“Well?” said Morgan, still pointing insistently at the strange inscription. “Do you or don’t you recognize this writing?”
“Heavens, no. Never saw anything like that in my life. But this here”—Rev. Alcuin indicated the three long cross-hatched lines running down the length of the sword’s blade—
” — I believe that’s Ogham.”
“Yes. An ancient Irish system of writing that consisted entirely of straight lines. It’s similar in that respect to the Germanic runes. Perfect for scratching messages into wood or stone.”
Morgan’s heart jumped. “Do you know what it says?”
“Oh, I can’t read Ogham. I just have a general idea of what it looked like.”
“Can’t we get some books on it?”
“Perhaps. At a university library, maybe. I don’t have any. That was more in your dad’s line. Maybe you should search your stash.”
Rats! thought Morgan. He felt like a deflated balloon. Dropping the papers on the table, he slumped back in the rocker and stared down at the toes of his tennis shoes.
“What I’d like to know,” said the Reverend after an awkward silence, “is where you came up with all this in the first place. Have you ever seen this sword?”
Morgan glanced up. He hesitated. “Only in a book.”
“One of my dad’s. The one I was looking at when the notebook fell out.”
“And that book was … ”
“It was a book about …”—he felt his cheeks beginning to burn—“… a book about Paracelsus. His Life and Times. Paracelsus was another—well, another famous alchemist.”
“I’m familiar with the name.”
“Paracelsus was the greatest of them all,” said Morgan, warming to his subject. “Apparently he had this big sword. I copied that picture out of the book. He carried it with him everywhere he went. Even slept with it. That got me to thinking.”
“Well, my dad was really interested in Paracelsus and alchemy and all that.”
“As you and I both know.”
“And you told me that he thought there was some kind of connection between the Philosopher’s Stone and the Grail and the Stone of Destiny.”
“So I did.”
“So I couldn’t help wondering—” he stopped to take a breath.
“—I couldn’t help wondering if there might be another connection.”
Peter paused in the act of pouring himself a second cup. He looked straight into the boy’s eyes. Morgan leaned forward and gripped the edge of the table with both hands.
“The Sword in the Stone,” he said by way of explanation.
Rev. Alcuin gave a start. Some of the tea spilled over the edge of the cup and splashed onto a copy of Scientific American. He raised an inquiring eyebrow.
“Sword. Stone. The Sword in the Stone. The two just go together, don’t you think? They have to for anybody who has ever read King Arthur.”
“I suppose so,” admitted Rev. Alcuin, wiping up the tea with his pocket handkerchief. “But—”
“They do!” persisted Morgan. “And I haven’t been able to think of anything else since—well, ever since I saw that picture. I keep thinking about Lia Fail and the Philosopher’s Stone. And now this sword. Do you see what I mean?”
A light came into the minister’s eyes. He dropped the handkerchief, got to his feet, and walked slowly to the other side of the room, where he stood for a moment intently scanning the shelves of a tall bookcase.
“I can’t say that I know exactly what you have in mind,” he said thoughtfully as he mounted a low stool. “But what you say does remind me of something. Give me half a minute.”
He ran his forefinger along the spines of the books lining the top shelf. “Lewis,” he muttered. “Lindgren … Livy, London, Longfellow … MacDonald … MacDonald—Malory!”
Pulling down a large volume, he blew off the dust, hopped down from the stool, and resumed his seat at the coffee table.
“This is it,” he said, opening the big book. Moistening a fingertip, he rapidly flipped his way through the thick, musty, yellow-edged pages until he found the spot he was looking for …
(To be continued …)