The Problem of the Body
At nine o’clock the next morning his servant came in with a cup of chocolate, and opened the curtains. Dorian was sleeping quite peacefully, lying with one hand under his cheek.
As he opened his eyes a smile passed across his lips. He turned round, and began to drink his chocolate. The November sun came into the room, and the sky was bright. It was almost like a morning in May.
Slowly he remembered what had happened the night before. The dead man was still sitting there, and in the sunlight now. How horrible that was! Such terrible things were for the darkness, not the day.
After he had drunk his cup of chocolate, he went over to the table and wrote two letters. One he put in his pocket, and the other he handed to his servant.
‘Take this round to 152 Hertford Street, Francis. If Mr Campbell is out of town, get his address.’
When the servant had gone, he lit a cigarette, and began drawing on a piece of paper. First he drew flowers, then houses, then human faces. Suddenly he realized that every face he drew looked like Basil Hallward. He frowned and went over to lie on the sofa.
An hour went past very slowly. Every second he kept looking up at the clock. As the minutes went by he became horribly worried. He got up and walked around the room. His hands were strangely cold.
At last the door opened, and his servant entered.
‘Mr Campbell, sir,’ said the man.
The colour came back to his cheeks.
‘Ask him to come in at once, Francis.’ He felt himself again. His fear had gone away.
In a few moments Alan Campbell walked in. He looked very angry and rather worried.
‘Alan! This is kind of you. I thank you for coming.’
‘I hoped never to enter your house again, Gray. But you said it was a question of life and death.’ His voice was hard and cold, and he kept his hands in the pockets of his coat.
‘Yes, it is a question of life and death, Alan. And to more than one person. Sit down.’
Campbell took a chair by the table, and Dorian sat opposite him. The two men’s eyes met. In Dorian’s there was great sadness. He knew that what he was going to do was terrible.
After a moment of silence, Dorian said very quietly, ‘Alan, in a locked room at the top of the house, a dead man is sitting at a table. He has been dead for ten hours now. Don’t stir, and don’t look at me like that. You don’t need to know who this man is. You don’t need to know how or why he died. What you have to do is this -‘
‘Stop, Gray. I don’t want to know anything more. I don’t care if what you tell me is true or not true. I don’t want any part in your life. Keep your horrible secrets to yourself. They don’t interest me any more.’
‘Alan, they will have to interest you. I am awfully sorry for you, Alan. But I can’t help myself. You are the one man who can save me. Alan, you are a scientist. You know about chemistry, and things of that kind. What you have got to do is to destroy the thing that is upstairs.’
‘You are mad, Dorian. I will have nothing to do with this.’
‘He killed himself, Alan.’
‘I am glad of that. But who made him do it? You, I suppose.’
‘Do you still refuse to do this for me?’
‘Of course I refuse. You have come to the wrong man. Go to some of your friends. Don’t come to me.’
‘Alan, it was murder. I killed him. You don’t know what he made me suffer.’
‘Murder! Good God, Dorian, is that what you have come to? I will have nothing to do with it.’
‘You must have something to do with it. Don’t ask any more questions. I have told you too much already. But you must do this. We were friends once, Alan.’
‘Don’t speak of those days, Dorian. They are dead.’
‘They will hang me for this, Alan. Don’t you understand? They will kill me for what I have done.’
Campbell got up to leave. ‘I will not have anything to do with this.’
The same look of sadness came into Dorian Gray’s eyes. Then he took a piece of paper and wrote something on it. He read it over and pushed it across the table. Then he got up and went over to the window.
Campbell looked at him in surprise and picked up the paper. As he read it, his face went white, and he fell back in his chair.
After two or three minutes without speaking, Dorian came and stood next to him.
‘I am very sorry for you, Alan,’ he said, putting his hand on his shoulder. ‘But there is no other way. I have a letter written already. Here it is. You see the address. If you don’t help me, I will send it. You know what will happen. But you are going to help me. It is impossible for you to refuse now.’
Campbell put his face in his hands.
‘The thing is quite simple, Alan. It has to be done. Face it, and do it.’
A terrible sound came from Campbell’s lips.
‘Come, Alan, you must decide now.’
Alan paused for a moment. ‘Is there a fire in the room upstairs?’
‘Yes, there is a gas fire.’
‘I must go home and get some… things.’
‘No, Alan, you must not leave the house. Write out what you want, and my servant will get the things for you.’
It was nearly two o’clock when the servant returned with an enormous wooden box filled with the things Campbell had asked for.
‘You can have the rest of the day to yourself, Francis.’
‘Thank you, sir.’
When the servant had left, the two men carried the box up the stairs. Dorian took out the key and turned it in the lock. Then he stopped and Campbell saw that his eyes were full of tears. ‘I don’t think I can go in, Alan,’ he said.
‘I don’t need you,’ said Campbell coldly.
Dorian half opened the door. As he did so, he saw the face of the portrait staring in the sunlight. He remembered that the night before he had forgotten to cover the picture. He was about to rush forward when he saw something that made him jump back.
There was blood on one of the hands in the portrait. How horrible it was!
He hurried into the room, trying not to look at the dead man. Picking the curtain off the floor he threw it over the picture. Then he rushed out of the room and down the stairs.
It was long after seven when Campbell came back into the library. He was quiet and white in the face, but very calm. ‘I have done what you asked me to do,’ he said. ‘And now goodbye. Let us never see each other again.’
‘You have saved me, Alan. I cannot forget that,’ said Dorian, simply.
When Campbell had left he went upstairs. There was a horrible smell in the room. But the thing that had been sitting at the table was gone.