The Old Lighthouse

by William Michael

Once upon a time, there was a seaman named Sanctus who maintained a lighthouse. The sea in that place was treacherous and storms were known to rush in quite unseen. The lighthouse, for many centuries, led ships to safety.

However, Sanctus became unhappy with his work and said to his helper, “You know Paulus, I’m just not sure about this lighthouse business. This is a terribly lonely life for me and I just don’t feel like I’m really helping anyone. I mean look out there at the sea. My fellow seamen are out there amidst the storms and waves, while I sit here in safety. I just don’t think that’s what a true seaman would do.  I propose that we change the way we do things. Let’s shut down this old lighthouse and buy flashlights with the money we’ll save. Rather than sit here in the tower, we will go out to our brothers at sea and help them in our own way–a more personal way.”

So, Sanctus and Paulus shut down the lighthouse and set out to sea with a boat full of flashlights. They pushed far out to sea, so that the coast was no longer in sight. After several hours of watching, they spotted the first ship–a fishing boat coming in from the deep. “Hail, good friends!” said Sanctus. “Sanctus! What are you doing out here at sea? Who is keeping the tower?” “Bah!” said Sanctus, “That old tower was keeping me back from doing more for my fellows, and I’ve decided to help in a more personal way. So, here I am! Oh, here, I’ve got a free flashlight for you–a gift from me to help you see when it’s dark.” “Thanks, Sanctus, that’s nice of you. The sky’s clear tonight, fortunately! Fare well.”So Sanctus and Paulus set off again, soon to run into another sailor. They came upon a man coming from a distant land who hardly spoke the language. Sanctus stepped aboard the man’s ship and the man said, “Greetings. I am not from these parts. My name is Fidelis and I was told by my master simply to travel east and trust that I would find a good port. I have heard from some that there was an old light in these lands and have often wondered if I might find it, obeying my master. Do you know of this light?” Sanctus laughed and replied, “Hah! This is your lucky day, my foreign friend! I have been the keeper of that old lighthouse for 25 years–and my ancestors for centuries before me. The best port you’ll find is due east from here, just as your teacher said. But I have better news for you! We’re helping sailors in a new way around here, and I have a gift for you–a free flashlight!” “Thank you, Sanctus, but we already have one.” “Really? You have a flashlight.” “Yes”, said the sailor, “In my country we have flashlights. Will that be enough to get me to shore?” Sanctus replied, “Oh, you have nothing to worry about…the sky is clear tonight and you won’t even need any help–just continue as you are. You’ll be safe enough.” They parted company and the sailor continued on.Later, Sanctus and Paulus, heard a rumbling in the north. The waters grew rough and the wind brought cool air down upon them. Clouds rolled in and hid the stars from sight. Sanctus shouted to Paulus, “You see my friend–our first test! How encouraged will those at sea be to find us here, ready to help them, rather than safely tucked away back in the lighthouse! Keep on the lookout!” Paulus shouted, “Look sir! There is a ship coming in from the southwest.” Sanctus steers to the coming ship and stepped aboard. “Aye, good friends! You can see that trouble is coming in from the north, but we are here to help. Here, have a free flashlight!” “Thank you, sir” the captain said, “But do you know there is a lighthouse ashore? We are hoping to find land tonight and have trusted that we would find help as we pushed eastward.” “Hah! Better than you thought!” said Sanctus. There was, indeed, an old lighthouse ashore in these parts, but we wouldn’t have you lost out here looking for it. We’ve come to you from the lighthouse, to help in a more personal way–coming to meet you where you’re at, rather than staying ashore. Here, flashlights–they’re free, take as many as you need!”

As he spoke, the winds grew fiercer and the rains began–heavy, horizontal rains, followed by hail as lightning thundered about them. Sanctus and Paulus hurried to the cabin and shut themselves in safely out of the wind and rain. The waves crashed against the ship, when Paulus yelled, “Sir! We left the flashlights on deck–they’ll all be ruined!” Sanctus rushed out from the cabin and pulled the box inside. He pulled a light from the box and pressed the switch, and–nothing. He tried another, and another–nothing. “Drats, Paulus, our fashlights have all been ruined by the rain. Let’s get back to shore and get a new supply.”

Suddenly, however, Sanctus gasped. “Paulus, we have moved from shp to ship here at sea, and with the clouds hiding the stars, I cannot tell east from west! Which way to shore, Paulus? I have not sailed in so long that my sense of direction is not what it once was.” “I have no idea, sir! I am no sailor, but a custodian. I have never even been out to sea before.”

The storm grew only more violent as Sanctus wandered at sea, tossed to and fro by every wind and wave. Finally, a gust rushed upon them just as the waves peaked and tipped the ship to its side, cashing into the sea. Sanctus dove from the cabin just before the ship fell, while Paulus was trapped withing. Within minutes the ship was overcome by the waves and began to sink. Sanctus was fighting for his life, while Paulus was lost.

The storm proved to be far greater than Sanctus could have expected, and lasted for two days. The sailor Sanctus had met at sea made it safely to land, following the advice of his master at home. When he arrived ashore he entered a tavern and asked the host, “Where is Sanctus? Has he returned from sea?” “Sanctus?!” the man asked, “Sanctus is never at sea, he keeps the lighthouse and stays here on shore.” “No, sir, I met him at sea two nights past, and he told me that he was no longer keeping the old lighthouse, but had a new plan to help sailors. I’m afraid he may be lost in this terrible storm.”

The host ran to the window and looked, only to find the lighthouse unmanned, as the visitor said. “Well, that’s too bad. I’m not sure what he was thinking.” “How can I enter the tower?” asked the visitor, “I must restore the lighthouse or many will be lost in this terrbile storm!” “Again, that’s none of my business.” said the host, “Sanctus has kept that place by himself for 20 years.”

The visitor left the tavern and ran through the rain to the lighthouse. He found the entrance and, fortunately, it was unlocked. He raced up the stairs and looked out from the tower to find the entire shore shrouded in darkness. He returned to the floor and found the power switch. He flipped the switch and at once the ea was filled with light. He could then see many ships not far from land, but still struggling against the wind.

The ships began to arrive on shore, one-by-one, over the next few days. The survivors credited the foreigner with saving their lives and, when the storm had finally subsided, he was honored by the king for his excellent work when word reached the palace. The king called for a special ceremony to honor Fidelis for his heroic deeds. “Dear friends, old Sanctus foolishly abandoned his post, thinking of himself rather than his fellow seamen who have been led to safety by our great lighthouse for many centuries. Unfortunately, several men, including Sanctus himself, have paid a terrible price for his errors. Today, I appoint Fidelis, who, though he comes to us from a land not familiar to us, has proven to be a most reliable friend to all sailors. He will the new keeper of the lighthhouse in the east for years to come.”

Fidelis was applauded by all, and lived with great honor on all sides of the sea for many years to come. Once again, men from many lands, following many different routes are able to find that great light in the east which leads them to safe haven.

Categories: Stories


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