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hated and desired to keep at a distance. It appeared to Dorian to
have but little changed.
There was the huge Italian cassone, with its fantastically-painted
panels and its tarnished gilt mouldings, in which he had so often
hidden himself as a boy. There the satinwood bookcase filled with
his dog-eared schoolbooks. On the wall behind it was hanging the
same ragged Flemish tapestry where a faded king and queen were
playing chess in a garden, while a company of hawkers rode by,
carrying hooded birds on their gauntleted wrists. How well he
remembered it all! Every moment of his lonely childhood came
back to him as he looked round. He recalled the stainless purity of
his boyish life, and it seemed horrible to him that it was here the
fatal portrait was to be hidden away. How little he had thought, in
those dead days, of all that was in store for him!
But there was no other place in the house so secure from prying
eyes as this.
He had the key, and no one else could enter it. Beneath its purple
pall, the face painted on the canvas could grow bestial, sodden,
and unclean. What did it matter? No one could see it. He himself
would not see it. Why should he watch the hideous corruption of
his soul? He kept his youth-that was enough. And, besides, might
not his nature grow finer, after all? There was no reason that the
future should be so full of shame. Some love might come across his
life, and purify him, and shield him from those sins that seemed to
be already stirring in spirit and in flesh-those curious unpictured
sins whose very mystery lent them their subtlety and their charm.
Perhaps, some day, the cruel look would have passed away from
the scarlet sensitive mouth, and he might show to the world Basil
No; that was impossible. Hour by hour, and week by week, the
thing upon the canvas was growing old. It might escape the
hideousness of sin, but the hideousness of age was in store for it.
The cheeks would become hollow or flaccid. Yellow crow’s-feet
would creep round the fading eyes and make them horrible. The
hair would lose its brightness, the mouth would gape or droop,
would be foolish or gross, as the mouths of old men are. There
would be the wrinkled throat, the cold, blue-veined hands, the
twisted body, that he remembered in the grandfather who had
been so stern to him in his boyhood. The picture had to be
There was no help for it.
“Bring it in, Mr. Hubbard, please,” he said, wearily, turning round.
“I am sorry I kept you waiting so long. I was thinking of something
else.” “Always glad to have a rest, Mr. Gray,” answered the frame-