an enigma wrapped in a schizophrenic (karabou) wrote in everydayreader,
an enigma wrapped in a schizophrenic
karabou
everydayreader

The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde, part 10


CHAPTER X

[...77] It was on the 7th of November, the eve of his own thirty-
second birthday, as he often remembered afterwards.

He was walking home about eleven o'clock from Lord Henry's, where he
had been dining, and was wrapped in heavy furs, as the night was cold
and foggy. At the corner of Grosvenor Square and South Audley Street
a man passed him in the mist, walking very fast, and with the collar
of his gray ulster turned up. He had a bag in his hand. He
recognized him. It was Basil Hallward. A strange sense of fear, for
which he could not account, came over him. He made no sign of
recognition, and went on slowly, in the direction of his own house.

But Hallward had seen him. Dorian heard him first stopping, and then
hurrying after him. In a few moments his hand was on his arm.

"Dorian! What an extraordinary piece of luck! I have been waiting
for you ever since nine o'clock in your library. Finally I took pity
on your tired servant, and told him to go to bed, as he let me out.
I am off to Paris by the midnight train, and I wanted particularly to
see you before I left. I thought it was you, or rather your fur
coat, as you passed me. But I wasn't quite sure. Didn't you
recognize me?"

"In this fog, my dear Basil? Why, I can't even recognize Grosvenor
Square. I believe my house is somewhere about here, but I don't feel
at all certain about it. I am sorry you are going away, as I have
not seen you for ages. But I suppose you will be back soon?"

"No: I am going to be out of England for six months. I intend [78]
to take a studio in Paris, and shut myself up till I have finished a
great picture I have in my head. However, it wasn't about myself I
wanted to talk. Here we are at your door. Let me come in for a
moment. I have something to say to you."

"I shall be charmed. But won't you miss your train?" said Dorian
Gray, languidly, as he passed up the steps and opened the door with
his latch-key.

The lamp-light struggled out through the fog, and Hallward looked at
his watch. "I have heaps of time," he answered. "The train doesn't
go till twelve-fifteen, and it is only just eleven. In fact, I was
on my way to the club to look for you, when I met you. You see, I
shan't have any delay about luggage, as I have sent on my heavy
things. All I have with me is in this bag, and I can easily get to
Victoria in twenty minutes."

Dorian looked at him and smiled. "What a way for a fashionable
painter to travel! A Gladstone bag, and an ulster! Come in, or the
fog will get into the house. And mind you don't talk about anything
serious. Nothing is serious nowadays. At least nothing should be."

Hallward shook his head, as he entered, and followed Dorian into the
library. There was a bright wood fire blazing in the large open
hearth. The lamps were lit, and an open Dutch silver spirit-case
stood, with some siphons of soda-water and large cut-glass tumblers,
on a little table.

"You see your servant made me quite at home, Dorian. He gave me
everything I wanted, including your best cigarettes. He is a most
hospitable creature. I like him much better than the Frenchman you
used to have. What has become of the Frenchman, by the bye?"

Dorian shrugged his shoulders. "I believe he married Lady Ashton's
maid, and has established her in Paris as an English dressmaker.
Anglomanie is very fashionable over there now, I hear. It seems
silly of the French, doesn't it? But--do you know?--he was not at
all a bad servant. I never liked him, but I had nothing to complain
about. One often imagines things that are quite absurd. He was
really very devoted to me, and seemed quite sorry when he went away.
Have another brandy-and-soda? Or would you like hock-and-seltzer? I
always take hock-and-seltzer myself. There is sure to be some in the
next room."

"Thanks, I won't have anything more," said Hallward, taking his cap
and coat off, and throwing them on the bag that he had placed in the
corner. "And now, my dear fellow, I want to speak to you seriously.
Don't frown like that. You make it so much more difficult for me."

"What is it all about?" cried Dorian, in his petulant way, flinging
himself down on the sofa. "I hope it is not about myself. I am
tired of myself to-night. I should like to be somebody else."

"It is about yourself," answered Hallward, in his grave, deep voice,
"and I must say it to you. I shall only keep you half an hour."

Dorian sighed, and lit a cigarette. "Half an hour!" he murmured.

[79] "It is not much to ask of you, Dorian, and it is entirely for
your own sake that I am speaking. I think it right that you should
know that the most dreadful things are being said about you in
London,--things that I could hardly repeat to you."

"I don't wish to know anything about them. I love scandals about
other people, but scandals about myself don't interest me. They have
not got the charm of novelty."

"They must interest you, Dorian. Every gentleman is interested in
his good name. You don't want people to talk of you as something
vile and degraded. Of course you have your position, and your
wealth, and all that kind of thing. But position and wealth are not
everything. Mind you, I don't believe these rumors at all. At
least, I can't believe them when I see you. Sin is a thing that
writes itself across a man's face. It cannot be concealed. People
talk of secret vices. There are no such things as secret vices. If
a wretched man has a vice, it shows itself in the lines of his mouth,
the droop of his eyelids, the moulding of his hands even. Somebody--
I won't mention his name, but you know him--came to me last year to
have his portrait done. I had never seen him before, and had never
heard anything about him at the time, though I have heard a good deal
since. He offered an extravagant price. I refused him. There was
something in the shape of his fingers that I hated. I know now that
I was quite right in what I fancied about him. His life is dreadful.
But you, Dorian, with your pure, bright, innocent face, and your
marvellous untroubled youth,--I can't believe anything against you.
And yet I see you very seldom, and you never come down to the studio
now, and when I am away from you, and I hear all these hideous things
that people are whispering about you, I don't know what to say. Why
is it, Dorian, that a man like the Duke of Berwick leaves the room of
a club when you enter it? Why is it that so many gentlemen in London
will neither go to your house nor invite you to theirs? You used to
be a friend of Lord Cawdor. I met him at dinner last week. Your
name happened to come up in conversation, in connection with the
miniatures you have lent to the exhibition at the Dudley. Cawdor
curled his lip, and said that you might have the most artistic
tastes, but that you were a man whom no pure-minded girl should be
allowed to know, and whom no chaste woman should sit in the same room
with. I reminded him that I was a friend of yours, and asked him
what he meant. He told me. He told me right out before everybody.
It was horrible! Why is your friendship so fateful to young men?
There was that wretched boy in the Guards who committed suicide. You
were his great friend. There was Sir Henry Ashton, who had to leave
England, with a tarnished name. You and he were inseparable. What
about Adrian Singleton, and his dreadful end? What about Lord Kent's
only son, and his career? I met his father yesterday in St. James
Street. He seemed broken with shame and sorrow. What about the
young Duke of Perth? What sort of life has he got now? What
gentleman would associate with him? Dorian, Dorian, your reputation
is infamous. I know you and Harry are great friends. I say nothing
about that now, but [80] surely you need not have made his sister's
name a by-word. When you met Lady Gwendolen, not a breath of scandal
had ever touched her. Is there a single decent woman in London now
who would drive with her in the Park? Why, even her children are not
allowed to live with her. Then there are other stories,--stories
that you have been seen creeping at dawn out of dreadful houses and
slinking in disguise into the foulest dens in London. Are they true?
Can they be true? When I first heard them, I laughed. I hear them
now, and they make me shudder. What about your country-house, and
the life that is led there? Dorian, you don't know what is said
about you. I won't tell you that I don't want to preach to you. I
remember Harry saying once that every man who turned himself into an
amateur curate for the moment always said that, and then broke his
word. I do want to preach to you. I want you to lead such a life as
will make the world respect you. I want you to have a clean name and
a fair record. I want you to get rid of the dreadful people you
associate with. Don't shrug your shoulders like that. Don't be so
indifferent. You have a wonderful influence. Let it be for good,
not for evil. They say that you corrupt every one whom you become
intimate with, and that it is quite sufficient for you to enter a
house, for shame of some kind to follow after you. I don't know
whether it is so or not. How should I know? But it is said of you.
I am told things that it seems impossible to doubt. Lord Gloucester
was one of my greatest friends at Oxford. He showed me a letter that
his wife had written to him when she was dying alone in her villa at
Mentone. Your name was implicated in the most terrible confession I
ever read. I told him that it was absurd,--that I knew you
thoroughly, and that you were incapable of anything of the kind.
Know you? I wonder do I know you? Before I could answer that, I
should have to see your soul."

"To see my soul!" muttered Dorian Gray, starting up from the sofa and
turning almost white from fear.

"Yes," answered Hallward, gravely, and with infinite sorrow in his
voice,--"to see your soul. But only God can do that."

A bitter laugh of mockery broke from the lips of the younger man.
"You shall see it yourself, to-night!" he cried, seizing a lamp from
the table. "Come: it is your own handiwork. Why shouldn't you look
at it? You can tell the world all about it afterwards, if you
choose. Nobody would believe you. If they did believe you, they'd
like me all the better for it. I know the age better than you do,
though you will prate about it so tediously. Come, I tell you. You
have chattered enough about corruption. Now you shall look on it
face to face."

There was the madness of pride in every word he uttered. He stamped
his foot upon the ground in his boyish insolent manner. He felt a
terrible joy at the thought that some one else was to share his
secret, and that the man who had painted the portrait that was the
origin of all his shame was to be burdened for the rest of his life
with the hideous memory of what he had done.

"Yes," he continued, coming closer to him, and looking steadfastly
into his stern eyes, "I will show you my soul. You shall see the
thing that you fancy only God can see."

[81] Hallward started back. "This is blasphemy, Dorian!" he cried.
"You must not say things like that. They are horrible, and they
don't mean anything."

"You think so?" He laughed again.

"I know so. As for what I said to you to-night, I said it for your
good. You know I have been always devoted to you."

"Don't touch me. Finish what you have to say."

A twisted flash of pain shot across Hallward's face. He paused for a
moment, and a wild feeling of pity came over him. After all, what
right had he to pry into the life of Dorian Gray? If he had done a
tithe of what was rumored about him, how much he must have suffered!
Then he straightened himself up, and walked over to the fireplace,
and stood there, looking at the burning logs with their frost-like
ashes and their throbbing cores of flame.

"I am waiting, Basil," said the young man, in a hard, clear voice.

He turned round. "What I have to say is this," he cried. "You must
give me some answer to these horrible charges that are made against
you. If you tell me that they are absolutely untrue from beginning
to end, I will believe you. Deny them, Dorian, deny them! Can't you
see what I am going through? My God! don't tell me that you are
infamous!"

Dorian Gray smiled. There was a curl of contempt in his lips. "Come
up-stairs, Basil," he said, quietly. "I keep a diary of my life from
day to day, and it never leaves the room in which it is written. I
will show it to you if you come with me."

"I will come with you, Dorian, if you wish it. I see I have missed
my train. That makes no matter. I can go to-morrow. But don't ask
me to read anything to-night. All I want is a plain answer to my
question."

"That will be given to you up-stairs. I could not give it here. You
won't have to read long. Don't keep me waiting."
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