Today was a big day for Weevil's father John. He was up before
dawn and took all the sandwiches and other food and drink that
mother Nancy had prepared for him. He packed the car with tools and
lumber and had more lumber on the roof rack and in the box trailer.
Off along the bush trail he drove as far as he could towards the cabin,
then carried everything the last short distance to the clearing. The
sub-flooring was already laid out, like a platform in the wilderness:
and today he was to erect the framing; if all went well it could by
day's end look much more like a soon-to-be-finished building.
Using pre-cut studs and checking his measurements carefully to his
plan, before long he had nailed together the first short side framing,
flat, on the subfloor. He lifted it up slowly for it was heavier than he
expected, and stepping across to bend underneath it, raised it into
place and nailed it to the subfloor. It stood quite square on its own.
Next he tackled one long side, putting in the cripple studs for the
window and the door. This one, when completed, was very heavy to
lift, and had to be propped up inch by inch as he slowly raised it. The
last stage was accomplished by hitching this framing with a rope to a
tree to prevent it falling back as he raised it. Finally it was up, after
a great struggle, and it also stood on its own. As he squared it with
the other raised framing and nailed them together and secured the
base, he found himself whistling, humming and singing a song. It was
a song of triumph.
As he continued working he began to think about this singing and how
it had burst from him in that strange way. Suddenly it came to him
where he had heard the melody before -- it was the "Ode To Joy"
from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. John thought he now had some
idea of the emotions of the composer when it was created. He had not
realized he knew the melody so well, and in fact had difficulty
recapturing it all, a while later, in retrospect. But much stranger
things were to happen on that and the next day.
It all began after he had brought back a load of roof trusses and
installed them. For this he swung up one end, upside down, then the
other, then reversed them to right side up and nailed them down. By
now he had the building well underway. He was checking and levelling
as he went, and had among all his other tools, three levels -- a four
foot, an 18-inch, and a small 'torpedo' level, about 8" x 1" wide:
He finished using the small one and put it down on the sub-floor among
all the other tools. Then, a few minutes later, he needed it again.
It was gone. He searched everywhere for it. There was the dumpy
the tub of nails, the carpenter's hammer, the roofing square, the
other levels, the plane, power saw, generator, punches, various ends of
2 X 4's and so forth. No sign of the torpedo level. Up the ladder he
searched along the joints -- nothing. Then on the sub-floor, he
started at one end and moved steadily across the area, checking each
group of tools as he went. There was no doubt about it. The small
level was not there.
He had forgotten to put in the sway bracing on the first framing
before he raised it, but all four sides were now completed and raised
and he checked every part of this and the window and door framing.
There was no doubt about it, the level was not there.
John sat down to review the whole matter. He had been told not long
after he bought the land, that an old timer once had a cabin not too
far away, but as he heard the story, although one cold night he heaped
up too great a fire and burnt it all down, he himself was not hurt, and
now lived elsewhere. Another version said he had fallen off the back of a moving truck and died.
John had stopped for a food break when these thoughts went through his mind, and now that he had eaten and briefly rested, rose and
turned around to begin work again. There on the sub-floor, not three
feet away from him, as he bent to pick up hammer and nails, was the
small level. It seemed almost to be dancing and winking at him. He
could scarcely believe it -- for his search had been very thorough.
"Someone, or something," he thought, and said aloud, "is playing games".
He was a little concerned, and very surprised and at once quickly
studied all the other tools to be sure where they were. John was
always careful not to leave tools on the trusses or step ladder, as once
a hammer had fallen not far from his head, and now as the day drew
to a close, he went down the ladder after checking a level when he had
trued up the last truss with a small shim. He came down the ladder,
picked up four spiral nails and reached for his carpenter's hammer:
It had gone. He searched briefly, as a hammer is a large and obvious tool.
"Very well," he said to the unseen prankster,"if you want to play games, go ahead."
He picked up the dumpy hammer, finished strengthening the corner,
and began packing up the tools to go home. Sure enough, in a few
minutes he noticed the hammer, not where he was sure he had put it,
but some fifteen feet away, next to a few pieces of 2 x 4 by the saw.
It also seemed to twinkle at him mischievously.
"I am not going out of my mind," he said firmly, "I know perfectly well
where the hammer was."
Driving home he thought about the incidents. They were a little
disturbing, but not exactly harmful. He had been brought up in an old
house, and knew a little about ghosts. Buildings, to him, had
characters, and when you entered them some seemed sad, others
happy, and others foreboding, or evil. There were solidly protective
buildings, work buildings, and buildings that spoke of love, or sorrow.
Even rooms in buildings had quiet histories of their own to
communicate, if you could listen and hear them.
Weevil and Felicity were away on a school trip so when he was home
again that evening John confided the story to their mother, Nancy.
Nancy wrinkled up her nose and laughed gleefully at him.
"A true father of Waverley," she said, "I doubt if he could make up a
better story with just a small level and a hammer."
John nursed his pride as he ate supper.
"It makes a difference, you know," he said, "it's not just an ordinary
place in the bush."
"No, of course not dear," said Nancy, "nothing is every quite ordinary
in this family, at least the way people tell their stories, it isn't."
Early the next day John returned to the cabin site with a trailer load
of plywood for the sub-roof and ten-test to cover the outside of the
framing. He was very keen to get the roof covered before it rained,
and had planned a 5/12 slope so that he could walk on it. He soon
found, though, that he needed a special way of securing things he was
using on the roof or they would slide off and fall to the ground. But
by the time he stopped for lunch he had more or less completed nailing
down the plywood, and several times during the morning he thought he
heard a woodpecker nearby. So far the day had passed uneventfully.
Then quite suddenly it happened. John was sitting half in and half out
of the doorway, quietly eating his lunch. Without warning there was
a quick succession of blows to the inside of the framing just under the
roof. The sound was very loud. It could have been a woodpecker, he
supposed, although it sounded heavier, more like the hammer he was
using, and the blows were a quick succession of hammer blows, not
quite the effect created by a woodpecker. He at once leaned
backwards and looked inside -- no sign of a bird in there, trying to get
out, or flying through the framing. He leaned forward and out from
the doorway. No sign of a bird under the roof outside. The sound had
been not more than 12 feet away. He scanned every tree at the edge
of the clearing -- no sign of a woodpecker flying or working its way up
a tree there. Then he had another strange feeling associated with the
sound. It came as though someone or something was trying to escape
from the building, as though it had been trapped there, and was trying
to get out.
He thought very carefully about it, trying in his mind to recall
accurately and analyse the sounds, but came to the same conclusions.
Then he put the whole incident out of his mind, packed up after his
lunch and began to lift the first piece of ten-test for installation on
the outside of the framing, on the small south wall. Almost at once,
as he stood, hammer in hand, behind the panel so that he could not see
inside the cabin, the noise came again, exactly as before, in the same
place, on the west wall, past the doorway. He leaned the panel against
the wall and quickly peered around its side -- no movement, nothing, in
the cabin or outside it.
John put down his hammer and walked to the centre of the cabin, and
addressed the blank east wall,
"You don't need to worry," he said, "whoever you are, you can always
get out, there's plenty of space for that. And please don't hide my
tools," he added, "I have a great deal to do and so little spare time to
finish this cabin, it slows me down."
And for the rest of that day until he left at sundown, there were no
more strange incidents.
The next weekend he again came alone. Weevil had gone fishing and
Felicity stayed with her mother. John had already come to love
working and being alone at the cabin site. This day he worked steadily,
and nothing unusual occurred. But he felt differently about the
clearing and the cabin now. It was not just a place he was changing,
or where he was building something. It was somewhere with a soul and
spirits of its own, which did not exactly resent his intrusion, but which
allowed him to become part of it, not without some mischief and
assertion all its own.
He found himself occasionally talking to it, whimsically:
"Now, I have put this square exactly here, see, and I know precisely where
it is -- just be sure it's here when I need it shortly".
And so on. But nothing strange took place that weekend, or later.
Finally the cabin was completed inside and out, just before winter arrived.