For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 36

Andrés had challenged at the government position. That is, he had lain down where the ground fell sharply away below the triple belt of wire and shouted up at the rock and earth parapet. There was no continual defensive line and he could easily have passed this position in the dark and made his way farther into the government territory before running into some one who would challenge him. But it seemed safer and simpler to get it over here.

“Salud!” he had shouted. “Salud, milicianos!”

He heard a bolt snick as it was pulled back. Then, from farther down the parapet, a rifle fired. There was a crashing crack and a downward stab of yellow in the dark. Andrés had flattened at the click, the top of his head hard against the ground.

“Don’t shoot, Comrades,” Andrés shouted. “Don’t shoot! I want to come in.”

“How many are you?” some one called from behind the parapet.

“One. Me. Alone.”

“Who are you?”

“Andrés Lopez of Villaconejos. From the band of Pablo. With a message.”

“Have you your rifle and equipment?”

“Yes, man.”

“We can take in none without rifle and equipment,” the voice said. “Nor in larger groups than three.”

“I am alone,” Andrés shouted. “It is important. Let me come in.”

He could hear them talking behind the parapet but not what they were saying. Then the voice shouted again, “How many are you?”

“One. Me. Alone. For the love of God.”

They were talking behind the parapet again. Then the voice came, “Listen, fascist.”

“I am not a fascist,” Andrés shouted. “I am a guerrillero from the band of Pablo. I come with a message for the General Staff.”

“He’s crazy,” he heard some one say. “Toss a bomb at him.”

“Listen,” Andrés said. “I am alone. I am completely by myself. I obscenity in the midst of the holy mysteries that I am alone. Let me come in.”

“He speaks like a Christian,” he heard some one say and laugh.

Then some one else said, “The best thing is to toss a bomb down on him.”

“No,” Andrés shouted. “That would be a great mistake. This is important. Let me come in.”

It was for this reason that he had never enjoyed trips back and forth between the lines. Sometimes it was better than others. But it was never good.

“You are alone?” the voice called down again.

“Me cago en la leche,” Andrés shouted. “How many times must I tell thee? I AM ALONE.”

“Then if you should be alone stand up and hold thy rifle over thy head.”

Andrés stood up and put the carbine above his head, holding it in both hands.

“Now come through the wire. We have thee covered with the máquina,” the voice called.

Andrés was in the first zigzag belt of wire. “I need my hands to get through the wire,” he shouted.

“Keep them up,” the voice commanded.

“I am held fast by the wire,” Andrés called.

“It would have been simpler to have thrown a bomb at him,” a voice said.

“Let him sling his rifle,” another voice said. “He cannot come through there with his hands above his head. Use a little reason.”

“All these fascists are the same,” the other voice said. “They demand one condition after another.”

“Listen,” Andrés shouted. “I am no fascist but a guerrillero from the band of Pablo. We’ve killed more fascists than the typhus.”

“I have never heard of the band of Pablo,” the man who was evidently in command of the post said. “Neither of Peter nor of Paul nor of any of the other saints nor apostles. Nor of their bands. Sling thy rifle over thy shoulder and use thy hands to come through the wire.”

“Before we loose the máquina on thee,” another shouted.

“Qué poco amables sois!” Andrés said. “You’re not very amiable.”

He was working his way through the wire.

“Amables,” some one shouted at him. “We are in a war, man.”

“It begins to appear so,” Andrés said.

“What’s he say?”

Andrés heard a bolt click again.

“Nothing,” he shouted. “I say nothing. Do not shoot until I get through this fornicating wire.”

“Don’t speak badly of our wire,” some one shouted. “Or we’ll toss a bomb on you.”

“Quiero decir, qué buena alambrada,” Andrés shouted. “What beautiful wire. God in a latrine. What lovely wire. Soon I will be with thee, brothers.”

“Throw a bomb at him,” he heard the one voice say. “I tell you that’s the soundest way to deal with the whole thing.”

“Brothers,” Andrés said. He was wet through with sweat and he knew the bomb advocate was perfectly capable of tossing a grenade at any moment. “I have no importance.”

“I believe it,” the bomb man said.

“You are right,” Andrés said. He was working carefully through the third belt of wire and he was very close to the parapet. “I have no importance of any kind. But the affair is serious. Muy, muy serio.”

“There is no more serious thing than liberty,” the bomb man shouted. “Thou thinkest there is anything more serious than liberty?” he asked challengingly.

“No, man,” Andrés said, relieved. He knew now he was up against the crazies; the ones with the black-and-red scarves. “Viva la Libertad!”

“Viva la F. A. I. Viva la C.N.T.,” they shouted back at him from the parapet. “Viva el anarco-sindicalismo and liberty.”

“Viva nosotros,” Andrés shouted. “Long life to us.”

“He is a coreligionary of ours,” the bomb man said. “And I might have killed him with this.”

He looked at the grenade in his hand and was deeply moved as Andrés climbed over the parapet. Putting his arms around him, the grenade still in one hand, so that it rested against Andrés’s shoulder blade as he embraced him, the bomb man kissed him on both cheeks.

“I am content that nothing happened to thee, brother,” he said. “I am very content.”

“Where is thy officer?” Andrés asked.

“I command here,” a man said. “Let me see thy papers.”

He took them into a dugout and looked at them with the light of a candle. There was the little square of folded silk with the colors of the Republic and the seal of the S. I. M. in the center. There was the Salvoconducto or safe-conduct pass giving his name, age, height, birthplace and mission that Robert Jordan had written out on a sheet from his notebook and sealed with the S. I. M. rubber stamp and there were the four folded sheets of the dispatch to Golz which were tied around with a cord and sealed with wax and the impression of the metal S. I. M. seal that was set in the top end of the wooden handle of the rubber stamp.

“This I have seen,” the man in command of the post said and handed back the piece of silk. “This you all have, I know. But its possession proves nothing without this.” He lifted the Salvoconducto and read it through again. “Where were you born?”

“Villaconejos,” Andrés said.

“And what do they raise there?”

“Melons,” Andrés said. “As all the world knows.”

“Who do you know there?”

“Why? Are you from there?”

“Nay. But I have been there. I am from Aranjuëz.”

“Ask me about any one.”

“Describe José Rincon.”

“Who keeps the bodega?”


“With a shaved head and a big belly and a cast in one eye.”

“Then this is valid,” the man said and handed him back the paper. “But what do you do on their side?”

“Our father had installed himself at Villacastín before the movement,” Andrés said. “Down there beyond the mountains on the plain. It was there we were surprised by the movement. Since the movement I have fought with the band of Pablo. But I am in a great hurry, man, to take that dispatch.”

“How goes it in the country of the fascists?” the man commanding asked. He was in no hurry.

“Today we had much tomate,” Andrés said proudly. “Today there was plenty of dust on the road all day. Today they wiped out the band of Sordo.”

“And who is Sordo?” the other asked deprecatingly.

“The leader of one of the best bands in the mountains.”

“All of you should come in to the Republic and join the army,” the officer said. “There is too much of this silly guerilla nonsense going on. All of you should come in and submit to our Libertarian discipline. Then when we wished to send out guerillas we would send them out as they are needed.”

Andrés was a man endowed with almost supreme patience. He had taken the coming in through the wire calmly. None of this examination had flustered him. He found it perfectly normal that this man should have no understanding of them nor of what they were doing and that he should talk idiocy was to be expected. That it should all go slowly should be expected too; but now he wished to go.

“Listen, Compadre,” he said. “It is very possible that you are right. But I have orders to deliver that dispatch to the General commanding the Thirty-Fifth Division, which makes an attack at daylight in these hills and it is already late at night and I must go.”

“What attack? What do you know of an attack?”

“Nay. I know nothing. But I must go now to Navacerrada and go on from there. Wilt thou send me to thy commander who will give me transport to go on from there? Send one with me now to respond to him that there be no delay.”

“I distrust all of this greatly,” he said. “It might have been better to have shot thee as thou approached the wire.”

“You have seen my papers, Comrade, and I have explained my mission,” Andrés told him patiently.

“Papers can be forged,” the officer said. “Any fascist could invent such a mission. I will go with thee myself to the Commander.”

“Good,” Andrés said. “That you should come. But that we should go quickly.”

“Thou, Sanchez. Thou commandest in my place,” the officer said. “Thou knowest thy duties as well as I do. I take this so-called Comrade to the Commander.”

They started down the shallow trench behind the crest of the hill and in the dark Andrés smelt the foulness the defenders of the hill crest had made all through the bracken on that slope. He did not like these people who were like dangerous children; dirty, foul, undisciplined, kind, loving, silly and ignorant but always dangerous because they were armed. He, Andrés, was without politics except that he was for the Republic. He had heard these people talk many times and he thought what they said was often beautiful and fine to hear but he did not like them. It is not liberty not to bury the mess one makes, he thought. No animal has more liberty than the cat; but it buries the mess it makes. The cat is the best anarchist. Until they learn that from the cat I cannot respect them.

Ahead of him the officer stopped suddenly.

“You have your carabine still,” he said.

“Yes,” Andrés said. “Why not?”

“Give it to me,” the officer said. “You could shoot me in the back with it.”

“Why?” Andrés asked him. “Why would I shoot thee in the back?”

“One never knows,” the officer said. “I trust no one. Give me the carbine.”

Andrés unslung it and handed it to him.

“If it pleases thee to carry it,” he said.

“It is better,” the officer said. “We are safer that way.”

They went on down the hill in the dark.