Mr. Tilly

Position and Context

This interpolated story is the longest one in the book, and it takes up most of the middle section of the book, titled The Alchemist. It is a story told by Julian Smart at Mr. Macafee's forty-first birthday party.

The Story

Having recently graduated from college with a pharmacy degree, Julius Smart is going around the country looking for a position in a pharmacy. He finds one in a small town in the South, in a pharmacy owned and run by Mr. Tilly. Mr. Tilly also offers him a room in his house.

The first night in Mr. Tilly's house, Julius hears strange footsteps in the hallway outside his room, and thinks he sees somebody else in the room. Mr. Tilly, who has also been woken up, meets him in the hallway and tells him that this was the ghost of Mr. Tilly's dead wife, and that the ghost is giving Mr. Tilly a medicine that he invented himself, and which will eventually cause his death by turning his internal organs into stone.

The following morning, Julius is abducted and taken to a carnival show by carnival freaks to help a boy who has been given an overdose of a medicine prescribed for him by Mr. Tilly. He discovers that Mr. Tilly has invented a number of "medicines" that turn people into carnival freaks. This one is supposed to turn the boy into a "dog boy" by causing him to grow hair all over.

Although Julius tries to save Mr. Tilly, by making sure that he only eats uncontaminated food, he is not successful. After Mr. Tilly's death, he takes over the pharmacy, working for relatives of Mr. Tilly's wife, who inherited it. They pay him the same very generous wages that Mr. Tilly agreed to, and he makes enough money to return to the region where he grew up, and buy Bledsoe's pharmacy in Cassionsville.

The end of the story is revealed in the section Gold, when Stewart Blaine reminisces about how Julian Smart recounted that he broke into the spare bedroom in Mr. Tilly's house and discovered the deformed body of Mr. Tilly's dead wife.


It appears that this story is mostly true. It is corroborated by Weer having dinner with the "hairy man", who is the grown-up "dog boy". However, it appears that Julius Smart may have been lying in at least one respect. See the interpolated story The Carny Cinderella.

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