For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 22

“Cut me pine branches,” Robert Jordan said to Primitivo, “and bring them quickly.”

“I do not like the gun there,” he said to Agustín.


“Place it over there,” Robert Jordan pointed, “and later I will tell thee.”

“Here, thus. Let me help thee. Here,” he said, then squatted down.

He looked out across the narrow oblong, noting the height of the rocks on either side.

“It must be farther,” he said, “farther out. Good. Here. That will do until it can be done properly. There. Put the stones there. Here is one. Put another there at the side. Leave room for the muzzle to swing. The stone must be farther to this side. Anselmo. Get thee down to the cave and bring me an ax. Quickly.”

“Have you never had a proper emplacement for the gun?” he said to Agustín.

“We always placed it here.”

“Kashkin never said to put it there?”

“No. The gun was brought after he left.”

“Did no one bring it who knew how to use it?”

“No. It was brought by porters.”

“What a way to do things,” Robert Jordan said. “It was just given to you without instruction?”

“Yes, as a gift might be given. One for us and one for El Sordo. Four men brought them. Anselmo guided them.”

“It was a wonder they did not lose them with four men to cross the lines.”

“I thought so, too,” Agustín said. “I thought those who sent them meant for them to be lost. But Anselmo brought them well.”

“You know how to handle it?”

“Yes. I have experimented. I know. Pablo knows. Primitivo knows. So does Fernando. We have made a study of taking it apart and putting it together on the table in the cave. Once we had it apart and could not get it together for two days. Since then we have not had it apart.”

“Does it shoot now?”

“Yes. But we do not let the gypsy nor others frig with it.”

“You see? From there it was useless,” he said. “Look. Those rocks which should protect your flanks give cover to those who will attack you. With such a gun you must seek a flatness over which to fire. Also you must take them sideways. See? Look now. All that is dominated.”

“I see,” said Agustín. “But we have never fought in defense except when our town was taken. At the train there were soldiers with the máquina.”

“Then we will all learn together,” Robert Jordan said. “There are a few things to observe. Where is the gypsy who should be here?”

“I do not know.”

“Where is it possible for him to be?”

“I do not know.”

Pablo had ridden out through the pass and turned once and ridden in a circle across the level space at the top that was the field of fire for the automatic rifle. Now Robert Jordan watched him riding down the slope alongside the tracks the horse had left when he was ridden in. He disappeared in the trees turning to the left.

I hope he doesn’t run right into cavalry, Robert Jordan thought. I’m afraid we’d have him right here in our laps.

Primitivo brought the pine branches and Robert Jordan stuck them through the snow into the unfrozen earth, arching them over the gun from either side.

“Bring more,” he said. “There must be cover for the two men who serve it. This is not good but it will serve until the ax comes. Listen,” he said, “if you hear a plane lie flat wherever thou art in the shadows of the rocks. I am here with the gun.”

Now with the sun up and the warm wind blowing it was pleasant on the side of the rocks where the sun shone. Four horses, Robert Jordan thought. The two women and me, Anselmo, Primitivo, Fernando, Agustín, what the hell is the name of the other brother? That’s eight. Not counting the gypsy. Makes nine. Plus Pablo gone with one horse makes ten. Andrés is his name. The other brother. Plus the other, Eladio. Makes ten. That’s not one-half a horse apiece. Three men can hold this and four can get away. Five with Pablo. That’s two left over. Three with Eladio. Where the hell is he?

God knows what will happen to Sordo today if they picked up the trail of those horses in the snow. That was tough; the snow stopping that way. But it melting today will even things up. But not for Sordo. I’m afraid it’s too late to even it up for Sordo.

If we can last through today and not have to fight we can swing the whole show tomorrow with what we have. I know we can. Not well, maybe. Not as it should be, to be foolproof, not as we would have done; but using everybody we can swing it. If we don’t have to fight today. God help us if we have to fight today.

I don’t know any place better to lay up in the meantime than this. If we move now we only leave tracks. This is as good a place as any and if the worst gets to be the worst there are three ways out of this place. There is the dark then to come and from wherever we are in these hills, I can reach and do the bridge at daylight. I don’t know why I worried about it before. It seems easy enough now. I hope they get the planes up on time for once. I certainly hope that. Tomorrow is going to be a day with dust on the road.

Well, today will be very interesting or very dull. Thank God we’ve got that cavalry mount out and away from here. I don’t think even if they ride right up here they will go in the way those tracks are now. They’ll think he stopped and circled and they’ll pick up Pablo’s tracks. I wonder where the old swine will go. He’ll probably leave tracks like an old bull elk spooking out of the country and work way up and then when the snow melts circle back below. That horse certainly did things for him. Of course he may have just mucked off with him too. Well, he should be able to take care of himself. He’s been doing this a long time. I wouldn’t trust him farther than you can throw Mount Everest, though.

I suppose it’s smarter to use these rocks and build a good blind for this gun than to make a proper emplacement for it. You’d be digging and get caught with your pants down if they come or if the planes come. She will hold this, the way she is, as long as it is any use to hold it, and anyway I can’t stay to fight. I have to get out of here with that stuff and I’m going to take Anselmo with me. Who would stay to cover us while we got away if we have to fight here?

Just then, while he was watching all of the country that was visible, he saw the gypsy coming through the rocks to the left. He was walking with a loose, high-hipped, sloppy swing, his carbine was slung on his back, his brown face was grinning and he carried two big hares, one in each hand. He carried them by the legs, heads swinging.

“Hola, Roberto,” he called cheerfully.

Robert Jordan put his hand to his mouth, and the gypsy looked startled. He slid over behind the rocks to where Robert Jordan was crouched beside the brush-shielded automatic rifle. He crouched down and laid the hares in the snow. Robert Jordan looked up at him.

“You hijo de la gran puta!” he said softly. “Where the obscenity have you been?”

“I tracked them,” the gypsy said. “I got them both. They had made love in the snow.”

“And thy post?”

“It was not for long,” the gypsy whispered. “What passes? Is there an alarm?”

“There is cavalry out.”

“Rediós!” the gypsy said. “Hast thou seen them?”

“There is one at the camp now,” Robert Jordan said. “He came for breakfast.”

“I thought I heard a shot or something like one,” the gypsy said. “I obscenity in the milk! Did he come through here?”

“Here. Thy post.”

“Ay, mi madre!” the gypsy said. “I am a poor, unlucky man.”

“If thou wert not a gypsy, I would shoot thee.”

“No, Roberto. Don’t say that. I am sorry. It was the hares. Before daylight I heard the male thumping in the snow. You cannot imagine what a debauch they were engaged in. I went toward the noise but they were gone. I followed the tracks in the snow and high up I found them together and slew them both. Feel the fatness of the two for this time of year. Think what the Pilar will do with those two. I am sorry, Roberto, as sorry as thee. Was the cavalryman killed?”


“By thee?”


“Qué tio!” the gypsy said in open flattery. “Thou art a veritable phenomenon.”

“Thy mother!” Robert Jordan said. He could not help grinning at the gypsy. “Take thy hares to camp and bring us up some breakfast.”

He put a hand out and felt of the hares that lay limp, long, heavy, thick-furred, big-footed and long-eared in the snow, their round dark eyes open.

“They are fat,” he said.

“Fat!” the gypsy said. “There’s a tub of lard on the ribs of each one. In my life have I never dreamed of such hares.”

“Go then,” Robert Jordan said, “and come quickly with the breakfast and bring to me the documentation of that requeté. Ask Pilar for it.”

“You are not angry with me, Roberto?”

“Not angry. Disgusted that you should leave your post. Suppose it had been a troop of cavalry?”

“Rediós,” the gypsy said. “How reasonable you are.”

“Listen to me. You cannot leave a post again like that. Never. I do not speak of shooting lightly.”

“Of course not. And another thing. Never would such an opportunity as the two hares present itself again. Not in the life of one man.”

“Anda!” Robert Jordan said. “And hurry back.”

The gypsy picked up the two hares and slipped back through the rocks and Robert Jordan looked out across the flat opening and the slopes of the hill below. Two crows circled overhead and then lit in a pine tree below. Another crow joined them and Robert Jordan, watching them, thought: those are my sentinels. As long as those are quiet there is no one coming through the trees.

The gypsy, he thought. He is truly worthless. He has no political development, nor any discipline, and you could not rely on him for anything. But I need him for tomorrow. I have a use for him tomorrow. It’s odd to see a gypsy in a war. They should be exempted like conscientious objectors. Or as the physically and mentally unfit. They are worthless. But conscientious objectors weren’t exempted in this war. No one was exempted. It came to one and all alike. Well, it had come here now to this lazy outfit. They had it now.

Agustín and Primitivo came up with the brush and Robert Jordan built a good blind for the automatic rifle, a blind that would conceal the gun from the air and that would look natural from the forest. He showed them where to place a man high in the rocks to the right where he could see all the country below and to the right, and another where he could command the only stretch where the left wall might be climbed.

“Do not fire if you see any one from there,” Robert Jordan said. “Roll a rock down as a warning, a small rock, and signal to us with thy rifle, thus,” he lifted the rifle and held it over his head as though guarding it. “Thus for numbers,” he lifted the rifle up and down. “If they are dismounted point thy rifle muzzle at the ground. Thus. Do not fire from there until thou hearest the máquina fire. Shoot at a man’s knees when you shoot from that height. If you hear me whistle twice on this whistle get down, keeping behind cover, and come to these rocks where the máquina is.”

Primitivo raised the rifle.

“I understand,” he said. “It is very simple.”

“Send first the small rock as a warning and indicate the direction and the number. See that you are not seen.”

“Yes,” Primitivo said. “If I can throw a grenade?”

“Not until the máquina has spoken. It may be that cavalry will come searching for their comrade and still not try to enter. They may follow the tracks of Pablo. We do not want combat if it can be avoided. Above all that we should avoid it. Now get up there.”

“Me voy,” Primitivo said, and climbed up into the high rocks with his carbine.

“Thou, Agustín,” Robert Jordan said. “What do you know of the gun?”

Agustín squatted there, tall, black, stubbly joweled, with his sunken eyes and thin mouth and his big work-worn hands.

“Pues, to load it. To aim it. To shoot it. Nothing more.”

“You must not fire until they are within fifty meters and only when you are sure they will be coming into the pass which leads to the cave,” Robert Jordan said.

“Yes. How far is that?”

“That rock.”

“If there is an officer shoot him first. Then move the gun onto the others. Move very slowly. It takes little movement. I will teach Fernando to tap it. Hold it tight so that it does not jump and sight carefully and do not fire more than six shots at a time if you can help it. For the fire of the gun jumps upward. But each time fire at one man and then move from him to another. At a man on a horse, shoot at his belly.”


“One man should hold the tripod still so that the gun does not jump. Thus. He will load the gun for thee.”

“And where will you be?”

“I will be here on the left. Above, where I can see all and I will cover thy left with this small máquina. Here. If they should come it would be possible to make a massacre. But you must not fire until they are that close.”

“I believe that we could make a massacre. Menuda matanza!”

“But I hope they do not come.”

“If it were not for thy bridge we could make a massacre here and get out.”

“It would avail nothing. That would serve no purpose. The bridge is a part of a plan to win the war. This would be nothing. This would be an incident. A nothing.”

“Qué va, nothing. Every fascist dead is a fascist less.”

“Yes. But with this of the bridge we can take Segovia. The Capital of a Province. Think of that. It will be the first one we will take.”

“Thou believest in this seriously? That we can take Segovia?”

“Yes. It is possible with the bridge blown correctly.”

“I would like to have the massacre here and the bridge, too.”

“Thou hast much appetite,” Robert Jordan told him.

All this time he had been watching the crows. Now he saw one was watching something. The bird cawed and flew up. But the other crow still stayed in the tree. Robert Jordan looked up toward Primitivo’s place high in the rocks. He saw him watching out over the country below but he made no signal. Robert Jordan leaned forward and worked the lock on the automatic rifle, saw the round in the chamber and let the lock down. The crow was still there in the tree. The other circled wide over the snow and then settled again. In the sun and the warm wind the snow was falling from the laden branches of the pines.

“I have a massacre for thee for tomorrow morning,” Robert Jordan said. “It is necessary to exterminate the post at the sawmill.”

“I am ready,” Agustín said, “Estoy listo.”

“Also the post at the roadmender’s hut below the bridge.”

“For the one or for the other,” Agustín said. “Or for both.”

“Not for both. They will be done at the same time,” Robert Jordan said.

“Then for either one,” Agustín said. “Now for a long time have I wished for action in this war. Pablo has rotted us here with inaction.”

Anselmo came up with the ax.

“Do you wish more branches?” he asked. “To me it seems well hidden.”

“Not branches,” Robert Jordan said. “Two small trees that we can plant here and there to make it look more natural. There are not enough trees here for it to be truly natural.”

“I will bring them.”

“Cut them well back, so the stumps cannot be seen.”

Robert Jordan heard the ax sounding in the woods behind him. He looked up at Primitivo above in the rocks and he looked down at the pines across the clearing. The one crow was still there. Then he heard the first high, throbbing murmur of a plane coming. He looked up and saw it high and tiny and silver in the sun, seeming hardly to move in the high sky.

“They cannot see us,” he said to Agustín. “But it is well to keep down. That is the second observation plane today.”

“And those of yesterday?” Agustín asked.

“They are like a bad dream now,” Robert Jordan said.

“They must be at Segovia. The bad dream waits there to become a reality.”

The plane was out of sight now over the mountains but the sound of its motors still persisted.

As Robert Jordan looked, he saw the crow fly up. He flew straight away through the trees without cawing.