It is a night to remember, and Morgan will not forget it.
Nine of them around the dining room table. Nine pilgrims on the threshold. The least likely, least expected, most stunning and impossible gathering of a lifetime. And he is a part of it.
A week ago it would have been unthinkable. A mere seven days by the calendar on his mother’s kitchen wall. Yet here they all are.
At the head of the table, his father: tall, godlike, silver-haired, shaven, and impeccable in a blue Oxford shirt and gray flannel jacket.
Beside him, his mother: a ministering angel, porcelain-skinned, crowned with gold, hovering over the evening meal like the evening star.
Next, his grandmother: stately and serene, shockingly rational, more like Grandma Moses than Grandma Wilma.
And then Moira, leaning on her husband’s arm, a look of sad resignation softening her sharp features; George, talking loudly and gesturing broadly; Peter Alcuin, nodding agreeably; and Baxter Knowles, eyes rolling and tongue clucking while his mother admonishes him to eat his peas.
Too awestruck to eat, Morgan lays his fork aside, leans back in his chair, and listens. Bits of conversation reach his ears unbidden.
“… Nothing more to be done …”
“… Land of the Sun’s Going.”
“… Cold case files …”
“… Inisfail …”
“… Not even a forwarding address.”
The evening is slipping fast away. His father has risen. He is standing at the head of the table, addressing the entire group, saying something about Jacob’s Pillow and Pillar. He is quoting a rhyming couplet:
Thy pillow was but type and shade at best,
But we the Substance have, and on Him rest.
“And thus,” he concludes, “are accomplished the miracles of the One.”
There is a low murmur around the table. The speaker reaches into the deep side-pocket of his coat. And now he is beckoning—beckoning for Morgan to come forward.
Morgan shoves back his chair and gets to his feet. His heart too full to speak, he scuffles to the head of the table. There he stands, facing his father, a nameless longing burning deep inside.
“Take it,” says John Izaak with a smile.
His father holds out his hand. There is something in it. The something is hard to recognize at first. It looks like a bundle of rags. It is in fact a sheaf of makeshift paper. The leaves are tied together at the edges with bits of frayed string. At the top of the first sheet, in a bold hand and letters the color of dried blood, stands a title: John Izaak: Journal of My Imprisonment.
Morgan reaches out and takes it. He squeezes his father’s hand. “Thank you,” he says in a husky voice. “I’ll treasure it always.”
Another murmur. He leaves the dining room and walks to the front door. He steps out onto the porch. The stars are shining brightly. A faint gleam plays over the ruins of St. Halistan’s tower. Far away, at the bottom of the long slope to the sea, lights flash and twinkle at the Fisherman’s Wharf.
Morgan smiles. He wipes his eyes. Then he opens the leather bag hanging at his waist and slips the precious journal inside. And as he does, his fingers touch something else—something soft and sheer as gossamer. A something that almost is and nearly isn’t. The Feth Fiada.
His hand is on the doorknob. His heart is pounding softly. His eyes strain into the dim and distant West.
“Thank you,” he says again, whispering his gratitude into the cool, surrounding darkness.
And then he turns, slips inside the warm house, and rejoins the buzzing party at the table.