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would breed horrors and yet would never die. What the worm was
to the corpse, his sins would be to the painted image on the canvas.
They would mar its beauty, and eat its grace. They would defile it,
and make it shameful. And yet the thing would still live on. It
would be always alive.
He shuddered, and for a moment he regretted that he had not told
Basil the true reason why he had wished to hide the picture away.
Basil would have helped him to resist Lord Henry’s influence, and
the still more poisonous influences that came from his own
temperament. The love that he bore him-for it was really love-had
nothing in it that was not noble and intellectual. It was not that
mere physical admiration of beauty that is born of the senses, and
that dies when the senses tire. It was such love as Michael Angelo
had known, and Montaigne, and Winckelmann, and Shakespeare
himself. Yes, Basil could have saved him. But it was too late now.
The past could always be annihilated. Regret, denial, or
forgetfulness could do that. But the future was inevitable. There
were passions in him that would find their terrible outlet, dreams
that would make the shadow of their evil real.
He took up from the couch the great purple-and-gold texture that
covered it, and, holding it in his hands, passed behind the screen.
Was the face on the canvas viler than before, it seemed to him that
it was unchanged; and yet his loathing of it was intensified. Gold
hair, blue eyes, and rose-red lips-they all were there. It was simply
the expression that had altered. That was horrible in its cruelty.
Compared to what he saw in it of censure or rebuke, how shallow
Basil’s reproaches about Sibyl Vane had been!- how shallow, and
of what little account! His own soul was looking out at him from
the canvas and calling him to judgment. A look of pain came across
him, and he flung the rich pall over the picture. As he did so, a
knock came to the door. He passed out as his servant entered.
“The persons are here, Monsieur.” He felt that the man must be got
rid of at once. He must not be allowed to know where the picture
was being taken to. There was something sly about him, and he
had thoughtful, treacherous eyes. Sitting down at the writing-table,
he scribbled a note to Lord Henry, asking him to send him round
something to read, and reminding him that they were to meet at
eight-fifteen that evening.
“Wait for an answer,” he said, handing it to him, “and show the
men in here.” In two or three minutes there was another knock,
and Mr. Hubbard himself, the celebrated frame-maker of South
Audley Street, came in with a somewhat rough-looking young
assistant. Mr. Hubbard was a florid, red-whiskered little man,
whose admiration for art was considerably tempered by the