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“Too cold for Monsieur?” asked his valet, putting an omelette on
the table. “I shut the window?” Dorian shook his head. “I am not
cold,” he murmured.
Was it all true? Had the portrait really changed? Or had it been
simply his own imagination that had made him see a look of evil
where there had been a look of joy? Surely a painted canvas could
not alter? The thing was absurd. It would serve as a tale to tell Basil
some day. It would make him smile.
And, yet, how vivid was his recollection of the whole thing! First in
the dim twilight, and then in the bright dawn, he had seen the
touch of cruelty round the warped lips. He almost dreaded his
valet leaving the room. He knew that when he was alone he would
have to examine the portrait. He was afraid of certainty.
When the coffee and cigarettes had been brought and the man
turned to go, he felt a wild desire to tell him to remain. As the door
was closing behind him he called him back. The man stood waiting
for his orders. Dorian looked at him for a moment. “I am not at
home to any one, Victor,” he said, with a sigh. The man bowed and
Then he rose from the table, lit a cigarette and flung himself down
on a luxuriously-cushioned couch that stood facing the screen. The
screen was an old one, of gilt Spanish leather, stamped and
wrought with a rather florid Louis-Quatorze pattern. He scanned it
curiously, wondering if ever before it had concealed the secret of a
Should he move it aside, after all? Why not let it stay there? What
was the use of knowing? If the thing was true, it was terrible. If it
was not true, why trouble about it? But what if, by some fate or
deadlier chance, eyes other than his spied behind, and saw the
horrible change? What should he do if Basil Hallward came and
asked to look at his own picture? Basil would be sure to do that.
No; the thing had to be examined, and at once. Anything would be
better than this dreadful state of doubt.
He got up, and locked both doors. At least he would be alone when
he looked upon the mask of his shame. Then he drew the screen
aside, and saw himself face to face. It was perfectly true. The
portrait had altered.
As he often remembered afterwards, and always with no small
wonder, he found himself at first gazing at the portrait with a
feeling of almost scientific interest. That such a change should have
taken place was incredible to him. And yet it was a fact. Was there
some subtle affinity between the chemical atoms, that shaped
themselves into form and colour on the canvas, and the soul that
was within him? Could it be that what that soul thought, they