Captain Angus, the Lighthouse Ghost [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Wendy Laing
eBook Category: Young Adult EPIC eBook Award Finalist
eBook Description: Captain Angus, the Lighthouse Ghost is about 2 children holidaying at the Cape Otway Lighthouse Station, Victoria Australia--they meet the ghost of an old Scottish Sea Captain who roams the world helping the 'spirits' of lighthouses and helping 'conserve' the towers etc. He befriends the children and takes them on virtual reality trips via a magic time tunnel when they experience sailing on an old sailing ship--see a ship wreck rescue--see the tower being built--and even see one of their ancestors! A fun read and at the same time, readers will discover a little about their heritage of pioneers in Australia.
eBook Publisher: Writers Exchange E-Publishing, Published: Writers Exchange E-Publishing, 2003
Fictionwise Release Date: May 2004
"Aaron, let's go back! It's sorta spooky out here. We shouldn't have come!"
"No! Not yet, Gracie! Don't be a silly sister now. Sheesh! Why are girls always scaredy-cats?"
The wind blew strongly through the nearby trees at the top of the cliffs. Distant waves could be heard crashing onto the jagged rocks below. The sun was now low in the sky, hovering like a huge alien space ship above the horizon, ready to plunge and disappear into the water in the distance. Long shadows danced around their feet. Their own shadows mimicked their human shapes, then stretched them into long, skinny giant forms, twisting and wriggling over the shimmering grass on the headland.
Aaron and Gracie were on summer vacation. Their parents had brought them to the Cape Lighthouse station at Cape Otway, near Apollo Bay, Victoria, on the south east coast of Australia. They were staying at the old lighthouse keeper's cottage that had been converted into a guesthouse for tourists. They would have preferred to go to the beach or even to stay home with friends, but Carol and Peter Brandon had insisted that their family vacation be spent at the desolated spot. There weren't any amusement rides, or video games or even a store, and Aaron and Gracie had been told to go explore while their parents unpacked and settled in for the week-long stay.
"Aaron, they'll get worried if we don't get back before dark!"
"What? Mum and Dad? Nah, don't be silly. They knew we were coming to the station cemetery."
"But Aaron, it's nearly six. Dad was going to barbecue some sausages for dinner around seven."
"That's an hour away. There's plenty of time. The cottage is only a five minutes walk. Come on."
He grabbed her by the hand, and with a cheeky grin, opened the rusty iron gate that led into the tiny cemetery. It was quiet inside. The wind couldn't reach this lonely and secluded spot nestled in the sand dune area north of the Cape.
Gracie gasped, "Ooh, look. There's a dozen graves here!" A shiver went down her spine, and goose bumps appeared on her pale arms. "Ugh! This place gives me the creeps! Hey, look at this one. Oh, Aaron, this little girl was only a baby! It says, 'Keeper Andrews child died today. 12 January, 1878.' That's sad."
"Yeah!" replied Aaron. His happy mood had vanished. He stood next to his sister, looking at the tiny grave. Their father had told them to look for it when he told them about how hard life was for the lighthouse keeper's families when they had lived at the station one hundred and fifty years earlier.
"Hello!" said a voice behind them.
Aaron and Gracie spun around and then froze in their tracks. Their feet seemed to be glued to the ground where they stood.
"Who are y-y-you? W-w-here did you come from?" croaked Aaron, as he stared at a tall stranger. Darn it, why did his voice suddenly sound squeaky like a girl's, he thought. Aaron cleared his throat, stuck out his slim chest, and held his sister's hand tightly, hoping that the stranger hadn't noticed his nervous stammer.
"I didna give you a fright, did I? I'm sorry. I didna mean to, laddie." The old man smiled. His grey beard reflected the golden glow of the sinking sun. Aaron saw that he was wearing a sailor's uniform complete with brass-buttoned coat. Atop his silver hair, perched at a jaunty angle, was a sea captain's cap. "Aye, Aaron, it's a captain's cap," the stranger's deep voice replied.
"Wha- whe- Hey! How do you know my name? I didn't ask you about the cap. I err, I um .." Aaron couldn't finish. He wondered, where had the man come from? The main gates to the station had been closed to the public at five o'clock. Aaron tried hard to remember the people they had met inside the station compound. There were Kathy and Robin, the current Lighthouse station managers and Wal, the weatherman, who commuted between his property nearby and the station. Other than his parents, Carol and Peter Brandon, Gracie, his sister and of course, himself, there were no other people staying at the Lighthouse station that week. So, who was this stranger? Was it Wal, dressed in disguise, playing a joke?
As if reading Aaron's thoughts again, the stranger replied, "Nae, I'm not Wal! I came from the lighthouse back there. I'm staying for a wee while. I didna mean to frighten you or the young lass. By the way, I'm Captain Angus McLaughlan. My friends call me Cap'n Angus."
The children stared open mouthed at Cap'n Angus. He had experienced this reaction from people before, especially young children like Aaron and Gracie. Nae, not children, kids, he thought. Yes, that's what they called them in this modern time! Cap'n Angus put on the warmest smile he could, straightened his cap, dusted the cobwebs off his jacket, and thought, "Och, why do I always forget to dust the cobwebs off afore I leave home! No wonder I scare folk. They probably think I've walked straight out of a grave. Oh, dear! One step at a time Cap'n! Don't frighten 'em off, man. Ye've only just met!"
Gracie started to shiver all over. She felt the hair standing up on her arms. She couldn't help but notice the cobwebs and dust that the old man had just swept off himself. She remembered what her parents had said about talking to strangers. She didn't know what to make of this man at all.
Aaron couldn't move. This wasn't happening. He wasn't real! Was he?
The old sea captain nodded, then grinned a big beaming smile, which seemed to glow in the now disappearing golden sunlight.
"W-w-where did you r-r-really come from?" stuttered Aaron, and then ran out of words. He could only stare at the stranger. He had an eerie feeling as a shiver went through him, as if a cold breeze circled around them.
"As I said before, I came from the lighthouse tower back there on the Cape. I visit lighthouses all round the world. It's my job... um, no... it's my passion to see these beautiful towers."
"You live in the lighthouse?" Aaron asked doubtfully. "No one lives in a lighthouse."
"Aye, but they do..."
Gracie interrupted, "But where did you come from before you went to the lighthouse? You speak English, but you talk sorta funny."
"Sorta? Now ye are using a strange language, lass! He, He, He! I was born in Scotland, way over the other side of the world. Do ye know where Scotland is?" His pale blue eyes seemed to sparkle in the fading light.
"Of course," replied Gracie. Despite her reservation, she began to like the old man with his friendly smile. "That's where men wear those checked skirt things," she giggled.
"Kilts, lass. Tartan Kilts! Nae skirts!" The voice sounded cross. The white bushy eyebrows crumbled together as he frowned. "Do ye two nae learn history at school?"
"Yeah, but it's boring!" pouted Aaron.
"Ah, that's why ye didna want to come to the Cape for the week with your parents. So, ye think history is boring? That's a shame. I love history. Ye canna feel the history in this cemetery? I can!"
"What do you mean feel history? You can't feel it, you just have to learn it!" protested Gracie.
"Och, lass, ye felt history a few minutes ago! Ye felt sad at seeing the wee bairn's grave there. That's what I mean by feeling history."
"Bairn?" she puzzled.
"'Bairn' is Scottish for a baby."
Gracie looked at Cap'n Angus with a questioning frown.
"Cap'n, we tried to go in the lighthouse tower's door before coming here, but it was locked," she commented.
"Aye. I know, Gracie. I dinna need a key. He, He, He!"
His rounded tummy bounced as he chuckled.
"Oh dear, I'm sorry, lass. If only ye could see the look on your face when I said that I dinna need a key! He, He, He."
Truth was, Cap'n Angus just loved to play jokes on people. And he also liked to tease. Deep down he was a kindly man who liked children. He felt they always accepted strange or new things more easily than adults. Their minds had not yet closed down to possibilities.
"Come, youngsters! Let's go back. It's getting dark now. Ye should return to the lighthouse tower and the cottage area. These paths can be dangerous in the dark. I dinna want to see ye disappearing over the edge! Follow me." With that command, he strode off down the path in front of them.
Cap'n Angus walked about ten feet ahead of them. Gracie thought it odd that she couldn't hear his footsteps, but decided maybe it was because the wind was so strong, blowing past her ears. Five minutes later, they could see the tall, stark white tower of the lighthouse perched at the top of the cliffs ahead. They descended into the bushy track, which wound and twisted through the dense bush that surrounded the compound area. They were now in a safe area, away from the cliff edge. They gasped as they rounded the last bend in the narrow track. Cap'n Angus was no longer walking ahead of them. He had disappeared!
"Hey! Cap'n, wait up... Cap'n? Heck, Gracie, he can't walk that fast, can he?"
"He, He, He. Now's the time to play tricks! He, He, He!" thought Cap'n Angus, then called out, "Come on! Hurry up in front! Stop dawdling!" The deep voice now boomed from behind them.
"Wha.. Hey.. how did you get behind us? Ha! You musta hid in the bushes, then stepped in behind us. Very funny! humph!" grunted Aaron.
Cap'n Angus just smiled back at him, then said, "Hmmm maybe, maybe not. Come on, lad. Hurry! It's getting dark!"
"This boy isn't easily spooked!" thought Cap'n Angus, a little disappointed that his disappearing act didn't frighten Aaron.
They reached the open area where the cottage of the former lighthouse keepers and the lighthouse tower was nestled near the edge of the Cape. The tower was so big that it dwarfed them. Its white painted stone exterior seemed to disappear into the low flying clouds above them. Looking up to the top made them feel giddy. The children were aware of Cap'n Angus's presence standing in front of them, smiling as his deep voice drifted like the wind into their ears.
"Beautiful, isn't it? Ye know that this tower looked just the same over one hundred years ago. With imagination, ye can feel what it was like back then, when the lighthouse keepers and their families lived here. They felt the same breezes, breathed the same sea air that ye are breathing... the same strong wind that ye can feel now."
His voice became soft as he seemed to be lost in memories. Gracie and Aaron began feeling the wind and imagining what it was like. Gracie turned to ask the captain a question. He'd disappeared again! The cold wind made her shiver as she called out, "Cap'n? Oh, please stop playing tricks! Cap'n?"
"Aye? Can ye hear me?"
His voice seemed to blend into the roar of the wind.
"Wow! It's a trick, I bet he's behind the tower, Aaron. You go this way, and I'll go the other way. I bet we find him," she shouted as she scampered around the tower.
Moments later, they met each other at the back of the tower with bewildered looks on their faces.
"He's gone, Gracie. He's vanished into thin air!"
Gracie started to giggle and called out, "Oh, Cap'n, this is going a bit far now. First you want us to believe that you're a real sea captain. Then you keep playing disappearing tricks on us! Ha, ha, ha, ha. You're so funny, and good, too. Are you an actor, paid to appear at night to scare kids like us?"
"Yeah, Cap'n, or whoever you are, that's a neat trick. Come on, where are you? Can you show us how you do it?' asked Aaron.
A cold breeze whisked around them, blowing Gracie's blond hair around her face. Aaron blinked his eyes wide in amazement, then in surprise as Cap'n Angus seemed to appear through the locked door of the tower, and then stood in front of them. They thought their eyes were playing tricks on them.
"Yeow! Hey, how did you do that?" gasped Aaron.
"Och, I'm sorry, I didna mean to scare ye, but I'm having one of those days. He, He, He, I canna help myself. I like to play jokes, you see," but not frighten ye!"
"B-b-ut you walked through the locked door! At least, I-I think you did!" muttered Aaron.
"No, Aaron, it was a trick. Cap'n Angus was playing a trick!" spluttered Gracie.
Cap'n sighed. It was time he told them the truth.
"I was a Captain on a sailing ship. My ship was wrecked on rocks off the Scottish coast in 1825. We hit the rocks because there was no lighthouse on the cliffs above. There's a lighthouse there now, just like this one here. The ship's crew were all laid to rest in a little cemetery, at the top of the cliff near to the wreck. The lighthouse that now stands on top of that cliff warns ships about the reef that we struck. You can read it in the history."
"This tower has the date 1848, above the door!" said Aaron. "What you're saying is that you died 23 years before this tower was built? You're kidding, aren't you, huh? Come on, Cap'n Angus, where's the key? You have a key for that door! Stop fooling around, or I'll call Dad."
"Och, lad, no need to call your Dad."
"1825? That's one hundred and seventy years ago!" Gracie shuffled forward, put out her hand, and continued, "That's not possible!"
"Gracie's calculations are right. I died off the Scottish Coast, 23 years before this lighthouse tower was built here in Australia in 1848!"
Cap'n Angus watched the stunned looks on the children's now pale faces. The stunned look changed to a puzzled look, then one of disbelief.
"Och, these two are still disbelievers! I hope I haven't made a mistake," he thought.
Cap'n cleared his throat, then put on his most engaging smile, and said quietly.
"Do ye believe in ghosts?"
"Ghosts!" exclaimed Gracie.
"Wow!" whistled Aaron.
"How did you get here? I mean why are you here.. err... I mean you look r-r-r-r-real!" Gracie's teeth had started an uncontrollable chattering.
"I spirited myself here, lass. Go ahead, try to touch me," he smiled back, holding out his hand. "I promise I won't bite!"
Gracie nervously moved forward to touch Cap'n Angus's hand. She caught her breath.
"I-I-I c-c-an't feel you! Oooha."
She was suddenly fascinated at what she could see, but not feel.
"Ha! I must be dreaming this," she decided. She wasn't scared anymore, just curious. For the first time, she noticed that Cap'n didn't cast a shadow. She looked at Aaron's shadow, her own shadow, then looked for Cap'n Angus's. There was no shadow at all! A shiver ran down her spine. She hoped that it was only the cool evening wind. Cap'n folded his arms and leaned on the safety railing that ran around the base of the tower. She noticed that his dark blue trousers were stained with what looked like salt spray.
Cap'n cleared his throat, and said, "Ye see, one advantage of being what ye like to call a ghost is that we are able to appear or disappear at will. We can form and reform and go through solid walls. We can even travel to other places in a few seconds, or travel through time if we want."
"You can't be a ghost!" croaked Gracie, still bewildered but re-gaining her defiance. "Coz we can see you!"
"But lass, have ye already forgotten that ye canna touch me?" sighed Cap'n.
"Shh, Gracie! Sheesh, you're so dumb! Cap'n, why are girls so dumb? You are a ghost, aren't you? How else would you have appeared out of nowhere?" Aaron was fascinated.
A cool breeze started to whirl around them, flicking Gracie's blond hair again.
"Aye, laddie. I'm a ghost all right. Now, let me see, how can I prove it? He, He, He! Ah, I know. Watch carefully. I'm going to dematerialise, then reappear. All right?"
Aaron took a deep breath and replied, "Sure!"
"Yeah, right!" smirked Gracie, not believing the old man's next trick.
The wind suddenly became strong, and swirled around them. Cap'n smiled and said, "Back shortly." A puff of cold air, and Cap'n Angus simply disappeared, right before their eyes!
"Are ye ready? I'm coming back. I'm re-materialising." The deep voice seemed to come from inside the white wall of the tower. A second later a hand, then an arm came out through the white wall. It was as if the bricks had magically parted like a curtain on a stage. In a few moments, the entire familiar figure of the old sailor had fully reappeared in front of them. Gracie felt her hair standing up on the back of her neck.
"Argh! You are a ghost!" she croaked and then fainted.
SPIRITS AND GHOSTS
Cap'n Angus was devastated.
"Och, I should have told them that I was going to appear through the wall! It's all my fault. The poor wee lass. The laddie looks scared out of his wits, too. What have I done? I canna even give her a hug. Oh, Cap'n, you silly fool!" he thought.
"It's all right, Aaron. Give her a hug, and let the wind fan her face. Aye, that's right. She fainted, that's all. I should'na scared ye like that."
Aaron suddenly looked cross.
"You didn't warn us about walking out of the wall! Come on, Gracie, wake up! It's okay. It's all right now."
Gracie fluttered her eyelids, then sat up with eyes wide as flying saucers. She looked straight at Aaron, and with teeth chattering, spoke to him very fast, like an express train speeding through a station.
"Oh, Aaron. I've just had the weirdest dream. We met a ghost at the cemetery. He walked through the lighthouse tower door, I couldn't feel him, and he doesn't have a shadow, and he played tricks on us and... ARGH! Cap'n? You're here? You're not a dream?"
"Aye, I'm here, lass. Are ye all right? Ye fainted. I'm sorry. I didna mean to frighten ye that much. Maybe ye should go to your parents. I'll meet ye tomorrow when you're feeling better. Perhaps I made a mistake showing myself to you both."
Cap'n Angus bowed his head in shame. He'd even taken off his Captain's cap. His fingers nervously rubbed the cap. Slowly he raised his head. His bright blue eyes sparkled at the children from beneath his bushy eyebrows. He noticed that the colour had returned to Gracie's cheeks. She stood up, dusted herself down, then stood with hands on her hips.
Cap'n smiled and thought, "Och, a defiant, strong-willed lass. That's more like it! Maybe I wasn't wrong, after all!"
Gracie grinned back at him saying, "No way! I'm okay now. You're really a ghost, huh? Wow! Wait till we tell Mum and Dad!"
"Nae, lass, dinna tell the grown ups! Not yet anyway. Let's keep this our secret for a while, eh? How long are ye staying at the lighthouse keepers cottage?"
"A week. We arrived this afternoon," replied Gracie. Her mind was in a whirl. She pinched herself to see if she was really awake and not dreaming. "Ouch!" She was awake! Cap'n smiled again, put on his cap at a jaunty angle, then pulled out a grubby pipe. He stuck the pipe in his mouth, sucking it noisily. Cap'n looked at her with a beaming smile, which creased his face in wrinkles as he said, "Good. That gives me time to tell ye all about the spirit of this lighthouse. This lighthouse needs young people like yourselves."
"Now you're teasing us again, Cap'n. Ha, ha.The lighthouse tower can't have a spirit!"
"Your father is starting up the barbecue, so I dinna have much time. I want to tell ye about Aurora."
"Aurora? Who's he?" asked Aaron.
"Aurora is the lighthouse tower's spirit. He is unhappy. That is why I came here."
"Why?" asked Gracie. "What am I saying? How can a building have feelings? I mean, a spirit? Cap'n, I'm confused."
Cap'n Angus smiled at the children. They were just the right age. They were young and innocent, yet willing to learn new ideas. He felt sure that they would help Aurora. At least he had a whole week to show them how to make Aurora happy again. He cleared his throat, and began.
"Let me tell ye about Aurora's spirit. Aurora was once young and active. He was a useful lighthouse. Now he's not active, and he's sad. Very sad."
"But how can we help? What do you want us to do?" asked Gracie.
"Well, all I ask is that ye spend this week, listening to what I tell ye and feeling the spirits here, and think about their stories. Ye will learn much about the ancestors and pioneers who came to settle in this land many years ago. Once ye can feel the special history of this place, ye will be able to help to keep the spirit of Aurora and this place alive for the next generation. Once ye have the passion for the past and the spirit of this place, then ye will make Aurora happy again. Ah, I must go. Your mother is looking for ye."
"How do you know? I can't hear her! Oh, I forgot. You're a ghost!" giggled the now happy and excited Gracie.
"She's coming to look for ye. Quick! It's time for ye to leave the tower and go to her." Cap'n's voice became softer, blending into the noise of the wind at the cliff's edge where the tower stood. He smiled, and then his image faded from their view. Gracie sucked in her breath, and Aaron could only make a low appreciative whistle.
"Wow!" said Aaron.
"Yeah, double wow!" agreed Gracie.
They took one last look up at the tower, then started running along the path towards the cottage where they were staying. Their mother appeared at the gate of the neat white picket fence, which surrounded the old cottage.
"Aaron! Gracie! Didn't you hear us calling? Come on. Your Dad's finished cooking. It's time to eat."
"But Mum, we were talking to... Ouch! Don't pinch, Aaron! I err... oops... sorry... I, um."
"What Gracie's trying to say Mum, is that we were so busy talking that we didn't hear you." He winked at Gracie. "Hmmm, smells delicious, Mum! Come on, Gracie, last one in is a rotten egg!" laughed Aaron as he began to run.
The now invisible Cap'n Angus watched the two excited children disappear into the cottage. He sucked on his beloved pipe, and thought, "Och, if only I were alive and young like that again! He, He, He, He, He."
Cap'n Angus watched the children eating barbecue chicken with their parents. He sighed to himself, and when he did, he created a chilly wind, which blew around the family in the yard of the lighthouse keeper's cottage. The suddenly cold breeze caused the family to hurriedly pack up their picnic and move inside.
"Aye, go inside! It's time for me to go back home and see my lighthouse!" he thought.
His brow wrinkled in deep concentration. He tucked his pipe safely into his jacket pocket, then willed his spirit back to Buchan Ness Lighthouse, Scotland. Within seconds, he was diving through a swirling tunnel of water, sky and clouds. His spirit rushed towards the bright light at the end. He "popped" out of the tunnel, right in front of an old lighthouse standing atop a rugged cliff on an isolated place in the north east of Scotland. The wind was blowing hard. It was just before dawn, at seven o'clock in the morning. He looked at his old-fashioned "fob" watch that had been resting in his front right pocket at the time he died. It was always working, and it also magically adjusted to the local time wherever he went!
He chuckled to himself, and thought, "Aye, my spirit watch, you're right on time, as usual! I dinna have to even wind ye up now, as I did when I was alive."
Cap'n Angus looked fondly at the familiar lighthouse tower. There was a brass plaque built into the base of the stone which read:
This lighthouse tower is built in the memory of Captain Angus McLaughlan and the crew of Loch Garron who perished on Sailors' Reef in November 1848. This tower is a beacon of hope to all the ships that sail off this coast.
The local historical society had formed a special volunteer group to repair and maintain the now un-manned lighthouse station. It was a tourist attraction and a permanent reminder to future generations of the perils of the early sailing days.
"Aye, that's just the right colour, lads!" he thought. "As I recall, the window frames were just that shade of cream. The stonemason is doing a grand job, too! Och, it's good to see the tower being repaired! The only thing that makes me sad is that the tower is now worked automatically--solar power, they call it. All that power from one wee glass panel on the cliff over there! Humph! I'd rather see a lighthouse keeper. Such a pity! Folk call this progress! I don't!"
Cap'n Angus managed to smile in spite of feeling grumpy about the new technology rubbish! Truth was, he longed for the 'good old days' when there were fine tall sailing ships, and not the big tankers plying the seas today.
He pulled out his pipe and stuck it into his mouth. He sucked it pensively as the first golden glow of the dawn appeared in the east. It was going to be another beautiful day. He decided to take a quick look at the lighthouse cemetery. He paused at the headstone of his own grave, and reminisced. He felt sad when he read the epitaph on the headstones of his crew. He didn't like to be reminded of the fate of the brave men who had died with him. It had happened because there had been no warning 'beacon of hope' to tell sailors to keep clear of the dangerous reef.
Suddenly, a voice called out to him.
"Hello, Captain! Good to see ye again! Do ye visit here often, Sir?"
Cap'n Angus spun around and faced the late First Officer of his sailing ship, Jim Robertson.
"Jim! Och! I didna know that ye visited here, too, lad! Aye, I come back often to see this special place. Do ye see any of the others?"
"Nae, Sir. Maybe they are happy at rest and dinna want to drift around the world as we do! It's grand to see ye again, Sir. I must go now, though. Every day, I like to visit the old folk at an old age home 10 miles away, and chat to some of them. The nurses keep telling them that they are imaging things, and that they couldn't possibly be talking to a sailor so far inland! Har, Har, Har. We know better, don't we, Sir?"
"Aye, Jim, we do! I'm glad ye are doing something useful with your spirit. I'm making sure that the lighthouse towers of the world are being maintained for future generations!"
"What! No 'ghosting', Sir? That doesn't sound like the Captain I knew, who liked to play tricks and jokes!"
Cap'n Angus chuckled and replied, "Och, I do get tempted, Jim. Sometimes I go too far, though. Just today, I gave a wee lass such a fright that she fainted!"
"Har, Har, just like any lass! Well sir, I must go! Hope we meet again soon!"
Jim stood erect, grinned, then saluted. Within seconds, he disappeared. His trail of air whisked up the autumn leaves on the ground into the air.
Cap'n grinned to himself. He looked at his watch again. Then he sat down on top of his grave. He sighed, thinking how travelling always made him weary. It was time for him to rest and recover his spiritual powers. He was going to need every bit of power he possessed to give those two children a treat when they woke in Australia!***
Peter and Carol Brandon were surprised at the over-night change in their children's attitude towards the Cape Lightstation. When they had arrived the previous afternoon, Aaron had mumbled what a boring place it was going to be. Gracie pouted her lip, and whined that she would rather have gone to her friend Kylie's house for the week.
Now, they were two animated, excited children who gobbled down their breakfast, and ran out the door. It was nine o'clock when Aaron and Gracie rushed down to see Wal open up the tower door, ready for the tourists. They wanted to be the first to climb up the steps that day.
"I find it hard to believe that finding that baby's grave got them so interested in this place, Carol. What do you think?"
"Peter, I don't want to think about it. I'm just glad we decided to finally bring them to our favourite place. Remember when we first came here, before the children were born?"
"Of course! It was romantic, as I recall. So quiet, yet there was a certain magic about the place that kept bringing us here again and again. Then, over the years, we stopped coming because we thought the kids were too young to enjoy it. Let's face it, it would have been a nightmare trying to keep an eye on toddlers wandering around the cliffs!"
Carol laughed, "Yes, but perhaps now it was the right time to bring them here. I think they'll be fascinated when you tell them about their ancestors who lived here at the Cape! I wonder if they felt anything when they saw the baby's grave," said Carol, as she cleared away the breakfast dishes.
"Who knows? The main thing is that they seem to be really keen, now. I can't wait to tell them that their great, great, great-grandfather was a lighthouse keeper here back in the 1870s, and that the grave of the baby would have been their great, great aunt, had she lived. You know, Wal told me yesterday that some people have been seeing a young woman down by that grave. They reckon she's the mother of the baby, my great, great-grandmother. Gives me the shivers thinking about it."
"Don't be silly, Peter, there're no such things as ghosts... are there?"
Peter laughed and said, "I'm not so sure, myself."***
The first trip up the seventy-eight steps of the circular staircase inside the tower was, in Aaron's words, "Awesome!"
In Gracie's words, "Cool!"
Wal was their guide. He had just finished sending the weather details and statistics to the central weather bureau in Melbourne, the biggest city over 200 kilometres away from the isolated spot where they now stood.
They were in the top room of the tower at the base of the light itself with its shiny crystal lenses, which could reflect light 46 kilometres out to sea. They listened with wonder as Wal told them how the 2.5 tonne light floated on a "mere" 55 kilogram bath of mercury! That's like resting a rotating pumpkin on top of a small plate of pea soup!"
Aaron and Gracie laughed aloud at Wal's example.
"The light had worked continuously for over one hundred years without incident until Christmas Eve 1961, when a large earthquake rocked the tower, and caused the mercury to spill out and run down the stairs. The lightkeeper and assistants had to push the light around by hand until dawn! Fortunately, only a small amount of mercury was lost, as droplets trickled down the curved stairs inside the tower. They were able to add mercury the next day to balance the light once more."
Wal scratched his chin, then added, "I was a young kid at the time. I vividly remember helping my dad and the assistant lighthouse keeper to collect the slippery pools of mercury at the bottom of the stairs. I filled up a matchbox full."
"Did the earthquake damage the tower?" asked Aaron.
"No, the tower itself wasn't damaged, which goes to show how well it was built," replied Wal.
They moved outside and onto the narrow balcony, which ran around the top of the tower. The wind nearly blew off their caps, which they held firmly to their heads.
"Look at the big oil tanker out there, Gracie!" yelled Aaron.
"It looks as tiny as a toy boat from up here," laughed Gracie.
Wal interrupted, "The tanker looks small because we are so high up. It's about 8 kilometres away from us."
"Oh, look, Wal, it must be rough out there. Look at the waves breaking right over the front of the ship. What's the front called, Wal?"
"The bow, mate!" grinned Wal.
They went back inside the tower again, and thanked Wal for the information before descending the metal ladder to the top sandstone step. They counted the steps as they descended looking at their feet.
"Seventy eight, seventy seven, seventy six."
Their heads were giddy as they twirled around and around the circular staircase again, as if they were on a merry-go-round.
Tip-tap-tip-tap ... huff puff huff
"Five, four, three, two, one, ZERO!" puffed Aaron, wobbling as he walked out the tower door. "Wow, that made me dizzy. He, He, He. Next time I'm going faster."
Once out of Wal's earshot, Gracie ran ahead of him, and called out, "Come on, slow-coach, let's see if we can find Cap'n Angus!'
Two frustrating hours later, after walking all over the station compound, the children sat down on a bench under a tree. They were tired, puzzled and irritable. Where was the captain? How could they call him when he couldn't be seen or found?
"Aaron, this is hopeless! How on earth do we find him, when we don't know where to look for him!"
"Yeah, it's hard looking for someone who's invisible!"
"Next time, try knocking on the tower door, lass!"
"Argh! Cap'n!" said Gracie, as she jumped in surprise.
"I should have told ye to knock on the door if ye really needed me. I've been in Scotland. Nearly forgot about you two. He, He, He." His tummy bounced up and down as he laughed. Gracie noticed for the first time how blue his eyes were, and how silver and shiny his hair was. He had rosy cheeks, just like her Grandad. She also saw that his clothes looked crumpled. Had he been sleeping in them? Then again, did ghosts sleep?
"Nae, I dinna sleep in my clothes, Gracie. I simply rest to regain my spiritual powers."
"Hey, you read my thoughts!" She felt her face flushing with embarrassment.
"Nae, lassie, not every one," he reassured her. "Only those directed at me."
Cap'n Angus pulled out his pipe, and sucked on it with a wheezy breath as if he was smoking it.
"Cap'n, your pipe's not lit!" chuckled Aaron.
"Humph! I know it's not, lad. If I lit it, everyone would see smoke coming from nowhere! I wouldna want to scare anyone, would I? He, He, He. Sorry I disappeared last night. I had some business back home, and had to make what ye would call a 'virtual trip' He, He, He. Och! I should have thought of that before!"
"You went home to Scotland and back last night?" asked an incredulous Gracie.
"Why, I use the spirit world's 'tunnel'. It takes me wherever I want to go, whenever I want to go."
"Cool," declared Gracie.
"Aye, it's better than one of your super-sonic planes!" declared Cap'n Angus with a hearty laugh. "Would ye like to go on a 'virtual' trip with me? We could go out there on an old sailing ship," suggested the captain, as he pointed toward the ocean.
"Awesome!" exclaimed Aaron. "You mean we could disappear and re-appear like you do?"
Gracie looked worried, and asked, "But Cap'n, our parents might worry if they can't find us!"
"Och, ye dinna have to worry, lassie, because your 'virtual trip' will take less time than it takes to blink your eye. Ye will still be standing here as though ye are thinking or daydreaming. No person in the past will know of your presence. Ye will be invisible and not heard by everyone in that time zone, just as I am invisible and silent to other people in your time, apart from your good selves, of course. However, you will be able to see yourself and each other, just as you can now. Although you will think that you have actually gone back in time physically, only your spirit will have travelled. So do ye want a wee bit of fun? Are ye ready to go?
Cap'n took them to seaward side of the tower where a safety railing circled its base along the cliff to stop any tourists wandering too near to the dangerous edge.
"Hang onto the rail real tight now!" ordered Cap'n Angus.
"Aye, Aye, Cap'n."
Before they could speak again, they felt themselves spinning through the air. Wind blew against their faces. Ahead of them, they could see what looked like a revolving tunnel. The tunnel appeared to be a mixture of swirling water, sky and clouds. They then started to 'fly' through this tunnel.
"Oooooh! This is like being on the Big Dipper at the carnival!" squealed Gracie.
"Woooooooooweeeeee!" whooped Aaron.
The next moment, the tunnel had evaporated around them and they were standing on a heaving wet deck of a wooden sailing ship! Gracie grabbed onto the railing to keep her balance. Aaron joined her.
"Hey, Aaron, you look so real, just like Ca'pn Angus does to us. By the way, you sorta look funny. Do you feel sick?"
"I don't feel too good. I wish this boat would stop going up and down! My stomach is jiggling all over the place!"
"It's a ship, lad, nae a boat. This is the Seaspray, out of Southampton, England. Dinna worry. Ye will get used to the ship's movement in a few minutes," laughed Cap'n Angus.
A voice called out from above their heads where a sailor was sitting in the 'crows' nest' as a lookout. The sailor pointed towards a cliff in the distance. On top of the cliff was a tall white lighthouse tower. The sweeping light shone across the sea around them.
"Hey, Cap'n, there's the Cape Lighthouse!" gasped Aaron. "We haven't gone anywhere!"
"Sure we have," replied Cap'n Angus. "It's now 1870, and the lighthouse has only been built for 22 years! It's warning the Captain about the reef."
"1870? You mean it's not today? You mean we've really gone back in time?" whispered Gracie. Her eyes bulged with excitement and wonder. She pinched herself to see if she was dreaming. "Ouch!" She wasn't! The children held onto the rails. Gracie's long blond hair was slapped around her face by the blustery salty wind. Aaron was fascinated by the white caps of the waves as they broke against the sides of the wooden ship.
"Ooooaaah!" yelled Gracie. "It's like being on the big dipper ride at Luna Park in Melbourne."
"Yeah! Oops, my tummy keeps getting left up in the air, while I'm down here," laughed Aaron.
The ship groaned and creaked as the huge swell rolled it from side to side, as it slowly approached through the dangerous 'Needles eye'. Aaron was too excited to feel seasick any more. He watched the sailors moving up the mast using ropes, then walk out to unfurl a string of multi-coloured flags.
"Cap'n? What are those flags?"
"They're a signal telling the lighthouse keeper that this is the vessel Seaspray from the English port of Southampton, with 150 souls on board, consisting of 20 crew, 30 women, 20 children and 80 men, bound for the port of Melbourne to the east. The telegraph man will read this signal, and then telegraph the port authorities in Melbourne to advise them that this vessel has been sighted, and is on its way. In 1870, this was the most modern communication equipment of the day lad!"
"Wow, it's neat," sighed Gracie. "I still can't believe that we are actually standing on a sailing ship, back in 1870!"
"Well, ye are ... 'virtually' that is, lass. The best way I can describe it is that I've brought your adventurous spirits with me, through the spirit world time tunnel! He, He, He. Fun, isn't it?"
"Awesome!" grunted Aaron.
"This is exciting!" agreed Gracie.
Cap'n Angus watched contentedly as the two excited children held onto the ship's railing, looking over the side at the bow cutting through the spray.
"Hey, Aaron, look! There are dolphins swimming along the waves next to the bow!"
"They're surfing, Gracie! Neat!"
"Standby to tack!" shouted the Captain of the Seaspray.
The ship suddenly heaved to starboard, facing southeast instead of northeast.
"Boom over!" thundered a young sailor standing next to Aaron.
Aaron did not get time to duck. He gasped as the boom swept harmlessly through him. Wow, it's just like being a ghost! He realized that the sailor had not been warning him, but a sailor. He then remembered that these sailors couldn't see Gracie, Cap'n Angus or himself, at all! It was a weird feeling.
The sails flapped loosely for a few moments, and the ship shuddered as it floundered in the huge trough between the waves. As it reached the next crest, the wind filled the sails again and they hung on as the ship lurched forward again, skimming through the water. Cold, salty spray stung their faces. Aaron began to wish that he had been born 150 years earlier, and that he was really travelling on this ship.
"It's time to return to reality and the present," shouted Cap'n Angus. "I'm getting tired. Spiriting ye back takes a lot of energy. We must go now."
Once again, they felt the time tunnel wind against their faces.
Whoosh! Whizz! Whirl!
The sun suddenly appeared again. They were back in the present, hanging onto the railing around the back of the lighthouse tower as if they were still holding the railing of the Seaspray.
"Wow! Cap'n, that was Awesome!" said Aaron.
"I loved the lighthouse. It was so beautiful to see it from the water, from aboard a real sailing ship. It gave me a tingling feeling to see it working," sighed Gracie.
"I wish it was still sailing," agreed Aaron.
"Exactly! That's why I'm here. The spirit of the tower is unhappy because he's not useful. We must talk about this, before ye leave the Cape. We'll meet again, tomorrow. I'll take ye back to an earlier time and ye can see what it was like during a storm when an old sailing ship was wrecked on the reef. That's why a light is important. Och, I nearly forgot to tell ye, He, He, He. You won't be able to tell anyone about what you've just experienced. It helps to keep my secret. Think of it as a safety program like the one ye put in a modern day computer. He, He, He. Until tomorrow. Goodbye for now."
Cap'n Angus's voice began to fade and blend into the wind that whistled around their ears. With those parting words, his image also disappeared from their sight.
"Aaron! Gracie! Oh, there you are. What have you two been doing?" asked their mother, when the children returned to the front entrance of the tower and found their mother waiting for them outside the lighthouse door. "Come on, lunch is ready. Hurry up. Where have you been?" she asked, as she noticed Gracie's flushed face. "You look as if you've been having fun."
"Come on, Gracie! I'll beat you back to the cottage," laughed Aaron, as he began to run back to the cottage.
Carol Brandon shook her head, but she had a big grin on her face. It was good to see that they were enjoying their stay. But what have they been doing to get them so excited?