‘What Is Past Is Past?’
As he was eating breakfast the next morning, Basil Hallward was shown into the room.
I am so glad I have found you, Dorian,’ he said. ‘I called last night, and they told me that you were at the theatre. Of course I knew that was impossible. I had a terrible evening worrying whether one tragedy would be followed by another. I can’t tell you how heart-broken I am about the whole thing. Did you go and see the girl’s mother? What did she say about it all?’
‘My dear Basil, I don’t know,’ said Dorian Gray. He looked very bored. ‘I was at the theatre.’
‘You went to the theatre?’ said Hallward, speaking very slowly. ‘You went to the theatre where Sibyl Vane was lying dead?’
‘Stop, Basil! I won’t hear it!’ cried Dorian, jumping to his feet. ‘You must not speak of such things. What is done is done. What is past is past.’
‘You call yesterday the past? Dorian, this is horrible! Something has changed you completely. You look exactly the same as the wonderful boy in my picture, but now there is no heart in you. It is all Harry’s influence. I see that.’
The boy went to the window and looked out at the garden for a few moments.
‘Harry has taught me many things, Basil.’ he said at last. ‘You have only taught me to love my own beauty.’
‘I am truly sorry for that, Dorian.’
I don’t know what you mean, Basil,’ he said, turning round. ‘I don’t know what you want. What do you want?’
‘I want the Dorian Gray I used to paint,’ said the artist sadly.
‘Basil,’ said the boy, going over to him and putting his hand on his shoulder, ‘you have come too late. Yesterday when I heard that Sibyl Vane had killed herself-‘
‘Killed herself! My God! Is there no doubt about that?’ cried Hallward.
‘My dear Basil! Of course she killed herself.’
The older man put his face in his hands. ‘How terrible,’ he said in a quiet voice.
‘No,’ said Dorian Gray, ‘there is nothing terrible about it. It is one of the great romantic tragedies of our time. I know you are surprised at me talking to you like this. You have not realized how I have changed. I was a boy when you knew me. I am a man now. I have new passions, new thoughts, new ideas -‘
‘But Dorian -‘
‘I am different, but you must not like me less. Of course I am very fond of Harry. But I know that you are better than he is. You are not stronger — you are too afraid of life — but you are better. And how happy we used to be together! Don’t leave me, Basil, and don’t argue with me. I am what I am.’
The painter felt strangely sad. Dorian Gray was extraordinarily important to him. The boy had changed his art. Perhaps his cruel talk about Sibyl Vane was just a mood that would pass away. There was so much in him that was good.
‘Well, Dorian,’ he said with a sad smile, ‘I won’t speak to you again about this horrible thing. I only hope that your name is kept out of any scandal. Have the police asked to see you?’
Dorian shook his head. ‘They don’t even know my name,’ he answered.
‘She didn’t know your name?’
‘Only my first name, and I am sure that she did not tell it to anyone. She told her family that I was Prince Charming. It was pretty of her. You must do me a drawing of Sibyl, Basil. I would like to have something more of her than the memory of a few kisses.’
‘I will try and do something, Dorian. But you must come and sit for me again. I can’t work so well without you.’
‘I can never sit for you again, Basil. It is impossible!’ he cried.
‘My dear boy, what is this foolishness!’ Hallward cried. ‘Did you not like what I did for you? Where is it? Why have you covered it? Let me look at it. It is the best thing I have ever done. It is very bad of your servant to hide my work like that. I felt the room looked different as I came in.’
‘It was not my servant who covered it, Basil. I did it myself. The light was too strong on the portrait.’
‘Too strong! No, the light is perfect in here. Let me see it.’ And Hallward walked towards the corner of the room.
A terrible cry came from Dorian Gray’s lips, and he rushed between the painter and the covered portrait. ‘Basil, you must not look at it! I don’t want you to.’
‘Not look at my own work! Are you serious? Why shouldn’t I look at it?’ cried Hallward, laughing.
‘If you try and look at it, Basil, I promise I will never speak to you again. I am very serious.’
Hallward looked at Dorian Gray in surprise. He had never seen him like this before. The boy’s face was white and angry.
‘But what is the matter? Of course I won’t look at it if you don’t want me to,’ he said coldly, walking over to the window. ‘But it seems rather absurd that I cannot see my own work when I am going to exhibit it in Paris in the autumn.’
‘To exhibit it? You want to exhibit it?’ cried Dorian Gray. A terrible fear was building inside him. Was the world going to see his secret? Were people going to stare at the mystery of his life? That was impossible.
‘Yes, George Petit is going to exhibit all my best pictures in October. Don’t worry, it is only for one month.’