For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 18

It is like a merry-go-round, Robert Jordan thought. Not a merry-goround that travels fast, and with a calliope for music, and the children ride on cows with gilded horns, and there are rings to catch with sticks, and there is the blue, gas-flare-lit early dark of the Avenue du Maine, with fried fish sold from the next stall, and a wheel of fortune turning with the leather flaps slapping against the posts of the numbered compartments, and the packages of lump sugar piled in pyramids for prizes. No, it is not that kind of a merrygo-round; although the people are waiting, like the men in caps and the women in knitted sweaters, their heads bare in the gaslight and their hair shining, who stand in front of the wheel of fortune as it spins. Yes, those are the people. But this is another wheel. This is like a wheel that goes up and around.

It has been around twice now. It is a vast wheel, set at an angle, and each time it goes around and then is back to where it starts. One side is higher than the other and the sweep it makes lifts you back and down to where you started. There are no prizes either, he thought, and no one would choose to ride this wheel. You ride it each time and make the turn with no intention ever to have mounted. There is only one turn; one large, elliptical, rising and falling turn and you are back where you have started. We are back again now, he thought, and nothing is settled.

It was warm in the cave and the wind had dropped outside. Now he was sitting at the table with his notebook in front of him figuring all the technical part of the bridge-blowing. He drew three sketches, figured his formulas, marked the method of blowing with two drawings as clearly as a kindergarten project so that Anselmo could complete it in case anything should happen to himself during the process of the demolition. He finished these sketches and studied them.

Maria sat beside him and looked over his shoulder while he worked. He was conscious of Pablo across the table and of the others talking and playing cards and he smelled the odors of the cave which had changed now from those of the meal and the cooking to the fire smoke and man smell, the tobacco, red-wine and brassy, stale body smell, and when Maria, watching him finishing a drawing, put her hand on the table he picked it up with his left hand and lifted it to his face and smelled the coarse soap and water freshness from her washing of the dishes. He laid her hand down without looking at her and went on working and he could not see her blush. She let her hand lie there, close to his, but he did not lift it again.

Now he had finished the demolition project and he took a new page of the notebook and commenced to write out the operation orders. He was thinking clearly and well on these and what he wrote pleased him. He wrote two pages in the notebook and read them over carefully.

I think that is all, he said to himself. It is perfectly clear and I do not think there are any holes in it. The two posts will be destroyed and the bridge will be blown according to Golz’s orders and that is all of my responsibility. All of this business of Pablo is something with which I should never have been saddled and it will be solved one way or another. There will be Pablo or there will be no Pablo. I care nothing about it either way. But I am not going to get on that wheel again. Twice I have been on that wheel and twice it has gone around and come back to where it started and I am taking no more rides on it.

He shut the notebook and looked up at Maria. “Hola, guapa,” he said to her. “Did you make anything out of all that?”

“No, Roberto,” the girl said and put her hand on his hand that still held the pencil. “Have you finished?”

“Yes. Now it is all written out and ordered.”

“What have you been doing, Inglés?” Pablo asked from across the table. His eyes were bleary again.

Robert Jordan looked at him closely. Stay off that wheel, he said to himself. Don’t step on that wheel. I think it is going to start to swing again.

“Working on the problem of the bridge,” he said civilly.

“How is it?” asked Pablo.

“Very good,” Robert Jordan said. “All very good.”

“I have been working on the problem of the retreat,” Pablo said and Robert Jordan looked at his drunken pig eyes and at the wine bowl. The wine bowl was nearly empty.

Keep off the wheel, he told himself. He is drinking again. Sure. But don’t you get on that wheel now. Wasn’t Grant supposed to be drunk a good part of the time during the Civil War? Certainly he was. I’ll bet Grant would be furious at the comparison if he could see Pablo. Grant was a cigar smoker, too. Well, he would have to see about getting Pablo a cigar. That was what that face really needed to complete it; a half chewed cigar. Where could he get Pablo a cigar?

“How does it go?” Robert Jordan asked politely.

“Very well,” Pablo said and nodded his head heavily and judiciously. “Muy bien.”

“You’ve thought up something?” Agustín asked from where they were playing cards.

“Yes,” Pablo said. “Various things.”

“Where did you find them? In that bowl?” Agustín demanded.

“Perhaps,” Pablo said. “Who knows? Maria, fill the bowl, will you, please?”

“In the wineskin itself there should be some fine ideas,” Agustín turned back to the card game. “Why don’t you crawl in and look for them inside the skin?”

“Nay,” said Pablo equably. “I search for them in the bowl.”

He is not getting on the wheel either, Robert Jordan thought. It must be revolving by itself. I suppose you cannot ride that wheel too long. That is probably quite a deadly wheel. I’m glad we are off of it. It was making me dizzy there a couple of times. But it is the thing that drunkards and those who are truly mean or cruel ride until they die. It goes around and up and the swing is never quite the same and then it comes around down. Let it swing, he thought. They will not get me onto it again. No sir, General Grant, I am off that wheel.

Pilar was sitting by the fire, her chair turned so that she could see over the shoulders of the two card players who had their backs to her. She was watching the game.

Here it is the shift from deadliness to normal family life that is the strangest, Robert Jordan thought. It is when the damned wheel comes down that it gets you. But I am off that wheel, he thought. And nobody is going to get me onto it again.

Two days ago I never knew that Pilar, Pablo nor the rest existed, he thought. There was no such thing as Maria in the world. It was certainly a much simpler world. I had instructions from Golz that were perfectly clear and seemed perfectly possible to carry out although they presented certain difficulties and involved certain consequences. After we blew the bridge I expected either to get back to the lines or not get back and if we got back I was going to ask for some time in Madrid. No one has any leave in this war but I am sure I could get two or three days in Madrid.

In Madrid I wanted to buy some books, to go to the Florida Hotel and get a room and to have a hot bath, he thought. I was going to send Luis the porter out for a bottle of absinthe if he could locate one at the MantequerIas Leonesas or at any of the places off the Gran Via and I was going to lie in bed and read after the bath and drink a couple of absinthes and then I was going to call up Gaylord’s and see if I could come up there and eat.

He did not want to eat at the Gran Via because the food was no good really and you had to get there on time or whatever there was of it would be gone. Also there were too many newspaper men there he knew and he did not want to have to keep his mouth shut. He wanted to drink the absinthes and to feel like talking and then go up to Gaylord’s and eat with Karkov, where they had good food and real beer, and find out what was going on in the war.

He had not liked Gaylord’s, the hotel in Madrid the Russians had taken over when he first went there because it seemed too luxurious and the food was too good for a besieged city and the talk too cynical for a war. But I corrupted very easily, he thought. Why should you not have as good food as could be organized when you came back from something like this? And the talk that he had thought of as cynicism when he had first heard it had turned out to be much too true. This will be something to tell at Gaylord’s, he thought, when this is over. Yes, when this is over.

Could you take Maria to Gaylord’s? No. You couldn’t. But you could leave her in the hotel and she could take a hot bath and be there when you came back from Gaylord’s. Yes, you could do that and after you had told Karkov about her, you could bring her later because they would be curious about her and want to see her.

Maybe you wouldn’t go to Gaylord’s at all. You could eat early at the Gran Via and hurry back to the Florida. But you knew you would go to Gaylord’s because you wanted to see all that again; you wanted to eat that food again and you wanted to see all the comfort of it and the luxury of it after this. Then you would come back to the Florida and there Maria would be. Sure, she would be there after this was over. After this was over. Yes, after this was over. If he did this well he would rate a meal at Gaylord’s.

Gaylord’s was the place where you met famous peasant and worker Spanish commanders who had sprung to arms from the people at the start of the war without any previous military training and found that many of them spoke Russian. That had been the first big disillusion to him a few months back and he had started to be cynical to himself about it. But when he realized how it happened it was all right. They were peasants and workers. They had been active in the 1934 revolution and had to flee the country when it failed and in Russia they had sent them to the military academy and to the Lenin Institute the Comintern maintained so they would be ready to fight the next time and have the necessary military education to command.

The Comintern had educated them there. In a revolution you could not admit to outsiders who helped you nor that any one knew more than he was supposed to know. He had learned that. If a thing was right fundamentally the lying was not supposed to matter. There was a lot of lying though. He did not care for the lying at first. He hated it. Then later he had come to like it. It was part of being an insider but it was a very corrupting business.

It was at Gaylord’s that you learned that Valentin Gonzalez, called El Campesino or The Peasant, had never been a peasant but was an ex-sergeant in the Spanish Foreign Legion who had deserted and fought with Abd el Krim. That was all right, too. Why shouldn’t he be? You had to have these peasant leaders quickly in this sort of war and a real peasant leader might be a little too much like Pablo. You couldn’t wait for the real Peasant Leader to arrive and he might have too many peasant characteristics when he did. So you had to manufacture one. At that, from what he had seen of Campesino, with his black beard, his thick negroid lips, and his feverish, staring eyes, he thought he might give almost as much trouble as a real peasant leader. The last time he had seen him he seemed to have gotten to believe his own publicity and think he was a peasant. He was a brave, tough man; no braver in the world. But God, how he talked too much. And when he was excited he would say anything no matter what the consequences of his indiscretion. And those consequences had been many already. He was a wonderful Brigade Commander though in a situation where it looked as though everything was lost. He never knew when everything was lost and if it was, he would fight out of it.

At Gaylord’s, too, you met the simple stonemason, Enrique Lister from Galicia, who now commanded a division and who talked Russian, too. And you met the cabinet worker, Juan Modesto from AndalucIa who had just been given an Army Corps. He never learned his Russian in Puerto de Santa Maria although he might have if they had a Berlitz School there that the cabinet makers went to. He was the most trusted of the young soldiers by the Russians because he was a true party man, “a hundred per cent” they said, proud to use the Americanism. He was much more intelligent than Lister or El Campesino.

Sure, Gaylord’s was the place you needed to complete your education. It was there you learned how it was all really done instead of how it was supposed to be done. He had only started his education, he thought. He wondered whether he would continue with it long. Gaylord’s was good and sound and what he needed. At the start when he had still believed all the nonsense it had come as a shock to him. But now he knew enough to accept the necessity for all the deception and what he learned at Gaylord’s only strengthened him in his belief in the things that he did hold to be true. He liked to know how it really was; not how it was supposed to be. There was always lying in a war. But the truth of Lister, Modesto, and El Campesino was much better than the lies and legends. Well, some day they would tell the truth to every one and meantime he was glad there was a Gaylord’s for his own learning of it.

Yes, that was where he would go in Madrid after he had bought the books and after he had lain in the hot bath and had a couple of drinks and had read awhile. But that was before Maria had come into all this that he had that plan. All right. They would have two rooms and she could do what she liked while he went up there and he’d come back from Gaylord’s to her. She had waited up in the hills all this time. She could wait a little while at the Hotel Florida. They would have three days in Madrid. Three days could be a long time. He’d take her to see the Marx Brothers at the Opera. That had been running for three months now and would certainly be good for three months more. She’d like the Marx Brothers at the Opera, he thought. She’d like that very much.

It was a long way from Gaylord’s to this cave though. No, that was not the long way. The long way was going to be from this cave to Gaylord’s. Kashkin had taken him there first and he had not liked it. Kashkin had said he should meet Karkov because Karkov wanted to know Americans and because he was the greatest lover of Lope de Vega in the world and thought “Fuente Ovejuna” was the greatest play ever written. Maybe it was at that, but he, Robert Jordan, did not think so.

He had liked Karkov but not the place. Karkov was the most intelligent man he had ever met. Wearing black riding boots, gray breeches, and a gray tunic, with tiny hands and feet, puffily fragile of face and body, with a spitting way of talking through his bad teeth, he looked comic when Robert Jordan first saw him. But he had more brains and more inner dignity and outer insolence and humor than any man that he had ever known.

Gaylord’s itself had seemed indecently luxurious and corrupt. But why shouldn’t the representatives of a power that governed a sixth of the world have a few comforts? Well, they had them and Robert Jordan had at first been repelled by the whole business and then had accepted it and enjoyed it. Kashkin had made him out to be a hell of a fellow and Karkov had at first been insultingly polite and then, when Robert Jordan had not played at being a hero but had told a story that was really funny and obscenely discreditable to himself, Karkov had shifted from the politeness to a relieved rudeness and then to insolence and they had become friends.

Kashkin had only been tolerated there. There was something wrong with Kashkin evidently and he was working it out in Spain. They would not tell him what it was but maybe they would now that he was dead. Anyway, he and Karkov had become friends and he had become friends too with the incredibly thin, drawn, dark, loving, nervous, deprived and unbitter woman with a lean, neglected body and dark, gray-streaked hair cut short who was Karkov’s wife and who served as an interpreter with the tank corps. He was a friend too of Karkov’s mistress, who had cat-eyes, reddish gold hair (sometimes more red; sometimes more gold, depending on the coiffeurs), a lazy sensual body (made to fit well against other bodies), a mouth made to fit other mouths, and a stupid, ambitious and utterly loyal mind. This mistress loved gossip and enjoyed a periodically controlled promiscuity which seemed only to amuse Karkov. Karkov was supposed to have another wife somewhere besides the tank-corps one, maybe two more, but nobody was very sure about that. Robert Jordan liked both the wife he knew and the mistress. He thought he would probably like the other wife, too, if he knew her, if there was one. Karkov had good taste in women.

There were sentries with bayonets downstairs outside the portecochere at Gaylord’s and tonight it would be the pleasantest and most comfortable place in all of besieged Madrid. He would like to be there tonight instead of here. Though it was all right here, now they had stopped that wheel. And the snow was stopping too.

He would like to show his Maria to Karkov but he could not take her there unless he asked first and he would have to see how he was received after this trip. Golz would be there after this attack was over and if he had done well they would all know it from Golz. Golz would make fun of him, too, about Maria. After what he’d said to him about no girls.

He reached over to the bowl in front of Pablo and dipped up a cup of wine. “With your permission,” he said.

Pablo nodded. He is engaged in his military studies, I imagine, Robert Jordan thought. Not seeking the bubble reputation in the cannon’s mouth but seeking the solution to the problem in yonder bowl. But you know the bastard must be fairly able to have run this band successfully for as long as he did. Looking at Pablo he wondered what sort of guerilla leader he would have been in the American Civil War. There were lots of them, he thought. But we know very little about them. Not the Quantrills, nor the Mosbys, nor his own grandfathei but the little ones, the bushwhackers. And about the drinking. Do you suppose Grant really was a drunk? His grandfather always claimed he was. That he was always a little drunk by four o’clock in the afternoon and that before Vicksburg sometimes during the siege he was very drunk for a couple of days. But grandfather claimed that he functioned perfectly normally no matter how much he drank except that sometimes it was very hard to wake him. But if you could wake him he was normal.

There wasn’t any Grant, nor any Sherman nor any Stonewall Jackson on either side so far in this war. No. Nor any Jeb Stuart either. Nor any Sheridan. It was overrun with McClellans though. The fascists had plenty of McClellans and we had at least three of them.

He had certainly not seen any military geniuses in this war. Not a one. Nor anything resembling one. Kleber, Lucasz, and Hans had done a fine job of their share in the defense of Madrid with the International Brigades and then the old bald, spectacled, conceited, stupid-as-an-owl, unintelligent-in-conversation, brave— and-as-dumb-as-a-bull, propaganda-build-up defender of Madrid, Miaja, had been so jealous of the publicity Kleber received that he had forced the Russians to relieve Kieber of his command and send him to Valencia. Kieber was a good soldier; but limited and he did talk too much for the job he had. Golz was a good general and a fine soldier but they always kept him in a subordinate position and never gave him a free hand. This attack was going to be his biggest show so far and Robert Jordan did not like too much what he had heard about the attack. Then there was Gall, the Hungarian, who ought to be shot if you could believe half you heard at Gaylord’s. Make it if you can believe ten per cent of what you hear at Gaylord’s, Robert Jordan thought.

He wished that he had seen the fighting on the plateau beyond Guadalajara when they beat the Italians. But he had been down in Estremadura then. Hans had told him about it one night in Gaylord’s two weeks ago and made him see it all. There was one moment when it was really lost when the Italians had broken the line near Trijueque and the Twelfth Brigade would have been cut off if the Torija-Brihuega road had been cut. “But knowing they were Italians,” Hans had said, “we attempted to manoeuvre which would have been unjustifiable against other troops. And it was successful.”

Hans had shown it all to him on his maps of the battle. Hans carried them around with him in his map case all the time and still seemed marvelled and happy at the miracle of it. Hans was a fine soldier and a good companion. Lister’s and Modesto’s and Campesino’s Spanish troops had all fought well in that battle, Hans had told him, and that was to be credited to their leaders and to the discipline they enforced. But Lister and Campesino and Modesto had been told many of the moves they should make by their Russian military advisers. They were like students flying a machine with dual controls which the pilot could take over whenever they made a mistake. Well, this year would show how much and how well they learned. After a while there would not be dual controls and then we would see how well they handled divisions and army corps alone.

They were Communists and they were disciplinarians. The discipline that they would enforce would make good troops. Lister was murderous in discipline. He was a true fanatic and he had the complete Spanish lack of respect for life. In a few armies since the Tartar’s first invasion of the West were men executed summarily for as little reason as they were under his command. But he knew how to forge a division into a fighting unit. It is one thing to hold positions. It is another to attack positions and take them and it is something very different to manoeuvre an army in the field, Robert Jordan thought as he sat there at the table. From what I have seen of him, I wonder how Lister will be at that once the dual controls are gone? But maybe they won’t go, he thought. I wonder if they will go? Or whether they will strengthen? I wonder what the Russian stand is on the whole business? Gaylord’s is the place, he thought. There is much that I need to know now that I can learn only at Gaylord’s.

At one time he had thought Gaylord’s had been bad for him. It was the opposite of the puritanical, religious communism of Velazquez 63, the Madrid palace that had been turned into the International Brigade headquarters in the capital. At Velazquez 63 it was like being a member of a religious order—and Gaylord’s was a long way away from the feeling you had at the headquarters of the Fifth Regiment before it had been broken up into the brigades of the new army.

At either of those places you felt that you were taking part in a crusade. That was the only word for it although it was a word that had been so worn and abused that it no longer gave its true meaning. You felt, in spite of all bureaucracy and inefficiency and party strife, something that was like the feeling you expected to have and did not have when you made your first communion. It was a feeling of consecration to a duty toward all of the oppressed of the world which would be as difficult and embarrassing to speak about as religious experience and yet it was authentic as the feeling you had when you heard Bach, or stood in Chartres Cathedral or the Cathedral at Leon and saw the light coming through the great windows; or when you saw Mantegna and Greco and Brueghel in the Prado. It gave you a part in something that you could believe in wholly and completely and in which you felt an absolute brotherhood with the others who were engaged in it. It was something that you had never known before but that you had experienced now and you gave such importance to it and the reasons for it that your own death seemed of complete unimportance; only a thing to be avoided because it would interfere with the performance of your duty. But the best thing was that there was something you could do about this feeling and this necessity too. You could fight.

So you fought, he thought. And in the fighting soon there was no purity of feeling for those who survived the fighting and were good at it. Not after the first six months.

The defense of a position or of a city is a part of war in which you can feel that first sort of feeling. The fighting in the Sierras had been that way. They had fought there with the true comradeship of the revolution. Up there when there had been the first necessity for the enforcement of discipline he had approved and understood it. Under the shelling men had been cowards and had run. He had seen them shot and left to swell beside the road, nobody bothering to do more than strip them of their cartridges and their valuables. Taking their cartridges, their boots and their leather coats was right. Taking the valuables was only realistic. It only kept the anarchists from getting them.

It had seemed just and right and necessary that the men who ran were shot. There was nothing wrong about it. Their running was a selfishness. The fascists had attacked and we had stopped them on that slope in the gray rocks, the scrub pines and the gorse of the Guadarrama hillsides. We had held along the road under the bombing from the planes and the shelling when they brought their artillery up and those who were left at the end of that day had counterattacked and driven them back. Later, when they had tried to come down on the left, sifting down between the rocks and through the trees, we had held out in the Sanitarium firing from the windows and the roof although they had passed it on both sides, and we lived through knowing what it was to be surrounded until the counterattack had cleared them back behind the road again.

In all that, in the fear that dries your mouth and your throat, in the smashed plaster dust and the sudden panic of a wall falling, collapsing in the flash and roar of a shellburst, clearing the gun, dragging those away who had been serving it, lying face downward and covered with rubble, your head behind the shield working on a stoppage, getting the broken case out, straightening the belt again, you now lying straight behind the shield, the gun searching the roadside again; you did the thing there was to do and knew that you were right. You learned the dry-mouthed, fear-purged, purging ecstasy of battle and you fought that summer and that fall for all the poor in the world, against all tyranny, for all the things that you believed and for the new world you had been educated into. You learned that fall, he thought, how to endure and how to ignore suffering in the long time of cold and wetness, of mud and of digging and fortifying. And the feeling of the summer and the fall was buried deep under tiredness, sleepiness, and nervousness and discomfort. But it was still there and all that you went through only served to validate it. It was in those days, he thought, that you had a deep and sound and selfless pride—that would have made you a bloody bore at Gaylord’s, he thought suddenly.

No, you would not have been so good at Gaylord’s then, he thought. You were too naïve. You were in a sort of state of grace. But Gaylord’s might not have been the way it was now at that time, either. No, as a matter of fact, it was not that way, he told himself. It was not that way at all. There was not any Gaylord’s then.

Karkov had told him about those days. At that time what Russians there were had lived at the Palace Hotel. Robert Jordan had known none of them then. That was before the first partizan groups had been formed; before he had met Kashkin or any of the others. Kashkin had been in the north at Irun, at San Sebastian and in the abortive fighting toward Vitoria. He had not arrived in Madrid until January and while Robert Jordan had fought at Carabanchel and at Usera in those three days when they stopped the right wing of the fascist attack on Madrid and drove the Moors and the Tercio back from house to house to clear that battered suburb on the edge of the gray, sun-baked plateau and establish a line of defense along the heights that would protect that corner of the city, Karkov had been in Madrid.

Karkov was not cynical about those times either when he talked. Those were the days they all shared when everything looked lost and each man retained now, better than any citation or decoration, the knowledge of just how he would act when everything looked lost. The government had abandoned the city, taking all the motor cars from the ministry of war in their flight and old Miaja had to ride down to inspect his defensive positions on a bicycle. Robert Jordan did not believe that one. He could not see Miaja on a bicycle even in his most patriotic imagination, but Karkov said it was true. But then he had written it for Russian papers so he probably wanted to believe it was true after writing it.

But there was another story that Karkov had not written. He had three wounded Russians in the Palace Hotel for whom he was responsible. They were two tank drivers and a flyer who were too bad to be moved, and since, at that time, it was of the greatest importance that there should be no evidence of any Russian intervention to justify an open intervention by the fascists, it was Karkov’s responsibility that these wounded should not fall into the hands of the fascists in case the city should be abandoned.

In the event the city should be abandoned, Karkov was to poison them to destroy all evidence of their identity before leaving the Palace Hotel. No one could prove from the bodies of three wounded men, one with three bullet wounds in his abdomen, one with his jaw shot away and his vocal cords exposed, one with his femur smashed to bits by a bullet and his hands and face so badly burned that his face was just an eyelashless, eyebrowless, hairless blister that they were Russians. No one could tell from the bodies of these wounded men he would leave in beds at the Palace, that they were Russians. Nothing proved a naked dead man was a Russian. Your nationality and your politics did not show when you were dead.

Robert Jordan had asked Karkov how he felt about the necessity of performing this act and Karkov had said that he had not looked forward to it. “How were you going to do it?” Robert Jordan had asked him and had added, “You know it isn’t so simple just suddenly to poison people.” And Karkov had said, “Oh, yes, it is when you carry it always for your own use.” Then he had opened his cigarette case and showed Robert Jordan what he carried in one side of it.

“But the first thing anybody would do if they took you prisoner would be to take your cigarette case,” Robert Jordan had objected. “They would have your hands up.”

“But I have a little more here,” Karkov had grinned and showed the lapel of his jacket. “You simply put the lapel in your mouth like this and bite it and swallow.”

“That’s much better,” Robert Jordan had said. “Tell me, does it smell like bitter almonds the way it always does in detective stories?”

“I don’t know,” Karkov said delightedly. “I have never smelled it. Should we break a little tube and smell it?”

“Better keep it.”

“Yes,” Karkov said and put the cigarette case away. “I am not a defeatist, you understand, but it is always possible that such serious times might come again and you cannot get this anywhere. Have you seen the communiqué from the Córdoba front? It is very beautiful. It is now my favorite among all the communiqués.”

“What did it say?” Robert Jordan had come to Madrid from the Córdoban Front and he had the sudden stiffening that comes when some one jokes about a thing which you yourself may joke about but which they may not. “Tell me?”

“Nuestra gloriosa tropa siga avanzando sin perder ni una sola palma de terreno,” Karkov said in his strange Spanish.

“It didn’t really say that,” Robert Jordan doubted.

“Our glorious troops continue to advance without losing a foot of ground,” Karkov repeated in English. “It is in the communiqué. I will find it for you.”

You could remember the men you knew who died in the fighting around Pozoblanco; but it was a joke at Gaylord’s.

So that was the way it was at Gaylord’s now. Still there had not always been Gaylord’s and if the situation was now one which produced such a thing as Gaylord’s out of the survivors of the early days, he was glad to see Gaylord’s and to know about it. You are a long way from how you felt in the Sierra and at Carabanchel and at Usera, he thought. You corrupt very easily, he thought. But was it corruption or was it merely that you lost the naïveté that you started with? Would it not be the same in anything? Who else kept that first chastity of mind about their work that young doctors, young priests, and young soldiers usually started with? The priests certainly kept it, or they got out. I suppose the Nazis keep it, he thought, and the Communists who have a severe enough selfdiscipline. But look at Karkov.

He never tired of considering the case of Karkov. The last time he had been at Gaylord’s Karkov had been wonderful about a certain British economist who had spent much time in Spain. Robert Jordan had read this man’s writing for years and he had always respected him without knowing anything about him. He had not cared very much for what this man had written about Spain. It was too clear and simple and too open and shut and many of the statistics he knew were faked by wishful thinking. But he thought you rarely cared for journalism written about a country you really knew about and he respected the man for his intentions.

Then he had seen the man, finally, on the afternoon when they had attacked at Carabanchel.They were sitting in the lee of the bull ring and there was shooting down the two streets and every one was nervous waiting for the attack. A tank had been promised and it had not come up and Montero was sitting with his head in his hand saying, “The tank has not come. The tank has not come.”

It was a cold day and the yellow dust was blowing down the street and Montero had been hit in the left arm and the arm was stiffening. “We have to have a tank,” he said. “We must wait for the tank, but we cannot wait.” His wound was making him sound petulant.

Robert Jordan had gone back to look for the tank which Montero said he thought might have stopped behind the apartment building on the corner of the tram-line. It was there all right. But it was not a tank. Spaniards called anything a tank in those days. It was an old armored car. The driver did not want to leave the angle of the apartment house and bring it up to the bull ring. He was standing behind it with his arms folded against the metal of the car and his head in the leather-padded helmet on his arms. He shook his head when Robert Jordan spoke to him and kept it pressed against his arms. Then he turned his head without looking at Robert Jordan.

“I have no orders to go there,” he said sullenly.

Robert Jordan had taken his pistol out of the holster and pushed the muzzle of the pistol against the leather coat of the armored car driver.

“Here are your orders,” he had told him. The man shook his head with the big padded-leather helmet like a football player’s on it and said, “There is no ammunition for the machine gun.”

“We have ammunition at the bull ring,” Robert Jordan had told him. “Come on, let’s go. We will fill the belts there. Come on.”

“There is no one to work the gun,” the driver said.

“Where is he? Where is your mate?”

“Dead,” the driver had said. “Inside there.”

“Get him out,” Robert Jordan had said. “Get him out of there.”

“I do not like to touch him,” the driver had said. “And he is bent over between the gun and the wheel and I cannot get past him.”

“Come on,” Robert Jordan had said. “We will get him out together.”

He had banged his head as he climbed into the armored car and it had made a small cut over his eyebrow that bled down onto his face. The dead man was heavy and so stiff you could not bend him and he had to hammer at his head to get it out from where it had wedged, face down, between his seat and the wheel. Finally he got it up by pushing with his knee up under the dead man’s head and then, pulling back on the man’s waist now that the head was loose, he pulled the dead man out himself toward the door.

“Give me a hand with him,” he had said to the driver.

“I do not want to touch him,” the driver had said and Robert Jordan had seen that he was crying. The tears ran straight down on each side of his nose on the powder-grimed slope of his face and his nose was running, too.

Standing beside the door he had swung the dead man out and the dead man fell onto the sidewalk beside the tram-line still in that hunched-over, doubled-up position. He lay there, his face waxy gray against the cement sidewalk, his hands bent under him as they had been in the car.

“Get in, God damn it,” Robert Jordan had said, motioning now with his pistol to the driver. “Get in there now.”

Just then he had seen this man who had come out from the lee of the apartment house building. He had on a long overcoat and he was bareheaded and his hair was gray, his cheekbones broad and his eyes were deep and set close together. He had a package of Chesterfields in his hand and he took one out and handed it toward Robert Jordan who was pushing the driver into the armored car with his pistol.

“Just a minute, Comrade,” he had said to Robert Jordan in Spanish. “Can you explain to me something about the fighting?”

Robert Jordan took the cigarette and put it in the breast pocket of his blue mechanic jumper. He had recognized this comrade from his pictures. It was the British economist.

“Go muck yourself,” he said in English and then, in Spanish, to the armored car driver. “Down there. The bull ring. See?” And he had pulled the heavy side door to with a slam and locked it and they had started down that long slope in the car and the bullets had commenced to hit against the car, sounding like pebbles tossed against an iron boiler. Then when the machine gun opened on them, they were like sharp hammer tappings. They had pulled up behind the shelter of the bull ring with the last October posters still pasted up beside the ticket window and the ammunition boxes knocked open and the comrades with the rifles, the grenades on their belts and in their pockets, waiting there in the lee and Montero had said, “Good. Here is the tank. Now we can attack.”

Later that night when they had the last houses on the hill, he lay comfortable behind a brick wall with a hole knocked in the bricks for a loophole and looked across the beautiful level field of fire they had between them and the ridge the fascists had retired to and thought, with a comfort that was almost voluptuous, of the rise of the hill with the smashed villa that protected the left flank. He had lain in a pile of straw in his sweat-soaked clothes and wound a blanket around him while he dried. Lying there he thought of the economist and laughed, and then felt sorry he had been rude. But at the moment, when the man had handed him the cigarette, pushing it out almost like offering a tip for information, the combatant’s hatred for the noncombatant had been too much for him.

Now he remembered Gaylord’s and Karkov speaking of this same man. “So it was there you met him,” Karkov had said. “I did not get farther than the Puente de Toledo myself on that day. He was very far toward the front. That was the last day of his bravery I believe. He left Madrid the next day. Toledo was where he was the bravest, I believe. At Toledo he was enormous. He was one of the architects of our capture of the Alcazar. You should have seen him at Toledo. I believe it was largely through his efforts and his advice that our siege was successful. That was the silliest part of the war. It reached an ultimate in silliness but tell me, what is thought of him in America?”

“In America,” Robert Jordan said, “he is supposed to be very close to Moscow.”

“He is not,” said Karkov. “But he has a wonderful face and his face and his manners are very successful. Now with my face I could do nothing. What little I have accomplished was all done in spite of my face which does not either inspire people nor move them to love me and to trust me. But this man Mitchell has a face he makes his fortune with. It is the face of a conspirator. All who have read of conspirators in books trust him instantly. Also he has the true manner of the conspirator. Any one seeing him enter a room knows that he is instantly in the presence of a conspirator of the first mark. All of your rich compatriots who wish sentimentally to aid the Soviet Union as they believe or to insure themselves a little against any eventual success of the party see instantly in the face of this man, and in his manner that he can be none other than a trusted agent of the Comintern.”

“Has he no connections in Moscow?”

“None. Listen, Comrade Jordan. Do you know about the two kinds of fools?”

“Plain and damn?”

“No. The two kinds of fools we have in Russia,” Karkov grinned and began. “First there is the winter fool. The winter fool comes to the door of your house and he knocks loudly. You go to the door and you see him there and you have never seen him before. He is an impressive sight. He is a very big man and he has on high boots and a fur coat and a fur hat and he is all covered with snow. First he stamps his boots and snow falls from them. Then he takes off his fur coat and shakes it and more snow falls. Then he takes off his fur hat and knocks it against the door. More snow falls from his fur hat. Then he stamps his boots again and advances into the room. Then you look at him and you see he is a fool. That is the winter fool.

“Now in the summer you see a fool going down the street and he is waving his arms and jerking his head from side to side and everybody from two hundred yards away can tell he is a fool. That is a summer fool. This economist is a winter fool.”

“But why do people trust him here?” Robert Jordan asked.

“His face,” Karkov said. “His beautiful gueule de conspirateur. And his invaluable trick of just having come from somewhere else where he is very trusted and important. Of course,” he smiled, “he must travel very much to keep the trick working. You know the Spanish are very strange,” Karkov went on. “This government has had much money. Much gold. They will give nothing to their friends. You are a friend. All right. You will do it for nothing and should not be rewarded. But to people representing an important firm or a country which is not friendly but must be influenced—to such people they give much. It is very interesting when you follow it closely.”

“I do not like it. Also that money belongs to the Spanish workers.”

“You are not supposed to like things. Only to understand,” Karkov had told him. “I teach you a little each time I see you and eventually you will acquire an education. It would be very interesting for a professor to be educated.”

“I don’t know whether I’ll be able to be a professor when I get back. They will probably run me out as a Red.”

“Well, perhaps you will be able to come to the Soviet Union and continue your studies there. That might be the best thing for you to do.”

“But Spanish is my field.”

“There are many countries where Spanish is spoken,” Karkov had said. “They cannot all be as difficult to do anything with as Spain is. Then you must remember that you have not been a professor now for almost nine months. In nine months you may have learned a new trade. How much dialectics have you read?”

“I have read the Handbook of Marxism that Emil Burns edited. That is all.”

“If you have read it all that is quite a little. There are fifteen hundred pages and you could spend some time on each page. But there are some other things you should read.”

“There is no time to read now.”

“I know,” Karkov had said. “I mean eventually. There are many things to read which will make you understand some of these things that happen. But out of this will come a book which is very necessary; which will explain many things which it is necessary to know. Perhaps I will write it. I hope that it will be me who will write it.”

“I don’t know who could write it better.”

“Do not flatter,” Karkov had said. “I am a journalist. But like all journalists I wish to write literature. Just now, I am very busy on a study of Calvo Sotelo. He was a very good fascist; a true Spanish fascist. Franco and these other people are not. I have been studying all of Sotelo’s writing and speeches. He was very intelligent and it was very intelligent that he was killed.”

“I thought that you did not believe in political assassination.”

“It is practised very extensively,” Karkov said. “Very, very extensively.”


“We do not believe in acts of terrorism by individuals,” Karkov had smiled. “Not of course by criminal terrorist and counterrevolutionary organizations. We detest with horror the duplicity and villainy of the murderous hyenas of Bukharinite wreckers and such dregs of humanity as Zinoviev, Kamenev, Rykov and their henchmen. We hate and loathe these veritable fiends,” he smiled again. “But I still believe that political assassination can be said to be practised very extensively.”

“You mean—”

“I mean nothing. But certainly we execute and destroy such veritable fiends and dregs of humanity and the treacherous dogs of generals and the revolting spectacle of admirals unfaithful to their trust. These are destroyed. They are not assassinated. You see the difference?”

“I see,” Robert Jordan had said.

“And because I make jokes sometime: and you know how dangerous it is to make jokes even in joke? Good. Because I make jokes, do not think that the Spanish people will not live to regret that they have not shot certain generals that even now hold commands. I do not like the shootings, you understand.”

“I don’t mind them,” Robert Jordan said. “I do not like them but I do not mind them any more.”

“I know that,” Karkov had said. “I have been told that.”

“Is it important?” Robert Jordan said. “I was only trying to be truthful about it.”

“It is regretful,” Karkov had said. “But it is one of the things that makes people be treated as reliable who would ordinarily have to spend much more time before attaining that category.”

“Am I supposed to be reliable?”

“In your work you are supposed to be very reliable. I must talk to you sometime to see how you are in your mind. It is regrettable that we never speak seriously.”

“My mind is in suspension until we win the war,” Robert Jordan had said.

“Then perhaps you will not need it for a long time. But you should be careful to exercise it a little.”

“I read Mundo Obrero,” Robert Jordan had told him and Karkov had said, “All right. Good. I can take a joke too. But there are very intelligent things in Mundo Obrero. The only intelligent things written on this war.”

“Yes,” Robert Jordan had said. “I agree with you. But to get a full picture of what is happening you cannot read only the party organ.”

“No,” Karkov had said. “But you will not find any such picture if you read twenty papers and then, if you had it, I do not know what you would do with it. I have such a picture almost constantly and what I do is try to forget it.”

“You think it is that bad?”

“It is better now than it was. We are getting rid of some of the worst. But it is very rotten. We are building a huge army now and some of the elements, those of Modesto, of El Campesino, of Lister and of Durán, are reliable. They are more than reliable. They are magnificent. You will see that. Also we still have the Brigades although their role is changing. But an army that is made up of good and bad elements cannot win a war. All must be brought to a certain level of political development; all must know why they are fighting, and its importance. All must believe in the fight they are to make and all must accept discipline. We are making a huge conscript army without the time to implant the discipline that a conscript army must have, to behave properly under fire. We call it a people’s army but it will not have the assets of a true people’s army and it will not have the iron discipline that a conscript army needs. You will see. It is a very dangerous procedure.”

“You are not very cheerful today.”

“No,” Karkov had said. “I have just come back from Valencia where I have seen many people. No one comes back very cheerful from Valencia. In Madrid you feel good and clean and with no possibility of anything but winning. Valencia is something else. The cowards who fled from Madrid still govern there. They have settled happily into the sloth and bureaucracy of governing. They have only contempt for those of Madrid. Their obsession now is the weakening of the commissariat for war. And Barcelona. You should see Barcelona.”

“How is it?”

“It is all still comic opera. First it was the paradise of the crackpots and the romantic revolutionists. Now it is the paradise of the fake soldier. The soldiers who like to wear uniforms, who like to strut and swagger and wear red-and-black scarves. Who like everything about war except to fight. Valencia makes you sick and Barcelona makes you laugh.”

“What about the P.O.U.M. putsch?”

“The P.O.U.M. was never serious. It was a heresy of crackpots and wild men and it was really just an infantilism. There were some honest misguided people. There was one fairly good brain and there was a little fascist money. Not much. The poor P.O.U.M. They were very silly people.”

“But were many killed in the putsch?”

“Not so many as were shot afterwards or will be shot. The P.O.U.M. It is like the name. Not serious. They should have called it the M.U.M.P.S. or the M.E.A.S.L.E.S. But no. The Measles is much more dangerous. It can affect both sight and hearing. But they made one plot you know to kill me, to kill Walter, to kill Modesto and to kill Prieto. You see how badly mixed up they were? We are not at all alike. Poor P.O.U.M. They never did kill anybody. Not at the front nor anywhere else. A few in Barcelona, yes.”

“Were you there?”

“Yes. I have sent a cable describing the wickedness of that infamous organization of Trotskyite murderers and their fascist machinations all beneath contempt but, between us, it is not very serious, the P.O.U.M. Nin was their only man. We had him but he escaped from our hands.”

“Where is he now?”

“In Paris. We say he is in Paris. He was a very pleasant fellow but with bad political aberrations.”

“But they were in communication with the fascists, weren’t they?”

“Who is not?”

“We are not.”

“Who knows? I hope we are not. You go often behind their lines,” he grinned. “But the brother of one of the secretaries of the Republican Embassy at Paris made a trip to St. Jean de Luz last week to meet people from Burgos.”

“I like it better at the front,” Robert Jordan had said. “The closer to the front the better the people.”

“How do you like it behind the fascist lines?”

“Very much. We have fine people there.”

“Well, you see they must have their fine people behind our lines the same way. We find them and shoot them and they find ours and shoot them. When you are in their country you must always think of how many people they must send over to us.”

“I have thought about them.”

“Well,” Karkov had said. “You have probably enough to think about for today, so drink that beer that is left in the pitcher and run along now because I have to go upstairs to see people. Upstairs people. Come again to see me soon.”

Yes, Robert Jordan thought. You learned a lot at Gaylord’s. Karkov had read the one and only book he had published. The book had not been a success. It was only two hundred pages long and he doubted if two thousand people had ever read it. He had put in it what he had discovered about Spain in ten years of travelling in it, on foot, in third-class carriages, by bus, on horse- and mule-back and in trucks. He knew the Basque country, Navarre, Aragon, Galicia, the two Castiles and Estremadura well. There had been such good books written by Borrow and Ford and the rest that he had been able to add very little. But Karkov said it was a good book.

“It is why I bother with you,” he said. “I think you write absolutely truly and that is very rare. So I would like you to know some things.”

All right. He would write a book when he got through with this. But only about the things he knew, truly, and about what he knew. But I will have to be a much better writer than I am now to handle them, he thought. The things he had come to know in this war were not so simple.