1 The Picture

By Hector Powell,2014-05-19 08:37
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1 The Picture

     For several years Mr Williams worked for the museum at the University of Oxfordenlarging its already famous collection of drawings and pictures of English country houses and churches~It

    is hard to imagine anything less alarming than collecting pictures of houses and churchesbut Mr

    Williams found that even this peaceful work had its unexpected dark corners~

     He bought many pictures for the museum from the London shop of Mr J~W~Britnell~Twice

    a year Mr Britnell sent a list of pictures to all his regular customerswho could then choose which pictures they wanted to look at before deciding whether to buy~

     In February 1895 Mr Williams received a list from Mr Britnell with the following letter?

     Dear Sir

     I think you might be interested in Picture Number 978 in our listwhich I will be happy to send to you if you wish~


     Mr Williams turned to Number 978 in the list and found the following note?

     Number 978~Artist unknown~Picture of an English country houseearly nineteenth century~25 centimetres by 40 centimetres~?20~

     It did not sound very interesting and the price seemed high~ HoweverMr Williams added it to the pictures that he asked Mr Britnell to send to him~

     The pictures arrived at the museum one Saturday afternoon just after Mr Williams had left~They were brought round to his rooms in college so that he could look at them over the

    weekend~Mr Williams found them on his table when he and his friendMr Binkscame in to have tea~

     Picture Number978 showed the front of quite a large country house~It had three rows of windows with the door in the middle of the bottom row~There were trees on both sides of the house and a large lawn in front of it~The letters A~W~F~ were written in the corner of the picture~Mr Williams thought that it was not very well doneprobably the work of an amateur artistand he could not understand why Mr Britnell thought it was worth twenty pounds~He

    turned it over and saw that there was a piece of paper on the back with part of a name on it~All he

    could read were the ends of two lines of Writing The first said'ngly Hall'?the second'ssex'~

     Mr Williams thought that it would be interesting to see if he could find the name of the house

    in one of his guidebooks be fore sending the picture back on Monday morning~ Meanwhile

    he put the picture on the tablelit the lamp because it was now getting darkand made the tea~

     While they were having teahis friend picked up the picturelooked at it and saidWhere's

this house Williams?'

     'That's just what I was going to find out'said Williams taking a book from the shelf~'If you

    look at the backyou'll see it's Something Hall in either Essex or Sussex~Half the name's missing

    you see~I don't suppose you recognize the housedo you?'

     'NoI don't'said Mr Binks~'It's from Britnell'I supposeisn't it?Is it for the museum?


     'WellI would buy it if the price was two pounds'replied Mr Williams'but for some reason

    he wants twenty pounds for it~I can't think why~It's not a very good picture and there aren't even any figures in it to make it more interesting~'

     'I agree it's not worth twenty pounds'said Binks'but I don't think it's too bad~The light

    seems rather good to me and I think there is a figure herejust at the edgein the front~'

     'Let me see'said Williams~'Wellit's true the light is quite well done~Where's the figure?

    OhyesJust the head in the very front of the picture~'

     And indeed there was——right on the edge of the picture just the head of a man or a womanwho was looking towards the house~Williams had not noticed it before~

     'Still'he said'though it's better than I thought at first I can't spend twenty pounds of the museum's money on a picture of a house I don't even know~'

     Mr Binkswho had some work to finishsoon left and Mr Williams spent the time before dinner trying to find the name of the house in his guidebooks~

     'If I knew the letter before the“—ngly”:'he said to himself'it would be easy enough~But

    there are many more names ending in“—nglythan I thought~'

     Dinner in Mr Williams'college was at seven o'clock and afterwards a few of his friends came

    back to his rooms to play cards~During a pause in the game Mr Williams picked up the picture from the table without looking at it and passed it to a man named Garwoodwho was interested in

    pictures~Garwood looked at it and said?

     'This is really a very fine pictureyou knowWilliams~ The light is very well donein my

    opinionand though the figure is rather unpleasantit is quite interesting~'

     'Yesisn't it?'said Williamswho was too busy giving drinks to his guests to look at the picture again~

     When his visitors had goneWilliams had to finish writing a letterso it was after midnight

    before he was ready to go to bed~The picture lay face upwards on the table where Garwood had

    left it andas Williams was putting out the lamphe saw it~For a moment he was too surprised to movethen he slowly picked up the picture and stared at it in horror~In the middle of the lawn

    in front of the unknown housethere was a figure where there had been no figure earlier~It was

    crawling on hands and knees towards the houseand it was covered in a strange black garment with a white cross on the back~

     After a second or two Mr Williams took the picture by one corner and carried it to an empty

    room~Therehe locked it face downwardsin a cupboardthen closed and locked the door of the empty room~He went back to his own room and locked the door behind him~Before going to

    bedhe sat down and wrote a note describing in detail the extraordinary change in the picture since

    he had received it~

     He was glad to remember that Mr Garwoodwho had looked at the picture earlier in the eveninghad also seen a 'rather unpleasant'figure~He decided that in the morning he must ask someone to look carefully at the picture with him and he must try very hard to discover the name of the house~ He would ask his neighbourMr Nisbetto have breakfast with him~Then he would

    spend the morning looking for the house in his guidebooks~

     Mr Nisbet arrived at nine o'clock and the two men sat down to breakfast~When they had

    finishedMr Williamsfeeling both nervous and excitedhurried to the empty room~He unlocked

    the cupboardtook out the picturestill face down- wardsandwithout looking at itwent back

    to his own room and put it into Nisbet's hands~

     'NowNisbet'he said'I want you to tell me what you see in that picture~Describe itplease

    in detail~I'll tell you why afterwards~'

     'Well'said Nisbet'I have here a picture of an English country house by moonlight~'

     'Moonligh?Are you sure?'

     'Ohyes~The moon is shown quite clearly and there are clouds in the sky~'

     'All right~Go on~But I'm sure'added Williams quietly 'that there was no moon when I first saw it~'

     'Wellthere's not much more I can say'Nisbet continued~ 'The house has three rows of windowsfive in each rowexcept at the bottomwhere there's a door instead of the middle one and'

     'But what about figures?'said Williams with great interest~

     'Figures?'replied Nisbet~'There aren't any~'

     'What?No figure on the grass in front?'

     'No~Not a thing~'

     'Are you sure?'

     'Of course I am~But there's one other thing~'

     'What's that?'

     'One of me windows on the ground flooron the left of the dooris open~'

     'Is it really?Oh dearI suppose he's got into the house' said Williamswith great


     He hurried across to where Nisbet was sitting andtaking the picture from himsaw for

    himself~It was quite true~ There was no figure on the lawnand there was the open win- dow~

     For a moment williams was too surprised to speakthen he sat down at his desk and wrote for a few minutes~When he had finishedhe brought two papers across to Nisbet~He asked him to

    sign the first onewhich was Nisbet's own de scription of the picturethen to read the other onewhich was the note Williams had written the night before~

     'What can it all mean?'asked Nisbet~

     'That's what I must find out'said Williams~'Nowthere are three things I must do~First

    I must ask Garwood exactly what he saw when he looked at the picture last nightthen I must have the picture photographed before it goes any further andthirdlyI must find out where this house is~'

     'I can take the photograph for you myself'said Nisbet~ 'Butyou knowI think we are

    seeing something terrible happening here~The question ishas it already happened or is it going to happen?You really must find out where this house is~'He looked at the picture again and shook his head~'I think you are rightyou know~He has got in~I'm sure there will be some trouble in that house~'

     'I'll tell you what I'll do'said Williams~'I'll show the picture to old Doctor Green~He grew

    up in Essex and he often goes to Sussex to see his brother who lives there~He's been going there for years~He must know both places quite well~'

     'That's a very good idea'agreed Nisbet~'But I think I heard Green say that he was going away this weekend~'

     'You're rightsaid Williams~'I remember nowhe's gone to Brighton for the weekend~I'll

    leave a note asking him to see me as soon as he returns~Meanwhileyou take the picture and

photograph it and I'll see Garwood and ask him what he saw when he looked at it last night~'He

    paused~'You know'he added'I don't think twenty pounds is too much to ask for this picture

    after all~'

     In a short time Williams returned to his roombringing Mr Garwood with him~Mr Garwood

    said that when he had looked at the picture the figure was just starting to crawl across the lawn~He

    remembered that it was wearing a black garment with something white on the backhe was not

    sure if it was a cross~While he was writing this downMr Nisbet returned and said that he had photographed the picture~

     'What are you going to do nowWilliams?'asked Mr Gar wood~'Are you going to sit and watch the picture all day?'

     'NoI don't think we need to do that'replied Williams~

     'You seethere has been plenty of time since I looked at it last night for the creature in the

    picture to finish what he wants to dobut he has only gone into the house~The window is open and he must still be in there~I think he wants us to see what happens next~AnywayI don't think the

    picture will change much during the day~I suggest that we all go for a walk after lunch and come back here for tea~I'll leave the picture on my table and lock the door~My servant has a key and can get in if he wants tobut nobody else can~'

     The others agreed that this was a good plan~They also wanted to avoid talking to anyone about this extraordinary pictureknowing what excitement and argument it would cause~

     At about five o'clock they came back to Mr Williams' rooms for tea~When they entered the roomthey were surprised to find Mr Filcherthe servantsitting in Mr Williams' armchair and staring in horror at the picture on the table~Mr Filcher had worked in the college for many years and had never before behaved in so unusual a way~He seemed to feel this himselfand tried to

    jump to his feet when the three men came in~

     'I'm sorrysir'he said~'I didn't mean to sit down~'

     'That's all rightRobert'said Mr Williams~'I was going to ask you some time what you thought of that picture~'

     'Wellsir'replied the servant'of courseI don't really understand picturesbut I wouldn't

    like my little girl to see it~I'm sure it would give her bad dreams~It doesn't seem the right kind of picture to leave lying around~It could frighten anybodyseeing that awful thing carrying off the poor baby~ That's what I thinksir~Will you need me any more today sir?Thank yousir~'

     Filcher left the room and the three men went at once to look at the picture~There was the

    house as beforeunder the moon and the clouds~But the window that had been open was now shutand the figure was once more on the lawn?but not crawling this time~Now it was walking

    with long stepsto wards the front of the picture~The moon was behind it and the black material of its garment nearly covered its face~The three men were deeply thankful that they could see no more of the face than a highwhite forehead and a few longthin hairs~Its legs beneath the

    garment were borribly thinand its arms held something which seemed to be a childwhether dead

    or living it was not possible to say~

     The three friends watched the picture until it was time for dinner but it did not change at

    all~They hurried back to Williams'rooms as soon as dinner was finished~The picture was where

    they had left itbut the figure had goneand the house was quiet under the moon and the clouds~

     'Well'said Mr Williams'now we really must try to find where this house is~'They got out

    the guidebooks and began to work~

     It was nearly two hours later when Williams suddenly cried 'HaThis looks like it'

     He read aloud from the Cuide to Essex that he was holding?

     'Anningly~Interesting twelfthcentury church containing the tombs of the Francis family

    whose homeAnningly Hall stands just behind the church~The family is now extinct~The last

    member of the family disappeared very mysteriously in 1802 while still a child~His fatherSir

    Arthur Francisa wellknown amateur artistlived quite alone after that until he was found dead in his house three years laterafter he had just completed a picture of the Hall~'

     As Mr Williams finished readingthere was a knock on the door and Doctor Green came in~He had just returned from Brighton and had found Williams'note~He agreed at once that the picture was of Anningly Hallwhich was not far from where he had grown up~

     'Have you any explanation of the figureGreen?'asked Williams~

     'I don't knowI'm sureWilliams'Doctor Green replied~

     'When I was a boysome of the old people in Anningly still used to talk about the disappearance of the Francis child~They said that Sir Arthur had a lot of trouble with some of the local people coming onto his land to steal his fish and his birds~ He decided to catch them all and have them punishedandone by one he diduntil there was only one left~This was a man called

    Gawdy whose family had once been rich and important in that part of Essex~In factsome of them

    had their tombs in the village church too~Howeverthe family had lost all their land and their money over the years and Gawdy felt rather bitter about it all~For a long time Sir Arthur could not catch him doing anything wrong until one night his men found Gawdy with some dead birds in Sir

    Arthur's woods~There was a fight and one of the men was shot~This was just what Sir Arthur needed?the judge was all on his sideof courseand poor Gawdy was hanged a few days later~People thought that some friend of Gawdy's stole Sir Arthur's little boy in revenge to put

    an end to the Francis family as well~But I should say nowthat it looks more as if old Gawdy managed the job him self~Brrrr~I don't like to think about it~Let's have a drink shall we?


     The story of the picture was told to a few people?some believed it and some did not~Mr Britnell knew nothing about it except that the picture was unusual in some way~It is now in the

    museum andalthough it has been carefully watchedno one has ever seen it change again~























































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