Henry cleared his throat.
“One story comes down to us thanks to a Hector Boece. He says that, in 1300 B.C., Gathelus wed Scota, a Pharaoh’s daughter, in Egypt. The pair went off to Spain. From there, they or their descendants came to Pictland carrying a black marble stone called the ‘Regal Stone’ that was used as a coronation stone by the Zarah branch of Judah, the Red Lion branch.”
He recalled coming across Boece. But the site he had clicked on had made no mention the Stone had been a black marble stone. He had assumed it had been the Stone of Destiny.
Henry, now, had dried up.
“And the other story, Henry?”
Henry looked into the middle distance.
“In 583 B.C., Jeremiah journeyed with King Zedekiah’s daughter, Tamar, who was also known as Teia Tephi. With them was the Stone of Destiny that was Jacob’s Pillar. It, too, was used as a coronation stone but by the Pharez, the Golden Lion branch of Judah. Yes, man, that particular stone saw Egypt, Gibraltar, Spain, and Cornwall. It, eventually, arrived at Tara in Ireland.”
“So, the Regal Stone made of black marble was an earlier Stone?”
Henry paused, collecting his thoughts.
“From Tara, the Stone of Destiny was taken to Dunadd in Western Scotland by Fergus Mor mac Erc. That would be about 500 A.D.”
He did a swift calculation.
“So, we’re talking about two coronation stones that arrived in the British Isles, seven hundred years apart?”
Henry interlocked his podgy fingers. They looked like a mass of sausages.
“Indeed. The key to it all’s Kenneth MacAlpin. MacAlpin’s mother was a Pictish princess, and it was MacAlpin that knitted the Picts and Scots into one kingdom, Scotland. At that point, the two coronation stones came together at Scone.”
“It’s getting clearer.”
“But I’m leaving out the Irish version that says the Stone of Destiny came with the Tuatha De Danaan from Scandinavia to Ireland.”
“Wish you hadn’t said that.”
Henry went into full-blown laughter. Again, the multiple chins and folds shook.
“Wallow in it with all the joy of a pig in mud, man.”
“Do you know the composition of the two Stones?”
“What do you take me for, man? The Stone of Destiny’s a steely dim purplish color with red veins through it. It’s of calcareous sandstone and has pebbles stuck in it; one quartz and two of a dark stuff that could be porphyrite. It’s shaped like a pillow, and has a crack and chisel marks on it.”
He could hardly breathe. The harp stone was of the same composition as the Stone of Destiny. Also, the cave in his nightmare had been of similar composition. Had the nightmare been a foretelling of his finding the harp stone? But he did not want Henry to see his thrill. He would spin the guy off.
“From what I can glean, Elizabeth II was crowned on a fake Stone of Destiny because it was of sandstone traced to a quarry outside Scone,” he said.
“Aye, the fake’s a pinkish-buff Perthshire sandstone. It has no pole marks like the pre-1950s one, and no Latin inscribed on it. The original was examined, years before 1950, and it was concluded no similar sandstone existed in the British Isles. But there’s a like geological formation near Luz, Bethel.”
Bethel! What was it he had found in the Hall Bible that someone had added words to?
“Genesis 28:22 And this Stone, which I have set [for] a pillar, shall be God’s house (Bethel).”
Henry began waddling around the room.
“To sum up, in 1865, the Stone of Destiny was certified to be Scottish sandstone, and therefore not the Stone of Bethel. A Professor Odlum, who died in 1935, saw the ancient records of Ireland, and thought the sort of stone the genuine Stone of Destiny was hewn from might be found in Palestine,” he said.
He broke off.
“Just going to wet my whistle and yours,” he said, and went to the decanter.
He was a swell host for a hard-drinking guy.
His thoughts turned to the fragment. He hoped Saul would be able to get tests done on it, on the quiet. His mind was ablaze. Could the harp stone have been fashioned from stone in Palestine like the Stone of Destiny had been?
Henry thudded into his chair.
“Aye, well, in 1921, Odlum begged for a fragment, so he could compare it with stone found by him near Bethel.”
He and Odlum had something in common in trying to get the composition of fragments.
“Did Odlum have any luck?”
Henry waved his glass about.
“A Canon of Westminster replied, “You would have to get the consent not only of the king but of the two houses of Parliament and of the whole nation”!” he roared.
“Up against the system. Did he give up?”
Henry thumped his hand on his chair arm.
“No. About 1926, he got the go-ahead to do a microscopic study of the Stone, the one under the Coronation Chair. He and his colleagues compared what they found with stone from the British Isles, and it wasn’t the same. The man, who inspected it in 1865, was either a fool or a liar.”
He was, now, totally, lost.
“The real Stone of Destiny was in England in the 1920s? Okay. But, some say the current Coronation Stone’s a fake, and some say it isn’t, but they would have to rely on official examination, and who’s to say they wouldn’t have been tampered with, Henry.”
“What happened to the Regal Stone?”
“In 1296, Edward I, ‘Longshanks’, wanted to take the Scottish Coronation Stone from Scone. But an Abbot Thomas hid the Regal Stone, the Gathelus black marble stone, the throne of the Picts, and gave the Stone of Destiny to Edward’s soldiers, and, in doing that, fulfilled the third overturn prophesied in Ezekiel 21:27.”
He sipped his whisky.
“Brave guy,” he said.
“Aye, but the English found out about the Regal Stone, and he was arrested. He was jailed in England until he died. He never gave away its whereabouts, not even under torture,” Henry said.
“Like a caged parrot,” he muttered, but Henry did not hear him.
Henry, again, went to the decanter.
“You’ve got me going, man, after all these years. I don’t have anyone else to talk with about this. I’d a few friends obsessed as I am, but they’re dead.”
Contempt for those academics in Alexandria, who had scoffed at Henry’s zeal about the Stone of Destiny, welled up in him. Then, contempt for himself replaced it because he had put down the tinker, when the tinker had been telling him truths he had not wanted to hear.
He held out his glass, and Henry poured it to the brim.
“You didn’t say what the Scottish Regal looks like, Henry?”
“Some old records say it’s of black marble, scooped like a seat, carved, and bears an inscription. At the corners, there are metal bands with hooks, so it can be taken about.”
“Now, you see why the Stones were and still are, but, to a lesser extent, my obsession. Two stories exist of how the Regal resurfaced. Do you want to hear them, or am I confusing you with too many facts, Alex?”
“Sling it all at me.”
Henry’s eyes spun like Catherine Wheels. He was in his element.
“One story was a landslide happened at Dunsinane, in the early eighteen hundreds. You must know Shakespeare’s ‘MacBeth’ play. All the world and his wife know that one. Dunsinane’s where MacBeth’s castle lay. Farm lads saw a gash in a hill, and went in to find a chamber. It contained a slab of stone with four wee stone legs. It was covered with hieroglyphics.”
Behind Henry’s back, he emptied his glass into a plant pot.
“If it’s not rude to ask, can I have another whisky?” he said, hoping Henry would follow suit.
Deep in his cups, Henry might get careless.
“Don’t be daft, man. Like to booze myself.”
Henry downed his glass, and, then, filled both glasses. He draped himself over the fireplace, once more.
“The second story was in the ‘London Morning Chronicle’ of January 2nd 1819. God knows how I remember that date, but I do. Anyway, it said workmen fell into an underground vault during excavations among the castle ruins, and found a big stone weighing about five hundred pounds. It was pronounced to be of meteoric or semi-metallic stuff.”
He struggled to keep his cool. The second story was about a fall leading to a discovery. He had fallen down a gully, and found the Giants and the harp stone.
“Where’s the Regal, now?”
Henry exhaled. He could smell the whisky, even from some feet away, but Henry was, still, walking around the room with steady steps.
“It was shipped to London for inspection. Aye, wrong move, nothing been heard of it since.”
“The English seem gritty in taking our heritage,” he muttered.
He was buying into his Scots origins to keep Henry talking, although he still could not get a grip on why Henry had portraits of the current Royal Family, who were based in England, albeit having residences in and family links to Scotland.
Henry banged a fist against the fireplace.
“The Regal belongs to Scotland, and should be in Edinburgh Castle or Scone Palace. Ach, and the Stone of Destiny should be with the Irish.”
Henry’s face turned purple.
“Keep cool, Henry. Don’t want to give you a heart attack with all my questions.”
Henry stared at him through popping eyes.
“Passion, man, passion!” he yelled.
“Yep, but blood pressure. Keep cool, man.”
“This is more likely to revive my heart. To get on with things, so many fakes exist. It was yon sandstone fake made by Baillie Robert Gray, in the 1920s, that was left at Arbroath Abbey, in 1951!” Henry thundered.
“So, Elizabeth was crowned on a fake, for sure?” he said.
“Oh, aye. The real Stone of Destiny might still be held by Ian Hamilton and his pals. Like I say, it belongs in Ireland because it was borrowed by Fergus Mor mac Erc from his brother, Muircheartach, King of Tara, in 500 A.D. But excuse me for a moment. I’ve a phone call to make.”
“No problem, Henry.”
“Help yourself to more whisky. Make yourself at home, man,” Henry said, ambling out the door.
He went to the decanter. Terror struck him. On the crystal decanter was the face of the red-haired guy with green eyes. But, in the refracted crystal, the eyes were just two emerald oblongs. No pupils existed. They had ceased to be capable of sending a message in expression. The mouth was a square that was opening and shutting, but he could hear zilch. Was it another warning to turn back? Something uncanny had followed him from The Cabrach to Dundee.
Had the rustlings he had heard in the grounds of this house been the green-eyed guy? Was that guy a traveler, and not a phantom?