For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 25

Robert Jordan looked up at where Primitivo stood now in his lookout post, holding his rifle and pointing. He nodded his head but the man kept pointing, putting his hand to his ear and then pointing insistently and as though he could not possibly have been understood.

“Do you stay with this gun and unless it is sure, sure, sure that they are coming in do not fire. And then not until they reach that shrub,” Robert Jordan pointed. “Do you understand?”

“Yes. But—”

“No but. I will explain to thee later. I go to Primitivo.”

Anselmo was by him and he said to the old man:

“Viejo, stay there with Agustín with the gun.” He spoke slowly and unhurriedly. “He must not fire unless cavalry is actually entering. If they merely present themselves he must let them alone as we did before. If he must fire, hold the legs of the tripod firm for him and hand him the pans when they are empty.”

“Good,” the old man said. “And La Granja?”


Robert Jordan climbed up, over and around the gray boulders that were wet now under his hands as he pulled himself up. The sun was melting the snow on them fast. The tops of the boulders were drying and as he climbed he looked across the country and saw the pine woods and the long open glade and the dip of the country before the high mountains beyond. Then he stood beside Primitivo in a hollow behind two boulders and the short, brownfaced man said to him, “They are attacking Sordo. What is it that we do?”

“Nothing,” Robert Jordan said.

He heard the firing clearly here and as he looked across the country, he saw, far off, across the distant valley where the country rose steeply again, a troop of cavalry ride out of the timber and cross the snowy slope riding uphill in the direction of the firing. He saw the oblong double line of men and horses dark against the snow as they forced at an angle up the hill. He watched the double line top the ridge and go into the farther timber.

“We have to aid them,” Primitivo said. His voice was dry and flat.

“It is impossible,” Robert Jordan told him. “I have expected this all morning.”


“They went to steal horses last night. The snow stopped and they tracked them up there.”

“But we have to aid them,” Primitivo said. “We cannot leave them alone to this. Those are our comrades.”

Robert Jordan put his hand on the other man’s shoulder.

“We can do nothing,” he said. “If we could I would do it.”

“There is a way to reach there from above. We can take that way with the horses and the two guns. This one below and thine. We can aid them thus.”

“Listen—” Robert Jordan said.

“That is what I listen to,” Primitivo said.

The firing was rolling in overlapping waves. Then they heard the noise of hand grenades heavy and sodden in the dry rolling of the automatic rifle fire.

“They are lost,” Robert Jordan said. “They were lost when the snow stopped. If we go there we are lost, too. It is impossible to divide what force we have.”

There was a gray stubble of beard stippled over Primitivo’s jaws, his lip and his neck. The rest of his face was flat brown with a broken, flattened nose and deep-set gray eyes, and watching him Robert Jordan saw the stubble twitching at the corners of his mouth and over the cord of his throat.

“Listen to it,” he said. “It is a massacre.”

“If they have surrounded the hollow it is that,” Robert Jordan said. “Some may have gotten out.”

“Coming on them now we could take them from behind,” Primitivo said. “Let four of us go with the horses.”

“And then what? What happens after you take them from behind?”

“We join with Sordo.”

“To die there? Look at the sun. The day is long.”

The sky was high and cloudless and the sun was hot on their backs. There were big bare patches now on the southern slope of the open glade below them and the snow was all dropped from the pine trees. The boulders below them that had been wet as the snow melted were steaming faintly now in the hot sun.

“You have to stand it,” Robert Jordan said. “Hay que aguantarse. There are things like this in a war.”

“But there is nothing we can do? Truly?” Primitivo looked at him and Robert Jordan knew he trusted him. “Thou couldst not send me and another with the small machine gun?”

“It would be useless,” Robert Jordan said.

He thought he saw something that he was looking for but it was a hawk that slid down into the wind and then rose above the line of the farthest pine woods. “It would be useless if we all went,” he said.

Just then the firing doubled in intensity and in it was the heavy bumping of the hand grenades.

“Oh, obscenity them,” Primitivo said with an absolute devoutness of blasphemy, tears in his eyes and his cheeks twitching. “Oh, God and the Virgin, obscenity them in the milk of their filth.”

“Calm thyself,” Robert Jordan said. “You will be fighting them soon enough. Here comes the woman.”

Pilar was climbing up to them, making heavy going of it in the boulders.

Primitivo kept saying. “Obscenity them. Oh, God and the Virgin, befoul them,” each time for firing rolled down the wind, and Robert Jordan climbed down to help Pilar up.

“Qué tal, woman,” he said, taking hold of both her wrists and hoisting as she climbed heavily over the last boulder.

“Thy binoculars,” she said and lifted their strap over her head. “So it has come to Sordo?”


“Pobre,” she said in commiseration. “Poor Sordo.”

She was breathing heavily from the climb and she took hold of Robert Jordan’s hand and gripped it tight in hers as she looked out over the country.

“How does the combat seem?”

“Bad. Very bad.”

“He’s jodido?”

“I believe so.”

“Pobre,” she said. “Doubtless because of the horses?”


“Pobre,” Pilar said. Then, “Rafael recounted me all of an entire novel of dung about cavalry. What came?”

“A patrol and part of a squadron.”

“Up to what point?”

Robert Jordan pointed out where the patrol had stopped and showed her where the gun was hidden. From where they stood they could just see one of Agustín’s boots protruding from the rear of the blind.

“The gypsy said they rode to where the gun muzzle pressed against the chest of the horse of the leader,” Pilar said. “What a race! Thy glasses were in the cave.”

“Have you packed?”

“All that can be taken. Is there news of Pablo?”

“He was forty minutes ahead of the cavalry. They took his trail.”

Pilar grinned at him. She still held his hand. Now she dropped it. “They’ll never see him,” she said. “Now for Sordo. Can we do anything?”


“Pobre,” she said. “I was fond of Sordo. Thou art sure, sure that he is jodido?”

“Yes. I have seen much cavalry.”

“More than were here?”

“Another full troop on their way up there.”

“Listen to it,” Pilar said. “Pobre, pobre Sordo.”

They listened to the firing.

“Primitivo wanted to go up there,” Robert Jordan said.

“Art thou crazy?” Pilar said to the flat-faced man. “What kind of locos are we producing here?”

“I wish to aid them.”

“Qué va,” Pilar said. “Another romantic. Dost thou not believe thou wilt die quick enough here without useless voyages?”

Robert Jordan looked at her, at the heavy brown face with the high Indian cheekbones, the wide-set dark eyes and the laughing mouth with the heavy, bitter upper lip.

“Thou must act like a man,” she said to Primitivo. “A grown man. You with your gray hairs and all.”

“Don’t joke at me,” Primitivo said sullenly. “If a man has a little heart and a little imagination—”

“He should learn to control them,” Pilar said. “Thou wilt die soon enough with us. There is no need to seek that with strangers. As for thy imagination. The gypsy has enough for all. What a novel he told me.”

“If thou hadst seen it thou wouldst not call it a novel,” Primitivo said. “There was a moment of great gravity.”

“Qué va,” Pilar said. “Some cavalry rode here and they rode away. And you all make yourselves a heroism. It is to this we have come with so much inaction.”

“And this of Sordo is not grave?” Primitivo said contemptuously now. He suffered visibly each time the firing came down the wind and he wanted either to go to the combat or have Pilar go and leave him alone.

“Total, qué?” Pilar said. “It has come so it has come. Don’t lose thy cojones for the misfortune of another.”

“Go defile thyself,” Primitivo said. “There are women of a stupidity and brutality that is insupportable.”

“In order to support and aid those men poorly equipped for procreation,” Pilar said, “if there is nothing to see I am going.”

Just then Robert Jordan heard the plane high overhead. He looked up and in the high sky it looked to be the same observation plane that he had seen earlier in the morning. Now it was returning from the direction of the lines and it was moving in the direction of the high country where El Sordo was being attacked.

“There is the bad luck bird,” Pilar said. “Will it see what goes on there?”

“Surely,” Robert Jordan said. “If they are not blind.”

They watched the plane moving high and silvery and steady in the sunlight. It was coming from the left and they could see the round disks of light the two propellers made.

“Keep down,” Robert Jordan said.

Then the plane was overhead, its shadows passing over the open glade, the throbbing reaching its maximum of portent. Then it was past and headed toward the top of the valley. They watched it go steadily on its course until it was just out of sight and then they saw it coming back in a wide dipping circle, to circle twice over the high country and then disappear in the direction of Segovia.

Robert Jordan looked at Pilar. There was perspiration on her forehead and she shook her head: She had been holding her lower lip between her teeth.

“For each one there is something,” she said. “For me it is those.”

“Thou hast not caught my fear?” Primitivo said sarcastically.

“Nay,” she put her hand on his shoulder. “Thou hast no fear to catch. I know that. I am sorry I joked too roughly with thee. We are all in the same caldron.” Then she spoke to Robert Jordan. “I will send up food and wine. Dost need anything more?”

“Not in this moment. Where are the others?”

“Thy reserve is intact below with the horses,” she grinned. “Everything is out of sight. Everything to go is ready. Maria is with thy material.”

“If by any chance we should have aviation keep her in the cave.”

“Yes, my Lord Inglés,” Pilar said. “Thy gypsy (I give him to thee) I have sent to gather mushrooms to cook with the hares. There are many mushrooms now and it seemed to me we might as well eat the hares although they would be better tomorrow or the day after.”

“I think it is best to eat them,” Robert Jordan said, and Pilar put her big hand on his shoulder where the strap of the submachine gun crossed his chest, then reached up and mussed his hair with her fingers. “What an Inglés,” Pilar said. “I will send the Maria with the puchero when they are cooked.”

The firing from far away and above had almost died out and now there was only an occasional shot.

“You think it is over?” Pilar asked.

“No,” Robert Jordan said. “From the sound that we have heard they have attacked and been beaten off. Now I would say the attackers have them surrounded. They have taken cover and they wait for the planes.”

Pilar spoke to Primitivo, “Thou. Dost understand there was no intent to insult thee?”

“Ya lo sé,” said Primitivo. “I have put up with worse than that from thee. Thou hast a vile tongue. But watch thy mouth, woman. Sordo was a good comrade of mine.”

“And not of mine?” Pilar asked him. “Listen, flat face. In war one cannot say what one feels. We have enough of our own without taking Sordo’s.”

Primitivo was still sullen.

“You should take a physic,” Pilar told him. “Now I go to prepare the meal.”

“Did you bring the documentation of the requeté?” Robert Jordan asked her.

“How stupid I am,” she said. “I forgot it. I will send the Maria.”