The picture of dorian gr.., p.10
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       The Picture of Dorian Gray, p.10

           Oscar Wilde
 
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  CHAPTER X

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

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

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

  "Dorian! What an extraordinary piece of luck! I have been waiting foryou ever since nine o'clock in your library. Finally I took pity onyour tired servant, and told him to go to bed, as he let me out. I amoff to Paris by the midnight train, and I wanted particularly to seeyou before I left. I thought it was you, or rather your fur coat, asyou 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 GrosvenorSquare. I believe my house is somewhere about here, but I don't feelat all certain about it. I am sorry you are going away, as I have notseen 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] totake a studio in Paris, and shut myself up till I have finished a greatpicture I have in my head. However, it wasn't about myself I wanted totalk. Here we are at your door. Let me come in for a moment. I havesomething 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 hislatch-key.

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

  Dorian looked at him and smiled. "What a way for a fashionable painterto travel! A Gladstone bag, and an ulster! Come in, or the fog willget 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 thelibrary. There was a bright wood fire blazing in the large openhearth. The lamps were lit, and an open Dutch silver spirit-casestood, with some siphons of soda-water and large cut-glass tumblers, ona little table.

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

  Dorian shrugged his shoulders. "I believe he married Lady Ashton'smaid, and has established her in Paris as an English dressmaker.Anglomanie is very fashionable over there now, I hear. It seems sillyof the French, doesn't it? But--do you know?--he was not at all a badservant. I never liked him, but I had nothing to complain about. Oneoften imagines things that are quite absurd. He was really verydevoted to me, and seemed quite sorry when he went away. Have anotherbrandy-and-soda? Or would you like hock-and-seltzer? I always takehock-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 andcoat off, and throwing them on the bag that he had placed in thecorner. "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, flinginghimself down on the sofa. "I hope it is not about myself. I am tiredof 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 yourown sake that I am speaking. I think it right that you should knowthat the most dreadful things are being said about you inLondon,--things that I could hardly repeat to you."

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

  "They must interest you, Dorian. Every gentleman is interested in hisgood name. You don't want people to talk of you as something vile anddegraded. Of course you have your position, and your wealth, and allthat kind of thing. But position and wealth are not everything. Mindyou, I don't believe these rumors at all. At least, I can't believethem when I see you. Sin is a thing that writes itself across a man'sface. It cannot be concealed. People talk of secret vices. There areno such things as secret vices. If a wretched man has a vice, it showsitself in the lines of his mouth, the droop of his eyelids, themoulding of his hands even. Somebody--I won't mention his name, butyou know him--came to me last year to have his portrait done. I hadnever seen him before, and had never heard anything about him at thetime, though I have heard a good deal since. He offered an extravagantprice. I refused him. There was something in the shape of his fingersthat I hated. I know now that I was quite right in what I fanciedabout him. His life is dreadful. But you, Dorian, with your pure,bright, innocent face, and your marvellous untroubled youth,--I can'tbelieve anything against you. And yet I see you very seldom, and younever come down to the studio now, and when I am away from you, and Ihear all these hideous things that people are whispering about you, Idon't know what to say. Why is it, Dorian, that a man like the Duke ofBerwick leaves the room of a club when you enter it? Why is it that somany gentlemen in London will neither go to your house nor invite youto theirs? You used to be a friend of Lord Cawdor. I met him atdinner last week. Your name happened to come up in conversation, inconnection with the miniatures you have lent to the exhibition at theDudley. Cawdor curled his lip, and said that you might have the mostartistic tastes, but that you were a man whom no pure-minded girlshould be allowed to know, and whom no chaste woman should sit in thesame room with. I reminded him that I was a friend of yours, and askedhim 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? Therewas that wretched boy in the Guards who committed suicide. You werehis great friend. There was Sir Henry Ashton, who had to leaveEngland, with a tarnished name. You and he were inseparable. Whatabout Adrian Singleton, and his dreadful end? What about Lord Kent'sonly son, and his career? I met his father yesterday in St. JamesStreet. He seemed broken with shame and sorrow. What about the youngDuke of Perth? What sort of life has he got now? What gentleman wouldassociate with him? Dorian, Dorian, your reputation is infamous. Iknow 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 touchedher. Is there a single decent woman in London now who would drive withher in the Park? Why, even her children are not allowed to live withher. Then there are other stories,--stories that you have been seencreeping at dawn out of dreadful houses and slinking in disguise intothe foulest dens in London. Are they true? Can they be true? When Ifirst heard them, I laughed. I hear them now, and they make meshudder. What about your country-house, and the life that is ledthere? Dorian, you don't know what is said about you. I won't tellyou that I don't want to preach to you. I remember Harry saying oncethat every man who turned himself into an amateur curate for the momentalways 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.
Iwant you to have a clean name and a fair record. I want you to get ridof the dreadful people you associate with. Don't shrug your shoulderslike 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 onewhom you become intimate with, and that it is quite sufficient for youto enter a house, for shame of some kind to follow after you. I don'tknow whether it is so or not. How should I know? But it is said ofyou. I am told things that it seems impossible to doubt. LordGloucester was one of my greatest friends at Oxford. He showed me aletter that his wife had written to him when she was dying alone in hervilla at Mentone. Your name was implicated in the most terribleconfession I ever read. I told him that it was absurd,--that I knewyou thoroughly, and that you were incapable of anything of the kind.Know you? I wonder do I know you? Before I could answer that, Ishould have to see your soul."

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

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

  A bitter laugh of mockery broke from the lips of the younger man. "Youshall see it yourself, to-night!" he cried, seizing a lamp from thetable. "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. Nobodywould believe you. If they did believe you, they'd like me all thebetter for it. I know the age better than you do, though you willprate about it so tediously. Come, I tell you. You have chatteredenough about corruption. Now you shall look on it face to face."

  There was the madness of pride in every word he uttered. He stampedhis foot upon the ground in his boyish insolent manner. He felt aterrible 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 ofall his shame was to be burdened for the rest of his life with thehideous memory of what he had done.

  "Yes," he continued, coming closer to him, and looking steadfastly intohis stern eyes, "I will show you my soul. You shall see the thing thatyou 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'tmean anything."

  "You think so?" He laughed again.

  "I know so. As for what I said to you to-night, I said it for yourgood. 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 amoment, and a wild feeling of pity came over him. After all, whatright had he to pry into the life of Dorian Gray? If he had done atithe of what was rumored about him, how much he must have suffered!Then he straightened himself up, and walked over to the fireplace, andstood there, looking at the burning logs with their frost-like ashesand 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 mustgive me some answer to these horrible charges that are made againstyou. If you tell me that they are absolutely untrue from beginning toend, I will believe you. Deny them, Dorian, deny them! Can't you seewhat 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. "Comeup-stairs, Basil," he said, quietly. "I keep a diary of my life fromday to day, and it never leaves the room in which it is written. Iwill show it to you if you come with me."

  "I will come with you, Dorian, if you wish it. I see I have missed mytrain. That makes no matter. I can go to-morrow. But don't ask me toread 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. Youwon't have to read long. Don't keep me waiting."

 
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