The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, p.1Robert Louis Stevenson
THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
by Robert Louis Stevenson
STORY OF THE DOOR
Mr. Utterson the lawyer was a man of a rugged countenance that was neverlighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse; backwardin sentiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary and yet somehow lovable.At friendly meetings, and when the wine was to his taste, somethingeminently human beaconed from his eye; something indeed which neverfound its way into his talk, but which spoke not only in these silentsymbols of the after-dinner face, but more often and loudly in the actsof his life. He was austere with himself; drank gin when he was alone,to mortify a taste for vintages; and though he enjoyed the theatre, hadnot crossed the doors of one for twenty years. But he had an approvedtolerance for others; sometimes wondering, almost with envy, at the highpressure of spirits involved in their misdeeds; and in any extremityinclined to help rather than to reprove. "I incline to Cain's heresy,"he used to say quaintly: "I let my brother go to the devil in his ownway." In this character, it was frequently his fortune to be the lastreputable acquaintance and the last good influence in the lives ofdowngoing men. And to such as these, so long as they came about hischambers, he never marked a shade of change in his demeanour.
No doubt the feat was easy to Mr. Utterson; for he was undemonstrativeat the best, and even his friendship seemed to be founded in a similarcatholicity of good-nature. It is the mark of a modest man to accept hisfriendly circle ready-made from the hands of opportunity; and that wasthe lawyer's way. His friends were those of his own blood or those whomhe had known the longest; his affections, like ivy, were the growth oftime, they implied no aptness in the object. Hence, no doubt thebond that united him to Mr. Richard Enfield, his distant kinsman, thewell-known man about town. It was a nut to crack for many, what thesetwo could see in each other, or what subject they could find in common.It was reported by those who encountered them in their Sunday walks,that they said nothing, looked singularly dull and would hail withobvious relief the appearance of a friend. For all that, the two men putthe greatest store by these excursions, counted them the chief jewelof each week, and not only set aside occasions of pleasure, buteven resisted the calls of business, that they might enjoy themuninterrupted.
It chanced on one of these rambles that their way led them down aby-street in a busy quarter of London. The street was small and whatis called quiet, but it drove a thriving trade on the weekdays. Theinhabitants were all doing well, it seemed and all emulously hoping todo better still, and laying out the surplus of their grains in coquetry;so that the shop fronts stood along that thoroughfare with an air ofinvitation, like rows of smiling saleswomen. Even on Sunday, when itveiled its more florid charms and lay comparatively empty of passage,the street shone out in contrast to its dingy neighbourhood, like afire in a forest; and with its freshly painted shutters, well-polishedbrasses, and general cleanliness and gaiety of note, instantly caughtand pleased the eye of the passenger.
Two doors from one corner, on the left hand going east the line wasbroken by the entry of a court; and just at that point a certainsinister block of building thrust forward its gable on the street. Itwas two storeys high; showed no window, nothing but a door on the lowerstorey and a blind forehead of discoloured wall on the upper; and borein every feature, the marks of prolonged and sordid negligence. Thedoor, which was equipped with neither bell nor knocker, was blisteredand distained. Tramps slouched into the recess and struck matches on thepanels; children kept shop upon the steps; the schoolboy had triedhis knife on the mouldings; and for close on a generation, no one hadappeared to drive away these random visitors or to repair their ravages.
Mr. Enfield and the lawyer were on the other side of the by-street; butwhen they came abreast of the entry, the former lifted up his cane andpointed.
"Did you ever remark that door?" he asked; and when his companion hadreplied in the affirmative. "It is connected in my mind," added he,"with a very odd story."
"Indeed?" said Mr. Utterson, with a slight change of voice, "and whatwas that?"
"Well, it was this way," returned Mr. Enfield: "I was coming home fromsome place at the end of the world, about three o'clock of a blackwinter morning, and my way lay through a part of town where there wasliterally nothing to be seen but lamps. Street after street and all thefolks asleep--street after street, all lighted up as if for a processionand all as empty as a church--till at last I got into that state of mindwhen a man listens and listens and begins to long for the sight of apoliceman. All at once, I saw two figures: one a little man who wasstumping along eastward at a good walk, and the other a girl of maybeeight or ten who was running as hard as she was able down a crossstreet. Well, sir, the two ran into one another naturally enough atthe corner; and then came the horrible part of the thing; for the mantrampled calmly over the child's body and left her screaming on theground. It sounds nothing to hear, but it was hellish to see. It wasn'tlike a man; it was like some damned Juggernaut. I gave a few halloa,took to my heels, collared my gentleman, and brought him back to wherethere was already quite a group about the screaming child. He wasperfectly cool and made no resistance, but gave me one look, so uglythat it brought out the sweat on me like running. The people who hadturned out were the girl's own family; and pretty soon, the doctor, forwhom she had been sent put in his appearance. Well, the child was notmuch the worse, more frightened, according to the Sawbones; and thereyou might have supposed would be an end to it. But there was one curiouscircumstance. I had taken a loathing to my gentleman at first sight. Sohad the child's family, which was only natural. But the doctor's casewas what struck me. He was the usual cut and dry apothecary, of noparticular age and colour, with a strong Edinburgh accent and about asemotional as a bagpipe. Well, sir, he was like the rest of us; everytime he looked at my prisoner, I saw that Sawbones turn sick and whitewith desire to kill him. I knew what was in his mind, just as he knewwhat was in mine; and killing being out of the question, we did the nextbest. We told the man we could and would make such a scandal out of thisas should make his name stink from one end of London to the other. Ifhe had any friends or any credit, we undertook that he should lose them.And all the time, as we were pitching it in red hot, we were keeping thewomen off him as best we could for they were as wild as harpies. I neversaw a circle of such hateful faces; and there was the man in the middle,with a kind of black sneering coolness--frightened too, I could seethat--but carrying it off, sir, really like Satan. `If you choose tomake capital out of this accident,' said he, `I am naturally helpless.No gentleman but wishes to avoid a scene,' says he. `Name your figure.'Well, we screwed him up to a hundred pounds for the child's family; hewould have clearly liked to stick out; but there was something about thelot of us that meant mischief, and at last he struck. The next thing wasto get the money; and where do you think he carried us but to that placewith the door?--whipped out a key, went in, and presently came backwith the matter of ten pounds in gold and a cheque for the balance onCoutts's, drawn payable to bearer and signed with a name that I can'tmention, though it's one of the points of my story, but it was a name atleast very well known and often printed. The figure was stiff; but thesignature was good for more than that if it was only genuine. I took theliberty of pointing out to my gentleman that the whole business lookedapocryphal, and that a man does not, in real life, walk into a cellardoor at four in the morning and come out with another man's cheque forclose upon a hundred pounds. But he was quite easy and sneering. `Setyour mind at rest,' says he, `I will stay with you till the banks openand cash the cheque myself.' So we all set off, the doctor, and thechild's father, and our friend and myself, and passed the rest of thenight in my cham
"Tut-tut," said Mr. Utterson.
"I see you feel as I do," said Mr. Enfield. "Yes, it's a bad story. Formy man was a fellow that nobody could have to do with, a really damnableman; and the person that drew the cheque is the very pink of theproprieties, celebrated too, and (what makes it worse) one of yourfellows who do what they call good. Black mail I suppose; an honest manpaying through the nose for some of the capers of his youth. Black MailHouse is what I call the place with the door, in consequence. Thougheven that, you know, is far from explaining all," he added, and with thewords fell into a vein of musing.
From this he was recalled by Mr. Utterson asking rather suddenly: "Andyou don't know if the drawer of the cheque lives there?"
"A likely place, isn't it?" returned Mr. Enfield. "But I happen to havenoticed his address; he lives in some square or other."
"And you never asked about the--place with the door?" said Mr. Utterson.
"No, sir: I had a delicacy," was the reply. "I feel very strongly aboutputting questions; it partakes too much of the style of the day ofjudgment. You start a question, and it's like starting a stone. You sitquietly on the top of a hill; and away the stone goes, starting others;and presently some bland old bird (the last you would have thought of)is knocked on the head in his own back garden and the family have tochange their name. No sir, I make it a rule of mine: the more it lookslike Queer Street, the less I ask."
"A very good rule, too," said the lawyer.
"But I have studied the place for myself," continued Mr. Enfield. "Itseems scarcely a house. There is no other door, and nobody goes inor out of that one but, once in a great while, the gentleman of myadventure. There are three windows looking on the court on the firstfloor; none below; the windows are always shut but they're clean. Andthen there is a chimney which is generally smoking; so somebody mustlive there. And yet it's not so sure; for the buildings are so packedtogether about the court, that it's hard to say where one ends andanother begins."
The pair walked on again for a while in silence; and then "Enfield,"said Mr. Utterson, "that's a good rule of yours."
"Yes, I think it is," returned Enfield.
"But for all that," continued the lawyer, "there's one point I want toask: I want to ask the name of that man who walked over the child."
"Well," said Mr. Enfield, "I can't see what harm it would do. It was aman of the name of Hyde."
"Hm," said Mr. Utterson. "What sort of a man is he to see?"
"He is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with hisappearance; something displeasing, something down-right detestable. Inever saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why. He must bedeformed somewhere; he gives a strong feeling of deformity, although Icouldn't specify the point. He's an extraordinary looking man, and yetI really can name nothing out of the way. No, sir; I can make no hand ofit; I can't describe him. And it's not want of memory; for I declare Ican see him this moment."
Mr. Utterson again walked some way in silence and obviously under aweight of consideration. "You are sure he used a key?" he inquired atlast.
"My dear sir..." began Enfield, surprised out of himself.
"Yes, I know," said Utterson; "I know it must seem strange. The fact is,if I do not ask you the name of the other party, it is because I knowit already. You see, Richard, your tale has gone home. If you have beeninexact in any point you had better correct it."
"I think you might have warned me," returned the other with a touch ofsullenness. "But I have been pedantically exact, as you call it. Thefellow had a key; and what's more, he has it still. I saw him use it nota week ago."
Mr. Utterson sighed deeply but said never a word; and the young manpresently resumed. "Here is another lesson to say nothing," said he. "Iam ashamed of my long tongue. Let us make a bargain never to refer tothis again."
"With all my heart," said the lawyer. "I shake hands on that, Richard."
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson / Science Fiction have rating 5 out of 5 / Based on15 votes