‘Whatever it is, it is up there,’ I said. ‘The question is, who is going up?’
George put his candle on the floor and stepped onto the ladder. It cracked beneath his weight. He stopped.
‘Come down,’ I said, ‘it will not hold you. I shall have to go.’
I had never been so frightened. I slowly climbed the ladder and pushed open the trap door. No sooner than I had opened the trap door than something fell – literally fell – on me from the darkness above. It kicked and spat and tore at me as I stood clinging onto the ladder. It lasted only a moment, but in that moment I lived a lifetime of terror. The ladder cracked and swayed below me and I fell with the thing gripping my throat like a vice. In the next instant, George had stunned it with a blow from the poker and dragged it off me. It lay upon its back on the floor – a ragged, hideous shape. And the mystery was solved.’
‘But you haven’t really told us what it was,’ said one of the listeners.
The doctor smiled.
‘It was the owner of the house,’ he replied. ‘He had not gone abroad. He had gone to a private lunatic asylum. A fortnight after this, he had escaped. After making his way to his former home, he had hid himself in the loft. It is only surprising that he did not kill someone before he was caught.’