Privacy Policy & How This Site Uses Cookies

Online Book: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde - Chapter 14

Oscar Wilde
(1854 -- 1900)

The Picture of Dorian Gray was first published in 1890 in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine. Wilde then revised the story and after the addition of some extra chapters, the novel was published by the following year by Ward, Lock, and Company.

In its most basic the story is about a man who retains his youth and good looks while his portrait becomes aged and disfigured by his sins. There is nothing basic about this story though and more than anything else it is a story of corruption.

Classic Horror Stories (public domain)
List of classic horror stories available to read on this site

The Picture of Dorian Gray

by Oscar Wilde

Chapter 14

Related pages:

The Picture of Dorian Gray (book review)

At nine o'clock the next morning his servant came in with a cup of chocolate
on a tray and opened the shutters. Dorian was sleeping quite peacefully,
lying on his right side, with one hand underneath his cheek. 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 as he opened his eyes a faint smile passed across his lips,
as though he had 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 his chocolate.
The mellow November sun came streaming into the room. The sky was bright,
and there was a genial warmth in the air. It was almost like a morning
in May.

Gradually the events of the preceding night crept with silent,
blood-stained feet into his brain and reconstructed themselves
there with terrible distinctness. He winced at the memory of all
that he had suffered, and for a moment the same curious feeling
of loathing for Basil Hallward that had made him kill him as he sat
in the chair came back to him, and he grew cold with passion.
The dead man was still sitting 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 sicken
or grow mad. There were sins whose fascination was more in the memory
than in the doing of them, strange triumphs that gratified the pride more
than the passions, and gave to the intellect a quickened sense of joy,
greater than any joy they brought, or could ever bring, to the senses.
But this was not one of them. It was a thing to be driven out of the mind,
to be drugged with poppies, to be strangled lest it might strangle
one itself.

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

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

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

As soon as he was alone, he lit a cigarette and began sketching upon
a piece of paper, drawing first flowers and bits of architecture,
and then human faces. Suddenly he remarked that every face that
he drew seemed to have a fantastic likeness to Basil Hallward.
He frowned, and getting 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 until it became absolutely necessary that
he should do so.

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

Sur une gamme chromatique,

Le sein de peries 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
floating down the green water-ways of the pink and pearl city,
seated in a black gondola with silver prow and trailing curtains.
The mere lines looked to him like those straight lines of
turquoise-blue that follow one as one pushes out to the Lido.
The sudden flashes of colour reminded him of the gleam of
the opal-and-iris-throated birds that flutter round the tall
honeycombed Campanile, or stalk, with such stately grace,
through the dim, dust-stained arcades. Leaning back with
half-closed eyes, he kept 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 autumn
that he had passed there, and a wonderful love that had stirred
him to mad delightful follies. There was romance in every place.
But Venice, like Oxford, had kept the background for romance, and,
to the true romantic, background was everything, or almost everything.
Basil had been with him part of the time, and had gone wild over Tintoret.
Poor Basil! What a horrible way for a man to die!

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

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

He was an extremely clever young man, though he had no real
appreciation of the visible arts, and whatever little sense
of the beauty of poetry he possessed he had gained entirely
from Dorian. His dominant intellectual passion was for science.
At Cambridge he had spent a great deal of his time working
in the laboratory, and had taken a good class in the Natural
Science Tripos of his year. Indeed, he was still devoted
to the study of chemistry, and had a laboratory of his
own in which he used to shut himself up all day long,
greatly to the annoyance of his mother, who had set her
heart on his standing for Parliament and had a vague idea
that a chemist was a person who made up prescriptions.
He was an excellent musician, however, as well, and played
both the violin and the piano better than most amateurs.
In fact, it was music that had first brought him and Dorian
Gray together--music and that indefinable attraction that
Dorian seemed to be able to exercise whenever he wished--
and, indeed, exercised often without being conscious of it.
They had met at Lady Berkshire's the night that Rubinstein
played there, and after that used to be always seen together
at the opera and wherever good music was going on.
For eighteen months their intimacy lasted. Campbell was
always either at Selby Royal or in Grosvenor Square.
To him, as to many others, Dorian Gray was the type
of everything that is wonderful and fascinating in life.
Whether or not a quarrel had taken place between them no one
ever knew. But suddenly people remarked that they scarcely
spoke when they met and that Campbell seemed always to go
away early from any party at which Dorian Gray was present.
He had changed, too--was strangely melancholy at times, appeared
almost to dislike hearing music, and would never himself play,
giving as his excuse, when he was called upon, that he was so
absorbed in science that he had no time left in which to practise.
And this was certainly true. Every day he seemed to become
more interested in biology, and his name appeared once or twice
in some of the scientific reviews in connection with certain
curious experiments.

This was the man Dorian Gray was waiting for. Every second
he kept glancing at the clock. As the minutes went by he became
horribly agitated. 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
with feet of lead, while he by monstrous winds was being swept towards
the jagged edge of some black cleft of precipice. He knew what was
waiting for him there; saw it, indeed, and, shuddering, crushed with dank
hands his burning lids as though he would have robbed the very brain
of sight and driven the eyeballs back into their cave. It was useless.
The brain had its own food on which it battened, and the imagination,
made grotesque by terror, twisted and distorted as a living thing by pain,
danced like some foul puppet on a stand and grinned through moving masks.
Then, suddenly, time stopped for him. Yes: that blind, slow-breathing thing
crawled no more, and horrible thoughts, time being dead, raced nimbly on
in front, and dragged a hideous future from its grave, and showed it to him.
He stared at it. Its very horror made him stone.

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

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

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

"Ask him to come in at once, Francis." He felt that he was himself again.
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 his
coal-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
it was a matter of life and death." His voice was hard and cold.
He spoke with slow deliberation. There was a look of contempt
in the steady searching gaze that he turned on Dorian.
He kept his hands in the pockets of his Astrakhan coat, and seemed
not to have noticed the gesture with which he had been greeted.

"Yes: it is a matter of life and death, Alan, and to more than one person.
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 knew that what he was going to do was dreadful.

After a strained moment of silence, he leaned across and said,
very quietly, but watching the effect of each word upon the face
of him he had sent for, "Alan, in a locked room at the top
of this house, a room to 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 like that. Who the man is,
why he died, how he died, are matters that do not concern you.
What you have to do is this--"

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

"Alan, they will have to interest you. This one will have to interest you.
I am awfully sorry for you, Alan. But I can't help myself.
You are the one man who is able to save me. I am forced to bring
you into the matter. I have no option. Alan, you are scientific.
You know about chemistry and things of that kind. You have made experiments.
What you have got to do is to destroy the thing that is upstairs--
to destroy it so that not a vestige of it will be left. Nobody saw this
person come into the house. Indeed, at the present moment he is supposed
to be in Paris. He will not be missed for months. When he is missed,
there must be no trace of him found here. You, Alan, you must change him,
and everything that belongs to him, into a handful of ashes that 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 to help you, mad to make this monstrous confession.
I will have nothing to do with this matter, whatever it is.
Do you think I am going to peril my reputation for you? What is it
to me what devil's work you are 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.
I don't care what shame comes on you. You deserve it all.
I should not be sorry to see you disgraced, publicly disgraced.
How dare you ask me, of all men in the world, to mix myself
up in this horror? I should have thought you knew more about
people's characters. Your friend Lord Henry Wotton can't have
taught you much about psychology, whatever else he 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't come
to me."

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

"Murder! Good God, Dorian, is that what you have come to?
I shall not inform upon you. It is not my business. Besides, without
my stirring in the matter, you are certain to be arrested.
Nobody ever commits a crime without doing something stupid.
But I will have nothing to do with it."

"You must have something to do with it. Wait, wait a moment;
listen to me. Only listen, Alan. All I ask of you is to perform
a certain scientific experiment. You go to hospitals and
dead-houses, and the horrors that you do there don't affect you.
If in some hideous dissecting-room or fetid laboratory you
found this man lying on a leaden table with red gutters scooped
out in it for the blood to flow through, you would simply look
upon him as an admirable subject. You would not turn a hair.
You would not believe that you were doing anything wrong.
On the contrary, you would probably feel that you were benefiting
the human race, or increasing the sum of knowledge in the world,
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 are accustomed to work at. And, remember, it is
the only piece of evidence against me. If it is discovered,
I am lost; and it is sure to be discovered unless you
help me."

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

"Alan, I entreat you. Think of the position I am in.
Just before you came I almost fainted with terror.
You may know terror yourself some day. No! don't think of that.
Look at the matter purely from the scientific point of view.
You don't inquire where the dead things on which you
experiment come from. Don't inquire now. I have told you
too 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 is sitting at the table with bowed head and outstretched arms.
Alan! Alan! If you don't come to my assistance, I am ruined.
Why, they will hang me, Alan! Don't you understand? They will hang
me for what I have done."

"There is no good in prolonging this scene. I absolutely refuse
to do anything 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 stretched
out his hand, took a piece of paper, and wrote something on it.
He read it over twice, folded it carefully, and pushed it across the table.
Having done this, he got up and went over to the window.

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

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

"I am so sorry for you, Alan," he murmured, "but you leave me
no alternative. I have a letter written already. Here it is.
You see the address. If you don't help me, I must send it.
If you don't help me, I will send it. You know what the result will be.
But you are going to help me. It is impossible for you to refuse now.
I tried to spare 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 treat me--no living man, at any rate. I bore it all.
Now it is for me to dictate 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.
The ticking of the clock on the mantelpiece seemed to him to be
dividing time into separate atoms of agony, each of which was
too terrible to be borne. He felt as if an iron ring was
being slowly tightened round his forehead, as if the disgrace
with which he was threatened had already come 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 alter things.

"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
of notepaper what you want and my servant will take a cab
and bring the things back to you."

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

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

As the chime struck one, Campbell turned round, and looking at Dorian Gray,
saw that his eyes were filled with tears. There was something in the 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 from
corruption to corruption, and now you have culminated in crime.
In doing what I am going to do--what you force me to do--
it is not of your life that I am thinking."

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

After about ten minutes a knock came to the door, and the servant entered,
carrying a large mahogany chest of chemicals, with a long coil of 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 another
errand for you. What is the name of the man at Richmond who supplies
Selby with orchids?"

"Harden, sir."

"Yes--Harden. You must go down to Richmond at once, see Harden personally,
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 any white ones.
It is a lovely day, Francis, and Richmond is a very pretty place--
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
in the room seemed to give him extraordinary courage.

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

"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 can have the evening
to yourself. I am not dining at home, so I shall not want 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 rapidly
and in an authoritative manner. Campbell felt dominated by him.
They left the room together.

When they reached the top landing, Dorian took out the key and turned it
in the lock. Then he stopped, and a troubled look came into his eyes.
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 his portrait leering in the sunlight. On the floor in front
of it the torn curtain was lying. He remembered that the night
before he had forgotten, 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,
on one of the hands, as though the canvas had sweated blood?
How horrible it was!--more horrible, it seemed to him for the moment,
than the silent thing that he knew was stretched across the table,
the thing whose grotesque misshapen shadow on the spotted carpet
showed him that it had not stirred, but was still there, as he had
left it.

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

There he stopped, feeling afraid to turn round, and his eyes
fixed themselves on the intricacies of the pattern before him.
He heard Campbell bringing in the heavy chest, and the irons,
and the other things that he had required for his dreadful work.
He began to wonder if he and Basil Hallward had ever met, and, if so,
what they had thought of each other.

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

He turned and hurried out, just conscious that the dead man
had been thrust back into the chair and that Campbell was gazing
into a glistening yellow face. As he was going downstairs,
he heard the key being turned in the lock.

It was long after seven when Campbell came back into the library.
He was 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 Dorian simply.

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

Next Chapter