The Christmas Bell (page 4)
The Christmas Bell
page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, page 5
The object revealed
The old man swept the leaves and ground clutter away and dug his shovel into the ground. Thunk. The shovel hit something solid before it had gone six inches down. With this, the old man dropped to his knees in the muddy soil, and began digging with his bare hands and throwing dirt from between his legs like a crazed, gray-haired fox terrier. As I stood watching in amazement, what first appeared out of the ground was a ring about three feet across — certainly nothing that looked like a clock.
     “Ah, that ain’t it,” I said in disgust and started to turn away.
     Like lightning, the old man reached up and grabbed my collar. “We’ve found it. We found it. Get back here and help me dig.”

Douglas Wells
  Mostly out of fear, I joined in the digging. As we dug down in the center of the exposed ring and hit metal again, it finally dawned on me what we had found. What clock? This was a huge church bell, resting upside down only a few inches under the soil, just a matter of feet from where major construction had taken place. How had it been missed? It was as if someone had been protecting i
     After we uncovered about half of the bell, the old man sat back. He looked up at me and said with quiet determination, “We need help. And we need to tell the old pastor of the church. He was here when the bell was buried and he has to be told.”

The pastor
The pastor lived a couple of miles up the road in an old farmhouse. He had come to Hiiumaa after serving early in the war as a German officer. He had seen so much death and destruction (he himself was injured in the leg), that he joined the seminary after his discharge and retreated to this little island to do God's work.
     A little dog barked excitedly as we pulled up to his home and an enormous yellow cat gazed at us through the window. The pastor’s wife already had the door open by the time we reached the porch and we went straight inside without more than a few words of greeting.
     “Where’s Guido?” the old man said excitedly “I have great news, wonderful news.” The pastor’s wife gave us a puzzled look.
     “He’s in watching TV but what —.”
     She didn’t get a chance to finish as the old man shot by her with me close behind. The pastor was sitting in the living room holding a cane upright between his knees and resting his chin on his hands as he watched TV. He was a very small man, bald and with thick glasses. He looked to be at least 80 years old.
     When we burst into the room, he gave a start and squinted up at us. Without a word of explanation, the old man ran over and grabbed the pastor by the shoulder and started shaking him so hard that the poor man’s glasses almost fell off.
     “Guido. We found the bell.” he shouted into the pastor’s ear. The pastor shrank back in his chair with a look of confusion on his face.
     “Why are you yelling? What do you want?” he said in a quavering voice.
    The old man sat on the floor in front of the pastor, looked him straight in the eyes and repeated slowly,
“Guido, we found the church bell.. The lost Emmaste Church bell.”
     A few more short seconds was all it took. A look of comprehension swept over the pastor’s face and with its progress, the years seem to melt away from his body. Almost magically, the pastor slowly transformed. He straightened up, squared his shoulders and a fire came to his eyes.
     “The Bell.” He leapt from his chair.
     Dropping his cane, he headed straight for the front door and would have made it outside, had his wife not grabbed him by the shirt collar and pulled him back. She was larger than he was and it was quite humorous to see the pastor trying to pull open the door while his wife held him back.
     “Not without your coat and boots,” she said firmly “You'll catch your death of cold.”
     The pastor looked like a child trying to get out into the season’s first snow as his wife pulled on his boots and placed a cap on his head.
     “Let me go,” he said and finally broke free.
     His wife followed us out, holding the pastor’s cane, but the pastor never slowed down. He jumped into the car and bounced up and down with anticipation in the back seat. I looked back to see the pastor’s wife framed in the light of the open doorway, tears in her eyes and her hands folded in a silent prayer of thanks. 

The “old man” and . . .

    As we drove back, I think the pastor noticed me for the first time. I explained who I was and why I was helping to look for the bell. He didn’t really seem to understand what an American was doing out in the forest in such bad weather. He just nodded thoughtfully and we rode the rest of the way in silence. When we slid to a halt on the muddy road near the bell, the pastor was the first one out of the car. He held on to the old man’s arm as they made their way to where the bell lay half-uncovered. At the edge of the hole, the pastor stopped and peered down. He looked for while, then slid his glasses down on his nose and peered over the top of them. Several silent seconds ticked by and then the pastor fell to his knees. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he said a prayer of thanks

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