THE BELL of SAN ANDORR
THE LITTLE fishing village of San Andorr lies on a rugged and once wild and desolate coast, and its story goes back many years.
It goes back to a distant day when a proud sailing ship, sweeping southward from old Russian Alaska, had crashed on that stretch of the Pacific shore known as the Sailors’ Grave, leaving with its wreckage a small group of men, three women and two children.
Mostly because of an Indian village at the stream mouth in the inner bay, they had survived. And while some eventually found their own far way by water to the towns beginning to rise in the south, others stayed—to see the coming of the first steamships, canneries and salteries up that coast. And so the settlement of San Andorr was founded.
The bell belonged to that same ill-fated vessel; and, years after their coming, they pulled it, grown with barnacles and rusted, from the rough rocks of the outer shore. Originally intended for a Spanish mission in California, it was cleaned and raised to the tiny wooden church tower of San Andorr. Through the years its clear peal had spoken of the coming and the joining and the going of the lives in that small place.
It had told of two births one day, twenty years ago. Of Dolores Vincente, into whose blood had never crept a shadow of the Indian strain dominant there. And of Dirck, of sturdy Dutch heritage, the son of the fair-haired giant, Hendrik Hendt. And no one understood how, brought up together in that rigorous settlement, Dolores at eight—a straight, fearless child with dark hair and dark eyes could face the wildest storm without a tremor, while Dirck, a nervous lad, thin and delicate, with fine, light hair, trembled in a rising sea and hid beneath the bed at the roar of thunder.
It was Dolores who led the way, always—who simply and naturally took his hand through dark forest trails, and who left her own warm bed when at night their fathers were out with their nets and their mothers perhaps were gone visiting. She would slide beneath the blankets in his own dark room until approaching voices sent her small feet scampering. Dolores enjoyed it, too; for Dirck was gentle and regarded her with genuine childish admiration. His very terror of a thousand unknown things made her sense of maternal care all the more complete.
ONLY IT COULD not have lasted, not in a village where men and women both were strong, and courage and endurance were their gods. And the cougar in a few short moments did a work that was to pursue them both relentlessly throughout the years.
The cougar was large and unexpected—for there had not been one at close quarters for years— and the effect of its sudden spring in front of both the children on a woodland trail would have terrorized a far more courageous child than Dirck.
Tensely still, it stood and l;x)ked at Dolores, and Dirck with a sharp scream darted back in involuntary flight. That movement was so swift and unexpected that the cougar sprang forward, straight at the boy—and the next moment Dolores had made a wild spring, too. She landed on the creature’s back, her arms tight about its neck. Startled and infuriated, the animal backed, head lowered, in a sinuous writhing, and finally rolled over heavily. But just at that moment a wood-cutter, attracted by the screams, came running toward them. Frightened by his shout, the cougar disappeared with a bound into the bushes.
Dolores, bruised and shaken, was carried home in strong arms, a white and trembling Dirck trailing unhappily behind. Yet it was Dolores, who next day, insisted on getting up as usual, while Dirck was really ill from shock, and for nights afterward awakened his parents with his screams. Already concerned with the upbringing of their timorous son, they were further shocked when they brought
a smiling yet inexplicably shy Dolores to his bedroom the next evening.
“And here’s the brave little girl come herself to see you, Dirck. We know you want to thank her nicely.”
His mother’s voice trembled slightly, knowing that if it had not been for Dolores she might have had no son
at all. Dirck was old and sensible enough to know that, too, and in his dark eyes flashed the first odd, shamed glimmer of that unreasoning and bitter hatred.
“No.” He spoke no other word and only stared sullenly. After a moment it was Dolores who wriggled uncomfortably.
“He doesn’t have to,” she said clearly and definitely but slightly puzzled. Even in that one day Dolores had been made to realize that what to her had been an unthinking action was looked upon by everyone else as a remarkable act of heroism.
“Dirck!” his mother cried, a little sharply.
“No,” Dirck repeated a little shrilly, and pulled the bedclothes tightly over his fair head. They passed it off; but Hendrik Hendt shook his head in his son’s presence and remarked a little ruefully it was a pity Dolores had not been a boy; and Dirck’s heart burned with rage and humiliation.
The next time it was dark and a little windy Dolores slipped into his room. Dirck who really had been lying wideeyed and frightened, started up to tell her in a high-pitched voice that he guessed she’d be over, so she wouldn’t have to stay alone at home. And Dolores, in a flash of righteous indignation, told him there and then just what she thought of that, and turned, with a stamp of her small foot, to go. But Dirck, who did not dare to confide any of his fears to his kind but vigorous-minded parents, sprang out of bed to stop her.
“Dolores, maybe you’d better not go back—not—not till you hear them come. There might be a cougar or something. I—I always see cougars when I close my eyes at night,” he confessed awkwardly. “And sometimes they seem awful real. Don’t you see them, too?”
Dolores did not, but for all her youth she caught the appeal in his voice and nodded her head briskly. “Oh, yes, lots and lots,” she assured him recklessly. “All with big teeth and shiny eyes and hissing and roaring, ready to jump!”
Dirck clutched at her in some alarm. “Dolores, what’s that noise on the stairs? Maybe it’s one coming now!”
No cougar indeed, but Hendrik Hendt returned unexpectedly. He switched on his flashlight and stared, hearing the shout that had risen. And his astounded indignation, when finally he realized that his own son needed feminine protection on dark nights, turned him to a desperate resolve. Once a week thereafter he took Dirck out with the gill-net boats at night. There the boy would crouch, miserable and seasick, but in the end he proved so useless that Hendrik Hendt was forced to put aside that method of hardening his son.
ALL THAT summer and the next, and all the summers after, the strangers who came to San Andorr learned the history of two things—of the old Russian bell in the church tower and of Dolores who had so boldly sprung uix>n a cougar’s back and saved the life of her playmate. They looked at Dolores, and they looked at Dirck—who resented their glances and did not hesitate to let them see it —and back again at Dolores. With her black eyes, her high color, her fine strong limbs, and bare brown feet, she was worth admiring.
There was a city lad of fourteen or thereabouts, with immaculate black hair, with fine white shirts and well-cut breeches, who came hunting with his father and a group of men. He thought so, too. Although a little patronizing and important, he heard that tale with genuine admiration and did not hesitate to tell her his own sisters would have run a mile. It was too bad a nice-looking girl like her was going to be wasted in these backwoods, he told her.
Dolores did not wholly understand, but she liked his bold walk and his flashing white teeth. She liked his tales of city life, and she stamped her foot at Dirck when he remarked scornfully he had no use for anyone who talked so much.
“He doesn’t only talk—he does things,” she retorted. “He shot a real cougar by himself last year. He told me so.”
“It’s easy to tell things !” But Dirck’s face flushed and he would stare sullenly or disappear when young Frank Alton came that way. There were other lads, too, in the passing years, but that boy stood out clearly for his handsome well-built dominance and way. And when they both were grown he was to come again to San Andorr.
In summer, after Dirck was twelve, his father took him often in his gill-net boat at night and tried to teach the boy all that there was to know in floating, weighting, and playing out the long, straight net. A simple enough task that other boys his age could do without a tremor. In fact, he knew boys of less than fifteen, out sometimes alone in the bay mouth after dark, but for a long time he could barely even bring himself to touch the fish as they hauled in at dawn. More than that, he still grew pale and seasick when the sea was rough, and Hendrik Hendt—who could exist easily in any tossing craft—often stared at him in puzzled, stolid despair.
Then, at the beginning of the coho run in September of that year, when Dirck was fourteen, Hendrik Hendt, so utterly unused to sickness that he could not understand a chill that struck him after a neglected soaking in an early fall coldness and rain, went out as usual, regardless. One day he could not leave his bed. Through all his pain and fever in the days that followed, there was one strain of coherent thought—what Dirck would do if he did not recover, if he would ever really bring himself to go out to sea alone. Alone ! Evening after evening Dirck would stare at the gathering clouds beyond the bay, his face oddly set. “If it were only really calm, I’d go—and show them,” he would say with a certain desperation, knowing so well how ill and helpless he was in even a gently tossing sea.
But on that night when the winds had risen and many boats had not set out at all, and there were several gathered in the little cottage in silent anxiety, Dirck was so shaken by the powerless apprehension in his father’s eyes—for
Hendrik Hendt was sinking very low that day—that he bent unexpectedly over the bed.
“I’ll go, then. I’ll go tonight,” he said, in a high, unnatural voice that set everyone staring. “You’ll see ... in the morning . . . how I can manage things.” And not even knowing whether his father had been able to understand, he pulled the cottage door tight behind him and ran out into the strong evening breeze.
Then, even as he stepped into the rowing boat to pull out to the little gas launch, he hesitated at the rise of the wind, the resolve in his face whitening into half-frightened indétermination. As he stood there, irresolute and shivering, Dolores in a thick red sweater and old khaki breeches, ran down swiftly toward him.
“Dirck, get in. I’ll come with you.” For Dolores had been in that cottage, Dolores had grown up with Dirck and knew better than anyone the imaginary terrors that so often held him in their grip.
Dirck wheeled about. “You won’t!” he cried roughly. “What do you think they’d say . . . a girl ...” He stopped abruptly, with a half-shamed defiance, after a moment of steady scrutiny. “Anyway, I guess I won’t go. It’s too dam rough. It would be crazy.”
“It wouldn’t! Not tonight.” A swift flush caught Dolores’ face, and suddenly she pushed him backward so that he sprawled in the boat. Unhesitatingly she pushed from the shore on an outgoing tide. “You promised.”
“Get back, I say!” But Dolores was strong and determined, and too young and self-reliant to care what people said. “Don’t be silly!” She brandished an oar with such violence that they both sat down abruptly. “I want to— and I’m coming!” she shouted above the wind.
Pale and unsteady, Dirck faced her as they crawled aboard the gasboat. “You interfering—” For a moment words failed him. “I don’t want you, Dolores Vincente, I don’t want girls on this boat,” he said as fiercely as he was able.
But Dolores was by nature reasonable. “I won’t interfere. You can pretend you’re alone.” His very evident hatred left her apparently untouched. “Just for one night, so you’ll see how easy it is, really.”
“Of course it’s easy,” Dirck snapped back, knowing its easiness did not appease that deadly nausea already rising. He bent to the engine, too wretched even at that early stage to argue further.
Somehow Dirck got out the net that night in grim-faced silence, with a skill that only the most stupid of boys could not have acquired under Hendrik Hendt. And only after that did he sink back in a comer of the evil-smelling little engine room. “It’s crazy,” he told Dolores once. “It’s getting worse outside, I tell you. A sea like this won’t do the net any good.”
“That’s not a sea. I’ve been with dad when it’s been really rough.” Dolores, hands in pockets, balancing easily on the tilting floor, was unabashed. “Dirck, come out in the open air a bit. You’ll feel better if you don’t think about how you feel.”
Dirck favored her with an exasperated, hostile look and closed his eyes. Dolores, in turn, favored him with a glance which perhaps it was as well he did not see, and spent most of that uncomfortable evening in the most sheltered spot outside that she could find, staring at the few lights that bobbed up and down in the distance—angry that she had come, but glad despite her youth that she had done so, knowing Dirck would never have faced it until driven to it. She did not quite realize though just what she was really doing to Dirck’s inner pride that night.
It must have been nearly midnight when, in a sudden lull, she started up, her eyes fixed on the far line of the shore. Motionless she stood a long moment, listening. Then, with tightened lips and flashing eyes, she braced herself in the cabin door. “Dirck !” she called sharply, as he did not stir. “Dirck!” Then her voice rose oddly. “Now!” There was a strange fierceness about her. “You can pull your net in and go back—and he won’t be there to care! Now you can just go on ahead and slink around shore for the rest of your life !”
“What do you mean?” Dirck opened his dark eyes slowly, not understanding.
“Mean!” Dolores stepped closer, and pointed outside. “Listen, then.”
Dirck listened—still not understanding—and finally caught through the rise and fall of the wind the faint, distant toll of the old bell of San Andorr. Then he staggered to his feet, his eyes wide and frightened. “Dolores, it can’t mean \/9 . . that he’s ...”
Something in the boy’s pale, horrified face suddenly drove all the fierce accusation from Dolores’lips, and she stepped forward like the terrified child she really was. “Dirck, maybe it isn’t. Maybe it’s something else ...” But with an unsteady motion Dirck pushed her roughly aside and braced himself instead against that doorway to listen to the last notes of that tolling bell.
When finally he turned, there was something hard and desperate above the pallor of his face that she had never seen before. “I hate you, Dolores Vincente,” he said slowly, with something deliberate that was above his years. “To tell me I’d stop doing things because he isn’t there.” He paused, and for a moment his eyes met hers.
“All right,” he said unexpectedly. “We’ll go in now. But from now on you can stop trying to be funny. I’m handling this boat alone at nights. I tell you, I will! Don’t look at me like that!” His voice rose to a shout. Turning, he slammed the door of the cabin from the outside and stumbled to the net with hands that trembled so that he could scarcely get a proper grasp.
AND PERHAPS only Dirck knew what he went through ■ in the month that followed, when, with a dogged desperation only borne of a sense of futility, unhappiness and rage, he struggled alone, whatever sea or weather, in his gill-net boat at night. Not an abnormal task for a normal, healthy fisher boy of fourteen years, but to a nervous lad made physically ill at sea an ordeal which he faced for very shame of not doing so.
There were older men who would have helped him, pitying, despite themselves, his slender build and lack of hearty color, even though he knew in theory nearly all he could be taught about gill fishing. But he refused their help and did not easily put aside the humiliation of knowing that the village was aware a mere girl had tried to keep his courage high on that one dreadful night.
Dirck grew thin and his eyes were shadowed by the end of that September, and only he knew how he had fought against those deadly waves of nausea, returning home in the morning unable to eat and often unable to sleep; so that his mother, in addition to her loss, worried ceaselessly about him and finally implored him not to go again.
"Not this year, Dirck. Next year—when you're older and stronger.”
Though he would have given half his life to yield, Dirck could not forget his father lying helpless or those flashing, scornful eyes. “I’ve got to,” he said slowly, in that queer, hard voice, even if his face did hold something of a very young and wretched fear. “I’ve got to keep on now or maybe I never will.”
And whether it was some wholly unsuspected force of will, or whether the regular trips had steadied him, by the end of that month Dirck was able to eat a fairly hearty breakfast before he tumbled off to dreamless sleep. He stopped his night work then, because he still had another winter in the village school. But, surprisingly, he found himself looking forward to the summer with grim interest. And by the end of the salmon run that next year, though still inclined to be pale and overgrown, there was a quiet steadiness about him and a record of a season’s work well done. Hardened fishermen who knew him well began to say that when Dirck got a man’s strength behind him there might be something in him of Hendrik’s own ability.
When Dirck was sixteen he was offered and accepted work on a purse seiner, and welcomed later with real interest the chance of a vigorous winter’s experience with deep sea herring. Once he had overcome seasickness, Dirck was
quick and willing, and he gradually grew strong and resourceful and well liked by all he worked with. Girls, too, in other villages —-by the time he was twenty—were charmed with his smile and manner; for
himself there Dirck still by were to nature one look at, was girl much a he friendly could barely less smile lad, and bring upon, if that was very different.
Perhaps, if Frank Alton had not returned that year, something of the old feud might have been put aside after that evening in late July when the blueback were running and Dirck came in unexpectedly from the trolling grounds to find his mother and Dolores in the little yard behind the smaller cottage where they had moved after his father’s death. Dolores was ecstatic over Bessie, his young spaniel, and her first lively young family. Dirck would have retreated quickly —his mother and Dolores had both turned at his hearty announcement from the kitchen that he was hungry—and for an
instant taken aback the two for words, young while people his stared mother, too to all appearances unsuspecting, bustled in, telling him to go and help Dolores pick a nice puppy for herself.
After one quick backward glance, Dirck straightened his shoulders and moved relucantly forward. She looked up, her cheeks flaming, and her low voice was quick and a little defensive. “They’re lovely, aren’t they? Your mother asked me in to see them.
She them.” said you wanted to find homes for
Dirck stooped to pat the excited Bessie prancing at his feet, and did not look up immediately. “Yes.” His voice in return was curt. “I think I’ve found homes, thanks, with some of my friends.”
“Oh, I see.” As Dirck did not move or speak again, Dolores made a sudden motion of departure. “That’s all right, then. It was only because your mother wondered. I must go now. So good-by.” Although her voice was clear and cool as always, there was a touch of embarrassment there that would have been unknown tí) the girl of six years ago, and Dirck looked up unexpectedly.
“Oh, good-by.” And then they stared, almost startled, for they had scarcely met each other face to face in years. Dirck, with the realization that this Dolores, tall and slender in a plain white dress, with her black hair bound about her small, shapely head, her black, flashing eyes and clear, dark coloring, was an unbelievably lovely thing. And Dolores, seeing, too, that there was little of that nervous, delicate child in this great, fair young fellow with sturdy wellpoised strength and the bluest of blue eyes in a deeply bronzed face.
Just for an instant something held in their glance that had nothing to do with old enmity or even of older friendship—something that spoke of an involuntary call of admiration and a stir of interest between two healthy, vigorous young beings. And then Dolores, angry because of a color that rose unbidden to her face, turned and left abruptly, while Dirck, after staring a long time, came to a slowly formed conclusion that perhaps he was being something in the nature of a stubborn fool, and that just as soon as the puppies were old enough he would find some way to send her one—just to show that at least he had sense enough to rise above ancient childish grievances.
BUT THEN Frank Alton came, cruising with several other third and fourth-year university friends in a high-powered launch. They anchored in the bay and came ashore, immaculate in white, the girls with bare brown arms and brightly colored ties, to fill the quiet peace of San Andorr with laughter, high pitched screams and shouting. As it happened, Dirck encountered this gay crowd first, one evening on the verandah of the village store, and would have passed unheeding had not a deep, assured young voice, not untouched with certain pride, caught his ears. “And this—all of you—is an old, old friend of mine. Grown just as I predicted into a fairer flower than this isolated hole has any right to own.” He paused, well pleased with his eloquence. Dirck stopped short, seeing in the dim light
Dolores standing there, smiling a little uncertainly at the side of a tall, dark young man who held her lightly with one arm.
“I tell you, though.” His voice lost a little of that easy banter. “There’s one thing I’ve never forgotten this girl for, either. And it’s nothing to do with looks. Do you remember that yarn of a girl years ago who tackled a cougar single-handed and saved some kid’s life when he was all for running off and leaving her? Well, my Dolores here is that girl.
“I remember that kid, too,” he continued as another appreciative murmur died away, and Dolores stood in some embarrassment in the centre of that group. “A scared, sickly sort of fellow, always sulking and staring. It wasn’t his fault she’s here today. I often felt as if I wanted to give him one good punch."
If Dirck had thought a single moment he would not have done it. He would have stepped back in the shadows and Dolores would never have known that he had heard. But, as it was, he did not think, and in a moment he was on the verandah, his fists clenched.
“All right then. Go ahead.” His voice was a low growl. “I’m ready.”
He towered over them, glaring fiercely—a huge brown lad with bare bright head flung back and with something of the atmosphere of the salt sea still about him, so that two or three girls stepped away in some alarm. Momentarily taken aback, but otherwise undisturbed, Frank Alton eyed him up and down. “My good man, I don’t even know you,” he said coolly, and turned to the girl. “Is this a defender of yours, Dolores?”
Dolores, too, had drawn back in involuntary surprise. But, taking in the whole situation, she stepped forward now. “No,” she said decidedly, and turned her glance toward Dirck’s stormy one. “Dirck, don’t be so silly. How could you expect them to know.”
“What!” Frank Alton stared, then. “Good lord, you aren’t the cougar boy !”
Combined with Dolores’ manner, it was unfortunately put. After that, things moved so quickly that the next Frank Alton knew was when he staggered back under the sharp blow of a well-aimed fist. “Well, that’s one for you instead!” And, without a backward glance, Dirck strode down the steps into the night, leaving such an astounded crowd that none made the slightest move to follow.
AFTER THAT, Dolores did not get the • puppy or even know that Dirck had momentarily thought of her more kindly. If something within her had instinctively thrilled to his new strength and assurance, it was completely lost in their mutual infuriation. As for San Andorr itself, hearing of that well-aimed punch, they admitted with some pride that they always knew Dirck Hendt had good stuff in him—and it was not soothing to Dolores’ pride.
So Dolores welcomed Frank Alton’s attentions —to such an extent that when the boat put out a few days later for further adventure up the coast, he boldly said they could pick him up again on their return trip. Dolores spent ten days of rare enchantment, roaming far and wide with this handsome young man who told such entertaining tales of city life and personal achievement. And Frank Alton, although used to admiration, had not experienced quite such intent wonder in a woman’s eyes, certainly not one so lovely, and he did not hesitate to make the most of it. They climbed one evening to the little bell tower in the church, and looked out over the quiet sea and all the scattered boats of the gill-net fleet. And it was there, high in that dusty place, that he kissed her. Intrigued by her air of slightly cool detachment—for Dolores, although thrilled enough, was not unused to the ways of handling admirers—he promised quite recklessly to write often and to come again at the first opportunity next year.
“And, mind you, I’ll knock that Hendt fellow’s head off for him,” he said grimly, “if I find he’s been hanging around you.” Dolores shook her black head. “He won’t,” she said, a little too quietly in return. A sudden surge of unexpected
jealousy carrying him farther than he had
intended, Frank Alton shook her. “Dolores, you don’t love that lout,” he said, almost roughly. “You’re not to. You’re mine.”
"Of course I don’t love him.” Dolores slipped from his grasp, and deliberately paid so little attention to his last words that his face darkened. “But for all that, he’s not a lout. He’s one of our best fishermen."
“Fishermen !” Frank’s lips tightened, and he suddenly caught her closely. “Dolores, why do you try to talk to me like that?” His voice dropped to a low, persuasive note. “You do like me a little, really, don’t you?” To which Dolores admitted finally that, well, perhaps she did.
But as it happened, Frank Alton’s unreasonable jealousy got him into unlooked for difficulties when they returned from a leisurely day along the shore in the little outboard motorboat he had managed to hire. It was nearly dark, and weaving their way through the lights of the gill nets spread about the water, Dolores had given a sudden startled cry as Frank carelessly turned his head to speak. “Frank, watch out ! That’s Dirck’s net just ahead.”
It must have all happened in a flash. The wonder of how she knew Dirck Hendt’s boat so well among those shapes in the dusk, combined with a surge of hot resentment against both something in her voice and the memory of that well-aimed fist. He swung about almost as the words left her lips straight through that line of floats - and at another cry : “Frank, stop! It’s caught,” shut off the engine, cursing softly.
When Dirck rowed over a few minutes later to see exactly what had happened, it was Dolores who explained, in a rather strained, small voice, that Mr. Alton had not been able to see in the dark, and Frank struggled on in silence as Dirck with a mere nod pulled around and bent to help him. “Those lights indicate a net, you know,” he offered slowly, and added, without raising his head: “I would have thought Dolores could have told you that.”
“Why, Dirck, I” — Dolores stopped abruptly, aware that in common decency she could go no further, a burning color rising at the thought of Dirck’s carefully controlled inference, for it was evident enough that Dirck did not imagine anyone would deliberately be foolish enough to try and tangle their propeller in a gill net.
Frank gave the mesh a vicious jerk. “Miss Vincente did call me,” he said stiffly. “I’m quite certain she’d not want to spoil anything of yours.” That touch of the same unreasoning jealousy was intended for Dolores alone.
“Hmmph !” But finally Dirck straightened. “There! That should clear her enough for now.” For an instant the eyes of the two men met in a long, deliberate stare. Frank, realizing that Dirck had come off best by his unruffled handling of the situation, made an attempt at cool condescension. “Oh, very good of you to give us a hand, Hendt. I '11 be glad enough to make it worth your while—the price of a new net if you feel that’s ruined yours.”
“I don’t, thanks. Anyway, I’d rather have my ownruined.” Dirck spoke curtly ; and because he was not particularly gifted in swift repartee, he stared with tightened lips a long moment. "I’d advise you not to try short cuts like that in future, ’ he said grimly. “You might even find some people who’d get sore.”
“Frank, come on! There’s no need to argue right now. It’s getting cold.” Dolores spoke over her shoulder and remained silent the whole way in, although, as it happened, Frank was so filled with his own personal sense of grievance and resentment, he did not even notice.
“Confounded impudence,” he grumbled, as they finally drew in at one of the floats. “I’d like a word with the chap alone. I’d tell him pretty straight ...”
Dolores jumped lightly out of the boat to the landing. “My goodness, I could tell you both something,” she said with an airiness that, had he only known it, did not speak well for the future. “I’m going to run straight up now, Frank, and get warm. Good night.”
PERHAPS IT WAS Dolores’ very airiness 1 —for to Frank Alton’s mind a simple village gill, however beautiful, should be humbled and not airy at his evident devotion - that the following afternoon made him lead Dolores determinedly along a little trail that wound leisurely along the shore, and ask her with a decision he had never remotely intended, if she would consider herself definitely his. And Dolores, to his infinite surprise, and perhaps even a little to her own as well—for he was undeniably a handsome, and at times, a very charming fellow — dropped her airiness a moment to say gently that she was very sorry but she knew she would be far happier where she was used to things.
He stared. It was a hard thing to realize that these remote, back country girls had ideas of their own these days, and were not over-ready to be lured aw'ay. He made the mistake of refusing to take her very seriously.
“Dolores, my dear, you wouldn’t be,” he said with a slightly scornful laugh. "Just think of all you’d miss—theatres, good times, automobiles. Why, you’ve probably never even seen an automobile.”
“Oh, yes I have! I’ve seen plenty—when I’ve stayed with friends at Port Albemi.” Dolores put that aside lightly, and did not even mention the fact that she had been taught to drive one as well. “No, but it’s not automobiles, Frank. It’s just ... I don’t somehow feel we’re suited.”
“Oh! Well, you've not minded my attentions.” Frank glowered rather heavily —all the more heavily for the realization that he had at no time been very sure of Dolores. But she had the modesty and grace to blush in some confusion.
“I—I’m very sorry, Frank. Only I didn’t quite know then.”
“Well, I know.” Frank wheeled around to face her on that narrow trail. “It’s that Dutchman.”
Dolores’ eyes flashed. “It isn’t. Dirck and I never even speak to each other.”
Frank’s eyes grew even darker. “So there has been something.” He shot the assertion so sharply that Dolores was momentarily taken aback, and he added with unexpected intuition. “That’s why you’re so excited about that ridiculous affair last night.”
“I’m not excited.” Dolores stepped back defensively at his tone and expression. “But it was silly of you to act as you did.”
“Well!” he exclaimed fiercely. “What do you think it was when he made me look such a fool—taking me unawares like that?” He caught himself up, and continued rather sullenly: "Well, maybe it wasn’t altogether sensible. But you made me lose my head a minute the way you called out. Oh, I’m willing enough to make it up to the fellow if that’s what’s worrying you.”
“It isn’t.” Perhaps Dolores sjxike too crisply. “But you’d better not interfere with Dirck. He won’t like it.”
“Oh, is he so courageous then? I’ve heard he had pretty well to be driven to sea not so many years ago.”
Dolores did not know just what he might have heard, but a certain dreadful night still had left such a vivid memory that she turned on him like a small fury, her hands clenched tightly. “Don’t you dare talk like that !”
He suddenly gripped her arms. “Don’t you look at me like that!” he cried half savagely. “You little devil! You may think you can play around with fellows and lead them on, but you can’t with me.” As she struggled in sudden alarm, his temper never very even -grew inflamed. “I’ll teach you to be funny ! Why, you—you—” He threw her backward shat ply as her small teeth bit deeply into a soft part of his arm. It was not wholly his fault that she caught her foot against a submerged, twisting root, falling heavily. But Dirck Ilendt, rounding a comer at that very moment, was hardly likely to take that into consideration.
It was by a hundredth chance that Dirck was there at all. He was returning from a visit to an old fisherman laid up with an injured leg in a little shack a few miles up the coast. At Dolores’ startled cry Dirck stopped dead, absolutely tense. Then he sprang.
Continued on page 28
The Bell of San Andorr
Continued from page 23—Starts on page
That was a fight that none of them would soon forget. For they were both tall and strong, and what Frank lacked in actual force he made up for by strategy. And both were spurred by a deadly hatred. Dolores, white and shaken, pulled herself against an old stump, watching wide-eyed, and silent as through the generations the women of San Andorr had learned to be.
But there was never much real doubt. The big fair young son of Hendrik Hendt had a heritage that served him well, combined with an indignation that made his strength enormous. He finally paused, panting, over the prostrate figure of his opponent, and felt him over with rough consideration. Then he turned to the girl: “Well, get up,” he said curtly. “He’ll be all right. You’d better run oil home.”
Dolores shook her head, and the whiteness of her face remained. “I can’t run. My ankle seems twisted, somehow.”
Dirck wiped his face and hands, and then knelt down beside her. “Let me see.” He whistled softly at the swelling, and his eyes narrowed as he glanced at the other silent figure. Then, as he studied her a moment reflectively, Dolores gave an involuntary gasp.
“Dirck ! Your face—it’s cut so dreadfully and bleeding!”
Dirck shook his head. “It’s nothing. Here, take my hand and see if you can pull up on that one leg. That’s right. Nothing else wrong, do you think.''”
“No. Only stillness.” But she held his arm tightly, her eyes closed, so that she did not see his sudden glance. “No—no, Dirck, it’s all right.” Without any warning he i swung her up in his arms, and silently they set oil through the woods.
“Steady, Dolores. I can manage.” There was a quiet command as she tried at first to struggle, and Dolores’ eyes widened, too, at the firm strength of those arms about her. Less than half an hour later, the battlestained young victor—who had suffered more curious glances than in reality either of them enjoyed —deposited his burden on her mother’s couch, and with the briefest of explanations to that startled person turned to go.
“I’ll send someone out to look things over,” he assured Dolores, while her mother bustled to the kitchen to procure wet cloths.
“Dirck!” cried Dolores as he turned away, and she sat up on the couch. “I—I haven’t even thanked you. I—perhaps he wouldn’t really have hurt me, but he was a bit rough and scared me—so I bit him.”
“Well, I’m glad to hear that much.” Dirck’s expression suggested just what he ! thought of Frank Alton, but he shook his head quite gravely. “You needn’t bother to I thank me. It was lucky 1 was there, I guess. I was pretty glad to be able to let fly at that fellow.”
“But, Dirck—” For the first time then a surge of color swept over Dolores’ face. “I mean . . . doesn’t it seem a bit silly in a way for us to hold old grudges? Weren’t you perhaps a bit glad to help me? For the sake of old times?”
An answering color deepened in Dirck’s already hot, flushed face. “Well,” he said very slowly, “I guess maybe I was glad to do it—to help wipe out an old obligation, if that’s what you mean.”
It was quite evident by her silence that it was not what she had meantand it was also evident that Dirck was going no further. “Well, I hope you’re not badly hurt,” he said a little awkwardly, and left her—so flushed in tum and so bright-eyed that her mother exclaimed in some alarm that she must already be running a high fever.
“I’m not.” But Dolores looked at her strangely. “It’s men—I hate them! They think they’re so superior. I—I never even want to speak to one again.”
NOR WAS THAT determination materially lessened that same evening as Dolores lay alone in the evening dusk stubbornly refusing any offer of company while her mother went to sit with the Harrises, whose old grandmother of ninetynine lay near death. Hating Frank, who sat battered and sulking in a cottage bedroom w'ondering just when the launch would call to take him from that hole, and hating Dirck Hendt who still despised her because he once had been a frightened child and she had known it. Hating him, and moving restlessly, remembering the stirring battle, the gentleness of those strong arms about her, and the quiet command of his voice. Hating him so intensely that she started violently at the sudden peal of the old bell.
She had heard it many times tolling. But tonight it brought back memories. It had been dark that other night at sea, and she had been struggling alone with her thoughts. Four . . . five . . . six. Dolores closed her eyes and moved her lips a moment for the old woman gone to her rest, at the clear ringing through the air. Thirteen . . . fourteen. Automatically she counted. This would be the longest toll since the hundred and six for old Peter Lamonoff ten years ago. Nineteen . . . tw'enty . . .
For a moment Dolores did not comprehend the sudden silence. She sat upright, staring. Twenty ! Who in San Andorr was twenty, besides Dirck Hendt and herself, who could so suddenly and unknowm have gone? Sue McLaine? But she had run in only an hour before. Jack Perez or Julio O’Neile? They were working at the reduction plant fourteen miles away.
Surely . . . had Dirck Hendt fought for her like that, and carried her three miles home, so desperately injured ... ? Suddenly w'hite and trembling, and with an agonizing fear turning her sick within, Dolores dragged herself to the front door and down the few steps, aware of other little groups farther away, staring, too, up at the old church tower, and wondering. She stood still, she did not know how long, unable to move for that overpowering terror.
So that she was scarcely aware of a swift rush of feet, until that big, breathless figure loomed close and stopped short.
“Dirck !” She turned then, swiftly. “Oh, I thought . . . Dirck!”
“Dolores—I didn’t know if you ... !” And then he caught her quickly as she swayed, tightly to him, so that she could feel the mad beating of his heart in a silence that for a long moment neither of them had the strength to overcome, before they broke into incoherent explanation.
“I had such an infernal headache I thought I’d stay in and try to sleep it off.” Dirck’s grip even then had not relaxed. “And when I heard that bell—Dolores!” In a low, urgent voice he said at length: “I’ve loved you all my life, I think. That’s why I’ve been such a fool, thinking you’d never have any use for me. Dolores, you don’t mind me telling you?”
‘T—Dirck, I was so afraid you never would.” Dolores’ voice for a moment was half muffled against him, and then she raised her black head. “You see, I know I’ve loved you every minute of all my life. ’’
And it was not until a young boy, passing a little later, cheerfully volunteered the information that the frayed bell rope had given out at last, and he was hurrying off to find another length, that they realized in some guilt that they had not even given that passing toll another thought.
While presently the old Russian bell that had never found its Spanish mission took up its clear peal through the night air over San Andorr, and perhaps realizing something of what it had brought in their lives, they listened without a word until the last note died into lingering silence.