‘Don’t keep Dorian too long,’ said the painter. ‘This is going to be my best painting.’
Lord Henry went out to the garden, and found Dorian Gray holding a flower to his face. He came close to him, and put his hand on his shoulder.
Dorian Gray frowned and turned away. He liked the tall young man who was standing by him. His dark, romantic face interested him. There was something in his low, musical voice that was fascinating. But he felt a little afraid. Why was this stranger having a strong influence on him like this? He had known Basil Hallward for months, but the friendship between them had not changed him. Suddenly someone had come into his life and turned it upside down. Someone who seemed to have the key to the mystery of life itself.
And yet, what was there to be afraid of? He was not a schoolboy or a girl. It was silly to be afraid.
‘Let us go and sit out of the sun. I don’t want you to be burnt by the sun.’
‘What does that matter?’ cried Dorian Gray, laughing as he sat down on the seat at the end of the garden.
‘It should matter very much to you, Mr Gray.’
‘Because you are young, and to be young is the best thing in the world.’
‘I don’t feel that, Lord Henry.’
‘No, you don’t feel it now. Some day when you are old and ugly you will feel it terribly. Now, wherever you go, you charm the world. Will it always be so?… You have a wonderfully beautiful face, Mr Gray.’
‘I don’t think -‘
‘Don’t frown. It is true. The gods have been good to you. But what the gods give they quickly take away. You have only a few years in which to really live, perfectly and fully. Live your life now, while you are still young!’
Suddenly the painter appeared at the door and waved at them to come in. They turned to each other and smiled.
‘I am waiting,’ he cried. ‘Please come in. The light is perfect.’
They got up and walked towards the house together.
‘You are glad you have met me, Mr Gray,’ said Lord Henry, looking at him.
‘Yes, I am glad now. I wonder whether I will always be glad.’
‘Always! That is a terrible word. Women are so fond of using it.’
Twenty minutes later Hallward stopped painting. He stood back and looked at the portrait for a few moments. Then he bent down and signed his name in red paint on the bottom left-hand corner.
‘It is finished,’ he cried.
Lord Henry came over and examined the picture. It was certainly a wonderful work of art.
‘My dear man,’ he said. ‘It is the best portrait of our time. Mr Gray, come over and look at yourself.’
Dorian walked across to look at the painting. When he saw it his cheeks went red with pleasure. He felt that he recognized his own beauty for the first time. But then he remembered what Lord Henry had said. His beauty would only be there for a few years. One day he would be old and ugly.
‘Don’t you like it?’ cried Hallward, not understanding why the boy was silent.
‘Of course he likes it,’ said Lord Henry. ‘It is one of the greatest paintings in modern art. I will pay anything you ask for it. I must have it.’
‘It is not mine to sell, Harry.’
‘Whose is it?’
‘Dorian’s, of course,’ answered the painter.
‘He is very lucky.’
‘How sad it is!’ said Dorian Gray, who was still staring at his own portrait. ‘I will grow old and horrible. But this painting will always stay young. It will never be older than this day in June… if only it were the other way!’
‘What do you mean?’ asked Hallward.
‘If I could stay young and the picture grow old! For that — for that — I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!’
‘I don’t think you would like that, Basil,’ cried Lord Henry, laughing.
‘I certainly would not, Harry,’ said Hallward.
Dorian Gray turned and looked at him. ‘You like your art better than your friends.’
The painter stared in surprise. Why was Dorian speaking like that? What had happened? His face was red, and he seemed quite angry.
‘You will always like this painting. But how long will you like me? Until I start getting old. Lord Henry Wotton is perfectly right. When I lose my beauty, I will lose everything. I shall kill myself before I get old.’
Hallward turned white, and caught his hand. ‘Dorian! Dorian!’ he cried. ‘Don’t talk like that. I have never had a friend like you, and I will never have another. How can you be jealous of a painting? You are more beautiful than any work of art.’
‘I am jealous of everything whose beauty does not die. I am jealous of the portrait you have painted of me. Why should it keep what I must lose?’ Hot tears came into his eyes as he threw himself on the sofa.
‘You did this, Harry,’ said the painter, angrily.
Lord Henry shook his head. ‘It is the real Dorian Gray — that is all.’
‘Harry, I can’t argue with two of my best friends at once. Between you both you have made me hate the best piece of work I have ever done. I will destroy it.’
Dorian Gray watched as Hallward walked over to the painting- table and picked up a knife. The boy jumped from the sofa, tore the knife from Hallward’s hand and threw it across the room. ‘Don’t, Basil!’ he cried. ‘Don’t murder it!’
‘I am glad that you like my work at last, Dorian,’ said the painter coldly. ‘I never thought you would.’
‘Like it? I am in love with it, Basil. It is part of myself. I feel that.’
‘What silly people you are, both of you!’ said Lord Henry. ‘Let’s forget about the painting for one night and go to the theatre.’
‘I would like to come to the theatre with you, Lord Henry.’
‘And you will come too, won’t you Basil?’
‘I can’t,’ said Hallward. ‘I have too much work to do.’
‘Well, you and I will go together, Mr Gray.’
The painter bit his lip and walked over to the picture.
‘I will stay with the real Dorian,’ he said sadly.