The Story of the Late Mr. Elvesham by H.G. Wells
Young man, Edward George Eden is approached by old gentleman Egbert Elvesham who has the intention to:
find young fellow, ambitious, pure-minded, and poor, healthy in body
and healthy in mind, and in short, make him my heir, give him all that
I have." He repeated, "Give him all that I have.
After dinner at which powder and liqueurs are consummed, Eden wakes in Elvesham's body:
It was not my own, it was thin, the articulation was slurred, the
resonance of my facial bones was different. Then to reassure myself, I
ran one hand over the other, and felt loose folds of skin, the bony
laxity of age. "Surely," I said, in that horrible voice that had
somehow established itself in my throat, "surely this thing is a
dream!" Almost as quickly as if I did it involuntarily, I thrust my
fingers into my mouth. My teeth had gone. My finger-tips ran on the
flaccid surface of an even row of shrivelled gums. I was sick with
dismay and disgust.
[...] Then trembling horribly, so that the
extinguisher rattled on its spike, I tottered to the glass and
[...] I felt beyond all question that I was indeed Eden, not Elvesham. But
Eden in Elvesham's body!
What has happened I do not clearly know. In the study are volumes of
manuscript notes referring chiefly to the psychology of memory, and
parts of what may be either calculations or ciphers in symbols
absolutely strange to me. In some passages there are indications that
he was also occupied with the philosophy of mathematics. I take it he
has transferred the whole of his memories, the accumulation that makes
up his personality, from this old withered brain of his to mine, and
similarly, that he has transferred mine to his discarded tenement.
Practically, that is, he has changed bodies.
This morning, with the help of a table-knife that I had secreted at
breakfast, I succeeded in breaking open a fairly obvious secret drawer
in this wrecked writing-desk. I discovered nothing save a little green
glass phial containing a white powder. Round the neck of the phial was
a label, and thereon was written this one word, "Release." This may
be—is most probably, poison. I can understand Elvesham placing poison
in my way, and I should be sure that it was his intention so to get
rid of the only living witness against him, were it not for this
careful concealment. The man has practically solved the problem of
immortality. Save for the spite of chance, he will live in my body
until it has aged, and then, again throwing that aside, he will assume
some other victim's youth and strength. When one remembers his
heartlessness, it is terrible to think of the ever-growing experience
that... How long has he been leaping from body to body...? But I tire
of writing. The powder appears to be soluble in water. The taste is
There the narrative found upon Mr. Elvesham's desk ends. His dead body lay between the desk and the chair. The latter had been pushed back, probably by his last convulsions. The story was written in
pencil and in a crazy hand, quite unlike his usual minute characters.
There remain only two curious facts to record. Indisputably there was
some connection between Eden and Elvesham, since the whole of
Elvesham's property was bequeathed to the young man. But he never
inherited. When Elvesham ommitted suicide, Eden was, strangely enough,
already dead. Twenty-four hours before, he had been knocked down by a
cab and killed instantly, at the crowded crossing at the intersection
of Gower Street and Euston Road.