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That evening, at eight-thirty, exquisitely dressed, and wearing a
large buttonhole of Parma violets, Dorian Gray was ushered into
Lady Narborough’s drawingroom by bowing servants. His
forehead was throbbing with maddened nerves, and he felt wildly
excited, but his manner as he bent over his hostess’s hand was as
easy and graceful as ever. Perhaps one never seems so much at
one’s ease as when one has to play a part. Certainly no one looking
at Dorian Gray that night could have believed that he had passed
through a tragedy as horrible as any tragedy of our age. Those
finely-shaped fingers could never have clutched a knife of sin, nor
those smiling lips have cried out on God and goodness. He himself
could not help wondering at the calm of his demeanour, and for a
moment felt keenly the terrible pleasure of a double life.
It was a small party, got up rather in a hurry by Lady Narborough,
who was a very clever woman, with what Lord Henry used to
describe as the remains of really remarkable ugliness. She had
proved an excellent wife to one of our most tedious ambassadors,
and having buried her husband properly in a marble mausoleum,
which she had herself designed, and married off her daughters to
some rich, rather elderly men, she devoted herself now to the
pleasures of French fiction, French cookery, and French esprit
when she could get it.
Dorian was one of her especial favourites, and she always told him
that she was extremely glad she had not met him in early life. “I
know, my dear, I should have fallen madly in love with you,” she
used to say, “and thrown my bonnet right over the mills for your
sake. It is most fortunate that you were not thought of at the time.
As it was, our bonnets were so unbecoming, and the mills were so
occupied in trying to raise the wind, that I never had even a
flirtation with anybody.
However, that was all Narborough’s fault. He was dreadfully
short-sighted, and there is no pleasure in taking in a husband who
never sees anything.” Her guests this evening were rather tedious.
The fact was, as she explained to Dorian, behind a very shabby fan,
one of her married daughters had come up quite suddenly to stay
with her, and, to make matters worse, had actually brought her
husband with her. “I think it is most unkind of her, my dear,” she
“Of course I go and stay with them every summer after I come
from Homburg, but then an old woman like me must have fresh air
sometimes, and besides, I really wake them up. You don’t know