For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 39

In the dark they came up the hill through the timber to the narrow pass at the top. They were all loaded heavily and they climbed slowly. The horses had loads too, packed over the saddles.

“We can cut them loose if it is necessary,” Pilar had said. “But with that, if we can keep it, we can make another camp.”

“And the rest of the ammunition?” Robert Jordan had asked as they lashed the packs.

“In those saddlebags.”

Robert Jordan felt the weight of his heavy pack, the dragging on his neck from the pull of his jacket with its pockets full of grenades, the weight of his pistol against his thigh, and the bulging of his trouser pockets where the clips for the submachine gun were. In his mouth was the taste of the coffee, in his right hand he carried the submachine gun and with his left hand he reached and pulled up the collar of his jacket to ease the pull of the pack straps.

“Inglés,” Pablo said to him, walking close beside him in the dark.

“What, man?”

“These I have brought think this is to be successful because I have brought them,” Pablo said. “Do not say anything to disillusion them.”

“Good,” Robert Jordan said. “But let us make it successful.”

“They have five horses, sabes?” Pablo said cautiously.

“Good,” said Robert Jordan. “We will keep all the horses together.”

“Good,” said Pablo, and nothing more.

I didn’t think you had experienced any complete conversion on the road to Tarsus, old Pablo, Robert Jordan thought. No. Your coming back was miracle enough. I don’t think there will ever be any problem about canonizing you.

“With those five I will deal with the lower post as well as Sordo would have,” Pablo said. “I will cut the wire and fall back upon the bridge as we convened.”

We went over this all ten minutes ago, Robert Jordan thought. I wonder why this now—

“There is a possibility of making it to Gredos,” Pablo said. “Truly, I have thought much of it.”

I believe you’ve had another flash in the last few minutes, Robert Jordan said to himself. You have had another revelation. But you’re not going to convince me that I am invited. No, Pablo. Do not ask me to believe too much.

Ever since Pablo had come into the cave and said he had five men Robert Jordan felt increasingly better. Seeing Pablo again had broken the pattern of tragedy into which the whole operation had seemed grooved ever since the snow, and since Pablo had been back he felt not that his luck had turned, since he did not believe in luck, but that the whole thing had turned for the better and that now it was possible. Instead of the surety of failure he felt confidence rising in him as a tire begins to fill with air from a slow pump. There was little difference at first, although there was a definite beginning, as when the pump starts and the rubber of the tube crawls a little, but it came now as steadily as a tide rising or the sap rising in a tree until he began to feel the first edge of that negation of apprehension that often turned into actual happiness before action.

This was the greatest gift that he had, the talent that fitted him for war; that ability not to ignore but to despise whatever bad ending there could be. This quality was destroyed by too much responsibility for others or the necessity of undertaking something ill planned or badly conceived. For in such things the bad ending, failure, could not be ignored. It was not simply a possibility of harm to one’s self, which could be ignored. He knew he himself was nothing, and he knew death was nothing. He knew that truly, as truly as he knew anything. In the last few days he had learned that he himself, with another person, could be everything. But inside himself he knew that this was the exception. That we have had, he thought. In that I have been most fortunate. That was given to me, perhaps, because I never asked for it. That cannot be taken away nor lost. But that is over and done with now on this morning and what there is to do now is our work.

And you, he said to himself, I am glad to see you getting a little something back that was badly missing for a time. But you were pretty bad back there. I was ashamed enough of you, there for a while. Only I was you. There wasn’t any me to judge you. We were all in bad shape. You and me and both of us. Come on now. Quit thinking like a schizophrenic. One at a time, now. You’re all right again now. But listen, you must not think of the girl all day ever. You can do nothing now to protect her except to keep her out of it, and that you are doing. There are evidently going to be plenty of horses if you can believe the signs. The best thing you can do for her is to do the job well and fast and get out, and thinking of her will only handicap you in this. So do not think of her ever.

Having thought this out he waited until Maria came up walking with Pilar and Rafael and the horses.

“Hi, guapa,” he said to her in the dark, “how are you?”

“I am well, Roberto,” she said.

“Don’t worry about anything,” he said to her and shifting the gun to his left hand he put a hand on her shoulder.

“I do not,” she said.

“It is all very well organized,” he told her. “Rafael will be with thee with the horses.”

“I would rather be with thee.”

“Nay. The horses is where thou art most useful.”

“Good,” she said. “There I will be.”

Just then one of the horses whinnied and from the open place below the opening through the rocks a horse answered, the neigh rising into a shrill sharply broken quaver.

Robert Jordan saw the bulk of the new horses ahead in the dark. He pressed forward and came up to them with Pablo. The men were standing by their mounts.

“Salud,” Robert Jordan said.

“Salud,” they answered in the dark. He could not see their faces.

“This is the Inglés who comes with us,” Pablo said. “The dynamiter.”

No one said anything to that. Perhaps they nodded in the dark.

“Let us get going, Pablo,” one man said. “Soon we will have the daylight on us.”

“Did you bring any more grenades?” another asked.

“Plenty,” said Pablo. “Supply yourselves when we leave the animals.”

“Then let us go,” another said. “We’ve been waiting here half the night.”

“Hola, Pilar,” another said as the woman came up.

“Que me maten, if it is not Pepe,” Pilar said huskily. “How are you, shepherd?”

“Good,” said the man. “Dentro de la gravedad.”

“What are you riding?” Pilar asked him.

“The gray of Pablo,” the man said. “It is much horse.”

“Come on,” another man said. “Let us go. There is no good in gossiping here.”

“How art thou, Elicio?” Pilar said to him as he mounted.

“How would I be?” he said rudely. “Come on, woman, we have work to do.”

Pablo mounted the big bay horse.

“Keep thy mouths shut and follow me,” he said. “I will lead you to the place where we will leave the horses.”