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He went in quietly, locking the door behind him, as was his
custom, and dragged the purple hanging from the portrait. A cry
of pain and indignation broke from him. He could see no change,
save that in the eyes there was a look of cunning, and in the mouth
the curved wrinkle of the hypocrite. The thing was still loathsome-
more loathsome, if possible, than before-and the scarlet dew that
spotted the hand seemed brighter, and more like blood newly spilt.
Then he trembled.
Had it been merely vanity that had made him do his one good
deed? Or the desire for a new sensation, as Lord Henry had hinted,
with his mocking laugh? Or that passion to act a part that
sometimes makes us do things finer than we are ourselves? Or,
perhaps, all these? And why was the red stain larger than it had
been? It seemed to have crept like a horrible disease over the
wrinkled fingers. There was blood on the painted feet, as though
the thing had dripped-blood even on the hand that had not held
the knife. Confess? Did it mean that he was to confess? To give
himself up, and be put to death? He laughed. He felt that the idea
was monstrous. Besides, even if he did confess, who would believe
him? There was no trace of the murdered man anywhere.
Everything belonging to him had been destroyed. He himself had
burned what had been below-stairs. The world would simply say
that he was mad. They would shut him up if he persisted in his
story.... Yet it was his duty to confess, to suffer public shame, and
to make public atonement. There was a God who called upon men
to tell their sins to earth as well as to heaven. Nothing that he could
do would cleanse him till he had told his own sin. His sin? He
shrugged his shoulders. The death of Basil Hallward seemed very
little to him. He was thinking of Hetty Merton. For it was an unjust
mirror, this mirror of his soul that he was looking at. Vanity?
Curiosity? Hypocrisy? Had there been nothing more in his
renunciation than that? There had been something more. At least
he thought so. But who could tell?... No. There had been nothing
more. Through vanity he had spared her. In hypocrisy he had
worn the mask of goodness. For curiosity’s sake he had tried the
denial of self. He recognized that now.
But this murder-was it to dog him all his life? Was he always to be
burdened by his past? Was he really to confess? Never. There was
only one bit of evidence left against him. The picture itself-that
was evidence. He would destroy it. Why had he kept it so long?
Once it had given him pleasure to watch it changing and growing
old. Of late he had felt no such pleasure. It had kept him awake at