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One afternoon, a month later, Dorian Gray was reclining in a
luxurious armchair, in the little library of Lord Henry’s house in
Mayfair. It was, in its way, a very charming room, with its high
panelled wainscoting of olive-stained oak, its cream-coloured
frieze and ceiling of raised plaster-work, and its brick-dust felt
carpet strewn with silk long-fringed Persian rugs. On a tiny
satinwood table stood a statuette by Clodion, and beside it lay a
copy of “Les Cent Nouvelles,” bound for Margaret of Valois by
Clovis Eve, and powdered with the gilt daisies that Queen had
selected for her device. Some large blue china jars and parrot-tulips
were ranged on the mantelshelf, and through the small leaded
panes of the window streamed the apricot-coloured light of a
summer day in London.
Lord Henry had not yet come in. He was always late on principle,
his principle being that punctuality is the thief of time. So the lad
was looking rather sulky, as with listless fingers he turned over the
pages of an elaborately-illustrated edition of “Manon Lescaut” that
he had found in one of the bookcases. The formal monotonous
ticking of the Louis Quatorze clock annoyed him. Once or twice he
thought of going away.
At last he heard a step outside, and the door opened. “How late
you are, Harry!” he murmured.
“I am afraid it is not Harry, Mr. Gray,” answered a shrill voice.
He glanced quickly round, and rose to his feet. “I beg your pardon.
I thought--” “You thought it was my husband. It is only his wife.
You must let me introduce myself. I know you quite well by your
photographs. I think my husband has got seventeen of them.” “Not
seventeen, Lady Henry?” “Well, eighteen, then. And I saw you
with him the other night at the Opera.” She laughed nervously as
she spoke, and watched him with her vague forget-menot eyes. She
was a curious woman, whose dresses always looked as if they had
been designed in a rage and put on in a tempest. She was usually
in love with somebody, and, as her passion was never returned,
she had kept all her illusions.
She tried to look picturesque, but only succeeded in being untidy.
Her name was Victoria, and she had a perfect mania for going to
“That was at ‘Lohengrin,’ Lady Henry, I think?” “Yes; it was at
dear ‘Lohengrin.’ I like Wagner’s music better than anybody’s.
It is so loud that one can talk the whole time without other people
hearing what one says. That is a great advantage: don’t you think