Jealous of his Own Portrait
As they entered they saw Dorian Gray. He was sitting at the piano, with his back to them, and he was turning the pages of some music by Schumann. ‘You must lend me these, Basil,’ he cried. ‘I want to learn them. They are perfectly charming.’
‘Perhaps if you sit well for me today, Dorian.’
‘Oh, I am bored with sitting, and I don’t want a portrait of myself,’ answered the boy, turning quickly. When he saw Lord Henry, his face went red for a moment. ‘I am sorry, Basil. I didn’t know that you had anyone with you.’
‘This is Lord Henry Wotton, Dorian. He’s an old friend of mine. We went to Oxford together. I have just been telling him what a good sitter you were, and now you have spoiled everything.’
‘You have not spoiled my pleasure in meeting you, Mr Gray,’ said Lord Henry, stepping forward and offering his hand. ‘My aunt has often spoken to me about you.’
‘I am afraid Lady Agatha is annoyed with me at the moment. I promised to go to a club in Whitechapel with her last Tuesday, and I forgot all about it. I don’t know what she will say to me.’
Lord Henry looked at him. Yes, he was certainly wonderfully handsome, with his curved red lips, honest blue eyes and gold hair. ‘Oh, don’t worry about my aunt. You are one of her favourite people. And you are too charming to waste time working tor poor people.’
Lord Henry sat down on the sofa and opened his cigarette box. The painter was busy mixing colours and getting his brushes ready. Suddenly, he looked at Lord Henry and said, ‘Harry, I want to finish this picture today. Would you think it very rude of me if I asked you to go away?’
Lord Henry smiled, and looked at Dorian Gray. ‘Shall I go, Mr Gray?’ he asked.
‘Oh, please don’t, Lord Henry. I see that Basil is in one of his difficult moods, and I hate it when he is difficult. And I want you to tell me why I should not help the poor people.’
‘That would be very boring, Mr Gray. But I certainly will not run away if you do not want me to. Is that all right, Basil? You have often told me that you like your sitters to have someone to talk to.’
Hallward bit his lip. ‘If that is what Dorian wants. Dorian always gets what he wants.’
Lord Henry picked up his hat and gloves. ‘No, I am afraid I must go. Goodbye, Mr Gray. Come and see me one afternoon in Curzon Street. I am nearly always at home at five o’clock.’
‘Basil,’ cried Dorian Gray, ‘If Lord Henry Wotton goes, I will go too. You never open your lips while you are painting, and it is horribly boring just standing here. Ask him to stay.’
‘All right, please stay, Harry. For Dorian and for me,’ said Hallward, staring at his picture. ‘It is true that I never talk when I am working, and never listen either. It must be very boring for my sitters. Sit down again, Harry. And Dorian don’t move about too much, or listen to what Lord Henry says. He has a very bad influence over all his friends.’
Dorian Gray stood while Hallward finished his portrait. He liked what he had seen of Lord Henry. He was so different to Basil! And he had such a beautiful voice. After a few moments he said to him, ‘Have you really a very bad influence, Lord Henry? As bad as Basil says?’
‘Influence is always bad.’
‘Because to influence someone is to give them your soul. Each person must have his own personality.’
‘Turn your head a little more to the right, Dorian,’ said the painter. He was not listening to the conversation and only knew that there was a new look on the boy’s face.
‘And yet,’ continued Lord Henry, in his low musical voice, ‘I believe that if one man lived his life fully and completely he could change the world. He would be a work of art greater than anything we have ever imagined. But the bravest man among us is afraid of himself. You, Mr Gray, are very young but you have had passions that have made you afraid, dreams -‘
‘Stop!’ cried Dorian Gray, ‘I don’t understand what you are saying. I need to think.’
For nearly ten minutes he stood there with his lips open and his eyes strangely bright. The words that Basil’s friend had spoken had touched his soul. Yes, there had been things in his boyhood that he had not understood. He understood them now.
With his smile, Lord Henry watched him. He knew the exact moment when to say nothing. He was surprised at the sudden effect of his words on the boy. How fascinating the boy was!
Hallward continued painting and did not notice that the others were silent.
«Basil, I am tired,’ cried Dorian Gray, suddenly. ‘I must go and sit in the garden. There is no air in here.’
‘My dear boy, I am sorry. When I am painting, my work is all I can think about. But you never sat better. I don’t know what Harry has been saying to you, but there is a wonderful bright look in your eyes. I suppose he has been flattering you. You shouldn’t believe a word he says.’
‘He has certainly not been flattering me. Perhaps that is why I don’t believe anything he has told me.’
‘You know you believe it all,’ said Lord Henry, looking at him with his dreamy eyes. ‘I will go out to the garden with you. It’s horribly hot in this room.’