The Rats in the Walls

By H.P. Lovecraft

On 16 July 1923, I moved into Exham Priory after the last workman had finished his la ours! "he restoration had een a stu#endous task, for little had remained of the deserted #ile ut a shell$like ruin% yet e&ause it had een the seat of my an&estors, I let no ex#ense deter me! "he #la&e had not een inha ited sin&e the rei'n of James the (irst, when a tra'edy of intensely hideous, thou'h lar'ely unex#lained, nature had stru&k down the master, five of his &hildren, and several servants% and driven forth under a &loud of sus#i&ion and terror the third son, my lineal #ro'enitor and the only survivor of the a horred line! )ith this sole heir denoun&ed as a murderer, the estate had reverted to the &rown, nor had the a&&used man made any attem#t to ex&ul#ate himself or re'ain his #ro#erty! *haken y some horror 'reater than that of &ons&ien&e or the law, and ex#ressin' only a franti& wish to ex&lude the an&ient edifi&e from his si'ht and memory, )alter de la Poer, eleventh +aron Exham, fled to ,ir'inia and there founded the family whi&h y the next &entury had e&ome known as -ela#ore! Exham Priory had remained untenanted, thou'h later allotted to the estates of the .orrys family and mu&h studied e&ause of its #e&uliarly &om#osite ar&hite&ture% an ar&hite&ture involvin' /othi& towers restin' on a *axon or 0omanes1ue su stru&ture, whose foundation in turn was of a still earlier order or lend of orders $$ 0oman, and even -ruidi& or native 2ymri&, if le'ends s#eak truly! "his foundation was a very sin'ular thin', ein' mer'ed on one side with the solid limestone of the #re&i#i&e from whose rink the #riory overlooked a desolate valley three miles west of the villa'e of 3n&hester! 3r&hite&ts and anti1uarians loved to examine this stran'e reli& of for'otten &enturies, ut the &ountry folk hated it! "hey had hated it hundreds of years efore, when my an&estors lived there, and they hated it now, with the moss and mould of a andonment on it! I had not een a day in 3n&hester efore I knew I &ame of an a&&ursed house! 3nd this week workmen have lown u# Exham Priory, and are usy o literatin' the tra&es of its foundations! "he are statisti&s of my an&estry I had always known, to'ether with the fa&t that my first 3meri&an fore ear had &ome to the &olonies under a stran'e &loud! Of details, however, I had een ke#t wholly i'norant throu'h the #oli&y of reti&en&e always maintained y the -ela#ores! 4nlike our #lanter nei'h ours, we seldom oasted of &rusadin' an&estors or other mediaeval and 0enaissan&e heroes% nor was any kind of tradition handed down ex&e#t what may have een re&orded in the sealed envelo#e left efore the 2ivil )ar y every s1uire to his eldest son for #osthumous o#enin'! "he 'lories we &herished were those a&hieved sin&e the mi'ration% the 'lories of a #roud and honoura le, if somewhat reserved and unso&ial ,ir'inia line! -urin' the war our fortunes were extin'uished and our whole existen&e &han'ed y the urnin' of 2arfax, our home on the anks of the James! 5y 'randfather, advan&ed in years, had #erished in that in&endiary outra'e, and with him the envelo#e that had ound us all to the #ast! I &an re&all that fire today as I saw it then at the a'e of seven, with the

federal soldiers shoutin', the women s&reamin', and the ne'roes howlin' and #rayin'! 5y father was in the army, defendin' 0i&hmond, and after many formalities my mother and I were #assed throu'h the lines to 6oin him! )hen the war ended we all moved north, when&e my mother had &ome% and I 'rew to manhood, middle a'e, and ultimate wealth as a stolid 7ankee! .either my father nor I ever knew what our hereditary envelo#e had &ontained, and as I mer'ed into the 'reyness of 5assa&husetts usiness life I lost all interest in the mysteries whi&h evidently lurked far a&k in my family tree! 8ad I sus#e&ted their nature, how 'ladly I would have left Exham Priory to its moss, ats and &o we s9 5y father died in 19:;, ut without any messa'e to leave to me, or to my only &hild, 3lfred, a motherless oy of ten! It was this oy who reversed the order of family information, for althou'h I &ould 'ive him only 6estin' &on6e&tures a out the #ast, he wrote me of some very interestin' an&estral le'ends when the late war took him to En'land in 191< as an aviation offi&er! 3##arently the -ela#ores had a &olourful and #erha#s sinister history, for a friend of my son=s, 2a#t! Edward .orrys of the 0oyal (lyin' 2or#s, dwelt near the family seat at 3n&hester and related some #easant su#erstitions whi&h few novelists &ould e1ual for wildness and in&redi ility! .orrys himself, of &ourse, did not take them so seriously% ut they amused my son and made 'ood material for his letters to me! It was this le'endry whi&h definitely turned my attention to my transatlanti& herita'e, and made me resolve to #ur&hase and restore the family seat whi&h .orrys showed to 3lfred in its #i&tures1ue desertion, and offered to 'et for him at a sur#risin'ly reasona le fi'ure, sin&e his own un&le was the #resent owner! I ou'ht Exham Priory in 191>, ut was almost immediately distra&ted from my #lans of restoration y the return of my son as a maimed invalid! -urin' the two years that he lived I thou'ht of nothin' ut his &are, havin' even #la&ed my usiness under the dire&tion of #artners! In 1921, as I found myself ereaved and aimless, a retired manufa&turer no lon'er youn', I resolved to divert my remainin' years with my new #ossession! ,isitin' 3n&hester in -e&em er, I was entertained y 2a#t! .orrys, a #lum#, amia le youn' man who had thou'ht mu&h of my son, and se&ured his assistan&e in 'atherin' #lans and ane&dotes to 'uide in the &omin' restoration! Exham Priory itself I saw without emotion, a 6um le of totterin' mediaeval ruins &overed with li&hens and honey&om ed with rooks= nests, #er&hed #erilously u#on a #re&i#i&e, and denuded of floors or other interior features save the stone walls of the se#arate towers! 3s I 'radually re&overed the ima'e of the edifi&e as it had een when my an&estors left it over three &enturies efore, I e'an to hire workmen for the re&onstru&tion! In every &ase I was for&ed to 'o outside the immediate lo&ality, for the 3n&hester villa'ers had an almost un elieva le fear and hatred of the #la&e! "he sentiment was so 'reat that it was sometimes &ommuni&ated to the outside la ourers, &ausin' numerous desertions% whilst its s&o#e a##eared to in&lude oth the #riory and its an&ient family!

5y son had told me that he was somewhat avoided durin' his visits e&ause he was a de la Poer, and I now found myself su tly ostra&i?ed for a like reason until I &onvin&ed the #easants how little I knew of my herita'e! Even then they sullenly disliked me, so that I had to &olle&t most of the villa'e traditions throu'h the mediation of .orrys! )hat the #eo#le &ould not for'ive, #erha#s, was that I had &ome to restore a sym ol so a horrent to them% for, rationally or not, they viewed Exham Priory as nothin' less than a haunt of fiends and werewolves! Pie&in' to'ether the tales whi&h .orrys &olle&ted for me, and su##lementin' them with the a&&ounts of several savants who had studied the ruins, I dedu&ed that Exham Priory stood on the site of a #rehistori& tem#le% a -ruidi&al or ante$-ruidi&al thin' whi&h must have een &ontem#orary with *tonehen'e! "hat indes&ri a le rites had een &ele rated there, few dou ted, and there were un#leasant tales of the transferen&e of these rites into the 2y ele worshi# whi&h the 0omans had introdu&ed! Ins&ri#tions still visi le in the su $&ellar ore su&h unmistaka le letters as =-I,!!! OP* !!! 53/.3! 53"!!!=, si'n of the 5a'na 5ater whose dark worshi# was on&e vainly for idden to 0oman &iti?ens! 3n&hester had een the &am# of the third 3u'ustan le'ion, as many remains attest, and it was said that the tem#le of 2y ele was s#lendid and thron'ed with worshi##ers who #erformed nameless &eremonies at the iddin' of a Phry'ian #riest! "ales added that the fall of the old reli'ion did not end the or'ies at the tem#le, ut that the #riests lived on in the new faith without real &han'e! @ikewise was it said that the rites did not vanish with the 0oman #ower, and that &ertain amon' the *axons added to what remained of the tem#le, and 'ave it the essential outline it su se1uently #reserved, makin' it the &entre of a &ult feared throu'h half the he#tar&hy! 3 out 1::: 3!-! the #la&e is mentioned in a &hroni&le as ein' a su stantial stone #riory housin' a stran'e and #owerful monasti& order and surrounded y extensive 'ardens whi&h needed no walls to ex&lude a fri'htened #o#ula&e! It was never destroyed y the -anes, thou'h after the .orman 2on1uest it must have de&lined tremendously, sin&e there was no im#ediment when 8enry the "hird 'ranted the site to my an&estor, /il ert de la Poer, (irst +aron Exham, in 1261! Of my family efore this date there is no evil re#ort, ut somethin' stran'e must have ha##ened then! In one &hroni&le there is a referen&e to a de la Poer as A&ursed of /od in 13:<A, whilst villa'e le'endry had nothin' ut evil and franti& fear to tell of the &astle that went u# on the foundations of the old tem#le and #riory! "he fireside tales were of the most 'risly des&ri#tion, all the 'hastlier e&ause of their fri'htened reti&en&e and &loudy evasiveness! "hey re#resented my an&estors as a ra&e of hereditary daemons eside whom /illes de 0et? and the 5ar1uis de *ade would seem the veriest tyros, and hinted whis#erin'ly at their res#onsi ility for the o&&asional disa##earan&es of villa'ers throu'h several 'enerations! "he worst &hara&ters, a##arently, were the arons and their dire&t heirs% at least, most was whis#ered a out these! If of healthier in&linations, it was said, an heir would early and mysteriously die to make way for another more ty#i&al s&ion! "here seemed to e an inner &ult in the family, #resided over y the head of the house, and sometimes &losed

ex&e#t to a few mem ers! "em#erament rather than an&estry was evidently the asis of this &ult, for it was entered y several who married into the family! @ady 5ar'aret "revor from 2ornwall, wife of /odfrey, the se&ond son of the fifth aron, e&ame a favourite ane of &hildren all over the &ountryside, and the daemon heroine of a #arti&ularly horri le old allad not yet extin&t near the )elsh order! Preserved in alladry, too, thou'h not illustratin' the same #oint, is the hideous tale of @ady 5ary de la Poer, who shortly after her marria'e to the Earl of *hrewsfield was killed y him and his mother, oth of the slayers ein' a solved and lessed y the #riest to whom they &onfessed what they dared not re#eat to the world! "hese myths and allads, ty#i&al as they were of &rude su#erstition, re#elled me 'reatly! "heir #ersisten&e, and their a##li&ation to so lon' a line of my an&estors, were es#e&ially annoyin'% whilst the im#utations of monstrous ha its #roved un#leasantly reminis&ent of the one known s&andal of my immediate fore ears $$ the &ase of my &ousin, youn' 0andol#h -ela#ore of 2arfax who went amon' the ne'roes and e&ame a voodoo #riest after he returned from the 5exi&an )ar! I was mu&h less distur ed y the va'uer tales of wails and howlin's in the arren, windswe#t valley eneath the limestone &liff% of the 'raveyard sten&hes after the s#rin' rains% of the flounderin', s1uealin' white thin' on whi&h *ir John 2lave=s horse had trod one ni'ht in a lonely field% and of the servant who had 'one mad at what he saw in the #riory in the full li'ht of day! "hese thin's were ha&kneyed s#e&tral lore, and I was at that time a #ronoun&ed s&e#ti&! "he a&&ounts of vanished #easants were less to e dismissed, thou'h not es#e&ially si'nifi&ant in view of mediaeval &ustom! Pryin' &uriosity meant death, and more than one severed head had een #u li&ly shown on the astions $$ now effa&ed $$ around Exham Priory! 3 few of the tales were ex&eedin'ly #i&tures1ue, and made me wish I had learnt more of the &om#arative mytholo'y in my youth! "here was, for instan&e, the elief that a le'ion of at$win'ed devils ke#t wit&hes= sa ath ea&h ni'ht at the #riory $$ a le'ion whose sustenan&e mi'ht ex#lain the dis#ro#ortionate a undan&e of &oarse ve'eta les harvested in the vast 'ardens! 3nd, most vivid of all, there was the dramati& e#i& of the rats $$ the s&am#erin' army of o s&ene vermin whi&h had urst forth from the &astle three months after the tra'edy that doomed it to desertion $$ the lean, filthy, ravenous army whi&h had swe#t all efore it and devoured fowl, &ats, do's, ho's, shee#, and even two ha#less human ein's efore its fury was s#ent! 3round that unfor'etta le rodent army a whole se#arate &y&le of myths revolves, for it s&attered amon' the villa'e homes and rou'ht &urses and horrors in its train! *u&h was the lore that assailed me as I #ushed to &om#letion, with an elderly o stina&y, the work of restorin' my an&estral home! It must not e ima'ined for a moment that these tales formed my #rin&i#al #sy&holo'i&al environment! On the other hand, I was &onstantly #raised and en&oura'ed y 2a#t! .orrys and the anti1uarians who surrounded and aided me! )hen the task was done, over two years after its &ommen&ement, I viewed the 'reat rooms, wains&oted walls, vaulted &eilin's, mullioned windows, and road

stair&ases with a #ride whi&h fully &om#ensated for the #rodi'ious ex#ense of the restoration! Every attri ute of the 5iddle 3'es was &unnin'ly re#rodu&ed and the new #arts lended #erfe&tly with the ori'inal walls and foundations! "he seat of my fathers was &om#lete, and I looked forward to redeemin' at last the lo&al fame of the line whi&h ended in me! I &ould reside here #ermanently, and #rove that a de la Poer Bfor I had ado#ted a'ain the ori'inal s#ellin' of the nameC need not e a fiend! 5y &omfort was #erha#s au'mented y the fa&t that, althou'h Exham Priory was mediaevally fitted, its interior was in truth wholly new and free from old vermin and old 'hosts alike! 3s I have said, I moved in on 16 July 1923! 5y household &onsisted of seven servants and nine &ats, of whi&h latter s#e&ies I am #arti&ularly fond! 5y eldest &at, A.i''er$ 5anA, was seven years old and had &ome with me from my home in +olton, 5assa&husetts% the others I had a&&umulated whilst livin' with 2a#t! .orrys= family durin' the restoration of the #riory! (or five days our routine #ro&eeded with the utmost #la&idity, my time ein' s#ent mostly in the &odifi&ation of old family data! I had now o tained some very &ir&umstantial a&&ounts of the final tra'edy and fli'ht of )alter de la Poer, whi&h I &on&eived to e the #ro a le &ontents of the hereditary #a#er lost in the fire at 2arfax! It a##eared that my an&estor was a&&used with mu&h reason of havin' killed all the other mem ers of his household, ex&e#t four servant &onfederates, in their slee#, a out two weeks after a sho&kin' dis&overy whi&h &han'ed his whole demeanour, ut whi&h, ex&e#t y im#li&ation, he dis&losed to no one save #erha#s the servants who assisted him and afterwards fled eyond rea&h! "his deli erate slau'hter, whi&h in&luded a father, three rothers, and two sisters, was lar'ely &ondoned y the villa'ers, and so sla&kly treated y the law that its #er#etrator es&a#ed honoured, unharmed, and undis'uised to ,ir'inia% the 'eneral whis#ered sentiment ein' that he had #ur'ed the land of an immemorial &urse! )hat dis&overy had #rom#ted an a&t so terri le, I &ould s&ar&ely even &on6e&ture! )alter de la Poer must have known for years the sinister tales a out his family, so that this material &ould have 'iven him no fresh im#ulse! 8ad he, then, witnessed some a##allin' an&ient rite, or stum led u#on some fri'htful and revealin' sym ol in the #riory or its vi&inityD 8e was re#uted to have een a shy, 'entle youth in En'land! In ,ir'inia he seemed not so mu&h hard or itter as harassed and a##rehensive! 8e was s#oken of in the diary of another 'entleman adventurer, (ran&is 8arley of +ellview, as a man of unexam#led 6usti&e, honour, and deli&a&y! On 22 July o&&urred the first in&ident whi&h, thou'h li'htly dismissed at the time, takes on a #reternatural si'nifi&an&e in relation to later events! It was so sim#le as to e almost ne'li'i le, and &ould not #ossi ly have een noti&ed under the &ir&umstan&es% for it must e re&alled that sin&e I was in a uildin' #ra&ti&ally fresh and new ex&e#t for the walls, and surrounded y a well$ alan&ed staff of servitors, a##rehension would have een a surd des#ite the lo&ality!

)hat I afterward remem ered is merely this $$ that my old la&k &at, whose moods I know so well, was undou tedly alert and anxious to an extent wholly out of kee#in' with his natural &hara&ter! 8e roved from room to room, restless and distur ed, and sniffed &onstantly a out the walls whi&h formed #art of the /othi& stru&ture! I reali?e how trite this sounds $$ like the inevita le do' in the 'host story, whi&h always 'rowls efore his master sees the sheeted fi'ure $$ yet I &annot &onsistently su##ress it! "he followin' day a servant &om#lained of restlessness amon' all the &ats in the house! 8e &ame to me in my study, a lofty west room on the se&ond storey, with 'roined ar&hes, la&k oak #anellin', and a tri#le /othi& window overlookin' the limestone &liff and desolate valley% and even as he s#oke I saw the 6etty form of .i''er$5an &ree#in' alon' the west wall and s&rat&hin' at the new #anels whi&h overlaid the an&ient stone! I told the man that there must e a sin'ular odour or emanation from the old stonework, im#er&e#ti le to human senses, ut affe&tin' the deli&ate or'ans of &ats even throu'h the new woodwork! "his I truly elieved, and when the fellow su''ested the #resen&e of mi&e or rats, I mentioned that there had een no rats there for three hundred years, and that even the field mi&e of the surroundin' &ountry &ould hardly e found in these hi'h walls, where they had never een known to stray! "hat afternoon I &alled on 2a#t! .orrys, and he assured me that it would e 1uite in&redi le for field mi&e to infest the #riory in su&h a sudden and un#re&edented fashion! "hat ni'ht, dis#ensin' as usual with a valet, I retired in the west tower &ham er whi&h I had &hosen as my own, rea&hed from the study y a stone stair&ase and short 'allery $$ the former #artly an&ient, the latter entirely restored! "his room was &ir&ular, very hi'h, and without wains&otin', ein' hun' with arras whi&h I had myself &hosen in @ondon! *eein' that .i''er$5an was with me, I shut the heavy /othi& door and retired y the li'ht of the ele&tri& ul s whi&h so &leverly &ounterfeited &andles, finally swit&hin' off the li'ht and sinkin' on the &arved and &ano#ied four$#oster, with the venera le &at in his a&&ustomed #la&e a&ross my feet! I did not draw the &urtains, ut 'a?ed out at the narrow window whi&h I fa&ed! "here was a sus#i&ion of aurora in the sky, and the deli&ate tra&eries of the window were #leasantly silhouetted! 3t some time I must have fallen 1uietly aslee#, for I re&all a distin&t sense of leavin' stran'e dreams, when the &at started violently from his #la&id #osition! I saw him in the faint auroral 'low, head strained forward, fore feet on my ankles, and hind feet stret&hed ehind! 8e was lookin' intensely at a #oint on the wall somewhat west of the window, a #oint whi&h to my eye had nothin' to mark it, ut toward whi&h all my attention was now dire&ted! 3nd as I wat&hed, I knew that .i''er$5an was not vainly ex&ited! )hether the arras a&tually moved I &annot say! I think it did, very sli'htly! +ut what I &an swear to is that ehind it I heard a low, distin&t s&urryin' as of rats or mi&e! In a moment the &at had 6um#ed odily on the s&reenin' ta#estry, rin'in' the affe&ted se&tion to the floor with

his wei'ht, and ex#osin' a dam#, an&ient wall of stone% #at&hed here and there y the restorers, and devoid of any tra&e of rodent #rowlers! .i''er$5an ra&ed u# and down the floor y this #art of the wall, &lawin' the fallen arras and seemin'ly tryin' at times to insert a #aw etween the wall and the oaken floor! 8e found nothin', and after a time returned wearily to his #la&e a&ross my feet! I had not moved, ut I did not slee# a'ain that ni'ht! In the mornin' I 1uestioned all the servants, and found that none of them had noti&ed anythin' unusual, save that the &ook remem ered the a&tions of a &at whi&h had rested on her windowsill! "his &at had howled at some unknown hour of the ni'ht, awakin' the &ook in time for her to see him dart #ur#osefully out of the o#en door down the stairs! I drowsed away the noontime, and in the afternoon &alled a'ain on 2a#t! .orrys, who e&ame ex&eedin'ly interested in what I told him! "he odd in&idents $$ so sli'ht yet so &urious $$ a##ealed to his sense of the #i&tures1ue and eli&ited from him a num er of reminis&enses of lo&al 'hostly lore! )e were 'enuinely #er#lexed at the #resen&e of rats, and .orrys lent me some tra#s and Paris 'reen, whi&h I had the servants #la&e in strate'i& lo&alities when I returned! I retired early, ein' very slee#y, ut was harassed y dreams of the most horri le sort! I seemed to e lookin' down from an immense hei'ht u#on a twilit 'rotto, knee$dee# with filth, where a white$ earded daemon swineherd drove a out with his staff a flo&k of fun'ous, fla y easts whose a##earan&e filled me with unuttera le loathin'! "hen, as the swineherd #aused and nodded over his task, a mi'hty swarm of rats rained down on the stinkin' a yss and fell to devourin' easts and man alike! (rom this terrifi& vision I was a ru#tly awakened y the motions of .i''er$5an, who had een slee#in' as usual a&ross my feet! "his time I did not have to 1uestion the sour&e of his snarls and hisses, and of the fear whi&h made him sink his &laws into my ankle, un&ons&ious of their effe&t% for on every side of the &ham er the walls were alive with nauseous sound $$ the veminous slitherin' of ravenous, 'i'anti& rats! "here was now no aurora to show the state of the arras $$ the fallen se&tion of whi&h had een re#la&ed $ ut I was not too fri'htened to swit&h on the li'ht! 3s the ul s lea#t into radian&e I saw a hideous shakin' all over the ta#estry, &ausin' the somewhat #e&uliar desi'ns to exe&ute a sin'ular dan&e of death! "his motion disa##eared almost at on&e, and the sound with it! *#rin'in' out of ed, I #oked at the arras with the lon' handle of a warmin'$#an that rested near, and lifted one se&tion to see what lay eneath! "here was nothin' ut the #at&hed stone wall, and even the &at had lost his tense reali?ation of a normal #resen&es! )hen I examined the &ir&ular tra# that had een #la&ed in the room, I found all of the o#enin's s#run', thou'h no tra&e remained of what had een &au'ht and had es&a#ed! (urther slee# was out of the 1uestion, so li'htin' a &andle, I o#ened the door and went out in the 'allery towards the stairs to my study, .i''er$5an followin' at my heels! +efore we had rea&hed the stone ste#s, however, the &at darted ahead of me and vanished

down the an&ient fli'ht! 3s I des&ended the stairs myself, I e&ame suddenly aware of sounds in the 'reat room elow% sounds of a nature whi&h &ould not e mistaken! "he oak$#anelled walls were alive with rats, s&am#erin' and millin' whilst .i''er$5an was ra&in' a out with the fury of a affled hunter! 0ea&hin' the ottom, I swit&hed on the li'ht, whi&h did not this time &ause the noise to su side! "he rats &ontinued their riot, stam#edin' with su&h for&e and distin&tness that I &ould finally assi'n to their motions a definite dire&tion! "hese &reatures, in num ers a##arently inexhausti le, were en'a'ed in one stu#endous mi'ration from in&on&eiva le hei'hts to some de#th &on&eiva ly or in&on&eiva ly elow! I now heard ste#s in the &orridor, and in another moment two servants #ushed o#en the massive door! "hey were sear&hin' the house for some unknown sour&e of distur an&e whi&h had thrown all the &ats into a snarlin' #ani& and &aused them to #lun'e #re&i#itately down several fli'hts of stairs and s1uat, yowlin', efore the &losed door to the su $&ellar! I asked them if they had heard the rats, ut they re#lied in the ne'ative! 3nd when I turned to &all their attention to the sounds in the #anels, I reali?ed that the noise had &eased! )ith the two men, I went down to the door of the su $&ellar, ut found the &ats already dis#ersed! @ater I resolved to ex#lore the &ry#t elow, ut for the #resent I merely made a round of the tra#s! 3ll were s#run', yet all were tenantless! *atisfyin' myself that no one had heard the rats save the felines and me, I sat in my study till mornin', thinkin' #rofoundly and re&allin' every s&ra# of le'end I had unearthed &on&ernin' the uildin' I inha ited! I sle#t some in the forenoon, leanin' a&k in the one &omforta le li rary &hair whi&h my mediaeval #lan of furnishin' &ould not anish! @ater I tele#honed to 2a#t! .orrys, who &ame over and hel#ed me ex#lore the su $&ellar! 3 solutely nothin' untoward was found, althou'h we &ould not re#ress a thrill at the knowled'e that this vault was uilt y 0oman hands! Every low ar&h and massive #illar was 0oman $$ not the de ased 0omanes1ue of the un'lin' *axons, ut the severe and harmonious &lassi&ism of the a'e of the 2aesars% indeed, the walls a ounded with ins&ri#tions familiar to the anti1uarians who had re#eatedly ex#lored the #la&e $$ thin's like AP! /E"3E! P0OP!!! "E5P!!! -O.3!!!A and A@! P03E/!!! ,*!!! PO."I(I!!! 3"7*!!!A "he referen&e to 3tys made me shiver, for I had read 2atullus and knew somethin' of the hideous rites of the Eastern 'od, whose worshi# was so mixed with that of 2y ele! .orrys and I, y the li'ht of lanterns, tried to inter#ret the odd and nearly effa&ed desi'ns on &ertain irre'ularly re&tan'ular lo&ks of stone 'enerally held to e altars, ut &ould make nothin' of them! )e remem ered that one #attern, a sort of rayed sun, was held y students to im#ly a non$0oman ori'in su''estin' that these altars had merely een ado#ted y the 0oman #riests from some older and #erha#s a ori'inal tem#le on the same site! On one of these lo&ks were some rown stains whi&h made me wonder! "he lar'est, in the &entre of the room, had &ertain features on the u##er surfa&e whi&h indi&ated its &onne&tion with fire $$ #ro a ly urnt offerin's!

*u&h were the si'hts in that &ry#t efore whose door the &ats howled, and where .orrys and I now determined to #ass the ni'ht! 2ou&hes were rou'ht down y the servants, who were told not to mind any no&turnal a&tions of the &ats, and .i''er$5an was admitted as mu&h for hel# as for &om#anionshi#! )e de&ided to kee# the 'reat oak door $$ a modern re#li&a with slits for ventilation $$ ti'htly &losed% and, with this attended to, we retired with lanterns still urnin' to await whatever mi'ht o&&ur! "he vault was very dee# in the foundations of the #riory, and undou tedly far down on the fa&e of the eetlin' limestone &liff overlookin' the waste valley! "hat it had een the 'oal of the s&ufflin' and unex#laina le rats I &ould not dou t, thou'h why, I &ould not tell! 3s we lay there ex#e&tantly, I found my vi'il o&&asionally mixed with half$formed dreams from whi&h the uneasy motions of the &at a&ross my feet would rouse me! "hese dreams were not wholesome, ut horri ly like the one I had had the ni'ht efore! I saw a'ain the twilit 'rotto, and the swineherd with his unmentiona le fun'ous easts wallowin' in filth, and as I looked at these thin's they seemed nearer and more distin&t $$ so distin&t that I &ould almost o serve their features! "hen I did o serve the fla y features of one of them $$ and awakened with su&h a s&ream that .i''er$5an started u#, whilst 2a#t! .orrys, who had not sle#t, lau'hed &onsidera ly! .orrys mi'ht have lau'hed more $$ or #erha#s less $$ had he known what it was that made me s&ream! +ut I did not remem er myself till later! 4ltimate horror often #aralyses memory in a mer&iful way! .orrys waked me when the #henomena e'an! Out of the same fri'htful dream I was &alled y his 'entle shakin' and his ur'in' to listen to the &ats! Indeed, there was mu&h to listen to, for eyond the &losed door at the head of the stone ste#s was a verita le ni'htmare of feline yellin' and &lawin', whilst .i''er$5an, unmindful of his kindred outside, was runnin' ex&itedly round the are stone walls, in whi&h I heard the same a el of s&urryin' rats that had trou led me the ni'ht efore! 3n a&ute terror now rose within me, for here were anomalies whi&h nothin' normal &ould well ex#lain! "hese rats, if not the &reatures of a madness whi&h I shared with the &ats alone, must e urrowin' and slidin' in 0oman walls I had thou'ht to e solid limestone lo&ks !!! unless #erha#s the a&tion of water throu'h more than seventeen &enturies had eaten windin' tunnels whi&h rodent odies had worn &lear and am#le !!! +ut even so, the s#e&tral horror was no less% for if these were livin' vermin why did not .orrys hear their dis'ustin' &ommotionD )hy did he ur'e me to wat&h .i''er$5an and listen to the &ats outside, and why did he 'uess wildly and va'uely at what &ould have aroused themD +y the time I had mana'ed to tell him, as rationally as I &ould, what I thou'ht I was hearin', my ears 'ave me the last fadin' im#ression of s&urryin'% whi&h had retreated still downward, far underneath this dee#est of su $&ellars till it seemed as if the whole &liff elow were riddled with 1uestin' rats! .orrys was not as s&e#ti&al as I had anti&i#ated, ut instead seemed #rofoundly moved! 8e motioned to me to noti&e that the &ats at the door had &eased their &lamour, as if 'ivin' u# the rats for lost% whilst .i''er$ 5an had a urst of renewed restlessness, and was &lawin' franti&ally around the ottom

of the lar'e stone altar in the &entre of the room, whi&h was nearer .orrys= &ou&h than mine! 5y fear of the unknown was at this #oint very 'reat! *omethin' astoundin' had o&&urred, and I saw that 2a#t! .orrys, a youn'er, stouter, and #resuma ly more naturally materialisti& man, was affe&ted fully as mu&h as myself $$ #erha#s e&ause of his lifelon' and intimate familiarity with lo&al le'end! )e &ould for the moment do nothin' ut wat&h the old la&k &at as he #awed with de&reasin' fervour at the ase of the altar, o&&asionally lookin' u# and mewin' to me in that #ersuasive manner whi&h he used when he wished me to #erform some favour for him! .orrys now took a lantern &lose to the altar and examined the #la&e where .i''er$5an was #awin'% silently kneelin' and s&ra#in' away the li&hens of the &enturies whi&h 6oined the massive #re$0oman lo&k to the tessellated floor! 8e did not find anythin', and was a out to a andon his efforts when I noti&ed a trivial &ir&umstan&e whi&h made me shudder, even thou'h it im#lied nothin' more than I had already ima'ined! I told him of it, and we oth looked at its almost im#er&e#ti le manifestation with the fixedness of fas&inated dis&overy and a&knowled'ment! It was only this $$ that the flame of the lantern set down near the altar was sli'htly ut &ertainly fli&kerin' from a drau'ht of air whi&h it had not efore re&eived, and whi&h &ame indu ita ly from the &revi&e etween floor and altar where .orrys was s&ra#in' away the li&hens! )e s#ent the rest of the ni'ht in the rilliantly$li'hted study, nervously dis&ussin' what we should do next! "he dis&overy that some vault dee#er than the dee#est known masonry of the 0omans underlay this a&&ursed #ile, some vault unsus#e&ted y the &urious anti1uarians of three &enturies, would have een suffi&ient to ex&ite us without any a&k'round of the sinister! 3s it was, the fas&ination e&ame two$fold% and we #aused in dou t whether to a andon our sear&h and 1uit the #riory forever in su#erstitious &aution, or to 'ratify our sense of adventure and rave whatever horrors mi'ht await us in the unknown de#ths! +y mornin' we had &om#romised, and de&ided to 'o to @ondon to 'ather a 'rou# of ar&haeolo'ists and s&ientifi& men fit to &o#e with the mystery! It should e mentioned that efore leavin' the su $&ellar we had vainly tried to move the &entral altar whi&h we now re&o'ni?ed as the 'ate to a new #it of nameless fear! )hat se&ret would o#en the 'ate, wiser men than we would have to find! -urin' many days in @ondon 2a#t! .orrys and I #resented our fa&ts, &on6e&tures, and le'endary ane&dotes to five eminent authorities, all men who &ould e trusted to res#e&t any family dis&losures whi&h future ex#lorations mi'ht develo#! )e found most of them little dis#osed to s&off ut, instead, intensely interested and sin&erely sym#atheti&! It is hardly ne&essary to name them all, ut I may say that they in&luded *ir )illiam +rinton, whose ex&avations in the "road ex&ited most of the world in their day! 3s we all took the train for 3n&hester I felt myself #oised on the rink of fri'htful revelations, a sensation

sym oli?ed y the air of mournin' amon' the many 3meri&ans at the unex#e&ted death of the President on the other side of the world! On the evenin' of < 3u'ust we rea&hed Exham Priory, where the servants assured me that nothin' unusual had o&&urred! "he &ats, even old .i''er$5an, had een #erfe&tly #la&id, and not a tra# in the house had een s#run'! )e were to e'in ex#lorin' on the followin' dlay, awaitin' whi&h I assi'ned well$a##ointed rooms to all my 'uests! I myself retired in my own tower &ham er, with .i''er$5an a&ross my feet! *lee# &ame 1ui&kly, ut hideous dreams assailed me! "here was a vision of a 0oman feast like that of "rimal&hio, with a horror in a &overed #latter! "hen &ame that damna le, re&urrent thin' a out the swineherd and his filthy drove in the twilit 'rotto! 7et when I awoke it was full dayli'ht, with normal sounds in the house elow! "he rats, livin' or s#e&tral, had not trou led me% and .i''er$5an was still 1uietly aslee#! On 'oin' down, I found that the same tran1uillity had #revailed elsewhere% a &ondition whi&h one of the assem led servants $$ a fellow named "hornton, devoted to the #sy&hi& $$ rather a surdly laid to the fa&t that I had now een shown the thin' whi&h &ertain for&es had wished to show me! 3ll was now ready, and at 11 3!5! our entire 'rou# of seven men, earin' #owerful ele&tri& sear&hli'hts and im#lements of ex&avation, went down to the su $&ellar and olted the door ehind us! .i''er$5an was with us, for the investi'ators found no o&&asion to de#ise his ex&ita ility, and were indeed anxious that he e #resent in &ase of o s&ure rodent manifestations! )e noted the 0oman ins&ri#tions and unknown altar desi'ns only riefly, for three of the savants had already seen them, and all knew their &hara&teristi&s! Prime attention was #aid to the momentous &entral altar, and within an hour *ir )illiam +rinton had &aused it to tilt a&kward, alan&ed y some unknown s#e&ies of &ounterwei'ht! "here now lay revealed su&h a horror as would have overwhelmed us had we not een #re#ared! "hrou'h a nearly s1uare o#enin' in the tiled floor, s#rawlin' on a fli'ht of stone ste#s so #rodi'iously worn that it was little more than an in&lined #lane at the &entre, was a 'hastly array of human or semi$human ones! "hose whi&h retained their &ollo&ation as skeletons showed attitudes of #ani& fear, and over all were the marks of rodent 'nawin'! "he skulls denoted nothin' short of utter idio&y, &retinism, or #rimitive semi$a#edom! 3 ove the hellishly littered ste#s ar&hed a des&endin' #assa'e seemin'ly &hiselled from the solid ro&k, and &ondu&tin' a &urrent of air! "his &urrent was not a sudden and noxious rush as from a &losed vault, ut a &ool ree?e with somethin' of freshness in it! )e did not #ause lon', ut shiverin'ly e'an to &lear a #assa'e down the ste#s! It was then that *ir )illiam, examinin' the hewn walls, made the odd o servation that the #assa'e, a&&ordin' to the dire&tion of the strokes, must have een &hiselled from eneath! I must e very deli erate now, and &hoose my words! 3fter #lou'hin' down a few ste#s amidst the 'nawled ones we saw that there was li'ht ahead% not any mysti& #hos#hores&en&e, ut a filtered dayli'ht whi&h &ould not &ome ex&e#t from unknown

fissures in the &liff that over$looked the waste valley! "hat su&h fissures had es&a#ed noti&e from outside was hardly remarka le, for not only is the valley wholly uninha ited, ut the &liff is so hi'h and eetlin' that only an aeronaut &ould study its fa&e in detail! 3 few ste#s more, and our reaths were literally snat&hed from us y what we saw% so literally that "hornton, the #sy&hi& investi'ator, a&tually fainted in the arms of the da?ed men who stood ehind him! .orrys, his #lum# fa&e utterly white and fla y, sim#ly &ried out inarti&ulately% whilst I think that what I did was to 'as# or hiss, and &over my eyes! "he man ehind me $$ the only one of the #arty older than I $$ &roaked the ha&kneyed A5y /od9A in the most &ra&ked voi&e I ever heard! Of seven &ultivated men, only *ir )illiam +rinton retained his &om#osure, a thin' the more to his &redit e&ause he led the #arty and must have seen the si'ht first! It was a twilit 'rotto of enormous hei'ht, stret&hin' away farther than any eye &ould see% a su terraneous world of limitless mystery and horri le su''estion! "here were uildin's and other ar&hite&tural remains $$ in one terrified 'lan&e I saw a weird #attern of tumuli, a sava'e &ir&le of monoliths, a low$domed 0oman ruin, a s#rawlin' *axon #ile, and an early En'lish edifi&e of wood $$ ut all these were dwarfed y the 'houlish s#e&ta&le #resented y the 'eneral surfa&e of the 'round! (or yards a out the ste#s extended an insane tan'le of human ones, or ones at least as human as those on the ste#s! @ike a foamy sea they stret&hed, some fallen a#art, ut others wholly or #artly arti&ulated as skeletons% these latter invaria ly in #ostures of daemonia& fren?y, either fi'htin' off some mena&e or &lut&hin' other forms with &anni al intent! )hen -r "rask, the anthro#olo'ist, sto##ed to &lassify the skulls, he found a de'raded mixture whi&h utterly affled him! "hey were mostly lower than the Piltdown man in the s&ale of evolution, ut in every &ase definitely human! 5any were of hi'her 'rade, and a very few were the skulls of su#remely and sensitively develo#ed ty#es! 3ll the ones were 'nawed, mostly y rats, ut somewhat y others of the half$human drove! 5ixed with them were many tiny hones of rats $$ fallen mem ers of the lethal army whi&h &losed the an&ient e#i&! I wonder that any man amon' us lived and ke#t his sanity throu'h that hideous day of dis&overy! .ot 8offman nor 8uysmans &ould &on&eive a s&ene more wildly in&redi le, more freneti&ally re#ellent, or more /othi&ally 'rotes1ue than the twilit 'rotto throu'h whi&h we seven sta''ered% ea&h stum lin' on revelation after revelation, and tryin' to kee# for the non&e from thinkin' of the events whi&h must have taken #la&e there three hundred, or a thousand, or two thousand or ten thousand years a'o! It was the ante&ham er of hell, and #oor "hornton fainted a'ain when "rask told him that some of the skeleton thin's must have des&ended as 1uadru#eds throu'h the last twenty or more 'enerations! 8orror #iled on horror as we e'an to inter#ret the ar&hite&tural remains! "he 1uadru#ed thin's $$ with their o&&asional re&ruits from the i#ed &lass $$ had een ke#t in stone #ens, out of whi&h they must have roken in their last delirium of hun'er or rat$fear! "here had een 'reat herds of them, evidently fattened on the &oarse ve'eta les whose remains

&ould e found as a sort of #oisonous ensila'e at the ottom of the hu'e stone ins older than 0ome! I knew now why my an&estors had had su&h ex&essive 'ardens $$ would to heaven I &ould for'et9 "he #ur#ose of the herds I did not have to ask! *ir )illiam, standin' with his sear&hli'ht in the 0oman ruin, translated aloud the most sho&kin' ritual I have ever known% and told of the diet of the antediluvian &ult whi&h the #riests of 2y ele found and min'led with their own! .orrys, used as he was to the tren&hes, &ould not walk strai'ht when he &ame out of the En'lish uildin'! It was a ut&her sho# and kit&hen $$ he had ex#e&ted that $$ ut it was too mu&h to see familiar En'lish im#lements in su&h a #la&e, and to read familiar En'lish 'raffiti there, some as re&ent as 161:! I &ould not 'o in that uildin' $$ that uildin' whose daemon a&tivities were sto##ed only y the da''er of my an&estor )alter de la Poer! )hat I did venture to enter was the low *axon uildin' whose oaken door had fallen, and there I found a terri le row of ten stone &ells with rusty ars! "hree had tenants, all skeletons of hi'h 'rade, and on the ony forefin'er of one I found a seal rin' with my own &oat$of$arms! *ir )illiam found a vault with far older &ells elow the 0oman &ha#el, ut these &ells were em#ty! +elow them was a low &ry#t with &ases of formally arran'ed ones, some of them earin' terri le #arallel ins&ri#tions &arved in @atin, /reek, and the ton'ue of Phyr'ia! 5eanwhile, -r "rask had o#ened one of the #rehistori& tumuli, and rou'ht to li'ht skulls whi&h were sli'htly more human than a 'orilla=s, and whi&h ore indes&ri a ly ideo'ra#hi& &arvin's! "hrou'h all this horror my &at stalked un#ertur ed! On&e I saw him monstrously #er&hed ato# a mountain of ones, and wondered at the se&rets that mi'ht lie ehind his yellow eyes! 8avin' 'ras#ed to some sli'ht de'ree the fri'htful revelations of this twilit area $$ an area so hideously foreshadowed y my re&urrent dream $$ we turned to that a##arently oundless de#th of midni'ht &avern where no ray of li'ht from the &liff &ould #enetrate! )e shall never know what si'htless *ty'ian worlds yawn eyond the little distan&e we went, for it was de&ided that su&h se&rets are not 'ood for mankind! +ut there was #lenty to en'ross us &lose at hand, for we had not 'one far efore the sear&hli'hts showed that a&&ursed infinity of #its in whi&h the rats had feasted, and whose sudden la&k of re#lenishment had driven the ravenous rodent army first to turn on the livin' herds of starvin' thin's, and then to urst forth from the #riory in that histori& or'y of devastation whi&h the #easants will never for'et! /od9 those &arrion la&k #its of sawed, #i&ked ones and o#ened skulls9 "hose ni'htmare &hasms &hoked with the #ithe&anthro#oid, 2elti&, 0oman, and En'lish ones of &ountless unhallowed &enturies9 *ome of them were full, and none &an say how dee# they had on&e een! Others were still ottomless to our sear&hli'hts, and #eo#led y unnama le fan&ies! )hat, I thou'ht, of the ha#less rats that stum led into su&h tra#s amidst the la&kness of their 1uests in this 'risly "artarusD

On&e my foot sli##ed near a horri ly yawnin' rink, and I had a moment of e&stati& fear! I must have een musin' a lon' time, for I &ould not see any of the #arty ut #lum# 2a#t! .orrys! "hen there &ame a sound from that inky, oundless, farther distan&e that I thou'ht I knew% and I saw my old la&k &at dart #ast me like a win'ed E'y#tian 'od, strai'ht into the illimita le 'ulf of the unknown! +ut I was not far ehind, for there was no dou t after another se&ond! It was the eldrit&h s&urryin' of those fiend$ orn rats, always 1uestin' for new horrors, and determined to lead me on even unto those 'rinnin' &averns of earth=s &entre where .yarlathote#, the mad fa&eless 'od, howls lindly in the darkness to the #i#in' of two amor#hous idiot flute$#layers! 5y sear&hli'ht ex#ired, ut still I ran! I heard voi&es, and yowls, and e&hoes, ut a ove all there 'ently rose that im#ious, insidious s&urryin'% 'ently risin', risin', as a stiff loated &or#se 'ently rises a ove an oily river that flows under the endless onyx rid'es to a la&k, #utrid sea! *omethin' um#ed into me $$ somethin' soft and #lum#! It must have een the rats% the vis&ous, 'elatinous, ravenous army that feast on the dead and the livin' !!! )hy shouldn=t rats eat a de la Poer as a de la Poer eats for idden thin'sD !!! "he war ate my oy, damn them all !!! and the 7anks ate 2arfax with flames and urnt /randsire -ela#ore and the se&ret !!! .o, no, I tell you, I am not that daemon swineherd in the twilit 'rotto9 It was not Edward .orrys= fat fa&e on that fla y fun'ous thin'9 )ho says I am a de la PoerD 8e lived, ut my oy died9 !!! *hall a .orrys hold the land of a de la PoerD !!! It=s voodoo, I tell you !!! that s#otted snake !!! 2urse you, "hornton, I=ll tea&h you to faint at what my family do9 !!! =* lood, thou stinkard, I=ll learn ye how to 'ust !!! wolde ye swynke me thilke wysD!!! 5a'na 5ater9 5a'na 5ater9!!! 3tys!!! -ia ad a'haidh=s ad aodaun!!! a'us as dunar&h ort9 -honas =s dholas ort, a'us leat$sa9!!! 4n'l unl!!! rrlh !!! &h&h&h!!! "his is what they say I said when they found me in the la&kness after three hours% found me &rou&hin' in the la&kness over the #lum#, half$eaten ody of 2a#t! .orrys, with my own &at lea#in' and tearin' at my throat! .ow they have lown u# Exham Priory, taken my .i''er$5an away from me, and shut me into this arred room at 8anwell with fearful whis#ers a out my heredity and ex#erien&e! "hornton is in the next room, ut they #revent me from talkin' to him! "hey are tryin', too, to su##ress most of the fa&ts &on&ernin' the #riory! )hen I s#eak of #oor .orrys they a&&use me of this hideous thin', ut they must know that I did not do it! "hey must know it was the rats% the slitherin' s&urryin' rats whose s&am#erin' will never let me slee#% the daemon rats that ra&e ehind the #addin' in this room and e&kon me down to 'reater horrors than I have ever known% the rats they &an never hear% the rats, the rats in the walls!

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