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The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

Chapter 14

Full text Chapter 14

Chapter 14

At nine o'clock the next morning his servant came in with a cup ofchocolate on a tray and opened the shutters. Dorian was sleeping quitepeacefully, lying on his right side, with one hand underneath hischeek. He looked like a boy who had been tired out with play, or study.

The man had to touch him twice on the shoulder before he woke, and ashe opened his eyes a faint smile passed across his lips, as though hehad been lost in some delightful dream. Yet he had not dreamed at all.His night had been untroubled by any images of pleasure or of pain.But youth smiles without any reason. It is one of its chiefest charms.

He turned round, and leaning upon his elbow, began to sip hischocolate. The mellow November sun came streaming into the room. Thesky was bright, and there was a genial warmth in the air. It wasalmost like a morning in May.

Gradually the events of the preceding night crept with silent,blood-stained feet into his brain and reconstructed themselves therewith terrible distinctness. He winced at the memory of all that he hadsuffered, and for a moment the same curious feeling of loathing forBasil Hallward that had made him kill him as he sat in the chair cameback to him, and he grew cold with passion. The dead man was stillsitting there, too, and in the sunlight now. How horrible that was!Such hideous things were for the darkness, not for the day.

He felt that if he brooded on what he had gone through he would sickenor grow mad. There were sins whose fascination was more in the memorythan in the doing of them, strange triumphs that gratified the pridemore than the passions, and gave to the intellect a quickened sense ofjoy, greater than any joy they brought, or could ever bring, to thesenses. But this was not one of them. It was a thing to be driven outof the mind, to be drugged with poppies, to be strangled lest it mightstrangle one itself.

When the half-hour struck, he passed his hand across his forehead, andthen got up hastily and dressed himself with even more than his usualcare, giving a good deal of attention to the choice of his necktie andscarf-pin and changing his rings more than once. He spent a long timealso over breakfast, tasting the various dishes, talking to his valetabout some new liveries that he was thinking of getting made for theservants at Selby, and going through his correspondence. At some ofthe letters, he smiled. Three of them bored him. One he read severaltimes over and then tore up with a slight look of annoyance in hisface. "That awful thing, a woman's memory!" as Lord Henry had oncesaid.

After he had drunk his cup of black coffee, he wiped his lips slowlywith a napkin, motioned to his servant to wait, and going over to thetable, sat down and wrote two letters. One he put in his pocket, theother he handed to the valet.

"Take this round to 152, Hertford Street, Francis, and if Mr. Campbellis out of town, get his address."

As soon as he was alone, he lit a cigarette and began sketching upon apiece of paper, drawing first flowers and bits of architecture, andthen human faces. Suddenly he remarked that every face that he drewseemed to have a fantastic likeness to Basil Hallward. He frowned, andgetting up, went over to the book-case and took out a volume at hazard.He was determined that he would not think about what had happened untilit became absolutely necessary that he should do so.

When he had stretched himself on the sofa, he looked at the title-pageof the book. It was Gautier's Emaux et Camees, Charpentier'sJapanese-paper edition, with the Jacquemart etching. The binding wasof citron-green leather, with a design of gilt trellis-work and dottedpomegranates. It had been given to him by Adrian Singleton. As heturned over the pages, his eye fell on the poem about the hand ofLacenaire, the cold yellow hand "du supplice encore mal lavee," withits downy red hairs and its "doigts de faune." He glanced at his ownwhite taper fingers, shuddering slightly in spite of himself, andpassed on, till he came to those lovely stanzas upon Venice:

Sur une gamme chromatique,
Le sein de perles ruisselant,
La Venus de l'Adriatique
Sort de l'eau son corps rose et blanc.

Les domes, sur l'azur des ondes
Suivant la phrase au pur contour,
S'enflent comme des gorges rondes
Que souleve un soupir d'amour.

L'esquif aborde et me depose,
Jetant son amarre au pilier,
Devant une facade rose,
Sur le marbre d'un escalier.

How exquisite they were! As one read them, one seemed to be floatingdown the green water-ways of the pink and pearl city, seated in a blackgondola with silver prow and trailing curtains. The mere lines lookedto him like those straight lines of turquoise-blue that follow one asone pushes out to the Lido. The sudden flashes of colour reminded himof the gleam of the opal-and-iris-throated birds that flutter round thetall honeycombed Campanile, or stalk, with such stately grace, throughthe dim, dust-stained arcades. Leaning back with half-closed eyes, hekept saying over and over to himself:

"Devant une facade rose,
Sur le marbre d'un escalier."

The whole of Venice was in those two lines. He remembered the autumnthat he had passed there, and a wonderful love that had stirred him tomad delightful follies. There was romance in every place. But Venice,like Oxford, had kept the background for romance, and, to the trueromantic, background was everything, or almost everything. Basil hadbeen with him part of the time, and had gone wild over Tintoret. PoorBasil! What a horrible way for a man to die!

He sighed, and took up the volume again, and tried to forget. He readof the swallows that fly in and out of the little cafe at Smyrna wherethe Hadjis sit counting their amber beads and the turbaned merchantssmoke their long tasselled pipes and talk gravely to each other; heread of the Obelisk in the Place de la Concorde that weeps tears ofgranite in its lonely sunless exile and longs to be back by the hot,lotus-covered Nile, where there are Sphinxes, and rose-red ibises, andwhite vultures with gilded claws, and crocodiles with small beryl eyesthat crawl over the green steaming mud; he began to brood over thoseverses which, drawing music from kiss-stained marble, tell of thatcurious statue that Gautier compares to a contralto voice, the "monstrecharmant" that couches in the porphyry-room of the Louvre. But after atime the book fell from his hand. He grew nervous, and a horrible fitof terror came over him. What if Alan Campbell should be out ofEngland? Days would elapse before he could come back. Perhaps hemight refuse to come. What could he do then? Every moment was ofvital importance.

They had been great friends once, five years before—almostinseparable, indeed. Then the intimacy had come suddenly to an end.When they met in society now, it was only Dorian Gray who smiled: AlanCampbell never did.

He was an extremely clever young man, though he had no realappreciation of the visible arts, and whatever little sense of thebeauty of poetry he possessed he had gained entirely from Dorian. Hisdominant intellectual passion was for science. At Cambridge he hadspent a great deal of his time working in the laboratory, and had takena good class in the Natural Science Tripos of his year. Indeed, he wasstill devoted to the study of chemistry, and had a laboratory of hisown in which he used to shut himself up all day long, greatly to theannoyance of his mother, who had set her heart on his standing forParliament and had a vague idea that a chemist was a person who made upprescriptions. He was an excellent musician, however, as well, andplayed both the violin and the piano better than most amateurs. Infact, it was music that had first brought him and Dorian Graytogether—music and that indefinable attraction that Dorian seemed tobe able to exercise whenever he wished—and, indeed, exercised oftenwithout being conscious of it. They had met at Lady Berkshire's thenight that Rubinstein played there, and after that used to be alwaysseen together at the opera and wherever good music was going on. Foreighteen months their intimacy lasted. Campbell was always either atSelby Royal or in Grosvenor Square. To him, as to many others, DorianGray was the type of everything that is wonderful and fascinating inlife. Whether or not a quarrel had taken place between them no oneever knew. But suddenly people remarked that they scarcely spoke whenthey met and that Campbell seemed always to go away early from anyparty at which Dorian Gray was present. He had changed, too—wasstrangely melancholy at times, appeared almost to dislike hearingmusic, and would never himself play, giving as his excuse, when he wascalled upon, that he was so absorbed in science that he had no timeleft in which to practise. And this was certainly true. Every day heseemed to become more interested in biology, and his name appeared onceor twice in some of the scientific reviews in connection with certaincurious experiments.

This was the man Dorian Gray was waiting for. Every second he keptglancing at the clock. As the minutes went by he became horriblyagitated. At last he got up and began to pace up and down the room,looking like a beautiful caged thing. He took long stealthy strides.His hands were curiously cold.

The suspense became unbearable. Time seemed to him to be crawling withfeet of lead, while he by monstrous winds was being swept towards thejagged edge of some black cleft of precipice. He knew what was waitingfor him there; saw it, indeed, and, shuddering, crushed with dank handshis burning lids as though he would have robbed the very brain of sightand driven the eyeballs back into their cave. It was useless. Thebrain had its own food on which it battened, and the imagination, madegrotesque by terror, twisted and distorted as a living thing by pain,danced like some foul puppet on a stand and grinned through movingmasks. Then, suddenly, time stopped for him. Yes: that blind,slow-breathing thing crawled no more, and horrible thoughts, time beingdead, raced nimbly on in front, and dragged a hideous future from itsgrave, and showed it to him. He stared at it. Its very horror madehim stone.

At last the door opened and his servant entered. He turned glazed eyesupon him.

"Mr. Campbell, sir," said the man.

A sigh of relief broke from his parched lips, and the colour came backto his cheeks.

"Ask him to come in at once, Francis." He felt that he was himselfagain. His mood of cowardice had passed away.

The man bowed and retired. In a few moments, Alan Campbell walked in,looking very stern and rather pale, his pallor being intensified by hiscoal-black hair and dark eyebrows.

"Alan! This is kind of you. I thank you for coming."

"I had intended never to enter your house again, Gray. But you said itwas a matter of life and death." His voice was hard and cold. Hespoke with slow deliberation. There was a look of contempt in thesteady searching gaze that he turned on Dorian. He kept his hands inthe pockets of his Astrakhan coat, and seemed not to have noticed thegesture with which he had been greeted.

"Yes: it is a matter of life and death, Alan, and to more than oneperson. Sit down."

Campbell took a chair by the table, and Dorian sat opposite to him.The two men's eyes met. In Dorian's there was infinite pity. He knewthat what he was going to do was dreadful.

After a strained moment of silence, he leaned across and said, veryquietly, but watching the effect of each word upon the face of him hehad sent for, "Alan, in a locked room at the top of this house, a roomto which nobody but myself has access, a dead man is seated at a table.He has been dead ten hours now. Don't stir, and don't look at me likethat. Who the man is, why he died, how he died, are matters that donot concern you. What you have to do is this—"

"Stop, Gray. I don't want to know anything further. Whether what youhave told me is true or not true doesn't concern me. I entirelydecline to be mixed up in your life. Keep your horrible secrets toyourself. They don't interest me any more."

"Alan, they will have to interest you. This one will have to interestyou. I am awfully sorry for you, Alan. But I can't help myself. Youare the one man who is able to save me. I am forced to bring you intothe matter. I have no option. Alan, you are scientific. You knowabout chemistry and things of that kind. You have made experiments.What you have got to do is to destroy the thing that is upstairs—todestroy it so that not a vestige of it will be left. Nobody saw thisperson come into the house. Indeed, at the present moment he issupposed to be in Paris. He will not be missed for months. When he ismissed, there must be no trace of him found here. You, Alan, you mustchange him, and everything that belongs to him, into a handful of ashesthat I may scatter in the air."

"You are mad, Dorian."

"Ah! I was waiting for you to call me Dorian."

"You are mad, I tell you—mad to imagine that I would raise a finger tohelp you, mad to make this monstrous confession. I will have nothingto do with this matter, whatever it is. Do you think I am going toperil my reputation for you? What is it to me what devil's work youare up to?"

"It was suicide, Alan."

"I am glad of that. But who drove him to it? You, I should fancy."

"Do you still refuse to do this for me?"

"Of course I refuse. I will have absolutely nothing to do with it. Idon't care what shame comes on you. You deserve it all. I should notbe sorry to see you disgraced, publicly disgraced. How dare you askme, of all men in the world, to mix myself up in this horror? I shouldhave thought you knew more about people's characters. Your friend LordHenry Wotton can't have taught you much about psychology, whatever elsehe has taught you. Nothing will induce me to stir a step to help you.You have come to the wrong man. Go to some of your friends. Don'tcome to me."

"Alan, it was murder. I killed him. You don't know what he had mademe suffer. Whatever my life is, he had more to do with the making orthe marring of it than poor Harry has had. He may not have intendedit, the result was the same."

"Murder! Good God, Dorian, is that what you have come to? I shall notinform upon you. It is not my business. Besides, without my stirringin the matter, you are certain to be arrested. Nobody ever commits acrime without doing something stupid. But I will have nothing to dowith it."

"You must have something to do with it. Wait, wait a moment; listen tome. Only listen, Alan. All I ask of you is to perform a certainscientific experiment. You go to hospitals and dead-houses, and thehorrors that you do there don't affect you. If in some hideousdissecting-room or fetid laboratory you found this man lying on aleaden table with red gutters scooped out in it for the blood to flowthrough, you would simply look upon him as an admirable subject. Youwould not turn a hair. You would not believe that you were doinganything wrong. On the contrary, you would probably feel that you werebenefiting the human race, or increasing the sum of knowledge in theworld, or gratifying intellectual curiosity, or something of that kind.What I want you to do is merely what you have often done before.Indeed, to destroy a body must be far less horrible than what you areaccustomed to work at. And, remember, it is the only piece of evidenceagainst me. If it is discovered, I am lost; and it is sure to bediscovered unless you help me."

"I have no desire to help you. You forget that. I am simplyindifferent to the whole thing. It has nothing to do with me."

"Alan, I entreat you. Think of the position I am in. Just before youcame I almost fainted with terror. You may know terror yourself someday. No! don't think of that. Look at the matter purely from thescientific point of view. You don't inquire where the dead things onwhich you experiment come from. Don't inquire now. I have told youtoo much as it is. But I beg of you to do this. We were friends once,Alan."

"Don't speak about those days, Dorian—they are dead."

"The dead linger sometimes. The man upstairs will not go away. He issitting at the table with bowed head and outstretched arms. Alan!Alan! If you don't come to my assistance, I am ruined. Why, they willhang me, Alan! Don't you understand? They will hang me for what Ihave done."

"There is no good in prolonging this scene. I absolutely refuse to doanything in the matter. It is insane of you to ask me."

"You refuse?"


"I entreat you, Alan."

"It is useless."

The same look of pity came into Dorian Gray's eyes. Then he stretchedout his hand, took a piece of paper, and wrote something on it. Heread it over twice, folded it carefully, and pushed it across thetable. Having done this, he got up and went over to the window.

Campbell looked at him in surprise, and then took up the paper, andopened it. As he read it, his face became ghastly pale and he fellback in his chair. A horrible sense of sickness came over him. Hefelt as if his heart was beating itself to death in some empty hollow.

After two or three minutes of terrible silence, Dorian turned round andcame and stood behind him, putting his hand upon his shoulder.

"I am so sorry for you, Alan," he murmured, "but you leave me noalternative. I have a letter written already. Here it is. You seethe address. If you don't help me, I must send it. If you don't helpme, I will send it. You know what the result will be. But you aregoing to help me. It is impossible for you to refuse now. I tried tospare you. You will do me the justice to admit that. You were stern,harsh, offensive. You treated me as no man has ever dared to treatme—no living man, at any rate. I bore it all. Now it is for me todictate terms."

Campbell buried his face in his hands, and a shudder passed through him.

"Yes, it is my turn to dictate terms, Alan. You know what they are.The thing is quite simple. Come, don't work yourself into this fever.The thing has to be done. Face it, and do it."

A groan broke from Campbell's lips and he shivered all over. Theticking of the clock on the mantelpiece seemed to him to be dividingtime into separate atoms of agony, each of which was too terrible to beborne. He felt as if an iron ring was being slowly tightened round hisforehead, as if the disgrace with which he was threatened had alreadycome upon him. The hand upon his shoulder weighed like a hand of lead.It was intolerable. It seemed to crush him.

"Come, Alan, you must decide at once."

"I cannot do it," he said, mechanically, as though words could alterthings.

"You must. You have no choice. Don't delay."

He hesitated a moment. "Is there a fire in the room upstairs?"

"Yes, there is a gas-fire with asbestos."

"I shall have to go home and get some things from the laboratory."

"No, Alan, you must not leave the house. Write out on a sheet ofnotepaper what you want and my servant will take a cab and bring thethings back to you."

Campbell scrawled a few lines, blotted them, and addressed an envelopeto his assistant. Dorian took the note up and read it carefully. Thenhe rang the bell and gave it to his valet, with orders to return assoon as possible and to bring the things with him.

As the hall door shut, Campbell started nervously, and having got upfrom the chair, went over to the chimney-piece. He was shivering with akind of ague. For nearly twenty minutes, neither of the men spoke. Afly buzzed noisily about the room, and the ticking of the clock waslike the beat of a hammer.

As the chime struck one, Campbell turned round, and looking at DorianGray, saw that his eyes were filled with tears. There was something inthe purity and refinement of that sad face that seemed to enrage him."You are infamous, absolutely infamous!" he muttered.

"Hush, Alan. You have saved my life," said Dorian.

"Your life? Good heavens! what a life that is! You have gone fromcorruption to corruption, and now you have culminated in crime. Indoing what I am going to do—what you force me to do—it is not of yourlife that I am thinking."

"Ah, Alan," murmured Dorian with a sigh, "I wish you had a thousandthpart of the pity for me that I have for you." He turned away as hespoke and stood looking out at the garden. Campbell made no answer.

After about ten minutes a knock came to the door, and the servantentered, carrying a large mahogany chest of chemicals, with a long coilof steel and platinum wire and two rather curiously shaped iron clamps.

"Shall I leave the things here, sir?" he asked Campbell.

"Yes," said Dorian. "And I am afraid, Francis, that I have anothererrand for you. What is the name of the man at Richmond who suppliesSelby with orchids?"

"Harden, sir."

"Yes—Harden. You must go down to Richmond at once, see Hardenpersonally, and tell him to send twice as many orchids as I ordered,and to have as few white ones as possible. In fact, I don't want anywhite ones. It is a lovely day, Francis, and Richmond is a very prettyplace—otherwise I wouldn't bother you about it."

"No trouble, sir. At what time shall I be back?"

Dorian looked at Campbell. "How long will your experiment take, Alan?"he said in a calm indifferent voice. The presence of a third person inthe room seemed to give him extraordinary courage.

Campbell frowned and bit his lip. "It will take about five hours," heanswered.

"It will be time enough, then, if you are back at half-past seven,Francis. Or stay: just leave my things out for dressing. You canhave the evening to yourself. I am not dining at home, so I shall notwant you."

"Thank you, sir," said the man, leaving the room.

"Now, Alan, there is not a moment to be lost. How heavy this chest is!I'll take it for you. You bring the other things." He spoke rapidlyand in an authoritative manner. Campbell felt dominated by him. Theyleft the room together.

When they reached the top landing, Dorian took out the key and turnedit in the lock. Then he stopped, and a troubled look came into hiseyes. He shuddered. "I don't think I can go in, Alan," he murmured.

"It is nothing to me. I don't require you," said Campbell coldly.

Dorian half opened the door. As he did so, he saw the face of hisportrait leering in the sunlight. On the floor in front of it the torncurtain was lying. He remembered that the night before he hadforgotten, for the first time in his life, to hide the fatal canvas,and was about to rush forward, when he drew back with a shudder.

What was that loathsome red dew that gleamed, wet and glistening, onone of the hands, as though the canvas had sweated blood? How horribleit was!—more horrible, it seemed to him for the moment, than thesilent thing that he knew was stretched across the table, the thingwhose grotesque misshapen shadow on the spotted carpet showed him thatit had not stirred, but was still there, as he had left it.

He heaved a deep breath, opened the door a little wider, and withhalf-closed eyes and averted head, walked quickly in, determined thathe would not look even once upon the dead man. Then, stooping down andtaking up the gold-and-purple hanging, he flung it right over thepicture.

There he stopped, feeling afraid to turn round, and his eyes fixedthemselves on the intricacies of the pattern before him. He heardCampbell bringing in the heavy chest, and the irons, and the otherthings that he had required for his dreadful work. He began to wonderif he and Basil Hallward had ever met, and, if so, what they hadthought of each other.

"Leave me now," said a stern voice behind him.

He turned and hurried out, just conscious that the dead man had beenthrust back into the chair and that Campbell was gazing into aglistening yellow face. As he was going downstairs, he heard the keybeing turned in the lock.

It was long after seven when Campbell came back into the library. Hewas pale, but absolutely calm. "I have done what you asked me to do,"he muttered. "And now, good-bye. Let us never see each other again."

"You have saved me from ruin, Alan. I cannot forget that," said Doriansimply.

As soon as Campbell had left, he went upstairs. There was a horriblesmell of nitric acid in the room. But the thing that had been sittingat the table was gone.