A thin, hazy mist began to descend as darkness fell, so that the brightness of the moon was veiled. Nevertheless the three characters pressed on their way without a moment’s hesitation, for they didn’t need their way to be too brightly illuminated, they had made this journey several times before. The darkness of the woodland seemed to be more intense than ever as King Oscar approached the first few scattered trees around the edge of the woods and noticed how silvery the light appeared as it filtered between the branches. Carefully he raised one of his great hands and parted the dark green leaves as they brushed against his face. He turned his head sharply away as one of the branches touched his sore ear.
“Ow…” he remarked mildly. “I keep forgetting… Now I must forget that I am a king again.” So saying, he reached up and removed his crown, hanging it on a branch as he had done so many times before. In between the trees, fleeting shapes materialised and then were gone, leaving colours trailing after them. King Oscar tried his best to capture one of the figures and hold it static, but it was no use, so he gave up and turned instead to the artist, Basil, as he hopped quietly along just behind him. “This way to the Secret Glade, I think.”
“Wait,” said Basil, laying a restraining hand upon the royal robe. The artist shifted the large canvas in his arms, so that he was able to point ahead. “What’s that?” The silvery light caused the bells on the ground to flash dangerously as Basil hopped towards the stick and picked it up. The bells upon it jingled furiously. “Lord Henry’s jingling stick.”
King Oscar stared in wonder as he took the stick from Basil.
“Which way was it pointing?” he asked.
Basil gestured vaguely to the left, away from the Secret Glade… towards an area of woodland where the trees grew even more densely packed together. Laying his hand upon Robbie’s shoulder, King Oscar began to stride into the darkness without hesitation. He glanced back at Basil and gave him an encouraging smile.
“Then let’s go” he said. “We may still be in time to help him.”
The three of them set off towards the trees, even though it seemed there was no way they could get through. The giant Oscar searched amongst the trunks, running his fingers lightly over the bark and branches until he found what he was looking for – a branch moved back with an audible creak, and several trees moved aside as if joined together on a panel. King Oscar drew in his breath, nodding towards the entrance.
“After you,” he said to Robbie.
As soon as they entered the small clearing, which was still surrounded by trees on all sides, they saw the brightly coloured diamonds of Lord Henry’s suit as he sat motionless on a fallen tree trunk, right on the edge of the clearing. His head was in his hands and his elbows were on his knees; he looked up very slowly as the others appeared, but gave no reaction other than a very slight smile.
“Lord Henry!” cried Basil, hopping towards him, but he stopped as he saw the reason for Lord Henry’s immobility. A large, heavy ball of lead was tied around the harlequin’s ankle and the chains glittered in the gloom. Lord Henry got to his feet very slowly, managing only a weak, small smile of recognition as his friends came towards him.
“Basil… your majesty… thank you for coming here. I’m most grateful…” His words sounded so strained and forced that it was difficult for King Oscar and the others to believe them. Lord Henry swung his head from side to side like a pendulum as the minutes ticked past. “I – I’m sorry not to be of better company to you, but…”
King Oscar approached the harlequin quickly, taking his hand in his own massive one.
“Lord Henry, what happened to you? Did the Darkmen do this?” There was really no need for Lord Henry to reply, though he did manage to nod silently and look away.
“But why?” demanded King Oscar, “How? What have you done wrong?”
Lord Henry gave a great sigh and shrugged once again, the many-coloured diamonds on his suit changing colour with emotion.
“Well, I’ve been to the Secret Glade, haven’t I? That’s not allowed. That imp with the black face has been telling tales, so…” Once again he gave a great sigh, only this time it was edged with a distinct bitterness. “What am I to do? I can do nothing.”
King Oscar squeezed Lord Henry’s hand gently before carefully releasing it and taking a step back. He stared at the sad figure for a long while without speaking, then eventually he said, in a low voice, “You must be patient, Lord Henry… just wait and things will change. Your friends – we’ll bring about this change…” King Oscar broke off as he caught sight of a couple of black and white figures moving just behind him.
“Look out!” hissed Robbie suddenly, “Darkmen!”
Ducking quickly behind the trees, they watched the single Darkman come into the clearing and approach a willow tree, which suddenly seemed to come into view on the edge of the clearing, it’s bright green leaves forming a curtain through which nothing could be seen.
The black and white, blank-faced figure glanced carefully around before parting the willow’s trailing branches and slipping inside. King Oscar clutched at Robbie’s shoulder, pushing him forward.
“Come on… let’s follow!” he whispered, and the two of them approached the willow.
“Be very careful… we don’t want to be seen,” murmured Oscar as he gently parted the leaves. He had to stare carefully for several moments before he could make out anything behind the willow’s curtain of leaves, for there was only a very strange sort of light that seemed to come from nowhere and only caught on the rippled surface of the pool. The pool was so still that it was difficult to tell at first where the water began and the sandy ground ended. The sinister figure of the Darkman approached the pool, still glancing watchfully round him. When he stood beside the pool, King Oscar could see his reflection as clearly as he could see that of the Darkman himself… In fact the reflection seemed to be even more sharply defined than the original Darkman, as he stared and stared at him. Very slowly, the waters began to move, until a second Darkman rose up, out of the water, stepping out beside the original one. The original Darkman turned away at once without interest, ignoring his new creation. The two Darkmen didn’t even exchange a single glance, moving separately in different directions.
“So that’s where they’ve been coming from,” breathed the giant, releasing the leaves. “They create themselves out of their own image. We should go away from here… come on.”
The green willow leaves fell back into place, only moving very slowly, to allow the two Darkmen to pass through the clearing, into the woodland, and back onto the island where they would infiltrate the many-coloured inhabitants with their dark monotone presence.
Only pausing to retrieve his canvas from where he’d left it propped against the tree trunk, Basil followed King Oscar and Robbie as they made their way towards the Secret Glade. It was strange; Gradually the trees around them began to thin a little, and coloured fairy lights began to appear as if guiding them towards the Crystal Boy. King Oscar’s excitement began to rise so that he felt quite breathless as he watched the fairy lights dancing before his eyes, making him feel quite giddy. He became more and more aware of the thudding sound of Basil’s one boot as the artist took a few hops away from them to a fallen tree trunk nearby, against which he placed his canvas.
“This spot will do nicely, I think,” Basil said with a slight smile, and he removed his painting satchel and began to take out his brushes. “The Crystal Boy will appear soon, won’t he?” King Oscar nodded, feeling that there was no need to answer such a question, for how could the Crystal Boy possibly not appear now? So he waited anxiously, bringing his massive hands together.
Soon enough, the dancing fairy lights began to glint upon the Crystal Boy, standing motionless, directly in front of King Oscar, in fact, so close that the King thought he must surely be in reach. The colours of the fairy lights caught on every facet of the Crystal Boy, flashing bright blue, scarlet, emerald green in turn. King Oscar felt one of his great hands creep towards the glass figure as if drawn by an invisible magnet, though he fully anticipated the scream even before it rang through the Secret Glade. It was the scream of the Scarlet Marquis. This time the scream was so terrible that King Oscar froze instantly, though he didn’t move his eyes away from the vision before him. He could feel the ground shaking as the Scarlet Marquis jumped furiously up and down, brandishing his stick, which he waved so close to Oscar that the king could feel the air move as it whizzed near his cheek. The silence all around the Secret Glade became suddenly so intense and complete that it seemed unbearable. King Oscar suddenly knew that something was about to happen. He was still touching the Crystal Boy, for King Oscar himself had no control over his own limbs any longer. He felt the hard surface of the Crystal Boy beneath his hand, just as he saw the coloured fairy lights reflected on each facet. The scream of the Scarlet Marquis formed itself into words.
“What have you done now? I told you never to touch my Crystal Boy!”
The coldness of the crystal suddenly completely vanished so that King Oscar’s fingers were left dangling uselessly in the air. At the same time, the scream of the Scarlet Marquis became the sound of breaking glass, shattering with an easy, slow motion, like the tide turning. It seemed to be an almost endless moment that was stretched out to full extension as the Crystal Boy shattered. King Oscar felt the space beneath his fingers so intensely that he didn’t need to be able to see. He kept his eyes squeezed tightly shut, feeling the sharp sting of pain just below his wounded ear as the stick of the Scarlet Marquis made contact with his face. He could feel the Crystal Boy had gone, was no more, nothing. Through the tears of both fury and sadness, the fairy lights seemed to become entangled. King Oscar’s fingers felt a large piece of glass next to the Scarlet Marquis. He lunged forward, desperately, reaching for the glass. In truth, he didn’t really care what happened then. He only wanted something dramatic to come out, to signify this was the end.
“No, Oscar! Stop!” The words reached Oscar’s ears as if coming from a great distance, though he could feel the elf trying to pull the shard of crystal away from the Scarlet Marquis.
“Murder! The giant has committed murder!” The Scarlet Marquis said; his breathing becoming so short, so much so that his speech became almost inaudible. “Not only have you killed my Crystal Boy, but you’ve killed the artist as well. Cold blooded murder!” King Oscar stood paralysed as around him black and white figures seemed to materialise out of the shadows. They slowly formed a circle around Oscar. He realised that his hands were chained together, and the weight of all of the chain seemed to echo the complete hopelessness he felt. He could only stare at the crumpled figure of the artist where it lay beside his canvas, across the unfinished painting of the Crystal Boy. As Oscar turned his eyes slowly, the shard of glass protruding from the artist’s neck caught the light painfully, and Oscar felt the last remaining shred of hope fade within him.
“What do I do now, Robbie? What is left for me to do now?” he whispered, for his throat was so dry he was barely able to speak at all. “Not only have I killed Basil, but also a part of myself… the artist within myself. What is there left for me now?”
“Oscar, I –” began Robbie, as one of the Darkmen pushed him roughly aside.
“Don’t speak anymore to the prisoner, we are taking him away.” The Darkman said in a voice as flat and callous as his appearance. As the Darkmen surrounding King Oscar began to move slowly away, the giant was forced to move also, in order to keep his balance. Beside him, Robbie watched helplessly as the dancing fairy lights hovered around his head, occasionally falling upon one of the shattered shards of the Crystal Boy, lying upon the ground and catching the light.
As he stumbled through the trees, King Oscar was aware of the presence of Robbie the elf moving alongside him, just too far away to touch. A few moments later, Robbie was joined by Charles, his flaming beard and hair lighting up the dark trees to theatrical effect. King Oscar also glimpsed the still shaking figure of the scarlet marquis, his fury still there, simmering just below the surface. As King Oscar drew further away from the Secret Glade, into the woodland itself, he saw also his crown of sunflowers hanging morosely on a tree, looking rejected and forlorn. He thought for a moment that he saw a fleeting little shape of the black-faced imp, prominently displaying the sunflower Oscar had given to him on his chest… but then the imp was gone. Still, King Oscar was forced to move endlessly forward through the trees, as the trees began to thin out slowly and they began to make their way towards the Palace Beautiful. King Oscar felt his heart grow heavier and heavier as the palace came into view… He didn’t want to see it, now that everything had changed so drastically. He could still feel Robbie by his side, and the knowledge of his constant devotion was the only thing that kept the lonely giant on his feet. Looking at the row of sunflowers in the palace garden, illuminated by Charles’s orange flames as they drew near, King Oscar remembered sadly, how he and Queen Constance had chosen them carefully and planted them together. How much time and attention they had given to the Palace Beautiful! The king could feel tears begin to trickle down his face as he caught sight of the scarlet nursery tower now standing like a blank pillar or memorial, still with the drawbridge pulled up, and the nanny goat still bleating hollowly. He drew in his breath sharply as his tears touched the open wound on his face where the Scarlet Marquis had slashed it. It was all he deserved, now that everything had been taken from him.
The pale first light of dawn began to finger its way around the edges of the sky as Oscar lifted his face and felt the fresh sea breeze blowing against it; he realised that by this time they must be approaching the coast, though he hadn’t been exactly this way before. He knew they must be near the beach where he used to tell his stories to the children in the old days. As Oscar took in great lungfuls of the salt air, the Darkmen surrounding him came to an abrupt halt right on the edge of the long harbour wall, and he became aware of the sound of the waves’ monotonous pounding in his ears. He squinted all around him, searching for the boat he knew must arrive. His heart began to beat so fast, he thought it would surely burst. He looked quickly towards Robbie and met his eyes for the last time. He felt the chains around his wrists pull him with some magnetic force. The Darkboat approached silently and slowly, as if time had no meaning for it. It glided alongside the harbour, and the Darkmen moved towards it, taking the stumbling giant with them. Oscar was trying to keep his eyes on where he was going; trying to avoid tripping over and falling into the water. Such worries kept him from leaving his mind open, for the truth was too painful for him to bear. He could only stand there on the deck of the Darkboat as it drew slowly away, staring blankly back at the island he had so loved. As the boat became gradually smaller, the mists joined around it and engulfed it completely.
Many years have passed since the reign of King Oscar on the enchanted island, though the island itself still exists somewhere within the peat bog. Nobody knows for certain what became of any of the inhabitants, as nobody has ever managed to reach the island and return. Those courageous enough to attempt to catch one of the frog ferries have simply disappeared into the mists in much the same way that Oscar disappeared all those years ago. However, the magic of the island still remains, touching the surface of the water and just catching the light in the gentle rays of the sun.
“I am so glad you like that strange, many coloured book of mine: it contains much of me in it. Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry, what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be – in other ages...”
Lawler, Donald (Ed.), The Picture of Dorian Gray: A Norton Critical Edition, 1988 (New York: Norton,)