Prompt: write or draw about your favourite character from any story in an alternate story, sequel to the original story, or in a different period of time.
“Good evening Henry,” I greeted my cousin.
“My, my Helena, you look ravishing. Is there someone you’d like to impress tonight?” teased Lord Henry Wotton.
“Oh hush!” I said colouring.
Lord Henry smirked, “Not Dorian is it?”
“Of course not,” I said dismissively.
“Oh you are so naughty,” laughed Lord Henry.
“It’s not Dorian,” I insisted.
“Sure it isn’t,” said Lord Henry sarcastically, “I’ve invited him to escort you anyways.”
“Pardon?!” I exclaimed, nearly falling out of my chair.
“Upset with me?” asked Lord Henry.
“A little, yes…I was hoping…” I said biting my lip.
“Ah, have you asked someone else?” asked Lord Henry raising an eyebrow, “That’s rather bold, even for you Helena.”
“I didn’t ask him,” I blushed, “He offered to take me…”
“Impressive, may I ask who?” asked Lord Henry.
“Are you gossiping?!” asked Lady Agatha smacking Lord Henry with her novel.
Lord Henry pretended to be affronted by such an accusation, “Of course not!”
“He’s only caused a situation,” I said dryly.
“What have you done Harry?!” exclaimed Lady Agatha.
“I wasn’t aware that Helena had an escort for this evening so I took it upon myself to procure someone for her,” confessed Lord Henry.
“Well I hope you’re aware you’re fixing the situation,” said Lady Agatha annoyed.
“Yes…well…” said Lord Henry.
“HENRY!” exclaimed Lady Agatha.
“Alright!” laughed Lord Henry.
At that moment the doorbell rang and we all jumped.
“I don’t know what to say to Dorian if he shows up first,” I fretted.
“I’ll handle it,” reassured Lord Henry putting a hand on our shoulder, “I got you into this mess, I’ll get you out.”
“Thank you Henry,” I smiled nervously.
“Ladies, Lord Henry,” announced the butler, “Lord Maxwell Starling.”
I let out a small sigh of relief.
Lord Maxwell walked straight towards me. I only had the time to stand up before he took both my hands and pressed it to his lips.
I blushed again, “Good evening my lord.”
“Lady Helena,” smiled Lord Maxwell.
“Lord Maxwell…that’s unexpected,” said Lord Henry under his breath.
“Lady Agatha, Lord Henry,” nodded Lord Maxwell, “How do you do?”
“Well,” said Lady Agatha excitedly, “And yourself?”
“Well,” repeated Lord Maxwell, “I hope there are no objections that I will be escorting Lady Helena to tonight’s dinner ball.”
“Of course not!” said Lady Agatha breathlessly.
“Take care to be home before midnight,” teased Lord Henry.
“Most certainly not!” I laughed.
“Alright, we will see you there,” nodded Lady Agatha.
I nodded as Lord Maxwell took my arm and led me to his carriage and helped me in.
We arrived in the midst of the party, but we caused a buzz nonetheless.
“Is that Lord Maxwell with Lady Helena?” whispered a socialite.
“Unbelievable…how did she end up with someone as illustrious as him?!” returned another.
I absolutely glowed under all the attention.
“Enjoying yourself?” asked Lord Maxwell amused.
“I most certainly am,” I nodded, “Although, I have a bit of a situation that I need to discuss with you.”
“Hmm?” asked Lord Maxwell.
“My cousin, Lord Henry asked Mr. Dorian Gray to be my escort thinking that I had no one to accompany me to tonight’s dinner. I hope that it will not cause any conflicts later this evening.”
“Your cousin is quite a piece of work…does he think before he opens up that mouth of his?” mused Lord Maxwell.
“I don’t think so…” I returned.
“Well, should there be a conflict, I think I would be able to handle Mr. Gray,” stated Lord Maxwell, “I thank you for the forewarning.”
I gave him a small smiled, “Even if you can handle Mr. Gray, you have my sincerest apologies.”
“Don’t apologize for your cousin. He can do so himself when he arrives for dinner with Mr. Gray,” said Lord Maxwell, drawing out my chair for me.
We took our seats and said our hellos to the other guests already seated at our table. It wasn’t long before Henry arrived with Mr. Gray and my mother.
“Lord Henry,” smiled Lord Maxwell coldly, standing to help seat my mother.
“Lord Maxwell, do I detect a hint of ice in your voice or has that always been there?” returned Lord Henry.
“I believe you took the trouble of finding your cousin an escort though she already had one for the evening,” said Lord Maxwell.
“It was a mistake,” said Lord Henry dismissively, “I was only trying to do what was best for her.”
“You think Mr. Gray is the best she can do?” asked Lord Maxwell, “No offense to you Mr. Gray.”
“None taken,” said Dorian meekly.
“I meant no offense Lord Maxwell. I just thought that Helena ought to have some fun, go out with someone she isn’t expected to marry,” said Lord Henry nonchalantly.
“How…thoughtful of you,” said Lord Maxwell smirking, “Next time, put your trust in her. She knows what she wants and knows how to go about getting it.”
“Right…now that we’ve settled that, can we continue with normal dinner conversation?” asked Lady Agatha importantly.
“One last question,” said Lord Henry.
“Yes?” asked Lord Maxwell.
“Did Helena put you up to this?” smirked Lord Henry.
“Do you really think I’m that kind of a person?” I asked shocked.
“Oh, but of course. Who knows better than you how to corrupt a perfectly impressionable youth?” teased Lord Henry.
“Of course it’s me,” I conceded, “I wanted to watch you squirm under the pressure for once.”
“Well, congratulations, I suppose. You got your wish, but now, introductions, yes?”
“Yes,” I agreed, “Oh, before you do, I’d like to offer my sincerest apologies for my rejection Mr. Gray. You see, Lord Henry informed me of our arrangement only a half hour ago and of course as a woman, I plan weeks in advanced and had already procured Lord Maxwell as my escort for this evening. Perhaps we may attend the next party together if I have not offended you too much.”
Dorian smiled his perfect boyish smile, “It would be my pleasure and an honour to be your escort.”
I nodded and so Lord Henry introduced us all to his friend Mr. Dorian Gray, grandson of Lord Kelso. Henry was always good at withholding details, well at least the interesting and imperative ones necessary for the analysis of character. Poor Dorian was bombarded with all kinds of questions from, where did he live before inheriting Kelso’s mansion to who was he currently interested in. Dorian was far too polite to refuse answering even the most offensive questions and that made him seem all the more likeable. The only one who looked vastly unimpressed was Lord Maxwell and I couldn’t blame him. He was used to being at the centre of attention and this shift onto Dorian, a young gentleman was rather unnerving and from Lord Maxwell’s perspective, rather annoying.
“What do you think of him?” Lord Maxwell asked me quietly.
I shrugged discreetly. “He’s alright I suppose. Nothing special. I’ve seen boys like him come and go. They’re popular for one season and entirely forgotten in the next.”
Lord Maxwell smiled subtly, “Your heart is set on someone else then?”
I nodded and said nothing more.
We were about to start dessert when the west doors of the ballroom flew open. Every party was incomplete without Lord Jasper Winston. Lord Jasper didn’t bother looking around at the ladies adoring him, but headed straight to our table and fell to his knees before me.
“Oh good lord,” muttered Lord Henry under his breath.
“Lady Helena, will you do me the honour of becoming my bride?” proposed Lord Jasper.
I shot a quick look at my mother in a panic. This was completely unexpected.“I—I—uh,” I said hesitantly.
“Lady Helena…” whispered Lord Jasper, “Please don’t do this to me here.”
“Do you have my mother’s blessing?!” I whispered forcefully.
He nodded and I looked at my mother for confirmation. I closed my eyes. The room held its breath. I took a deep breath, “Yes.”
“Really?!” exclaimed Lord Maxwell, loud enough for the table to hear, but it only sounded like a murmur to the rest of the room.
“No,” I said loud enough for the room to hear.
Everyone gasped. Lord Jasper was an Earl, Lord Maxwell was only a Marquees.
“How dare you lie to me?” I hissed.
“What ever do you mean?” asked Lord Jasper innocently.
“My mother didn’t give her blessing,” I whispered.
“You’ll deny your heart because I wasn’t completely truthful?” asked Lord Jasper.
“Yes,” I said firmly.
“You said you loved me,” said Lord Jasper confused.
“You said you loved him?!” asked Lord Maxwell shocked.
“I said I loved him,” I answered.
“But why then?” asked Lord Jasper and Maxwell in unison.
“Because I value honesty more. How can I believe you once I’m married to you if you can’t even tell me the truth about something as simple as consent? I will not marry a man that my mother has not given blessing to,” I explained, “Youth and beauty fade. One day it’ll be your character that is important. That’s why.”
Lord Jasper opened and closed his mouth, but nothing came out.
“I’d like to go home,” I said to Lord Maxwell, who immediately stood.
Lord Maxwell put an arm around me and guided me out.
In all the fuss, no one noticed Dorian had slipped away.
I arrived home at eight and sent Lord Maxwell away. I need time alone to think and promised I would call on him tomorrow. As far as I knew, he returned to the party. He had barely left when there came a knock on the door. I hadn’t even taken a stride before I was back at the door thinking he had perhaps forgotten something.
“My Lord? Oh…Dorian, what can I do for you?” I asked surprised.
“I just wanted to talk…about something you had said early this evening,” said Dorian shyly.
“Alright, come in,” I sighed, opening the door a little wider.
“Carson, tell mother and Harry that Dorian is here,” I called out.
“Yes, my lady,” nodded the butler.
I led Dorian into the living room.
“What troubles you Dorian?” I asked.
“You said beauty fades and that you look to a man’s character instead…that seemed odd to me. Someone as young as yourself concerned with character?” said Dorian.
“Beauty isn’t everything Dorian and yet it is. Beauty is impermanent that’s why it’s so beautiful. It is transient, a moment that will never come again…that is why it is so highly valued though it shouldn’t be. In this world where appearances make up for so much, it’s hard to find someone who is true in their heart. I thought I loved Lord Jasper and I was ready to marry him tonight. It was as he said, it was what my heart wanted, but he lied to me and I couldn’t accept that. Yes, he’s a beautiful lie, but what if he were to be unfaithful to me? How could I know that? I cannot risk my reputation, present or future for a man like that,” I explained.
“You say that so easily…but do you really believe that?” asked Dorian.
I nodded, “Harry taught me well. Ironic isn’t it?”
“Well…a bit,” agreed Dorian.
“But society’s like that isn’t it?” I continued, “We teach our sons to pursue a girl as though she is prey, yet we teach our daughters to beware of these predatory men. Why do we teach our children like this? Why can we not teach our sons to respect women? Why must we teach our girls to take precautionary measures?”
Dorian stared at me blankly with no answer for several minutes before he replied, “I don’t know…I don’t think I can answer that.”
“No, but think about that Mr. Gray before you treat another girl as a conquest. Now I believe that you’ve stayed long enough to evoke suspicion. If you’d like, you may return tomorrow afternoon when my mother and Harry have returned,” I said standing.
“Yes, of course, thank you Lady Helena,” returned Dorian, jumping up from his seat, “Good evening.”
The next day I called on Lord Maxwell as promised and there he proposed in the quiet of his living room. I think after last night, no one would dare propose with an audience again.
“Have you gotten my mother’s blessing?” I asked.
“Yes, but if you’d like to check with your mother prior to consenting, I do not mind,” smiled Lord Maxwell, “But do tell me, how could you have loved a man like Lord Jasper?”
“He swept me off my feet with sweet sonnets…the one thing I truly do love is a good old fashioned sonnet,” I said smiling at the memory.
“That’s all it took?” asked Lord Maxwell blankly.
“That’s all he had the separated you from him,” I nodded.
“So if I started writing you sonnets, would that make us equals?” pressed Lord Maxwell.
I laughed, “Then you wouldn’t be yourself.”
“Oh, no, that isn’t so!” exclaimed Lord Maxwell, “All educated aristocratic gentlemen are taught to write in all forms of verse. I just thought that as a progressive woman, you wouldn’t be interested in the whims of old.”
“Write me a sonnet and impress me,” I laughed, leaving him to his thoughts.
I returned home to find Dorian already waiting for me.
“Dorian, what a sweet surprise,” I greeted.
“Lady Helena…I’ve come for some advice,” said Dorian hesitantly.
“Of course, what is it?” I asked.
“I’ve fallen in love…with a simple country girl. Her name is Hetty Merton…and I so want to be good for her. I’ve done some pretty bad things in my lifetime under the guidance of Harry. Things I cannot undo, yet I wish to undo them. My soul is damaged beyond repair and I’m at a loss for what is to be done.”
“Have you ever gone to a confession?” I asked.
“Yes, but the father could not help me…I have seen my soul and it is rotten,” said Dorian quietly.
“No one but God can see our souls,” I said.
“Yes, but I have…when I nailed my soul to the devil’s altar,” continued Dorian in his low voice.
“My God…Dorian, what have you done?!” I asked appalled.
Dorian looked at me like a lost, kicked puppy, “Please Lady Helena, tell me what to do. I don’t want this corruption, this filth spilling onto Hetty…she is so sweet…so young and oblivious. I can’t bear the thought of breaking her heart. Oh Hetty!”
“Hush now Dorian,” I said, making sure no one had heard, “Show me what you mean.”
Dorian nodded and led me to the front door, I paused as I saw my mother come onto the landing.
“Going out Helena?” she asked.
“Yes mother, only for a little bit. Dorian would like to show me something,” I said vaguely.
“Well, I was meaning to tell you last night. Lord Maxwell has asked for my blessing for your hand in marriage and I’ve given it. I hope that is alright with you.”
I nodded, “I will give him my answer.”
She nodded and disappeared back into her rooms.
I followed Dorian out to his carriage and we took it in silence back to his home. He led me upstairs and opened the locked door in the attic, leading me to a painting covered by a drape.
“This was painted by Basil Hallward. He and Harry showed me the beauty of my youth. It was they who corrupted me…I should never have listened to them…I wish I had met Hetty much sooner…she would have turned me from this path…” said Dorian, pulling back the sheet.
As I gazed upon the painting, I felt a sense of pity filter through me, “Dorian…you were once as innocent as Hetty. Do you remember those days?”
Dorian shook his head, “It seems so far…I most certainly am not that man today…and either gazing forward or back, I would not recognize myself.”
“Dorian…how do I make you understand that there is nothing that neither Hetty nor I can do for you. What you’ve done to yourself is irreversible.”
“I was afraid you would say that, so I wanted to ask you. If you had had a portrait commissioned in which the portrait aged and sustained the damage to your body for you, what would it look like now?” asked Dorian.
I thought about it for a long while before I began to speak, “We all want to say that that painting would reflect back the beauty of that day we were painted, but unfortunately it is never true. You showed me your secret…let me show you mine.”
“Yours?” asked Dorian in shock.
I nodded, “But first, I need to accept a proposal.”
We arrived back at my home shortly after five. I led Dorian to my private gallery, which I kept locked just like he did. However, I did not have the only key. In fact, everyone in the house had a key which made me question why it was my private gallery and not the whole family’s. At the back of the gallery was my study. This room was truly my private room and I held the only key for this room. I made my way in and made sure to lock the door behind me. I led Dorian to a painting and drew back the curtains.
“How?” asked Dorian staring at it incredulous.
“Because I could stay true to myself. I didn’t let Basil or Harry or Lord Jasper or Lord Maxwell or anyone change who I was. It was hard and I had to say no to my heart many times, but this painting ages as I age. When I die it will revert to the glory Basil painted, but until then it is my mirror.” I answered.
“You said that no one could lead such a virtuous life…yet you?” said Dorian at a loss for words.
“I had my fun Dorian. I damaged my soul. But it was not yet irreversible and I found a way to heal,” I answered.
“How?” repeated Dorian.
“Writing. And reading. And falling in love,” I smiled.
“But I’m too far gone?” asked Dorian.
“You’re never too far gone,” I said, “You may have irreversible damage done to you, but doesn’t mean you can’t move on. Who knows, maybe Hetty is the one who will make all the difference,” I answered.
“So you’re saying I should still try with Hetty?” asked Dorian.
I nodded, “Remember, she has not yet been spoiled by London. Do not allow that to happen and she may be your saving grace.”
“Thank you Lady Helena…you’ve taught me things I’m ashamed to admit are wrong with me…thank you…I will never forget you. I promise you, I will return this favour to you one day. I don’t know how and I don’t know when, but one day,” said Dorian.
“Good bye Dorian and good luck,” I said.
“Good bye Helena.”
Eight years later
“Darling, this came in the post for you this morning and got mixed up with mine,” said Lord Maxwell walking towards me with a letter.
“Who’s it from?” I murmured.
“Mr. Dorian Gray,” read Lord Maxwell.
“Read it to me,” I said, closing my eyes.
Lord Maxwell broke the seal and began the letter, “Dear Lady Helena. Years ago you did me a favour and helped me find redemption. I promised you that day that I would return the favour. It would be a great honour if you would come with Lord Maxwell and your family to the countryside and enjoy the hospitality of my darling wife, Hetty and I. I await your response with baited breath. Your ever faithful, Dorian.”
“Shall we go darling?” I asked.
“What was the favour you did for him?” asked Lord Maxwell.
“He has a portrait issue similar to mine,” I said vaguely.
Lord Maxwell wisely shut up. He knew generally what my situation had been and knew that he had no right to be poking around in Dorian’s business.
“It’ll be good for the children,” said Lord Maxwell finally.
“Will you draft up a response and send it out to him? Ask if this weekend is acceptable for him,” I instructed.
“Certainly love. Sorry for having woken you,” apologized Lord Maxwell.
“No, it’s alright. How’s Gabriel doing? Has he terrorized his nurse to insanity yet?” I asked.
Lord Maxwell laughed, “Not that I’m aware of. She hasn’t run off screaming yet.”
I laughed, sank back onto my pillows and fell asleep.
On Saturday morning we set off from London. It wasn’t until mid-afternoon that we arrived at Dorian and Hetty’s family home.
“Dorian, how are you?” I asked.
“I’m well thank you,” nodded Dorian, “Lady Helena, Lord Maxwell, this is my wife Hetty.”
“Hello,” we said politely, “These are our kids, Mary, William, and most recently Gabriel.”
“Hello,” returned Dorian and Hetty.
“Come inside,” said Hetty.
Lord Maxwell pushed the kids ahead of him, noticing that I was lingering slightly. He reached out and took Gabriel with him inside.
“Dorian…how is your portrait?” I asked quietly.
“Come see it,” said Dorian leading me off to workshop off to the side of the house.
He pulled back the drape and though the painting still had traces of its former damage, but the maggots were gone at least.
“How’s yours?” asked Dorian.
“A little older than a mirror. Children have really taken a lot out of me,” I admitted.
“This is for you,” said Dorian holding out a box for me.
I looked at him curiously, “Should I wait to open this?”
“It’s up to you,” smiled Dorian.
I untied the bow, peered inside the box, and smiled, “Thank you Dorian.”