Pilar's story from Chapter 10
“Where were you at the start of the movement?” [asked Robert Jordan.]
“In my town.” [Pilar said.]
“Qué va, Avila.”
“Pablo said he was from Avila.”
“He lies. He wanted to take a big city for his town. It was this town,” and she named a town.
“And what happened?”
“Much,” the woman said. “Much. And all of it ugly. Even that which was glorious.”
“Tell me about it,” Robert Jordan said.
“It is brutal,” the woman said. “I do not like to tell it before the girl.”
“Tell it,” said Robert Jordan. “And if it is not for her, that she should not listen.”
“I can hear it,” Maria said. She put her hand on Robert Jordan’s. “There is nothing that I cannot hear.”
“It isn’t whether you can hear it,” Pilar said. “It is whether I should tell it to thee and make thee bad dreams.”
“I will not get bad dreams from a story,” Maria told her. “You think after all that has happened with us I should get bad dreams from a story?”
“Maybe it will give the Inglés bad dreams.”
“Try it and see.”
“No, Inglés, I am not joking. Didst thou see the start of the movement in any small town?”
“No,” Robert Jordan said.
“Then thou hast seen nothing. Thou hast seen the ruin that now is Pablo, but you should have seen Pablo on that day.”
“Nay. I do not want to.”
“All right, then. I will tell it truly as it was. But thee, guapa, if it reaches a point that it molests thee, tell me.”
“I will not listen to it if it molests me,” Maria told her. “It cannot be worse than many things.”
“I believe it can,” the woman said. “Give me another cigarette, Inglés, and vamonos.”
The girl leaned back against the heather on the bank of the stream and Robert Jordan stretched himself out, his shoulders against the ground and his head against a clump of the heather. He reached out and found Maria’s hand and held it in his, rubbing their two hands against the heather until she opened her hand and laid it flat on top of his as they listened.
“It was early in the morning when the civiles surrendered at the barracks,” Pilar began.
“You had assaulted the barracks?” Robert Jordan asked.
“Pablo had surrounded it in the dark, cut the telephone wires, placed dynamite under one wall and called on the guardia civil to surrender. They would not. And at daylight he blew the wall open. There was fighting. Two civiles were killed. Four were wounded and four surrendered.
“We all lay on roofs and on the ground and at the edge of walls and of buildings in the early morning light and the dust cloud of the explosion had not yet settled, for it rose high in the air and there was no wind to carry it, and all of us were firing into the broken side of the building, loading and firing into the smoke, and from within there was still the flashing of rifles and then there was a shout from in the smoke not to fire more, and out came the four civiles with their hands up. A big part of the roof had fallen in and the wall was gone and they came out to surrender.
“‘Are there more inside?’ Pablo shouted.
“‘There are wounded.’
“‘Guard these,’ Pablo said to four who had come up from where we were firing. ‘Stand there. Against the wall,’ he told the civiles. The four civiles stood against the wall, dirty, dusty, smoke-grimed, with the four who were guarding them pointing their guns at them and Pablo and the others went in to finish the wounded.
“After they had done this and there was no longer any noise of the wounded, neither groaning, nor crying out, nor the noise of shooting in the barracks, Pablo and the others came out and Pablo had his shotgun over his back and was carrying in his hand a Mauser pistol.
“‘Look, Pilar,’ he said. ‘This was in the hand of the officer who killed himself. Never have I fired a pistol. You,’ he said to one of the guards, ‘show me how it works. No. Don’t show me. Tell me.’
“The four civiles had stood against the wall, sweating and saying nothing while the shooting had gone on inside the barracks. They were all tall men with the faces of guardias civiles, which is the same model of face as mine is. Except that their faces were covered with the small stubble of this their last morning of not yet being shaved and they stood there against the wall and said nothing.
“‘You,’ said Pablo to the one who stood nearest him. ‘Tell me how it works.’
“‘Pull the small lever down,’ the man said in a very dry voice. ‘Pull the receiver back and let it snap forward.’
“‘What is the receiver?’ asked Pablo, and he looked at the four civiles. ‘What is the receiver?’
“‘The block on top of the action.’
“Pablo pulled it back, but it stuck. ‘What now?’ he said. ‘It is jammed. You have lied to me.’
“‘Pull it farther back and let it snap lightly forward,’ the civil said, and I have never heard such a tone of voice. It was grayer than a morning without sunrise.
“Pablo pulled and let go as the man had told him and the block snapped forward into place and the pistol was cocked with the hammer back. It is an ugly pistol, small in the round handle, large and flat in the barrel, and unwieldy. All this time the civiles had been watching him and they had said nothing.
“‘What are you going to do with us?’ one asked him.
“‘Shoot thee,’ Pablo said.
“‘When?’ the man asked in the same gray voice.
“‘Now,’ said Pablo.
“‘Where?’ asked the man.
“‘Here,’ said Pablo. ‘Here. Now. Here and now. Have you anything to say?’
“‘Nada,’ said the civil. ‘Nothing. But it is an ugly thing.’
“‘And you are an ugly thing,’ Pablo said. ‘You murderer of peasants. You who would shoot your own mother.’
“‘I have never killed any one,’ the civil said. ‘And do not speak of my mother.’
“‘Show us how to die. You, who have always done the killing.’
“‘There is no necessity to insult us,’ another civil said. ‘And we know how to die.’
“‘Kneel down against the wall with your heads against the wall,’ Pablo told them. The civiles looked at one another.
“‘Kneel, I say,’ Pablo said. ‘Get down and kneel.’
“‘How does it seem to you, Paco?’ one civil said to the tallest, who had spoken with Pablo about the pistol. He wore a corporal’s stripes on his sleeves and was sweating very much although the early morning was still cool.
“‘It is as well to kneel,’ he answered. ‘It is of no importance.’
“‘It is closer to the earth,’ the first one who had spoken said, trying to make a joke, but they were all too grave for a joke and no one smiled.
“‘Then let us kneel,’ the first civil said, and the four knelt, looking very awkward with their heads against the wall and their hands by their sides, and Pablo passed behind them and shot each in turn in the back of the head with the pistol, going from one to another and putting the barrel of the pistol against the back of their heads, each man slipping down as he fired. I can hear the pistol still, sharp and yet muffled, and see the barrel jerk and the head of the man drop forward. One held his head still when the pistol touched it. One pushed his head forward and pressed his forehead against the stone. One shivered in his whole body and his head was shaking. Only one put his hands in front of his eyes, and he was the last one, and the four bodies were slumped against the wall when Pablo turned away from them and came toward us with the pistol still in his hand.
“‘Hold this for me, Pilar,’ he said. ‘I do not know how to put down the hammer,’ and he handed me the pistol and stood there looking at the four guards as they lay against the wall of the barracks. All those who were with us stood there too, looking at them, and no one said anything.
“We had won the town and it was still early in the morning and no one had eaten nor had any one drunk coffee and we looked at each other and we were all powdered with dust from the blowing up of the barracks, as powdered as men are at a threshing, and I stood holding the pistol and it was heavy in my hand and I felt weak in the stomach when I looked at the guards dead there against the wall; they all as gray and as dusty as we were, but each one was now moistening with his blood the dry dirt by the wall where they lay. And as we stood there the sun rose over the far hills and shone now on the road where we stood and on the white wall of the barracks and the dust in the air was golden in that first sun and the peasant who was beside me looked at the wall of the barracks and what lay there and then looked at us and then at the sun and said, ‘Vaya, a day that commences.’
“‘Now let us go and get coffee,’ I said.
“‘Good, Pilar, good,’ he said. And we went up into the town to the Plaza, and those were the last people who were shot in the village.”
“What happened to the others?” Robert Jordan asked. “Were there no other fascists in the village?”
“Qué va, were there no other fascists? There were more than twenty. But none was shot.”
“What was done?”
“Pablo had them beaten to death with flails and thrown from the top of the cliff into the river.”
“I will tell you. It is not so simple. And in my life never do I wish to see such a scene as the flailing to death in the plaza on the top of the cliff above the river.
(To be continued in Excerpt 2-2)