Mr. Utterson the lawyer was a man of a rugged countenance that was neve_ighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse; backward i_entiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary and yet somehow lovable. At friendl_eetings, and when the wine was to his taste, something eminently huma_eaconed from his eye; something indeed which never found its way into hi_alk, but which spoke not only in these silent symbols of the after-dinne_ace, but more often and loudly in the acts of his life. He was austere wit_imself; drank gin when he was alone, to mortify a taste for vintages; an_hough he enjoyed the theater, had not crossed the doors of one for twent_ears. But he had an approved tolerance for others; sometimes wondering,
almost with envy, at the high pressure of spirits involved in their misdeeds;
and in any extremity inclined to help rather than to reprove. "I incline t_ain's heresy," he used to say quaintly: "I let my brother go to the devil i_is own way." In this character, it was frequently his fortune to be the las_eputable acquaintance and the last good influence in the lives of downgoin_en. And to such as these, so long as they came about his chambers, he neve_arked a shade of change in his demeanour.
No doubt the feat was easy to Mr. Utterson; for he was undemonstrative at th_est, and even his friendship seemed to be founded in a similar catholicity o_ood-nature. It is the mark of a modest man to accept his friendly circl_eady-made from the hands of opportunity; and that was the lawyer's way. Hi_riends were those of his own blood or those whom he had known the longest;
his affections, like ivy, were the growth of time, they implied no aptness i_he object. Hence, no doubt the bond that united him to Mr. Richard Enfield,
his distant kinsman, the well-known man about town. It was a nut to crack fo_any, what these two could see in each other, or what subject they could fin_n common. It was reported by those who encountered them in their Sunda_alks, that they said nothing, looked singularly dull and would hail wit_bvious relief the appearance of a friend. For all that, the two men put th_reatest store by these excursions, counted them the chief jewel of each week,
and not only set aside occasions of pleasure, but even resisted the calls o_usiness, that they might enjoy them uninterrupted.
It chanced on one of these rambles that their way led them down a by-street i_ busy quarter of London. The street was small and what is called quiet, bu_t drove a thriving trade on the weekdays. The inhabitants were all doin_ell, it seemed and all emulously hoping to do better still, and laying ou_he surplus of their grains in coquetry; so that the shop fronts stood alon_hat thoroughfare with an air of invitation, like rows of smiling saleswomen.
Even on Sunday, when it veiled its more florid charms and lay comparativel_mpty of passage, the street shone out in contrast to its dingy neighbourhood,
like a fire in a forest; and with its freshly painted shutters, well-polishe_rasses, and general cleanliness and gaiety of note, instantly caught an_leased the eye of the passenger.
Two doors from one corner, on the left hand going east the line was broken b_he entry of a court; and just at that point a certain sinister block o_uilding thrust forward its gable on the street. It was two storeys high;
showed no window, nothing but a door on the lower storey and a blind forehea_f discoloured wall on the upper; and bore in every feature, the marks o_rolonged and sordid negligence. The door, which was equipped with neithe_ell nor knocker, was blistered and distained. Tramps slouched into the reces_nd struck matches on the panels; children kept shop upon the steps; th_choolboy had tried his knife on the mouldings; and for close on a generation,
no one had appeared to drive away these random visitors or to repair thei_avages.
Mr. Enfield and the lawyer were on the other side of the by-street; but whe_hey came abreast of the entry, the former lifted up his cane and pointed.
"Did you ever remark that door?" he asked; and when his companion had replie_n the affirmative. "It is connected in my mind," added he, "with a very od_tory."
"Indeed?" said Mr. Utterson, with a slight change of voice, "and what wa_hat?"
"Well, it was this way," returned Mr. Enfield: "I was coming home from som_lace at the end of the world, about three o'clock of a black winter morning,
and my way lay through a part of town where there was literally nothing to b_een but lamps. Street after street and all the folks asleep—street afte_treet, all lighted up as if for a procession and all as empty as a church—
till at last I got into that state of mind when a man listens and listens an_egins to long for the sight of a policeman. All at once, I saw two figures:
one a little man who was stumping along eastward at a good walk, and the othe_ girl of maybe eight or ten who was running as hard as she was able down _ross street. Well, sir, the two ran into one another naturally enough at th_orner; and then came the horrible part of the thing; for the man trample_almly over the child's body and left her screaming on the ground. It sound_othing to hear, but it was hellish to see. It wasn't like a man; it was lik_ome damned Juggernaut. I gave a few halloa, took to my heels, collared m_entleman, and brought him back to where there was already quite a group abou_he screaming child. He was perfectly cool and made no resistance, but gave m_ne look, so ugly that it brought out the sweat on me like running. The peopl_ho had turned out were the girl's own family; and pretty soon, the doctor,
for whom she had been sent put in his appearance. Well, the child was not muc_he worse, more frightened, according to the Sawbones; and there you migh_ave supposed would be an end to it. But there was one curious circumstance. _ad taken a loathing to my gentleman at first sight. So had the child'_amily, which was only natural. But the doctor's case was what struck me. H_as the usual cut and dry apothecary, of no particular age and colour, with _trong Edinburgh accent and about as emotional as a bagpipe. Well, sir, he wa_ike the rest of us; every time he looked at my prisoner, I saw that Sawbone_urn sick and white with desire to kill him. I knew what was in his mind, jus_s he knew what was in mine; and killing being out of the question, we did th_ext best. We told the man we could and would make such a scandal out of thi_s should make his name stink from one end of London to the other. If he ha_ny friends or any credit, we undertook that he should lose them. And all th_ime, as we were pitching it in red hot, we were keeping the women off him a_est we could for they were as wild as harpies. I never saw a circle of suc_ateful faces; and there was the man in the middle, with a kind of blac_neering coolness—frightened too, I could see that—but carrying it off, sir,
really like Satan. `If you choose to make capital out of this accident,' sai_e, `I am naturally helpless. No gentleman but wishes to avoid a scene,' say_e. `Name your figure.' Well, we screwed him up to a hundred pounds for th_hild's family; he would have clearly liked to stick out; but there wa_omething about the lot of us that meant mischief, and at last he struck. Th_ext thing was to get the money; and where do you think he carried us but t_hat place with the door?—whipped out a key, went in, and presently came bac_ith the matter of ten pounds in gold and a cheque for the balance o_outts's, drawn payable to bearer and signed with a name that I can't mention,
though it's one of the points of my story, but it was a name at least ver_ell known and often printed. The figure was stiff; but the signature was goo_or more than that if it was only genuine. I took the liberty of pointing ou_o my gentleman that the whole business looked apocryphal, and that a man doe_ot, in real life, walk into a cellar door at four in the morning and come ou_ith another man's cheque for close upon a hundred pounds. But he was quit_asy and sneering. `Set your mind at rest,' says he, `I will stay with yo_ill the banks open and cash the cheque myself.' So we all set of, the doctor,
and the child's father, and our friend and myself, and passed the rest of th_ight in my chambers; and next day, when we had breakfasted, went in a body t_he bank. I gave in the cheque myself, and said I had every reason to believ_t was a forgery. Not a bit of it. The cheque was genuine."
"Tut-tut," said Mr. Utterson.
"I see you feel as I do," said Mr. Enfield. "Yes, it's a bad story. For my ma_as a fellow that nobody could have to do with, a really damnable man; and th_erson that drew the cheque is the very pink of the proprieties, celebrate_oo, and (what makes it worse) one of your fellows who do what they call good.
Black mail I suppose; an honest man paying through the nose for some of th_apers of his youth. Black Mail House is what I call the place with the door,
in consequence. Though even that, you know, is far from explaining all," h_dded, and with the words fell into a vein of musing.
From this he was recalled by Mr. Utterson asking rather suddenly: "And yo_on't know if the drawer of the cheque lives there?"
"A likely place, isn't it?" returned Mr. Enfield. "But I happen to hav_oticed 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 abou_utting questions; it partakes too much of the style of the day of judgment.
You start a question, and it's like starting a stone. You sit quietly on th_op of a hill; and away the stone goes, starting others; and presently som_land old bird (the last you would have thought of) is knocked on the head i_is own back garden and the family have to change their name. No sir, I mak_t a rule of mine: the more it looks like 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. "It seem_carcely a house. There is no other door, and nobody goes in or out of tha_ne but, once in a great while, the gentleman of my adventure. There are thre_indows looking on the court on the first floor; none below; the windows ar_lways shut but they're clean. And then there is a chimney which is generall_moking; so somebody must live there. And yet it's not so sure; for th_uildings are so packed together about the court, that it's hard to say wher_ne ends and another 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 to ask: _ant 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 a man o_he 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 his appearance;
something displeasing, something down-right detestable. I never saw a man I s_isliked, and yet I scarce know why. He must be deformed somewhere; he gives _trong feeling of deformity, although I couldn't specify the point. He's a_xtraordinary looking man, and yet I really can name nothing out of the way.
No, sir; I can make no hand of it; I can't describe him. And it's not want o_emory; for I declare I can see him this moment."
Mr. Utterson again walked some way in silence and obviously under a weight o_onsideration. "You are sure he used a key?" he inquired at last.
"My dear sir … " began Enfield, surprised out of himself.
"Yes, I know," said Utterson; "I know it must seem strange. The fact is, if _o not ask you the name of the other party, it is because I know it already.
You see, Richard, your tale has gone home. If you have been inexact in an_oint you had better correct it."
"I think you might have warned me," returned the other with a touch o_ullenness. "But I have been pedantically exact, as you call it. The fello_ad a key; and what's more, he has it still. I saw him use it not a week ago."
Mr. Utterson sighed deeply but said never a word; and the young man presentl_esumed. "Here is another lesson to say nothing," said he. "I am ashamed of m_ong tongue. Let us make a bargain never to refer to this again."
"With all my heart," said the lawyer. I shake hands on that, Richard."