Basil Sees the Portrait
He passed out of the room and began climbing the stairs. Basil Hallward followed close behind. They walked softly, as people always do at night. The lamp made strange shadows on the wall and stairs.
When they reached the top, Dorian put the lamp down on the floor. He took the key out of his pocket and turned it in the lock.
‘You really want to know, Basil?’ he asked in a low voice.
‘I am delighted,’ he answered, smiling. Then he added, ‘You are the one man in the world I want to know everything about me. You have influenced my life more than you think.’ Taking up the lamp, he opened the door and went in. Cold air passed between them. ‘Shut the door behind you,’ he whispered, as he placed the lamp on the table.
Hallward looked around the room in surprise. The room had clearly not been lived in for years. The whole place was covered with dust, and there were holes in the carpet. A mouse ran across the floor.
‘So you think that it is only God who sees the soul, Basil. Take the cover off the portrait, and you will see mine.’
The voice that spoke was cold and cruel.
‘You are mad, Dorian,’ said Hallward, frowning.
‘You won’t take the cover off? Then I will do it myself,’ said the young man, throwing the old purple curtain to the ground.
A cry of fear came from the painter’s lips when he saw the face in the portrait. It was Dorian Gray’s face he was looking at, and it still had some of that wonderful beauty. But now there were terrible signs of age and corruption. But who had done it? He held the lamp up to the picture. In the left hand corner was his name, painted in red.
What had happened? He had never done that. Still, it was his own picture. He knew it, and it made his blood turn to ice. His own picture! What did it mean? Why had it changed? He turned, and looked at Dorian Gray with the eyes of a sick man.
The young man was standing near the wall, watching him. He had taken the flower out of his coat, and was smelling it.
‘What does this mean?’ cried Hallward, at last. His own voice sounded high and strange.
‘Years ago, when I was a boy,’ said Dorian Gray, closing his hand on the flower, ‘you met me and flattered me. You taught me to love my beauty. One day you introduced me to a friend of yours. He explained to me how wonderful it was to be young. You finished a portrait of me that showed me how wonderful it was to be beautiful. In a mad moment I made a wish -‘
‘I remember it! Oh, how well I remember it! No! The thing is impossible. There must be something wrong with the paint. I tell you the thing is impossible.’
‘Is anything really impossible?’ said the young man, going over to the window.
‘You told me you had destroyed it.’
‘I was wrong. It has destroyed me.’
‘I don’t believe it is my picture. There was nothing bad in it, nothing shameful. You were perfect to me. This is a face from hell.’
‘It is the face of my soul. Each of us has Heaven and Hell in him, Basil,’ cried Dorian wildly.
Hallward turned again to the portrait, and stared at it. ‘My God! Is this true?’ he cried. ‘Is this what you have done with your life? You must be even worse than people say!’
Hallward threw himself into the chair by the table and put his face in his hands. The lamp fell to the floor and went out.
‘Good God, Dorian! What an awful lesson! What an awful lesson!’ There was no answer, but he could hear the young man crying at the window. ‘We must ask God for forgiveness. 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. There were tears in his eyes. ‘It is too late, Basil,’ he said.
‘But don’t you see that hellish thing staring at us?’
Dorian Gray looked at the picture. Suddenly he felt that he hated Basil Hallward. He hated the man sitting at the table more than he hated anything in his life.
He looked wildly around. Something shone on top of the painted cupboard that faced him. It was a knife he had left there some days before. He moved slowly towards it, passing Hallward as he did so. He took the knife in his hand and turned around. Hallward moved in his chair. He rushed at him, and stuck the knife into his neck again and again.
He threw the knife down on the table and stood back. He could hear nothing but the sound of blood falling on to the carpet. He opened the door and went out on to the stairs. The house was completely quiet. No one was there.
How quickly it had all been done! Feeling strangely calm, he walked over to the window and opened it. The wind had blown the fog away and the sky was clear. He looked down and saw a policeman walking down the street. He was shining a lamp in all the houses.
Closing the window, he went back into the room. He did not look at the murdered man. He felt that the secret of the whole thing was not to think about it at all. The friend who had painted the terrible portrait had gone out of his life. That was enough.
He picked up the lamp and walked out of the room, locking the door behind him. As he walked down the stairs he thought that he heard what sounded like cries of pain. He stopped several times, and waited. No, everything was still.
When he reached the library, he saw the bag and coat in the corner. They must be hidden away somewhere. He unlocked a secret cupboard and threw them in. He could easily burn them later. Then he pulled out his watch. It was twenty minutes to two.
He sat down and began to think. Basil Hallward had left the house at eleven. No one had seen him come in again. The servants were in bed… Paris! Yes. It was to Paris that Basil had gone. And by the midnight train as he had planned. It would be months before anyone suspected anything. Months! He could destroy everything long before then.
Suddenly he had a thought. He put on his coat and hat and went into the front room. From the window he could see the policeman passing the house. He waited, and held his breath.
After a few moments he went out of the house, shutting the door very gently behind him. Then he began ringing the bell. In about five minutes a servant appeared. He was half dressed and looked very sleepy.
‘I am sorry I had to wake you up, Francis,’ he said, stepping in. ‘But I have forgotten my key. What time is it?’
‘Ten minutes past two, sir,’ answered the man, looking at a clock.
‘Ten minutes past two? How horribly late! You must wake me at nine tomorrow. I have some work to do.’
‘All right, sir.’
‘Did anyone call this evening?’
‘Mr Hallward, sir. He stayed here until 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. He said he would write to you from Paris.’
‘That is all, Francis. Don’t forget to call me at nine tomorrow.’
The man went off to his bedroom.
Dorian Gray threw his hat and coat upon the table and passed into the library. For a quarter of an hour he walked up and down the room, biting his lip and thinking. Then he took down a book from one of the cupboards, and began to turn the pages. ‘Alan Campbell, 152 Hertford Street, Mayfair.’ Yes, that was the man he wanted.