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“Good heavens! I have hit a beater!” exclaimed Sir Geoffrey. “What
an ass the man was to get in front of the guns! Stop shooting there!”
he called out at the top of his voice. “A man is hurt.” The head-
keeper came running up with a stick in his hand.
“Where, sir? Where is he?” he shouted. At the same time the firing
ceased along the line.
“Here,” answered Sir Geoffrey angrily, hurrying towards the
thicket. “Why on earth don’t you keep your men back? Spoiled my
shooting for the day.” Dorian watched them as they plunged into
the alder-clump, brushing the lithe, swinging branches aside. In a
few moments they emerged, dragging a body after them into the
sunlight. He turned away in horror. It seemed to him that
misfortune followed wherever he went. He heard Sir Geoffrey ask
if the man was really dead, and the affirmative answer of the
keeper. The wood seemed to him to have become suddenly alive
with faces. There was the trampling of myriad feet, and
the low buzz of voices. A great copper-breasted pheasant came
beating through the boughs overhead.
After few moments, that were to him, in his perturbed state, like
endless hours of pain, he felt a hand laid on his shoulder. He
started, and looked round.
“Dorian,” said Lord Henry, “I had better tell them that the
shooting is stopped for to-day. It would not look well to go on.” “I
wish it were stopped for ever, Harry,” he answered, bitterly. “The
whole thing is hideous and cruel. Is the man...?” He could not
finish the sentence.
“I am afraid so,” rejoined Lord Henry. “He got the whole charge of
shot in his chest. He must have died almost instantaneously. Come;
let us go home.” They walked side by side in the direction of the
avenue for nearly fifty yards without speaking. Then Dorian
looked at Lord Henry, and said, with a heavy sigh, “It is a bad
omen, Harry, a very bad omen.” “What is?” asked Lord Henry.
“Oh! this accident, I suppose. My dear fellow, it can’t be helped. It
was the man’s own fault. Why did he get in front of the guns?
Besides, it is nothing to us. It is rather awkward for Geoffrey, of
course. It does not do to pepper beaters. It makes people think that
one is a wild shot. And Geoffrey is not; he shoots very straight. But
there is no use talking about the matter.”
Dorian shook his head. “It is a bad omen, Harry. I feel as if
something horrible were going to happen to some of us. To myself,
perhaps,” he added, passing his hand over his eyes, with a gesture
The elder man laughed. “The only horrible thing in the world is
ennui, Dorian. That is the one sin for which there is no forgiveness.