Love Becomes Tragedy
It was nearly one o’clock the next afternoon when he woke up. His servant brought him a cup of tea and some letters. One of them was from Lord Henry, and had been brought by hand that morning. He put it to one side.
He went into the library for breakfast feeling perfectly happy. Then he saw the open window and the covered portrait. Was it all true? Or had it just been a dream? But he remembered that cruel mouth so clearly.
Dorian Gray sent his servant away and locked all the doors. Then he pulled the cover off the painting, and saw himself face to face. It was true. The portrait had changed.
For hours he did not know what to do or think. Finally, he went over to the table and wrote a passionate letter to the girl he had loved. He asked her to forgive him for the terrible things he had said to her.
Suddenly he heard a knock on the door, and he heard Lord Henry’s voice outside. ‘My dear boy, I must see you. Let me in at once.’
He made no answer, but remained quite still. The knocking continued and grew louder. Yes, it was better to let Lord Henry in. He would explain to him the new life he was going to lead. He jumped up, covered the picture and opened the door.
‘I am sorry about it all, Dorian,’ said Lord Henry, as he entered. ‘But you must not think too much about it.’
‘Do you mean about Sibyl Vine?’ asked the boy.
‘Yes, of course,’ answered Lord Henry, sitting down and slowly pulling off his yellow gloves. ‘It is terrible, but you are not to blame. Tell me, did you go behind and see her after it was over?’
‘I felt sure that you had. Did you have an argument?’
‘I was cruel, Harry — terribly cruel. But it is all right now. I am not sorry for anything that has happened. It has taught me to know myself better.’
‘Oh, Dorian, I am so glad that you see it that way.’
‘I want to be good, Harry. I don’t want my soul to be ugly. I am going to marry Sibyl Vine.’
‘Marry Sibyl Vine!’ cried Lord Henry, standing up, and staring at him in surprise. ‘But, my dear Dorian -‘
‘Yes, Harry, I know what you are going to say. Something horrible about getting married. Don’t say it! Sibyl will be my wife!’
‘Your wife! Dorian!… Didn’t you get my letter? I wrote to you this morning.’
‘Your letter? Oh, yes, I remember. I have not read it yet, Harry.’
‘You know nothing yet then?’
‘What do you mean?’
Lord Henry walked across the room and sat down next to Dorian Gray. Taking both his hands in his own, he held them. ‘Dorian,’ he said, ‘my letter was to tell you that Sibyl Vane is dead.’
A cry of pain came from the boy’s lips and he jumped to his feet. ‘Dead! Sibyl dead! It is not true! It is a horrible lie!’
‘It is true, Dorian,’ said Lord Henry. ‘It is in all the morning newspapers. The police will be asking questions, and you must keep your name out of any scandal. Things like that make a man fashionable in Paris. But in London they are a disaster for any gentleman. I suppose they don’t know your name at the theatre? If they don’t, it is all right. Did anyone see you going round to her room?’
Dorian did not answer for a few moments. Finally he said in a strange voice, ‘Harry, did you say that the police are asking questions? What did you mean by that? Did Sibyl -? Oh, Harry this is terrible!’
‘I am sure that it was not an accident, though it must be described that way officially. She swallowed something horrible they use at theatres.’
‘Harry, Harry, it is terrible!’ cried the boy.
‘Yes, it is very sad, of course, but it is nothing to do with you. Come with me to dinner, and after we will go to the theatre.’
‘So I have murdered Sibyl Vane,’ said Dorian Gray, half to himself. ‘Yet the roses are not less lovely. The birds still sing happily in my garden. And tonight I will have dinner with you and go to the theatre. How extraordinary life is! My first passionate love letter was to a dead girl. Yet why is it that I cannot feel this tragedy as much as I want to? I don’t think I am heartless. Do you?’
‘You have done too many foolish things in the last fortnight to be heartless, Dorian,’ answered Lord Henry, with his sweet, sad smile.
The boy frowned. ‘I don’t like that explanation, Harry,’ he said, ‘but I am glad you don’t think I am heartless.’
‘A woman has killed herself for the love of you,’ said Lord Henry. ‘That is very beautiful.’
They were silent. The evening darkened in the room. After some time Dorian Gray looked up. ‘How well you know me! But we will not talk again of what has happened. It has been something wonderful. That is all. Now, I have to dress, Harry. I feel too tired to eat anything, but I will join you later at the theatre.’
As Lord Henry closed the door behind him Dorian rushed to the portrait and tore off the cover. No, there was no further change in the picture. It had received the news of Sibyl Vane’s death before he had known of it himself. Tears came to his eyes as he remembered her. He brushed them away and looked again at the picture.
He felt the time had come to choose. Or had he already chosen? Yes, life had decided that for him. The portrait was going to carry his shame: that was all.
An hour later he was at the theatre, and Lord Henry was sitting beside him.