For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 5

Robert Jordan pushed aside the saddle blanket that hung over the mouth of the cave and, stepping out, took a deep breath of the cold night air. The mist had cleared away and the stars were out. There was no wind, and, outside now of the warm air of the cave, heavy with smoke of both tobacco and charcoal, with the odor of cooked rice and meat, saffron, pimentos, and oil, the tarry, wine-spilled smell of the big skin hung beside the door, hung by the neck and the four legs extended, wine drawn from a plug fitted in one leg, wine that spilled a little onto the earth of the floor, settling the dust smell; out now from the odors of different herbs whose names he did not know that hung in bunches from the ceiling, with long ropes of garlic, away now from the copper-penny, red wine and garlic, horse sweat and man sweat dried in the clothing (acrid and gray the man sweat, sweet and sickly the dried brushed-off lather of horse sweat), of the men at the table, Robert Jordan breathed deeply of the clear night air of the mountains that smelled of the pines and of the dew on the grass in the meadow by the stream. Dew had fallen heavily since the wind had dropped, but, as he stood there, he thought there would be frost by morning.

As he stood breathing deep and then listening to the night, he heard first, firing far away, and then he heard an owl cry in the timber below, where the horse corral was slung. Then inside the cave he could hear the gypsy starting to sing and the soft chording of a guitar.

“I had an inheritance from my father,” the artificially hardened voice rose harshly and hung there. Then went on:

“ It was the moon and the sun

“ And though I roam all over the world

“ The spending of it’s never done.”

The guitar thudded with chorded applause for the singer. “Good,” Robert Jordan heard some one say. “Give us the Catalan, gypsy.”


“Yes. Yes. The Catalan.”

“All right,” the gypsy said and sang mournfully,

“ My nose is flat.

“ My face is black.

“ But still I am a man.”

“Ole!” some one said. “Go on, gypsy!”

The gypsy’s voice rose tragically and mockingly.

“ Thank God I am a Negro.

“ And not a Catalan!”

“There is much noise,” Pablo’s voice said. “Shut up, gypsy.”

“Yes,” he heard the woman’s voice. “There is too much noise. You could call the guardia civil with that voice and still it has no quality.”

“I know another verse,” the gypsy said and the guitar commenced

“Save it,” the woman told him.

The guitar stopped.

“I am not good in voice tonight. So there is no loss,” the gypsy said and pushing the blanket aside he came out into the dark.

Robert Jordan watched him walk over to a tree and then come toward him.

“Roberto,” the gypsy said softly.

“Yes, Rafael,” he said. He knew the gypsy had been affected by the wine from his voice. He himself had drunk the two absinthes and some wine but his head was clear and cold from the strain of the difficulty with Pablo.

“Why didst thou not kill Pablo?” the gypsy said very softly.

“Why kill him?”

“You have to kill him sooner or later. Why did you not approve of the moment?”

“Do you speak seriously?”

“What do you think they all waited for? What do you think the woman sent the girl away for? Do you believe that it is possible to continue after what has been said?”

“That you all should kill him.”

“Qué va,” the gypsy said quietly. “That is your business. Three or four times we waited for you to kill him. Pablo has no friends.”

“I had the idea,” Robert Jordan said. “But I left it.”

“Surely all could see that. Every one noted your preparations. Why didn’t you do it?”

“I thought it might molest you others or the woman.”

“Qué va. And the woman waiting as a whore waits for the flight of the big bird. Thou art younger than thou appearest.”

“It is possible.”

“Kill him now,” the gypsy urged.

“That is to assassinate.”

“Even better,” the gypsy said very softly. “Less danger. Go on. Kill him now.”

“I cannot in that way. It is repugnant to me and it is not how one should act for the cause.”

“Provoke him then,” the gypsy said. “But you have to kill him. There is no remedy.”

As they spoke, the owl flew between the trees with the softness of all silence, dropping past them, then rising, the wings beating quickly, but with no noise of feathers moving as the bird hunted.

“Look at him,” the gypsy said in the dark. “Thus should men move.”

“And in the day, blind in a tree with crows around him,” Robert Jordan said.

“Rarely,” said the gypsy. “And then by hazard. Kill him,” he went on. “Do not let it become difficult.”

“Now the moment is passed.”

“Provoke it,” the gypsy said. “Or take advantage of the quiet.”

The blanket that closed the cave door opened and light came out. Some one came toward where they stood.

“It is a beautiful night,” the man said in a heavy, dull voice. “We will have good weather.”

It was Pablo.

He was smoking one of the Russian cigarettes and in the glow, as he drew on the cigarette, his round face showed. They could see his heavy, long-armed body in the starlight.

“Do not pay any attention to the woman,” he said to Robert Jordan. In the dark the cigarette glowed bright, then showed in his hand as he lowered it. “She is difficult sometimes. She is a good woman. Very loyal to the Republic.” The light of the cigarette jerked slightly now as he spoke. He must be talking with it in the corner of his mouth, Robert Jordan thought. “We should have no difficulties. We are of accord. I am glad you have come.” The cigarette glowed brightly. “Pay no attention to arguments,” he said. “You are very welcome here.

“Excuse me now,” he said. “I go to see how they have picketed the horses.”

He went off through the trees to the edge of the meadow and they heard a horse nicker from below.

“You see?” the gypsy said. “Now you see? In this way has the moment escaped.”

Robert Jordan said nothing.

“I go down there,” the gypsy said angrily.

“To do what?”

“Qué va, to do what. At least to prevent him leaving.”

“Can he leave with a horse from below?”


“Then go to the spot where you can prevent him.”

“Agustín is there.”

“Go then and speak with Agustín. Tell him that which has happened.”

“Agustín will kill him with pleasure.”

“Less bad,” Robert Jordan said. “Go then above and tell him all as it happened.”

“And then?”

“I go to look below in the meadow.”

“Good. Man. Good,” he could not see Rafael’s face in the dark but he could feel him smiling. “Now you have tightened your garters,” the gypsy said approvingly.

“Go to Agustín,” Robert Jordan said to him.

“Yes, Roberto, yes,” said the gypsy.

Robert Jordan walked through the pines, feeling his way from tree to tree to the edge of the meadow. Looking across it in the darkness, lighter here in the open from the starlight, he saw the dark bulks of the picketed horses. He counted them where they were scattered between him and the stream. There were five. Robert Jordan sat down at the foot of a pine tree and looked out across the meadow.

I am tired, he thought, and perhaps my judgment is not good. But my obligation is the bridge and to fulfill that, I must take no useless risk of myself until I complete that duty. Of course it is sometimes more of a risk not to accept chances which are necessary to take but I have done this so far, trying to let the situation take its own course. If it is true, as the gypsy says, that they expected me to kill Pablo then I should have done that. But it was never clear to me that they did expect that. For a stranger to kill where he must work with the people afterwards is very bad. It may be done in action, and it may be done if backed by sufficient discipline, but in this case I think it would be very bad, although it was a temptation and seemed a short and simple way. But I do not believe anything is that short nor that simple in this country and, while I trust the woman absolutely, I could not tell how she would react to such a drastic thing. One dying in such a place can be very ugly, dirty and repugnant. You could not tell how she would react. Without the woman there is no organization nor any discipline here and with the woman it can be very good. It would be ideal if she would kill him, or if the gypsy would (but he will not) or if the sentry, Agustín, would. Anselmo will if I ask it, though he says he is against all killing. He hates him, I believe, and he already trusts me and believes in me as a representative of what he believes in. Only he and the woman really believe in the Republic as far as I can see; but it is too early to know that yet.

As his eyes became used to the starlight he could see that Pablo was standing by one of the horses. The horse lifted his head from grazing; then dropped it impatiently. Pablo was standing by the horse, leaning against him, moving with him as he swung with the length of the picket rope and patting him on the neck. The horse was impatient at the tenderness while he was feeding. Robert Jordan could not see what Pablo was doing, nor hear what he was saying to the horse, but he could see that he was neither unpicketing nor saddling. He sat watching him, trying to think his problem out clearly.

“Thou my big good little pony,” Pablo was saying to the horse in the dark; it was the big bay stallion he was speaking to. “Thou lovely white-faced big beauty. Thou with the big neck arching like the viaduct of my pueblo,” he stopped. “But arching more and much finer.” The horse was snatching grass, swinging his head sideways as he pulled, annoyed by the man and his talking. “Thou art no woman nor a fool,” Pablo told the bay horse. “Thou, oh, thou, thee, thee, my big little pony. Thou art no woman like a rock that is burning. Thou art no colt of a girl with cropped head and the movement of a foal still wet from its mother. Thou dost not insult nor lie nor not understand. Thou, oh, thee, oh my good big little pony.”

It would have been very interesting for Robert Jordan to have heard Pablo speaking to the bay horse but he did not hear him because now, convinced that Pablo was only down checking on his horses, and having decided that it was not a practical move to kill him at this time, he stood up and walked back to the cave. Pablo stayed in the meadow talking to the horse for a long time. The horse understood nothing that he said; only, from the tone of the voice, that they were endearments and he had been in the corral all day and was hungry now, grazing impatiently at the limits of his picket rope, and the man annoyed him. Pablo shifted the picket pin finally and stood by the horse, not talking now. The horse went on grazing and was relieved now that the man did not bother him.