The Sword of Paracelsus: A Knock at the Door, Part 2

Black Crow 001


Hurrying to the fiddle in the corner, Eny picked up the case, laid it on the floor, and unlatched the brass clasps.  Gently raising the lid, she lifted the glossy instrument from its velvet bed and cradled it in her left arm.  Then she tightened the bow, rosined the horsehair, and attached the chin rest.  When all was ready, she raised the fiddle to her shoulder and stepped over to the window.

Heaving a deep sigh, she stood there for a moment gazing out into the sweltering night.  It was like coming home.  It was like falling helpless and happy into the arms of a long lost friend.  It was like waking up and drinking long draughts of sweet air after a nightmare of suffocation and drowning.  She smiled.  She raised her right elbow and drew the bow across the strings.

At first she played softly and tentatively.  Feeling her way from tune to tune, she scraped out all her old favorites:  “Out on the Ocean,” “The Flowing Tide,” and “Round the House;” “The Lark in the Clear Air,” “Rakish Paddy,” and “The Dawning of the Day.”

The longer she played, the bolder she grew.  Confidence and joy rose up and intertwined, possessing her body and soul.  Like a bubbling, flowing fountain the music gurgled upward, ascending from her belly to the top of her head.  Gradually her unpracticed fingers remembered their old skill and she launched into a rousing set of reels:  “The Bucks of Oranmore,” “The Salamanca,” “The Banshee,” and “The Sailor’s Bonnet.”

At last she slipped into a melody she barely knew, a tune she could only recall having played once before—an old Welsh dance called “The Wing of the Black Crow.”  Before she even realized what she was doing, she had played it through one time without a hitch.  But when it came around again, her fingers faltered.  The name of the tune rose up before her and gave her pause.  She slowed to a stop.  The bow fell from her hand and the music ceased.

Though the night was hot, Eny felt a chill.  The black crow, she thought, peering uneasily out the window.  Away to the south she could see the great brick tower silhouetted against the luminous hillside.  In her imagination its shadow fell across her path again.  Again she felt a burst of air explode against her cheek.  Again she recoiled from a sharp blow to the top of her head.  She shrunk into herself, dropped to the edge of the bed, and sat staring down at her trembling bow-hand.

But this mood of bleak defeat did not last long.  For in the next moment a flush of red-hot anger came rushing to her aid.

“This isn’t right!” said Eny.  “I’m allowing that woman to control my life!  I have the power to stop her, and I will!  After all, a crow is a crow is a crow—not a demon!  It doesn’t belong to her!  A crow is part of God’s creation!  Fear has no place in perfect love!”

With that, she reached for her backpack, took out a pencil and her poetry notebook, and began to write in a strong, deliberate hand:


                  The wing of the black crow

                   Sails silent down the sun-blue sky.

                   At rest he sits, head downward-cocked,

                   Upon a barren, thorny branch …



Eny glanced up with a start. What was that sound?  She rose and walked softly to the window.  Had she heard a rustling in the oleander bushes?  Was some person on the sidewalk?  She drew back the curtain and looked out.  No one was there.  All was quiet.  Even the shouts of the children had faded away.  The circle of light beneath the lamp post was unmarred by any shadow.  Must have been the wind, she thought …

(To be continued …)


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