Harry, who was here, who brought me the news,
in fact, had no idea what I was going through. I suffered immensely.
Then it passed away. I cannot repeat an emotion. No one can,
except sentimentalists. And you are awfully unjust, Basil. You
come down here to console me. That is charming of you. You find
me consoled, and you are furious. How like a sympathetic person!
You remind me of a story Harry told me about a certain philanthropist
who spent twenty years of his life in trying to get some grievance
redressed, or some unjust law altered I forget
exactly what it was. Finally he succeeded, and nothing could
exceed his disappointment. He had absolutely nothing to do, almost
died of ennui, and became a confirmed misanthrope. And besides,
my dear old Basil, if you really want to console me, teach me
rather to forget what has happened, or to see it from a proper
artistic point of view. Was it not Gautier who used to write
about la consolation des arts? I remember picking up a
little vellum-covered book in your studio one day and chancing
on that delightful phrase. Well, I am not like that young man
you told me of when we were down at Marlow together, the young
man who used to say that yellow satin could console one for all
the miseries of life. I love beautiful things that one can touch
and handle. Old brocades, green bronzes, lacquer-work, carved
ivories, exquisite surroundings, luxury, pomp
there is much to be got from all these. But the artistic temperament
that they create, or at any rate reveal, is still more to me.
To become the spectator of one's own life, as Harry says, is
to escape the suffering of life. I know you are surprised at
my talking to you like this. You have not realized how I have
developed. I was a schoolboy when you knew me. I am a man now.
I have new passions, new thoughts, new ideas. I am different,
but you must not like me less. I am changed, but you must always
be my friend. Of course, I am very fond of Harry. But I know
that you are better than he is. You are not stronger
you are too much afraid of life but you are better.
And how happy we used to be together! Don't leave me, Basil,
and don't quarrel with me. I am what I am. There is nothing more
to be said."
The painter felt strangely moved.
The lad was infinitely dear to him, and his personality had been
the great turning point in his art. He could not bear the idea
of reproaching him any more. After all, his indifference was
probably merely a mood that would pass away. There was so much
in him that was good, so much in him that was noble.
"Well, Dorian," he
said at length, with a sad smile, "I won't speak to you
again about this horrible thing, after to-day. I only trust your
name won't be mentioned in connection with it. The inquest is
to take place this afternoon. Have they summoned you?"
Dorian shook his head, and a
look of annoyance passed over his face at the mention of the
word "inquest." There was something so crude and vulgar
about everything of the kind. "They don't know my name,"
"But surely she did?"
"Only my Christian name,
and that I am quite sure she never mentioned to any one. She
told me once that they were all rather curious to learn who I
was, and that she invariably told them my name was Prince Charming.
It was pretty of her. You must do me a drawing of Sibyl, Basil.
I should like to have something more of her than the memory of
a few kisses and some broken pathetic words."
"I will try and do something,
Dorian, if it would please you. But you must come and sit to
me yourself again. I can't get on without you."
"I can never sit to you
again, Basil. It is impossible!" he exclaimed, starting
The painter stared at him. "My
dear boy, what nonsense!" he cried. "Do you mean to
say you don't like what I did of you? Where is it? Why have you
pulled the screen in front of it? Let me look at it. It is the
best thing I have ever done. Do take the screen away, Dorian.
It is simply disgraceful of your servant hiding my work like
that. I felt the room looked different as I came in."
"My servant has nothing
to do with it, Basil. You don't imagine I let him arrange my
room for me? He settles my flowers for me sometimes
that is all. No; I did it myself. The light was too strong on
"Too strong! Surely not,
my dear fellow? It is an admirable place for it. Let me see it."
And Hallward walked towards the corner of the room.
A cry of terror broke from Dorian
Gray's lips, and he rushed between the painter and the screen.
"Basil," he said, looking very pale, "you must
not look at it. I don't wish you to."
"Not look at my own work!
You are not serious. Why shouldn't I look at it?" exclaimed
"If you try to look at it,
Basil, on my word of honour I will never speak to you again as
long as I live. I am quite serious. I don't offer any explanation,
and you are not to ask for any. But, remember, if you touch this
screen, everything is over between us."
Hallward was thunderstruck. He
looked at Dorian Gray in absolute amazement. He had never seen
him like this before. The lad was actually pallid with rage.
His hands were clenched, and the pupils of his eyes were like
disks of blue fire. He was trembling all over.
"But what is the matter?
Of course I won't look at it if you don't want me to," he
said, rather coldly, turning on his heel and going over towards
the window. "But, really, it seems rather absurd that I
shouldn't see my own work, especially as I am going to exhibit
it in Paris in the autumn. I shall probably have to give it another
coat of varnish before that, so I must see it some day, and why
"To exhibit it! You want
to exhibit it?" exclaimed Dorian Gray, a strange sense of
terror creeping over him. Was the world going to be shown his
secret? Were people to gape at the mystery of his life? That
was impossible. Something he did not know what
had to be done at once.
"Yes; I don't suppose you
will object to that. Georges Petit is going to collect all my
best pictures for a special exhibition in the Rue de Sèze,
which will open the first week in October. The portrait will
only be away a month. I should think you could easily spare it
for that time. In fact, you are sure to be out of town. And if
you keep it always behind a screen, you can't care much about
Dorian Gray passed his hand over
his forehead. There were beads of perspiration there. He felt
that he was on the brink of a horrible danger. "You told
me a month ago that you would never exhibit it," he cried.
"Why have you changed your mind? You people who go in for
being consistent have just as many moods as others have. The
only difference is that your moods are rather meaningless. You
can't have forgotten that you assured me most solemnly that nothing
in the world would induce you to send it to any exhibition. You
told Harry exactly the same thing." He stopped suddenly,
and a gleam of light came into his eyes. He remembered that Lord
Henry had said to him once, half seriously and half in jest,
"If you want to have a strange quarter of an hour, get Basil
to tell you why he won't exhibit your picture. He told me why
he wouldn't, and it was a revelation to me." Yes, perhaps
Basil, too, had his secret. He would ask him and try.
"Basil," he said, coming
over quite close and looking him straight in the face, "we
have each of us a secret. Let me know yours, and I shall tell
you mine. What was your reason for refusing to exhibit my picture?"
The painter shuddered in spite
of himself. "Dorian, if I told you, you might like me less
than you do, and you would certainly laugh at me. I could not
bear your doing either of those two things. If you wish me never
to look at your picture again, I am content. I have always you
to look at. If you wish the best work I have ever done to be
hidden from the world, I am satisfied. Your friendship is dearer
to me than any fame or reputation."
"No, Basil, you must tell
me," insisted Dorian Gray. "I think I have a right
to know." His feeling of terror had passed away, and curiosity
had taken its place. He was determined to find out Basil Hallward's
"Let us sit down, Dorian,"
said the painter, looking troubled. "Let us sit down. And
just answer me one question. Have you noticed in the picture
something curious? something that probably at
first did not strike you, but that revealed itself to you suddenly?"
"Basil!" cried the
lad, clutching the arms of his chair with trembling hands and
gazing at him with wild startled eyes.
"I see you did. Don't speak.
Wait till you hear what I have to say. Dorian, from the moment
I met you, your personality had the most extraordinary influence
over me. I was dominated, soul, brain, and power, by you. You
became to me the visible incarnation of that unseen ideal whose
memory haunts us artists like an exquisite dream. I worshipped
you. I grew jealous of every one to whom you spoke. I wanted
to have you all to myself. I was only happy when I was with you.
When you were away from me, you were still present in my art....
Of course, I never let you know anything about this. It would
have been impossible. You would not have understood it. I hardly
understood it myself. I only knew that I had seen perfection
face to face, and that the world had become wonderful to my eyes
too wonderful, perhaps, for in such mad worships there is peril,
the peril of losing them, no less than the peril of keeping them....
Weeks and weeks went on, and I grew more and more absorbed in
you. Then came a new development. I had drawn you as Paris in
dainty armour, and as Adonis with huntsman's cloak and polished
boar-spear. Crowned with heavy lotus-blossoms you had sat on
the prow of Adrian's barge, gazing across the green turbid Nile.
You had leaned over the still pool of some Greek woodland and
seen in the water's silent silver the marvel of your own face.
And it had all been what art should be unconscious,
ideal, and remote. One day, a fatal day I sometimes think, I
determined to paint a wonderful portrait of you as you actually
are, not in the costume of dead ages, but in your own dress and
in your own time. Whether it was the realism of the method, or
the mere wonder of your own personality, thus directly presented
to me without mist or veil, I cannot tell. But I know that as
I worked at it, every flake and film of colour seemed to me to
reveal my secret. I grew afraid that others would know of my
idolatry. I felt, Dorian, that I had told too much, that I had
put too much of myself into it. Then it was that I resolved never
to allow the picture to be exhibited. You were a little annoyed;
but then you did not realize all that it meant to me. Harry,
to whom I talked about it, laughed at me. But I did not mind
that. When the picture was finished, and I sat alone with it,
I felt that I was right.... Well, after a few days the thing
left my studio, and as soon as I had got rid of the intolerable
fascination of its presence, it seemed to me that I had been
foolish in imagining that I had seen anything in it, more than
that you were extremely good-looking and that I could paint.
Even now I cannot help feeling that it is a mistake to think
that the passion one feels in creation is ever really shown in
the work one creates. Art is always more abstract than we fancy.
Form and colour tell us of form and colour that
is all. It often seems to me that art conceals the artist far
more completely than it ever reveals him. And so when I got this
offer from Paris, I determined to make your portrait the principal
thing in my exhibition. It never occurred to me that you would
refuse. I see now that you were right. The picture cannot be
shown. You must not be angry with me, Dorian, for what I have
told you. As I said to Harry, once, you are made to be worshipped."
Dorian Gray drew a long breath.
The colour came back to his cheeks, and a smile played about
his lips. The peril was over. He was safe for the time. Yet he
could not help feeling infinite pity for the painter who had
just made this strange confession to him, and wondered if he
himself would ever be so dominated by the personality of a friend.
Lord Henry had the charm of being very dangerous. But that was
all. He was too clever and too cynical to be really fond of.
Would there ever be some one who would fill him with a strange
idolatry? Was that one of the things that life had in store?
"It is extraordinary to
me, Dorian," said Hallward, "that you should have seen
this in the portrait. Did you really see it?"
"I saw something in it,"
he answered, "something that seemed to me very curious."
"Well, you don't mind my
looking at the thing now?"
Dorian shook his head. "You
must not ask me that, Basil. I could not possibly let you stand
in front of that picture."
"You will some day, surely?"
"Well, perhaps you are right.
And now good-bye, Dorian. You have been the one person in my
life who has really influenced my art. Whatever I have done that
is good, I owe to you. Ah! you don't know what it cost me to
tell you all that I have told you."
"My dear Basil," said
Dorian, "what have you told me? Simply that you felt that
you admired me too much. That is not even a compliment."
"It was not intended as
a compliment. It was a confession. Now that I have made it, something
seems to have gone out of me. Perhaps one should never put one's
worship into words."
"It was a very disappointing
"Why, what did you expect,
Dorian? You didn't see anything else in the picture, did you?
There was nothing else to see?"
"No; there was nothing else
to see. Why do you ask? But you mustn't talk about worship. It
is foolish. You and I are friends, Basil, and we must always
"You have got Harry,"
said the painter sadly.
"Oh, Harry!" cried
the lad, with a ripple of laughter. "Harry spends his days
in saying what is incredible and his evenings in doing what is
improbable. Just the sort of life I would like to lead. But still
I don't think I would go to Harry if I were in trouble. I would
sooner go to you, Basil."
"You will sit to me again?"
"You spoil my life as an
artist by refusing, Dorian. No man comes across two ideal things.
Few come across one."
"I can't explain it to you,
Basil, but I must never sit to you again. There is something
fatal about a portrait. It has a life of its own. I will come
and have tea with you. That will be just as pleasant."
"Pleasanter for you, I am
afraid," murmured Hallward regretfully. "And now good-bye.
I am sorry you won't let me look at the picture once again. But
that can't be helped. I quite understand what you feel about
As he left the room, Dorian Gray
smiled to himself. Poor Basil! How little he knew of the true
reason! And bow strange it was that, instead of having been forced
to reveal his own secret, he had succeeded, almost by chance,
in wresting a secret from his friend! How much that strange confession
explained to him! The painter's absurd fits of jealousy, his
wild devotion, his extravagant panegyrics, his curious reticences
he understood them all now, and he felt sorry. There seemed to
him to be something tragic in a friendship so coloured by romance.
He sighed and touched the bell.
The portrait must be hidden away at all costs. He could not run
such a risk of discovery again. It had been mad of him to have
allowed the thing to remain, even for an hour, in a room to which
any of his friends had access.
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