For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 24

Now the morning was late May, the sky was high and clear and the wind blew warm on Robert Jordan’s shoulders. The snow was going fast and they were eating breakfast. There were two big sandwiches of meat and the goaty cheese apiece, and Robert Jordan had cut thick slices of onion with his clasp knife and put them on each side of the meat and cheese between the chunks of bread.

“You will have a breath that will carry through the forest to the fascists,” Agustín said, his own mouth full.

“Give me the wineskin and I will rinse the mouth,” Robert Jordan said, his mouth full of meat, cheese, onion and chewed bread.

He had never been hungrier and he filled his mouth with wine, faintly tarry-tasting from the leather bag, and swallowed. Then he took another big mouthful of wine, lifting the bag up to let the jet of wine spurt into the back of his mouth, the wineskin touching the needles of the blind of pine branches that covered the automatic rifle as he lifted his hand, his head leaning against the pine branches as he bent it back to let the wine run down.

“Dost thou want this other sandwich?” Agustín asked him, handing it toward him across the gun.

“No. Thank you. Eat it.”

“I cannot. I am not accustomed to eat in the morning.”

“You do not want it, truly?”

“Nay. Take it.”

Robert Jordan took it and laid it on his lap while he got the onion out of his side jacket pocket where the grenades were and opened his knife to slice it. He cut off a thin sliver of the surface that had dirtied in his pocket, then cut a thick slice. An outer segment fell and he picked it up and bent the circle together and put it into the sandwich.

“Eatest thou always onions for breakfast?” Agustín asked.

“When there are any.”

“Do all in thy country do this?”

“Nay,” Robert Jordan said. “It is looked on badly there.”

“I am glad,” Agustín said. “I had always considered America a civilized country.”

“What hast thou against the onion?”

“The odor. Nothing more. Otherwise it is like the rose.”

Robert Jordan grinned at him with his mouth full.

“Like the rose,” he said. “Mighty like the rose. A rose is a rose is an onion.”

“Thy onions are affecting thy brain,” Agustín said. “Take care.”

“An onion is an onion is an onion,” Robert Jordan said cheerily and, he thought, a stone is a stein is a rock is a boulder is a pebble.

“Rinse thy mouth with wine,” Agustín said. “Thou art very rare, Inglés. There is great difference between thee and the last dynamiter who worked with us.”

“There is one great difference.”

“Tell it to me.”

“I am alive and he is dead,” Robert Jordan said. Then: what’s the matter with you? he thought. Is that the way to talk? Does food make you that slap happy? What are you, drunk on onions? Is that all it means to you, now? It never meant much, he told himself truly. You tried to make it mean something, but it never did. There is no need to lie in the time that is left.

“No,” he said, seriously now. “That one was a man who had suffered greatly.”

“And thou? Hast thou not suffered?”

“No,” said Robert Jordan. “I am of those who suffer little.”

“Me also,” Agustín told him. “There are those who suffer and those who do not. I suffer very little.”

“Less bad,” Robert Jordan tipped up the wineskin again. “And with this, less.”

“I suffer for others.”

“As all good men should.”

“But for myself very little.”

“Hast thou a wife?”


“Me neither.”

“But now you have the Maria.”


“There is a rare thing,” Agustín said. “Since she came to us at the train the Pilar has kept her away from all as fiercely as though she were in a convent of Carmelites. You cannot imagine with what fierceness she guarded her. You come, and she gives her to thee as a present. How does that seem to thee?”

“It was not thus.”

“How was it, then?”

“She has put her in my care.”

“And thy care is to joder with her all night?”

“With luck.”

“What a manner to care for one.”

“You do not understand that one can take good care of one thus?”

“Yes, but such care could have been furnished by any one of us.”

“Let us not talk of it any more,” Robert Jordan said. “I care for her seriously.”


“As there can be nothing more serious in this world.”

“And afterwards? After this of the bridge?”

“She goes with me.”

“Then,” Agustín said. “That no one speaks of it further and that the two of you go with all luck.”

He lifted the leather wine bag and took a long pull, then handed it to Robert Jordan.

“One thing more, Inglés,” he said.

“Of course.”

“I have cared much for her, too.”

Robert Jordan put his hand on his shoulder.

“Much,” Agustín said. “Much. More than one is able to imagine.”

“I can imagine.”

“She has made an impression on me that does not dissipate.”

“I can imagine.”

“Look. I say this to thee in all seriousness.”

“Say it.”

“I have never touched her nor had anything to do with her but I care for her greatly. Inglés, do not treat her lightly. Because she sleeps with thee she is no whore.”

“I will care for her.”

“I believe thee. But more. You do not understand how such a girl would be if there had been no revolution. You have much responsibility. This one, truly, has suffered much. She is not as we are.”

“I will marry her.”

“Nay. Not that. There is no need for that under the revolution. But—” he nodded his head—”it would be better.”

“I will marry her,” Robert Jordan said and could feel his throat swelling as he said it. “I care for her greatly.”

“Later,” Agustín said. “When it is convenient. The important thing is to have the intention.”

“I have it.”

“Listen,” Agustín said. “I am speaking too much of a matter in which I have no right to intervene, but hast thou known many girls of this country?”

“A few.”


“Some who were not.”

“How many?”


“And did you sleep with them?”


“You see?”


“What I mean is that this Maria does not do this lightly.”

“Nor I.”

“If I thought you did I would have shot you last night as you lay with her. For this we kill much here.”

“Listen, old one,” Robert Jordan said. “It is because of the lack of time that there has been informality. What we do not have is time. Tomorrow we must fight. To me that is nothing. But for the Maria and me it means that we must live all of our life in this time.”

“And a day and a night is little time,” Agustín said.

“Yes. But there has been yesterday and the night before and last night.”

“Look,” Agustín said. “If I can aid thee.”

“No. We are all right.”

“If I could do anything for thee or for the cropped head—”


“Truly, there is little one man can do for another.”

“No. There is much.”


“No matter what passes today and tomorrow in respect to combat, give me thy confidence and obey even though the orders may appear wrong.”

“You have my confidence. Since this of the cavalry and the sending away of the horse.”

“That was nothing. You see that we are working for one thing. To win the war. Unless we win, all other things are futile. Tomorrow we have a thing of great importance. Of true importance. Also we will have combat. In combat there must be discipline. For many things are not as they appear. Discipline must come from trust and confidence.”

Agustín spat on the ground.

“The Maria and all such things are apart,” he said. “That you and the Maria should make use of what time there is as two human beings. If I can aid thee I am at thy orders. But for the thing of tomorrow I will obey thee blindly. If it is necessary that one should die for the thing of tomorrow one goes gladly and with the heart light.”

“Thus do I feel,” Robert Jordan said. “But to hear it from thee brings pleasure.”

“And more,” Agustín said. “That one above,” he pointed toward Primitivo, “is a dependable value. The Pilar is much, much more than thou canst imagine. The old man Anselmo, also. Andrés also. Eladio also. Very quiet, but a dependable element. And Fernando. I do not know how thou hast appreciated him. It is true he is heavier than mercury. He is fuller of boredom than a steer drawing a cart on the highroad. But to fight and to do as he is told. Es muy hombre! Thou wilt see.”

“We are lucky.”

“No. We have two weak elements. The gypsy and Pablo. But the band of Sordo are as much better than we are as we are better than goat manure.”

“All is well then.”

“Yes,” Agustín said. “But I wish it was for today.”

“Me, too. To finish with it. But it is not.”

“Do you think it will be bad?”

“It can be.”

“But thou are very cheerful now, Inglés.”


“Me also. In spite of this of the Maria and all.”

“Do you know why?”


“Me neither. Perhaps it is the day. The day is good.”

“Who knows? Perhaps it is that we will have action.”

“I think it is that,” Robert Jordan said. “But not today. Of all things; of all importance we must avoid it today.”

As he spoke he heard something. It was a noise far off that came above the sound of the warm wind in the trees. He could not be sure and he held his mouth open and listened, glancing up at Primitivo as he did so. He thought he heard it but then it was gone. The wind was blowing in the pines and now Robert Jordan strained all of himself to listen. Then he heard it faintly coming down the wind.

“It is nothing tragic with me,” he heard Agustín say. “That I should never have the Maria is nothing. I will go with the whores as always.”

“Shut up,” he said, not listening, and lying beside him, his head having been turned away. Agustín looked over at him suddenly.

“Qué pasa?” he asked.

Robert Jordan put his hand over his own mouth and went on listening. There it came again. It came faint, muted, dry and far away. But there was no mistaking it now. It was the precise, crackling, curling roll of automatic rifle fire. It sounded as though pack after pack of miniature firecrackers were going off at a distance that was almost out of hearing.

Robert Jordan looked up at Primitivo who had his head up now, his face looking toward them, his hand cupped to his ear. As he looked Primitivo pointed up the mountain toward the highest country.

“They are fighting at El Sordo’s,” Robert Jordan said.

“Then let us go to aid them,” Agustín said. “Collect the people. Vamonos.”

“No,” Robert Jordan said. “We stay here.”