‘I Will Show You my Soul’
Many years passed. Yet the wonderful beauty that had so fascinated Basil Hallward, stayed with Dorian Gray. Even those who had heard terrible rumours against him, could not believe them when they met him. He always had the look of someone who had kept himself pure.
Many people suspected that there was something very wrong with Dorian’s life, but only he knew about the portrait. Some nights he would secretly enter the locked room. Holding a mirror in his hand, he would stand in front of the picture Basil Hallward had painted. He would look first at the horrible, old face in the picture, and then at the handsome young face that laughed back at him from the mirror. He fell more and more in love with his own beauty. And more and more interested in the corruption of his own soul.
Then something happened that changed everything.
It was on the ninth of November, the day before his thirty-eighth birthday. He was walking home from Lord Henry’s and the night was cold and foggy. At the corner of Grosvenor Square and South Audley Street, a man passed him in the fog. He was walking very fast, and had the collar of his coat turned up. He had a bag in his hand. Dorian recognized him. It was Basil Hallward. A strange fear made Dorian walk off quickly in the direction of his own house.
But Hallward had seen him. Dorian heard him 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 in your library ever since nine o’clock. I am going to Paris on the midnight train, and I wanted to see you before I left. I thought it was you, or at least your coat, as I passed you. But I wasn’t sure. Didn’t you recognize me?’
‘In this fog, my dear Basil? 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 such a long time. But I suppose you will be back soon?’
‘No, I am going to be out of England for six months. Here we are at your door. Let me come in for a moment. I have something to say to you.’
‘That would be lovely. But won’t you miss your train?’ said Dorian Gray, as he went up the steps and opened the door with his key.
‘I have plenty of time,’ he answered. ‘The train doesn’t go until twelve-fifteen, and it is only just eleven. All I have with me is this bag, and I can easily get to Victoria Station in twenty minutes.’
Dorian looked at him and smiled. ‘Come in or the fog will get into my house.’
Hallward followed Dorian into the library. There was a bright wood fire on one side of the room and two lamps on the other.
‘Would you like a drink?’asked Dorian.
‘No thanks, I won’t have anything more,’ said the painter, taking his hat and coat off. ‘And now, my dear Dorian, 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, throwing himself down on the sofa. ‘I hope it is not about myself. I am tired of myself tonight. I would prefer to be somebody different.’
‘It is about yourself,’ answered Hallward, in his deep voice, ‘and I must say it to you.’
Dorian breathed deeply and lit a cigarette. ‘Is it really necessary, Basil?’
‘I think you should know some of the terrible things that people are saying about you.’
‘I don’t want to know anything about them. I love scandals about other people, but scandals about myself don’t interest me.’
‘Every gentleman is interested in his good name, Dorian. You don’t want people to talk of you as something terrible and corrupt. But I don’t believe these rumours at all. At least I can’t believe them when I see you. Corruption is a thing that writes itself across a man’s face. It cannot be hidden.’
‘My dear Basil -‘
‘And yet, I rarely see you now and you never come to my house. When I hear all the terrible things people are whispering about you, I don’t know what to say. Why have so many of your friends killed themselves? Young men from good families like Adrian Singleton and that poor young soldier?’
‘Stop, Basil. You are talking about things of which you know nothing,’ said Dorian. ‘I know how people talk in England. This is a country where people have two faces. They whisper rumours about people like myself, and then do much worse things when others are not looking.’
‘Dorian,’ cried Hallward, ‘that is not the question. I know England is bad, but that’s the reason I want you to be a good influence on your friends. Instead you have lost all belief in goodness and honesty. You have filled those poor young men with a madness for pleasure.’
‘How can you smile like that? I only want you to have a clean name. You have a wonderful influence. Let it be for good. Yet I wonder whether I know you? But I can’t answer that question. I would need to see your soul.’
‘To see my soul!’ cried Dorian Gray. He jumped up from the sofa, turning almost white with fear.
‘Yes,’ answered Hallward. There was a deep sadness in his voice. ‘To see your soul. But only God can do that.’
A bitter laugh came from the lips of the younger man. ‘You will see it yourself, tonight!’ he cried, picking up a lamp from the table. ‘Come, it is your own work. Why shouldn’t you look at it? You can tell the world all about it after, if you want. Nobody will believe you. If they do believe you, they will like me better for it. Come, I tell you. You have talked enough about corruption. Now you will see it face to face.’
There was madness in every word he said. He felt a terrible delight that someone was going to share his secret. The man who had painted the portrait was going to share his shame. The painter would suffer for the rest of his life with the memory of what he had done.
‘Yes,’ he continued, coming closer to him. ‘I will show you my soul. You will see what you think only God can see.’
Hallward jumped back.
‘You cannot say things like that, Dorian!’ he cried. ‘They are horrible and they don’t mean anything.’
‘You think so?’ He laughed again.
‘I know so. Dorian, you have to tell me -‘
‘Don’t touch me. Finish what you have to say.’
The painter felt extraordinarily sad. He walked over to the fire and stood there.
‘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 the horrible things people are saying against you. Tell me that they are not true, Dorian! Can’t you see what I am going through? My God! Don’t tell me that you are bad and corrupt and shameful.’
Dorian Gray smiled. ‘Come upstairs, Basil,’ he said, quietly. ‘I keep a diary of my life from day to day. I will show it to you if you come up with me.’
‘I will come with you, Dorian, if you wish it. I see I have missed my train. It does not matter. I can go tomorrow. But don’t ask me to read anything tonight. All I want is a simple answer to my question.’
‘I will give it to you upstairs. I could not give it to you here. You will not have to read for long.’