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 for 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
night. When he had been away, he had been filled with terror lest
other eyes should look upon it. It had brought melancholy across his
passions. Its mere memory had marred many moments of joy. It had
been like a conscience. He would destroy it.
He looked around, and saw the knife that had stabbed
Basil Howard. He had cleaned it many times, till there was no stain
left upon it. It was bright, and glistened. As it had killed the
painter, so it would kill the painter’s work, and all that that
meant. It would kill the past, and when that was dead he would be
free. It would kill this monstrous soul-life, and, without its
hideous warnings, he would be at peace. He seized the thing, and
stabbed the picture with it.
was a cry heard, and a crash. The cry was so horrible in its agony
that the frightened servants woke, and crept out of their rooms. Two
gentlemen, who were passing in the Square below, stopped, and looked
up at the great house. They walked on till they met a policeman, and
brought him back. The man rang the bell several times, but there was
no answer. Except for a light in one of the top windows, the house
was all dark. After a time, he went away and stood in the adjoining
portico and watched.
‘Whose house is that, constable?’ asked the elder of
the two gentlemen.
‘Mr Dorian Gray’s, sir,’ answered the policeman.
They looked at each other, as they walked away, and
sneered. One of them was Sir Henry Ashton’s uncle.
Inside, in the servants’ part of the house, the
half-clad domestics were talking in low whispers to each other. Old
Mrs. Leaf was crying and wringing her hands. After about a quarter
of an hour, he got the coachman and one of the footmen and crept
upstairs. They knocked, but there was no reply. They called out.
Everything was still. Finally, after vainly trying to force the
door, they got on the roof, and dropped down on the balcony. The
windows yielded easily: their bolts were old.
they entered they found, hanging on the wall, a splendid portrait of
their master as they had last seen him, in all the wonder of his
exquisite youth and beauty. Lying on the floor was a dead man, in
evening dress, with a knife in his heart. He was withered, wrinkled,
and loathsome of visage. It was not till they had examined the rings
that they recognized who it was.