For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 12

They left El Sordo’s after eating and started down the trail. El Sordo had walked with them as far as the lower post.

“Salud,” he said. “Until tonight.”

“Salud, Camarada,” Robert Jordan had said to him and the three of them had gone on down the trail, the deaf man standing looking after them. Maria had turned and waved her hand at him and El Sordo waved disparagingly with the abrupt, Spanish upward flick of the forearm as though something were being tossed away which seems the negation of all salutation which has not to do with business. Through the meal he had never unbuttoned his sheepskin coat and he had been carefully polite, careful to turn his head to hear and had returned to speaking his broken Spanish, asking Robert Jordan about conditions in the Republic politely; but it was obvious he wanted to be rid of them.

As they had left him, Pilar had said to him, “Well, Santiago?”

“Well, nothing, woman,” the deaf man said. “It is all right. But I am thinking.”

“Me, too,” Pilar had said and now as they walked down the trail, the walking easy and pleasant down the steep trail through the pines that they had toiled up, Pilar said nothing. Neither Robert Jordan nor Maria spoke and the three of them travelled along fast until the trail rose steeply out of the wooded valley to come up through the timber, leave it, and come out into the high meadow.

It was hot in the late May afternoon and halfway up this last steep grade the woman stopped. Robert Jordan, stopping and looking back, saw the sweat beading on her forehead. He thought her brown face looked pallid and the skin sallow and that there were dark areas under her eyes.

“Let us rest a minute,” he said. “We go too fast.”

“No,” she said. “Let us go on.”

“Rest, Pilar,” Maria said. “You look badly.”

“Shut up,” the woman said. “Nobody asked for thy advice.”

She started on up the trail but at the top she was breathing heavily and her face was wet with perspiration and there was no doubt about her pallor now.

“Sit down, Pilar,” Maria said. “Please, please sit down.”

“All right,” said Pilar and the three of them sat down under a pine tree and looked across the mountain meadow to where the tops of the peaks seemed to jut out from the roll of the high country with snow shining bright on them now in the early afternoon sun.

“What rotten stuff is the snow and how beautiful it looks,” Pilar said. “What an illusion is the snow.” She turned to Maria. “I am sorry I was rude to thee, guapa. I don’t know what has held me today. I have an evil temper.”

“I never mind what you say when you are angry,” Maria told her. “And you are angry often.”

“Nay, it is worse than anger,” Pilar said, looking across at the peaks.

“Thou art not well,” Maria said.

“Neither is it that,” the woman said. “Come here, guapa, and put thy head in my lap.”

Maria moved close to her, put her arms out and folded them as One does who goes to sleep without a pillow and lay with her head on her arms. She turned her face up at Pilar and smiled at her but the big woman looked on across the meadow at the mountains. She stroked the girl’s head without looking down at her and ran a blunt finger across the girl’s forehead and then around the line of her ear and down the line where the hair grew on her neck.

“You can have her in a little while, Inglés,” she said. Robert Jordan was sitting behind her.

“Do not talk like that,” Maria said.

“Yes, he can have thee,” Pilar said and looked at neither of them. “I have never wanted thee. But I am jealous.”

“Pilar,” Maria said. “Do not talk thus.”

“He can have thee,” Pilar said and ran her finger around the lobe of the girl’s ear. “But I am very jealous.”

“But Pilar,” Maria said. “It was thee explained to me there was nothing like that between us.”

“There is always something like that,” the woman said. “There is always something like something that there should not be. But with me there is not. Truly there is not. I want thy happiness and nothing more.”

Maria said nothing but lay there, trying to make her head rest lightly.

“Listen, guapa,” said Pilar and ran her finger now absently but tracingly over the contours of her cheeks. “Listen, guapa, I love thee and he can have thee, I am no tortillera but a woman made for men. That is true. But now it gives me pleasure to say thus, in the daytime, that I care for thee.”

“I love thee, too.”

“Qué va. Do not talk nonsense. Thou dost not know even of what I speak.”

“I know.”

“Qué va, that you know. You are for the Inglés. That is seen and as it should be. That I would have. Anything else I would not have. I do not make perversions. I only tell you something true. Few people will ever talk to thee truly and no women. I am jealous and say it and it is there. And I say it.”

“Do not say it,” Maria said. “Do not say it, Pilar.”

“Por qué, do not say it,” the woman said, still not looking at either of them. “I will say it until it no longer pleases me to say it. And,” she looked down at the girl now, “that time has come already. I do not say it more, you understand?”

“Pilar,” Maria said. “Do not talk thus.”

“Thou art a very pleasant little rabbit,” Pilar said. “And lift thy head now because this silliness is over.”

“It was not silly,” said Maria. “And my head is well where it is.”

“Nay. Lift it,” Pilar told her and put her big hands under the girl’s head and raised it. “And thou, Inglés?” she said, still holding the girl’s head as she looked across at the mountains. “What cat has eaten thy tongue?”

“No cat,” Robert Jordan said.

“What animal then?” She laid the girl’s head down on the ground.

“No animal,” Robert Jordan told her.

“You swallowed it yourself, eh?”

“I guess so,” Robert Jordan said.

“And did you like the taste?” Pilar turned now and grinned at him.

“Not much.”

“I thought not,” Pilar said. “I thought not. But I give you back our rabbit. Nor ever did I try to take your rabbit. That’s a good name for her. I heard you call her that this morning.”

Robert Jordan felt his face redden.

“You are a very hard woman,” he told her.

“No,” Pilar said. “But so simple I am very complicated. Are you very complicated, Inglés?”

“No. Nor not so simple.”

“You please me, Inglés,” Pilar said. Then she smiled and leaned forward and smiled and shook her head. “Now if I could take the rabbit from thee and take thee from the rabbit.”

“You could not.”

“I know it,” Pilar said and smiled again. “Nor would I wish to. But when I was young I could have.”

“I believe it.”

“You believe it?”

“Surely,” Robert Jordan said. “But such talk is nonsense.”

“It is not like thee,” Maria said.

“I am not much like myself today,” Pilar said. “Very little like myself. Thy bridge has given me a headache, Inglés.”

“We can tell it the Headache Bridge,” Robert Jordan said. “But I will drop it in that gorge like a broken bird cage.”

“Good,” said Pilar. “Keep on talking like that.”

“I’ll drop it as you break a banana from which you have removed the skin.”

“I could eat a banana now,” said Pilar. “Go on, Inglés. Keep on talking largely.”

“There is no need,” Robert Jordan said. “Let us get to camp.”

“Thy duty,” Pilar said. “It will come quickly enough. I said that I would leave the two of you.”

“No. I have much to do.”

“That is much too and does not take long.”

“Shut thy mouth, Pilar,” Maria said. “You speak grossly.”

“I am gross,” Pilar said. “But I am also very delicate. Soy muy delicada. I will leave the two of you. And the talk of jealousness is nonsense. I was angry at Joaquín because I saw from his look how ugly I am. I am only jealous that you are nineteen. It is not a jealousy which lasts. You will not be nineteen always. Now I go.”

She stood up and with a hand on one hip looked at Robert Jordan, who was also standing. Maria sat on the ground under the tree, her head dropped forward.

“Let us all go to camp together,” Robert Jordan said. “It is better and there is much to do.”

Pilar nodded with her head toward Maria, who sat there, her head turned away from them, saying nothing.

Pilar smiled and shrugged her shoulders almost imperceptibly and said, “You know the way?”

“I know it,” Maria said, not raising her head.

“Pues me voy,” Pilar said. “Then I am going. We’ll have something hearty for you to eat, Inglés.”

She started to walk off into the heather of the meadow toward the stream that led down through it toward the camp.

“Wait,” Robert Jordan called to her. “It is better that we should all go together.”

Maria sat there and said nothing.

Pilar did not turn.

“Qué va, go together,” she said. “I will see thee at the camp.”

Robert Jordan stood there.

“Is she all right?” he asked Maria. “She looked ill before.”

“Let her go,” Maria said, her head still down.

“I think I should go with her.”

“Let her go,” said Maria. “Let her go!”