The Tractate Middoth


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The Tractate Middoth

Mark Gatiss adapts the chilling ghost story by MR James. A young student is drawn into a family feud when a relative comes to find a particular book at his university.


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John?

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DOOR CLOSES

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You came quick.

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-They said it would only be a matter of hours.

-Aye.

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His elevens are up.

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-I beg your pardon?

-His elevens.

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Flesh on the back of his neck standing out like the number eleven.

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That's the mark of death - I know it well.

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He won't last the night...

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That's my opinion.

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I imagine you has expectations, eh, missus?

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Of moving in here, when the master's gone?

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Well. We have...an understanding.

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My uncle has always led me to believe that the estate

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will be divided equally between my cousin John and myself.

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Oh, aye?

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SHE LAUGHS

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Though it's in very poor taste to discuss such things.

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At a time like this.

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He won't mind. The old devil!

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Mrs Goundry!

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Oh, I know he's a parson, but he's the very devil!

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I should know. Slaving and doing for him all these years.

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Still. He's got a reckoning coming soon, in't he?

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With the Almighty.

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Or someone else.

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SHE CHUCKLES

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Mary?

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Mary, is that you?

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Yes, Uncle. It's me.

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Is there anything that you need?

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I'm dying, Mary.

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Come closer, Mary.

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There's something you must know...

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HE SNIFFS

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Long time since your last visit, sir.

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Yes, indeed.

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I have here the title of a book.

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A book I...

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want.

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The light is very bad, you see,

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and to go traipsing up and down stairs at my time of life,

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-I wonder...

-I quite understand, sir. I find it a daily trial myself.

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Oooh, you should hear my knees when I bend down.

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-Yes, yes...

-Like pistol shots.

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HE SNIFFS

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I wonder, is there anyone who could go and find the book for me?

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Eh? Um...

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Ah, just the fellow. One of our students, sir.

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Paying his way through the university.

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-Mr Garrett!

-Yes.

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Have you a minute to help this gentleman?

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-With pleasure, Sniffer.

-Eh?

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Um...Mr Hodgson.

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Gentleman here's after a book.

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Well, he's come to the right place.

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Right, "Talmud: Tractate Middoth.

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"The commentaries of Nachmanides, Amsterdam, 1707."

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And what's that when it's at home?

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It's a collection of Hebrew writings, Mr Hodgson.

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Oh. Very exotic.

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I think I can find this easily enough.

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Oh, I suppose it's that edition you want?

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That and no other.

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If it's no trouble.

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None at all.

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Much obliged, I'm sure.

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Won't be a moment.

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HE SNIFFS

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FOOTSTEPS APPROACH

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Well?

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-I'm so sorry. The book's out.

-Out? Are you sure?

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Well, I saw a gentleman take the book off the shelf.

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A gentleman? What...

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..what was he like?

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Oh, shortish. In a sort of cloak.

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Old-fashioned. Like a priest.

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If you don't mind waiting, he'll be down in a minute.

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I'm sure he'll be here in a bit and maybe he'll let you have the book.

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No, no. I won't...

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I...I can't wait now, thank you.

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No. Train, you see. I must catch...

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I'll be back. Tomorrow.

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Yes, tomorrow.

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All right. I'll have it ready if...

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MR HODGSON SNIFFS

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Shouldn't have left it so late, should he?

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HE SIGHS

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Something the matter, chum?

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Oh, no. Not really, George.

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Just that I feel such a bloody fool.

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Oh?

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A gentleman was after this book.

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I told him it was out and here it is.

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Large as life!

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My mistake.

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-Funny, though.

-Hmm?

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I've not seem him come down.

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Did you see him?

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Old man in a cloak, bald, had the look of a vicar?

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I fear I was too immersed

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in the Apocrypha of the Book of Daniel, chum.

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Well. You've found it now.

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I'm sure our customer will be back for it in his own good time.

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HE SNIFFS

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-What's that?

-Yes.

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I've noticed that too. Last couple of days.

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I assumed it was your...

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Not guilty. Ready rub.

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Doesn't smell too healthy, does it?

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Hmmm...

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Dust?

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Hmm, rum sort of dust.

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Ah! Early start today, sir?

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You have it? You have the book?

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You're going to think me a bit dim, Mr...?

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Eldred. Why? What's happened?

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What's...wrong?

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Well, it hadn't been taken out at all!

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If you don't mind waiting, I'll go and fetch it now.

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TOILET FLUSHES

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MR HODGSON SNIFFS

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HE SNIFFS

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Oh, sorry.

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Excuse me.

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Are you...

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Will you be taking out that book?

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It's just that there's a gentleman downstairs

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who's very keen to borrow...that..

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HE SCREAMS

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RATTLING

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METALLIC TAP

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This is intolerable!

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Sir?

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Is it a long way to that part of the library?

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-Hm?

-Where our friend is?

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Oh. Well, well...I was thinking myself it was a bit funny.

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That young fella's very swift as a rule.

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I'll just see if I can conjure him up.

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-I beg your pardon?

-On the telephone, sir!

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Ah, is Mr Garrett up there with you?

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You what...?

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And...

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Oh, dear... Right.

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Well, thank you.

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Well, I'm sorry to tell you, sir,

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but something seems to have happened that's a bit awkward.

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Mr Garrett's had an attack.

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You mean something...

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someone has injured him?

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Oh, no, no, nothing like that.

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No, it seems he was taken poorly,

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and sent home out the back.

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I see.

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MR HODGSON SNIFFS

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Not a strong constitution, that young lad, I'd say.

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HE SNIFFS

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Now, sir, as to your book,

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perhaps you might be able to find it yourself?

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We don't want you disappointed twice now, do we?

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No, I think I'd rather wait.

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These old legs of mine, as I say.

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I'll...I'll make other arrangements.

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'You thought you saw something?'

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I did see something.

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Go on.

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That smell of dust, the one you mentioned?

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Yes?

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It was very strong...

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Perhaps you got a lungful and it caused you to take a tumble?

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No, no. It was something I saw.

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You don't mind this?

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-Oh, no.

-Mother says it's pretentious of me, but I don't know.

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Gives one a certain distinction, don't you think?

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Like Stewart Granger or someone.

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Sorry. Go on, something you saw.

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Oh, sorry.

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Will you be taking out that book?

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It's just that there's a gentleman downstairs who's very keen

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to borrow...that...

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-'Trick of the light.

-No.'

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The dust, as I say, got on your chest and gave you a funny turn.

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No, George, I know what I say and it nearly did for me.

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So, what are you saying it was?

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A ghost?

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Never heard old Sniffer say the place was haunted.

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Nor me.

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I don't mean to seem uncharitable, chum...

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But you don't believe me.

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Well. Things like that just don't happen any more, do they?

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Which suggests you believe that once, they did?

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We used to think the sun moved around the Earth.

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And that the moon was made of green cheese.

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Maybe it is.

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If I were you, I'd take the chance to get away for a while, old son.

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Change of air always works wonders.

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What about the seaside?

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Or somewhere in the country?

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Read a few books, eh? Rather than just cataloguing them.

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I've a couple I could lend you.

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Fully illustrated.

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No, thanks.

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Think about it - fresh air,

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nice pubs, pretty girls.

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Toodle-oo.

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HE SIGHS

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DOOR CLOSES

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STEAM TRAIN PASSES

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-WOMAN'S VOICE:

-Course it's all go, go, go these days. I can recall

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the charmingly, leisurely charabanc excursion to Formby beach

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when I was a slip of a thing

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and quite a spread was laid on.

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But one was content with fish paste then, wasn't one, Mr Tallyround?

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SHE GIGGLES

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These young people and their ideas, traipsing all over the Continent.

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I don't see the point.

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I mean to say they could go to Morecombe, or Lytham,

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for prices such as that.

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Or I dare say, at a push, Llandudno,

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but that wouldn't do for us, would it, Mr Tallyrond?

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But Burnham, now, charming and lovely scenery

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and very, very reasonably priced.

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Do you have anywhere to stay?

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Yes, I'm being met.

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Oooh.

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'Burnham, Burnham!'

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Oooh, here we are. Cases, Mr Tallyrond.

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Tickets, please.

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What is it?

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Ohhh, of course, oh, silly me! Oh, where have I put the dratted thing?

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Of course, in more refined days, one concealed

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the unused portion in one's glove.

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I haven't, have I?

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Mr Tallyrond...

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Hurry, please, would you?

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Do you have my ticket remnant?

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Sorry, it's just that I'm not feeling very well.

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-I'm very sorry, I'm sure.

-It's just that I'm not quite myself.

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-Well, there's no need to be impertinent.

-I wasn't.

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Good manners cost nothing, do they, Mr Tallyrond?

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I didn't mean to offend you.

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It's just as I was saying - everyone's in a hurry, hurry, hurry.

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No refinement, no grace.

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Only the other day, I was forced to open a hotel door

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on my own volition...

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TRAIN WHISTLE BLOWS

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I can't thank you enough.

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You've been so kind to me.

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What did the doctor say, Mr Garrett?

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Oh, just overwork, that's all.

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Nervous strain, my...my memory's a bit foggy too.

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Lots of rest, that's what I need.

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Well, we're quite empty at this time of the season.

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So it's very nice for us to have some company.

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It's a lovely room, Mrs Simpson.

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I feel I'm in very good hands.

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What do you do for a living?

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-I work in a library.

-Oh.

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Cataloguing, research... That sort of thing.

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Helps pay my way through university.

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We're not so keen on books, are we, Mum?

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Oh, no, no, no. They're fine places, libraries.

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Fine.

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-But?

-Well...

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Perhaps he could solve our puzzle. You see, there's a book...

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We don't want to bother Mr Garrett with our silly problems, Anne.

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No, no, I'd love to help, if I can. Really, I would.

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And if it's to do with a book, well...

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I'm in a pretty good position, aren't I?

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Yes, I suppose so.

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But we don't even know the name of the wretched thing.

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Well. What's it about?

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We don't know that, either.

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Except that we don't think it's in English, do we, Mum?

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Don't suppose that's much of a clue.

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I'll tell you the story.

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That's the best way.

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You seem a kind soul.

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I'm all ears!

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This is going back some 20 years or more, mind.

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Back in the '30s.

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I had an old uncle.

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A Dr Rant.

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RATTLING

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'He wasn't a distinguished man.

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'And not a nice one, either.

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'He was a priest.'

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Though I'm sure I don't know how he got to be one.

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He never did any duty, as far as I could tell,

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in the late part of his life.

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And he wasn't what you'd call Christian in his ways.

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He hadn't any wife or family,

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only one niece, that's me,

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and one nephew, my cousin John.

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Though he didn't really like either of us.

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Uncommonly warm, Uncle, for this time of year.

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You can feel the chill setting in, though, John. Autumn's coming.

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A pair of prize beauties, aren't you, eh?

0:19:010:19:04

Eh?

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Sitting there like crows waiting to peck my eyes out!

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Really!

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And stick your fat fingers into my pockets.

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We shall see.

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HE GIGGLES

0:19:150:19:16

We shall see.

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HE CACKLES

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'And there he was, all alone in the world and rich...'

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as Croesus.

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Well, now.

0:19:290:19:31

One autumn, Dr Rant became ill.

0:19:310:19:33

And they sent for me to nurse him.

0:19:330:19:35

'Come closer, Mary.

0:19:380:19:41

'There's something you must know...'

0:19:410:19:43

I've made my will in John's favour.

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Well, it's your money, Uncle Thomas.

0:19:500:19:54

You can do what you like with it.

0:19:540:19:55

No, but listen, Mary... I'm not very fond of John

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and I've made another will in your favour.

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What do you think to that?

0:20:040:20:07

Oh.

0:20:070:20:08

You can have everything, Mary.

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Everything.

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If you can find the will, that is.

0:20:130:20:17

Only...I don't mean to tell you where it is.

0:20:200:20:24

HE GIGGLES

0:20:240:20:26

I wrote the will in a book, Mary.

0:20:290:20:32

A printed book!

0:20:320:20:34

It's not in the house, it's in safekeeping, elsewhere.

0:20:340:20:41

Now...

0:20:420:20:44

I want to start you both off on the same terms.

0:20:450:20:49

John has a bit of purchase, as he can go where the book is.

0:20:510:20:55

But I'll tell you two things he doesn't know.

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First, the will's in English...

0:21:000:21:04

..though you won't know that if you ever see it.

0:21:050:21:07

And the other thing...

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This...

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..Will help you find it...

0:21:150:21:17

..if you have the wits to use it, that is.

0:21:210:21:24

Not to be trusted, missus. That's what I say.

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Whatever he said.

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Whatever he promised you.

0:21:480:21:50

Twisted, he was. Twisted.

0:21:500:21:54

Where others had a soul, he had a corkscrew!

0:21:540:21:58

Don't trust him.

0:22:000:22:01

In life...

0:22:010:22:03

or death.

0:22:030:22:05

Of course, I tried to speak with John Eldred,

0:22:270:22:31

tried to appeal to him,

0:22:310:22:33

-but he didn't want anything...

-What is it?

0:22:330:22:35

It's...the..erm...the name rings a bell, erm...

0:22:350:22:38

Anyway...

0:22:380:22:41

HE CLEARS HIS THROAT

0:22:410:22:42

You were saying, Mrs Simpson, you wrote to him?

0:22:420:22:44

Yes. But he didn't pay any attention at all.

0:22:440:22:48

Since then, he has enjoyed his inheritance

0:22:500:22:53

while Anne and I have had to take in ruddy lodgers.

0:22:530:22:57

Although I must say,

0:22:570:22:58

that hasn't been nearly as unpleasant as I'd thought.

0:22:580:23:01

Do you think your cousin's got any more of a clue

0:23:040:23:06

about the name of the book?

0:23:060:23:07

I often thought he must do.

0:23:070:23:09

People tell me he's always being seen

0:23:110:23:13

around booksellers and libraries.

0:23:130:23:16

I suppose he must have discovered which books are missing

0:23:170:23:20

from my uncle's library, but were entered in his catalogue.

0:23:200:23:23

And he's hunting them down.

0:23:240:23:26

Hmm?

0:23:280:23:29

MAN ON TRAIN SNORES

0:23:370:23:39

(Oh, come on, think.)

0:23:550:23:57

Which is it?

0:24:010:24:02

Which is it?

0:24:040:24:05

TRAIN WHISTLE BLOWS

0:24:170:24:19

TRAIN WHISTLE BLOWS

0:24:440:24:46

HE SCREAMS

0:25:030:25:04

HE GASPS

0:25:070:25:10

HE SNIFFS

0:25:550:25:57

The Talmud.

0:26:100:26:12

Of course. That was it.

0:26:120:26:14

The Talmud!

0:26:150:26:17

The Tractate Middoth!

0:26:170:26:19

Countryside not to your liking, son?

0:26:190:26:22

No, no, no, it's not that.

0:26:220:26:23

Ah, I'm not surprised.

0:26:230:26:25

I'm a martyr to pollen myself.

0:26:250:26:27

Listen. 11.3.34. Is it out? Has it gone out?

0:26:270:26:31

11.3.34?

0:26:310:26:33

Do you remember that number?

0:26:330:26:34

I see a lot of numbers, Mr Garrett!

0:26:340:26:36

-Yes, I know...

-An awful lot.

0:26:360:26:38

All right, then, has a Mr Eldred called again?

0:26:380:26:42

-Uh?

-The gentleman who called the day I was...taken ill.

0:26:420:26:47

-Eldred...

-Yes! Come on. You must remember him.

0:26:470:26:50

Er...no, no, he's not been in again.

0:26:500:26:53

Not since you went off on your hols.

0:26:530:26:55

Right.

0:26:550:26:56

But no need to. He wrote, you see. Requesting his book.

0:26:560:26:59

He wrote?

0:26:590:27:00

Sent a money order to cover it.

0:27:000:27:02

A bob over the price of a parcel, as a matter of fact.

0:27:030:27:06

He's sent for the book?

0:27:060:27:08

Yes. It'll be going down by train this morning.

0:27:080:27:11

No time. There's very little time.

0:27:110:27:14

Eh?

0:27:140:27:16

Mr Hodgson, could you show me the ticket and his address, please?

0:27:160:27:20

Happy to.

0:27:200:27:21

MR HODGSON SNIFFS

0:27:210:27:23

-Ah, yes, there's the ticket on the file. J Eldred.

-Uh-huh.

0:27:270:27:32

BOTH: 11.3.34.

0:27:320:27:35

Title of work... T-A-L...

0:27:350:27:38

Talmud, yes! Tractate Middoth!

0:27:380:27:41

Not a novel, I should hazard a guess.

0:27:410:27:45

No. He refers to it as a "Trac..."

0:27:450:27:48

Yes, the address, Mr Hodgson. Hurry, please!

0:27:480:27:51

Ah. Now.

0:27:510:27:53

If I made a mistake in this whole transaction,

0:27:540:27:57

it's that I failed to take down the gentleman's address

0:27:570:28:01

in my little book.

0:28:010:28:02

And no, no, I don't keep all the addresses in my head,

0:28:020:28:06

otherwise what would be the point of my little book?

0:28:060:28:08

Damn.

0:28:080:28:10

When did the parcel go off from here?

0:28:100:28:12

MR HODGSON SNIFFS

0:28:120:28:14

Half past ten.

0:28:140:28:16

It's just one now.

0:28:160:28:17

-Oh!

-What?

0:28:170:28:19

The donations list! The Talmud was given to the library, wasn't it?

0:28:190:28:23

There might still be a record!

0:28:230:28:25

Right...

0:28:270:28:28

Ah, there it is, Bretfield.

0:28:280:28:32

You want me to come with?

0:28:320:28:34

No. No, no... Don't want to spoil your evening.

0:28:340:28:37

Cynthia, is it?

0:28:370:28:40

Cynthia, yes.

0:28:400:28:42

Good luck.

0:28:420:28:43

And you, chum.

0:28:430:28:45

GARRETT SHOUTS: Help!

0:31:550:31:56

Help!

0:31:560:31:57

Help! Hurry, please!

0:31:580:32:00

Did you see what happened?

0:32:060:32:08

I saw it. Mr Eldred was reading his book.

0:32:080:32:10

Then his face come over all...black.

0:32:100:32:13

He must have had a fit or something.

0:32:130:32:15

Yes.

0:32:150:32:16

Yes, that must have been it.

0:32:160:32:19

Yes.

0:32:210:32:23

That must have been it.

0:32:260:32:28

Hmmm. This isn't like any Hebrew I've ever learned.

0:32:310:32:36

Are you sure it is Hebrew?

0:32:360:32:38

What? Yes.

0:32:380:32:40

Yes, I suppose...

0:32:410:32:43

No.

0:32:450:32:46

Hang on...

0:32:470:32:48

Hang on.

0:32:510:32:52

Where is it?

0:32:530:32:55

Ah! Here it is.

0:32:550:32:57

Look, clever old bugger.

0:33:020:33:06

There's some names here, and a date.

0:33:110:33:14

20th of July, 1933.

0:33:150:33:18

Dr Rant and the witnesses!

0:33:180:33:20

You are perfectly right, chum -

0:33:200:33:22

this isn't Hebrew at all, it's English.

0:33:220:33:25

And it's a will!

0:33:250:33:27

Shhh!

0:33:270:33:28

HE SNIFFS

0:33:290:33:30

"Mr Justice Passmore concluded,

0:33:330:33:35

"I declare that this is indeed a will of Dr Thomas Rant,

0:33:350:33:38

"bequeathing the whole of the property lately held

0:33:380:33:41

"by Mr John Eldred to Mrs Mary Simpson of Burnstow.

0:33:410:33:45

"Clearly, the discovery of this document would more than

0:33:450:33:49

"justify Mr Eldred's agitation and, I have no doubt, hastened his end.

0:33:490:33:54

"As to the partial tearing of the book, well...

0:33:550:33:59

"Let us be charitable."

0:33:590:34:01

So, that's that.

0:34:060:34:08

Right, I must be getting back.

0:34:090:34:12

But you will come again soon?

0:34:120:34:13

Certainly. If I may?

0:34:130:34:15

Whenever you want.

0:34:150:34:17

I'll walk you to the station.

0:34:180:34:20

-MRS GOUNDRY'S VOICE:

-'Twisted, he was. Twisted.'

0:34:310:34:34

Where others had a soul,

0:34:340:34:37

he had a corkscrew!

0:34:370:34:39

'Don't trust him.

0:34:400:34:42

'In life...

0:34:420:34:44

'or death.'

0:34:440:34:45

CLOCK TICKS

0:35:130:35:16

The chilling story of Dr Rant, whose wicked streak continues from beyond the grave. Based on the festive ghost story by MR James.

When a relative comes to find a particular book at the university library, young student Garrett is drawn into a family feud over a will and its legacy - with terrifying consequences.