Stage 4 (Sage): The picture of Dorian Gray, chapter 14

CHAPTER 14

At nine o’clock the next morning his servant came in with a cup of chocolate on a tray. 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.

He turned round, and leaning upon his elbow, began to sip his chocolate. The mellow(1) November sun came streaming into the room. The sky was bright, and there was a genial(2) warmth in the air. It was almost like a morning in May.

When the half-hour struck, he  got up hastily and dressed himself with even more than his usual care. He spent a long time also over breakfast, tasting the various dishes, talking to his valet and going through his correspondence(3).

After he had drunk his cup of black coffee, he wiped his lips slowly with a napkin, told 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(4). Although he would not own this even to himself, Dorian Gray was feeling very nervous.

What if Alan Campbell should be out of England? Days would elapse(5) before he could come back. Perhaps he might refuse to come. What could he do then? Every moment was of vital(6) 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, keenly interested in science, especially chemistry. At Cambridge he had spent a great deal of his time working in the laboratory. Dorian first met him at a concert. For eighteen months their friendship lasted. To him, as to many others, Dorian Gray was the type of everything that is wonderful and fascinating in life. But suddenly people remarked that they hardly 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(7) at times, appeared almost to dislike hearing music, and would never himself play.

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(8). Time seemed to him to be crawling with feet of lead.

Then, suddenly, time stopped for him. The door opened and his servant entered.

“Mr. Campbell, sir,” said the man.

“Ask him to come in at once, Francis.”

The man bowed. In a few moments, Alan Campbell walked in, looking very stern and rather pale, his pallor(9) being intensified(10) 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 slowly.

“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, “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(11) 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.”

“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. How dare you ask me, of all men in the world, to mix myself up in this horror? 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. ”

“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.You would not believe that you were doing anything wrong.  What I want you to do is merely what you have often done before. And, remember, it is the only piece of evidence against 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.”

 

“You refuse?”

“Yes.”

“I entreat(12) 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.

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 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(13) 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.”

 

“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.”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 on a sheet of notepaper, as instructed. 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.

 

After about ten minutes a knock came to the door, and the servant entered, carrying a large mahogany(14) chest of chemicals. Dorian thanked him and sent him on another errand.

 

Dorian looked at Campbell. “How long will your experiment take, Alan?” he said in a calm indifferent voice.

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

 

“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(15) manner. Campbell felt dominated by him. They left the room together.

 

Dorian climbed the stairs to the locked room, where the corpse of Basil Howard was still sitting on the chair. As he opened the door, his eyes caught the sight of something even more horrid than the corpse itself. It was his picture. A large splash of crimson(16) had mysteriously spread over the milk-white hands, making them more grotesque than ever. Dorian shuddered, and, walking into the room, hastily flung the hanging over the picture. Then, he opened the door for Alan, who briskly walked in.

 

“Leave me now,” said he to Dorian.

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.


+GLOSSARY

1/mellow(adj): soft, sweet, gentle

2/genial(Adj): amiable

3/correspondence(n): communication by exchange of letters

4/at hazard (Adj): randomly

5/elapse(v): (of time) pass or go by

6/vital(Adj): extremely important

7/melancholy(n): a feeling of pensive sadness, typically with no obvious cause

8/agitated(Adj)- agitate(v): (make someone) troubled, nervous

9/pallor(n): paleness

10/intensify: exacerbate

11/vestige(n): the smallest amount

12/entreat(v): beg

13/dictate(v): give orders to

14/mahogany(n): hard reddish-brown timber from a tropical tree, used for high-quality furniture

15/authoritative(Adj): commanding and self-confident

16/crimson(adj): red

 

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