The Repairer of Reputations
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Created: February 2017
| Updated: February 2017
The story is set in New York City in the year 1925, 30 years in the future of the story's publication. The protagonist, one Hildred Castaigne, is a young man whose personality changed drastically following a head injury sustained by falling from his horse. He was subsequently committed to an asylum for treatment of insanity by a Dr. Archer. The story is told from his subjective point of view, and due to his accident, Castaigne is a prime example of an unreliable narrator.
While still recovering, Castaigne obtained and read The King In Yellow, a false document within the story which is represented as a universally censored play which deeply disturbed him. Once a wealthy dilettante and affable man-about-town, after his accident Castaigne became an eccentric recluse who spent his days poring over old books and maps and associating with a more eccentric character, a Mr. Wilde, the "Repairer of Reputations" of the story's title.
In this alternate history, the United States has apparently prospered, significantly improving its infrastructure. The rise of a new aristocratic elite in the United States has reduced the influence and immigration of foreigners, and this is particularly evident in the case of Jews. Suicide has been legalized, Castaigne experiences, and has been made generally and readily accessible in the newly established "Government Lethal Chambers" being rapidly rolled out across other towns and cities.
Wilde claims to be the architect of a vast conspiracy which uses, amongst other devices, blackmail to influence and command powerful men whose reputations the conspiracy has saved from scandal. Hildred believes that, with Wilde's help, he will become the heir of the "Last King" of "The Imperial Dynasty of America," which Wilde says is descended of a lost kingdom from distant stars in the Hyades. However, he perceives his cousin Louis Castaigne standing before him in the line of succession, he plans to force Louis to abdicate his claim to the throne, accept exile, and never marry.
Louis, who believes that Hildred is still mentally ill, humours him by agreeing to abdicate his claim, but becomes angry when Hildred insists that Louis cannot marry his fiancee, Constance Hawberk. Hildred shocks Louis by claiming that he has murdered Dr. Archer and had Constance assassinated. When Hildred runs back to the apartment of Mr. Wilde, he finds that Wilde's feral cat has torn out his throat, utterly wrecking his plans to conquer the United States with the help of Wilde's conspiracy. The police arrive, and Hildred sees Constance crying as he is dragged away. It is unknown whether or not Hildred actually committed any murders.
The story ends with a note that Hildred Castaigne died the previous day in an asylum for the criminally insane.