"Just a minute," Mortimer rang for Gable. The assistant and I witnessed the signature, and affixed our names below it.
"I am ready to begin immediately, if you like," Williams said when Gable had gone.
Mortimer eyed him reflectively for a moment. "First," he said, "there is a question I should like to ask you, Mr. Williams. You need not answer if you feel disinclined. Why are you so eager to undergo an experiment, the outcome of which even I cannot foresee?"
"If I answer that, will my answer be treated as strictly confidential?" asked Williams, casting a sidelong glance in my direction.
"Most certainly," Mortimer replied. "I speak for both myself and Dr. Claybridge." I nodded affirmation.
"Then," said Williams, "I will tell you. I welcome this experiment because, as you pointed out yesterday, there is a possibility of its resulting in my death. No, you did not say so in so many words, Prof. Mortimer, but that is the fear at the back of your mind. And why should I wish to die? Because, gentlemen, I have committed murder."
"What!" We barked out the word together.
Williams smiled wanly at our amazement. "That is rather an unusual statement; isn't it?" he asked in his tired voice. "Whom I murdered does not matter. The police will never find me out, for I was clever about it in order that my sister, to whom your $5,000, Professor, is to be paid, need not suffer from the humiliation of my arrest. But although I can escape the authorities, I cannot escape my own conscience. The knowledge that I have deliberately killed a man, even while he merited death, is becoming too much for me; and since my religion forbids suicide, I have turned to you as a possible way out. I think that is all."
We stared at him in silence. What Mortimer was thinking, I do not know. Most likely he was pondering upon the strange psychology of human conduct. As for me, I could not help wondering in what awful, perhaps pitiable tragedy this little man had been an actor.
Mortimer was the first to speak. When he did so, it was with no reference to what we had just heard. "Since you are ready, Mr. Williams, we will proceed with our initial experiment at once," he said. "I have arranged a special room for it, where there will be no other thought waves nor suggestions to disturb you."
He rose, and was apparently about to lead the way to this room when the telephone ran.
"Hello," he called into the transmitter. "Dr. Claybridge? Yes, he is here. Just a minute." He pushed the instrument towards me.
My hospital was on the wire. After taking the message, I hung up in disgust. "An acute case of appendicitis," I announced. "Of course I'm sorry for the poor devil, but he certainly chose an inopportune time for his attack.""I will phone you all about the experiment," Mortimer promised as I reached for my hat. "Perhaps you can be present at the next one."