Story of the Door
MR. UTTERSON the lawyer was a man of a rugged countenance, that was
never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in
discourse; backward in sentiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary, and
yet somehow lovable. At friendly meetings, and when the wine was to
his taste, something eminently human beaconed from his eye;
something indeed which never found its way into his talk, but which
spoke not only in these silent symbols of the after-dinner face, but
more often and loudly in the acts of 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, had not crossed the
doors of one for twenty years. 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 to, Cain's heresy," he used to say. "I let my brother go
to the devil in his quaintly: "own way." In this character, it was
frequently his fortune to be the last reputable acquaintance and the
last good influence in the lives of down-going men. And to such as
these, so long as they came about his chambers, he never marked a
shade of change in his demeanour.
No doubt the feat was easy to Mr. Utterson; for he was
undemonstrative at the best, and even his friendship seemed to be
founded in a similar catholicity of good-nature. It is the mark of a
modest man to accept his friendly circle ready-made from the hands
of opportunity; and that was the lawyer's way. His friends 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 in the 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 for many, what these two 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 with
obvious relief the appearance of a friend. For all that, the two men
put the greatest 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
of business, that they might enjoy them uninterrupted.
It chanced on one of these rambles that their way led them down a
by-street in a busy quarter of London. The street was small and
what is called quiet, but it drove a thriving trade on the
week-days. The inhabitants were all doing well, it seemed, and all
emulously hoping to do better still, and laying out the surplus of
their gains in coquetry; so that the shop fronts stood along that
thoroughfare with an air of invitation, like rows of smiling
saleswomen. Even on Sunday, when it veiled its more florid charms
and lay comparatively empty 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-polished brasses, and
general cleanliness and gaiety of note, instantly caught and pleased
the eye of the passenger.
Two doors from one corner, on the left hand going east, the line
was broken by the entry of a court; and just at that point, a
certain sinister block of building thrust forward its gable on the
street. It was two stories high; showed no window, nothing but a
door on the lower story and a blind forehead of discoloured wall on
the upper; and bore in every feature, the marks of prolonged and
sordid negligence. The door, which was equipped with neither bell
nor knocker, was blistered and distained. Tramps slouched into the
recess and struck matches on
the panels; children kept shop upon the steps; the schoolboy 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
Mr. Enfield and the lawyer were on the other side of the by-street;
but when they 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 replied 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
what was that?"
"Well, it was this way," returned Mr. Enfield: "I was coming home
from some place 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 be seen but lamps. Street after
street, and all the folks asleep -- street after street, 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
and begins 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 other a girl of maybe eight or ten who was
running as hard as she was able down a cross street. Well, sir, the
two ran into one another naturally enough at the
corner; and then came the horrible part of the thing; for the man
trampled calmly over the, child's body and left her screaming on
the ground. It sounds nothing to hear, but it was hellish to see.
It wasn't like a man; it was like some damned Juggernaut. I gave a
view-halloa, took to my heels, collared my gentleman, and brought
him back to where there was already quite a group about the
screaming child. He was perfectly cool and made no resistance, but
gave me one look, so ugly that it brought out the sweat on me like
running. The people who 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 much the worse, more frightened,
according to the Sawbones; and there you might have supposed would
be an end to it. But there was one curious circumstance. I had taken
a loathing to my gentleman at first sight. So had the child's
family, which was only natural. But the doctor's case was what
struck me. He was the usual cut-and-dry apothecary, of no particular
age and colour, with a strong Edinburgh accent, and about as
emotional as a bagpipe. Well, sir, he was like the rest of us; every
time he looked at my prisoner, I saw that Sawbones turn sick and
white with the desire to kill him. I knew what was in his mind, just
as he knew what was in mine; and killing being out of the question,
we did the next best. We told the man we could
and would make such a scandal out of this, as should make his name
stink from one end of London to the other. If he 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 the women off him
as best we could, for they were as wild as harpies. I never saw 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
see that -- but carrying it off, sir, really like Satan. 'If you
choose to make 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; he would have clearly liked to stick out;
but there was something about the lot of us that meant mischief, and
at last he struck. The next thing was to get the money; and where
do you think he carried us but to that place with the door? --
whipped out a key, went in, and presently came back with the matter
of ten pounds in gold and a cheque for the balance on Coutts'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 very well known and often printed. The figure was stiff; but
the signature was good for more than that, if it was only genuine. I
took the liberty of pointing out to my gentleman that the whole
business looked apocryphal, and that a man does not, in real life,
walk into a cellar door at four in the morning and come out of it
with another man's cheque for close upon a hundred pounds. But he
was quite easy and sneering. 'Set your mind at rest,' says he, 'I
will stay with you till the banks open and cash the cheque myself.'
So we all set off, the doctor, and the child's father, and our
friend and myself, and passed the rest of the night in my chambers;
and next day, when we had breakfasted, went in a body to the bank. I
gave in the check myself, and said I had every reason to believe it
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 man was a fellow that nobody could have to do with, a really
damnable man; and the person that drew the cheque is the very pink
of the proprieties, celebrated too, 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 the capers of his
youth. Black-Mail House is what I call that place with the door, in
consequence. Though even that, you know, is far from explaining
all," he added, and with the words fell into a vein of musing.
From this he was recalled by Mr. Utterson asking rather suddenly:"
And you don't know if the drawer of the cheque lives there?"
"A likely place, isn't it?" returned Mr. Enfield. "But I happen to
have noticed his address; he lives in some square or other."
"And you never asked about the -- place with the door?" said Mr.
"No, sir: I had a delicacy," was the reply. "I feel very strongly
about putting 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 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 to change their name. No, sir, I
make it 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 seems scarcely a house. There is no other door, and nobody goes
in or out of that one but, once in a great while, the gentleman of
my adventure. There are three windows looking on the court on the
first floor; none below; the windows are always shut but they're
clean. And then there is a chimney which is generally smoking; so
somebody must live there. And yet it's not so sure; for the
buildings are so packed together about that court, that it's hard to
say where one 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: I want to ask the name of that man who walked over the
"Well," said Mr. Enfield, "I can't see what harm it would do. It
was a man of the name of Hyde."
"H'm," 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 downright detestable. I
never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why. He must be
deformed somewhere; he gives a strong feeling of deformity, although
I couldn't specify the point. He's an extraordinary-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 of memory; for I
declare I can see him this moment."
Mr. Utterson again walked some way in silence and obviously under a
weight of consideration.
"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 I do 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 any point, you had better correct
"I think you might have warned me," returned the other, with a
touch of sullenness. "But I have been pedantically exact, as you
call it. The fellow had 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
presently resumed. "Here is another lesson to say nothing," said he.
"I am ashamed of my long tongue. Let us make a bargain never to
refer to this again."
"With all my heart," said the lawyer. "I shake hands on that,