Kicking off this year’s H.P. Lovecraft month with a classic from the man himself. It’s not your mind playing tricks it’s The Rats in the Walls!
On July 16, 1923, I moved into Exham Priory after the last workman had finished his labours.
The restoration had been a stupendous task, for little had remained of the deserted pile but a shell-like ruin; yet because it had been the home of several of my ancestors, I let no expense deter me.
The place had not been inhabited for a century since a tragedy of intensely hideous, (though largely unexplained) nature had struck down the master, five of his children, and several servants; finally driving forth under a cloud of suspicion and terror their illegitimate third son— my lineal progenitor, who had been taken in as their own. The final survivor of the cursed line…
The Rats in the Walls
by HP Lovecraft.
On July 16, 1923, I moved into Exham Priory after the last workman had finished his labours.
The restoration had been a stupendous task, for little had remained of the deserted pile but a shell-like ruin, yet because it had been the home of several of my ancestors, I let no expense deter me.
The place had not been inhabited for a century since a tragedy of intensely hideous (though largely unexplained) nature had struck down the master of the house, five of his children, and several servants; finally driving forth under a cloud of suspicion and terror their illegitimate third son— my lineal progenitor, who had, amidst some controversy, been accepted as one of their own.
The final survivor of a cursed line.
Shaken by some horror greater than that of conscience or law, and expressing only a frantic wish to exclude the ancient edifice from his sight and memory, that ancestor— my ancestor— Walter de la Poer, fled south to Virginia, and there founded a family that throughout the next century had become known as Delapore.
Exham Priory had since remained untenanted, despite having been allotted to the estates of the nearby Norrys family, and had also been studied by many others because of its peculiarly composite architecture— an architecture involving Gothic towers resting on Romanesque-seeming substructures, whose foundation in turn was of an even earlier order. This foundation was a very singular thing; merged on one side with the solid limestone of the precipice, from whose brink the priory overlooked a desolate valley three miles west of the village of Anchester.
Architects and antiquarians loved examining this strange relic of forgotten years, but the country folk nearby hated it. They had hated it a hundred years before even, when my ancestors had lived there, as they hated it now, with the moss and mould of abandonment still upon it.
The bare statistics of my ancestry I had always known, together with the fact that my first American forbear had come to this land under a maddened cloud of suffering. Of those details, however, I had been kept wholly ignorant through the policy of reticence always seemingly maintained by the Delapores. Unlike our planter neighbors, we seldom boasted of crusading ancestors or other heroes; nor was any kind of tradition handed down to us except what may have been recorded, sealed and forgotten before the Civil War for posthumous opening. The glories we cherished were those achieved since that time, the glories of a proud and honorable (if somewhat reserved and unsocial) Virginia line.
During the war our whole existence changed with the burning of Carfax, as did our home on the banks of the James. My grandfather William, advanced in years, had perished in that incendiary outrage, and with him and his house the envelope that bound us all to our past. I can still recall that fire today just as I saw it at the age of seven, with Federal soldiers shouting, women screaming, while the negroes howled and prayed. My father was in the army, defending Richmond, and after many formalities my mother and I were eventually passed through the lines to join him. When the war ended we all moved farther north, and I grew to manhood, middle age, and at last to wealth as a stolid Yankee. Neither my father nor I ever knew what our hereditary envelope had contained, and as I merged into the greyness of business life, I lost all interest in the mysteries which lurked far back in my family tree.
Had I suspected their nature, how gladly I would have left Exham Priory to its moss, bats, and cobwebs.
My father died in 1904, but without any message to leave me or to my only child, Alfred, a motherless boy of ten. It was this boy who later reversed the order of family information; for although I could give him only jesting conjectures about the past, he wrote me of some very interesting ancestral legends when the late war took him to England in 1917 as an aviation officer. Apparently the Delapores had a colourful and perhaps sinister history, he’d said, for a friend of my son’s, Capt. Edward Norrys of the Royal Flying Corps, had neighbored our old dwelling in Anchester and related several peasant superstitions, which few novelists could equal for wildness and incredibility.
Norrys himself, of course, did not take them seriously; but they amused my son and made good material for his letters to me. However, it was this legendry which turned my attention to our family’s own heritage, and made me resolve to purchase back and restore the old house up north, which so many had eschewed.
I bought Exham Priory in 1918, but was almost immediately distracted from my plans of restoration by the return of my son from war, now a maimed invalid. During the two years that he continued to live, I thought of nothing but his care, having even placed my business under the direction of partners. It was in 1921, when I at last found myself bereaved and aimless, a retired manufacturer no longer young, that I resolved to divert my remaining years to my newly discovered possession in Anchester.
Leaving that December to visit the town in Massachussets, I was entertained by Capt. Norrys (a plump, amiable man who had thought much of my son) and secured his assistance in gathering plans and anecdotes to guide in the coming restoration. Exham Priory itself was a jumble of tottering mediaeval ruins covered with lichens and honeycombed rooks’ nests, perched perilously upon a precipice, and denuded of floors and interiors save for barren stone.
As I gradually recovered the image of the edifice as it had been when my ancestors had left it long before, I began to hire workmen for the reconstruction. My son had told me that he was somewhat avoided during his visits to town because he was a de la Poer, and I now found myself subtly ostracised as well, until I had at last convinced the peasants how little I knew of my heritage. Even then they sullenly disliked me, so that I had to collect most of the village traditions through the mediation of Norrys. What the people could not forgive, I imagined, was that I had come to restore an old symbol, so abhorrent to them. For, rationally or not, they viewed Exham Priory as nothing less than a haunt of fiends and werewolves.
Piecing together the tales which Norrys collected for me, and supplementing them with the accounts of several savants who had studied the ruins, I deduced that Exham Priory stood on the site of some sort of prehistoric temple; a Druidical or ante-Druidical thing, which must have been contemporary even to Stonehenge. That indescribable rites had been celebrated there, few doubted. Inscriptions were still visible in the sub-cellar bore, such unmistakable letters as:
“DIV…OPS… MAGNA, MAT,” a sign of the Magna Mater— the All-Mother, whose dark worship was once vainly been forbidden.
Of my family before this date there is no evil report, but something strange must have certainly happened then. In one chronicle there is a reference to a de la Poer as “the cursed of God,” whilst village legendry had nothing but evil and frantic fear to tell of the castle that went up on the foundations of the old temple and priory. The fireside tales were of the most grisly description—they represented my ancestors and their ancestors before as a race of hereditary daemons, and hinted whisperingly at their responsibility for the occasional disappearance of villagers through several generations.
The worst characters, apparently, were the estate’s master and his direct heirs. There were hints of an inner cult, presided over by the head of the house, and sometimes closed to all except a few members. Temperament more than ancestry was evidently the basis of this cult, for it was entered in by several who married into the family. One Lady Margaret Trevor for example became a favorite bane of children all over the countryside, and the daemon heroine of a particularly horrible old ballad, not yet extinct. Preserved in balladry, too, though not illustrating the same point, was the hideous tale of Lady Mary de la Poer, who shortly after her marriage was killed by a son.
These myths and ballads, typical as they were of crude superstition, repelled me greatly. Their persistence and their application to so long a line of my ancestors was especially annoying. I was much less disturbed by the vaguer tales of strange wails and howlings in the barren windswept valley beneath the limestone cliff; of the graveyard stenches after the rains; of the floundering, squealing white things on which Sir John Clave’s horse had once trod upon in the night of a lonely field. These things were hackneyed spectral lore, and I was at that time a pronounced sceptic.
A few of the tales were exceedingly picturesque, and made me wish I had learnt more of comparative mythology in my youth. There was, for instance, the belief that a legion of bat-winged devils kept Witches’ Sabbath each night at the priory—a legion whose sustenance might explain the disproportionate abundance of coarse vegetables harvested in the vast gardens. And, most vivid of all, there was the dramatic epic of the rats—the scampering army of obscene vermin, which had burst forth from the castle three months after the mysterious tragedy that had doomed it to desertion. A lean, filthy, and ravenous army which had swept all before it, and devoured fowl, cats, dogs, hogs, sheep, and even two hapless human beings before its fury was spent. Around that unforgettable rodent army a whole separate cycle of myths revolves, for it is said they scattered amongst all the village homes and brought endless curses and horrors in their wake.
Such was the lore that assailed me as I pushed to completion, with an elderly obstinacy, the work of restoring my ancestral home. When the task was done, over two years after its commencement, I viewed the great rooms, wainscotted walls, vaulted ceilings, and broad staircases with a pride that fully compensated for the prodigious expense of the restoration. The seat of my fathers was complete, and I looked forward to redeeming at last the local fame of the line which ended in me. I would reside here permanently, and prove that a de la Poer (for I had again adopted the original spelling of my bastard ancestor’s last name) need not be a fiend.
As I have said, I moved in on July 16, 1923. My household consisted of seven servants and nine cats, of which the latter species I am particularly fond. My eldest cat, “Black Tom”, was seven years old and had come with me from my home in Virginia. The others I had accumulated whilst living with Capt. Norrys’ family during the restoration of the priory. For five days our routine proceeded with the utmost placidity, my time being spent mostly in the compiling of old family data. I had now obtained many circumstantial accounts of the final tragedy and flight of Walter de la Poer, which I conceived to be the probable contents of my family’s hereditary papers, lost in the fires at Carfax.
It appeared that my ancestor was accused, with much reason, of having killed all the other members of his household in their sleep, about two weeks after some shocking discovery which changed his whole demeanor. This deliberate slaughter, which included his father, three brothers, and two sisters, went unnoticed by the villagers at first, until Walter had made his way, disguised and unharmed, away to Virginia. The general whispered sentiment had been that the land had at last been purged of many immemorial curses.
What discovery had prompted an act so terrible, I could scarcely even conjecture. Walter de la Poer must have known for years the sinister tales about his family— surely this material could have provided no fresh impulse. Had he then witnessed some appalling ancient rite, or stumbled upon some frightful and revealing symbol in the priory or its vicinity? He was reputed to have been a shy, gentle youth. In Virginia he seemed not so much hard or bitter as harassed and apprehensive. He was spoken of in the diary of a peer— a gentleman-adventurer by the name of Francis Harley of Bellview— as a man of unexampled justice, honour, and delicacy.
On July 22 occurred the first incident which, though lightly dismissed at the time, takes on a preternatural significance in relation to later events.
What I afterward remembered is this—that my old black cat, whose moods I know so well, was undoubtedly alert and anxious to an extent wholly out of his character. He roved from room to room, restless and disturbed, and sniffed constantly about the walls, which formed part of the old Gothic structure.
The following day a servant complained of restlessness among all the cats in the house. He came to me in my study, a lofty west room on the second story, and even as he spoke I saw the feline form of Black Tom creeping along the west wall and scratching at the new panels which overlaid the ancient stone. I told the man that there must be some singular odour or emanation from the old stonework, imperceptible to human senses, but affecting the delicate organs of cats even through the woodwork. This I truly believed, and when the fellow suggested the presence of mice or rats, I mentioned that there had been no rats there for a hundred years, and that even the field mice of the surrounding country could hardly be found in these high walls. That afternoon I called on Capt. Norrys, and he assured me that it would be quite incredible for field mice to infest the priory in such a sudden and unprecedented fashion.
That night I retired in the west tower chamber which I had since chosen as my own. This room was circular, very high, and seeing that Black Tom was with me, I shut the heavy Gothic door and retired by the light of the electric bulbs, which so cleverly counterfeited candles, finally switching off the light and sinking on the canopied bed, with the venerable cat in his accustomed place down by my feet. I did not draw the curtains, but gazed out at the narrow north window. There was a suspicion of aurora in the sky, and the delicate traceries of the window seemed pleasantly silhouetted.
At some time I must have fallen asleep, for I recall a distinct sense of having strange, frightening dreams— when suddenly the cat started up violently from his placid position. I saw him in the faint auroral glow of the window, head strained forward, fore feet on my ankles and hind feet stretched behind. He was looking intensely at a point on the wall somewhat to the left of the window; a point which, to my eye, had nothing unique about it, but toward which all his attention was now being directed.
And as I watched, I knew that Black Tom was not vainly excited, for I cannot say if the tapestry actually moved then, but I think that it did. Very slightly.
However, what I can swear to is that behind it, I heard a low, distinct scurrying… as of rats or mice. In that moment, the cat had jumped fully at the tapestry, bringing the whole section down with his weight, and exposing a damp, ancient wall of stone behind it. It had been patched here and there by the restorers, yet the work was left unfinished, and in either case, it seemed certainly devoid of rodent prowlers.
Black Tom raced up and down the floor by this section of the wall, clawing at the fallen tapestry and seemingly trying at times to insert a paw somehow between the wall and floor. This was done in vain of course, and after a time he returned wearily to his place across my feet. I had not moved during any of this, and neither did I sleep at all again that night.
In the morning I questioned all the servants, and found that none of them had noticed anything unusual the night before, save that the cook remembered the actions of a cat which had rested on her windowsill. This cat had howled at some unknown hour of the night, awaking the cook just in time to see him dart purposefully out the open door and down the stairs.
I drowsed away the noontime, and in the afternoon called again on Capt. Norrys, who became exceedingly interested in what I told him. The odd incidents appealed to his sense of the picturesque, and elicited from him a number of reminiscences of local ghostly lore. Genuinely perplexed at the presence of rats, Norrys lent me some traps which I had the servants place in strategic localities when I returned.
I retired early, being very sleepy, but was harassed again by dreams of the most horrible sort. In them I seemed to be knee-deep in filth, in some twilight grotto, looking down from an immense height below where a white-bearded daemon-swineherd drove about with his staff some flock of flabby, fungous-like beasts whose appearance filled me with unutterable fear. Then, as the swineherd paused and nodded over his task, a mighty swarm of rats rained down upon him and the stinking abyss, and fell to devouring all beasts and man alike.
From this horrific vision I was abruptly awakened by the motions of Black Tom, who had been sleeping as usual across my feet. This time I did not have to question the source of his snarls and hisses, nor the fear which made him sink his claws into my ankle, unconscious of their effect. For on every side of the chamber, the walls were alive with nauseous sounds—the verminous slithering of ravenous, gigantic rats.
As I reached to turn on the lights, the bulbs leaping into radiance, it seemed as though the walls themselves were shaking hideously. The sound subsided, and springing out of bed I examined the circular trap that had been placed in the room, and found that while all the openings had been sprung, no trace remained of what had been caught and escaped.
Further sleep was out of the question, so lighting a candle, I opened the door and went out in the gallery toward the stairs to my study, Black Tom following at my heels. Before we had reached the stone steps, however, the cat darted ahead of me and vanished down the ancient flight. As I descended the stairs myself, I became suddenly aware of sounds in the great room below; sounds of a nature which could not be mistaken. The oak-paneled walls were alive with rats, scampering and milling, whilst Black Tom raced about with the fury of a baffled hunter. Reaching the bottom, I switched on the light, which did not this time cause the noise to subside. The rats continued their riot, stampeding with such force and distinctness that I could finally assign to their motions a definite direction. These creatures, in numbers apparently inexhaustible, were engaged in one stupendous migration from inconceivable heights to some depth inconceivably below.
I now heard steps in the corridor, and in another moment two servants pushed open the massive door. They were searching the house for some unknown source of disturbance which had thrown all the cats into a snarling panic and caused them to plunge precipitately down several flights of stairs to where they now were seen squat and yowling before the closed door to the sub- cellar. I asked the servants if they had heard the rats, but they replied no, and when I turned to call their attention to the sounds in the panels, I realized that the noise had ceased. With the two servants, I went down to the door of the sub- cellar, but found that the cats had already dispersed.
Later I resolved to explore the crypt below, but for the present I merely made a round to inspect the traps. All were sprung, yet all were tenantless. I sat in my study till morning, recalling every scrap of legend I had unearthed concerning the building I now inhabited.
I slept in late, telephoning Capt. Norrys later in the afternoon to come over and help explore the sub-cellar. Nothing was found at the time, although we could not repress a thrill at the knowledge that this vault was built by such very ancient hands. Norrys and I, by the light of lanterns, came across several rectangular stone blocks with symbols upon them, but could not make out the meaning of any of them. The blocks seems almost altar-like, and upon one was carved a circular image, like that of a sun. There were brown stains covering it, which made me wonder. The largest block in the centre of the room, had certain features on its upper surface which indicated some connection with fire— possibly burnt offerings.
Such were the sights in that crypt, before which those cats had howled, and where Norrys and I now determined to pass along the night. Couches were brought down by the servants, who were told not to mind any nocturnal actions of cats. Black Tom was admitted as much, for help as for companionship. We decided to keep the great oak door—a modern replica with slits for ventilation— tightly closed; and, with this attended to, we retired to await whatever might occur.
The vault was very deep in the foundations of the priory, and undoubtedly went far down into the face of the limestone cliff overlooking the waste valley. That it had been any sort of goal for the scuffling, unexplainable rats I could no longer doubt— though why, I could not tell. As we lay there expectantly, I found my vigil occasionally mixed with half-formed dreams from which the uneasy motions of the cat across my feet would rouse me. These dreams were not wholesome, but horrible, like the one I had had the night before. I saw again the twilight grotto, and the swineherd with his unmentionable fungous beasts wallowing in filth, and as I looked at these things they seemed nearer and more distinct—so distinct that I could almost observe their features. Then I did observe the flabby features of one of them—and awaked with such a scream that Black Tom jumped up, while Capt. Norrys, who hadn’t yet slept, laughed considerably. Norrys might have laughed more—or perhaps less—had he known what it was that had made me scream.
But I did not remember myself at the time, only later. Ultimate horror often paralyses memory in a merciful way.
Indeed, there was much to listen to and see, for beyond the closed door at the head of the stone steps was a veritable nightmare of feline yelling and clawing, while Black Tom, not mindful of his kindred outside, was running excitedly around the bare stone walls.
And then… the babel of scurrying multitudes.
An acute terror now rose within me, for here were anomalies which nothing normal could well explain. These rats, if not the creatures of a madness which I shared with the cats alone, must be somehow burrowing and sliding through solid limestone blocks. And why did Norrys not hear their disgusting commotion? Why did he urge me, excitedly, to watch Black Tom and listen to the frantic cats outside, guessing wildly and vaguely at what could have aroused them?
By the time I had managed to tell him, as rationally as I could, what I thought I was hearing, my ears gave me the last fading impression of the scurrying; which had retreated even farther downward. Norrys was not as skeptical as I had anticipated, but instead seemed profoundly moved. He motioned for me to notice that the cats at the door had ceased their clamour, as if giving up the rats; whilst Black Tom seemed to have a burst of renewed restlessness; clawing frantically around the bottom of the large stone altar in the centre of the room, which was nearer Norrys’ couch than mine.
My fear of the unknown was at this point very great. We could for the moment do nothing but watch the old black cat as he pawed with decreasing fervour at the base of the altar, occasionally looking up and mewing to me in that persuasive manner which he used when he wished for me to perform some favour.
Norrys now took a lantern close to the altar and examined the edged places where Black Tom was pawing; silently kneeling and scraping away the lichens of countless decades. He did not find anything, and was about to abandon his effort when I noticed a trivial circumstance that made me shudder— the flame of the lantern set down by the altar was slightly flickering out, from a draught of air which it had not, until now, received.
…A draught that came from the unseen crevice between floor and altar, where Norrys currently scraped away lichens.
His face full of wonder, Norrys gave the central altar a nudge, causing it to tilt backwards, balanced by some unknown species of counterweight. There now lay revealed to us such a horror that we were nearly overwhelmed. Through a fresh, square opening in the tiled floor, triggered by the movement of the stone block, sprawled down a long flight of stone steps so prodigiously worn that it was little more than an inclined plane at this point. And scattered along this plane was a ghastly array of human—or semi-human— bones.
Those which retained their skeletal, mummified expressions revealed attitudes of both panic and fear, but upon all were the many marks of rodents gnawing. The skulls of some denoted nothing short of cretinism or primitive semi- apedom, and farther below the hellishly littered steps continued a passage seemingly chiseled out from the solid rock. It was then that Captain Norrys, examining the hewn walls, made the odd observation that the passage, according to the direction of the strokes, must have been somehow chiseled up from below.
I must be very deliberate now, and choose my words carefully.
After ploughing down a few steps amidst the gnawed bones, we saw that there was light up ahead. Not any mystic phosphorescence, but a filtered daylight, which could not come from anywhere but some unknown fissures in the cliff overlooking the valley— enough light to see. A few steps more, and our breaths were literally snatched from us, by what we saw. Norrys, his plump face, utterly white and flabby, simply cried out inarticulately; while I think all that I managed was a gasp or hiss, and then to cover my eyes.
“My god,” whispered Norrys.
It was a vast, dimly shown grotto of enormous height, stretching out farther than any eye could see. A subterraneous world of limitless mystery and horrible suggestion. There were buildings and other architectural remains—in one terrified glance I saw the weird pattern of ancient burial mounds, a savage circle of forsaken monoliths, a low-domed Roman ruin, a sprawling Egyptian pile, and early English edifices of carved wood—but all these were dwarfed by the ghoulish spectacle presented by the general surface of the ground below. For beyond the steps extended an insane tangle of human bones, or bones at least as human as those on the steps.
Like a foamy sea they stretched, some fallen apart, but others wholly or partly articulated as full skeletons; these latter invariably differed in postures of daemoniac frenzy, either fighting off some menace or clutching other crazed forms with cannibal intent.
The skulls were baffling— some were thick, crude and oddly shaped, while others were thin, familiar, and sensitively developed. Yet all the bones were gnawed; gnawed mostly by rats… But not only by rats.
Norrys and I were speechless as we observed our surroundings in horror, and came to the mutual conclusion that the events before us must have taken place here for hundreds, thousands, of years. Longer than that! All around, the bones of rats, mixed with skeletal things that must have descended as quadrupeds throughout the last twenty or more generations. It was the antechamber of hell, and horror piled upon horror as Norrys and I began to interpret deeper the scattered architectural remains around us.
These quadruped things—with their occasional cousins from the biped class—had been kept in apparent stone pens, out of which they must have one day at last broken free during a final bit of delirium of hunger, or rat-fear. There had been great herds of them, this much was clear—evidently fattened on the coarse vegetables whose remains could be found now as some sort of poisonous ensilage at the bottom of the huge stone bins below. And I knew now why the de la Poer family had had such excessive gardens—would to heaven I could forget! The gruesome purpose of these herds I did not think upon…
Through all this horror my cat stalked, unperturbed. Once, I saw him, monstrously perched atop a mountain of bones, and wondered at the secrets that might lie behind his yellow eyes.
We shall never know what sightless Stygian worlds yawn beyond the little distance we went, for it was decided that such secrets are not good for mankind. But there was plenty to engross us close at hand, for we had not gone far before the searchlights showed fully that accursed infinity of pits in which the rats had feasted, and whose sudden lack of replenishment had driven the ravenous rodent army to turn then on the living herds of starving things, and then to burst forth from the priory in that historic orgy of devastation which the peasants to this day will never forget.
God! —those carrion-black pits of sawed, picked-upon bones and opened- up skulls! Those nightmare chasms choked with the bones of pithecanthropoid, Celt, Roman, English—for countless unhallowed centuries! Some of the pits were full, but none can say how deep they had once been. And others were still bottomless to our searchlights.
Once, upon our rapid return, my foot slipped near a horribly yawning brink, and I had a moment of ecstatic fear. I must have been musing, for only far ahead could I see the figure of plump Capt. Norrys. It was then that there came a sound from below, in that inky, boundless, farther distance that I imagined I once thought I could conceive of. And I saw my old black cat dart past me down the steps like a winged Egyptian god, straight into the illimitable gulf of the unknown below. For it was not far behind; there was no doubt. The eldritch scurrying of those fiend-born rats, always questing for new horrors, always determined to lead us on into such grinning caverns at earth’s centre, where Nyarlathotep, the mad faceless god howls blindly along with the piping of two amorphous, idiot flutes.
My searchlight had expired, but still I ran. I heard voices, and yowls, and echoes; but above all there rose gently that deep, insidious scurrying; rising up— always rising— like a stiff, bloated corpse rolling endlessly in an oily, onyx sea.
. . . ‘Why shouldn’t rats eat a de la Poer,’ I thought to myself. ‘As it seems the de la Poer once ate forbidden things too?’
. . . The war ate my boy, damn them all . . . and the Yanks—the Yanks ate Carfax, with flames— flames! that ate my grandfather… Flames that ate our history… our secrets . . .
No— NO! I tell you, I am not that daemon swineherd in the grotto! It was not Edward Norrys’ fat face on that flabby, fungous thing! …Who says I am a de la Poer? He lived, but my boy died?… …and will a Norrys always hold our lands? . . .
It’s evil, I tell you . . . ancient…. The spotted snake . . .
Curse you Norrys… I’ll teach you to faint at what my family do! . . .
’Sblood, thouu sstinkard— ‘amst not I, my father’s son— you won’t deny me! I’ll learn ye how to. . . wolde ye how’te swynke me— thike a’Magna Mat… …Magna Mater! Dhonas ’s dholas ort— agus leat-sa! . . . Ungl!. . . ungl . . . rrrlh . . . chchch . . .
That is what they say I said when they found me in the blackness after three hours. Found me crouching in the blackness over the plump, half-eaten body of Capt. Norrys, with my own cat leaping and tearing at my throat.
Now they have blown up Exham Priory, taken my Black Tom away from me, and shut me into this barred room at Hanwell Institution with fearful whispers about my heredity, and my experiences.
When I speak of poor Norrys they accuse me of hideous things, but they must know that I did not do it. They must know it was the rats!
The slithering, scurrying rats, whose scampering will never let me sleep… the daemon rats that race behind the padded walls of this very room, and beckon me down to even greater horrors.
The rats they can never hear. The rats… the rats in the walls.