"I'm a fool. A complete and utter imbecile. Now it's all gone to shit and I should probably just go lie down and die in my grave. The one I dug for myself. Bleeding fool."
Rachel O'Reilly, the chambermaid, leaned forward and silently poured Dr. Jekyll another glass of wine, which he finished between outpourings of self-loathing. They had been sitting there, holed up in the doctor's study for about an hour now, and at the rate he was going, they wouldn't be there for much longer.
"There you go, sir," cooed Rachel, "just get it all out and you'll feel much better in the morning." Generally, he did. She had presided over more than a couple such pity parties in her years serving Dr. Jekyll, and she understood their pattern. Not that Jekyll would ever ask for one of his household staff to bear witness to his more intoxicated states, of course. Rachel simply volunteered. He was rarely in a state to question why the young maid wanted to stay up until four in the morning listening to his ramblings, and he would have no way of knowing just how much of those ramblings crystallized into carefully documented gossip (and the occasional erotic vignette) in her very secret diary.
"It just goes to show you," hiccuped Jekyll. "The one time you let your guard down--the one time! The bastard you piss off ends up being the sole heir to- to all the things! All the things I need. And of course he's already got complete say in who the family'll rent that bloody building out to." He turned his bleary gaze to Rachel's general direction. "Oh God. I'm boring you. This is so dull. I need to stop talking. Please make me stop talking."
Rachel smiled blankly. "You're not boring me at all, sir. Please, continue." And she poured him another glass.
Jekyll shook his head, taking an extra moment to remember how to stop once he had started. He held his head in his hands. "Enough of this. I'll fix all of it. Tomorrow. I'll go and call on this Robert Lan.... Lanyon and apologize plain and simple. Grovel if I need to. I am at his mercy entirely. I cannot afford... afford to be proud."
But Jekyll would need to lose more than his pride in order to make up for his mistake. As his poor luck would have it, Dr. Robert Lanyon was not the forgiving type: across town, under Lanyon's own direction, the first meeting of the Anti-Jekyll Association was coming to order.
In the broad scope of things, there were not many people who could say that they were not fond of Dr. Jekyll--to be liked was, in fact, the primary goal of his entire social career. He had gone far out of his way to avoid any opinion too controversial, any act that might prove offensive to even the most sensitive socialite. He followed the unspoken rules of morality most strictly without giving the impression of looking down at those who did not--in public, at least. Hence the secret drinking parties.
But even he knew that it was impossible to please everyone. There were some people who found the very absence of offensive behavior something to take offense with. It was surely cause for suspicion suspicious (and manipulating). These were the sorts of people who had presently flocked to the residence of Dr. Robert Lanyon, eager to conspire amongst themselves.
"From what I observed, it seems as though our Jekyll has charmed his way into the hearts of London's elite." A sneering grin played on Robert's lips. "Lord knows why they fancy him so--I could smell falseness in him the moment I met him. Although I do suppose that could have been the sherry."
One of his companions eagerly offered his professional opinion: "Naturally he lies. His whole being is a lie, I would be willing to wager. He's too perfect, like everything's deliberate. Always throwing those perfect little dinner parties of his, always doting on people, always carrying around his little prayer book..."
"Oh, yes!" someone else piped in. "He's never missed a day of church, I'm sure of it."
"And when he's not there, he's at that wretched clinic of his, helping the poor! Imagine what the filth of this city would ever do without the charity of our saintly Dr. Jekyll!"
"And yet he is a secret drinker," interjected Robert, steering the conversation back to his own encounter with the man. "What do you make of that? What do you suppose he's hiding that troubles him so that he needs to drink it away?"
On this matter his friends were more divided. Even among these skeptics, it was clear that Jekyll's facade was so foolproof that they could only guess at what lay beneath the surface. This in itself proved frustrating to the assembly, but they didn't allow their ignorance to put a stopper to their enthusiasm.
"You will expose him, won't you, Lanyon?" said the first speaker. "I bet you could better than any of us--you could rip him right to shreds if you only so desired." And, said the very clear implication, that was exactly what they wanted him to do.
"And I do desire it," Robert assured him. "I intend to make a game of this Dr. Jekyll. He thinks he has every soul in this city fooled, but not me. He is everything I detest about this false, ridiculous city and I am dying to teach him a lesson he'll never forget."
He took a pause for dramatic effect. Here, he knew, was the place where he could speak most freely of any room in the whole of Europe. He had a room full of eager listeners, and not a soul among them would dare expose him for a word he said, as Robert Lanyon had enough material to blackmail any of them out of house and home. Still, this particular plan that he had cooked up was an unusual one, even for him. Genius, he was certain, but unusual all the same, and he wanted to be sure that all his guests were sufficiently impressed by it.
"...And that," he concluded grandly, "is why I have decided to seduce him."
Silence fell upon the room. Robert did not allow this to affect him--after all, he had wanted to give them a good surprise, hadn't he? It was exactly what he had planned to happen. He smiled defiantly at them all.
Someone coughed. "What? I mean... why, exactly?"
"Because I want to teach him a lesson," he repeated. "I plan to break through that perfect facade he has concocted for himself, and how him beyond a shadow of a doubt what a complete sham of a human being he is."
"But why do you have to seduce him, exactly? Surely there are easier ways to expose the man?"
"But none more humiliating! Don't you see? The scene will be absolutely devastating. I'll slowly slither in past all his shields and barriers, make him trust me, have him reveal his darkest and deepest secrets to me, and there, in the bedroom, when he is at his most vulnerable.... J'accuse!"
He pointed dramatically at a patch of air that presumably stood in for a naked and completely devastated Dr. Jekyll. "And then I'll leave the room dramatically, leaving him cold and alone to contemplate his shallow existence. Hah hah." This was accompanied by a few uncomfortable laughs.
Robert huffed, a little exasperated. "And I suppose he isn't bad looking either," he added. "I wouldn't mind getting a shag from one such as him."
The reaction from the room was mixed, at best. It was true that Lanyon's personal life could lean towards the libertine--or, rather, it rarely leaned in any other fashion at all--but he had never been known to pursue anyone out of pure spite. This uncharacteristic behavior was clearly unsettling his friends, but Robert was not about to be deterred. So his grand scheme had proved to be even more shocking than he had hoped for--that was a good thing, wasn't it? And it was accomplishing exactly what they all wanted, wasn't it?
Of course it was. They would all see sense, in the end. But Robert did not particularly feel like waiting around for all of them to see the obvious logic in his plan--and thus, the first and final Anti-Jekyll Association meeting was brought to an abrupt close.