For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 4

They came down to the mouth of the cave, where a light shone out from the edge of a blanket that hung over the opening. The two packs were at the foot of the tree covered with a canvas and Robert Jordan knelt down and felt the canvas wet and stiff over them. In the dark he felt under the canvas in the outside pocket of one of the packs and took out a leather-covered flask and slipped it in his pocket. Unlocking the long barred padlocks that passed through the grommet that closed the opening of the mouth of the packs, and untying the drawstring at the top of each pack, he felt inside them and verified their contents with his hands. Deep in one pack he felt the bundled blocks in the sacks, the sacks wrapped in the sleeping robe, and tying the strings of that and pushing the lock shut again, he put his hands into the other and felt the sharp wood outline of the box of the old exploder, the cigar box with the caps, each little cylinder wrapped round and round with its two wires (the lot of them packed as carefully as he had packed his collection of wild bird eggs when he was a boy), the stock of the submachine gun, disconnected from the barrel and wrapped in his leather jacket, the two pans and five clips in one of the inner pockets of the big pack-sack arid the small coils of copper wire and the big coil of light insulated Wire in the other. In the pocket with the wire he felt his pliers and the two wooden awls for making holes in the end of the blocks and then, from the last inside pocket, he took a big box of the Russian cigarettes of the lot he had from Golz’s headquarters and tying the mouth of the pack shut, he pushed the lock in, buckled the flaps down and again covered both packs with the canvas. Anselmo had gone on into the cave.

Robert Jordan stood up to follow him, then reconsidered and, lifting the canvas off the two packs, picked them up, one in each hand, and started with them, just able to carry them, for the mouth of the cave. He laid one pack down and lifted the blanket aside, then with his head stooped and with a pack in each hand, carrying by the leather shoulder straps, he went into the cave.

It was warm and smoky in the cave. There was a table along one wall with a tallow candle stuck in a bottle on it and at the table were seated Pablo, three men he did not know, and the gypsy, Rafael. The candle made shadows on the wall behind the men and Anselmo stood where he had come in to the right of the table. The wife of Pablo was standing over the charcoal fire on the open fire hearth in the corner of the cave. The girl knelt by her stirring in an iron pot. She lifted the wooden spoon out and looked at Robert Jordan as he stood there in the doorway and he saw, in the glow from the fire the woman was blowing with a bellows, the girl’s face, her arm and the drops running down from the spoon and dropping into the iron pot.

“What do you carry?” Pablo said.

“My things,” Robert Jordan said and set the two packs down a little way apart where the cave opened out on the side away from the table.

“Are they not well outside?” Pablo asked.

“Some one might trip over them in the dark,” Robert Jordan said and walked over to the table and laid the box of cigarettes on it.

“I do not like to have dynamite here in the cave,” Pablo said.

“It is far from the fire,” Robert Jordan said. “Take some cigarettes.” He ran his thumbnail along the side of the paper box with the big colored figure of a warship on the cover and pushed the box toward Pablo.

Anselmo brought him a rawhide-covered stool and he sat down at the table. Pablo looked at him as though he were going to speak again, then reached for the cigarettes.

Robert Jordan pushed them toward the others. He was not looking at them yet. But he noted one man took cigarettes and two did not. All of his concentration was on Pablo.

“How goes it, gypsy?” he said to Rafael.

“Good,” the gypsy said. Robert Jordan could tell they had been talking about him when he came in. Even the gypsy was not at ease.

“She is going to let you eat again?” Robert Jordan asked the gypsy.

“Yes. Why not?” the gypsy said. It was a long way from the friendly joking they had together in the afternoon.

The woman of Pablo said nothing and went on blowing up the coals of the fire.

“One called Agustín says he dies of boredom above,” Robert Jordan said.

“That doesn’t kill,” Pablo said. “Let him die a little.”

“Is there wine?” Robert Jordan asked the table at large, leaning forward, his hands on the table.

“There is little left,” Pablo said sullenly. Robert Jordan decided he had better look at the other three and try to see where he stood.

“In that case, let me have a cup of water. Thou,” he called to the girl. “Bring me a cup of water.”

The girl looked at the woman, who said nothing, and gave no sign of having heard, then she went to a kettle containing water and dipped a cup full. She brought it to the table and put it down before him. Robert Jordan smiled at her. At the same time he sucked in on his stomach muscles and swung a little to the left on his stool so that his pistol slipped around on his belt closer to where he wanted it. He reached his hand down toward his hip pocket and Pablo watched him. He knew they all were watching him, too, but he watched only Pablo. His hand came up from the hip pocket with the leather-covered flask and he unscrewed the top and then, lifting the cup, drank half the water and poured very Slowly from the flask into the cup.

“It is too strong for thee or I would give thee some,” he said to the girl and smiled at her again. “There is little left or I would offer some to thee,” he said to Pablo.

“I do not like anis,” Pablo said.

The acrid smell had carried across the table and he had picked out the one familiar component.

“Good,” said Robert Jordan. “Because there is very little left.”

“What drink is that?” the gypsy asked.

“A medicine,” Robert Jordan said. “Do you want to taste it?”

“What is it for?”

“For everything,” Robert Jordan said. “It cures everything. If you have anything wrong this will cure it.”

“Let me taste it,” the gypsy said.

Robert Jordan pushed the cup toward him. It was a milky yellow now with the water and he hoped the gypsy would not take more than a swallow. There was very little of it left and one cup of it took the place of the evening papers, of all the old evenings in cafés, of all chestnut trees that would be in bloom now in this month, of the great slow horses of the outer boulevards, of book shops, of kiosques, and of galleries, of the Parc Montsouris, of the Stade Buffalo, and of the Butte Chaumont, of the Guaranty Trust Company and the Ile de la Cite, of Foyot’s old hotel, and of being able to read and relax in the evening; of all the things he had enjoyed and forgotten and that came back to him when he tasted that opaque, bitter, tongue-numbing, brain-warming, stomach-warming, idea-changing liquid alchemy.

The gypsy made a face and handed the cup back. “It smells of anis but it is bitter as gall,” he said. “It is better to be sick than have that medicine.”

“That’s the wormwood,” Robert Jordan told him. “In this, the real absinthe, there is wormwood. It’s supposed to rot your brain out but I don’t believe it. It only changes the ideas. You should pour water into it very slowly, a few drops at a time. But I poured it into the water.”

“What are you saying?” Pablo said angrily, feeling the mockery.

“Explaining the medicine,” Robert Jordan told him and grinned. “I bought it in Madrid. It was the last bottle and it’s lasted me three weeks.” He took a big swallow of it and felt it coasting over his tongue in delicate anxsthesia. He looked at Pablo and grinned again.

“How’s business?” he asked.

Pablo did not answer and Robert Jordan looked carefully at the other three men at the table. One had a large flat face, flat and brown as a Serrano ham with a nose flattened and broken, and the long thin Russian cigarette, projecting at an angle, made the face look even flatter. This man had short gray hair and a gray stubble of beard and wore the usual black smock buttoned at the neck. He looked down at the table when Robert Jordan looked at him but his eyes were steady and they did not blink. The other two were evidently brothers. They looked much alike and were both short, heavily built, dark haired, their hair growing low on their foreheads, dark-eyed and brown. One had a scar across his forehead above his left eye and as he looked at them, they looked back at him steadily. One looked to be about twenty-six or -eight, the other perhaps two years older.

“What are you looking at?” one brother, the one with the scar, asked.

“Thee,” Robert Jordan said.

“Do you see anything rare?”

“No,” said Robert Jordan. “Have a cigarette?”

“Why not?” the brother said. He had not taken any before. “These are like the other had. He of the train.”

“Were you at the train?”

“We were all at the train,” the brother said quietly. “All except the old man.”

“That is what we should do now,” Pablo said. “Another train.”

“We can do that,” Robert Jordan said. “After the bridge.”

He could see that the wife of Pablo had turned now from the fire and was listening. When he said the word “bridge” every one was quiet.

“After the bridge,” he said again deliberately and took a sip of the absinthe. I might as well bring it on, he thought. It’s coming anyWay.

“I do not go for the bridge,” Pablo said, looking down at the table. “Neither me nor my people.”

Robert Jordan said nothing. He looked at Anselmo and raised the cup. “Then we shall do it alone, old one,” he said and smiled.

“Without this coward,” Anselmo said.

“What did you say?” Pablo spoke to the old man.

“Nothing for thee. I did not speak to thee,” Anselmo told him.

Robert Jordan now looked past the table to where the wife of Pablo was standing by the fire. She had said nothing yet, nor given any sign. But now she said something he could not hear to the girl and the girl rose from the cooking fire, slipped along the wall, opened the blanket that hung over the mouth of the cave and went out. I think it is going to come now, Robert Jordan thought. I believe this is it. I did not want it to be this way but this seems to be the way it is.

“Then we will do the bridge without thy aid,” Robert Jordan said to Pablo.

“No,” Pablo said, and Robert Jordan watched his face sweat. “Thou wilt blow no bridge here.”


“Thou wilt blow no bridge,” Pablo said heavily.

“And thou?” Robert Jordan spoke to the wife of Pablo who was standing, still and huge, by the fire. She turned toward them and said, “I am for the bridge.” Her face was lit by the fire and it was flushed and it shone warm and dark and handsome now in the firelight as it was meant to be.

“What do you say?” Pablo said to her and Robert Jordan saw the betrayed look on his face and the sweat on his forehead as he turned his head.

“I am for the bridge and against thee,” the wife of Pablo said. “Nothing more.”

“I am also for the bridge,” the man with the flat face and the broken nose said, crushing the end of the cigarette on the table.

“To me the bridge means nothing,” one of the brothers said. “I am for the mujer of Pablo.”

“Equally,” said the other brother.

“Equally,” the gypsy said.

Robert Jordan watched Pablo and as he watched, letting his right hand hang lower and lower, ready if it should be necessary, half hoping it would be (feeling perhaps that were the simplest and easiest yet not wishing to spoil what had gone so well, knowing how quickly all of a family, all of a clan, all of a band, can turn against a stranger in a quarrel, yet thinking what could be done with the hand were the simplest and best and surgically the most sound now that this had happened), saw also the wife of Pablo standing there and watched her blush proudly and soundly and healthily as the allegiances were given.

“I am for the Republic,” the woman of Pablo said happily. “And the Republic is the bridge. Afterwards we will have time for other projects.”

“And thou,” Pablo said bitterly. “With your head of a seed bull and your heart of a whore. Thou thinkest there will be an afterwards from this bridge? Thou hast an idea of that which will pass?”

“That which must pass,” the woman of Pablo said. “That which must pass, will pass.”

“And it means nothing to thee to be hunted then like a beast after this thing from which we derive no profit? Nor to die in it?”

“Nothing,” the woman of Pablo said. “And do not try to frighten me, coward.”

“Coward,” Pablo said bitterly. “You treat a man as coward because he has a tactical sense. Because he can see the results of an idiocy in advance. It is not cowardly to know what is foolish.”

“Neither is it foolish to know what is cowardly,” said Anselmo, unable to resist making the phrase.

“Do you want to die?” Pablo said to him seriously and Robert Jordan saw how unrhetorical was the question.


“Then watch thy mouth. You talk too much about things you do not understand. Don’t you see that this is serious?” he said almost pitifully. “Am I the only one who sees the seriousness of this?”

I believe so, Robert Jordan thought. Old Pablo, old boy, I believe so. Except me. You can see it and I see it and the woman read it in my hand but she doesn’t see it, yet. Not yet she doesn’t see it.

“Am I a leader for nothing?” Pablo asked. “I know what I speak of. You others do not know. This old man talks nonsense. He is an old man who is nothing but a messenger and a guide for foreigners. This foreigner comes here to do a thing for the good of the foreigners. For his good we must be sacrificed. I am for the good and the safety of all.”

“Safety,” the wife of Pablo said. “There is no such thing as safety. There are so many seeking safety here now that they make a great danger. In seeking safety now you lose all.”

She stood now by the table with the big spoon in her hand.

“There is safety,” Pablo said. “Within the danger there is the safety of knowing what chances to take. It is like the bullfighter who knowing what he is doing, takes no chances and is safe.”

“Until he is gored,” the woman said bitterly. “How many times have I heard matadors talk like that before they took a goring. How often have I heard Finito say that it is all knowledge and that the bull never gored the man; rather the man gored himself on the horn of the bull. Always do they talk that way in their arrogance before a goring. Afterwards we visit them in the clinic.” Now she was mimicking a visit to a bedside, “Hello, old timer. Hello,” she boomed. Then, “Buenas, Compadre. How goes it, Pilar?” imitating the weak voice of the wounded bullfighter. “How did this happen, Finito, Chico, how did this dirty accident occur to thee?” booming it out in her own voice. Then talking weak and small, “It is nothing, woman. Pilar, it is nothing. It shouldn’t have happened. I killed him very well, you understand. Nobody could have killed him better. Then having killed him exactly as I should and him absolutely dead, swaying on his legs, and ready to fall of his own weight, I walked away from him with a certain amount of arrogance and much style and from the back he throws me this horn between the cheeks of my buttocks and it comes out of my liver.” She commenced to laugh, dropping the imitation of the almost effeminate bullfighter’s voice and booming again now. “You and your safety! Did I live nine years with three of the worst paid matadors in the world not to learn about fear and about safety? Speak to me of anything but safety. And thee. What illusions I put in thee and how they have turned out! From one year of war thou has become lazy, a drunkard and a coward.”

“In that way thou hast no right to speak,” Pablo said. “And less even before the people and a stranger.”

“In that way will I speak,” the wife of Pablo went on. “Have you not heard? Do you still believe that you command here?”

“Yes,” Pablo said. “Here I command.”

“Not in joke,” the woman said. “Here I command! Haven’t you heard la gente? Here no one commands but me. You can stay if you wish and eat of the food and drink of the wine, but not too bloody much, and share in the work if thee wishes. But here I command.”

“I should shoot thee and the foreigner both,” Pablo said suilenly.

“Try it,” the woman said. “And see what happens.”

“A cup of water for me,” Robert Jordan said, not taking his eyes from the man with his sullen heavy head and the woman standing proudly and confidently holding the big spoon as authoritatively as though it were a baton.

“Maria,” called the woman of Pablo and when the girl came in the door she said, “Water for this comrade.”

Robert Jordan reached for his flask and, bringing the flask out, as he brought it he loosened the pistol in the holster and swung it on top of his thigh. He poured a second absinthe into his cup and took the cup of water the girl brought him and commenced to drip it into the cup, a little at a time. The girl stood at his elbow, watching him.

“Outside,” the woman of Pablo said to her, gesturing with the spoon.

“It is cold outside,” the girl said, her cheek close to Robert Jordan’s, watching what was happening in the cup where the liquor was clouding.

“Maybe,” the woman of Pablo said. “But in here it is too hot.” Then she said, kindly, “It is not for long.”

The girl shook her head and went out.

I don’t think he is going to take this much more, Robert Jordan thought to himself. He held the cup in one hand and his other hand rested, frankly now, on the pistol. He had slipped the safety catch and he felt the worn comfort of the checked grip chafed almost smooth and touched the round, cool companionship of the trigger guard. Pablo no longer looked at him but only at the woman. She went on, “Listen to me, drunkard. You understand who commands here?”

“I command.”

“No. Listen. Take the wax from thy hairy ears. Listen well. I command.”

Pablo looked at her and you could tell nothing of what he was thinking by his face. He looked at her quite deliberately and then he looked across the table at Robert Jordan. He looked at him a long time contemplatively and then he looked back at the woman, again.

“All right. You command,” he said. “And if you want he can command too. And the two of you can go to hell.” He was looking the woman straight in the face and he was neither dominated by her nor seemed to be much affected by her. “It is possible that I am lazy and that I drink too much. You may consider me a coward but there you are mistaken. But I am not stupid.” He paused. “That you should command and that you should like it. Now if you are a woman as well as a commander, that we should have something to eat.”

“Maria,” the woman of Pablo called.

The girl put her head inside the blanket across the cave mouth. “Enter now and serve the supper.”

The girl came in and walked across to the low table by the hearth and picked up the enameled-ware bowls and brought them to the table.

“There is wine enough for all,” the woman of Pablo said to Robert Jordan. “Pay no attention to what that drunkard says. When this is finished we will get more. Finish that rare thing thou art drinking and take a cup of wine.”

Robert Jordan swallowed down the last of the absinthe, feeling it, gulped that way, making a warm, small, fume-rising, wet, chemicalchange-producing heat in him and passed the cup for wine. The girl dipped it full for him and smiled.

“Well, did you see the bridge?” the gypsy asked. The others, who had not opened their mouths after the change of allegiance, were all leaning forward to listen now.

“Yes,” Robert Jordan said. “It is something easy to do. Would you like me to show you?”

“Yes, man. With much interest.”

Robert Jordan took out the notebook from his shirt pocket and showed them the sketches.

“Look how it seems,” the flat-faced man, who was named Primitivo, said. “It is the bridge itself.”

Robert Jordan with the point of the pencil explained how the bridge should be blown and the reason for the placing of the charges.

“What simplicity,” the scarred-faced brother, who was called Andrés, said. “And how do you explode them?”

Robert Jordan explained that too and, as he showed them, he felt the girl’s arm resting on his shoulder as she looked. The woman of Pablo was watching too. Only Pablo took no interest, sitting by himself with a cup of wine that he replenished by dipping into the big bowl Maria had filled from the wineskin that hung to the left of the entrance to the cave.

“Hast thou done much of this?” the girl asked Robert Jordan softly.


“And can we see the doing of it?”

“Yes. Why not?”

“You will see it,” Pablo said from his end of the table. “I believe that you will see it.”

“Shut up,” the woman of Pablo said to him and suddenly remembering what she had seen in the hand in the afternoon she was wildly, unreasonably angry. “Shut up, coward. Shut up, bad luck bird. Shut up, murderer.”

“Good,” Pablo said. “I shut up. It is thou who commands now and you should continue to look at the pretty pictures. But remember that I am not stupid.”

The woman of Pablo could feel her rage changing to sorrow and to a feeling of the thwarting of all hope and promise. She knew this feeling from when she was a girl and she knew the things that caused it all through her life. It came now suddenly and she put it away from her and would not let it touch her, neither her nor the Republic, and she said, “Now we will eat. Serve the bowls from the pot, Maria.”