For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 41

Pablo stopped and dismounted in the dark. Robert Jordan heard the creaking and the heavy breathing as they all dismounted and the clinking of a bridle as a horse tossed his head. He smelled the horses and the unwashed and sour slept-in-clothing smell of the new men and the wood-smoky sleep-stale smell of the others who had been in the cave. Pablo was standing close to him and he smelled the brassy, dead-wine smell that came from him like the taste of a copper coin in your mouth. He lit a cigarette, cupping his hand to hide the light, pulled deep on it, and heard Pablo say very softly, “Get the grenade sack, Pilar, while we hobble these.”

“Agustín,” Robert Jordan said in a whisper, “you and Anselmo come now with me to the bridge. Have you the sack of pans for the máquina?”

“Yes,” Agustín said. “Why not?”

Robert Jordan went over to where Pilar was unpacking one of the horses with the help of Primitivo.

“Listen, woman,” he said softly.

“What now?” she whispered huskily, swinging a cinch hook clear from under the horse’s belly.

“Thou understandest that there is to be no attack on the post until thou hearest the falling of the bombs?”

“How many times dost thou have to tell me?” Pilar said. “You are getting like an old woman, Inglés.”

“Only to check,” Robert Jordan said. “And after the destruction of the post you fall back onto the bridge and cover the road from above and my left flank.”

“The first time thou outlined it I understood it as well as I will ever understand it,” Pilar whispered to him. “Get thee about thy business.”

“That no one should make a move nor fire a shot nor throw a bomb until the noise of the bombardment comes,” Robert Jordan said softly.

“Do not molest me more,” Pilar whispered angrily. “I have understood this since we were at Sordo’s.”

Robert Jordan went to where Pablo was tying the horses. “I have only hobbled those which are liable to panic,” Pablo said. “These are tied so a pull of the rope will release them, see?”


“I will tell the girl and the gypsy how to handle them,” Pablo said. His new men were standing in a group by themselves leaning on their carbines.

“Dost understand all?” Robert Jordan asked.

“Why not?” Pablo said. “Destroy the post. Cut the wire. Fall back on the bridge. Cover the bridge until thou blowest.”

“And nothing to start until the commencement of the bombardment.”

“Thus it is.”

“Well then, much luck.”

Pablo grunted. Then he said, “Thou wilt cover us well with the máquina and with thy small máquina when we come back, eh, Inglés?”

“Dela primera,” Robert Jordan said. “Off the top of the basket.”

“Then,” Pablo said. “Nothing more. But in that moment thou must be very careful, Inglés. It will not be simple to do that unless thou art very careful.”

“I will handle the máquina myself,” Robert Jordan said to him.

“Hast thou much experience? For I am of no mind to be shot by Agustín with his belly full of good intentions.”

“I have much experience. Truly. And if Agustín uses either máquina I will see that he keeps it way above thee. Above, above and above.”

“Then nothing more,” Pablo said. Then he said softly and confidentially, “There is still a lack of horses.”

The son of a bitch, Robert Jordan thought. Or does he think I did not understand him the first time.

“I go on foot,” he said. “The horses are thy affair.”

“Nay, there will be a horse for thee, Inglés,” Pablo said softly. “There will be horses for all of us.”

“That is thy problem,” Robert Jordan said. “Thou dost not have to count me. Hast enough rounds for thy new máquina?”

“Yes,” Pablo said. “All that the cavalryman carried. I have fired only four to try it. I tried it yesterday in the high hills.”

“We go now,” Robert Jordan said. “We must be there early and well hidden.”

“We all go now,” Pablo said. “Suerte, Inglés.”

I wonder what the bastard is planning now, Robert Jordan said. But I am pretty sure I know. Well, that is his, not mine. Thank God I do not know these new men.

He put his hand out and said, “Suerte, Pablo,” and their two hands gripped in the dark.

Robert Jordan, when he put his hand out, expected that it would be like grasping something reptilian or touching a leper. He did not know what Pablo’s hand would feel like. But in the dark Pablo’s hand gripped his hard and pressed it frankly and he returned the grip. Pablo had a good hand in the dark and feeling it gave Robert Jordan the strangest feeling he had felt that morning. We must be allies now, he thought. There was always much handshaking with allies. Not to mention decorations and kissing on both cheeks, he thought. I’m glad we do not have to do that. I suppose all allies are like this. They always hate each other au fond. But this Pablo is a strange man.

“Suerte, Pablo,” he said and gripped the strange, firm, purposeful hand hard. “I will cover thee well. Do not worry.”

“I am sorry for having taken thy material,” Pablo said. “It was an equivocation.”

“But thou has brought what we needed.”

“I do not hold this of the bridge against thee, Inglés,” Pablo said. “I see a successful termination for it.”

“What are you two doing? Becoming maricones?” Pilar said suddenly beside them in the dark. “That is all thou hast lacked,” she said to Pablo. “Get along, Inglés, and cut thy good-bys short before this one steals the rest of thy explosive.”

“Thou dost not understand me, woman,” Pablo said. “The Inglés and I understand one another.”

“Nobody understands thee. Neither God nor thy mother,” Pilar said. “Nor I either. Get along, Inglés. Make thy good-bys with thy cropped head and go. Me cago en tu padre, but I begin to think thou art afraid to see the bull come out.”

“Thy mother,” Robert Jordan said.

“Thou never hadst one,” Pilar whispered cheerfully. “Now go, because I have a great desire to start this and get it over with. Go with thy people,” she said to Pablo. “Who knows how long their stern resolution is good for? Thou hast a couple that I would not trade thee for. Take them and go.”

Robert Jordan slung his pack on his back and walked over to the horses to find Maria.

“Good-by, guapa,” he said. “I will see thee soon.”

He had an unreal feeling about all of this now as though he had said it all before or as though it were a train that were going, especially as though it were a train and he was standing on the platform of a railway station.

“Good-by, Roberto,” she said. “Take much care.”

“Of course,” he said. He bent his head to kiss her and his pack rolled forward against the back of his head so that his forehead bumped hers hard. As this happened he knew this had happened before too.

“Don’t cry,” he said, awkward not only from the load.

“I do not,” she said. “But come back quickly.”

“Do not worry when you hear the firing. There is bound to be much firing.”

“Nay. Only come back quickly.”

“Good-by, guapa,” he said awkwardly.

“Salud, Roberto.”

Robert Jordan had not felt this young since he had taken the train at Red Lodge to go down to Billings to get the train there to go away to school for the first time. He had been afraid to go and he did not want any one to know it and, at the station, just before the conductor picked up the box he would step up on to reach the steps of the day coach, his father had kissed him good-by and said, “May the Lord watch between thee and me while we are absent the one from the other.” His father had been a very religious man and he had said it simply and sincerely. But his moustache had been moist and his eyes were damp with emotion and Robert Jordan had been so embarrassed by all of it, the damp religious sound of the prayer, and by his father kissing him good-by, that he had felt suddenly so much older than his father and sorry for him that he could hardly bear it.

After the train started he had stood on the rear platform and watched the station and the water tower grow smaller and smaller and the rails crossed by the ties narrowed toward a point where the station and the water tower stood now minute and tiny in the steady clicking that was taking him away.

The brakeman said, “Dad seemed to take your going sort of hard, Bob.”

“Yes,” he had said watching the sagebrush that ran from the edge of the road bed between the passing telegraph poles across to the streaming-by dusty stretching of the road. He was looking for sage hens.

“You don’t mind going away to school?”

“No,” he had said and it was true.

It would not have been true before but it was true that minute and it was only now, at this parting, that he ever felt as young again as he had felt before that train left. He felt very young now and very awkward and he was saying good-by as awkwardly as one can be when saying good-by to a young girl when you are a boy in school, saying good-by at the front porch, not knowing whether to kiss the girl or not. Then he knew it was not the good-by he was being awkward about. It was the meeting he was going to. The good-by was only a part of the awkwardness he felt about the meeting.

You’re getting them again, he told himself. But I suppose there is no one that does not feel that he is too young to do it. He would not put a name to it. Come on, he said to himself. Come on. It is too early for your second childhood.

“Good-by, guapa,” he said. “Good-by, rabbit.”

“Good-by, my Roberto,” she said and he went over to where Anselmo and Agustín were standing and said, “Vamonos.”

Anselmo swung his heavy pack up. Agustín, fully loaded since the cave, was leaning against a tree, the automatic rifle jutting over the top of his load.

“Good,” he said, “Vamonos.”

The three of them started down the hill.

“Buena suerte, Don Roberto,” Fernando said as the three of them passed him as they moved in single file between the trees. Fernando was crouched on his haunches a little way from where they passed but he spoke with great dignity.

“Buena suerte thyself, Fernando,” Robert Jordan said.

“In everything thou doest,” Agustín said.

“Thank you, Don Roberto,” Fernando said, undisturbed by Agustín.

“That one is a phenomenon, Inglés,” Agustín whispered.

“I believe thee,” Robert Jordan said. “Can I help thee? Thou art loaded like a horse.”

“I am all right,” Agustín said. “Man, but I am content we are started.”

“Speak softly,” Anselmo said. “From now on speak little and softly.”

Walking carefully, downhill, Anselmo in the lead, Agustín next, Robert Jordan placing his feet carefully so that he would not slip, feeling the dead pine needles under his rope-soled shoes, bumping a tree root with one foot and putting a hand forward and feeling the cold metal jut of the automatic rifle barrel and the folded legs of the tripod, then working sideways down the hill, his shoes sliding and grooving the forest floor, putting his left hand out again and touching the rough bark of a tree trunk, then as he braced himself his hand feeling a smooth place, the base of the palm of his hand coming away sticky from the resinous sap where a blaze had been cut, they dropped down the steep wooded hillside to the point above the bridge where Robert Jordan and Anselmo had watched the first day.

Now Anselmo was halted by a pine tree in the dark and he took Robert Jordan’s wrist and whispered, so low Jordan could hardly hear him, “Look. There is the fire in his brazier.”

It was a point of light below where Robert Jordan knew the bridge joined the road.

“Here is where we watched,” Anselmo said. He took Robert Jordan’s hand and bent it down to touch a small fresh blaze low on a tree trunk. “This I marked while thou watched. To the right is where thou wished to put the máquina.”

“We will place it there.”


They put the packs down behind the base of the pine trunks and the two of them followed Anselmo over to the level place where there was a clump of seedling pines.

“It is here,” Anselmo said. “Just here.”

“From here, with daylight,” Robert Jordan crouched behind the small trees whispered to Agustín, “thou wilt see a small stretch of road and the entrance to the bridge. Thou wilt see the length of the bridge and a small stretch of road at the other end before it rounds the curve of the rocks.”

Agustín said nothing.

“Here thou wilt lie while we prepare the exploding and fire on anything that comes from above or below.”

“Where is that light?” Agustín asked.

“In the sentry box at this end,” Robert Jordan whispered.

“Who deals with the sentries?”

“The old man and I, as I told thee. But if we do not deal with them, thou must fire into the sentry boxes and at them if thou seest them.”

“Yes. You told me that.”

“After the explosion when the people of Pablo come around that corner, thou must fire over their heads if others come after them. Thou must fire high above them when they appear in any event that others must not come. Understandest thou?”

“Why not? It is as thou saidst last night.”

“Hast any questions?”

“Nay. I have two sacks. I can load them from above where it will not be seen and bring them here.”

“But do no digging here. Thou must be as well hid as we were at the top.”

“Nay. I will bring the dirt in them in the dark. You will see. They will not show as I will fix them.”

“Thou are very close. Sabes? In the daylight this clump shows clearly from below.”

“Do not worry, Inglés. Where goest thou?”

“I go close below with the small máquina of mine. The old man will cross the gorge now to be ready for the box of the other end. It faces in that direction.”

“Then nothing more,” said Agustín. “Salud, Inglés. Hast thou tobacco?”

“Thou canst not smoke. It is too close.”

“Nay. Just to hold in the mouth. To smoke later.”

Robert Jordan gave him his cigarette case and Agustín took three cigarettes and put them inside the front flap of his herdsman’s flat cap. He spread the legs of his tripod with the gun muzzle in the low pines and commenced unpacking his load by touch and laying the things where he wanted them.

“Nada mas,” he said. “Well, nothing more.”

Anselmo and Robert Jordan left him there and went back to where the packs were.

“Where had we best leave them?” Robert Jordan whispered.

“I think here. But canst thou be sure of the sentry with thy small máquina from here?”

“Is this exactly where we were on that day?”

“The same tree,” Anselmo said so low Jordan could barely hear him and he knew he was speaking without moving his lips as he had spoken that first day. “I marked it with my knife.”

Robert Jordan had the feeling again of it all having happened before, but this time it came from his own repetition of a query and Anselmo’s answer. It had been the same with Agustín, who had asked a question about the sentries although he knew the answer.

“It is close enough. Even too close,” he whispered. “But the light is behind us. We are all right here.”

“Then I will go now to cross the gorge and be in position at the other end,” Anselmo said. Then he said, “Pardon me, Inglés. So that there is no mistake. In case I am stupid.”

“What?” he breathed very softly.

“Only to repeat it so that I will do it exactly.”

“When I fire, thou wilt fire. When thy man is eliminated, cross the bridge to me. I will have the packs down there and thou wilt do as I tell thee in the placing of the charges. Everything I will tell thee. If aught happens to me do it thyself as I showed thee. Take thy time and do it well, wedging all securely with the wooden wedges and lashing the grenades firmly.”

“It is all clear to me,” Anselmo said. “I remember it all. Now I go. Keep thee well covered, Inglés, when daylight comes.”

“When thou firest,” Robert Jordan said, “take a rest and make very sure. Do not think of it as a man but as a target, de acuerdo? Do not shoot at the whole man but at a point. Shoot for the exact center of the belly—if he faces thee. At the middle of the back, if he is looking away. Listen, old one. When I fire if the man is sitting down he will stand up before he runs or crouches. Shoot then. If he is still sitting down shoot. Do not wait. But make sure. Get to within fifty yards. Thou art a hunter. Thou hast no problem.”

“I will do as thou orderest,” Anselmo said.

“Yes. I order it thus,” Robert Jordan said.

I’m glad I remembered to make it an order, he thought. That helps him out. That takes some of the curse off. I hope it does, anyway. Some of it. I had forgotten about what he told me that first day about the killing.

“It is thus I have ordered,” he said. “Now go.”

“Me voy,” said Anselmo. “Until soon, Inglés.”

“Until soon, old one,” Robert Jordan said.

He remembered his father in the railway station and the wetness of that farewell and he did not say Salud nor good-by nor good luck nor anything like that.

“Hast wiped the oil from the bore of thy gun, old one?” he whispered. “So it will not throw wild?”

“In the cave,” Anselmo said. “I cleaned them all with the pullthrough.”

“Then until soon,” Robert Jordan said and the old man went off, noiseless on his rope-soled shoes, swinging wide through the trees.

Robert Jordan lay on the pine-needle floor of the forest and listened to the first stirring in the branches of the pines of the wind that would come with daylight. He took the clip out of the submachine gun and worked the lock back and forth. Then he turned the gun, with the lock open and in the dark he put the muzzle to his lips and blew through the barrel, the metal tasting greasy and oily as his tongue touched the edge of the bore. He laid the gun across his forearm, the action up so that no pine needles or rubbish could get in it, and shucked all the cartridges out of the clip with his thumb and onto a handkerchief he had spread in front of him. Then, feeling each cartridge in the dark and turning it in his fingers, he pressed and slid them one at a time back into the clip. Now the clip was heavy again in his hand and he slid it back into the submachine gun and felt it click home. He lay on his belly behind the pine trunk, the gun across his left forearm and watched the point of light below him. Sometimes he could not see it and then he knew that the man in the sentry box had moved in front of the brazier. Robert Jordan lay there and waited for daylight.