Authors: Oscar Wilde
Rosemary was infuriated.
, she told herself.
You must not show her how she gets to you. That will only empower her
“Certainly, Helen. Just touch the bell, and when Parker comes I will tell him what you want. I have got to work on this background, so I will join you later on. Don't keep Dorian too long. I have never been in better form for painting than I am today. This is going to be my masterpiece. It is my masterpiece as it stands.”
Dorian stretched to loosen his limbsâhe loathed keeping still for so long. When he arched his back, there was emphasis on his lean, strapping chest. The muscles of his abdomen rippled under his thin white shirt. Rosemary watched with that funny feeling creeping between her thighs, whetting a mysterious appetite. Some hidden nerve shook in her nether regions. The lips there trembled and longed for a real kiss.
Helen watched Dorian with cunning approval, then got up and strode out into the garden, brushing against his shoulder. Dorian did not so much as glance at Rosemary as he turned around and followed Helen out. Like a puppy whose toy has been taken, Rosemary began to follow them, not sure who at this pointâDorian or Helenâwas her master.
The screen door slammed in her face, as the two, by now chummy comrades, continued into the garden, laughing at Helen's private joke.
“I suppose I can work on the background,” Rosemary muttered.
hough the afternoon was winding down and the sun fading behind the horizon, a palpable heat stirred in the air. Helen sat high on the wicker bench, seeming without a care in the world, but beneath the heap of frilled skirts, her legs lounged open. Sweat trickled down her thighs, and the heat was palpable between them. She ached to be touched and pumped her thighs discreetly, maneuvering the hot, still air.
Dorian seemed to sense Helen's erotic sampling of the weather. He started and drew back. Helen caught a look of fear in his eyes, such as people have when they are awakened. She clasped her hands over her petticoats, against her crotch, allowing some pressureâthere had been such a need for attention since she had laid eyes on him. A luxurious sigh escaped her lips as her hooked thumbs fitted against her clenched center. Her inviting gesture and the subdued animal sound that accompanied it caused Dorian to fidget and fumble for a distraction. He buried his nose in the bushel of lilacs neighboring his elbows, feverishly drinking in their perfume as if it were wine.
Helen placed her hand on his shoulder and began to massage.
“You are quite right to do that,” she murmured, nodding at the flowers. “Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.”
“Is that right?” asked Dorian.
“Yes,” asserted Helen, rubbing her knees discreetly in the piles of her skirts as if to sharpen a point between them. “You are a wonderful creation. You know more than you think you know, just as you know less than you want to know.”
Dorian Gray blushed and turned his head away. Helen knew he liked herâthat much couldn't be helpedâbut to what extent he would allow himself was not yet clear. Overripe as she may be at twenty-eight years old, she was still a graceful, beautiful woman with an exquisite figure, unmarred by child labor or any other labor. She had a romantic olive-colored complexion that forbade sunburn and rosy shame in the cheeks. Her eyes were a mystic concoction of light and dark autumnal shades. The color that shone most prominently was a dazzling emerald. Gentlemen and ladies alike readily complimented her eyes, but only the gentlemen complimented her best feature not by speaking but by staring, mesmerized. Her lips were full and perfectly even, with a particularly deep divot in the upper lip. Best of all, they were well-coached in the sport of pleasuring.
Why shouldn't Dorian be seduced by her? To think of all the fun he had probably been depriving himself of thus far! Seducing him would be as simple as unbuckling his belt. Of course there was the matter of getting him to relax and trust her. He was rather like Rosemary, Helen thought, although unlike Rosemary, he surely had some sexual experience and, with proper instruction, would have much more before succumbing to a humdrum marriage.
Helen leaned back into the bench, her hands interlocked on her lap. Dorian braved a glance down at her hands. Helen pushed her thumbs down and groaned so quietly she could have been sighingâthat was the trick with these young men: Don't give them too much. Make them wonder if it's their imaginations at work.
The sound of the screen door crashing caused both Dorian and Helen to gasp, as if they'd been caught in the act. It was Parker with their drinks. He set the tray on a matching wicker table in the shade. He gave a bowing nod in Dorian and Helen's direction and left.
Dorianânow jitteryâbounced up to get the drinks, but Helen held him back.
“Allow me, darling,” she said, and held his shoulder for an extended moment. He was sitting in direct sunlight, she noticed then, and so admonished him. “You really must not allow yourself to become sunburnt. It would be unbecoming.”
In the short time it took to collect and deliver the drinks, Dorian was worked up again. The painting had put quite a strain on him.
“What can a sunburn matter?” he cried, with a nervous laugh. He did, however, move into the shade.
“It should matter everything to you, Mr. Gray.”
“Because you have the most marvelous youth, and youth is the one thing worth having.”
“I don't feel that, Helen.”
“No, you don't feel it now. Someday, when you are old and wrinkled and ugly, when thought has seared your forehead with its lines, and repressed passions branded your lips with its hideous fires, you will feel it, you will feel it terribly.” Helen duly shuddered. “Now, wherever you go, you charm the world. Will it always be so? . . . You have a wonderfully beautiful face, Mr. Gray.”
Dorian folded his hands under his chin and frowned deeply in consideration of Helen's words.
“Don't frown,” said Helen. “Beauty is a form of Geniusâ is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation. It is of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or springtime, or the reflection in dark waters of that silver shell we call the moon. It cannot be questioned. It has its divine right of sovereignty. It makes princes of those who have it.”
She'd restored his good humor and he smiled boyishly. Helen couldn't resist a sincere smile in response. She longed to hold his head and draw him to her for a clandestine kiss. Too soon, she thought, and went on with her speech, veering into even darker subject matter. To incite fear, she'd learned, was a principal maneuver in a first seduction.
“You smile? Ah! When you have lost your good looks, you will not smile. People sometimes say that Beauty is only superficial. That may be so. But at least it is not as superficial as Thought isânor so destructive. Speaking as a woman on the verge of her own beauty's sun setting, I understand just how superior Beauty is. All that I have is, with each passing moment, becoming all that I had. Soon I will be a worn-out husk that not even my petrified husband will tend toâthough that is quite another matter. My point, dear Dorian, is that the Gods have been good to you. But what the Gods give, they quickly take away. You have only a few years in which to live really, perfectly, and fully. When your youth goes, your beauty will go with it. And with your beauty will go your sensual power.”
Dorian, spellbound by Helen's words, flinched at this last bit. He looked at Helen for more information. She smiled inside. He was her student now.
“Oh, Dorian, don't be daft. We both know that you have Rosemary, that precious lamb, so willfully naÃ¯ve to her sexual nature, bordering on hysteria, so captivated is she by this confusing lust. I, too, feel the gravity of your sexual pull, but it does not confuse me. It intrigues me.”
Dorian opened his mouth to speak, but Helen pressed a finger against his lips and kept it there. Looking deep into his lively gray eyes, she spoke in a low voice.
“Time is jealous of you, and wars against your lilies and your roses. You will become sallow, and hollow-cheeked, and dull-eyed. You will suffer horribly. . . . Ah! Realize your youth while you have it. Realize your ferocious virility. Don't squander the gold of your days, listening to the tedious, trying to improve the hopeless failure, or giving away your life to the ignorant, the common, and the vulgar. These are the sickly aims, the false ideals, of our age! Live! Seize and master every desire in your heart! Lord over your sexual powers and hold others hostage to them!”
Dorian listened, open-eyed and wondering, his lips drying under the stilling pressure of Helen's finger. He wanted to lick them, Helen noted, but he was hiding the urge. Helen pressed harder, so that soon he would have to pull her hand away. He would have to do
She went on. “The moment I met you, I saw that you were quite unconscious of what you really are, of what you really might be: a true seducer. In that first look I was so sure you could dominate any girl you wished, that I felt I must tell you. It would be tragic to waste such power while you're still so young and handsome.”
Abruptly she released her finger from his mouth. He took a deep breath and licked his lips in relief. She brought her hand to his shirt and pressed his rigid chest. “All that power,” she whispered, and moved her hand lower and lower, hesitating purposefully before placing it on his sex. She rubbed ever so gently until she felt it stiffen and rise. It was startlingly largeâthough not even at its full capacity. The urge to get him at his hardest was tempting, but Helen opted to contradict herself by dismissing the temptation. She had to keep him wanting.
And then the sound of the screen door slamming again. Dorian flung Helen's hands off him and darted up. Helen laughed at himâhe was so ridden with good manners!
This time it was Rosemary who emerged. She had freshened up and newly applied some makeupâthough in Helen's opinion, she never applied enoughâand fixed her hair. She remained by the door and called out, “Do come in! The light is quite perfect, and you can bring your drinks!” And then went back inside.
They rose and sauntered down the walk together. Butterflies fluttered past them, and in the pear tree at the corner of the garden a lone songbird began to sing. Helen searched Dorian's face for evidence of the lust she'd roused in him, but other than the guilty flush on his cheeks, there was no sign that moments ago he'd been surrendered to her.
“You are glad you have met me, Mr. Gray?” said Helen, looking at him with hypnotic intent.
Dorian took in a ruminative breath. He spoke carefully. “Yes, I am glad now. I wonder, shall I always be glad?”
“Always?” cried Helen, nudging him playfully with her elbow. “That is a dreadful word. It makes me shudder when I hear it. It's funny to hear a man use itânormally I hear it from women. I cherish Rosemary, you know, but, ah, how she spoils the idea of romance by thinking the only one worth having is the one that lasts
, which is a meaningless word. The only difference between a caprice and a lifelong passion is that the caprice lasts a little longer.”
At the door to the studio, Dorian paused and held Helen's hand. He gazed at her intently. “In that case,” he said, “let our friendship be a caprice.” He flushed at his own boldness, then opened the door for her. He followed her in and stepped up on the platform by the easel and resumed his pose.
Helen returned to the wicker armchair, much satisfied by her first day in educating the most divine Dorian Gray. She watched Rosemary at work, conscious of wearing a distant expression that indicated boredom. She was, in fact, quite taken with Rosemary's process and envied the girl's impeccable precision. The sweep and dash of the brush on the canvas made the only sound that broke the stillness, except when, now and then, Rosemary stepped back to look at her work from a distance. In the slanting beams that streamed through the open doorway, the dust danced and was golden. The heavy scent of roses seemed to brood over everything.
After about a quarter of an hour, Rosemary stopped painting, looked for a long time at Dorian Gray, and then for a long time at the picture, biting her lower lip and frowning. “It is quite finished,” she said at last, and stooping down, she wrote
in vermilion letters on the bottom left-hand corner of the canvas. Helen had been the one to advise her to use only her first initial, rather than her full name, which, she'd said, reeked of their lesser gender.
Helen rose and examined the picture. It was certainly a wonderful work of art and a wonderful likeness as well. Yes, as usual, Rosemary had displayed a most incredible talent. But, as Helen saw it, there was something even more powerful about this painting. It seemed to sing all of Rosemary's unsung desires.
“My dear Rosemary, I congratulate you most warmly,” she said. “It is the finest portrait of modern times. Mr. Gray, come over and look at yourself.”
Dorian started as if awakened from a dream. “Is it really finished?” he murmured, stepping down from the platform.
“Quite finished,” said Rosemary. “And you have sat splendidly today. I am awfully obliged to you.”
“That is entirely due to me,” broke in Helen. “Isn't it, Mr. Gray?”
Dorian made no answer, but passed listlessly in front of his picture and turned toward it. When he saw it, he drew back, his cheeks flushed with pleasure. A look of joy came into his eyes, as if he recognized himself for the first time. He stood there, motionless and in wonder.
“Do you like it?” asked Rosemary, looking stung by Dorian's silence. Helen almost felt sorry for her. The poor lass had no idea of what had taken place between her and Dorian in the gardenâhad never known any kind of erotic happening in any garden, or anywhere, for that matter. Helen suppressed a giggle. If Rosemary was stung now, imagine how she'd look if she were to possess any knowledge of the events that had transpired just moments ago!