Here is another excerpt from the tale with Oscar Wilde. This takes place a few chapters after the last except. To adequately capture Wilde’s patterns of speech in the dialogue, I studied his quotes and writing, collecting key concepts and turns of phrase. I interspersed a few lines of actual quotes into some of his dialogue here, tweaking them to better fit the story that was unfolding.
“I have a certain play, originally written in French. Salomé.” The name rolled sinuously off his tongue. “The censors have refused to license it for performance in England, but a few of my friends have put a production together in my honor. It is completely unofficial, very possibly illegal, and something I think you would find very much to your tastes. Would you care to accompany me to the performance?”
“Tonight?” I asked, puzzled by this sudden turn.
“Oh no,” he responded. “Next Friday. There are a few people involved in the production that I think you should meet. They would find you and your notions of freedom very interesting.”
“Next Friday?” I asked.
“I shall pick you up here at the hotel,” he replied.
He held me for a few moments more, then levered himself up and started getting back into his clothes.
“For the moment, I should be getting home to my wife,” he said, leaning over to kiss me on the forehead. “As it is, the glare I shall earn from Constance for coming in at this hour is likely to turn me to stone.”
He started for the door, then stopped suddenly. He turned around, reaching into his pocket and withdrawing a card. He came up and placed the card on the night stand.
“That is the name of my tailor,” he said. “Stop in to see him before next week.”
With that, he swept out into the night.
* * *
“So what do you think of the suit?”
I held my arms out and did a half-turn, modeling it for him. Oscar sniffed, frowning ever so slightly.
“It’s not bad as far as alterations go,” he said, “but please tell me you have Edgar working on something new.”
I nodded, smoothing the front of my trousers.
“Absolutely,” I said, “but that won’t be ready for another week. In the mean time, I had my other things altered so I could at least be presentable.”
Oscar sighed, rolling his eyes.
“My dear boy,” he began dryly, “if you gain just one thing from our time together, please let it be my sense of fashion. While I still doubt the assertion that you are some wayward college professor, no one could deny that you dress like one.” He tapped his walking stick impatiently against the tiles of the lobby floor. “And the only thing worse than seeing an ugly man in and ugly suit, is seeing a lovely man in a dull suit. It is an offense to the imagination.”
He turned crisply on his heel and started out to the carriage. He held the door for me, then heaved himself in after. When we were settled, he rapped on the roof with the top of his cane. For a little while, the most prevalent sounds were the clopping of the horse’s hooves on the cobblestones and the constant creaking of the buggy’s springs.
After a while, I said, “I appreciate the recommendation of your tailor.”
The cab took a corner a little too sharply, and I grabbed for a hand-hold to brace myself. I definitely did not like this method of transportation, although I certainly preferred it to a crowded train. When we were moving along at an easier pace, I resumed.
“I was feeling very lost before I ran into you, and I’m not sure how I would have begun to navigate the city without that little push. I’m grateful, Oscar.”
Oscar beamed, patting my knee fondly.
“There is an age-old affection between a younger man and an elder,” he said, “Where the elder man has intellect and the younger has all the glory and glamour of life before him. It is only natural that I should share my greater wisdom,” he continued. He withdrew his cigarette case, offered me one, and when I declined, lit one for himself. Sighing contentedly, he loosed twin plumes of white smoke from his nostrils. His eyes sparkled when he spoke again. “In exchange for that wisdom, you dazzle and inspire me with all the fire of youth.”
“So you won’t mind if I ask you for another favor?” I inquired.
Oscar contemplated the passing scenery for a few moments, smoking all the while.
“That really depends on the nature of the favor,” he said at last.
“I’m looking for another recommendation,” I responded. “A jeweler this time. I have some gold, and I need it to be made into something.”
Oscar relaxed visibly.
“Ordinarily my boys are asking me for gold and jewels. Are you sure that’s not what you’re getting at?” he laughed, adding, “It’s a little soon for presents, my dear.”
“The jeweler would have to be discrete,” I said quietly.
He sat up straighter in his seat, taking on a stern expression.
“Have you stolen something?” he asked sharply. “I will not provide a fence for you. Morality’s like art. One has to draw a line somewhere.”
“Don’t be harsh with me,” I replied. “It’s nothing like that. These things were given to me, and believe me, I earned them. But I don’t want them, certainly not as they are.”
I felt myself flushing with heat just thinking about it, so I fell silent and forced myself to look out the window. As I watched the houses and people whizzing past me, I concentrated on calming down.
“There’s a large quantity of gold involved,” I said at last. “I simply want to turn it into something useful.”
Oscar studied me for a little while, tapping his cane lightly while he considered.
“How large a quantity?” he inquired.
“More than you’d probably believe,” I said. “That’s why I need someone discrete. I want to be able to forget about the original items. I need someone who will do the same.”
Oscar’s eyes narrowed, but eventually, his face softened. He took another drag on his cigarette and sighed through the smoke.
“There is something very mysterious about you, Matthew,” he said. “And I’m not certain how much I want to involve myself in it.” He gazed out the window, smoking. “I am someone who lives too much in the public eye. It is the blessing and curse of my genius. I cannot afford to embroil myself in skullduggery.”
“I’d rather you not be involved,” I admitted. “But if you know someone –”
Oscar cut me off with a wave of one hand.
“I shall introduce you to my friend Preston tonight. Given some of the company he keeps, I imagine he can help you. But after I introduce you to him, I want to hear nothing more of this.”
“Very good,” he said. “Now, we are being too serious, and if there is one thing I cannot abide, it is taking life too seriously. We are here on this earth to enjoy ourselves, not brood about petty details. So,” he said, punctuating the word with a rap of his walking stick, “we shall go have our dinner, and then I shall introduce you to the glamorous world of Salomé.”