For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 30

So now everything had been done that there was to do that night. All orders had been given. Every one knew exactly what he was to do in the morning. Andrés had been gone three hours. Either it would come now with the coming of the daylight or it would not come. I believe that it will come, Robert Jordan told himself, walking back down from the upper post where he had gone to speak to Primitivo.

Golz makes the attack but he has not the power to cancel it. Permission to cancel it will have to come from Madrid. The chances are they won’t be able to wake anybody up there and if they do wake up they will be too sleepy to think. I should have gotten word to Golz sooner of the preparations they have made to meet the attack, but how could I send word about something until it happened? They did not move up that stuff until just at dark. They did not want to have any movement on the road spotted by planes. But what about all their planes? What about those fascist planes?

Surely our people must have been warned by them. But perhaps the fascists were faking for another offensive down through Guadalajara with them. There were supposed to be Italian troops concentrated in Soria, and at Siguenza again besides those operating in the North. They haven’t enough troops or material to run two major offensives at the same time though. That is impossible; so it must be just a bluff.

But we know how many troops the Italians have landed all last month and the month before at Cádiz. It is always possible they will try again at Guadalajara, not stupidly as before, but with three main fingers coming down to broaden it out and carry it along the railway to the west of the plateau. There was a way that they could do it all right. Hans had shown him. They made many mistakes the first time. The whole conception was unsound. They had not used any of the same troops in the Arganda offensive against the Madrid-Valencia road that they used at Guadalajara. Why had they not made those same drives simultaneously? Why? Why? When would we know why?

Yet we had stopped them both times with the very same troops. We never could have stopped them if they had pulled both drives at once. Don’t worry, he told himself. Look at the miracles that have happened before this. Either you will have to blow that bridge in the morning or you will not have to. But do not start deceiving yourself into thinking you won’t have to blow it. You will blow it one day or you will blow it another. Or if it is not this bridge it will be some other bridge. It is not you who decides what shall be done. You follow orders. Follow them and do not try to think beyond them.

The orders on this are very clear. Too very clear. But you must not worry nor must you be frightened. For if you allow yourself the luxury of normal fear that fear will infect those who must work with you.

But that heads business was quite a thing all the same, he told himself. And the old man running onto them on the hilltop alone. How would you have liked to run onto them like that? That impressed you, didn’t it? Yes, that impressed you, Jordan. You have been quite impressed more than once today. But you have behaved O.K. So far you have behaved all right.

You do very well for an instructor in Spanish at the University of Montana, he joked at himself. You do all right for that. But do not start to thinking that you are anything very special. You haven’t gotten very far in this business. Just remember Durán, who never had any military training and who was a composer and lad about town before the movement and is now a damned good general commanding a brigade. It was all as simple and easy to learn and understand to Durán as chess to a child chess prodigy. You had read on and studied the art of war ever since you were a boy and your grandfather had started you on the American Civil War. Except that Grandfather always called it the War of the Rebellion. But compared with Durán you were like a good sound chess player against a boy prodigy. Old Durán. It would be good to see Durán again. He would see him at Gaylord’s after this was over. Yes. After this was over. See how well he was behaving?

I’ll see him at Gaylord’s, he said to himself again, after this is over. Don’t kid yourself, he said. You do it all perfectly O.K. Cold. Without kidding yourself. You aren’t going to see Durán any more and it is of no importance. Don’t be that way either, he told himself. Don’t go in for any of those luxuries.

Nor for heroic resignation either. We do not want any citizens full of heroic resignation in these hills. Your grandfather fought four years in our Civil War and you are just finishing your first year in this war. You have a long time to go yet and you are very well fitted for the work. And now you have Maria, too. Why, you’ve got everything. You shouldn’t worry. What is a little brush between a guerilla band and a squadron of cavalry? That isn’t anything. What if they took the heads? Does that make any difference? None at all.

The Indians always took the scalps when Grandfather was at Fort Kearny after the war. Do you remember the cabinet in your father’s office with the arrowheads spread out on a shelf, and the eagle feathers of the war bonnets that hung on the wall, their plumes slanting, the smoked buckskin smell of the leggings and the shirts and the feel of the beaded moccasins? Do you remember the great stave of the buffalo bow that leaned in a corner of the cabinet and the two quivers of hunting and war arrows, and how the bundle of shafts felt when you closed your hand around them?

Remember something like that. Remember something concrete and practical. Remember Grandfather’s saber, bright and well oiled in its dented scabbard and Grandfather showed you how the blade had been thinned from the many times it had been to the grinder’s. Remember Grandfather’s Smith and Wesson. It was a single action, officer’s model .32 caliber and there was no trigger guard. It had the softest, sweetest trigger pull you had ever felt and it was always well oiled and the bore was clean although the finish was all worn off and the brown metal of the barrel and the cylinder was worn smooth from the leather of the holster. It was kept in the holster with a U.S. on the flap in a drawer in the cabinet with its cleaning equipment and two hundred rounds of cartridges. Their cardboard boxes were wrapped and tied neatly with waxed twine.

You could take the pistol out of the drawer and hold it. “Handle it freely,” was Grandfather’s expression. But you could not play with it because it was “a serious weapon.”

You asked Grandfather once if he had ever killed any one with it and he said, “Yes.”

Then you said, “When, Grandfather?” and he said, “In the War of the Rebellion and afterwards.”

You said, “Will you tell me about it, Grandfather?”

And he said, “I do not care to speak about it, Robert.”

Then after your father had shot himself with this pistol, and you had come home from school and they’d had the funeral, the coroner had returned it after the inquest saying, “Bob, I guess you might want to keep the gun. I’m supposed to hold it, but I know your dad set a lot of store by it because his dad packed it all through the War, besides out here when he first came out with the Cavalry, and it’s still a hell of a good gun. I had her out trying her this afternoon. She don’t throw much of a slug but you can hit things with her.”

He had put the gun back in the drawer in the cabinet where it belonged, but the next day he took it out and he had ridden up to the top of the high country above Red Lodge, with Chub, where they had built the road to Cooke City now over the pass and across the Bear Tooth plateau, and up there where the wind was thin and there was snow all summer on the hills they had stopped by the lake which was supposed to be eight hundred feet deep and was a deep green color, and Chub held the two horses and he climbed out on a rock and leaned over and saw his face in the still water, and saw himself holding the gun, and then he dropped it, holding it by the muzzle, and saw it go down making bubbles until it was just as big as a watch charm in that clear water, and then it was out of sight. Then he came back off the rock and when he swung up into the saddle he gave old Bess such a clout with the spurs she started to buck like an old rocking horse. He bucked her out along the shore Qf the lake and as soon as she was reasonable they went on back along the trail.

“I know why you did that with the old gun, Bob,” Chub said.

“Well, then we don’t have to talk about it,” he had said.

They never talked about it and that was the end of Grandfather’s side arms except for the saber. He still had the saber in his trunk with the rest of his things at Missoula.

I wonder what Grandfather would think of this situation, he thought. Grandfather was a hell of a good soldier, everybody said. They said if he had been with Custer that day he never would have let him be sucked in that way. How could he ever not have seen the smoke nor the dust of all those lodges down there in the draw along the Little Big Horn unless there must have been a heavy morning mist? But there wasn’t any mist.

I wish Grandfather were here instead of me. Well, maybe we will all be together by tomorrow night. If there should be any such damn fool business as a hereafter, and I’m sure there isn’t, he thought, I would certainly like to talk to him. Because there are a lot of things I would like to know. I have a right to ask him now because I have had to do the same sort of things myself. I don’t think he’d mind my asking now. I had no right to ask before. I understand him not telling me because he didn’t know me. But now I think that we would get along all right. I’d like to be able to talk to him now and get his advice. Hell, if I didn’t get advice I’d just like to talk to him. It’s a shame there is such a jump in time between ones like us.

Then, as he thought, he realized that if there was any such thing as ever meeting, both he and his grandfather would be acutely embarrassed by the presence of his father. Any one has a right to do it, he thought. But it isn’t a good thing to do. I understand it, but I do not approve of it. Lache was the word. But you do understand it? Sure, I understand it but. Yes, but. You have to be awfully occupied with yourself to do a thing like that.

Aw hell, I wish Grandfather was here, he thought. For about an hour anyway. Maybe he sent me what little I have through that other one that misused the gun. Maybe that is the only communication that we have. But, damn it. Truly damn it, but I wish the time-lag wasn’t so long so that I could have learned from him what the other one never had to teach me. But suppose the fear he had to go through and dominate and just get rid of finally in four years of that and then in the Indian fighting, although in that, mostly, there couldn’t have been so much fear, had made a cobarde out of the other one the way second generation bullfighters almost always are? Suppose that? And maybe the good juice only came through straight again after passing through that one?

I’ll never forget how sick it made me the first time I knew he was a cobarde. Go on, say it in English. Coward. It’s easier when you have it said and there is never any point in referring to a son of a bitch by some foreign term. He wasn’t any son of a bitch, though. He was just a coward and that was the worst luck any man could have. Because if he wasn’t a coward he would have stood up to that woman and not let her bully him. I wonder what I would have been like if he had married a different woman? That’s something you’ll never know, he thought, and grinned. Maybe the bully in her helped to supply what was missing in the other. And you. Take it a little easy. Don’t get to referring to the good juice and such other things until you are through tomorrow. Don’t be snotty too soon. And then don’t be snotty at all. We’ll see what sort of juice you have tomorrow.

But he started thinking about Grandfather again.

“George Custer was not an intelligent leader of cavalry, Robert,” his grandfather had said. “He was not even an intelligent man.”

He remembered that when his grandfather said that he felt resentment that any one should speak against that figure in the buckskin shirt, the yellow curls blowing, that stood on that hill holding a service revolver as the Sioux closed in around him in the old Anheuser-Busch lithograph that hung on the poolroom wall in Red Lodge.

“He just had great ability to get himself in and out of trouble,” his grandfather went on, “and on the Little Big Horn he got into it but he couldn’t get out.

“Now Phil Sheridan was an intelligent man and so was Jeb Stuart. But John Mosby was the finest cavalry leader that ever lived.”

He had a letter in his things in the trunk at Missoula from General Phil Sheridan to old Killy-the-Horse Kilpatrick that said his grandfather was a finer leader of irregular cavalry than John Mosby.

I ought to tell Golz about my grandfather, he thought. He wouldn’t ever have heard of him though. He probably never even heard of John Mosby. The British all had heard of them though because they had to study our Civil War much more than people did on the Continent. Karkov said after this was over I could go to the Lenin Institute in Moscow if I wanted to. He said I could go to the military academy of the Red Army if I wanted to do that. I wonder what Grandfather would think of that? Grandfather, who never knowingly sat at table with a Democrat in his life.

Well, I don’t want to be a soldier, he thought. I know that. So that’s out. I just want us to win this war. I guess really good soldiers are really good at very little else, he thought. That’s obviously untrue. Look at Napoleon and Wellington. You’re very stupid this evening, he thought.

Usually his mind was very good company and tonight it had been when he thought about his grandfather. Then thinking of his father had thrown him off. He understood his father and he forgave him everything and he pitied him but he was ashamed of him.

You better not think at all, he told himself. Soon you will be with Maria and you won’t have to think. That’s the best way now that everything is worked out. When you have been concentrating so hard on something you can’t stop and your brain gets to racing like a flywheel with the weight gone. You better just not think.

But just suppose, he thought. Just suppose that when the planes unload they smash those anti-tank guns and just blow hell out of the positions and the old tanks roll good up whatever hill it is for once and old Golz boots that bunch of drunks, clochards, bums, fanatics and heroes that make up the Quatorzieme Brigade ahead of him, and I know how good Durán’s people are in Golz’s other brigade, and we are in Segovia tomorrow night.

Yes. Just suppose, he said to himself. I’ll settle for La Granja, he told himself. But you are going to have to blow that bridge, he suddenly knew absolutely. There won’t be any calling off. Because the way you have just been supposing there for a minute is how the possibilities of that attack look to those who have ordered it. Yes, you will have to blow the bridge, he knew truly. Whatever happens to Andrés doesn’t matter.

Coming down the trail there in the dark, alone with the good feeling that everything that had to be done was over for the next four hours, and with the confidence that had come from thinking back to concrete things, the knowledge that he would surely have to blow the bridge came to him almost with comfort.

The uncertainty, the enlargement of the feeling of being uncertain, as when, through a misunderstanding of possible dates, one does not know whether the guests are really coming to a party, that had been with him ever since he had dispatched Andrés with the report to Golz, had all dropped from him now. He was sure now that the festival would not be cancelled. It’s much better to be sure, he thought. It’s always much better to be sure.