Early next morning Mary and Dickey set off once more to the Zion Chapel. It was a wild and windy day, and as they passed through the iron gate into the chapel yard, the buffetting wind slammed it shut behind them with a resounding clang! Down the side of the chapel an unexpected surprise awaited them - Crouching in front of the foundation stone, notebook in hand, was her uncle Edwin, accompanied by his brother Wilf, who had placed himself between his brother and the prevailing wind in a frantic attempt to stop the pages of the notebook from flapping. For a moment Mary contemplated beating a hasty retreat, but it was no use. They had been spotted - she would have to put a brave face on it.
"Hello there my young niece! What on earth brings you here this wild morning?"
Mary smiled sheepishly. Time to brazen it out.
"Same as you uncle Edwin. Looking for the cornerstone of Mount Zion."
"I see. So you've solved the riddle of the Rawley Billing Grotto too?"
Edwin handed her his notebook. "I've just copied out the inscription - if you'd like to take a look."
Mary thumbed through the pencilled pages, reading the familiar contents, a different hand, but a content similar to the notebook which even now she was carrying in her coat pocket. She smiled to herself. There was no mention of the chapel window. They must have overlooked that one! Furthermore, the chapel was presently locked up.
"So what do you think is at the end of all this, Uncle Edwin? Treasure perhaps?"
Her uncle smiled. "Your guess is as good as ours young lady. We've been told that it could be pirate gold from the West Indies brought here by Captain Thompson."
Mary smiled to herself again. They obviously hadn't found out the truth about Captain Thompson, so it followed they did not know about King Josephs Treasure nor of the Battle of Vitoria. There was hope yet.

Mary cradled the notebook in her hands, and then knelt in front of the inscription incised on the foundation stone. She remembered what her father had said:- 'even the tiniest detail might be crucially important.' She glanced at the notebook again, at her uncles spidery, but quite legible handwriting. Yes.... there was something..... something shouting to her in a loud but muffled voice, from a great distance, like a faint echo down a long corridor. She stared back at the cornerstone again... it was saying something to her, but she couldn't quite make out what.... She looked down again at the notebook. This was maddening. But then, suddenly, and without warning the realisation began to crystallise in her mind and she could barely conceal the sudden rush of excitement which burst in upon her.
Uncle Edwin too, must have caught the glint of his niece's sudden enlightenment, for his voice cut crisply across her thoughts.
"What is it Mary? Have you found something?"
Mary stiffened. She was getting dangerously near to betraying her thoughts to the enemy.
"Oh nothing uncle. I thought I'd found something, but I was wrong."
"So tell us."
"Well it's just that there are two dates on the stone thats all."
"1814 and 1811. So why?"
"Well the inscription says 'thank God For Victory', so perhaps it refers to something that happened then.... a naval battle perhaps?"
Edwin grinned to his brother. "What a clever young girl we have here Wilfred. She can read Latin too!" He turned back to Mary."Yes, young lady, you may well be right - a naval battle - on the Spanish Main. We'll see if we can find out more about this. Thank you my dear."
"You're welcome uncle." Mary smiled angelically at him. Not only had she sucessfully covered her tracks but she'd also set them barking up the wrong tree! Excellent!

After her two uncles had gone, Mary pulled out her own notebook and explained all to an astonished Dickey. "I think I've solved it," she cried. "We did miss something last time. You see we copied what the inscription said, same as Uncle Edwin has done, but we didn't give much thought to how the carving was executed!"
Dickey scratched his head and looked puzzled. "What do you mean miss?"
She pointed to the inscription. "You see it's all in the lettering Dickey. There just seemed to be some difference between what Uncle Edwin had written and what was actually carved on the stone. At first I couldn't fathom it, then I realised what it was. It's quite simple really. Most of the letters in the inscription are upright roman but a few of them are carved in italic."
"Italic Miss?"
"Yes Dickey. Letters that lean to one side. Thats what italic letters do. Now if we copy out just those letters that slope to one side, then we may find something."
She pulled out her pencil and began to write. " 'E'... the first letter's 'E'.....'S'.....now 'D'... 'R'..... now 'A' and the last one - is - the letter 'S'."
"'ESDRAS'. So what's that supposed to mean Miss Mary? It don't make any sense."
Mary continued to scribble in her notebook."Now in the bottom part of the inscription we have some numbers. I'll wager we have another verse from the Bible again. Yes.... here we are - 'ESDRAS -I II AD 1814'. Now the 'Vitoria' part as we've already said is a deliberate allusion to the Peninsular War and the '1811' part is no doubt the year of the Battle. 'Thank God For Victory' 1811.' It can't refer to the date when the stone was laid - the chapel wasn't completed until 1816. Thats the top date... the stone was actually laid in 1814, when work on the chapel commenced.
So at the end of all this we're left with ESDRAS Chapter I Verse II. Simple eh?"

Yet pride cometh before a fall. When Mary finally got home and looked through her Bible she very quickly discovered that there was no such book ! She next considered that 'ESDRAS' might be some sort of anagram, but this line of enquiry also proved to be quite unrewarding. In the end, all she was left with was a meaningless jumble of numbers and letters. Maybe she had been wrong about the italic letters after all. There was only one hope left - she would have to take the puzzle to her father.

George Midgley was in his study poring over an old book when Mary knocked and entered. As he glanced up she beheld his pale face quite animated with burning enthusiasm.
"Ah Mary! Just the person I want to see! I think I may have found something. Listen to this!" He adjusted his pince nez spectacles and read aloud from the faded old book which lay on the desk in front of him.

".....And what they had done in the Country of Spain for the winning of the mines of silver and gold which is there........" He removed his glasses and placed them on the open book. "That's part of the clue Mary - that's the secret of your stained glass window."
"How so?"
"It's really quite straightforward my dear.'MA VIII' 'CA III' and a beehive in the middle. When you unscramble it you get 'MACABEES viii iii'. I simply looked it up chapter and verse, and there it was!
"Another Biblical clue."
Mary frowned. "Well that's what I thought I'd found on the cornerstone - a Biblical reference. But I was wrong."
"Please explain my dear."
"Well, as I said, I thought I'd got a biblical reference 'ESDRAS Chapter I Verse II'. But when I tried to look it up there was no such book."
George Midgley positively beamed at her. 'ESDRAS'? Of course! Mary my dear, I think we have it."
"But there's no such book!"
"Oh yes there is. But you wont find it in the King James Bible. You wouldn't have found 'MACABEES' there either, had you uncovered it. They're both in the Apocrypha."
"Yes." He pointed to the old book."That's what I have here. It's a volume of sixteen writings of Jewish origin not found in the Hebrew canon of the Old Testament."
"So there is a book of EDRAS then?"
"Of course." He replaced his spectacles on his long nose. "And now I'm going to look it up. Now lets see..... Ah yes!"
Mary moved to his side and peered at the open book. There was nothing there that seemed to be of any consequence.
"Well that doesn't seem to make much sense does it? Are the numbers all there?"
"Well apart from the date - 1814 - yes papa."
George Midgley sat silent a moment then began to thumb through the yellowed pages of the book.
"Now then Mary. ESDRAS is made up of two books not one. Now suppose we assume that the 'I' stands not for 'Chapter I' but 'BookI'. That means that the 'II' would stand for 'Chapter II', which leaves us with '1814'. Now note that the "14" is italicised. So lets assume we are expected to discount the "18". Let's try 'Esdras Book I Chapter II Verse I4'. Now then, we've got something here and no mistake!"
Hardly able to contain his excitement, he read:-

"'So all the vessels of gold and silver which were carried away were five thousand, four hundred, threescore and nine.'" He looked up."That has to be it Mary, But what does it mean?"

Father and daughter both sat quite still for some time, both of them lost in deep thought. Then Mary spoke, in a measured tone.
"Father.... what if we were to replace the words with their numerical expressions... I mean write them down as a figure?"
"I dont know. Try it."
"Well if we do that, the whole thing reduces down to four figures -'5469'."
"Hmm that would seem to make some sense. So assuming you are right Mary, what have we now got altogether?"
"Four numbers and a reference to Spain. Now what use is that?"
George Midgley shrugged. "I'm sure I don't know. There has to be some sort of meaning to it. I'm afraid that's the best we can do for the moment. You can't rush these things you know Mary. Considering what we seem to be up against I feel we have made an exceptional day's work of this! Lets sleep on it and think again on the morrow."
"Very good papa."

That night as Mary lay in her bed, the images sped at breakneck speed through her tired brain. She could not sleep. After tossing, and turning for what seemed like an eternity, she finally threw the pillow off the bed in a fit of fevered despair and slammed her head down on the bolster beneath. As sleep came reluctantly, so did thick coming fancies. She saw a strong young man, wearing nothing but a loin cloth, walking serenely between two soldiers, who then bound his hands to a stake. Then came the swish and thud of the arrows, the screams and the blood as Mary jerked bolt upright in bed to greet the grey dawn peeping through her bedroom window, and the rush of wind rustling the bushes outside.

copyright © Jim Jarratt 2007