Jekyll and Howard, a classic horror tale

Click to follow
"There is something of the night about him," said Ann Widdecombe of Mr Michael Howard, barely repressing a shiver.

She did not know how near the truth she was.

Here is a brief extract from the classic horror story The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Howard ...

IT WAS a period when London was resounding to the news of the most horrific crimes.

Nobody could quite say what these crimes were. Some said that many people had been unjustly locked up in captivity for long periods for committing petty crimes or even no crime at all.

Others related instances of men who had pleaded for entry to the British Isles but had been cruelly sent back to their own countries, there to be mistreated or even murdered. There were rumours of men who had been unfairly dismissed from their senior posts, and of other men who were refused justice in the teeth of all the evidence.

In some way all these crimes and many more too horrible to relate were connected, and in some way that one could never pin down, they were all connected with the name of Mr Howard.

"Ever met this fellow Howard?" asked Utterson the lawyer one night, of his old friend Dr Jekyll.

To his surprise Dr Jekyll looked confused and shaken, and said nothing. His lack of response was covered by old Dr Lanyon, who had been eagerly listening.

"Mr Howard? Yes, I've met him. Just the once, but I shall never forget the experience. It was at a party given by that Irish fellow, the one that calls himself a doctor ..."

"Mawhinney?" offered someone.

"That's the one. Well, somebody tugged at my shoulder and asked if I wanted to meet Mr Howard, and knowing no better I said, 'Yes, why not?' and found myself talking to ..."

His voice fell away, as if he could not quite believe his memory.

"Put it this way," said old Dr Lanyon. "When I met this fellow Howard I had a feeling of something being not quite right with him. There is nothing actually deranged about him, but ... He had spectacles which were very large, yet the eyes behind seemed larger still. He had a smile which came and went at complete variance with his words. This was because his words were heated but his smile was cold. Even his large moon-like spectacles are warmer than the eyes behind. In his presence I felt an overpowering sensation of complete and utter ..."

He fell silent again.

"Evil?" tried someone.

"Horror?" said another.

"No, not that," said Dr Lanyon. "It was smugness. I felt that Mr Howard possessed an other-worldly talent for being pleased with himself."

"Yes, I have heard it said that he is a monster of complacency," said Utterson the lawyer.

"Are you feeling all right, Jekyll, old man?" Dr Lanyon asked suddenly.

Dr Jekyll did look ghastly. White and perspiring, he was clutching at his collar.

"I'll ... I'll just take some air, I think," he said. "Very close in here ..."

He staggered out of the club while the rest of us stared after him.

"What's wrong with him?" said someone.

"He's said to be an associate of Mr Howard," said Utterson. "I expect he cannot bear to hear his friend talked of like this."

"There's worse," said Dr Lanyon gloomily. "I hear now that this Howard has ambitions to take over the country."

"WHAT!?" said Utterson. "A man who has been condemned by all the top judges of the country? A man who has consistently brought the Home Office into disrepute? Lead the country? Can they be serious?"

"Keep your voice down," said someone. "Here he comes now."

And sure enough, the door of the club's coffee room opened and the surprisingly small figure of Mr Howard entered, preceded by a huge smiling air of spectacles. He passed from table to table saying something like, "I trust you will vote for me?" in soft tones, though it was hard to hear from far off.

"What a shame that Dr Jekyll is not here," said someone. "Of all the group, he is the only one of us who seemed willing to talk to the man, should he come this way, and now he is not here."

It was only when he was going home that Utterson reflected that he had never seen Jekyll and Howard in the same room together. It was a reflection which was to make a lot more sense in the months to come.