It is not remorse that maddens me, that drives me to the penning of this
more than indiscreet narrative, in the hope of finding a temporary distraction.
I have felt no remorse for a crime to which justice itself impelled me.
It is the damnable mystery, beyond all human reason or solution, upon which
I have stumbled in the doing of this simple deed, in the mere execution
of the justice whereof I speak-it is this that has brought me near insanity.
My motives in the killing of Jasper Trilt, though imperative, were
far from extraordinary. He had wronged me enough, in the course of a twelve
years' acquaintance, to warrant his death twice over. He had robbed me
of the painfully garnered fruits of a lifetime of labor and research, had
stolen, with lying promises, the chemical formulae that would have made
me a wealthy man. Foolishly, I had trusted him, believing that he
would share with me the profits of my precious knowledge-from which he
was to acquire riches and renown. Poor and un- known, I could do nothing
for my own redress.
Often I marvel at the long forbearance which I displayed toward Trilt.
Something (was it the thought of ultimate revenge?) led me to ignore his
betrayals, to dissemble my knowledge of his baseness. I continued to use
the laboratory which he had equipped for me. I went on accepting the miserable
pittance which he paid me for my toil. I made new discoveries-and I allowed
him to cheat me of the usufruct.
Moreover, there was Norma Gresham, whom I had always loved in my
halting, inarticulate fashion, and who had seemed to like me well enough
before Trilt began to pay her his dashing and gallant addresses. She had
speedily forgotten the timid, poverty-stricken chemist, and had married
Trilt. This, too, I pretended to ignore, but I could not forget.
As you see, my grievances were such as have actuated many others
in the seeking of vengeance: they were in no sense unusual; and like everything
else about the affair, they served by their very commonplaceness to throw
into monstrous relief the abnormal and inexplicable outcome.
I cannot remember when it was that I first conceived the idea of
killing my betrayer. It has been so long an integral part of my mental
equipment, that I seem to have nurtured it from all pre-eternity. But the
full maturing, the perfection of my murderous plans, is a thing of quite
For years, apart from my usual work, I have been experimenting with
poisons. I delved in the remote arcana and by-ways of toxicology, I learned
all that chemistry could tell me on the subject-and more. This branch of
my research was wholly unknown to Trilt; and I did not intend that he should
profit by anything that I had discovered or devised in the course of my
investigations. In fact, my aims were quite different, in regard
From the beginning, I had in mind certain peculiar requisites, which
no poison familiar to science could fulfil. It was after endless groping
and many failures that I succeeded in formulating a compound of rare toxic
agents which would have the desired effect on the human system.
It was necessary, for my own security, that the poison should leave
no trace, and should imitate closely the effects of some well-known malady,
thus preduding even the chance of medical suspicion. Also, the victim must
not die too quickly and mercifully. I devised a compound which, if taken
internally, would be completely absorbed by the nervous system within an
hour and would thereafter be indetectable through analysis. It would cause
an immediate paralysis, and would present all the outward effects of a
sudden and lethal stroke of apoplexy. However, the afflicted person—though
seemingly insensible-would retain consciousness and would not die till
the final absorption of the poison. Though utterly powerless to speak or
move, he would still be able to hear and see, to understand-and suffer.
Even after I had perfected this agent, and had satisfied myself of
its efficacy, I delayed the crowning trial. It was not through fear or
compunction that I waited: rather, it was because I desired to prolong
the delicious joys of anticipation, the feeling of power it gave me to
know that I could sentence my betrayer to his doom and could execute the
sentence at will.
It was after many months-it was less than a fortnight ago-that I
decided to withhold my vengeance no longer. I planned it all very carefully,
with complete forethought; and I left no loophole for mischance or accident.
There would be nothing, not even the most tenuous thread, that could ever
lead any one to suspect me.
To arouse the cupidity of Trilt, and to insure his profound interest,
I went to him and hinted that I was on the brink of a great discovery.
I did not specify its nature, saying that I should reveal it all at the
proper time, when success had been achieved. I did not invite him to visit
the laboratory. Cunningly, by oblique hints, I stimulated his curiosity;
and I knew that he would come. Perhaps my caution was excessive;
but it must not even seem that I had prearranged the visit that would terminate
in his seizure and death. I could, perhaps, have found opportunity to administer
the poison in his own home, where I was still a fairly frequent caller.
But I wished him to die in my presence and in the laboratory that had been
the scene of my long, defrauded toils.
I knew, by a sort of prescience, the very evening when he would come,
greedy to unearth my new secret. I prepared the draft that contamed the
poison-a chemist's glass of water colored with a little grenadine-and set
it aside in readiness among my tubes and bottles. Then I waited.
The laboratory-an old and shabby mansion. converted by Trilt to this
purpose-lay in a well-wooded outskirt of the town, at no great distance
from my employer's luxurious home. Trilt was a gourmand; and I knew that
be would not arrive till well after the dinner hour. Therefore I looked
for him about nine o'clock. He must indeed have been eager to filch my
supposed new formula; for, half an hour before the expected time, I heard
his heavy, insolent knock on the door of the rear room in which I was waiting
amid my chemical apparatus.
He came in, gross and odious, with the purple overfeeding upon his
puffy jowls. He wore an azure blue tie and a suit of pepper-and-salt-a
close-fitting suit that merely emphasized the repulsive bulkiness of his
Well, Margrave, what is it now ?" he asked. "Have you finished the
experiments you were hinting about so mysteriously? I hope you've really
done something to earn your pay, this time."
"I have made a tremendous discovery," I told him, "nothing less than
the elixir of the alchemists-the draft of eternal life and energy."
He was palpably startled, and gave me a sharp, incredulous stare.
'You are lying," he said, "or fooling yourself. Everyone knows, and
has known since the Dark Ages, that the thing is a scientific impossibility."
"Others may lie," I said sardonically, "but it remains to be seen
whether or not I have lied. That graduated glass which you see on the table
is filled with the elixir."
He stared at the vessel which I had indicated.
"It looks like grenadine," he remarked, with a certain perspicacity.
"There is a superficial likeness-the color is the same. . . . But the stuff
means immortality for any one who dares to drink it-also it means inexhaustible
capacity for pleasure, a freedom from all satiety or weariness. It is everlasting
life and joy."
He listened greedily. "Have you tried it yourself?"
"Yes, I have experimented with it," I countered.
He gave me a somewhat contemptuous and doubtful glance. "Well, you
do look rather animated tonight-at least, more so than usual-and no so
much like a mackerel that's gotten soured on life. The stuff hasn't killed
you, at any rate. So I think I'll try it myself. It ought to be a pretty
good commercial proposition, if it only does a tenth of what you say it
will. We'll call it Trilt's Elixir"
"Yes," said I, slowly, echoing him: "Trilt's Elixir."
He reached for the glass and raised it to his lips.
"You guarantee the result ?" he asked.
"The result will be all that one could desire," I promised, looking
him full in the eyes, and smiling with an irony which he could not perceive.
He drained the glass at a gulp. Instantly, as I had calculated, the
poison took effect. He staggered as if he had received a sudden, crushing
blow, the empty vessel fell from his fingers with a crash, his heavy legs
collapsed beneath him, he fell on the laboratory floor between the laden
benches and tables, and lay without stirring again. His face was flushed
and congested, his breathing stertorous, as in the malady whose effects
I had chosen to simulate. His eyes were open-horribly open and glaring;
but there was not even the least flicker of their lids.
Coolly, but with a wild exultation in my heart, I gathered up the
fragments of the broken glass and dropped them into the small heating-stove
that stood at the room's end. Then, returning to the fallen and helpless
man, I allowed myself the luxury of gloating over the dark, unutterable
terror which I read in his paralytic gaze. Knowing that he could still
hear and comprehend, I told him what I had done and listed the unforgotten
wrongs which he thought I had accepted so supinely.
Then, as an added torture, I emphasized the indetectable nature of
the poison, and I taunted him for his own folly in drinking the supposed
elixir. All too quickly did the hour pass-the hour which I had allowed
for the full absorption of the poison and the victim's death. The breathing
of Trilt grew slower and fainter, his pulse faltered and became inaudible;
and at last he lay dead. But the terror still appeared to dwell, dark and
stagnant and nameless, in his ever-open eyes.
Now, as was part of my carefully laid plan, I went to the laboratory
telephone. I intended to make two calls-one, to tell Norma, Trilt's wife,
of his sudden and fatal seizure while visiting me-and the other, to summon
For some indefinable reason, I called Norma first-and the outcome
of our conversation was so bewildering, so utterly staggering, that I did
not put in the second call.
Norma answered the telephone herself, as I had expected. Before I
could frame the few short words that would inform her of Trilt's death,
she cried out in a shaken, tremulous voice:
"I was just going to call you, Felton. Jasper died a few minutes
ago, from an apoplectic stroke. It's all so terrible, and I am stunned
by the shock. He came into the house about an hour ago, and dropped at
my feet without saying a word... I thought he had gone to see you-but he
could hardly have done that and gotten back so quickly. Come at once, Felton."
The dumbfoundment which I felt was inexpressible. I think I must
have stammered a little as I answered her:
"Are you sure-quite sure that it's Jasper ?"
"Of course, it's incredible. But he is lying here on the library
sofa-bed. I called a doctor when he was stricken; and the doctor is still
here. But there is nothing more to be done."
It was impossible then for me to tell her, as I had intended-that
Trilt had come to the laboratory-that his dead body was lying near me in
the rear room at that moment. Indeed, I doubted my own senses, doubted
my very brain, as I hung up the telephone. Either I, or Norma was the victim
of some strange and unaccountable delusion.
Half expecting that the gross cadaver would have vanished like an
apparition, I turned from the telephone-and saw it, supine and heavy, with
stiffening limbs and features. I went over, I stooped above it and dug
my fingers roughly into the flabby flesh to make sure that it was real-that
Trilt's visit and the administering of the poison had not been a mere hallucination.
It was Trilt himself who lay before me; no one could mistake the obese
body, the sybaritic face and lips, even with the chill of death descending
upon them. The corpse I had touched was all too solid and substantial.
It must be Norma, then, who was demented or dreaming, or who had
made some incredible mistake. I should go to the house at once and learn
the true explanation. There would be time enough afterward to do my own
There was no likelihood that any one would eater the laboratory in
my absence. Indeed, there were few visitors at any time. With one backward
look at the body, to assure myself anew of its materiality, I went out
into the moonless evening and started toward my employer's residence.
I have no clear recollection of the short walk among shadowy trees
and bushes and along the poorly litten streets with their scattered houses.
My thoughts, as well as the external world, were a night-bound maze of
baffling unreality and dubiety.
Into this mare I was plunged to an irremeable depth on my arrival.
Norma, pale and stunned rather than grief-stricken (for I think she had
long ceased to love Trilt), was at the door to meet me.
"I can't get over the suddenness of it," she said at once. "He seemed
all right at dinnertime, and ate heartily, as usual. Afterward he went
out, saying that he would walk as far as the laboratory and look in on
"He must have felt ill, and started back after he had gone halfway.
I didn't even hear him come in. I can't understand how he entered the house
so quietly. I was sitting in the library, reading, when I happened to look
up, just in time to see him cross the room and fall senseless at my feet.
He never spoke or moved after that."
I could say nothing as she led me to the library. I do not know what
I had expected to find; but certainly no sane man, no modern scientist
and chemist, could have dreamed of what I saw-the body of Jasper Trilt,
reposing still and stiff and cadaverous on the sofa: the same corpse, to
all outward seeming, which I had left behind me in the laboratory!
The doctor, Trilt's family physician, whom Norma had summoned was
about to leave. He greeted me with a slight nod and a cursory, incurious
"There's nothing whatever to be done," he said, "it's all over."
"But-it doesn't seem possible," I stammered. "Is it really Jasper
Trilt-isn't there some mistake?"
The doctor did not seem to hear my question. With reeling senses
doubting my own existence, I went over to the sofa and examined the body,
touching it several times to make sure-if assurance were possible -of its
substantiality. The puffy, purplish features, the open, glaring eyes with
the glacial terror, the suit of pepper-and-salt, the azure blue tie-all
were identical with those I had seen and touched a few minutes previous,
in another place. I could no longer doubt the materiality of the second
corpse-I could not deny that the thing before me, to all intents and purposes,
was Jasper Trilt. But in the very confirmation of its incredible identity,
there lay the inception of a doubt that was infinitely hideous....
A week has gone by since then-a week of unslumbering nightmare, of
all-prevailing, ineluctable horror.
Going back to the laboratory, I found the corpse of Jasper Trilt
on the floor, where he had fallen. Feverishly, I applied to it all possible
tests: it was solid, clammy, gross, material, like the other. I dragged
it into a dusty, little-used storeroom, among cobwebby cartons and boxes
and bottles, and covered it with sacking.
For reasons that must be more than obvious, I dared not tell any
one of its existence. No one, save myself, has ever seen it. No one-not
even Norma-suspects the unimaginable truth....
Later, I attended the funeral of Trilt, I saw him in his coffin,
and as one of the pall-bearers I helped to carry the coffin and lower it
into the grave. I can swear that it was tenanted by an actual body. And
on the faces of the morticians and my fellow pall-bearers there was no
shadow of doubt or misgiving as to the identity and reality of the corpse.
But afterward, returning home, I lifted the sacking in the store-room,
and found that the thing beneath-cadaver or ka, doppelganger or phantom,
whatever it was-had not disappeared or undergone the least change.
Madness took me then for awhile, and I knew not what I did. Recovering
my senses in a measure, I poured gallon after gallon of corrosive acids
into a great tub; and in the tub I placed the thing that had been Jasper
Trilt, or which bore the semblance of Trilt. But neither the dothing nor
the body was affected in any degree by the mordant acid. And sinn, then,
the thing has shown no sign of normal dccay, but remains eternally and
inexplicably the same. Some night, before long, I shall bury it in the
woods behind the laboratory; and the earth will receive Trilt for the second
time. After that my crime will be doubly indetectable-if I have really
committed a crime, and have not dreamed it all or become the victim of
some hallucinative brain-disease.
I have no explanation for what has happened, nor do I believe that
any such can be afforded by the laws of a sane universe. But-is there any
proof that the universe itself is sane, or subject to rational laws?
Perhaps there are inconceivable lunacies in chemistry itself, and
drugs whose action is a breach of all physical logic. The poison that I
administered to Trilt was an unknown quantity, apart from its deadliness,
and I cannot be wholly sure of its properties, of its possible effect on
the atoms of the human body-and the atoms of the soul. Indeed, I can be
sure of nothing, except that I too, like the laws of matter, must go altogether
mad in a little while.