Today’s winter tale is of the more traditional variety: a Christmas ghost story by Charlotte Riddell.
Struggling artist John Lester and his sister unexpectedly inherit a country estate, but the situation isn’t all roses. The previous owner, Paul Lester, refused to live at Martingdale. Though he never said why, the locals believe that Martingdale is haunted by Mr Paul’s predecessor, Jeremy Lester, who vanished without a trace on Christmas Eve, forty-one years before.
People said Mr Jeremy ‘walked’ at Martingdale. He had been seen, it was averred, by poachers, by gamekeepers, by children who had come to use the park as a near cut to school, by lovers who kept their tryst under the elms and beeches.
As for the caretaker and his wife, the third in residence since Jeremy Lester’s disappearance, the man gravely shook his head when questioned, while the woman stated that wild horses, or even wealth untold, should not draw her into the red bedroom, nor into the oak parlour, after dark.
John and his sister are skeptical, at first — and in any case they can’t afford to live anywhere else. So they have no choice but to hunt down the ghost. Things come to a head on Christmas Eve.
A list (with links) of the winter tales I’ve shared in previous years is on my Winter Tales page.
Mrs. Riddell did love a good haunted house story. If you enjoy “A Strange Christmas Game,” then you might want to hunt down some of her other such tales, including:
- “The Open Door”
- “The Old House in Vauxhall Walk”
- “Walnut-Tree House”
- “The Uninhabited House.”
“Nut Bush Farm” is not a haunted house story — it’s a haunted path story — but it’s also excellent.
Image: Cribbage board photo by Geoffrey Franklin. Source: Flickr