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The Curse Of The Fires and Of The Shadow-by William Butler Yeats-Novel and Ebooks

Novel Name:The Curse Of The Fires and Of The Shadow

Written by:William Butler Yeats


Page 1:

One summer night, when there was peace, a score of Puritan troopers
under the pious Sir Frederick Hamilton, broke through the door of the
Abbey of the White Friars which stood over the Gara Lough at Sligo.
As the door fell with a crash they saw a little knot of friars,
gathered about the altar, their white habits glimmering in the steady
light of the holy candles. All the monks were kneeling except the
abbot, who stood upon the altar steps with a great brazen crucifix in
his hand. ‘Shoot them!’ cried Sir Frederick Hamilton, but none
stirred, for all were new converts, and feared the crucifix and the
holy candles. The white lights from the altar threw the shadows of
the troopers up on to roof and wall. As the troopers moved about, the
shadows began a fantastic dance among the corbels and the memorial
tablets. For a little while all was silent, and then five troopers
who were the body-guard of Sir Frederick Hamilton lifted their
muskets, and shot down five of the friars. The noise and the smoke
drove away the mystery of the pale altar lights, and the other
troopers took courage and began to strike. In a moment the friars lay
about the altar steps, their white habits stained with blood. ‘Set
fire to the house!’ cried Sir Frederick Hamilton, and at his word one
went out, and came in again carrying a heap of dry straw, and piled
it against the western wall, and, having done this, fell back, for
the fear of the crucifix and of the holy candles was still in his
heart. Seeing this, the five troopers who were Sir Frederick
Hamilton’s body-guard darted forward, and taking each a holy candle
set the straw in a blaze. The red tongues of fire rushed up and
flickered from corbel to corbel and from tablet to tablet, and crept
along the floor, setting in a blaze the seats and benches. The dance
of the shadows passed away, and the dance of the fires began. The
troopers fell back towards the door in the southern wall, and watched
those yellow dancers springing hither and thither.

For a time the altar stood safe and apart in the midst of its white
light; the eyes of the troopers turned upon it. The abbot whom they
had thought dead had risen to his feet and now stood before it with
the crucifix lifted in both hands high above his head. Suddenly he
cried with a loud voice, ‘Woe unto all who smite those who dwell
within the Light of the Lord, for they shall wander among the
ungovernable shadows, and follow the ungovernable fires!’ And having
so cried he fell on his face dead, and the brazen crucifix rolled
down the steps of the altar. The smoke had now grown very thick, so
that it drove the troopers out into the open air. Before them were
burning houses. Behind them shone the painted windows of the Abbey
filled with saints and martyrs, awakened, as from a sacred trance,
into an angry and animated life. The eyes of the troopers were
dazzled, and for a while could see nothing but the flaming faces of
saints and martyrs. Presently, however, they saw a man covered with
dust who came running towards them. ‘Two messengers,’ he cried, ‘have
been sent by the defeated Irish to raise against you the whole
country about Manor Hamilton, and if you do not stop them you will be
overpowered in the woods before you reach home again! They ride
north-east between Ben Bulben and Cashel-na-Gael.’

Sir Frederick Hamilton called to him the five troopers who had first
fired upon the monks and said, ‘Mount quickly, and ride through the
woods towards the mountain, and get before these men, and kill them.’

In a moment the troopers were gone, and before many moments they had
splashed across the river at what is now called Buckley’s Ford, and
plunged into the woods. They followed a beaten track that wound along
the northern bank of the river. The boughs of the birch and quicken
trees mingled above, and hid the cloudy moonlight, leaving the
pathway in almost complete darkness. They rode at a rapid trot, now
chatting together, now watching some stray weasel or rabbit scuttling
away in the darkness. Gradually, as the gloom and silence of the
woods oppressed them, they drew closer together, and began to talk
rapidly; they were old comrades and knew each other’s lives. One was
married, and told how glad his wife would be to see him return safe
from this harebrained expedition against the White Friars, and to
hear how fortune had made amends for rashness. The oldest of the
five, whose wife was dead, spoke of a flagon of wine which awaited
him upon an upper shelf; while a third, who was the youngest, had a
sweetheart watching for his return, and he rode a little way before
the others, not talking at all. Suddenly the young man stopped, and
they saw that his horse was trembling. ‘I saw something,’ he said,
‘and yet I do not know but it may have been one of the shadows. It
looked like a great worm with a silver crown upon his head.’ One of
the five put his hand up to his forehead as if about to cross
himself, but remembering that he had changed his religion he put it
down, and said: ‘I am certain it was but a shadow, for there are a
great many about us, and of very strange kinds.’ Then they rode on in
silence. It had been raining in the earlier part of the day, and the
drops fell from the branches, wetting their hair and their shoulders.
In a little they began to talk again. They had been in many battles
against many a rebel together, and now told each other over again the
story of their wounds, and so awakened in their hearts the strongest
of all fellowships, the fellowship of the sword, and half forgot the
terrible solitude of the woods.

Filed in: Horror

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