Unsure of her mother's meaning, Evelyn sat in silence as Keverne Park's pristine lawns dissolved into wild, open moorland. Smooth gray rock, waving grasses, and clumps of vibrant purple heather held a beauty and charm of their own, and Evelyn was quite content with the ride until several chimneys of blackened stone appeared at the moor's edge, rising above the heathland and reaching into the cloudless sky.
Excitement at the impressive structure surged through her. It appeared almost magical, like the ancient homes in the stories her father used to tell her before he died. "Is that where we're going to live?"
"No, that's Wyndcliff Hall, where Mr. Treton lives. We're to live in a cottage. La, I never thought I would see the day." She shuddered, then nodded to her left. "There's your grandfather over by the gate."
The carriage slowed as it approached her grandfather and finally drew to a stop. Evelyn jumped down and sprinted toward the gray-haired man, who swept her up in his arms. His scent of tobacco encircled her, and the embrace felt familiar in a surrounding that was foreign and different. "There now, my little lamb." He gave her a little bounce in his arms. "Are you ready to see your new home?"
She nodded and wrapped her arms around his neck.
"Good. Now, close your eyes and don't open them until I say."
He lowered her to the ground, and she pressed her damp palms over her eyes, blocking out the light and any view of what might lay ahead.
He placed his hand on her shoulder to guide her, and they walked several paces before he stopped. "There now. Open them."
Excited and ready, she dropped her hands, but the sight that met her quickly squelched her building enthusiasm. Her shoulders slumped at the sight of trees before her. Nothing was there. Then she peered closer. Beyond the tree line was a house so covered in vines and ivy that it blended into its surroundings, making it seem more like a forest.
Her zeal faded, and concern rushed in to take its place.
The windows looked black. The house seemed vacant, small and frightening in its darkness. Her stomach all fluttery, she scanned the grounds for sign of a garden—rhododendron, magnolia, even the sight of a simple primrose would set her heart and mind at ease.
She found none.
Every muscle in her body tensed. Suddenly her mother's frustration made sense. This simple cottage, although large compared to the houses in the village, paled horrifically in comparison to Keverne Park, with its magnificent columns and large windows.
"What do you think of it, lamb?"
She looked to her grandfather, shocked to find that he seemed almost happy. "I-I don't know."
"This is home now, and home is always a welcome sight. You must remember that. Now come. You'll sleep on the highest story, nearly touching the sky itself, and from your window you can see down to the sea."
The thought of waking up to the sight of the sea intrigued her, and yet she wanted to run back to Keverne Park, back to what was recognizable and comfortable.
But it did not belong to her anymore.
As Grandfather continued on toward the cottage, her mother approached and knelt at her side.
"I don't like it," Evelyn whispered as her mother's arm wrapped around her waist. "I don't want to go inside."
"I don't either." Mother's sigh was long and heavy. "I don't like it one bit. But as much as it pains me to say it, it doesn't matter where we live. Not really. Being together is what is important now. Besides, you must remember that you are a Bray, a descendant of one of the most magnificent families in all of Cornwall. This situation in this cottage is temporary, regardless of what your grandfather says. We are dependent upon him for the present, and we must be grateful. But I'll not rest until you and I are both restored to our rightful places in society. Do you trust me on that?"
Evelyn swallowed and nodded. She could not bring herself to say the words, but in her heart she knew life would never be the same.