Oscar Wilde: The Picture of Dorian Gray, Chapter XIII (extract)


He passed out of the room, and began the ascent, Basil
Hallward following close behind. They walked softly, as
men do instinctively at night. The lamp cast fantastic
shadows on the wall and staircase. A rising wind made
5 some of the windows rattle.
When they reached the top landing, Dorian set the
lamp down on the floor, and taking out the key turned
it in the lock. "You insist on knowing, Basil?" he asked,
in a low voice.
10 "Yes."
"I am delighted," he answered, smiling. Then he added,
somewhat harshly, "You are the one man in the world
who is entitled to know everything about me. You have
had more to do with my life than you think:" and, tak-
15 ing up the lamp, he opened the door and went in. A
cold current of air passed them, and the light shot up
for a moment in a flame of murky orange. He shud-
dered. "Shut the door behind you," he whispered, as he
placed the lamp on the table.
20 Hallward glanced round him, with a puzzled expression.
The room looked as if it had not been lived in for years.
A faded Flemish tapestry, a curtained picture, an old
Italian cassone1, and an almost empty bookcase – that
was all that it seemed to contain, besides a chair and a
25 table. As Dorian Gray was lighting a half-burned candle
that was standing on the mantel-shelf, he saw that the
whole place was covered with dust, and that the carpet
was in holes. A mouse ran scuffling behind the wains-
coting2. There was a damp odour of mildew3.
30 "So you think that it is only God who sees the soul,
Basil? Draw that curtain back, and you will see mine."
The voice that spoke was cold and cruel. "You are mad,
Dorian, or playing a part," muttered Hallward, frowning.
35 "You won't? Then I must do it myself," said the young
man; and he tore the curtain from its rod, and flung it
on the ground.
An exclamation of horror broke from the painter's lips
as he saw in the dim light the hideous face on the can-
40 vas grinning at him. There was something in its expres-
sion that filled him with disgust and loathing. Good
heavens! It was Dorian Gray's own face that he was
looking at! The horror, whatever it was, had not yet
entirely spoiled that marvellous4 beauty. There was still
45 some gold in the thinning hair and some scarlet on the
sensual mouth. The sodden eyes had kept some-thing
of the loveliness of their blue, the noble curves had not
yet completely passed away from chiselled5 nostrils
and from plastic throat. Yes, it was Dorian him-self. But
50 who had done it? He seemed to recognise his own
brush-work, and the frame was his own design. The
idea was monstrous, yet he felt afraid. He seized the
lighted candle, and held it to the picture. In the left-
hand corner was his own name, traced in long letters of
55 bright vermilion6.
It was some foul parody, some infamous, ignoble sat
ire. He had never done that. Still, it was his own pic
ture. He knew it, and he felt as if his blood had changed
in a moment from fire to sluggish ice. His own picture!
60 What did it mean? Why had it altered? He turned, and
looked at Dorian Gray with the eyes of a sick man. His
mouth twitched, and his parched tongue seemed un
able to articulate. He passed his hand across his fore
head. It was dank with clammy sweat.
65 The young man was leaning against the mantel-shelf,
watching him with that strange expression that one
sees on the faces of those who are absorbed in a play
when some great artist is acting. There was neither real
sorrow in it nor real joy. There was simply the passion
70 of the spectator, with perhaps a flicker of triumph in his
eyes. He had taken the flower out of his coat, and was
smelling it, or pretending to do so.
"What does this mean?" cried Hallward, at last. His own
voice sounded shrill and curious in his ears.
75 "Years ago, when I was a boy," said Dorian Gray, crush
ing the flower in his hand, "you met me, flattered me,
and taught me to be vain of my good looks. One day
you introduced me to a friend of yours, who explained
to me the wonder of youth, and you finished the por-
80 trait of me that revealed to me the wonder of beauty.
In a mad moment, that, even now, I don't know
whether I regret or not, I made a wish, perhaps you
would call it a prayer..."
"I remember it! Oh, how well I remember it! No! The
85 thing is impossible. The room is damp. Mildew has got
into the canvas. The paints I used had some wretched
mineral poison in them. I tell you the thing is impossible."
"Ah, what is impossible?" murmured the young man,
90 going over to the window, and leaning his forehead
against the cold, mist-stained glass.
"You told me you had destroyed it."
"I was wrong. It has destroyed me."
"I don't believe it is my picture."
95 "Can't you see your ideal in it?" said Dorian, bitterly.
"My ideal, as you call it...."
"As you called it."
"There was nothing evil in it, nothing shameful. You
were to me such an ideal as I shall never meet again.
100 This is the face of a satyr."
"It is the face of my soul."
"Christ! What a thing I must have worshipped! It has
the eyes of a devil."
"Each of us has Heaven and Hell in him, Basil," cried
105 Dorian, with a wild gesture of despair.

Reference: Wilde Oscar (1891/1992): The picture of Dorian Gray. Ware: Wordsworth. P. 123–124.

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