For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 6

Inside the cave, Robert Jordan sat on one of the rawhide stools in a corner by the fire listening to the woman. She was washing the dishes and the girl, Maria, was drying them and putting them away, kneeling to place them in the hollow dug in the wall that was used as a shelf.

“It is strange,” she said. “That El Sordo has not come. He should have been here an hour ago.”

“Did you advise him to come?”

“No. He comes each night.”

“Perhaps he is doing something. Some work.”

“It is possible,” she said. “If he does not come we must go to see him tomorrow.”

“Yes. Is it far from here?”

“No. It will be a good trip. I lack exercise.”

“Can I go?” Maria asked. “May I go too, Pilar?”

“Yes, beautiful,” the woman said, then turning her big face, “Isn’t she pretty?” she asked Robert Jordan. “How does she seem to thee? A little thin?”

“To me she seems very well,” Robert Jordan said. Maria filled his cup with wine. “Drink that,” she said. “It will make me seem even better. It is necessary to drink much of that for me to seem beautiful.”

“Then I had better stop,” Robert Jordan said. “Already thou seemest beautiful and more.”

“That’s the way to talk,” the woman said. “You talk like the good ones. What more does she seem?”

“Intelligent,” Robert Jordan said lamely. Maria giggled and the woman shook her head sadly. “How well you begin and how it ends, Don Roberto.”

“Don’t call me Don Roberto.”

“It is a joke. Here we say Don Pablo for a joke. As we say the Señorita Maria for a joke.”

“I don’t joke that way,” Robert Jordan said. “Camarada to me is what all should be called with seriousness in this war. In the joking commences a rottenness.”

“Thou art very religious about thy politics,” the woman teased him. “Thou makest no jokes?”

“Yes. I care much for jokes but not in the form of address. It is like a flag.”

“I could make jokes about a flag. Any flag,” the woman laughed. “To me no one can joke of anything. The old flag of yellow and gold we called pus and blood. The flag of the Republic with the purple added we call blood, pus and permanganate. It is a joke.”

“He is a Communist,” Maria said. “They are very serious gente.”

“Are you a Communist?”

“No I am an anti-fascist.”

“For a long time?”

“Since I have understood fascism.”

“How long is that?”

“For nearly ten years.”

“That is not much time,” the woman said. “I have been a Republican for twenty years.”

“My father was a Republican all his life,” Maria said. “It was for that they shot him.”

“My father was also a Republican all his life. Also my grandfather,” Robert Jordan said.

“In what country?”

“The United States.”

“Did they shoot them?” the woman asked.

“Qué va,” Maria said. “The United States is a country of Republicans. They don’t shoot you for being a Republican there.”

“All the same it is a good thing to have a grandfather who was a Republican,” the woman said. “It shows a good blood.”

“My grandfather was on the Republican national committee,” Robert Jordan said. That impressed even Maria.

“And is thy father still active in the Republic?” Pilar asked.

“No. He is dead.”

“Can one ask how he died?”

“He shot himself.”

“To avoid being tortured?” the woman asked.

“Yes,” Robert Jordan said. “To avoid being tortured.”

Maria looked at him with tears in her eyes. “My father,” she said, “could not obtain a weapon. Oh, I am very glad that your father had the good fortune to obtain a weapon.”

“Yes. It was pretty lucky,” Robert Jordan said. “Should we talk about something else?”

“Then you and me we are the same,” Maria said. She put her hand on his arm and looked in his face. He looked at her brown face and at the eyes that, since he had seen them, had never been as young as the rest of her face but that now were suddenly hungry and young and wanting.

“You could be brother and sister by the look,” the woman said. “But I believe it is fortunate that you are not.”

“Now I know why I have felt as I have,” Maria said. “Now it is clear.”

“Qué va,” Robert Jordan said and reaching over, he ran his hand over the top of her head. He had been wanting to do that all day and now he did it, he could feel his throat swelling. She moved her head under his hand and smiled up at him and he felt the thick but silky roughness of the cropped head rippling between his fingers. Then his hand was on her neck and then he dropped it.

“Do it again,” she said. “I wanted you to do that all day.”

“Later,” Robert Jordan said and his voice was thick.

“And me,” the woman of Pablo said in her booming voice. “I am expected to watch all this? I am expected not to be moved? One cannot. For fault of anything better; that Pablo should come back.”

Maria took no notice of her now, nor of the others playing cards at the table by the candlelight.

“Do you want another cup of wine, Roberto?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said. “Why not?”

“You’re going to have a drunkard like I have,” the woman of Pablo said. “With that rare thing he drank in the cup and all. Listen to me, Inglés.”

“Not Inglés. American.”

“Listen, then, American. Where do you plan to sleep?”

“Outside. I have a sleeping robe.”

“Good,” she said. “The night is clear?”

“And will be cold.”

“Outside then,” she said. “Sleep thee outside. And thy materials can sleep with me.”

“Good,” said Robert Jordan.

“Leave us for a moment,” Robert Jordan said to the girl and put his hand on her shoulder.


“I wish to speak to Pilar.”

“Must I go?”


“What is it?” the woman of Pablo said when the girl had gone over to the mouth of the cave where she stood by the big wineskin, watching the card players.

“The gypsy said I should have—” he began.

“No,” the woman interrupted. “He is mistaken.”

“If it is necessary that I—” Robert Jordan said quietly but with difficulty.

“Thee would have done it, I believe,” the woman said. “Nay, it is not necessary. I was watching thee. But thy judgment was good.”

“But if it is needful—”

“No,” the woman said. “I tell you it is not needful. The mind of the gypsy is corrupt.”

“But in weakness a man can be a great danger.”

“No. Thou dost not understand. Out of this one has passed all capacity for danger.”

“I do not understand.”

“Thou art very young still,” she said. “You will understand.” Then, to the girl, “Come, Maria. We are not talking more.”

The girl came over and Robert Jordan reached his hand out and patted her head. She stroked under his hand like a kitten. Then he thought that she was going to cry. But her lips drew up again and she looked at him and smiled.

“Thee would do well to go to bed now,” the woman said to Robert Jordan. “Thou hast had a long journey.”

“Good,” said Robert Jordan. “I will get my things.”