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
"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
"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,"
"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
"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
"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
"Great things have been
thrust on us, Gladys."
"We have carried their burden."
"Only as far as the Stock
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
"It is a malady."
"The fashionable substitute
"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 Charming."
"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 butterfly."
"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 half-past eight."
"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 if 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 a
"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 mock sadness.
"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 a pause.
"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
"Pace gives life,"
was the riposte.
"I shall write it in my
"That a burnt child loves
"I am not even singed. My
wings are untouched."
"You use them for everything,
"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 him."
"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
"Romantic art begins with
"I must keep an opportunity
"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
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
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