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The Picture of Dorian Gray, Page 12

Oscar Wilde


  [...86] At nine o'clock the next morning his servant came in with a cupof chocolate on a tray, and opened the shutters. Dorian was sleepingquite peacefully, lying on his right side, with one hand underneath hischeek. He looked like a boy who had been tired out with play, or study.

  The man had to touch him twice on the shoulder before he woke, and ashe opened his eyes a faint smile passed across his lips, as though hehad been having some delightful dream. Yet he had not dreamed at all.His night had been untroubled by any images of pleasure or of pain.But youth smiles without any reason. It is one of its chiefest charms.

  He turned round, and, leaning on his elbow, began to drink hischocolate. The mellow November sun was streaming into the room. Thesky was bright blue, and there was a genial warmth in the air. It wasalmost like a morning in May.

  Gradually the events of the preceding night crept with silentblood-stained feet into his brain, and reconstructed themselves therewith terrible distinctness. He winced at the memory of all that he hadsuffered, and for a moment the same curious feeling of loathing forBasil Hallward, that had made him kill him as he sat in the chair, cameback to him, and he grew cold with passion. The dead man was stillsitting there, too, and in the sunlight now. How horrible that was!Such hideous things were for the darkness, not for the day.

  He felt that if he brooded on what he had gone through he would sickenor grow mad. There were sins whose fascination was more in the memorythan in the doing of them, strange triumphs that gratified the pridemore than the passions, and gave to the intellect a quickened sense ofjoy, greater than any joy they brought, or could ever bring, to thesenses. But this was not one of them. It was a thing to be driven outof the mind, to be drugged with poppies, to be strangled lest it mightstrangle one itself.

  He passed his hand across his forehead, and then got up hastily, anddressed himself with even more than his usual attention, giving a gooddeal of care to the selection of his necktie and scarf-pin, andchanging his rings more than once.

  He spent a long time over breakfast, tasting the various dishes,talking to his valet about some new liveries that he was thinking of[87] getting made for the servants at Selby, and going through hiscorrespondence. Over some of the letters he smiled. Three of thembored him. One he read several times over, and then tore up with aslight look of annoyance in his face. "That awful thing, a woman'smemory!" as Lord Henry had once said.

  When he had drunk his coffee, he sat down at the table, and wrote twoletters. One he put in his pocket, the other he handed to the valet.

  "Take this round to 152, Hertford Street, Francis, and if Mr. Campbellis out of town, get his address."

  As soon as he was alone, he lit a cigarette, and began sketching upon apiece of paper, drawing flowers, and bits of architecture, first, andthen faces. Suddenly he remarked that every face that he drew seemedto have an extraordinary likeness to Basil Hallward. He frowned, and,getting up, went over to the bookcase and took out a volume at hazard.He was determined that he would not think about what had happened, tillit became absolutely necessary to do so.

  When he had stretched himself on the sofa, he looked at the title-pageof the book. It was Gautier's "Emaux et Camees," Charpentier'sJapanese-paper edition, with the Jacquemart etching. The binding wasof citron-green leather with a design of gilt trellis-work and dottedpomegranates. It had been given to him by Adrian Singleton. As heturned over the pages his eye fell on the poem about the hand ofLacenaire, the cold yellow hand "du supplice encore mal lavee," withits downy red hairs and its "doigts de faune." He glanced at his ownwhite taper fingers, and passed on, till he came to those lovely versesupon Venice:

  Sur une gamme chromatique, Le sein de perles ruisselant, La Venus de l'Adriatique Sort de l'eau son corps rose et blanc.

  Les domes, sur l'azur des ondes Suivant la phrase au pur contour, S'enflent comme des gorges rondes Que souleve un soupir d'amour.

  L'esquif aborde et me depose, Jetant son amarre au pilier, Devant une facade rose, Sur le marbre d'un escalier.

  How exquisite they were! As one read them, one seemed to be floatingdown the green water-ways of the pink and pearl city, lying in a blackgondola with silver prow and trailing curtains. The mere lines lookedto him like those straight lines of turquoise-blue that follow one asone pushes out to the Lido. The sudden flashes of color reminded himof the gleam of the opal-and-iris-throated birds that flutter round thetall honey-combed Campanile, or stalk, with such stately grace, throughthe dim arcades. Leaning back with half-closed eyes, he kept sayingover and over to himself,--

  Devant une facade rose, Sur le marbre d'un escalier.

  [88] The whole of Venice was in those two lines. He remembered theautumn that he had passed there, and a wonderful love that had stirredhim to delightful fantastic follies. There was romance in every place.But Venice, like Oxford, had kept the background for romance, andbackground was everything, or almost everything. Basil had been withhim part of the time, and had gone wild over Tintoret. Poor Basil! whata horrible way for a man to die!

  He sighed, and took up the book again, and tried to forget. He read ofthe swallows that fly in and out of the little cafe at Smyrna where theHadjis sit counting their amber beads and the turbaned merchants smoketheir long tasselled pipes and talk gravely to each other; of theObelisk in the Place de la Concorde that weeps tears of granite in itslonely sunless exile, and longs to be back by the hot lotus-coveredNile, where there are Sphinxes, and rose-red ibises, and white vultureswith gilded claws, and crocodiles, with small beryl eyes, that crawlover the green steaming mud; and of that curious statue that Gautiercompares to a contralto voice, the "monstre charmant" that couches inthe porphyry-room of the Louvre. But after a time the book fell fromhis hand. He grew nervous, and a horrible fit of terror came over him.What if Alan Campbell should be out of England? Days would elapsebefore he could come back. Perhaps he might refuse to come. What couldhe do then? Every moment was of vital importance.

  They had been great friends once, five years before,--almostinseparable, indeed. Then the intimacy had come suddenly to an end.When they met in society now, it was only Dorian Gray who smiled: AlanCampbell never did.

  He was an extremely clever young man, though he had no realappreciation of the visible arts, and whatever little sense of thebeauty of poetry he possessed he had gained entirely from Dorian. Hisdominant intellectual passion was for science. At Cambridge he hadspent a great deal of his time working in the Laboratory, and had takena good class in the Natural Science tripos of his year. Indeed, he wasstill devoted to the study of chemistry, and had a laboratory of hisown, in which he used to shut himself up all day long, greatly to theannoyance of his mother, who had set her heart on his standing forParliament and had a vague idea that a chemist was a person who made upprescriptions. He was an excellent musician, however, as well, andplayed both the violin and the piano better than most amateurs. Infact, it was music that had first brought him and Dorian Graytogether,--music and that indefinable attraction that Dorian seemed tobe able to exercise whenever he wished, and indeed exercised oftenwithout being conscious of it. They had met at Lady Berkshire's thenight that Rubinstein played there, and after that used to be alwaysseen together at the Opera, and wherever good music was going on. Foreighteen months their intimacy lasted. Campbell was always either atSelby Royal or in Grosvenor Square. To him, as to many others, DorianGray was the type of everything that is wonderful and fascinating inlife. Whether or not a quarrel had taken place between them no one everknew. But suddenly people remarked that they scarcely spoke when [89]they met, and that Campbell seemed always to go away early from anyparty at which Dorian Gray was present. He had changed, too,--wasstrangely melancholy at times, appeared almost to dislike hearing musicof any passionate character, and would never himself play, giving ashis excuse, when he was called upon, that he was so absorbed in sciencethat he had no time l
eft in which to practise. And this was certainlytrue. Every day he seemed to become more interested in biology, andhis name appeared once or twice in some of the scientific reviews, inconnection with certain curious experiments.

  This was the man that Dorian Gray was waiting for, pacing up and downthe room, glancing every moment at the clock, and becoming horriblyagitated as the minutes went by. At last the door opened, and hisservant entered.

  "Mr. Alan Campbell, sir."

  A sigh of relief broke from his parched lips, and the color came backto his cheeks.

  "Ask him to come in at once, Francis."

  The man bowed, and retired. In a few moments Alan Campbell walked in,looking very stern and rather pale, his pallor being intensified by hiscoal-black hair and dark eyebrows.

  "Alan! this is kind of you. I thank you for coming."

  "I had intended never to enter your house again, Gray. But you said itwas a matter of life and death." His voice was hard and cold. Hespoke with slow deliberation. There was a look of contempt in thesteady searching gaze that he turned on Dorian. He kept his hands inthe pockets of his Astrakhan coat, and appeared not to have noticed thegesture with which he had been greeted.

  "It is a matter of life and death, Alan, and to more than one person.Sit down."

  Campbell took a chair by the table, and Dorian sat opposite to him. Thetwo men's eyes met. In Dorian's there was infinite pity. He knew thatwhat he was going to do was dreadful.

  After a strained moment of silence, he leaned across and said, veryquietly, but watching the effect of each word upon the face of the manhe had sent for, "Alan, in a locked room at the top of this house, aroom to which nobody but myself has access, a dead man is seated at atable. He has been dead ten hours now. Don't stir, and don't look atme like that. Who the man is, why he died, how he died, are mattersthat do not concern you. What you have to do is this--"

  "Stop, Gray. I don't want to know anything further. Whether what youhave told me is true or not true, doesn't concern me. I entirelydecline to be mixed up in your life. Keep your horrible secrets toyourself. They don't interest me any more."

  "Alan, they will have to interest you. This one will have to interestyou. I am awfully sorry for you, Alan. But I can't help myself. Youare the one man who is able to save me. I am forced to bring you intothe matter. I have no option. Alan, you are a scientist. You knowabout chemistry, and things of that kind. You have made experiments.What you have got to do is to destroy the [90] thing that isup-stairs,--to destroy it so that not a vestige will be left of it.Nobody saw this person come into the house. Indeed, at the presentmoment he is supposed to be in Paris. He will not be missed formonths. When he is missed, there must be no trace of him found here.You, Alan, you must change him, and everything that belongs to him,into a handful of ashes that I may scatter in the air."

  "You are mad, Dorian."

  "Ah! I was waiting for you to call me Dorian."

  "You are mad, I tell you,--mad to imagine that I would raise a fingerto help you, mad to make this monstrous confession. I will havenothing to do with this matter, whatever it is. Do you think I amgoing to peril my reputation for you? What is it to me what devil'swork you are up to?"

  "It was a suicide, Alan."

  "I am glad of that. But who drove him to it? You, I should fancy."

  "Do you still refuse to do this, for me?"

  "Of course I refuse. I will have absolutely nothing to do with it. Idon't care what shame comes on you. You deserve it all. I should notbe sorry to see you disgraced, publicly disgraced. How dare you askme, of all men in the world, to mix myself up in this horror? I shouldhave thought you knew more about people's characters. Your friend LordHenry Wotton can't have taught you much about psychology, whatever elsehe has taught you. Nothing will induce me to stir a step to help you.You have come to the wrong man. Go to some of your friends. Don'tcome to me."

  "Alan, it was murder. I killed him. You don't know what he had mademe suffer. Whatever my life is, he had more to do with the making orthe marring of it than poor Harry has had. He may not have intendedit, the result was the same."

  "Murder! Good God, Dorian, is that what you have come to? I shall notinform upon you. It is not my business. Besides, you are certain tobe arrested, without my stirring in the matter. Nobody ever commits amurder without doing something stupid. But I will have nothing to dowith it."

  "All I ask of you is to perform a certain scientific experiment. Yougo to hospitals and dead-houses, and the horrors that you do theredon't affect you. If in some hideous dissecting-room or fetidlaboratory you found this man lying on a leaden table with red guttersscooped out in it, you would simply look upon him as an admirablesubject. You would not turn a hair. You would not believe that youwere doing anything wrong. On the contrary, you would probably feelthat you were benefiting the human race, or increasing the sum ofknowledge in the world, or gratifying intellectual curiosity, orsomething of that kind. What I want you to do is simply what you haveoften done before. Indeed, to destroy a body must be less horriblethan what you are accustomed to work at. And, remember, it is the onlypiece of evidence against me. If it is discovered, I am lost; and itis sure to be discovered unless you help me."

  [91] "I have no desire to help you. You forget that. I am simplyindifferent to the whole thing. It has nothing to do with me."

  "Alan, I entreat you. Think of the position I am in. Just before youcame I almost fainted with terror. No! don't think of that. Look atthe matter purely from the scientific point of view. You don't inquirewhere the dead things on which you experiment come from. Don't inquirenow. I have told you too much as it is. But I beg of you to do this.We were friends once, Alan."

  "Don't speak about those days, Dorian: they are dead."

  "The dead linger sometimes. The man up-stairs will not go away. He issitting at the table with bowed head and outstretched arms. Alan!Alan! if you don't come to my assistance I am ruined. Why, they willhang me, Alan! Don't you understand? They will hang me for what Ihave done."

  "There is no good in prolonging this scene. I refuse absolutely to doanything in the matter. It is insane of you to ask me."

  "You refuse absolutely?"


  The same look of pity came into Dorian's eyes, then he stretched outhis hand, took a piece of paper, and wrote something on it. He read itover twice, folded it carefully, and pushed it across the table. Havingdone this, he got up, and went over to the window.

  Campbell looked at him in surprise, and then took up the paper, andopened it. As he read it, his face became ghastly pale, and he fellback in his chair. A horrible sense of sickness came over him. Hefelt as if his heart was beating itself to death in some empty hollow.

  After two or three minutes of terrible silence, Dorian turned round,and came and stood behind him, putting his hand upon his shoulder.

  "I am so sorry, Alan," he murmured, "but you leave me no alternative. Ihave a letter written already. Here it is. You see the address. Ifyou don't help me, I must send it. You know what the result will be.But you are going to help me. It is impossible for you to refuse now.I tried to spare you. You will do me the justice to admit that. Youwere stern, harsh, offensive. You treated me as no man has ever daredto treat me,--no living man, at any rate. I bore it all. Now it isfor me to dictate terms."

  Campbell buried his face in his hands, and a shudder passed through him.

  "Yes, it is my turn to dictate terms, Alan. You know what they are.The thing is quite simple. Come, don't work yourself into this fever.The thing has to be done. Face it, and do it."

  A groan broke from Campbell's lips, and he shivered all over. Theticking of the clock on the mantel-piece seemed to him to be dividingtime into separate atoms of agony, each of which was too terrible to beborne. He felt as if an iron ring was being slowly tightened round hisforehead, and as if the disgrace with which he was threatened hadalready come upon him. The hand
upon his shoulder weighed like a handof lead. It was intolerable. It seemed to crush him.

  "Come, Alan, you must decide at once."

  [92] He hesitated a moment. "Is there a fire in the room up-stairs?"he murmured.

  "Yes, there is a gas-fire with asbestos."

  "I will have to go home and get some things from the laboratory."

  "No, Alan, you need not leave the house. Write on a sheet ofnote-paper what you want, and my servant will take a cab and bring thethings back to you."

  Campbell wrote a few lines, blotted them, and addressed an envelope tohis assistant. Dorian took the note up and read it carefully. Then herang the bell, and gave it to his valet, with orders to return as soonas possible, and to bring the things with him.

  When the hall door shut, Campbell started, and, having got up from thechair, went over to the chimney-piece. He was shivering with a sort ofague. For nearly twenty minutes, neither of the men spoke. A flybuzzed noisily about the room, and the ticking of the clock was likethe beat of a hammer.

  As the chime struck one, Campbell turned around, and, looking at DorianGray, saw that his eyes were filled with tears. There was something inthe purity and refinement of that sad face that seemed to enrage him."You are infamous, absolutely infamous!" he muttered.

  "Hush, Alan: you have saved my life," said Dorian.

  "Your life? Good heavens! what a life that is! You have gone fromcorruption to corruption, and now you have culminated in crime. Indoing what I am going to do, what you force me to do, it is not of yourlife that I am thinking."

  "Ah, Alan," murmured Dorian, with a sigh, "I wish you had a thousandthpart of the pity for me that I have for you." He turned away, as hespoke, and stood looking out at the garden. Campbell made no answer.

  After about ten minutes a knock came to the door, and the servantentered, carrying a mahogany chest of chemicals, with a small electricbattery set on top of it. He placed it on the table, and went outagain, returning with a long coil of steel and platinum wire and tworather curiously-shaped iron clamps.

  "Shall I leave the things here, sir?" he asked Campbell.

  "Yes," said Dorian. "And I am afraid, Francis, that I have anothererrand for you. What is the name of the man at Richmond who suppliesSelby with orchids?"

  "Harden, sir."

  "Yes,--Harden. You must go down to Richmond at once, see Hardenpersonally, and tell him to send twice as many orchids as I ordered,and to have as few white ones as possible. In fact, I don't want anywhite ones. It is a lovely day, Francis, and Richmond is a very prettyplace, otherwise I wouldn't bother you about it."

  "No trouble, sir. At what time shall I be back?"

  Dorian looked at Campbell. "How long will your experiment take, Alan?"he said, in a calm, indifferent voice. The presence of a third personin the room seemed to give him extraordinary courage.

  Campbell frowned, and bit his lip. "It will take about five hours," heanswered.

  [93] "It will be time enough, then, if you are back at half-past seven,Francis. Or stay: just leave my things out for dressing. You can havethe evening to yourself. I am not dining at home, so I shall not wantyou."

  "Thank you, sir," said the man, leaving the room.

  "Now, Alan, there is not a moment to be lost. How heavy this chest is!I'll take it for you. You bring the other things." He spoke rapidly,and in an authoritative manner. Campbell felt dominated by him. Theyleft the room together.

  When they reached the top landing, Dorian took out the key and turnedit in the lock. Then he stopped, and a troubled look came into hiseyes. He shuddered. "I don't think I can go in, Alan," he murmured.

  "It is nothing to me. I don't require you," said Campbell, coldly.

  Dorian half opened the door. As he did so, he saw the face of theportrait grinning in the sunlight. On the floor in front of it thetorn curtain was lying. He remembered that the night before, for thefirst time in his life, he had forgotten to hide it, when he crept outof the room.

  But what was that loathsome red dew that gleamed, wet and glistening,on one of the hands, as though the canvas had sweated blood? Howhorrible it was!--more horrible, it seemed to him for the moment, thanthe silent thing that he knew was stretched across the table, the thingwhose grotesque misshapen shadow on the spotted carpet showed him thatit had not stirred, but was still there, as he had left it.

  He opened the door a little wider, and walked quickly in, withhalf-closed eyes and averted head, determined that he would not lookeven once upon the dead man. Then, stooping down, and taking up thegold-and-purple hanging, he flung it over the picture.

  He stopped, feeling afraid to turn round, and his eyes fixed themselveson the intricacies of the pattern before him. He heard Campbellbringing in the heavy chest, and the irons, and the other things thathe had required for his dreadful work. He began to wonder if he andBasil Hallward had ever met, and, if so, what they had thought of eachother.

  "Leave me now," said Campbell.

  He turned and hurried out, just conscious that the dead man had beenthrust back into the chair and was sitting up in it, with Campbellgazing into the glistening yellow face. As he was going downstairs heheard the key being turned in the lock.

  It was long after seven o'clock when Campbell came back into thelibrary. He was pale, but absolutely calm. "I have done what youasked me to do," he muttered. "And now, good-by. Let us never seeeach other again."

  "You have saved me from ruin, Alan. I cannot forget that," saidDorian, simply.

  As soon as Campbell had left, he went up-stairs. There was a horriblesmell of chemicals in the room. But the thing that had been sitting atthe table was gone.