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Meg Mackintosh and the Mystery at the Medieval Castle
A Solve-It-Yourself Mystery
By Lucinda Landon
Secret Passage PressCopyright © 1989 Lucinda Landon
All rights reserved.
Meg Mackintosh peered through her binoculars at the medieval castle. "Look!" she exclaimed. "They're lowering the drawbridge so we can cross the moat!"
"Dundare Castle is the perfect place to relive the Middle Ages," Mrs. Spencer told the history club. "Now don't forget your notebooks!"
As Mrs. Spencer, Nick, Simon, and Liddy started for the drawbridge, Meg quickly checked inside her knapsack. Along with her notebook, she had packed her camera, flashlight, and detective kit — just in case. She swung her knapsack over her shoulder and ran to join the others.
"Welcome to Dundare Castle!" A friendly woman greeted them. "I'm Eleanor, Duchess of Dundare, but everyone calls me the duchess. When I was about your age, my family built this castle to look just like our medieval home in Scotland. I've opened it as a museum, and today you're lucky enough to get a private tour."
"Look at her hat!" Liddy whispered to Meg, after Mrs. Spencer had introduced everybody.
"My hat is called a wimple," the duchess explained, overhearing Liddy. "It was worn by ladies in the Middle Ages. My entire staff — Knight Henry, Squire Alfred, Lady Rose, Cook Bernard, and Monk William — all wear authentic medieval costumes. And all of them have experience in the theater, so they know how to speak and act just like people living in the thirteen hundreds.
"Now, before I forget, here are some maps of the castle." She passed them out and then marked an X on her own. "We're standing here, at the entrance to the courtyard."
"What's a solar?" asked Nick, examining the map.
"That's my private sitting room," answered the duchess.
"Is that where you keep the chalice that once belonged to a king?"
"A king! It must be worth a fortune!" Simon interrupted.
"I've heard of the chalice," added Liddy. "It's a big silver cup covered with gems."
"It is extremely rare and valuable. It's been in my family for generations," the duchess stated proudly.
"Has anyone ever tried to steal it?" asked Meg.
"Oh, a few times. But it's well protected in the abbey — Knight Henry is on guard."
While the duchess spoke, Meg watched an older man wearing a tunic and tights enter the courtyard and begin replacing the burned- down candles in the candelabra with new ones. After lighting them, he turned to the group and said sharply, "Keep the door shut! The wind keeps blowing me candles out!"
"Fine, Squire Alfred," the duchess replied, as the gruff little man returned to the drawbridge.
"He's not very chivalrous," Simon muttered.
"Candles? No electricity?" asked Liddy.
"Not in the thirteen hundreds," Meg replied, loading her instant camera.
Nick walked over to a suit of armor. "Primitive! They even had metal masks for their horses!"
Mrs. Spencer laughed. "The knights were the faithful protectors of the castle. In medieval times, they wore those heavy metal suits in battle. It took three strong men to dress a knight in his armor."
"Say 'cheddar cheese,' Nick!" Meg said as she snapped a photo.
Meg was about to take a second photo when she heard footsteps racing across the stone floor. Suddenly, a dark-cloaked figure dashed out of the shadows and ran across the courtyard. Just before he disappeared into one of the doorways, Meg quickly snapped another shot.
"Who was that?" she asked the duchess.
"That was Monk William. He's been here for many years. He was just running into the abbey — probably late for something as usual."
"Looks pretty suspicious to me," Meg whispered to Liddy. She jotted in her notebook.
"Oh, Meg," Liddy sighed. "You're always looking for a mystery."
A few minutes later, a heavy door creaked open, and Meg turned to see a smiling woman walk gracefully toward them.
"Ah, here is Lady Rose, at last." The duchess introduced them. "Lady Rose will be your guide. She arranges all the tours."
"I'm sorry I couldn't join you earlier, but I had to finish some work in the study," Lady Rose apologized, as she led the group to a glass display case. She pointed to an emblem on one of the rare documents. "This is the wax seal of King Richard, which dates this letter to about eleven ninety."
Gramps would like a picture of that, thought Meg, snapping another photo. It looks like him riding his old horse Charger.
Another door opened, and a stocky, unshaven man wearing an apron came out carrying a tray of food in pewter cups and wooden bowls.
"This is Bernard, the cook in our castle," said the duchess. "He makes a wonderful venison stew." Bernard blushed and nodded hello to everyone.
"Is that tray for Knight Henry?" asked the duchess. "I'll take it to him."
"Thanks, Duchess. I have a joint of beef on the fire to tend to." He headed back to the kitchen.
"Did you see all the blood on his apron?" Meg whispered to Liddy.
"It's from the meat, silly," Liddy said, laughing. As the duchess carried the tray toward the abbey, Lady Rose showed them pictures of shields hanging on the wall. "Each knight wore a coat with his family's own symbolic shield sewn on it. These designs are called coats of arms."
Suddenly, they heard the clattering of dishes, followed by a scream.
"HELP!" cried the duchess from the abbey door. "Knight Henry has been hurt!"
Squire Alfred began yanking on some chains near the entrance. There was a loud CRASH!
"Yikes!" shouted Liddy.
"He's raised the drawbridge!" exclaimed Simon.
"They really put on a good show," said Nick.
"I don't think they're acting," Meg muttered.
"Come on, class, let's find out what happened," said Mrs. Spencer nervously.
They raced to the abbey, meeting Cook Bernard and Squire Alfred at the door.
As she entered the room, Meg smelled burning incense. The cool, damp abbey was dimly lit by candles. The knight lay on the floor.
"Is he all right?" asked Lady Rose.
"He's been hit on the head," answered Cook Bernard, kneeling beside him. "Somebody get water!"
Squire Alfred ran out.
"Oh, poor Henry," cried the duchess.
"He'll be fine." Cook Bernard tried to comfort her. "It looks like just a small knock on the head."
"The silver chalice is gone!" shouted Lady Rose.
The duchess gasped. "Not my family's chalice!"
Meanwhile, Meg had taken out her magnifying glass and was quietly inspecting the scene of the crime for clues.
"Everything must be examined," she told Liddy. "The smallest clue can solve the biggest mystery."
"What are you doing, Meg?" asked Nick.
"Meg is a detective," declared Liddy. "She's going to figure out what happened."
"Sure she is," snickered Nick. "And I'm going to slay a dragon."
Meg busily snapped photos of the room.
"Meg Mackintosh," warned Mrs. Spencer, "it's the police, not the history club, who are going to solve this theft. Duchess, don't you think we should call the police immediately? You do have a telephone, don't you?"
"Yes, of course. There's one in the solar," the duchess replied.
"I'll call them," Squire Alfred offered gruffly, returning with the water. "And don't worry, Duchess, the thief can't escape — I raised the drawbridge."
Just then Nick shouted, "Look!" He reached behind the curtain. "I bet it's the weapon!"
"What is it? Let me see!" Simon urged Nick to give it to him. "It looks like a caveman's club."
"Why, that's the cudgel from the display in the Great Hall!" exclaimed Cook Bernard.
"You're messing up the fingerprints," warned Meg.
"Arrrgh! I challenge thee, Knight Nick!" joked Simon.
Meg rolled her eyes. "They're ruining the evidence," she told Liddy.
"Henry is waking up," said Lady Rose. "What happened?" she asked him. "Do you remember?"
He looked around, confused. "I was just standing here when someone hit me from behind. I fell down." He paused for a moment to think. "The chalice — he took the chalice! I'm sorry, Duchess, I was just too weak to stop him. I remember now! He ran over to the window, opened it, and threw the chalice out! He must have thrown it over the moat to someone waiting on the other side. That's right. I think I heard someone call out to him. And then I think I heard a car race off."
"Wait a minute," Nick interrupted. "I saw somebody come in here right before all this happened. He was acting kind of funny, and I think he had that club in his hand. I bet he did it!"
WHOM DO YOU THINK NICK SUSPECTS?
"It was the guy in the dark robes," declared Nick.
"Do you mean the monk?" asked Simon.
"I saw the monk!" exclaimed Liddy. She turned and looked at Meg.
"Sure, I saw the monk come in here." Meg nodded slowly. "He did look suspicious." But Meg looked doubtful as she examined her instant photos. Everything just seems too obvious, she thought.
"I think the boy's right," the knight said. "I think it was William!"
"Oh, you must be mistaken, Henry!" said the duchess. "Surely William wouldn't have taken the chalice. He's been with my family for ages. I just can't believe he'd do such a thing."
"Where is William?" asked Lady Rose.
"He must have done it," observed Cook Bernard. "Everyone else is here."
"And no one crossed the moat or passed me at the drawbridge," insisted Squire Alfred.
"I'm sorry, Duchess. I like William, too, but I'm quite sure it was him," Knight Henry said firmly. "He must be the thief."
"I wish the police would get here," said Mrs. Spencer. "Maybe they could stop the getaway car."
"There was no getaway car," Meg interrupted. "I'm sure the chalice is still in this castle."
Excerpted from Meg Mackintosh and the Mystery at the Medieval Castle by Lucinda Landon. Copyright © 1989 Lucinda Landon. Excerpted by permission of Secret Passage Press.
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