Maid of the Midlands
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In Matilda's sixteenth summer, two events change her placid life at Hafton Castle. She falls in love with the handsome guard Jondalar, and she is chosen to be waiting-lady for the Queen of Scots who is brought to the castle as a "guest".
When Matilda learns that Jondalar has deceived her, as he plots against the queen, she must choose between her love and betrayal of the woman she is obliged to serve.
Matilda had lived in the castle all of her sixteen years, but her mistress had strictly forbidden her to explore the passages that led from the courtyard. This was the first time she had risked disobedience, and a sense of misgiving enveloped her as she climbed the last step and entered a circular chamber. It was necessary to scale a stone ledge to reach its high arched windows, so Matilda dug the toes of her slippers into the crevices of the rough-hewn blocks and hoisted herself up. Now she could see the dark water of Arkle Beck far below and farther on the steep roofs of the village surrounded by hills and dales that stretched toward Scotland.
She leaned her arms on the thick casing and gazed wistfully at the scene below. Lost in thought, she didn't hear approaching footsteps or sense the presence of a person behind her until he spoke.
"What 're ye doing here, lass?"
The rough voice which broke the silence of the tower startled Matilda, and she gave a small gasp of alarm as she turned to face her questioner. She recognized at once from his attire that he was one of the castle guards, and her heartbeat quickened.