The Tale of the Tower
Apr 11, 2002 03:52 AM
A CURIOUS TALE
[The Tale of the Tower and the Sacred Eternal Fire ]
Some years ago I ran down to the lakes of Killarney, but not for
the purpose merely of seeing them as any other traveller.
During my boyhood the idea of going there had always been before
me, and in dreams I would often find myself on the water or
wandering nearby. After this had occurred many times, I procured
photographs of the scenery and was quite surprised to find that
the dreams were accurate enough to seem like recollections. But
various vicissitudes took me to other parts of the world, so that
I had passed my majority without having visited the place, and,
indeed the decision to go there at last was not made until one
day, whole looking into a shop window in Dublin, my eye fell upon
a picture of Killarney, and in an instant I was filled with a
strong desire to see them. So I went on the first train and was
very soon there, quartered with an old man who from the first
seemed like an old friend.
The next day or two were devoted to wandering about with no
purpose nor with very great satisfaction, for the place as a bit
of country, did not interest me after all my wanderings in many
different climes. But on the third day I went off into a field
not far from the shores of one of the sheets of water, and sat
down near an old well. It was still early in the afternoon, and
unusually pleasant. My mind had no particular object before it,
and I noticed an inability, quite unusual, to follow long a
definite train of thought. As I sat thus, drowsiness came over
my senses, the field and the well grew grey but still remained in
sight, yet I seemed to be changing into another man, and, as the
minutes flew by, I saw the shadowy form or picture of a tall
round tower rising, some fifty feet high, just beyond the well.
shaking myself, this disappeared and I thought I had fought off
the sleepy feeling, but only for a moment. It returned with new
The well had disappeared and a building occupied its place, while
the tall tower had grown solid; and then all desire to remain
myself disappeared. I rose with a mechanical feeling that my
duty, somehow or other, called me to the tower, and walked over
into the building through which I knew it was necessary to go in
order to reach the tower. As I passed inside the wall, there was
the old well I had seen upon first coming into the field, but the
strange incident did not attract my attention, for I knew the
well as an old landmark. Reaching the tower, the steps wound up
before me to the top, and as I mounted them a voice quite
familiar called my name--a name not the same that I owned to upon
sitting down near the well, but that did not attract my attention
any more than the old well inside the wall. At last I emerged
upon the top of the tower, and there was an old man keeping up a
fire. It was the eternal fire never yet known to have gone out,
and I, out of all the other young disciples, alone was permitted
to help the old man.
As my head rose above the level of the low rim of the tower, I
saw a calm and beautiful mountain not far away, and other towers
nearer to it than mine.
"You are late," said the old man. I made no reply, as there was
none to make; but I approached and showed by my attitude that I
was ready to go on watching in his place. As I did this it
flashed across me that the sun was nearing the horizon, and for
an instant the memory of the old man with who I had lodged came
before me, as well as the express train to be reached by cart,
but that faded out as the old watcher looked into my brain with
his piercing eyes.
"I fear to leave you in charge," was his first remark. "There is
a shadow, dark and silent, near you."
"Do not fear, father," said I; "I will not leave the fire nor
permit it to go out."
"If you do, then our doom is sealed and the destiny of
With those words he turned and left me; and soon I heard his
foot-fall no more on the winding stairs that led below.
The fire seemed bewitched. it would hardly burn, and once or
twice it almost paralyzed me with fear, so nearly did it expire.
When the old man had left me, it was burning brightly. At last
it seemed that my efforts and prayers were successful; the blaze
sprang up and all seemed well. Just then a noise on the stairs
caused me to turn around, and to my surprise a complete stranger
came upon the platform where none but the guardians were allowed.
"Look." he aid; "those fires beyond are dying out."
I looked and was filled with fear to see that the smoke from the
towers near the mountain had died out., and in my sudden
amazement rushed to the parapet to get a nearer view. Satisfied
that what the stranger said was true, I turned to resume my
watch, and there, O horror ! my own fire was just expiring. No
lights or tinder were permitted there; the watcher had to renew
the fire by means of the fire. In a frenzy of fear I leaped to
new fuel and put it on the fire, fanned it, laid my face to it
and strove with maddened gasps to blow the flame up, but all my
efforts were vain -- it was dead.
A sickening dread seized me, succeeded by a paralysis of every
nerve except those that aid the hearing. I heard the stranger
move towards me, and then I recognized his voice as he spoke. No
other noises were about, all was dead and cold, and I seemed to
know that the ancient guardian of the fire would return no more,
that no one would return, that some calamity had fallen.
"It is the past," the stranger began. "You have just reached a
point where you failed to feed the fire ages ago. It is done.
Do you want to hear of those things? The old man has gone long
ago, and can trouble you no more. Very soon you will be again in
the whirl of the nineteenth century."
Speech then returned to me and I said, "Yes, tell me what this
is, or has been."
"This is an old tower used by the immediate descendants of the
white Magicians who settled on Ireland when England's Isle had
not yet risen from the sea. When the great Masters had to go
away, strict injunctions were left that no fires on these towers
were to go out. and the warning was also given that, if the
duties of life were neglected, if charity, duty, and virtue were
forgotten, the power to keep these fires alive would gradually
disappear. The decadence of the virtues would coincide with the
failure of the fires, and this, the last tower, guarded by an old
and a young man, would be the last to fail, and that even it
could save the rest if its watchers were faithful.
"Many years elapsed, and the brilliant gem placed upon the mount
of Innisfallen blazed forth both by day and night until at last
it seemed to fade a little. The curious sounding-stones, now
found in Ireland, were not so easily blown; only when a pure and
faithful servant came down from the White Tower did the long,
strange, and moving sounds float over the mountains from the
stone placed near the mount on which was the gem. Those stones
had been used by the great magicians, and when the largest of
them all, lying near the great White Tower, was sounded, the
fairies of the lakes appeared; when the stone of the mount was
blown together with that at the White Tower, the spirits of the
air and the water ranged themselves obediently around.
"But all this altered, and unbelief crept in while the fires were
kept up as a form.
"You were relied on with the old man. But vain dreams detained
you one hour beyond your appointed time on this fatal day, now in
the past, but shown to you by my special favor. You came, but
late. The old man was compelled to wait, but still feared to
leave you, for he saw with prescient eye the dark finger of fate.
He descended the stairs, and at its foot fell down and died.
Your curiosity then drew you at the exact fatal moment to look at
yonder tower, although you knew the prophecy and believed it.
That moment decided all -- and, poor boy, you could not hold back
the iron hand of destiny.
"The fire had gone out. You returned to the floors below; at
the foot of the stairs you saw them carrying away the old man
and --- ...."
At that point I saw the shadowy, waving shape of the tower; the
building had disappeared, the well was beside me, and I was in
the field again. Oh !
-- Bryan Kinnavan
(W . Q. Judge) PATH, Vol. 3, December 1888, p. 284
Innisfallen -- see W Q J Articles II 97-8, 133; LUCIFER, Vol. 4,
Round towers -- ISIS UNVEILED II 290 fn.
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