He went in quietly, locking the door behind him, as was his custom, and dragged1
the purple hanging from the portrait. A cry of pain and indignation broke from
him. He could see no change, save that in the eyes there was a look of cunning2
in the mouth the curved wrinkle of the hypocrite. The thing was still loathsome3
— more loathsome, if possible, than before — and the scarlet dew that spotted the
hand seemed brighter, and more like blood newly spilled. Then he trembled. Had it
been merely vanity that had made him do his one good deed? Or the desire for a new
sensation, as Lord Henry had hinted, with his mocking laugh? Or that passion to act
a part that sometimes makes us do things finer than we are ourselves? Or, perhaps, all
these? And why was the red stain larger than it had been? It seemed to have crept like
a horrible disease over the wrinkled fingers. There was blood on the painted feet, as
though the thing had dripped — blood even on the hand that had not held the knife.
Confess? Did it mean that he was to confess? To give himself up and be put to death?
He laughed. He felt that the idea was monstrous. Besides, even if he did confess, who
would believe him? There was no trace of the murdered man anywhere. Everything
belonging to him had been destroyed. He himself had burned what had been belowstairs. The world would simply say that he was mad. They would shut him up if he
persisted in his story… Yet it was his duty to confess, to suffer public shame, and to
make public atonement. There was a God who called upon men to tell their sins4
earth as well as to heaven. Nothing that he could do would cleanse him till he had told
his own sin. His sin? He shrugged his shoulders. The death of Basil Hallward seemed
very little to him. He was thinking of Hetty Merton. For it was an unjust mirror, this
mirror of his soul that he was looking at. Vanity? Curiosity? Hypocrisy? Had there
been nothing more in his renunciation than that? There had been something more.
At least he thought so. But who could tell?… No. There had been nothing more.
Through vanity he had spared her. In hypocrisy he had worn the mask of goodness.
For curiosity’s sake he had tried the denial of self. He recognized that now.
But this murder—was it to dog him all his life? Was he always to be burdened by his
past? Was he really to confess? Never. There was only one bit of evidence left against
him. The picture itself— that was evidence. He would destroy it. Why had he kept
it so long? Once it had given him pleasure to watch it changing and growing old. Of
late he had felt no such pleasure. It had kept him awake at night. When he had been
away, he had been filled with terror lest other eyes should look upon it. It had brought
melancholy across his passions. Its mere memory had marred many moments of joy.
It had been like conscience to him. Yes, it had been conscience. He would destroy it.
He looked round and saw the knife that had stabbed Basil Hallward. He had cleaned
it many times, till there was no stain left upon it. It was bright, and glistened. As it had
killed the painter, so it would kill the painter’s work, and all that that meant. It would
kill the past, and when that was dead, he would be free. It would kill this monstrous
soul-life, and without its hideous warnings, he would be at peace. He seized the thing,
and stabbed the picture with it.
There was a cry heard, and a crash. The cry was so horrible in its agony that the
frightened servants woke and crept out of their rooms. Two gentlemen, who were
passing in the square below, stopped and looked up at the great house. They walked
on till they met a policeman and brought him back. The man rang the bell several times, but there was no answer.
Except for a light in one of the top windows, the house was all dark. After a time,
he went away and stood in an adjoining portico and watched.
“Whose house is that, Constable?” asked the elder of the two gentlemen.
“Mr. Dorian Gray’s, sir,” answered the policeman.
They looked at each other, as they walked away, and sneered. One of them was Sir
Henry Ashton’s uncle.
Inside, in the servants’ part of the house, the half-clad domestics were talking in low
whispers to each other. Old Mrs. Leaf was crying and wringing her hands. Francis
was as pale as death.
After about a quarter of an hour, he got the coachman and one of the footmen and
crept upstairs. They knocked, but there was no reply. They called out. Everything was
still. Finally, after vainly trying to force the door, they got on the roof and dropped
down on to the balcony. The windows yielded easily—their bolts were old.
When they entered, they found hanging upon the wall a splendid portrait of their
master as they had last seen him, in all the wonder of his exquisite youth and beauty.
Lying on the floor was a dead man, in evening dress, with a knife in his heart. He was
withered, wrinkled, and loathsome of visage. It was not till they had examined the
rings that they recognized who it was.
The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde, 1891.