‘Every day. I couldn’t be happy if I didn’t see him every day.’
‘How extraordinary! I thought you only cared about your art.’
‘He is all my art to me now,’ said the painter. ‘I know that the work I have done since I met Dorian Gray is the best work of my life. In some strange way his personality has shown me a new kind of art. He seems like a little boy — though he is really more than twenty — and when he is with me I see the world differently.’
‘Basil, this is extraordinary! I must see Dorian Gray.’
Hallward got up from his seat and walked up and down the garden. After some time he came back. ‘Harry,’ he said. ‘Dorian Gray is the reason for my art. You might see nothing in him. I see everything in him.’
‘Then why won’t you exhibit his portrait?’ asked Lord Henry.
‘An artist should paint beautiful things, but he should put nothing of his own life into them. Some day I will show the world what that beauty is. For that reason the world will never see my portrait of Dorian Gray.’
‘I think you are wrong, Basil, but I won’t argue with you. Tell me, is Dorian Gray very fond of you?’
The painter thought for a few moments. ‘He likes me,’ he answered, after a pause. ‘I know he likes me. Of course I flatter him too much and tell him things that I should not. He is usually very charming to me, and we spend thousands of wonderful hours together. But sometimes he can be horribly thoughtless and seems to enjoy causing me pain. Then I feel, Harry, that I have given my whole soul to someone who uses it like a flower to put in his coat on a summer’s day.’
‘Summer days are long, Basil,’ said Lord Henry in a quiet voice. ‘Perhaps you will get bored before he will. Intelligence lives longer than beauty. One day you will look at your friend and you won’t like his colour or something. And then you will begin to think that he has behaved badly towards you -‘
‘Harry, don’t talk like that. As long as I live, Dorian Gray will be everything to me. You can’t feel what I feel. You change too often.’
‘My dear Basil, that is exactly why I can feel it.’ Lord Henry took a cigarette from his pretty silver box and lit it. Then he turned to Hallward and said, ‘I have just remembered.’
‘Remembered what, Harry?’
‘Where I heard the name of Dorian Gray.’
‘Where was it?’ asked Hallward with a frown.
‘Don’t look so angry, Basil. It was at my aunt’s, Lady Agatha’s. She told me that she had discovered this wonderful young man. He was going to help her work with the poor people in the East End of London, and his name was Dorian Gray. Of course I didn’t know it was your friend.’
‘I am very glad you didn’t, Harry.’
‘I don’t want you to meet him.’
A servant came into the garden. ‘Mr Dorian Gray is waiting in the house, sir,’ he said.
‘You must introduce me now,’ cried Lord Henry, laughing.
The painter turned to his servant. ‘Ask Mr Gray to wait, Parker. I will come in in a few moments.’
Then he looked at Lord Henry. ‘Dorian Gray is my dearest friend,’ he said. ‘He is a beautiful person. Don’t spoil him. Don’t try and influence him. Your influence would be bad. Don’t take away from me the one person who makes me a true artist.’
‘What silly things you say!’ said Lord Henry. Smiling, he took Hallward by the arm and almost led him into the house.