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<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library-The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde


what an existence they lead down there. It is pure unadulterated
country life. They get up early, because they have so much to do,
and go to bed early because they have so little to think about. There
has not been a scandal in the neighbourhood since the time of
Queen Elizabeth, and consequently they all fall asleep after dinner.
You sha’n’t sit next either of them. You shall sit by me, and amuse
me.” Dorian murmured a graceful compliment, and looked round
the room. Yes: it was certainly a tedious party. Two of the people
he had never seen before, and the others consisted of Ernest
Harrowden, one of those middle-aged mediocrities so common in
London clubs who have no enemies, but are thoroughly disliked
by their friends; Lady Roxton, an overdressed woman of forty-
seven, with a hooked nose, who was always trying to get herself
compromised, but was so peculiarly plain that to her great
disappointment no one would ever believe anything against her;
Mrs. Erlynne, a pushing nobody, with a delightful lisp, and
Venetian-red hair; Lady Alice Chapman, his hostess’s daughter, a
dowdy dull girl, with one of those characteristic British faces, that,
once seen are never remembered; and her husband, a red-cheeked,
white-whiskered creature who, like so many of his class, was
under the impression that inordinate joviality can atone for an
entire lack of ideas.

He was rather sorry he had come, till Lady Narborough, looking at
the great ormolu gilt clock that sprawled in gaudy curves on the
mauve-draped mantelshelf, exclaimed: “How horrid of Henry
Wotton to be so late! I sent round to him this morning on chance,
and he promised faithfully not to disappoint me.” It was some
consolation that Harry was to be there, and when the door opened
and he heard his slow musical voice lending charm to some
insincere apology, he ceased to feel bored.

But at dinner he could not eat anything. Plate after plate went
away untasted.

Lady Narborough kept scolding him for what she called “an insult
to poor Adolphe, who invented the menu specially for you,” and
now and then Lord Henry looked across at him, wondering at his
silence and abstracted manner. From time to time the butler filled
his glass with champagne. He drank eagerly, and his thirst seemed
to increase.

“Dorian,” said Lord Henry, at last, as the chaudfroid was being
handed round, “what is the matter with you to-night? You are
quite out of sorts.” “I believe he is in love,” cried Lady
Narborough, “and that he is afraid to tell me for fear I should be
jealous. He is quite right. I certainly should.” “Dear Lady
Narborough,” murmured Dorian, smiling, “I have not been in love
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