Charlotte "J. H." Riddell wrote the ghost story "The Walnut-Tree House" in 1882. Like many women, she chose to write under initials so she could get past the initial rejection from publishers who assumed women couldn't write as well as men.

The inheritor of the Walnut-Tree House, Mr. Stainton, was already a wealthy man when he received word that the estate and the house was now his. As he made arrangements to stay in the house, everyone around him, working class members of society, were wary of going near the place. Stainton disparages them, even noting that "there are plenty of cowards" where he came from. In the end he sends off the workers who dropped off a sack of coal with sixpence to buy a beer. 

The ghost eventually appears, looking for something important. Stainton immediately realizes this, and then hears about a missing will. The house might have gone to the child if the will were discovered, but he assumes that's what the child is after. It is not, and as the story progresses, he discovers the young boy is actually looking for his lost sister. Stainton is determined to learn exactly what had transpired since he "was quite satisfied that there was some great wrong done in the house". It is his intention to correct this misfortune, something that might not have occurred to a man who was not already wealthy. Indeed, Stainton shows great empathy for the former workers of his estate, especially Mrs. Toplis, who was stuck in a workhouse.

As the story continues, the will is discovered by Stainton, who dutifully sees it executed properly. The beneficiaries include the ghost child's sister and Mrs. Toplis. Through this honesty and good fortune, the ghost is laid to rest and Stainton is rewarded with the hand of Mary in marriage. While this is certainly a patriarch-type ending of "winning" the woman, it seemed to fit better in this tale for the time period.

Iron Noder 2017

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