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 11


CHAPTER XI

[...81] He passed out of the room, and began the ascent, Basil
Hallward following close behind. They walked softly, as men
instinctively do at night. The lamp cast fantastic shadows on the
wall and staircase. A rising wind made some of the windows rattle.

When they reached the top landing, Dorian set the lamp down on the
floor, and taking out the key turned it in the lock. "You insist on
knowing, Basil?" he asked, in a low voice.

"Yes."

"I am delighted," he murmured, smiling. Then he added, somewhat
bitterly, "You are the one man in the world who is entitled to know
everything about me. You have had more to do with my life than you
think." And, taking up the lamp, he opened the door and went in. A
cold current of air passed them, and the light shot up for a moment
in a flame of murky orange. He shuddered. "Shut the door behind
you," he said, as he placed the lamp on the table.

[82] Hallward glanced round him, with a puzzled expression. The room
looked as if it had not been lived in for years. A faded Flemish
tapestry, a curtained picture, an old Italian cassone, and an almost
empty bookcase,--that was all that it seemed to contain, besides a
chair and a table. As Dorian Gray was lighting a half-burned candle
that was standing on the mantel-shelf, he saw that the whole place
was covered with dust, and that the carpet was in holes. A mouse ran
scuffling behind the wainscoting. There was a damp odor of mildew.

"So you think that it is only God who sees the soul, Basil? Draw
that curtain back, and you will see mine."

The voice that spoke was cold and cruel. "You are mad, Dorian, or
playing a part," muttered Hallward, frowning.

"You won't? Then I must do it myself," said the young man; and he
tore the curtain from its rod, and flung it on the ground.

An exclamation of horror broke from Hallward's lips as he saw in the
dim light the hideous thing on the canvas leering at him. There was
something in its expression that filled him with disgust and
loathing. Good heavens! it was Dorian Gray's own face that he was
looking at! The horror, whatever it was, had not yet entirely marred
that marvellous beauty. There was still some gold in the thinning
hair and some scarlet on the sensual lips. The sodden eyes had kept
something of the loveliness of their blue, the noble curves had not
yet passed entirely away from chiselled nostrils and from plastic
throat. Yes, it was Dorian himself. But who had done it? He seemed
to recognize his own brush-work, and the frame was his own design.
The idea was monstrous, yet he felt afraid. He seized the lighted
candle, and held it to the picture. In the left-hand corner was his
own name, traced in long letters of bright vermilion.

It was some foul parody, some infamous, ignoble satire. He had never
done that. Still, it was his own picture. He knew it, and he felt
as if his blood had changed from fire to sluggish ice in a moment.
His own picture! What did it mean? Why had it altered? He turned,
and looked at Dorian Gray with the eyes of a sick man. His mouth
twitched, and his parched tongue seemed unable to articulate. He
passed his hand across his forehead. It was dank with clammy sweat.

The young man was leaning against the mantel-shelf, watching him with
that strange expression that is on the faces of those who are
absorbed in a play when a great artist is acting. There was neither
real sorrow in it nor real joy. There was simply the passion of the
spectator, with perhaps a flicker of triumph in the eyes. He had
taken the flower out of his coat, and was smelling it, or pretending
to do so.

"What does this mean?" cried Hallward, at last. His own voice
sounded shrill and curious in his ears.

"Years ago, when I was a boy," said Dorian Gray, "you met me, devoted
yourself to me, flattered me, and taught me to be vain of my good
looks. One day you introduced me to a friend of yours, who explained
to me the wonder of youth, and you finished a portrait of me that
revealed to me the wonder of beauty. In a mad moment, that [83] I
don't know, even now, whether I regret or not, I made a wish.
Perhaps you would call it a prayer . . . ."

"I remember it! Oh, how well I remember it! No! the thing is
impossible. The room is damp. The mildew has got into the canvas.
The paints I used had some wretched mineral poison in them. I tell
you the thing is impossible."

"Ah, what is impossible?" murmured the young man, going over to the
window, and leaning his forehead against the cold, mist-stained
glass.

"You told me you had destroyed it."

"I was wrong. It has destroyed me."

"I don't believe it is my picture."

"Can't you see your romance in it?" said Dorian, bitterly.

"My romance, as you call it . . ."

"As you called it."

"There was nothing evil in it, nothing shameful. This is the face of
a satyr."

"It is the face of my soul."

"God! what a thing I must have worshipped! This has the eyes of a
devil."

"Each of us has Heaven and Hell in him, Basil," cried Dorian, with a
wild gesture of despair.

Hallward turned again to the portrait, and gazed at it. "My God! if
it is true," he exclaimed, "and this is what you have done with your
life, why, you must be worse even than those who talk against you
fancy you to be!" He held the light up again to the canvas, and
examined it. The surface seemed to be quite undisturbed, and as he
had left it. It was from within, apparently, that the foulness and
horror had come. Through some strange quickening of inner life the
leprosies of sin were slowly eating the thing away. The rotting of a
corpse in a watery grave was not so fearful.

His hand shook, and the candle fell from its socket on the floor, and
lay there sputtering. He placed his foot on it and put it out. Then
he flung himself into the rickety chair that was standing by the
table and buried his face in his hands.

"Good God, Dorian, what a lesson! what an awful lesson!" There was
no answer, but he could hear the young man sobbing at the window.

"Pray, Dorian, pray," he murmured. "What is it that one was taught
to say in one's boyhood? 'Lead us not into temptation. Forgive us
our sins. Wash away our iniquities.' Let us say that together. The
prayer of your pride has been answered. The prayer of your
repentance will be answered also. I worshipped you too much. I am
punished for it. You worshipped yourself too much. We are both
punished."

Dorian Gray turned slowly around, and looked at him with tear-dimmed
eyes. "It is too late, Basil," he murmured.

"It is never too late, Dorian. Let us kneel down and try if we can
remember a prayer. Isn't there a verse somewhere, 'Though your sins
be as scarlet, yet I will make them as white as snow'?"

[84] "Those words mean nothing to me now."

"Hush! don't say that. You have done enough evil in your life. My
God! don't you see that accursed thing leering at us?"

Dorian Gray glanced at the picture, and suddenly an uncontrollable
feeling of hatred for Basil Hallward came over him. The mad passions
of a hunted animal stirred within him, and he loathed the man who was
seated at the table, more than he had ever loathed anything in his
whole life. He glanced wildly around. Something glimmered on the
top of the painted chest that faced him. His eye fell on it. He
knew what it was. It was a knife that he had brought up, some days
before, to cut a piece of cord, and had forgotten to take away with
him. He moved slowly towards it, passing Hallward as he did so. As
soon as he got behind him, he seized it, and turned round. Hallward
moved in his chair as if he was going to rise. He rushed at him, and
dug the knife into the great vein that is behind the ear, crushing
the man's head down on the table, and stabbing again and again.

There was a stifled groan, and the horrible sound of some one choking
with blood. The outstretched arms shot up convulsively three times,
waving grotesque stiff-fingered hands in the air. He stabbed him
once more, but the man did not move. Something began to trickle on
the floor. He waited for a moment, still pressing the head down.
Then he threw the knife on the table, and listened.

He could hear nothing, but the drip, drip on the threadbare carpet.
He opened the door, and went out on the landing. The house was quite
quiet. No one was stirring.

He took out the key, and returned to the room, locking himself in as
he did so.

The thing was still seated in the chair, straining over the table
with bowed head, and humped back, and long fantastic arms. Had it
not been for the red jagged tear in the neck, and the clotted black
pool that slowly widened on the table, one would have said that the
man was simply asleep.

How quickly it had all been done! He felt strangely calm, and,
walking over to the window, opened it, and stepped out on the
balcony. The wind had blown the fog away, and the sky was like a
monstrous peacock's tail, starred with myriads of golden eyes. He
looked down, and saw the policeman going his rounds and flashing a
bull's-eye lantern on the doors of the silent houses. The crimson
spot of a prowling hansom gleamed at the corner, and then vanished.
A woman in a ragged shawl was creeping round by the railings,
staggering as she went. Now and then she stopped, and peered back.
Once, she began to sing in a hoarse voice. The policeman strolled
over and said something to her. She stumbled away, laughing. A
bitter blast swept across the Square. The gas-lamps flickered, and
became blue, and the leafless trees shook their black iron branches
as if in pain. He shivered, and went back, closing the window behind
him.

He passed to the door, turned the key, and opened it. He did not
even glance at the murdered man. He felt that the secret of the
whole thing was not to realize the situation. The friend who had
painted [85] the fatal portrait, the portrait to which all his misery
had been due, had gone out of his life. That was enough.

Then he remembered the lamp. It was a rather curious one of Moorish
workmanship, made of dull silver inlaid with arabesques of burnished
steel. Perhaps it might be missed by his servant, and questions
would be asked. He turned back, and took it from the table. How
still the man was! How horribly white the long hands looked! He was
like a dreadful wax image.

He locked the door behind him, and crept quietly down-stairs. The
wood-work creaked, and seemed to cry out as if in pain. He stopped
several times, and waited. No: everything was still. It was merely
the sound of his own footsteps.

When he reached the library, he saw the bag and coat in the corner.
They must be hidden away somewhere. He unlocked a secret press that
was in the wainscoting, and put them into it. He could easily burn
them afterwards. Then he pulled out his watch. It was twenty
minutes to two.

He sat down, and began to think. Every year--every month, almost--
men were strangled in England for what he had done. There had been a
madness of murder in the air. Some red star had come too close to
the earth.

Evidence? What evidence was there against him? Basil Hallward had
left the house at eleven. No one had seen him come in again. Most
of the servants were at Selby Royal. His valet had gone to bed.

Paris! Yes. It was to Paris that Basil had gone, by the midnight
train, as he had intended. With his curious reserved habits, it
would be months before any suspicions would be aroused. Months?
Everything could be destroyed long before then.

A sudden thought struck him. He put on his fur coat and hat, and
went out into the hall. There he paused, hearing the slow heavy
tread of the policeman outside on the pavement, and seeing the flash
of the lantern reflected in the window. He waited, holding his
breath.

After a few moments he opened the front door, and slipped out,
shutting it very gently behind him. Then he began ringing the bell.
In about ten minutes his valet appeared, half dressed, and looking
very drowsy.

"I am sorry to have had to wake you up, Francis," he said, stepping
in; "but I had forgotten my latch-key. What time is it?"

"Five minutes past two, sir," answered the man, looking at the clock
and yawning.

"Five minutes past two? How horribly late! You must wake me at nine
to-morrow. I have some work to do."

"All right, sir."

"Did any one call this evening?"

"Mr. Hallward, sir. He stayed here till eleven, and then he went
away to catch his train."

"Oh! I am sorry I didn't see him. Did he leave any message?"

"No, sir, except that he would write to you."

[86] "That will do, Francis. Don't forget to call me at nine
tomorrow."

"No, sir."

The man shambled down the passage in his slippers.

Dorian Gray threw his hat and coat upon the yellow marble table, and
passed into the library. He walked up and down the room for a
quarter of an hour, biting his lip, and thinking. Then he took the
Blue Book down from one of the shelves, and began to turn over the
leaves. "Alan Campbell, 152, Hertford Street, Mayfair." Yes; that
was the man he wanted.
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