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who has once committed a murder could possibly do the same
crime again? Don’t tell me that.” “Oh! anything becomes a pleasure
if one does it too often,” cried Lord Henry, laughing. “That is one
of the most important secrets of life. I should fancy, however, that
murder is always a mistake. One should never do anything that
one cannot talk about after dinner. But let us pass from poor Basil. I
wish I could believe that he had come to such a really romantic end
as you suggest; but I can’t. I dare say he fell into the Seine off an
omnibus, and that the conductor hushed up the scandal. Yes: I
should fancy that was his end. I see him now lying on his back
under those dull-green waters with the heavy barges floating over
him, and long weeds catching in his hair. Do you know, I don’t
think he would have done much more good work. During the last
ten years his painting had gone off very much.” Dorian heaved a
sigh, and Lord Henry strolled across the room and began to stroke
the head of a curious Java parrot, a large grey-plumaged bird, with
pink crest and tail, that was balancing itself upon a bamboo perch.
As his pointed fingers touched it, it dropped the white scurf of
crinkled lids over black glass-like eyes, and began to sway
backwards and forwards.
“Yes,” he continued, turning round, and taking his handkerchief
out of his pocket; “his painting had quite gone off. It seemed to me
to have lost something.
It had lost an ideal. When you and he ceased to be great friends, he
ceased to be a great artist. What was it separated you? I suppose he
bored you. If so, he never forgave you. It’s a habit bores have. By
the way, what has become of that wonderful portrait he did of
you? I don’t think I have ever seen it since he finished it.
Oh! I remember your telling me years ago that you had sent it
down to Selby, and that it had got mislaid or stolen on the way.
You never got it back? What a pity! It was really a masterpiece. I
remember I wanted to buy it. I wish I had now. It belonged to
Basil’s best period. Since then, his work was that curious mixture
of bad painting and good intentions that always entitles a man to
be called a representative British artist. Did you advertise for it?
You should.” “I forget,” said Dorian. “I suppose I did. But I never
really liked it. I am sorry I sat for it. The memory of the thing is
hateful to me. Why do you talk of it? It used to remind me of those
curious lines in some play-‘Hamlet,’ I think-how do they
run?“’Like the painting of a sorrow, A face without a heart.’ Yes:
that is what it was like.”
Lord Henry laughed. “If a man treats life artistically, his brain is
his heart,” he answered, sinking into an arm-chair.