For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 15

Anselmo was crouched in the lee of the trunk of a big tree and the snow blew past on either side. He was pressed close against the tree and his hands were inside of the sleeves of his jacket, each hand shoved up into the opposite sleeve, and his head was pulled as far down into the jacket as it would go. If I stay here much longer I will freeze, he thought, and that will be of no value. The Inglés told me to stay until I was relieved but he did not know then about this storm. There has been no abnormal movement on the road and I know the dispositions and the habits of this post at the sawmill across the road. I should go now to the camp. Anybody with sense would be expecting me to return to the camp. I will stay a little longer, he thought, and then go to the camp. It is the fault of the orders, which are too rigid. There is no allowance for a change in circumstance. He rubbed his feet together and then took his hands out of the jacket sleeves and bent over and rubbed his legs with them and patted his feet together to keep the circulation going. It was less cold there, out of the wind in the shelter of the tree, but he would have to start walking shortly.

As he crouched, rubbing his feet, he heard a motorcar on the road. It had on chains and one link of chain was slapping and, as he Watched, it came up the snow-covered road, green and brown painted, in broken patches of daubed color, the windows blued over so that you could not see in, with only a half circle left clear in the blue for the occupants to look out through. It was a two-year-old Rolls-Royce town car camouflaged for the use of the General Staff but Anselmo did not know that. He could not see into the car where three officers sat wrapped in their capes. Two were on the back seat and one sat on the folding chair. The officer on the folding chair was looking out of the slit in the blue of the window as the car passed but Anselmo did not know this. Neither of them saw the other.

The car passed in the snow directly below him. Anselmo saw the chauffeur, red-faced and steel-helmeted, his face and helmet projecting out of the blanket cape he wore and he saw the forward jut of the automatic rifle the orderly who sat beside the chauffeur carried. Then the car was gone up the road and Anselmo reached into the inside of his jacket and took out from his shirt pocket the two sheets torn from Robert Jordan’s notebook and made a mark after the drawing of a motorcar. It was the tenth car up for the day. Six had come down. Four were still up. It was not an unusual amount of cars to move upon that road but Anselmo did not distinguish between the Fords, Fiats, Opels, Renaults, and Citroens of the staff of the Division that held the passes and the line of the mountain and the Rolls-Royces, Lancias, Mercedes, and Isottas of the General Staff. This was the sort of distinction that Robert Jordan should have made and, if he had been there instead of the old man, he would have appreciated the significance of these cars which had gone up. But he was not there and the old man simply made a mark for a motorcar going up the road, on the sheet of note paper.

Anselmo was now so cold that he decided he had best go to camp before it was dark. He had no fear of missing the way, but he thought it was useless to stay longer and the wind was blowing colder all the time and there was no lessening of the snow. But when he stood up and stamped his feet and looked through the driving snow at the road he did not start off up the hillside but stayed leaning against the sheltered side of the pine tree.

The Inglés told me to stay, he thought. Even now he may be on the way here and, if I leave this place, he may lose himself in the snow searching for me. All through this war we have suffered from a lack of discipline and from the disobeying of orders and I will wait a while still for the Inglés. But if he does not come soon I must go in spite of all orders for I have a report to make now, and I have much to do in these days, and to freeze here is an exaggeration and without utility.

Across the road at the sawmill smoke was coming out of the chimney and Anselmo could smell it blown toward him through the snow. The fascists are warm, he thought, and they are comfortable, and tomorrow night we will kill them. It is a strange thing and I do not like to think of it. I have watched them all day and they are the same men that we are. I believe that I could walk up to the mill and knock on the door and I would be welcome except that they have orders to challenge all travellers and ask to see their papers. It is only orders that come between us. Those men are not fascists. I call them so, but they are not. They are poor men as we are. They should never be fighting against us and I do not like to think of the killing.

These at this post are Gallegos. I know that from hearing them talk this afternoon. They cannot desert because if they do their families will be shot. Gallegos are either very intelligent or very dumb and brutal. I have known both kinds. Lister is a Gallego from the same town as Franco. I wonder what these Gallegos think of this snow now at this time of year. They have no high mountains such as these and in their country it always rains and it is always green.

A light showed in the window of the sawmill and Anselmo shivered and thought, damn that Inglés! There are the Gallegos warm and in a house here in our country, and I am freezing behind a tree and we live in a hole in the rocks like beasts in the mountain. But tomorrow, he thought, the beasts will come out of their hole and these that are now so comfortable will die warm in their blankets. As those died in the night when we raided Otero, he thought. He did not like to remember Otero.

In Otero, that night, was when he first killed and he hoped he would not have to kill in this of the suppressing of these posts. It was in Otero that Pablo knifed the sentry when Anselmo pulled the blanket over his head and the sentry caught Anselmo’s foot and held it, smothered as he was in the blanket, and made a crying noise in the blanket and Anselmo had to feel in the blanket and knife him until he let go of the foot and was still. He had his knee across the man’s throat to keep him silent and he was knifing into the bundle when Pablo tossed the bomb through the window into the room where the men of the post were all sleeping. And when the flash came it was as though the whole world burst red and yellow before your eyes and two more bombs were in already. Pablo had pulled the pins and tossed them quickly through the window, and those who were not killed in their beds were killed as they rose from bed when the second bomb exploded. That was in the great days of Pablo when he scourged the country like a tartar and no fascist post was safe at night.

And now, he is as finished and as ended as a boar that has been altered, Anselmo thought, and, when the altering has been accomplished and the squealing is over you cast the two stones away and the boar, that is a boar no longer, goes snouting and rooting up to them and eats them. No, he is not that bad, Anselmo grinned, one can think too badly even of Pablo. But he is ugly enough and changed enough.

It is too cold, he thought. That the Inglés should come and that I should not have to kill in this of the posts. These four Gallegos and their corporal are for those who like the killing. The Inglés said that. I will do it if it is my duty but the Inglés said that I would be with him at the bridge and that this would be left to others. At the bridge there will be a battle and, if I am able to endure the battle, then I will have done all that an old man may do in this war. But let the Inglés come now, for I am cold and to see the light in the mill where I know that the Gallegos are warm makes me colder still. I wish that I were in my own house again and that this war were over. But you have no house now, he thought. We must win this war before you can ever return to your house.

Inside the sawmill one of the soldiers was sitting on his bunk and greasing his boots. Another lay in his bunk sleeping. The third was cooking and the corporal was reading a paper. Their helmets hung on nails driven into the wall and their rifles leaned against the plank wall.

“What kind of country is this where it snows when it is almost June?” the soldier who was sitting on the bunk said.

“It is a phenomenon,” the corporal said.

“We are in the moon of May,” the soldier who was cooking said. “The moon of May has not yet terminated.”

“What kind of a country is it where it snows in May?” the soldier on the bunk insisted.

“In May snow is no rarity in these mountains,” the corporal said. “I have been colder in Madrid in the month of May than in any other month.”

“And hotter, too,” the soldier who was cooking said.

“May is a month of great contrasts in temperature,” the corporal said. “Here, in Castile, May is a month of great heat but it can have much cold.”

“Or rain,” the soldier on the bunk said. “In this past May it rained almost every day.”

“It did not,” the soldier who was cooking said. “And anyway this past May was the moon of April.”

“One could go crazy listening to thee and thy moons,” the corporal said. “Leave this of the moons alone.”

“Any one who lives either by the sea or by the land knows that it is the moon and not the month which counts,” the soldier who was cooking said. “Now for example, we have just started the moon of May. Yet it is coming on June.”

“Why then do we not get definitely behind in the seasons?” the corporal said. “The whole proposition gives me a headache.”

“You are from a town,” the soldier who was cooking said. “You are from Lugo. What would you know of the sea or of the land?”

“One learns more in a town than you analfabetos learn in thy sea or thy land.”

“In this moon the first of the big schools of sardines come,” the soldier who was cooking said. “In this moon the sardine boats will be outfitting and the mackerel will have gone north.”

“Why are you not in the navy if you come from Noya?” the corporal asked.

“Because I am not inscribed from Noya but from Negreira, where I was born. And from Negreira, which is up the river Tambre, they take you for the army.”

“Worse luck,” said the corporal.

“Do not think the navy is without peril,” the soldier who was sitting on the bunk said. “Even without the possibility of combat that is a dangerous coast in the winter.”

“Nothing can be worse than the army,” the corporal said.

“And you a corporal,” the soldier who was cooking said. “What a way of speaking is that?”

“Nay,” the corporal said. “I mean for dangers. I mean the endurance of bombardments, the necessity to attack, the life of the parapet.”

“Here we have little of that,” the soldier on the bunk said.

“By the Grace of God,” the corporal said. “But who knows when we will be subject to it again? Certainly we will not have something as easy as this forever!”

“How much longer do you think we will have this detail?”

“I don’t know,” the corporal said. “But I wish we could have it for all of the war.”

“Six hours is too long to be on guard,” the soldier who was cooking said.

“We will have three-hour watches as long as this storm holds,” the corporal said. “That is only normal.”

“What about all those staff cars?” the soldier on the bunk asked. “I did not like the look of all those staff cars.”

“Nor I,” the corporal said. “All such things are of evil omen.”

“And aviation,” the soldier who was cooking said. “Aviation is another bad sign.”

“But we have formidable aviation,” the corporal said. “The Reds have no aviation such as we have. Those planes this morning were something to make any man happy.”

“I have seen the Red planes when they were something serious,” the soldier on the bunk said. “I have seen those two motor bombers when they were a horror to endure.”

“Yes. But they are not as formidable as our aviation,” the corporal said. “We have an aviation that is insuperable.”

This was how they were talking in the sawmill while Anselmo waited in the snow watching the road and the light in the sawmill window.

I hope I am not for the killing, Anselmo was thinking. I think that after the war there will have to be some great penance done for the killing. If we no longer have religion after the war then I think there must be some form of civic penance organized that all may be cleansed from the killing or else we will never have a true and human basis for living. The killing is necessary, I know, but still the doing of it is very bad for a man and I think that, after all this is over and we have won the war, there must be a penance of some kind for the cleansing of us all.

Anselmo was a very good man and whenever he was alone for long, and he was alone much of the time, this problem of the killing returned to him.

I wonder about the Inglés, he thought. He told me that he did not mind it. Yet he seems to be both sensitive and kind. It may be that in the younger people it does not have an importance. It may be that in foreigners, or in those who have not had our religion, there is not the same attitude. But I think any one doing it will be brutalized in time and I think that even though necessary, it is a great sin and that afterwards we must do something very strong to atone for it.

It was dark now and he looked at the light across the road and shook his arms against his chest to warm them. Now, he thought, he would certainly leave for the camp; but something kept him there beside the tree above the road. It was snowing harder and Anselmo thought: if only we could blow the bridge tonight. On a night like this it would be nothing to take the posts and blow the bridge and it would all be over and done with. On a night like this you could do anything.

Then he stood there against the tree stamping his feet softly and he did not think any more about the bridge. The coming of the dark always made him feel lonely and tonight he felt so lonely that there was a hollowness in him as of hunger. In the old days he could help this loneliness by the saying of prayers and often coming home from hunting he would repeat a great number of the same prayer and it made him feel better. But he had not prayed once since the movement. He missed the prayers but he thought it would be unfair and hypocritical to say them and he did not wish to ask any favors or for any different treatment than all the men were receiving.

No, he thought, I am lonely. But so are all the soldiers and the Wives of all the soldiers and all those who have lost families or parents. I have no wife, but I am glad that she died before the movement. She would not have understood it. I have no children and I never will have any children. I am lonely in the day when I am not working but when the dark comes it is a time of great loneliness. But one thing I have that no man nor any God can take from me and that is that I have worked well for the Republic. I have worked hard for the good that we will all share later. I have worked my best from the first of the movement and I have done nothing that I am ashamed of.

All that I am sorry for is the killing. But surely there will be an opportunity to atone for that because for a sin of that sort that so many bear, certainly some just relief will be devised. I would like to talk with the Inglés about it but, being young, it is possible that he might not understand. He mentioned the killing before. Or was it I that mentioned it? He must have killed much, but he shows no signs of liking it. In those who like it there is always a rottenness.

It must really be a great sin, he thought. Because certainly it is the one thing we have no right to do even though, as I know, it is necessary. But in Spain it is done too lightly and often without true necessity and there is much quick injustice which, afterward, can never be repaired. I wish I did not think about it so much, he thought. I wish there were a penance for it that one could commence now because it is the only thing that I have done in all my life that makes me feel badly when I am alone. All the other things are forgiven or one had a chance to atone for them by kindness or in some decent way. But I think this of the killing must be a very great sin and I would like to fix it up. Later on there may be certain days that one can work for the state or something that one can do that will remove it. It will probably be something that one pays as in the days of the Church, he thought, and smiled. The Church was well organized for sin. That pleased him and he was smiling in the dark when Robert Jordan came up to him. He came silently and the old man did not see him until he was there.

“Hola, viejo,” Robert Jordan whispered and clapped him on the back. “How’s the old one?”

“Very cold,” Anselmo said. Fernando was standing a little apart, his back turned against the driving snow.

“Come on,” Robert Jordan whispered. “Get on up to camp and get warm. It was a crime to leave you here so long.”

“That is their light,” Anselmo pointed.

“Where’s the sentry?”

“You do not see him from here. He is around the bend.”

“The hell with them,” Robert Jordan said. “You tell me at camp. Come on, let’s go.”

“Let me show you,” Anselmo said.

“I’m going to look at it in the morning,” Robert Jordan said. “Here, take a swallow of this.”

He handed the old man his flask. Anselmo tipped it up and swallowed.

“Ayee,” he said and rubbed his mouth. “It is fire.”

“Come on,” Robert Jordan said in the dark. “Let us go.”

It was so dark now you could only see the flakes blowing past and the rigid dark of the pine trunks. Fernando was standing a little way up the hill. Look at that cigar store Indian, Robert Jordan thought. I suppose I have to offer him a drink.

“Hey, Fernando,” he said as he came up to him. “A swallow?”

“No,” said Fernando. “Thank you.”

Thank you, I mean, Robert Jordan thought. I’m glad cigar store Indians don’t drink. There isn’t too much of that left. Boy, I’m glad to see this old man, Robert Jordan thought. He looked at Anselmo and then clapped him on the back again as they started up the hill.

“I’m glad to see you, viejo,” he said to Anselmo. “If I ever get gloomy, when I see you it cheers me up. Come on, let’s get up there.”

They were going up the hill in the snow.

“Back to the palace of Pablo,” Robert Jordan said to Anselmo. It sounded wonderful in Spanish.

“El Palacio del Miedo,” Anselmo said. “The Palace of Fear.”

“La cueva de los huevos perdidos,” Robert Jordan capped the other happily. “The cave of the lost eggs.”

“What eggs?” Fernando asked.

“A joke,” Robert Jordan said. “Just a joke. Not eggs, you know. The others.”

“But why are they lost?” Fernando asked.

“I don’t know,” said Robert Jordan. “Take a book to tell you. Ask Pilar,” then he put his arm around Anselmo’s shoulder and held him tight as they walked and shook him. “Listen,” he said. “I’m glad to see you, hear? You don’t know what it means to find somebody in this country in the same place they were left.”

It showed what confidence and intimacy he had that he could say anything against the country.

“I am glad to see thee,” Anselmo said. “But I was just about to leave.”

“Like hell you would have,” Robert Jordan said happily. “You’d have frozen first.”

“How was it up above?” Anselmo asked.

“Fine,” said Robert Jordan. “Everything is fine.”

He was very happy with that sudden, rare happiness that can come to any one with a command in a revolutionary arm; the happiness of finding that even one of your flanks holds. If both flanks ever held I suppose it would be too much to take, he thought. I don’t know who is prepared to stand that. And if you extend along a flank, any flank, it eventually becomes one man. Yes, one man. This was not the axiom he wanted. But this was a good man. One good man. You are going to be the left flank when we have the battle, he thought. I better not tell you that yet. It’s going to be an awfully small battle, he thought. But it’s going to be an awfully good one. Well, I always wanted to fight one on my own. I always had an opinion on what was wrong with everybody else’s, from Agincourt down. I will have to make this a good one. It is going to be small but very select. If I have to do what I think I will have to do it will be very select indeed.

“Listen,” he said to Anselmo. “I’m awfully glad to see you.”

“And me to see thee,” the old man said.

As they went up the hill in the dark, the wind at their backs, the storm blowing past them as they climbed, Anselmo did not feel lonely. He had not been lonely since the Inglés had clapped him on the shoulder. The Inglés was pleased and happy and they joked together. The Inglés said it all went well and he was not worried. The drink in his stomach warmed him and his feet were warming now climbing.

“Not much on the road,” he said to the Inglés.

“Good,” the Inglés told him. “You will show me when we get there.”

Anselmo was happy now and he was very pleased that he had stayed there at the post of observation.

If he had come in to camp it would have been all right. It would have been the intelligent and correct thing to have done under the circumstances, Robert Jordan was thinking. But he stayed as he was told, Robert Jordan thought. That’s the rarest thing that can happen in Spain. To stay in a storm, in a way, corresponds to a lot of things. It’s not for nothing that the Germans call an attack a storm. I could certainly use a couple more who would stay. I most certainly could. I wonder if that Fernando would stay. It’s just possible. After all, he is the one who suggested coming out just now. Do you suppose he would stay? Wouldn’t that be good? He’s just about stubborn enough. I’ll have to make some inquiries. Wonder what the old cigar store Indian is thinking about now.

“What are you thinking about, Fernando?” Robert Jordan asked.

“Why do you ask?”

“Curiosity,” Robert Jordan said. “I am a man of great curiosity.”

“I was thinking of supper,” Fernando said.

“Do you like to eat?”

“Yes. Very much.”

“How’s Pilar’s cooking?”

“Average,” Fernando answered.

He’s a second Coolidge, Robert Jordan thought. But, you know, I have just a hunch that he would stay.

The three of them plodded up the hill in the snow.