For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 19

“What do you do sitting there?” Maria asked him. She was standing close beside him and he turned his head and smiled at her.

“Nothing,” he said. “I have been thinking.”

“What of? The bridge?”

“No. The bridge is terminated. Of thee and of a hotel in Madrid where I know some Russians, and of a book I will write some time.”

“Are there many Russians in Madrid?”

“No. Very few.”

“But in the fascist periodicals it says there are hundreds of thousands.”

“Those are lies. There are very few.”

“Do you like the Russians? The one who was here was a Russian.”

“Did you like him?”

“Yes. I was sick then but I thought he was very beautiful and very brave.”

“What nonsense, beautiful,” Pilar said. “His nose was flat as my hand and he had cheekbones as wide as a sheep’s buttocks.”

“He was a good friend and comrade of mine,” Robert Jordan said to Maria. “I cared for him very much.”

“Sure,” Pilar said. “But you shot him.”

When she said this the card players looked up from the table and Pablo stared at Robert Jordan. Nobody said anything and then the gypsy, Rafael, asked, “Is it true, Roberto?”

“Yes,” Robert Jordan said. He wished Pilar had not brought this up and he wished he had not told it at El Sordo’s. “At his request. He was badly wounded.”

“Qué cosa mas rara,” the gypsy said. “All the time he was with us he talked of such a possibility. I don’t know how many times I have promised him to perform such an act. What a rare thing,” he said again and shook his head.

“He was a very rare man,” Primitivo said. “Very singular.”

“Look,” Andrés, one of the brothers, said. “You who are Professor and all. Do you believe in the possibility of a man seeing ahead what is to happen to him?”

“I believe he cannot see it,” Robert Jordan said. Pablo was staring at him curiously and Pilar was watching him with no expression on her face. “In the case of this Russian comrade he was very nervous from being too much time at the front. He had fought at Irun which, you know, was bad. Very bad. He had fought later in the north. And since the first groups who did this work behind the lines were formed he had worked here, in Estremadura and in AndalucIa. I think he was very tired and nervous and he imagined ugly things.”

“He would undoubtedly have seen many evil things,” Fernando said.

“Like all the world,” Andrés said. “But listen to me, Inglés. Do you think there is such a thing as a man knowing in advance what will befall him?”

“No,” Robert Jordan said. “That is ignorance and superstition.”

“Go on,” Pilar said. “Let us hear the viewpoint of the professor.” She spoke as though she were talking to a precocious child.

“I believe that fear produces evil visions,” Robert Jordan said. “Seeing bad signs—”

“Such as the airplanes today,” Primitivo said.

“Such as thy arrival,” Pablo said softly and Robert Jordan looked across the table at him, saw it was not a provocation but only an expressed thought, then went on. “Seeing bad signs, one, with fear, imagines an end for himself and one thinks that imagining comes by divination,” Robert Jordan concluded. “I believe there is nothing more to it than that. I do not believe in ogres, nor soothsayers, nor in the supernatural things.”

“But this one with the rare name saw his fate clearly,” the gypsy said. “And that was how it happened.”

“He did not see it,” Robert Jordan said. “He had a fear of such a possibility and it became an obsession. No one can tell me that he saw anything.”

“Not I?” Pilar asked him and picked some dust up from the fire and blew it off the palm of her hand. “I cannot tell thee either?”

“No. With all wizardry, gypsy and all, thou canst not tell me either.”

“Because thou art a miracle of deafness,” Pilar said, her big face harsh and broad in the candlelight. “It is not that thou art stupid. Thou art simply deaf. One who is deaf cannot hear music. Neither can he hear the radio. So he might say, never having heard them, that such things do not exist. Qué va, Inglés. I saw the death of that one with the rare name in his face as though it were burned there with a branding iron.”

“You did not,” Robert Jordan insisted. “You saw fear and apprehension. The fear was made by what he had been through. The apprehension was for the possibility of evil he imagined.”

“Qué va,” Pilar said. “I saw death there as plainly as though it were sitting on his shoulder. And what is more he smelt of death.”

“He smelt of death,” Robert Jordan jeered. “Of fear maybe. There is a smell to fear.”

“De la muerte,” Pilar said. “Listen. When Blanquet, who was the greatest peon de brega who ever lived, worked under the orders of Granero he told me that on the day of Manolo Granero’s death, when they stopped in the chapel on the way to the ring, the odor of death was so strong on Manolo that it almost made Blanquet sick. And he had been with Manolo when he had bathed and dressed at the hotel before setting out for the ring. The odor was not present in the motorcar when they had sat packed tight together riding to the bull ring. Nor was it distinguishable to any one else but Juan Luis de la Rosa in the chapel. Neither Marcial nor Chicuelo smelled it neither then nor when the four of them lined up for the paseo. But Juan Luis was dead white, Blanquet told me, and he, Blanquet, spoke to him saying, ‘Thou also?’

“‘So that I cannot breathe,’ Juan Luis said to him. ‘And from thy matador.’

“‘Pues nada,’ Blanquet said. ‘There is nothing to do. Let us hope we are mistaken.’

“‘And the others?’ Juan Luis asked Blanquet.

“‘Nada,’ Blanquet said. ‘Nothing. But this one stinks worse than José at Talavera.’

“And it was on that afternoon that the bull Pocapena of the ranch of Veragua destroyed Manolo Granero against the planks of the barrier in front of tendido two in the Plaza de Toros of Madrid. I was there with Finito and I saw it. The horn entirely destroyed the cranium, the head of Manolo being wedged under the estribo at the base of the barrera where the bull had tossed him.”

“But did you smell anything?” Fernando asked.

“Nay,” Pilar said. “I was too far away. We were in the seventh row of the tendido three. It was thus, being at an angle, that I could see all that happened. But that same night Blanquet who had been under the orders of Joselito when he too was killed told Finito about it at Fornos, and Finito asked Juan Luis de la Rosa and he would say nothing. But he nodded his head that it was true. I was present when this happened. So, Inglés, it may be that thou art deaf to some things as Chicuelo and Marcial Lalanda and all of their banderilleros and picadors and all of the gente of Juan Luis and Manolo Granero were deaf to this thing on this day. But Juan Luis and Blanquet were not deaf. Nor am I deaf to such things.”

“Why do you say deaf when it is a thing of the nose?” Fernando asked.

“Leche!” Pilar said. “Thou shouldst be the professor in place of the Inglés. But I could tell thee of other things, Inglés, and do not doubt what thou simply cannot see nor cannot hear. Thou canst not hear what a dog hears. Nor canst thou smell what a dog smells. But already thou hast experienced a little of what can happen to man.”

Maria put her hand on Robert Jordan’s shoulder and let it rest there and he thought suddenly, let us finish all this nonsense and take advantage of what time we have. But it is too early yet. We have to kill this part of the evening. So he said to Pablo, “Thou, believest thou in this wizardry?”

“I do not know,” Pablo said. “I am more of thy opinion. No supernatural thing has ever happened to me. But feai yes certainly. Plenty. But I believe that the Pilar can divine events from the hand. If she does not lie perhaps it is true that she has smelt such a thing.”

“Qué va that I should lie,” Pilar said. “This is not a thing of my invention. This man Blanquet was a man of extreme seriousness and furthermore very devout. He was no gypsy but a bourgeois from Valencia. Hast thou never seen him?”

“Yes,” Robert Jordan said. “I have seen him many times. He was small, gray-faced and no one handled a cape better. He was quick on his feet as a rabbit.”

“Exactly,” Pilar said. “He had a gray face from heart trouble and gypsies said that he carried death with him but that he could flick it away with a cape as you might dust a table. Yet he, who was no gypsy, smelled death on Joselito when he fought at Talavera. Although I do not see how he could smell it above the smell of manzanilla. Blanquet spoke of this afterwards with much diffidence but those to whom he spoke said that it was a fantasy and that what he had smelled was the life that José led at that time coming out in sweat from his armpits. But then, later, came this of Manolo Granero in which Juan Luis de la Rosa also participated. Clearly Juan Luis was a man of very little honor, but of much sensitiveness in his work and he was also a great layer of women. But Blanquet was serious and very quiet and completely incapable of telling an untruth. And I tell you that I smelled death on your colleague who was here.”

“I do not believe it,” Robert Jordan said. “Also you said that Blanquet smelled this just before the paseo. Just before the bullfight started. Now this was a successful action here of you and Kashkin and the train. He was not killed in that. How could you smell it then?”

“That has nothing to do with it,” Pilar explained. “In the last season of Ignacio Sanchez Mejias he smelled so strongly of death that many refused to sit with him in the café. All gypsies knew of this.”

“After the death such things are invented,” Robert Jordan argued. “Every one knew that Sanchez Mejias was on the road to a cornada because he had been too long out of training, because his style was heavy and dangerous, and because his strength and the agility in his legs were gone and his reflexes no longer as they had been.”

“Certainly,” Pilar told him. “All of that is true. But all the gypsies knew also that he smelled of death and when he would come into the Villa Rosa you would see such people as Ricardo and Felipe Gonzalez leaving by the small door behind the bar.”

“They probably owed him money,” Robert Jordan said.

“It is possible,” Pilar said. “Very possible. But they also smelled the thing and all knew of it.”

“What she says is true, Inglés,” the gypsy, Rafael, said. “It is a well-known thing among us.”

“I believe nothing of it,” Robert Jordan said.

“Listen, Inglés,” Anselmo began. “I am against all such wizardry. But this Pilar has the fame of being very advanced in such things.”

“But what does it smell like?” Fernando asked. “What odor has it? If there be an odor it must be a definite odor.”

“You want to know, Fernandito?” Pilar smiled at him. “You think that you could smell it?”

“If it actually exists why should I not smell it as well as another?”

“Why not?” Pilar was making fun of him, her big hands folded across her knees. “Hast thou ever been aboard a ship, Fernando?”

“Nay. And I would not wish to.”

“Then thou might not recognize it. For part of it is the smell that comes when, on a ship, there is a storm and the portholes are closed up. Put your nose against the brass handle of a screwed-tight porthole on a rolling ship that is swaying under you so that you are faint and hollow in the stomach and you have a part of that smell.”

“It would be impossible for me to recognize because I will go on no ship,” Fernando said.

“I have been on ships several times,” Pilar said. “Both to go to Mexico and to Venezuela.”

“What’s the rest of it?” Robert Jordan asked. Pilar looked at him mockingly, remembering now, proudly, her voyages.

“All right, Inglés. Learn. That’s the thing. Learn. All right. After that of the ship you must go down the hill in Madrid to the Puente de Toledo early in the morning to the matadero and stand there on the wet paving when there is a fog from the Manzanares and wait for the old women who go before daylight to drink the blood of the beasts that are slaughtered. When such an old woman comes out of the matadero, holding her shawl around hei with her face gray and her eyes hollow, and the whiskers of age on her chin, and on her cheeks, set in the waxen white of her face as the sprouts grow from the seed of the bean, not bristles, but pale sprouts in the death of her face; put your arms tight around her, Inglés, and hold her to you and kiss her on the mouth and you will know the second part that odor is made of.”

“That one has taken my appetite,” the gypsy said. “That of the sprouts was too much.”

“Do you want to hear some more?” Pilar asked Robert Jordan.

“Surely,” he said. “If it is necessary for one to learn let us learn.”

“That of the sprouts in the face of the old women sickens me,” the gypsy said. “Why should that occur in old women, Pilar? With us it is not so.”

“Nay,” Pilar mocked at him. “With us the old woman, who was so slender in her youth, except of course for the perpetual bulge that is the mark of her husband’s favor, that every gypsy pushes always before her—”

“Do not speak thus,” Rafael said. “It is ignoble.”

“So thou art hurt,” Pilar said. “Hast thou ever seen a Gitana who was not about to have, or just to have had, a child?”


“Leave it,” Pilar said. “There is no one who cannot be hurt. What I was saying is that age brings its own form of ugliness to all. There is no need to detail it. But if the Inglés must learn that odor that he covets to recognize he must go to the matadero early in the morning.”

“I will go,” Robert Jordan said. “But I will get the odor as they pass without kissing one. I fear the sprouts, too, as Rafael does.”

“Kiss one,” Pilar said. “Kiss one, Inglés, for thy knowledge’s sake and then, with this in thy nostrils, walk back up into the city and when thou seest a refuse pail with dead flowers in it plunge thy nose deep into it and inhale so that scent mixes with those thou hast already in thy nasal passages.”

“Now have I done it,” Robert Jordan said. “What flowers were they?”


“Continue,” Robert Jordan said. “I smell them.”

“Then,” Pilar went on, “it is important that the day be in autumn with rain, or at least some fog, or early winter even and now thou shouldst continue to walk through the city and down the Calle de Salud smelling what thou wilt smell where they are sweeping out the casas de putas and emptying the siop jars into the drains and, with this odor of love’s labor lost mixed sweetly with soapy water and cigarette butts only faintly reaching thy nostrils, thou shouldst go on to the JardIn Botánico where at night those girls who can no longer work in the houses do their work against the iron gates of the park and the iron picketed fences and upon the sidewalks. It is there in the shadow of the trees against the iron railings that they will perform all that a man wishes; from the simplest requests at a remuneration of ten centimos up to a peseta for that great act that we are born to and there, on a dead flower bed that has not yet been plucked out and replanted, and so serves to soften the earth that is so much softer than the sidewalk, thou wilt find an abandoned gunny sack with the odor of the wet earth, the dead flowers, and the doings of that night. In this sack will be contained the essence of it all, both the dead earth and the dead stalks of the flowers and their rotted blooms and the smell that is both the death and birth of man. Thou wilt wrap this sack around thy head and try to breathe through it.”


“Yes,” Pilar said. “Thou wilt wrap this sack around thy head and try to breathe and then, if thou hast not lost any of the previous odors, when thou inhalest deeply, thou wilt smell the odor of deathto-come as we know it.”

“All right,” Robert Jordan said. “And you say Kashkin smelt like that when he was here?”


“Well,” said Robert Jordan gravely. “If that is true it is a good thing that I shot him.”

“Olé,” the gypsy said. The others laughed.

“Very good,” Primitivo approved. “That should hold her for a while.”

“But Pilar,” Fernando said. “Surely you could not expect one of Don Roberto’s education to do such vile things.”

“No,” Pilar agreed.

“All of that is of the utmost repugnance.”

“Yes,” Pilar agreed.

“You would not expect him actually to perform those degrading acts?”

“No,” Pilar said. “Go to bed, will you?”

“But, Pilar—” Fernando went on.

“Shut up, will you?” Pilar said to him suddenly and viciously. “Do not make a fool of thyself and I will try not to make a fool of myself talking with people who cannot understand what one speaks of.”

“I confess I do not understand,” Fernando began.

“Don’t confess and don’t try to understand,” Pilar said. “Is it still snowing outside?”

Robert Jordan went to the mouth of the cave, lifted the blanket and looked out. It was clear and cold in the night outside and no snow was falling. He looked through the tree trunks where the whiteness lay and up through the trees to where the sky was now clear. The air came into his lungs sharp and cold as he breathed.

El Sordo will leave plenty of tracks if he has stolen horses tonight, he thought.

He dropped the blanket and came back into the smoky cave. “It is clear,” he said. “The storm is over.”