Dorian Gray passed his hand across his face. It felt hot and wet. He felt that he was about to face horrible danger. ‘You told me a month ago that you would never exhibit it,’ he cried. ‘Why have you changed your mind?’ He stopped suddenly and a cruel look came into his eyes. He had remembered something Lord Henry had said to him, ‘Ask Basil why he won’t exhibit your picture. He told me once and it is a very strange story.’ Yes, perhaps Basil too had his secret. He would ask him and try.
‘Basil,’ he said, coming over quite close, and looking him straight in the face. ‘We all have secrets. What was your reason for not wanting to exhibit my picture?’
‘Dorian, if I told you, you might like me less than you do now. And you would certainly laugh at me. If you don’t want me ever to look at your picture again, I won’t. I have always you to look at. Your friendship is more important to me than exhibiting a painting.’
‘No, Basil, you must tell me,’ said Dorian Gray. His feeling of fear had passed away. Now he just wanted to find out Basil Hallward’s mystery.
‘Dorian,’ said the painter, who did not look happy. ‘Have you ever noticed something in the picture, something strange?’
‘Basil!’ cried the boy, staring at him with wild eyes.
‘I see you did. Dorian, from the moment I met you, your personality had the most extraordinary influence over me. I worshipped you. I was jealous of everyone you spoke to. I wanted to have you all to myself. I was only happy when I was with you. When you were away from me you were still there in my art.’
‘No, don’t speak. I must tell you now what I did not tell you then. That I decided to paint a wonderful portrait of you. I put all my feelings for you into that picture. I felt, Dorian, that I had told too much. I had put too much of myself into it. So I decided never to exhibit the portrait. I told Harry and he laughed. When the picture was finished, and I sat alone with it, I felt that I was right… Later, I thought that perhaps I was being foolish and when this Paris offer came… but I see now that the picture cannot be shown.’
Dorian Gray breathed deeply. The colour came back to his cheeks and a smile crossed his lips. The danger was over and he was safe for a while. What a sad story Basil had told. Would he ever be so influenced by the personality of a friend? Lord Henry had the charm of being very dangerous. But that was all.
‘It is extraordinary to me, Dorian,’ said Hallward, ‘that you saw this in the portrait.’
T saw something in it,’ he answered, ‘something that seemed to me very strange.’
‘Well, you don’t mind me looking at the thing now?’
Dorian shook his head. ‘You must not ask me that, Basil. I cannot let you stand in front of that picture.’
‘You will one day, won’t you?’
‘Well, perhaps you are right. And now goodbye, Dorian. You have been the one person in my life who has really influenced my art. But you don’t know what it cost me to tell you all that I have told you.’
‘My dear Basil,’ said Dorian, ‘what have you told me? Only that you worshipped me too much. That is not even flattery.’
‘It was not meant as flattery. And now that I have told you, something seems to have gone out of me. Perhaps you should never put what you worship into words.’
‘You mustn’t talk about worship. It is foolish. You and I are friends, Basil, and we will always be friends.’
‘You have got Harry.’ said the painter, sadly.
‘Oh, Harry!’ laughed the young man. ‘Harry spends his life saying and doing extraordinary things. He lives the sort of life I want to live. But I don’t think I would go to Harry if I was in trouble. I would prefer to go to you, Basil.’
‘You will sit for me again?’
‘Impossible! There is something terrible about a portrait. It has a life of its own. I will come and have tea with you instead.’
‘Well, goodbye then. I am sorry that you won’t let me look at the picture again. But I understand what you feel about it.’
As he left the room, Dorian Gray smiled to himself. Poor Basil! How little he knew of the true reason. And now he understood more the painter’s wild and jealous feelings, and he felt sorry. There was something tragic in a friendship so corrupted by passion.
He rang the bell to call his servant. He had to hide the portrait immediately. It had been mad of him to leave it in a place where it could be discovered by his friends.