The Reverend Edward Leigh, chatting in the garden of his vicarage with his friend Utterson, a lawyer, is telling of a shocking spectacle he has witnessed while on an early morning call to a parishioner--the sight of a strangely misshapen man trampling down, with fiendish glee, a little girl he encountered on the street.
The Vicar seized the man and, with the child's parents, demanded that he make amends. The man readily agreed to pay a hundred pounds, and led them to a dilapidated house where he wrote a check. The Vicar remained up to go to the bank with the parents to cash it, and he recalls that the name on the check was that of Edward Hyde.
On hearing this name, Utterson, pledging the Vicar to secrecy, discloses that their respected friend, the successful Dr. Henry Jekyll, has made a will naming the mysterious Hyde his sole heir. Lanyon, who, with Jekyll, is an admirer of the Vicar's daughter Alice, arrives, but he can throw little light on the mystery beyond hinting that Jekyll had been dabbling in "unscientific balderdash." Jekyll himself now appears, but, when questioned, says only that Hyde is a private concern and that he can rid himself of the detestable acquaintance whenever he chooses.
Later, after telling Lanyon of her affection for Jekyll, Alice and Dr. Jekyll meet in the garden, and Alice confesses to him her love and her admiration of his noble nature. Jekyll tells her that in every man there are two natures--one of good and one of evil--and "he who has them under such control that the good always balances the bad is indeed blessed." Then, aside, he exclaims: "My God! I feel the change approaching. I must go at once to my cabinet."
He excuses himself "to go to his room," and Alice, turning her back, is leaving the garden when Jekyll, dropping his coat and cane, murmurs, "Too late--too late!" He writhes in agony, and suddenly takes on the twisted, dwarfish form of Hyde, his hair falling over his eyes and his features contorted. Alice, turning and seeing him dimly in the dusk, demands to know who he is. Frightened, she backs away, threatening to call for help.
She calls Jekyll's name, but Hyde snarls: "Don't call him--I hate him--I'll kill him if he comes!" He seizes her, laughing wildly, and the Vicar rushes to her rescue. Hyde fells him with his cane and then, in maniacal glee, chokes him. He runs away as voices are heard. As Alice is telling Utterson and the butler of the attack, Jekyll reappears in his own form. He is shocked and grieved to learn that the Vicar has been murdered.
Inspector Newcomen, called from Scotland Yard, traces Hyde to an old house in Soho, but Hyde's housekeeper, an old hag, can tell him little: she says she has not seen Hyde for two months. Jekyll tells Utterson, with whom Alice is now living, that he is done forever with Hyde. He gives Utterson a letter from the killer, lamenting his unworthiness and boasting of a sure means of escape. Jekyll says that he himself has had a bitter lesson, and must go on his own dark way in suffering and terror. Utterson learns later, to his bewilderment, that the letter was not delivered by messenger, as Jekyll had said it was, and that the handwriting of Jekyll and Hyde is similar.
Alice goes to Jekyll to thank him for aiding in the pursuit of her father's murderer. Jekyll is tortured anew by a vision of Hyde going to the gallows. He resolves that he must give Alice up; and, since he fears that he will again, against his own will, take the form of Hyde, determines to confess everything to Lanyon so that he will be provided, in case of need, with the drugs to transform him to Jekyll.
A watch is kept for the return of Hyde in the vicarage garden which adjoins the home of Dr. Jekyll. And one night Hyde does appear, chuckling that he is going to scrawl blasphemies over the pages of Jekyll's books. Acccosted by Utterson, he bolts into Jekyll's house. When Newcomen and the others knock at the door, they are answered only by a surprised Dr. Jekyll ... there is no trace whatever of Hyde, the killer.
But the eerie unmasking of his dual personality comes later in the professional secrecy of the office of Dr. Lanyon, who, at Jekyll's bidding, has brought to his own office the drugs for which Hyde calls. Hyde arrives and, sobbing in relief, hurriedly mixes a draught--adding a powder he calls "moral power"--then challenges Lanyon to bid him drink it there that he may witness an experiment in "transcendental medicine ... to stagger the unbelief in Satan." He drinks the potion and, to the amazement of Lanyon, changes to the figure of Dr. Jekyll. He leaves under the eyes of the bewildered police. Soon after, Lanyon dies of shock, leaving a letter that Utterson is to open only "after the death or disappearance of Dr. Jekyll."
At length, a frightened Poole, Jekyll's servant, comes to Utterson and Alice to tell them that Jekyll, who has long been avoiding her, has locked himself in his cabinet for more than a week. "Whatever is in the cabinet," Poole says, "walks all day and the better part of the night. It's an ill conscience that creature has got, for it gets no rest, and it moans and weeps like a woman, and the voice is changed .... It's my opinion that the master was made away with eight days ago, when we heard him cry out to God." He says, further, that the creature inside has been crying for a particular sort of drug, but none that Poole has obtained has suited its purpose. Utterson and Alice set off with Poole to investigate.
In his cabinet, Jekyll is suffering the agony of the damned; he has found that the drug which has always restored him contains an accidental impurity that cannot be replaced, and he fears that after he takes the last of his remaining supply he will turn into the form of Hyde forever. Alice calls to him from outside the door--and he takes the last of his potion so that he may appear before her as himself.
She tells him of her forgiveness for whatever he has done and of her love, and Jekyll, for the moment, is again happy, but soon he begs her to leave him. She goes, denying that this is farewell, and calls to him that she will see him again tomorrow. Jekyll locks the door. He reflects: "Until tomorrow, on which no sun shall ever rise for me; but now my soul is clear and I can die in peace." He kneels and prays: "O God, look into my heart and forgive my sins; You were right--I was wrong to tempt You! Ah, I must pray--pray to keep away the demon."
The weird and supernatural change to Hyde is beginning, and he starts to laugh in the harsh, scornful voice of Hyde. He hears Utterson outside, demanding admittance, and he leaps on a chair and seizes a bottle of poison. He cries: "They're going to take me to the gallows--but Hyde won't die on the gallows--he-he-he-he-ha! I've killed two people already--here goes for the third--Jekyll--I've always told you I'd kill him." He drinks the poison and falls in death as Utterson and Poole break in.
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