Dorian Leaves Sibyl
The theatre was crowded that night. It was terribly hot and there were young people shouting to each other from across seats. Women were laughing loudly and their voices sounded horrible. People were eating oranges and drinking from bottles.
‘What a place to find the perfect girl in!’ said Lord Henry.
‘Yes!’ answered Dorian Gray. ‘It was here I found her. When you see her as Juliet you will forget everything. These ugly people become quite different when she appears.’
‘I understand what you mean, Dorian,’ said the painter, ‘and I believe in this girl. Anyone you love must be wonderful.’
‘Thanks, Basil,’ answered Dorian Gray. ‘I knew that you would understand me. In a few minutes you will see the girl who I am going to give my life to. The girl who I have given everything that is good in me.’
Then Sibyl appeared. The crowd shouted and called her name. Yes, she was certainly lovely to look at, Lord Henry thought. Basil Hallward jumped to his feet excitedly. Dorian Gray sat staring at her like he was in a dream.
‘Charming! Charming!’ cried Lord Henry.
A quarter of an hour later, Lord Henry whispered to Hallward. ‘She’s one of the loveliest girls I have ever seen. But she is a terrible actress.’
Dorian Gray’s face turned white as he watched her speak. She was so different tonight! Now she was not Juliet but a very bad actress who did not understand Shakespeare’s words.
Even the crowd became bored and began to talk loudly. The only person who did not seem to notice was the actress herself.
Lord Henry got up from his chair and put on his coat. ‘She is beautiful, Dorian,’ he said, ‘but she can’t act. Let’s go.’
‘I am going to stay until the end,’ answered the boy in a cold voice. ‘I am awfully sorry that I have made you waste an evening, Harry. I apologize to you both.’
‘My dear Dorian, perhaps Miss Vane is ill,’ said Hallward. ‘We will come some other night.’
‘Come to the club with Basil and myself. We will smoke cigarettes and drink to the beauty of Sibyl Vane. She is beautiful. What more do you want?’
‘Go away, Harry,’ cried the boy. ‘I want to be alone. Can’t you see my heart is breaking?’ Hot tears came to his eyes as Lord Henry and Hallward left the theatre.
When it was over, Dorian Gray rushed to see Sibyl Vane. The girl was standing there alone, with a look of extraordinary happiness on her face.
‘How badly I acted tonight, Dorian!’ she cried.
‘Horribly!’ he answered, staring at her. ‘It was terrible. Are you ill? Why did you make me suffer like that?’
The girl smiled. ‘Dorian, don’t yon understand?’
‘Understand what?’ he asked, angrily.
‘Why I was so bad tonight. Why I will always be bad. Why I will never act well again.’
‘You are ill, I suppose. When you are ill, you shouldn’t act. My friends were bored. I was bored.’
‘Dorian, Dorian,’ she cried, ‘before I knew you, acting was the one important thing in my life. It was only in the theatre that I lived. I thought that it was all true. Tonight, for the first time in my life I saw that I was playing at love. Our love for each other is the only true love. Take me away with you, Dorian! I don’t want to be an actress any more.’
He threw himself down on the sofa, and turned away his face. ‘You have killed my love,’ he said quietly. Then he jumped up and went to the door. ‘My God! How mad I was to love you! What a fool I have been! You are nothing to me now. I will never see you again. I will never think of you. I will never speak to you again.’
The girl went white. ‘You are not serious, Dorian? You are acting?’ she whispered, putting her hand on his arm.
He pushed her back. ‘Don’t touch me!’ he cried. Then he turned and left the room.
After walking the streets of London all night, he arrived home just after sunrise. As he passed through the library, he saw the portrait that Basil Hallward had painted of him. He stared at it in surprise and walked on into his bedroom. He took his coat off and stood next to his bed. A few moments later he returned to the picture and looked at it closely. In the poor light the face seemed to have changed a little. Now the mouth looked cruel. It was certainly strange.
He walked to the window and opened the curtains. The light changed the room, but the face stayed the same. In fact, the sunlight made the mouth look even crueller.
Going back to his bedroom, he found a small mirror that had been a present from Lord Henry. He looked at his real face and saw no sign of cruelty. What did it mean?
He threw himself into a chair, and began to think. Suddenly he remembered what he had said in Basil Hallward’s house the day the picture had been finished. Yes, he remembered it perfectly. He had asked that the painting grow old so that he himself could remain young. But such things were impossible. It was terrible even to think about them. And, yet, there was the picture in front of him. There was the cruelty in the mouth.
Cruelty! Had he been cruel? No, why think about Sibyl Vane? She was nothing to him now.
But the picture? What was he to say of that? It held the secret of his life, and told his story. It had taught him to love his own beauty.
Would it teach him to hate his own soul? Would he ever look at it again?
He would save himself! He would not see Lord Henry again. He would go back to Sibyl Vane, marry her and try to love her again. She had suffered more than he had. Poor child! He had been selfish and cruel to her. They would be happy together. His life with her would be beautiful and pure.
He got up from his chair, and covered the portrait. ‘How horrible!’ he said to himself, and he walked across to the window and opened it. When he stepped out on to the grass he took a deep breath. He thought only of Sibyl. The birds that were singing in the garden seemed to be telling the flowers about her.