"The Judge's House" by Bram Stoker

When the time for his examination drew near Malcolm Malcolmson made up his mind to go
somewhere to read by himself. He feared the attractions of the seaside, and also he feared
completely rural isolation, for of old he knew its charms, and so he determined to find some
unpretentious little town where there would be nothing to distract him. He refrained from
asking suggestions from any of his friends, for he argued that each would recommend
some place of which he had knowledge, and where he had already acquaintances.

As Malcolmson wished to avoid friends he had no wish to encumber himself with the
attention of friends' friends and so he determined to look out for a place for himself. He
packed a portmanteau with some clothes and all the books he required, and then took
ticket for the first name on the local time-table which he did not know.

When at the end of three hours' journey he alighted at Benchurch, he felt satisfied that he
had so far obliterated his tracks as to be sure of having a peaceful opportunity of pursuing
his studies. He went straight to the one inn which the sleepy little place contained, and put
up for the night. Benchurch was a market town, and once in three weeks was crowded to
excess, but for the reminder of the twenty-one days it was as attractive as a desert.
Malcolmson looked around the day after his arrival to try to find quarters more isolated than
even so quiet an inn as "The Good Traveller" afforded.

There was only one place which took his fancy, and it certainly satisfied his wildest ideas
regarding quiet; in fact, quiet was not the proper word to apply to it - desolation was the
only term conveying any suitable idea of its isolation. It was an old, rambling, heavy-built
house of the Jacobean style, with heavy gables and windows, unusually small, and set
higher than was customary in such houses, and was surrounded with a high brick wall
massively built. Indeed, on examination, it looked more like a fortified house than an
ordinary dwelling. But all these things pleased Malcolmson. "Here," he thought, "is the very
spot I have been looking for, and if I can only get opportunity of using it I shall be happy."
His joy was increased when he realized beyond doubt that it was not at present inhabited.

From the post-office he got the name of the agent, who was rarely surprised at the
application to rent a part of the old house. Mr. Carnford, the local lawyer and agent, was a
genial old gentleman, and frankly confessed his delight at anyone being willing to live in the

"To tell you the truth," said he, "I should be only too happy, on behalf of the owners, to let
anyone have the house rent free, for a term of years if only to accustom the people here to
see it inhabited. It has been so long empty that some kind of absurd prejudice has grown
up about it, and this can be best put down by its occupation - if only," he added with a sly
glance at Malcolmson, "by a scholar like yourself, who wants its quiet for a time."

Malcolmson thought it needless to ask the agent about the "absurd prejudice"; he knew he
would get more information, if he should require it, on that subject from other quarters. He
paid his three months' rent, got a receipt, and the name of an old woman who would
probably undertake to "do" for him, and came away with the keys in his pocket. He then
went to the landlady of the inn, who was a cheerful and most kindly person, and asked her
advice as to such stores and provisions as he would be likely to require. She threw up her
hands in amazement when he told her where he was going to settle himself.

"Not in the Judge's House!" she said, and grew pale as she spoke. He explained the locality
of the house, saying that he did not know its name. When he had finished she answered:
"Aye, sure enough - sure enough the very place! It is the Judge's House sure enough." He
asked her to tell him about the place, why so called, and what there was against it. She told
him that it was so called locally because it had been many years before - how long she
could not say, as she was herself from another part of the country, but she thought it must
have been a hundred years or more - the abode of a judge who was held in great terror on
account of his harsh sentences and his hostility to prisoners at Assizes. As to what there
was against the house she could not tell. She had often asked, but no one could inform
her, but there was a general feeling that there was something, and for her own part she
would not take all the money in Drinkwater's Bank and stay in the house an hour by herself.
Then she apologized to Malcolmson for her disturbing talk.

"It is too bad of me, sir, and you - and a young gentleman, too - if you will pardon me saying
it, going to live there all alone. If you were my boy - and you'll excuse me for saying it - you
wouldn't sleep there a night, not if I had to go there myself and pull the big alarm bell that's
on the roof!" The good creature was so manifestly in earnest, and was so kindly in her
intentions, that Malcolmson, although amused, was touched. He told her kindly how much
he appreciated her interest in him, and added:

"But, my dear Mrs. Witham, indeed you need not be concerned about me! A man who is
reading for the Mathematical Tripos has too much to think of to be disturbed by any of
these mysterious 'somethings,' and his work is of too exact and prosaic a kind to allow of his
having any order in his mind for mysteries of any kind. Harmonical Progression,
Permutations and Combinations, and Elliptic Functions have sufficient mysteries for me!"
Mrs. Witham kindly undertook to see after his commissions, and he went himself to look for
the old woman who had been recommended to him. When he turned to the Judge's House
with her, after an interval of a couple of hours, he found Mrs. Witham herself waiting with
several men and boys carrying parcels, and an upholsterer's man with a bed in a cart, for
she said, though table and chairs might be all very well, a bed that hadn't been aired for
maybe fifty years was not proper for young ones to lie on. She was evidently curious to see
the inside of the house, and though manifestly so afraid of the 'somethings' that at the
slightest sound she clutched on to Malcolmson, whom she never left for a moment, went
over the whole place.

After his examination of the house, Malcolmson decided to take up his abode in the great
dining-room, which was big enough to serve for all his requirements, and Mrs. Witham, with
the aid of the charwoman, Mrs. Dempster, proceeded to arrange matters. When the
hampers were brought in and unpacked, Malcolmson saw that with much kind forethought
she had sent from her own kitchen sufficient provisions to last for a few days. Before going
she expressed all sorts of kind wishes, and at the door turned and said:

"And perhaps, sir, as the room is big and draughty it might be well to have one of those big
screens put round your bed at night - though truth to tell, I would die myself if I were to be
so shut in with all kinds of - of 'things,' that put their heads round the sides or over the top,
and look on me!" The image which she had called up was too much for her nerves and she
fled incontinently.

Mrs. Dempster sniffed in a superior manner as the landlady disappeared, and remarked
that for her own part she wasn't afraid of all the bogies in the kingdom.

"I'll tell you what it is, sir," she said, "bogies is all kinds and sorts of things - except bogies!
Rats and mice, and beetles and creaky doors, and loose slates, and broken panes, and
stiff drawer handles, that stay out when you pull them and then fall down in the middle of
the night. Look at the wainscot of the room! It is old - hundreds of years old! Do you think
there's no rats and beetles there? And do you imagine, sir, that you won't see none of
them? Rats is bogies, I tell you, and bogies is rats, and don't you get to think anything else!"

"Mrs. Dempster," said Malcolmson gravely, making her a polite bow, "you know more than a
Senior Wrangler! And let me say that, as a mark of esteem for your indubitable soundness
of head and heart, I shall, when I go, give you possession of this house, and let you stay
here by yourself for the last two months of my tenancy, for four weeks will serve my
"Thank you kindly, sir!" she answered, "but I couldn't sleep away from home a night. I am in
Greenhow's Charity, and if I slept a night away from my rooms I should lose all I have got to
live on. The rules is very strict, and there's too many watching for a vacancy for me to run
any risks in the matter. Only for that, sir, I'd gladly come here and attend on you altogether
during your stay."

"My good woman," said Malcolmson hastily, "I have come here on a purpose to obtain
solitude, and believe me that I am grateful to the late Greenhow for having organized his
admirable charity - whatever it is - that I am perforce denied the opportunity of suffering
from such a form of temptation! Saint Anthony himself could not be more rigid on the point!"
The old woman laughed harshly. "Ah, you young gentlemen," she said, "you don't fear for
nought, and belike you'll get all the solitude you want here." She set to work with her
cleaning, and by nightfall, when Malcolmson returned from his walk - he always had one of
his books to study as he walked - he found the room swept and tidied, a fire burning on the
old hearth, the lamp lit, and the table spread for supper with Mrs. Witham's excellent fare.
"This is comfort indeed," he said, and rubbed his hands.

When he had finished his supper, and lifted the tray to the other end of the great oak
dining-table, he got out his books again, put fresh wood on the fire, trimmed his lamp, and
set himself down to a spell of real hard work. He went on without a pause till about eleven
o'clock, when he knocked off for a bit to fix his fire and lamp, and to make himself a cup of
tea. He had always been a tea-drinker, and during his college life had sat late at work and
had taken tea late. The rest was a great luxury to him, and he enjoyed it with a sense of
delicious voluptuous ease. The renewed fire leaped and sparkled, and threw quaint
shadows through the great old room, and as he sipped his hot tea he revelled in the sense
of isolation from his kind. Then it was that he began to notice for the first time what a noise
the rats were making.
"Surely," he thought, "they cannot have been at it all the time I was reading. Had they been,
I must have noticed it!" Presently, when the noise increased, he satisfied himself that it was
really new. It was evident that at first the rats had been frightened at the presence of a
stranger, and the light of fire and lamp, but that as the time went on they had grown bolder
and were now disporting themselves as was their wont.

How busy they were - and hark to the strange noises! Up and down the old wainscot, over
the ceiling and under the floor they raced, and gnawed, and scratched! Malcolmson smiled
to himself as he recalled to mind the saying of Mrs. Dempster, "Bogies is rats, and rats is
bogies!" The tea began to have its effect of intellectual and nervous stimulus, he saw with
joy another long spell of work to be done before the night was past, and in the sense of
security which it gave him, he allowed himself the luxury of a good look round the room. He
took his lamp in one hand, and went all round, wondering that so quaint and beautiful an
old house had been so long neglected.

The carving of the oak on the panels of the wainscot was fine, and on and round the doors
and windows it was beautiful and of rare merit. There were some old pictures on the walls,
but they were coated so thick with dust and dirt that he could not distinguish any detail of
them, though he held his lamp as high as he could over his head. Here and there as he
went round he saw some crack or hole blocked for a moment by the face of a rat with its
bright eyes glittering in the light, but in an instant it was gone, and a squeak and a scamper
followed. The thing that most struck him, however, was the rope of the great alarm bell on
the roof, which hung down in a corner of the room on the right-hand side of the fireplace.
He pulled up close to the hearth a great high-backed carved oak chair, and sat down to his
last cup of tea. When this was done he made up the fire, and went back to his work, sitting
at the corner of the table, having the fire to his left. For a little while the rats disturbed him
somewhat with their perpetual scampering, but he got accustomed to the noise as one does
to the ticking of the clock or to the roar of moving water, and he became so immersed in his
work that everything in the world, except the problem which he was trying to solve, passed
away from him.

He suddenly looked up, his problem was still unsolved, and there was in the air that sense
of the hour before the dawn, which is so dread to doubtful life. The noise of the rats had
ceased. Indeed it seemed to him that it must have ceased but lately and that it was the
sudden cessation which had disturbed him. The fire had fallen low, but still it threw out a
deep red glow. As he looked he started in spite of his sang froid.

There, on the great high-backed carved oak chair by the right side of the fire-place sat an
enormous rat, steadily glaring at him with baleful eyes. He made a motion to it as though to
hunt it away, but it did not stir. Then he made the motion of throwing something. Still it did
not stir, but showed its great white teeth angrily, and its cruel eyes shone in the lamplight
with an added vindictiveness.

Malcolmson felt amazed, and seizing the poker from the hearth ran at it to kill it. Before,
however, he could strike it the rat, with a squeak that sounded like the concentration of
hate, jumped upon the floor, and, running up the rope of the alarm bell, disappeared in the
darkness beyond the range of the green-shaded lamp. Instantly, strange to say, the noisy
scampering of the rats in the wainscot began again.

By this time Malcolmson's mind was quite off the problem, and as a shrill cock-crow outside
told him of the approach of morning, he went to bed and to sleep.

He slept so sound that he was not even waked by Mrs. Dempster coming in to make up his
room. It was only when she had tided up the place and got his breakfast ready and tapped
on the screen which closed in his bed that he woke. He was a little tired still after his night's
hard work, but a strong cup of tea soon freshened him up and, taking his book, he went out
for his morning walk, bringing with him a few sandwiches lest he should not care to return till
dinner-time. He found a quiet walk between high elms some way outside the town, and here
he spent the greater part of the day studying his Laplace. On his return he looked in to see
Mrs. Witham and to thank her for her kindness. When she saw him coming through the
diamond-paned bay window of her sanctum she came out to meet him and asked him in.
She looked at him searchingly and shook her head as she said:

"You must not overdo it, sir. You are paler this morning than you should be. Too late hours
and too hard work on the brains isn't good for any man! But tell me, sir, how did you pass
the night? Well, I hope? But, my heart! sir, I was glad when Mrs. Dempster told me this
morning that you were all right and sleeping sound when she went in." "Oh, I was all right,"
he answered smiling, "The 'somethings' didn't worry me, as yet. Only the rats, and they had
a circus, I tell you, all over the place. There was one wicked-looking old devil that sat up on
my own chair by the fire, and wouldn't go till I took the poker to him, and then he ran up the
rope of the alarm bell and got to somewhere up the wall or the ceiling - I couldn't see where,
it was so dark."

"Mercy on us," said Mrs. Witham, "an old devil, and sitting on a chair by the fireside! Take
care, sir! take care! There's many a true word spoken in jest."
"How do you mean? 'Pon my word, I don't understand."

"An old devil! The old devil, perhaps. There! sir, you needn't laugh," for Malcolmson had
broken into a hearty peal. "You young folks think it easy to laugh at things that makes older
ones shudder. Never mind, sir! never mind! Please God, you'll laugh all the time. It's what I
wish you myself!" and the good lady beamed all over in sympathy with his enjoyment, her
fears gone for a moment.

"Oh, forgive me," said Malcolmson presently. "Don't think me rude, but the idea was too
much for me - that the old devil himself was on the chair last night!" And at the thought he
laughed again. Then he went home to dinner.

This evening the scampering of the rats began earlier, indeed it had been going on before
his arrival, and only ceased whilst his presence by its freshness disturbed them. After
dinner he sat by the fire for a while and had a smoke, and then, having cleared his table,
began to work as before. To-night the rats disturbed him more than they had done on the
previous night.

How they scampered up and down and under and over! How they squeaked and scratched
and gnawed! How they, getting bolder by degrees, came to the mouths of their holes and to
the chinks and cracks and crannies in the wainscoting till their eyes shone like tiny lamps as
the firelight rose and fell. But to him, now doubtless accustomed to them, their eyes were
not wicked, only their playfulness touched him. Sometimes the boldest of them made sallies
out on the floor or along the mouldings of the wainscot. Now and again as they disturbed
him Malcolmson made a sound to frighten them, smiting the table with his hand or giving a
fierce "Hsh, hsh," so that they fled straightway to their holes.

And so the early part of the night wore on, and despite the noise Malcolmson got more and
more immersed in his work.

All at once he stopped, as on the previous night, being overcome by a sudden silence.
There was not the faintest sound of gnaw, or scratch, or squeak. The silence was as of the
He remembered the odd occurrence of the previous night, and instinctively he looked at the
chair standing close by the fireside. And then a very odd sensation thrilled through him.
There, on the great old high-backed carved oak chair beside the fireplace sat the same
enormous rat, steadily glaring at him with baleful eyes.

Instinctively he took the nearest thing to his hand, a book of logarithms, and flung it at it.
The book was badly aimed and the rat did not stir, so again the poker performance of the
previous night was repeated, and again the rat, being closely pursued, fled up the rope of
the alarm bell. Strangely, too, the departure of this rat was instantly followed by the renewal
of the noise made by the general rat community. On this occasion, as on the previous one,
Malcolmson could not see at what part of the room the rat disappeared, for the green
shade of his lamp left the upper part of the room in darkness and the fire had burned low.

On looking at his watch he found it was close on midnight, and, not sorry for the
divertissement, he made up his fire and made himself his nightly pot of tea. He had got
through a good spell of work, and thought himself entitled to a cigarette, and so he sat on
the great carved oak chair before the fire and enjoyed it. Whilst smoking he began to think
that he would like to know where the rat disappeared to, for he had certain ideas for the
morrow not entirely disconnected with a rat-trap. Accordingly he lit another lamp and placed
it so that it would shine well into the right-hand corner of the wall by the fireplace. Then he
got all the books he had with him, and placed them handy to throw at the vermin. Finally he
lifted the rope of the alarm bell and placed the end of it on the table, fixing the extreme end
under the lamp. As he handled it he could not help noticing how pliable it was, especially for
so strong a rope and one not in use. "You could hang a man with it," he thought to himself.
When his preparations were made he looked around, and said complacently:
"There now, my friend, I think we shall learn something of you this time!" He began his work
again, and though, as before, somewhat disturbed at first by the noise of the rats, soon lost
himself in his proposition and problems.

Again he was called to his immediate surroundings suddenly. This time it might not have
been the sudden silence only which took his attention; there was a slight movement of the
rope, and the lamp moved. Without stirring, he looked to see if his pile of books was within
range, and then cast his eye along the rope. As he looked he saw the great rat drop from
the rope on the oak arm-chair and sit there glaring at him. He raised a book in his right
hand, and taking careful aim, flung it at the rat. The latter, with a quick movement, sprang
aside and dodged the missile. Then he took another book, and a third, and flung them one
after the other at the rat, but each time unsuccessfully. At last, as he stood with a book
poised in his hand to throw, the rat squeaked and seemed afraid. This made Malcolmson
more than ever eager to strike, and the book flew and struck the rat a resounding blow. It
gave a terrified squeak, and turning on his pursuer a look of terrible malevolence, ran up
the chair- back and made a great jump to the rope of the alarm bell and ran up it like
lightning. The lamp rocked under the sudden strain, but it was a heavy one and did not
topple over. Malcolmson kept his eyes on the rat, and saw it by the light of the second lamp
leap to a moulding of the wainscot and disappear through a hole in one of the great
pictures which hung on the wall, obscured and invisible through its coating of dirt and dust.

"I shall look up my friend's habitation in the morning," said the student, as he went over to
collect his books. "The third picture from the fireplace, I shall not forget." He picked up the
books one by one, commenting on them as he lifted them. Conic Sections he does not
mind, nor Cycloid Oscillations, nor the Principia, nor Quaternions, nor Thermodynamics.
Now for a look at the book that fetched him!" Malcolmson took it up and looked at it. As he
did so he started, and a sudden pallor overspread his face. He looked round uneasily and
shivered slightly, as he murmured to himself:

"The Bible my mother gave me! What an odd coincidence." He sat down to work again, and
the rats in the wainscot renewed their gambols. They did not disturb him, however;
somehow their presence gave him a sense of companionship. But he could not attend to
his work, and after striving to master the subject on which he was engaged gave it up in
despair, and went to bed as the first streak of dawn stole in through the eastern window.

He slept heavily but uneasily, and dreamed much, and when Mrs. Dempster woke him late
in the morning he seemed ill at ease, and for a few minutes did not seem to realize exactly
where he was. His first request rather surprised the servant.

"Mrs. Dempster, when I am out to-day I wish you would get the steps and dust or wash
those pictures - specially that one the third from the fireplace - I want to see what they are."
Late in the afternoon Malcolmson worked at his books in the shaded walk, and the
cheerfulness of the previous day came back to him as the day wore on, and he found that
his reading was progressing well. He had worked out to a satisfactory conclusion all the
problems which had as yet baffled him, and it was in a state of jubilation that he paid a visit
to Mrs. Witham at "The Good Traveller."

He found a stranger in the cosy sitting-room with the landlady, who was introduced to him
as Dr. Thornhill. She was not quite at ease, and this, combined with the doctor's plunging at
once into a series of questions, made Malcolmson come to the conclusion that his presence
was not an accident, so without preliminary he said:
"Dr. Thornhill, I shall with pleasure answer you any question you may choose to ask me if
you will answer me one question first."

The doctor seemed surprised, but he smiled and answered at once, "Done! What is it?"
"Did Mrs. Witham ask you to come here and see me and advise me?"

Dr. Thornhill for a moment was taken aback, and Mrs. Witham got fiery red and turned
away, but the doctor was a frank and ready man, and he answered at once and openly:
"She did, but she didn't intend you to know it. I suppose it was my clumsy haste that made
you suspect. She told me that she did not like the idea of your being in that house all by
yourself, and that she thought you took too much strong tea. In fact, she wants me to
advise you, if possible, to give up the tea and the very late hours. I was a keen student in
my time, so I suppose I may take the liberty of a college man, and without offence, advise
you not quite as a stranger."

Malcolmson with a bright smile held out his hand. "Shake - as they say in America," he said.
"I must thank you for your kindness, and Mrs. Witham too, and your kindness deserves a
return on my part. I promise to take no more strong tea - no tea at all till you let me - and I
shall go to bed to-night at one o'clock at latest. Will that do?"

"Capital," said the doctor. "Now tell us all that you noticed in the old house," and so
Malcolmson then and there told in minute detail all that had happened in the last two nights.
He was interrupted every now and then by some exclamation from Mrs. Witham, till finally
when he told of the episode of the Bible the landlady's pent-up emotions found vent in a
shriek, and it was not till a stiff glass of brandy and water had been administered that she
grew composed again. Dr. Thornhill listened with a face of growing gravity, and when the
narrative was complete and Mrs. Witham had been restored he asked:
"The rat always went up the rope of the alarm bell?"
"I suppose you know," said the Doctor after a pause, "what that rope is?"
"It is," said the Doctor slowly, "the very rope which the hangman used for all the victims of
the Judge's judicial rancour!" Here he was interrupted by another scream from Mrs.
Witham, and steps had to be taken for her recovery. Malcolmson having looked at his
watch, and found that it was close to his dinner-hour, had gone home before her complete
When Mrs. Witham was herself again she almost assailed the Doctor with angry questions
as to what he meant by putting such horrible ideas into the poor young man's mind. "He has
quite enough there already to upset him," she added.

Dr. Thornhill replied:
"My dear madam, I had a distinct purpose in it! I wanted to draw his attention to the
bell-rope, and to fix it there. It may be that he is in a highly over-wrought state, and has
been studying too much, although I am bound to say that he seems as sound and healthy a
young man, mentally and bodily, as ever I saw - but then the rats - and that suggestion of
the devil." The doctor shook his head and went on. "I would have offered to go and stay the
first night with him but that I felt sure it would have been a cause of offence. He may get in
the night some strange fright or hallucination, and if he does I want him to pull that rope. All
alone as he is it will give us warning, and we may reach him in time to be of service. I shall
be sitting up pretty late to-night and shall keep my ears open. Do not be alarmed if
Benchurch gets a surprise before morning."

"Oh, Doctor, what do you mean? What do you mean?"
"I mean this, that possibly - nay, more probably - we shall hear the great alarm-bell from the
Judge's House to-night," and the Doctor made about an effective an exit as could be
thought of.

When Malcolmson arrived home he found that it was a little after his usual time, and Mrs.
Dempster had gone away - the rules of Greenhow's Charity were not to be neglected. He
was glad to see that the place was bright and tidy with a cheerful fire and a well-trimmed
lamp. The evening was colder than might have been expected in April, and a heavy wind
was blowing with such rapidly-increasing strength that there was every promise of a storm
during the night.

For a few minutes after his entrance the noise of the rats ceased, but so soon as they
became accustomed to his presence they began again. He was glad to hear them, for he
felt once more the feeling of companionship in their noise, and his mind ran back to the
strange fact that they only ceased to manifest themselves when the other - the great rat
with the baleful eyes - came upon the scene. The reading- lamp only was lit and its green
shade kept the ceiling and the upper part of the room in darkness so that the cheerful light
from the hearth spreading over the floor and shining on the white cloth laid over the end of
the table was warm and cheery. Malcolmson sat down to his dinner with a good appetite
and a buoyant spirit. After his dinner and a cigarette he sat steadily down to work,
determined not to let anything disturb him, for he remembered his promise to the doctor,
and made up his mind to make the best of the time at his disposal.

For an hour or so he worked all right, and then his thoughts began to wander from his
books. The actual circumstances around him, and the calls on his physical attention, and
his nervous susceptibility were not to be denied. By this time the wind had become a gale,
and the gale a storm. The old house, solid though it was, seemed to shake to its
foundation, and the storm roared and raged through its many chimneys and its queer old
gables, producing strange, unearthly sounds in the empty rooms and corridors. Even the
great alarm-bell on the roof must have felt the force of the wind, for the rope rose and fell
slightly, as though the bell were moved a little from time to time, and the limber rope fell on
the oak floor with a hard and hollow sound.

As Malcolmson listened to it he bethought himself of the doctor's words, "It is the rope which
the hangman used for the victims of the Judge's judicial rancour," and he went over to the
corner of the fireplace and took it in his hand to look at it. There seemed a sort of deadly
interest in it, and as he stood there he lost himself for a moment in speculation as to who
these victims were, and the grim wish of the Judge to have such a ghastly relic ever under
his eyes. As he stood there the swaying of the bell on the roof still lifted the rope now and
again, but presently there came a new sensation - a sort of tremor in the rope, as though
something was moving along it.
Looking up instinctively Malcolmson saw the great rat coming slowly down towards him,
glaring at him steadily. He dropped the rope and started back with a muttered curse, and
the rat turning ran up the slope again and disappeared, and at the same instant
Malcolmson became conscious that the noise of the other rats, which had ceased for a
while, began again.

All this set him thinking, and it occurred to him that he had not investigated the lair of the rat
or looked at the pictures, as he had intended. He lit the other lamp without the shade, and,
holding it up went and stood opposite the third picture from the fireplace on the right-hand
side where he had seen the rat disappear on the previous night.

At the first glance he started back so suddenly that he almost dropped the lamp, and a
deadly pallor overspread his face.

His knees shook, and heavy drops of sweat came on his forehead, and he trembled like an
aspen. But he was young and plucky, and pulled himself together, and after the pause of a
few seconds stepped forward again, raised the lamp, and examined the picture which had
been dusted and washed, and now stood out clearly.

It was of a judge dressed in his robes of scarlet and ermine. His face was strong and
merciless, evil, crafty and vindictive, with a sensual mouth, hooked nose of ruddy colour,
and shaped like the beak of a bird of prey. The rest of the face was of a cadaverous colour.
The eyes were of peculiar brilliance and with a terribly malignant expression. As he looked
at them, Malcolmson grew cold, for he saw there the very counterpart of the eyes of the
great rat. The lamp almost fell from his hand, he saw the rat with its baleful eyes peering
out through the hole in the corner of the picture, and noted the sudden cessation of the
noise of the other rats. However, he pulled himself together, and went on with his
examination of the picture.
The Judge was seated in a great high-backed carved oak chair, on the right-hand side of a
great stone fireplace where, in the corner, a rope hung down from the ceiling, its end lying
coiled on the floor. With a feeling of something like horror, Malcolmson recognized the
scene of the room as it stood, and gazed around him in an awestruck manner as though he
expected to find some strange presence behind him. Then he looked over to the corner of
the fireplace - and with a loud cry he let the lamp fall from his hand.

There, in the judge's arm-chair, with the rope hanging behind, sat the rat with the Judge's
baleful eyes, now intensified as with a fiendish leer. Save for the howling of the storm
without there was silence.

The fallen lamp recalled Malcolmson to himself. Fortunately it was of metal, and so the oil
was not spilt. However, the practical need of attending to it settled at once his nervous
apprehensions. When he had turned it out, he wiped his brow and thought for a moment.
"This will not do," he said to himself. "If I go on like this I shall become a crazy fool. This
must stop! I promised the doctor I would not take tea. Faith, he was pretty right! My nerves
must have been getting into a queer state. Funny I did not notice it. I never felt better in my
life. However, it is all right now, and I shall not be such a fool again."
Then he mixed himself a good stiff glass of brandy and water and resolutely sat down to his
It was nearly an hour when he looked up from his book, disturbed by the sudden stillness.
Without, the wind howled and roared louder then ever, and the rain drove in sheets against
the windows, beating like hail on the glass, but within there was no sound whatever save
the echo of the wind as it roared in the great chimney, and now and then a hiss as a few
raindrops found their way down the chimney in a lull of the storm. The fire had fallen low
and had ceased to flame, though it threw out a red glow. Malcolmson listened attentively,
and presently heard a thin, squeaking noise, very faint. It came from the corner of the room
where the rope hung down, and he thought it was the creaking of the rope on the floor as
the swaying of the bell raised and lowered it.

Looking up, however, he saw in the dim light the great rat clinging to the rope and gnawing
it. The rope was already nearly gnawed through - he could see the lighter colour where the
strands were laid bare. As he looked the job was completed, and the severed end of the
rope fell clattering on the oaken floor, whilst for an instant the great rat remained like a
knob or tassel at the end of the rope, which now began to sway to and fro. Malcolmson felt
for a moment another pang of terror as he thought that now the possibility of calling the
outer world to his assistance was cut off, but an intense anger took its place, and seizing
the book he was reading he hurled it at the rat. The blow was well-aimed, but before the
missile could reach him the rat dropped off and struck the floor with a soft thud. Malcolmson
instantly rushed over towards him, but it darted away and disappeared in the darkness of
the shadows of the room. Malcolmson felt that his work was over for the night, and
determined then and there to vary the monotony of the proceedings by a hunt for the rat,
and took off the green shade of the lamp so as to insure a wider spreading light. As he did
so the gloom of the upper part of the room was relieved, and in the new flood of light, great
by comparison with the previous darkness, the pictures on the wall stood out boldly.

From where he stood, Malcolmson saw right opposite to him the third picture on the wall
from the right of the fireplace. He rubbed his eyes in surprise, and then a great fear began
to come upon him.

In the centre of the picture was a great irregular patch of brown canvas, as fresh as when it
was stretched on the frame. The background was as before, with chair and chimney-corner
and rope, but the figure of the Judge had disappeared.

Malcolmson, almost in a chill of horror, turned slowly round, and then he began to shake
and tremble like a man in a palsy. His strength seemed to have left him, and he was
incapable of action or movement, hardly even of thought. He could only see and hear.

There, on the great high-backed carved oak chair sat the judge in his robes of scarlet and
ermine, with his baleful eyes glaring vindictively, and a smile of triumph on the resolute
cruel mouth, as he lifted with his hands a black cap. Malcolmson felt as if the blood was
running from his heart, as one does in moments of prolonged suspense. There was a
singing in his ears. Without, he could hear the roar and howl of the tempest, and through it,
swept on the storm, came the striking of midnight by the great chimes in the market-place.
He stood for a space of time that seemed to him endless still as a statue, and with
wide-open, horror-struck eyes, breathless. As the clock struck, so the smile of triumph on
the Judge's face intensified, and at the last stroke of midnight he placed the black cap on
his head.

Slowly and deliberately the Judge rose from his chair and picked up the piece of rope of the
alarm bell which lay on the floor, drew it through his hands as if he enjoyed its touch and
then deliberately began to knot one end of it, fashioning it into a noose. This he tightened
and tested with his foot, pulling hard at it till he was satisfied and then making a running
noose of it, which he held in his hand. Then he began to move along the table on the
opposite side of Malcolmson keeping his eyes on him until he had passed him, when with a
quick movement he stood in front of the door.

Malcolmson then began to feel that he was trapped, and tried to think of what he should do.
There was some fascination in the Judge's eyes, which he never took off him, and he had,
perforce, to look. He saw the Judge approach - still keeping between him and the door -
and raise the noose and throw it towards him as if to entangle him. With a great effort he
made a quick movement to one side, and saw the rope fall beside him, and heard it strike
the oaken floor. Again the Judge raised the noose and tried to ensnare him, ever keeping
his baleful eyes fixed on him, and each time by a mighty effort the student just managed to
evade it. So this went on for many times, the Judge seeming never discouraged nor
discomposed at failure, but playing as a cat does with a mouse. At last in despair, which
had reached its climax, Malcolmson cast a quick glance round him. The lamp seemed to
have blazed up, and there was a fairly good light in the room. At the many rat-holes and in
the chinks and crannies of the wainscot he saw the rats' eyes, and this aspect, that was
purely physical, gave him a gleam of comfort. He looked round and saw that the rope of the
great alarm bell was laden with rats. Every inch of it was covered with them, and more and
more were pouring through the small circular hole in the ceiling whence it emerged, so that
with their weight the bell was beginning to sway.

Hark! it had swayed till the clapper had touched the bell. The sound was but a tiny one, but
the bell was only beginning to sway, and it would increase.

At the sound the Judge, who had been keeping his eyes fixed on Malcolmson, looked up,
and a scowl of diabolical anger overspread his face. His eyes fairly glowed like hot coals,
and he stamped his foot with a sound that seemed to make the house shake. A dreadful
peal of thunder broke overhead as he raised the rope again, whilst the rats kept running up
and down the rope as though working against time. This time, instead of throwing it, he
drew close to his victim, and held open the noose as he approached. As he came closer
there seemed something paralyzing in his very presence, and Malcolmson stood rigid as a
corpse. He felt the Judge's icy fingers touch his throat as he adjusted the rope. The noose
tightened - tightened. Then the Judge, taking the rigid form of the student in his arms,
carried him over and placed him standing in the oak chair, and stepping up beside him, put
his hand up and caught the end of the swaying rope of the alarm-bell. As he raised his
hand the rats fled squeaking and disappeared through the hole in the ceiling. Taking the
end of the noose which was round Malcolmson's neck he tied it to the hanging bell-rope,
and then descending pulled away the chair.

When the alarm-bell of the Judge's House began to sound a crowd soon assembled. Lights
and torches of various kinds appeared, and soon a silent crowd was hurrying to the spot.
They knocked loudly at the door, but there was no reply. Then they burst in the door, and
poured into the great dining-room, the doctor at the head.
There at the end of the rope of the great alarm-bell hung the body of the student, and on
the face of the Judge in the picture was a malignant smile.
Robert Burns

James Child
Traditional Ballad

Kate Finley

Thomas Hardy
Withered Arm

Robert Stephen Hawker
The Botathen Ghost

Washington Irving
The Legend of Sleepy Hallow