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It was not till the third day that he ventured to go out. There was
something in the clear, pine-scented air of that winter morning that
seemed to bring him back his joyousness and his ardour for life.
But it was not merely the physical conditions of environment that
had caused the change. His own nature had revolted against the
excess of anguish that had sought to maim and mar the perfection
of its calm. With subtle and finely-wrought temperaments it is
always so. Their strong passions must either bruise or bend. They
either slay the man, or themselves die. Shallow sorrows and
shallow loves live on. The loves and sorrows that are great are
destroyed by their own plenitude. Besides, he had convinced
himself that he had been the victim of a terror-stricken
imagination, and looked back now on his fears with something of
pity and not a little of contempt.
After breakfast he walked with the Duchess for an hour in the
garden, and then drove across the park to join the shooting-party.
The crisp frost lay like salt upon the grass. The sky was an inverted
cup of blue metal. A thin film of ice bordered the flat reed-grown
At the corner of the pine wood he caught sight of Sir Geoffrey
Clouston, the Duchess’s brother, jerking two spent cartridges out of
his gun. He jumped from the cart, and having told the groom to
take the mare home, made his way towards his guest through the
withered bracken and rough undergrowth.
“Have you had good sport, Geoffrey?” he asked.
“Not very good, Dorian. I think most of the birds have gone to the
open. I dare say it will be better after lunch, when we get to new
ground.” Dorian strolled along by his side. The keen aromatic air,
the brown and red lights that glimmered in the wood, the hoarse
cries of the beaters ringing out from time to time, and the sharp
snaps of the guns that followed, fascinated him, and filled him
with a sense of delightful freedom. He was dominated by the
carelessness of happiness, by the high indifference of joy.
Suddenly from a lumpy tussock of old grass, some twenty yards in
front of them, with black-tipped ears erect, and long hinder limbs
throwing it forward, started a hare. It bolted for a thicket of alders.
Sir Geoffrey put his gun to his shoulder, but there was something
in the animal’s grace of movement that strangely charmed Dorian
Gray, and he cried out at once, “Don’t shoot it, Geoffrey. Let it
live.” “What nonsense, Dorian!” laughed his companion, and as
the hare bounded into the thicket he fired. There were two cries
heard, the cry of a hare in pain, which is dreadful, the cry of a man
in agony, which is worse.