Seven years ago all the lights in Roseburn Hall had gone out for the first time in a century. There had always been at least one candle—in the window of the porter’s lodge—burning through the night to beckon guests and warn away strangers. Seven years ago all of the windows went dark. There had always been a throng of serving women in clean white aprons to polish the expensive tables and keep flowers in vases. Seven years ago the fine furniture was left to molder in dusty corners.
The few servants that were left had scurried through the last steps of departure, wringing hands, saying choked farewells, and laying flowers at a fresh tomb—like a temple to the past. Doors were shut and bolted tight, wagons clattered away, and an air of disuse settled down on the great house almost immediately.
The lady of the hall was dead, her only child had been sent to live with family, and so the ancient home of her family was destined to fall into ruin unless someone should come and take up residence there. Not likely, for all its wealth and grandeur. It was remote, reserved, and there was only one person in the world now with a right to it.
And so it stood for years, its weary stone rebuffing the wind, slate tiles defying the rain, shutters fighting off the mildew. The gardens catapulted into activity, reclaiming all the clean-cut paths and statuesque shrubbery with nature’s own wild landscape. To the eyes of the world the Hall was still and solitary, wholly abandoned.