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Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (M R James) online
This looked like business, and, indeed, Mr Green on his return at once identified the house as Anningley Hall.
'Is there any kind of explanation of the figure, Green?' was the question which Williams naturally asked.
'I don't know, I'm sure, Williams. What used to be said in the place when I first knew it, which was before I came up here, was just this: old Francis was always very much down on these poaching fellows, and whenever he got a chance he used to get a man whom he suspected of it turned off the estate, and by degrees he got rid of them all but one. Squires could do a lot of things then that they daren't think of now. Well, this man that was left was what you find pretty often in that country--the last remains of a very old family. I believe they were Lords of the Manor at one time. I recollect just the same thing in my own parish.'
'What, like the man in _Tess o' the Durbervilles_?' Williams put in.
'Yes, I dare say; it's not a book I could ever read myself. But this fellow could show a row of tombs in the church there that belonged to his ancestors, and all that went to sour him a bit; but Francis, they said, could never get at him--he always kept just on the right side of the law--until one night the keepers found him at it in a wood right at the end of the estate. I could show you the place now; it marches with some land that used to belong to an uncle of mine. And you can imagine there was a row; and this man Gawdy (that was the name, to be sure--Gawdy; I thought I should get it--Gawdy), he was unlucky enough, poor chap! to shoot a keeper. Well, that was what Francis wanted, and grand juries--you know what they would have been then--and poor Gawdy was strung up in double-quick time; and I've been shown the place he was buried in, on the north side of the church--you know the way in that part of the world: anyone that's been hanged or made away with themselves, they bury them that side. And the idea was that some friend of Gawdy's--not a relation, because he had none, poor devil! he was the last of his line: kind of _spes ultima gentis_--must have planned to get hold of Francis's boy and put an end to _his_ line, too. I don't know--it's rather an out-of-the-way thing for an Essex poacher to think of--but, you know, I should say now it looks more as if old Gawdy had managed the job himself. Booh! I hate to think of it! have some whisky, Williams!'
The facts were communicated by Williams to Dennistoun, and by him to a mixed company, of which I was one, and the Sadducean Professor of Ophiology another. I am sorry to say that the latter when asked what he thought of it, only remarked: 'Oh, those Bridgeford people will say anything'--a sentiment which met with the reception it deserved.
I have only to add that the picture is now in the Ashleian Museum; that it has been treated with a view to discovering whether sympathetic ink has been used in it, but without effect; that Mr Britnell knew nothing of it save that he was sure it was uncommon; and that, though carefully watched, it has never been known to change again.