For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 17

The only noise in the cave now was the hissing from the hearth where snow was falling through the hole in the roof onto the coals of the fire.

“Pilar,” Fernando said. “Is there more of the stew?”

“Oh, shut up,” the woman said. But Maria took Fernando’s bowl over to the big pot set back from the edge of the fire and ladled into it. She brought it over to the table and set it down and then patted Fernando on the shoulder as he bent to eat. She stood for a moment beside him, her hand on his shoulder. But Fernando did not look up. He was devoting himself to the stew.

Agustín stood beside the fire. The others were seated. Pilar sat at the table opposite Robert Jordan.

“Now, Inglés,” she said, “you have seen how he is.”

“What will he do?” Robert Jordan asked.

“Anything,” the woman looked down at the table. “Anything. He is capable of doing anything.”

“Where is the automatic rifle?” Robert Jordan asked.

“There in the corner wrapped in the blanket,” Primitivo said. “Do you want it?”

“Later,” Robert Jordan said. “I wished to know where it is.”

“It is there,” Primitivo said. “I brought it in and I have wrapped it in my blanket to keep the action dry. The pans are in that sack.”

“He would not do that,” Pilar said. “He would not do anything with the máquina.”

“I thought you said he would do anything.”

“He might,” she said. “But he has no practice with the máquina. He could toss in a bomb. That is more his style.”

“It is an idiocy and a weakness not to have killed him,” the gypsy said. He had taken no part in any of the talk all evening. “Last night Roberto should have killed him.”

“Kill him,” Pilar said. Her big face was dark and tired looking. “I am for it now.”

“I was against it,” Agustín said. He stood in front of the fire, his long arms hanging by his sides, his cheeks, stubble-shadowed below the cheekbones, hollow in the firelight. “Now I am for it,” he said. “He is poisonous now and he would like to see us all destroyed.”

“Let all speak,” Pilar said and her voice was tired. “Thou, Andrés?”

“Matarlo,” the brother with the dark hair growing far down in the point on his forehead said and nodded his head.


“Equally,” the other brother said. “To me he seems to constitute a great danger. And he serves for nothing.”




“Could we not hold him as a prisoner?” Fernando asked.

“Who would look after a prisoner?” Primitivo said. “It would take two men to look after a prisoner and what would we do with him in the end?”

“We could sell him to the fascists,” the gypsy said.

“None of that,” Agustín said. “None of that filthiness.”

“It was only an idea,” Rafael, the gypsy, said. “It seems to me that the facciosos would be happy to have him.”

“Leave it alone,” Agustín said. “That is filthy.”

“No filthier than Pablo,” the gypsy justified himself.

“One filthiness does not justify another,” Agustín said. “Well, that is all. Except for the old man and the Inglés.”

“They are not in it,” Pilar said. “He has not been their leader.”

“One moment,” Fernando said. “I have not finished.”

“Go ahead,” Pilar said. “Talk until he comes back. Talk until he rolls a hand grenade under that blanket and blows this all up. Dynamite and all.”

“I think that you exaggerate, Pilar,” Fernando said. “I do not think that he has any such conception.”

“I do not think so either,” Agustín said. “Because that would blow the wine up too and he will be back in a little while to the wine.”

“Why not turn him over to El Sordo and let El Sordo sell him to the fascists?” Rafael suggested. “You could blind him and he would be easy to handle.”

“Shut up,” Pilar said. “I feel something very justified against thee too when thou talkest.”

“The fascists would pay nothing for him anyway,” Primitivo said. “Such things have been tried by others and they pay nothing. They will shoot thee too.”

“I believe that blinded he could be sold for something,” Rafael said.

“Shut up,” Pilar said. “Speak of blinding again and you can go with the other.”

“But, he, Pablo, blinded the guardia civil who was wounded,” the gypsy insisted. “You have forgotten that?”

“Close thy mouth,” Pilar said to him. She was embarrassed before Robert Jordan by this talk of blinding.

“I have not been allowed to finish,” Fernando interrupted.

“Finish,” Pilar told him. “Go on. Finish.”

“Since it is impractical to hold Pablo as a prisoner,” Fernando commenced, “and since it is repugnant to offer him—”

“Finish,” Pilar said. “For the love of God, finish.”

“—in any class of negotiation,” Fernando proceeded calmly, “I am agreed that it is perhaps best that he should be eliminated in order that the operations projected should be insured of the maximum possibility of success.”

Pilar looked at the little man, shook her head, bit her lips and said nothing.

“That is my opinion,” Fernando said. “I believe we are justified in believing that he constitutes a danger to the Republic—”

“Mother of God,” Pilar said. “Even here one man can make a bureaucracy with his mouth.”

“Both from his own words and his recent actions,” Fernando continued. “And while he is deserving of gratitude for his actions in the early part of the movement and up until the most recent time—”

Pilar had walked over to the fire. Now she came up to the table.

“Fernando,” Pilar said quietly and handed a bowl to him. “Take this stew please in all formality and fill thy mouth with it and talk no more. We are in possession of thy opinion.”

“But, how then—” Primitivo asked and paused without completing the sentence.

“Estoy listo,” Robert Jordan said. “I am ready to do it. Since you are all decided that it should be done it is a service that I can do.”

What’s the matter? he thought. From listening to him I am beginning to talk like Fernando. That language must be infectious. French, the language of diplomacy. Spanish, the language of bureaucracy.

“No,” Maria said. “No.”

“This is none of thy business,” Pilar said to the girl. “Keep thy mouth shut.”

“I will do it tonight,” Robert Jordan said.

He saw Pilar looking at him, her fingers on her lips. She was looking toward the door.

The blanket fastened across the opening of the cave was lifted and Pablo put his head in. He grinned at them all, pushed under the blanket and then turned and fastened it again. He turned around and stood there, then pulled the blanket cape over his head and shook the snow from it.

“You were speaking of me?” he addressed them all. “I am interrupting?”

No one answered him and he hung the cape on a peg in the wall and walked over to the table.

“Qué tal?” he asked and picked up his cup which had stood empty on the table and dipped it into the wine bowl. “There is no wine,” he said to Maria. “Go draw some from the skin.”

Maria picked up the bowl and went over to the dusty, heavily distended, black-tarred wineskin that hung neck down from the wall and unscrewed the plug from one of the legs enough so that the wine squirted from the edge of the plug into the bowl. Pablo watched her kneeling, holding the bowl up and watched the light red wine flooding into the bowl so fast that it made a whirling motion as it filled it.

“Be careful,” he said to her. “The wine’s below the chest now.”

No one said anything.

“I drank from the belly-button to the chest today,” Pablo said. “It’s a day’s work. What’s the matter with you all? Have you lost your tongues?”

No one said anything at all.

“Screw it up, Maria,” Pablo said. “Don’t let it spill.”

“There’ll be plenty of wine,” Agustín said. “You’ll be able to be drunk.”

“One has encountered his tongue,” Pablo said and nodded to Agustín. “Felicitations. I thought you’d been struck dumb.”

“By what?” Agustín asked.

“By my entry.”

“Thinkest thou that thy entry carries importance?”

He’s working himself up to it, maybe, Robert Jordan thought. Maybe Agustín is going to do it. He certainly hates him enough. I don’t hate him, he thought. No, I don’t hate him. He is disgusting but I do not hate him. Though that blinding business puts him in a special class. Still this is their war. But he is certainly nothing to have around for the next two days. I am going to keep away out of it, he thought. I made a fool of myself with him once tonight and I am perfectly willing to liquidate him. But I am not going to fool with him beforehand. And there are not going to be any shooting matches or monkey business in here with that dynamite around either. Pablo thought of that, of course. And did you think of it, he said to himself? No, you did not and neither did Agustín. You deserve whatever happens to you, he thought.

“Agustín,” he said.

“What?” Agustín looked up sullenly and turned his head away from Pablo.

“I wish to speak to thee,” Robert Jordan said.


“Now,” Robert Jordan said. “Por favor.”

Robert Jordan had walked to the opening of the cave and Pablo followed him with his eyes. Agustín, tall and sunken cheeked, stood up and came over to him. He moved reluctantly and contemptuously.

“Thou hast forgotten what is in the sacks?” Robert Jordan said to him, speaking so low that it could not be heard.

“Milk!” Agustín said. “One becomes accustomed and one forgets.”

“I, too, forgot.”

“Milk!” Agustín said. “Leche! What fools we are.” He swung back loose-jointedly to the table and sat down. “Have a drink, Pablo, old boy,” he said. “How were the horses?”

“Very good,” Pablo said. “And it is snowing less.”

“Do you think it will stop?”

“Yes,” Pablo said. “It is thinning now and there are small, hard pellets. The wind will blow but the snow is going. The wind has changed.”

“Do you think it will clear tomorrow?” Robert Jordan asked him.

“Yes,” Pablo said. “I believe it will be cold and clear. This wind is shifting.”

Look at him, Robert Jordan thought. Now he is friendly. He has shifted like the wind. He has the face and the body of a pig and I know he is many times a murderer and yet he has the sensitivity of a good aneroid. Yes, he thought, and the pig is a very intelligent animal, too. Pablo has hatred for us, or perhaps it is only for our projects, and pushes his hatred with insults to the point where you are ready to do away with him and when he sees that this point has been reached he drops it and starts all new and clean again.

“We will have good weather for it, Inglés,” Pablo said to Robert Jordan.

“We,” Pilar said. “We?”

“Yes, we,” Pablo grinned at her and drank some of the wine. “Why not? I thought it over while I was outside. Why should we not agree?”

“In what?” the woman asked. “In what now?”

“In all,” Pablo said to her. “In this of the bridge. I am with thee now.”

“You are with us now?” Agustín said to him. “After what you have said?”

“Yes,” Pablo told him. “With the change of the weather I am with thee.”

Agustín shook his head. “The weather,” he said and shook his head again. “And after me hitting thee in the face?”

“Yes,” Pablo grinned at him and ran his fingers over his lips. “After that too.”

Robert Jordan was watching Pilar. She was looking at Pablo as at some strange animal. On her face there was still a shadow of the expression the mention of the blinding had put there. She shook her head as though to be rid of that, then tossed it back. “Listen,” she said to Pablo.

“Yes, woman.”

“What passes with thee?”

“Nothing,” Pablo said. “I have changed my opinion. Nothing more.”

“You were listening at the door,” she told him.

“Yes,” he said. “But I could hear nothing.”

“You fear that we will kill thee.”

“No,” he told her and looked at her over the wine cup. “I do not fear that. You know that.”

“Well, what passes with thee?” Agustín said. “One moment you are drunk and putting your mouth on all of us and disassociating yourself from the work in hand and speaking of our death in a dirty manner and insulting the women and opposing that which should be done—”

“I was drunk,” Pablo told him.

“And now—”

“I am not drunk,” Pablo said. “And I have changed my mind.”

“Let the others trust thee. I do not,” Agustín said.

“Trust me or not,” Pablo said. “But there is no one who can take thee to Gredos as I can.”


“It is the only place to go after this of the bridge.”

Robert Jordan, looking at Pilar, raised his hand on the side away from Pablo and tapped his right ear questioningly.

The woman nodded. Then nodded again. She said something to Maria and the girl came over to Robert Jordan’s side.

“She says, ‘Of course he heard,” Maria said in Robert Jordan’s ear.

“Then Pablo,” Fernando said judicially. “Thou art with us now and in favor of this of the bridge?”

“Yes, man,” Pablo said. He looked Fernando squarely in the eye and nodded.

“In truth?” Primitivo asked.

“De veras,” Pablo told him.

“And you think it can be successful?” Fernando asked. “You now have confidence?”

“Why not?” Pablo said. “Haven’t you confidence?”

“Yes,” Fernando said. “But I always have confidence.”

“I’m going to get out of here,” Agustín said.

“It is cold outside,” Pablo told him in a friendly tone.

“Maybe,” Agustín said. “But I can’t stay any longer in this manicomio.”

“Do not call this cave an insane asylum,” Fernando said.

“A manicomio for criminal lunatics,” Agustín said. “And I’m getting out before I’m crazy, too.”