The answer to Mary's problem arrived about about three weeks after her adventure with Dickey at the grotto. As before, the key was unwittingly provided by Mary's governess, Miss Stewart. And strangely enough, like the earlier revelation, it surfaced while Mary was at her French lesson, in the form of a misunderstanding in her French reader.
"Regardez cette pierre la! Mr. Aubin as dit a Rene"
"Alors Marie - en Anglais s'il te plait!"
Mary stumbled slowly over the sentence.." 'Look at this...' What does 'pierre' mean Miss Stewart?"
"A stone, child, stone or rock. Continuez si'l te plait! Vite! vite!"
"Look at that stone, Mr. Aubin said to Rene..."
"Very good Mary Tres bien!"
Excuse me Miss Stewart......."
"But isn't 'Pierre' a boy's name in French?"
Miss Stewart sighed impatiently. "Yes that's right Mary. But it also means a 'rock' or 'stone'. It is derived from the Greek 'Petra'. In English of course its Peter ... and what does the word 'petrified' mean?"
"turned to stone."
"Exactly child. Do you not know your scriptures? Surely you knew that Our Saviour appointed Peter to be the 'rock' of his church?"
"I never thought of that miss."
"Well I think we should have some more Bible study to overcome your woeful lack of Christian knowledge young lady. Dont you??"
Mary sighed. "Yes miss. If you say so miss."
"I do say so young lady, and I would thank you not to be so arrogant with me in future, or your father will hear. Now come along with me..."
It was after her lessons, in the early evening, when the realisation struck her. 'Petra' - 'Greek'. In her mind's eye Mary could see the two numbers in the grotto, picked out by the dim light of Dickey's flickering lamp. Numbers carved in the living rock - the rock of the church - Peter! Why not? Why not try it? 'Peter - Chapter II verse VI?'
Mary slipped gingerly upstairs, unlocked the drawer and pulled out her notebook, in which she had written down all the information she had aquired so far. From the table by the side of her bed she picked up a small brass clasped and leather bound Bible, and began to thumb through its pages excitedly. She soon found the passage she sought:-
"For it is contained in scripture, look, I am laying in Zion a stone chosen, a foundation cornerstone, precious, and no-one exercising faith in it will by any means come to disappointment..........."
Mary hurriedly jotted it down, scooped up the notebook and the Bible, and set off at breakneck speed downstairs to tell Dickey what she had discovered. Halfway down the stairs she almost rushed headlong into her uncle Edwin who
was coming the other way.
"Now you be careful my girl!" He called out cheerily after her. "What's so important that you have to hurry so?"
"Oh nothing uncle Edwin, it's just such a lovely day and I feel so happy!"
Her uncle failed to notice the note of sarcasm in her voice. He laughed.
"Well, it's good to know someone is. Its nothing but grind and work when you grow up you know, young lady."
Mary smiled at him angelically. "All the more reason to enjoy things while one is young." And with that she skipped along the hall and out through the front door.
But at the stables a rude shock awaited her. As she was about to relate her latest news to Dickey she found her coat pocket empty and the notebook gone! She must have dropped it on the way down, on the staircase or the garden path. Sighing despondently Mary retraced her steps and searched but found nothing, and for the rest of the day she mooched around dejectedly, even in her desperation asking her father and Mrs. Lumb, the housekeeper. But they had seen nothing. Apart from them, only her uncle Edwin had been in the house that day, so it was beginning to look like he was in possession of the notebook; and indeed so it turned out, for the next day it re-appeared on the dining room table, along with a hastily scribbled note from her uncle to the effect that he had found it on the stairs the previous afternoon, but being in a rush for a business meeting he had been forced by circumstance to take it with him, vowing to return it to her at the earliest opportunity.
Mary was suspicious, and indeed her suspicions quickly turned to anger when a cursory examination of the notebook revealed that some of the pages had been torn out! A more careful scrutiny of the impressions left on the paper beneath the missing sheets confirmed Mary's worst fears. The notes had been copied - and the copies removed!
"Damn him Dickey! Sly, clever, devious Uncle Edwin. He's on our trail and no mistake! He knows we're on to something important. He only has to solve the next clue and that'll be that!"
Dickey frowned. "So you wrote everything down in that there notebook Miss Mary?"
"Well yes... except for...." Her face suddenly lit up and broke into a wide grin. " I never got as far as copying down the verse from Peter... I just marked the page in my Bible. He doesn't know about that one !"
Dickey Postlethwaite grinned impishly. "Then we're still one step ahead of them Miss Mary. What we have to do now is to find out what this next clue means."
"And also be a bit more careful with what we already have I think. Both my uncles will be watching us like hawks now!"
Together Mary and Dickey studied the enigmatic verse from Peter. After first ascertaining that no-one was within earshot, Mary led the passage aloud because Dickey couldn't read very well. In the end however, lost in their own thoughts, they both subsided into silence.
Dickey was the first to speak. "The bit about Zion Miss Mary. Maybe it's got summat to do wi' our chapel?"
"Yes miss. T'Zion Chapel. Oh I forget you and your father go to t'High Church. What I'm meaning is that there could be some sort of a connection like. Old Captain Thompson was a ... how you say? 'be-enifacter' of our chapel."
"You mean a benefactor?"
"Yus miss. You see all t'Thompsons were chapel fowks, staunch Methody. In fact it were their money that paid for t'buildin' o't'chapel, an' t' Zion Sunday School as well."
"Where is this chapel then Dickey?"
"T'Zion? Just down t'bottom end o' Rawley miss. Shall I take you there? You won't know it, as it's tucked away on t'far side o' Bradshaws Shed."
Half an hour later Mary and Dickey stood outside the black iron railings of Rawley Zion Chapel, gazing upwards at the enormous soot stained portico with its black, lugubrious columns. Behind this facade were enormous Regency Style latticed windows, not unlike the great window at Parkfield, and behind them Mary could make out the iron railings of the stairs leading up to the chapel's upper gallery. The main fron door was securely locked. Mary sat down on a gaunt table top graveslab while they debated what to do next.
It came on to rain - a sudden spring squall, and they hurriedly sought shelter in the chapel doorway. They had hardly attained this welcome respite from the elements when they were joined by a tall man in a fine silk top hat, who came dashing through the gate and down the path to join them beneath the entrance portico.
"Mighty inclement weather what!"
"Most certainly sir."
"And who might you be young Miss? I have not had the pleasure of seeing you in my congregation of a Sunday. And Richard Postlethwaite. Tell me Richard, who is this young lady? You must introduce us."
Dickey smiled "Miss Mary Midgley Sir, my employer's daughter. Mary... this is the Revd. Dr. Bowcock, our Chapel Minister."
"I am pleased to meet you Sir."
Dr. Bowcock smiled. It illuminated a care worn but kindly face. Though he spoke with fine words, Mary could detect the faint Yorkshire burr of a man of humble origins. "I assure you the pleasure's all mine young lady. I have not seen you before, so am I right in suspecting that you do not attend Nonconformist services?"
"Indeed sir I do not. My father takes me to communion at St Mary's."
"I see. So what brings you to my humble house of God young lady?"
For a moment Mary was stuck for an answer. Then....
"Finding out a little more about the history of this area Sir. We live at Parkfield House, which as I understand it was built by a certain Captain Thompson. I am interested in learning a little more about him, and I was informed by Dickey that he was associated with this fine chapel."
Dr. Bowcock smiled. "Indeed. Captain Thompson was the chief benefactor of this chapel so I am informed. There is a Memorial Window to him inside. It was, in fact, Captain Thompson who laid the foundation stone of the building way back in 1814."
"Foundation stone. There's a foundation stone?"
"Certainly young lady. Its set into the masonry at the south western corner of the building."
"Could we see it?"
Mr Bowcock removed his hat. "Well I'm sure we can at least wait until this deluge abates. Come inside for awhile and I'll show you around our chapel." Dr. Bowcock took out a large iron key on a chain and unlocked the door. He nodded to Dickey. "Lead on Richard, you know the way. Take her to the stained glass window."
Inside the doorway was a table, coathangers and hat pegs, beyond, another door, shiny varnished oak with well polished brass fittings. "The main chapel's through here." Dickey opened it and they passed through.
If anything the inside of the Zion Chapel was even more austerely magnificent than its severely classical exterior - a mass of white plaster mouldings and polished dark oak. At the far end was a brass communion rail beyond which a fine carved oak table displayed two bowls of spring flowers and a plain wooden crucifix. The whole chamber was lit by eight enormous arched latticed windows, their shape broken only by the wooden balustrade of the large upper gallery that ran around three sides of the chamber. In the centre of the high, white plastered vault was a single moulded ceiling rose, from which hung a large brass chandelier. Along the aisles gas lamps were fitted. Shafts of sunshine filtered through the high, arched windows, filling the centre aisle with light. All the panes in them were of plain glass, with one single exception - the window at the south western end of the chapel. The rounded top of it, ie that part of it above the level of the gallery was plain enough, but its lower half was filled with magnificent stained glass.
"Thats it, young lady" Smiled Dr. Bowcock. "Captain Thompson's Memorial window.... and your foundation stone lies immediately below it. Though on the outside of the chapel of course!"
Mary gazed upwards. It was a beautiful piece of workmanship. If anything rather too magnificent and ostentatious for a chapel of such sober uncatholic aspirations. Its central panel depicted a tall man with long hair and sideburns wearing the high collared uniform of an army officer. In his hands he was holding a long, yellow object, which on closer scrutiny revealed itself to be an arrow - a golden arrow, pointing downwards. Immediately above this strikingly peculiar depiction ran an inscription:-
This window was erected to the memory
of J.T. Thompson Esq.
Founder Member and Benefactor of this chapel.
Mary was perplexed. "So the man depicted in the portrait is Captain Thompson then I take it?"
"Of course my dear. Who else should it be?"
"Its just that I thought.... I was informed.... that he was a sea captain?"
Dr. Bowcock smiled. "Sea captain? Oh no. Captain Thompson was an army captain. He fought under Wellington in the war against Napoleon. He was, so I hear, something of a hero!"
"Indeed. The story goes that he went off to seek his fortune as a common soldier and came home an officer and a wealthy gentleman. As you know he built Parkfield and Millfield, and also Parkfield Mills. And of course he contributed much to this chapel. It was never revealed how he had aquired his sudden wealth. It was a case of the common man made good. He set up in business, invested his money prudently and profited thereafter. When he died, he was buried in the chapel yard, and this window was erected at his bequest, to perpetuate his memory. Of course all this was before my time you understand."
They stared once more at the window. Mary had learnt by now that anything to do with Captain Thompson would have something odd about it, and, sure enough, this window was no exception. In the bottom left hand corner was the curious device 'MA8' and in the opposite, right hand corner a corresponding 'CA3'. And oddest of all, in the middle pane, below the Captain's portrait, was an escutcheon bearing the device of a hive with two bees above it, and beneath that a motto 'La Fleche d'Or'
Mary turned to Dr. Bowcock. "What is the significance of the bottom panes Sir?"
The Minister shrugged."I'm afraid I don't really know my dear. But I must confess I've often wondered. Bees, of course, are a symbol for industry and prosperity - and that would indeed have been meaningful to Mr. Thompson, him being a textile manufacturer. 'Prosperity through Industry' that's what I've always took it to mean. As for the French - well it means simply 'the golden arrow'- which points the way to salvation I presume. I can think of no other explanation that makes sense."
They located the foundation stone after it had stopped raining. Its inscription seemed straightforward enough:-
THIS FOUNDATION STONE
WAS LAID BY CAPTAIN J.T.THOMPSON
IN THE FIRST DAYS OF FEBRUARY
I II A.D. 1814
Deo Gratias Vitoria
It was just the Latin that was odd. So Mary asked the good doctor what it meant.
"'Give thanks to God for Victory' is what it means my dear. It comes from the Agincourt Carol. The date, 1811, is presumably the date of the victory. No doubt it had something to do with Captain Thompsons military career. There's another odd thing though.... can you see it?"
Mary gazed at the inscription. It seemed pretty ordinary to her.
"No?... Well the inscription is misspelt. It should say 'Victoria' but actually it says 'Vitoria'. Fancy making a mistake like that on a foundation stone?"
Mary smiled to herself. She had already seen enough of Captain Thompsons works to know that any mistakes he made tended to be deliberate ones. If the 'c' was missing from 'Victoria' there had to be a good reason, and she would find it.
After thanking Dr. Bowcock for his help, Mary and Dickey returned to Parkfield, and pored over what they had found, but to no avail. Mary stared and stared at the inscription she had copied from the foundation stone, but there was nothing in it that suggested a cipher, even though she knew in her heart of hearts there must be one. In the end, she locked her notebook away and gave up the ghost. She would have to be patient. If there was something there it would no doubt show itself in good time.