chapter  6
Stolen Flames
Pages 20

Rudkin'stelevisionversionofM.R.James'sghoststoryTheAshTree(writtenand transmittedbyBBCTV1975)strikescharacteristicnotesinitssenseofaspiritof placeworkingitswaythroughhumanagency.In1690'sCornwall,SirRichard FellarrivesfromItalytotakepossessionofacountrymanorinheritedfromhis uncle,Matthew.Richard'splanforanewfamilypewatthelocalchurch,'For myself,thefutureLadyFell,andforthatprogenywithwhichweprayGodshall bepleasedtoblessus',involvesthedisturbanceofanunhallowedgravebelongingtooneAnneMothersole.Inflashback,MatthewFellisseenrefusingapetition forclemencyonbehalfofthiswoman,whohasbeenaccusedofbeingawitch. WhenRichardglimpsesafiguresnippingthetwigsofhisashtree,heassumesit tobeAnneMothersole,andrevertstotheformersquire'sperceptionsanddefensivelypersecutingattitudetothewoman.AfriendinformsRichardoftheIrish beliefthatanashtreesoclosetoahousedrainsoutitsgoodness.AfurtherflashbackshowsAnneMothersole,onthepointofbeinghanged,cursingMatthew's wife'spregnantbelly.Ondisturbingthegrave,Richardfindsthecoffinempty; andhearsofMatthew'smysteriousandtroubleddeath,havinghappenedupon threebiblicaltexts:'Itshallbeneverinhabited';'Cutitdown';'Heryoungones also,suckupblood'.Richarddeterminestotakeanaxeandsawtothetree;but beforehecan,heandhisroomareengulfedby'blackchild's-head-sizedthings', giantspiders;houseandtreeblaze,andRichard'sidealizedfianceeAugustareturnstoblightedwaste.