Saturday, June 13, 2015
From Chapter 43 (the last chapter)
Robert Jordan rode thirty yards farther up the road; beyond that the bank was too steep. The gun was firing now with the rocket whish and the cracking, dirt-spouting boom. “Come on, you big gray fascist bastard,” Robert Jordan said to the horse and put him down the slope in a sliding plunge. Then he was out in the open, over the road that was so hard under the hooves he felt the pound of it come up all the way to his shoulders, his neck and his teeth, onto the smooth of the slope, the hooves finding it, cutting it, pounding it, reaching, throwing, going, and he looked down across the slope to where the bridge showed now at a new angle he had never seen. It crossed in profile now without foreshortening and in the center was the broken place and behind it on the road was the little tank and behind the little tank was a big tank with a gun that flashed now yellow-bright as a mirror and the screech as the air ripped apart seemed almost over the gray neck that stretched ahead of him, and he turned his head as the dirt fountained up the hillside. The pack-horse was ahead of him swinging too far to the right and slowing down and Robert Jordan, galloping, his head turned a little toward the bridge, saw the line of trucks halted behind the turn that showed now clearly as he was gaining height, and he saw the bright yellow flash that signalled the instant whish and boom, and the shell fell short, but he heard the metal sailing from where the dirt rose.
He saw them all ahead in the edge of the timber watching him and he said, “Arre caballo! Go on, horse!” and felt his big horse’s chest surging with the steepening of the slope and saw the gray neck stretching and the gray ears ahead and he reached and patted the wet gray neck, and he looked back at the bridge and saw the bright flash from the heavy, squat, mud-colored tank there on the road and then he did not hear any whish but only a banging acrid smelling clang like a boiler being ripped apart and he was under the gray horse and the gray horse was kicking and he was trying to pull out from under the weight.
He could move all right. He could move toward the right. But his left leg stayed perfectly flat under the horse as he moved to the right. It was as though there was a new joint in it; not the hip joint but another one that went sideways like a hinge. Then he knew what it was all right and just then the gray horse knee-ed himself up and Robert Jordan’s right leg, that had kicked the stirrup loose just as it should, slipped clear over the saddle and came down beside him and he felt with his two hands of his thigh bone where the left leg lay flat against the ground and his hands both felt the sharp bone and where it pressed against the skin.
The gray horse was standing almost over him and he could see his ribs heaving. The grass was green where he sat and there were meadow flowers in it and he looked down the slope across to the road and the bridge and the gorge and the road and saw the tank and waited for the next flash. It came almost at once with again no whish and in the burst of it, with the smell of the high explosive, the dirt clods scattering and the steel whirring off, he saw the big gray horse sit quietly down beside him as though it were a horse in a circus. And then, looking at the horse sitting there, he heard the sound the horse was making.
Then Primitivo and Agustín had him under the armpits and were dragging him up the last slope and the new joint in his leg let it swing any way the ground swung it. Once a shell whished close over them and they dropped him and fell flat, but the dirt scattered over them and and the metal sung off and they picked him up again. And then they had him up to the shelter of the long draw in the timber where the horses were, and Maria, Pilar and Pablo were standing over him.
Maria was kneeling by him and saying, “Roberto, what hast thou?”
He said, sweating heavily, “The left leg is broken, guapa.”
“We will bind it up,” Pilar said. “Thou canst ride that.” She pointed to one of the horses that was packed. “Cut off the load.”
Robert Jordan saw Pablo shake his head and he nodded at him.
“Get along,” he said. Then he said, “Listen, Pablo. Come here.”
The sweat-streaked, bristly face bent down by him and Robert Jordan smelt the full smell of Pablo.
“Let us speak,” he said to Pilar and Maria. “I have to speak to Pablo.”
“Does it hurt much?” Pablo asked. He was bending close over Robert Jordan.
“No. I think the nerve is crushed. Listen. Get along. I am mucked, see? I will talk to the
girl for a moment. When I say to take her, take her. She will want to stay. I will only speak to her for a moment.”
“Clearly, there is not much time,” Pablo said.
“I think you would do better in the Republic,” Robert Jordan said.
“Nay. I am for Gredos.”
“Use thy head.”
“Talk to her now,” Pablo said. “There is little time. I am sorry thou hast this, Inglés.”
“Since I have it—” Robert Jordan said. “Let us not speak of it. But use thy head. Thou hast much head. Use it.”
“Why would I not?” said Pablo. “Talk now fast, Inglés. There is no time.”
Pablo went over to the nearest tree and watched down the slope, across the slope and up the road across the gorge. Pablo was looking at the gray horse on the slope with true regret on his face and Pilar and Maria were with Robert Jordan where he sat against the tree trunk.
“Slit the trouser, will thee?” he said to Pilar. Maria crouched by him and did not speak. The sun was on her hair and her face was twisted as a child’s contorts before it cries. But she was not crying.
Pilar took her knife and slit his trouser leg down below the lefthand pocket. Robert Jordan spread the cloth with his hands and looked at the stretch of his thigh. Ten inches below the hip joint there was a pointed, purple swelling like a sharp-peaked little tent and as he touched it with his fingers he could feel the snapped-off thigh bone tight against the skin. His leg was lying at an odd angle. He looked up at Pilar. Her face had the same expression as Maria’s.
“Anda,” he said to her. “Go.”
She went away with her head down without saying anything nor looking back and Robert Jordan could see her shoulders shaking.
“Guapa,” he said to Maria and took hold of her two hands. “Listen. We will not be going to Madrid.”
Then she started to cry.
“No, guapa, don’t,” he said. “Listen. We will not go to Madrid now but I go always with thee wherever thou goest. Understand?”
She said nothing and pushed her head against his cheek with her arms around him.
“Listen to this well, rabbit,” he said. He knew there was a great hurry and he was sweating very much, but this had to be said and understood. “Thou wilt go now, rabbit. But I go with thee. As long as there is one of us there is both of us. Do you understand?”
“Nay, I stay with thee.”
“Nay, rabbit. What I do now I do alone. I could not do it well with thee. If thou goest then I go, too. Do you not see how it is? Whichever one there is, is both.”
“I will stay with thee.”
“Nay, rabbit. Listen. That people cannot do together. Each one must do it alone. But if thou goest then I go with thee. It is in that way that I go too. Thou wilt go now, I know. For thou art good and kind. Thou wilt go now for us both.”
“But it is easier if I stay with thee,” she said. “It is better for me.”
“Yes. Therefore go for a favor. Do it for me since it is what thou canst do.”
“But you don’t understand, Roberto. What about me? It is worse for me to go.”
“Surely,” he said. “It is harder for thee. But I am thee also now.”
She said nothing.
He looked at her and he was sweating heavily and he spoke now, trying harder to do something than he had ever tried in all his life.
“Now you will go for us both,” he said. “You must not be selfish, rabbit. You must do your duty now.”
She shook her head.
“You are me now,” he said. “Surely thou must feel it, rabbit.
“Rabbit, listen,” he said. “Truly thus I go too. I swear it to thee.”
She said nothing.
“Now you see it,” he said. “Now I see it is clear. Now thou wilt go. Good. Now you are going. Now you have said you will go.”
She had said nothing.
“Now I thank thee for it. Now you are going well and fast and far and we both go in thee. Now put thy hand here. Now put thy head down. Nay, put it down. That is right. Now I put my hand there. Good. Thou art so good. Now do not think more. Now art thou doing what thou should. Now thou art obeying. Not me but us both. The me in thee. Now you go for us both. Truly. We both go in thee now. This I have promised thee. Thou art very good to go and very kind.”
He jerked his head at Pablo, who was half-looking at him from the tree and Pablo started over. He motioned with his thumb to Pilar.
“We will go to Madrid another time, rabbit,” he said. “Truly. Now stand up and go and we both go. Stand up. See?”
“No,” she said and held him tight around the neck.
He spoke now still calmly and reasonably but with great authority.
“Stand up,” he said. “Thou art me too now. Thou art all there will be of me. Stand up.”
She stood up slowly, crying, and with her head down. Then she dropped quickly beside him and then stood up again, slowly and tiredly, as he said, “Stand up, guapa.”
Pilar was holding her by the arm and she was standing there.
“Vamonos,” Pilar said. “Dost lack anything, Inglés?” She looked at him and shook her head.
“No,” he said and went on talking to Maria.
“There is no good-by, guapa, because we are not apart. That it should be good in the Gredos. Go now. Go good. Nay,” he spoke now still calmly and reasonably as Pilar walked the girl along. “Do not turn around. Put thy foot in. Yes. Thy foot in. Help her up,” he said to Pilar. “Get her in the saddle. Swing up now.”
He turned his head, sweating, and looked down the slope, then back toward where the girl was in the saddle with Pilar by her and Pablo just behind. “Now go,” he said. “Go.”
She started to look around. “Don’t look around,” Robert Jordan said. “Go.” And Pablo hit the horse across the crupper with a hobbling strap and it looked as though Maria tried to slip from the saddle but Pilar and Pablo were riding close up against her and Pilar was holding her and the three horses were going up the draw.
“Roberto,” Maria turned and shouted. “Let me stay! Let me stay!”
“I am with thee,” Robert Jordan shouted. “I am with thee now. We are both there. Go!”
Then they were out of sight around the corner of the draw and he was soaking wet with sweat and looking at nothing.
Agustín was standing by him.
“Do you want me to shoot thee, Inglés?” he asked, leaning down close. “Quieres? It is nothing.”
“No hace falta,” Robert Jordan said. “Get along. I am very well here.”
“Me cago en la leche que me han dado!” Agustín said. He was crying so he could not see Robert Jordan clearly. “Salud, Inglés.”
“Salud, old one,” Robert Jordan said. He was looking down the slope now. “Look well after the cropped head, wilt thou?”
“There is no problem,” Agustín said. “Thou has what thou needest?”
“There are very few shells for this máquina, so I will keep it,” Robert Jordan said.
“Thou canst now get more. For that other and the one of Pablo, yes.”
“I cleaned out the barrel,” Agustín said. “Where thou plugged it in the dirt with the fall.”
“What became of the pack-horse?”
“The gypsy caught it.”
Agustín was on the horse now but he did not want to go. He leaned far over toward the tree where Robert Jordan lay.
“Go on, viejo,” Robert Jordan said to him. “In war there are many things like this.”
“Qué puta es Ia guerra,” Agustín said. “War is a bitchery.”
“Yes, man, yes. But get on with thee.”
“Salud, Inglés,” Agustín said, clenching his right fist.
“Salud,” Robert Jordan said. “But get along, man.”
Agustín wheeled his horse and brought his right fist down as though he cursed again with the motion of it and rode up the draw. All the others had been out of sight long before. He looked back where the draw turned in the timber and waved his fist. Robert Jordan waved and then Agustín, too, was out of sight.. . . Robert Jordan looked down the green slope of the hillside to the road and the bridge. I’m as well this way as any, he thought. It wouldn’t be worth risking getting over on my belly yet, not as close as that thing was to the surface, and I can see better this way.
He felt empty and drained and exhausted from all of it and from them going and his mouth tasted of bile. Now, finally and at last, there was no problem. however all of it had been and however all of it would ever be now, for him, no longer was there any problem.
They were all gone now and he was alone with his back against a tree. He looked down across the green slope, seeing the gray horse where Agustín had shot him, and on down the slope to the road with the timber-covered country behind it. Then he looked at the bridge and across the bridge and watched the activity on the bridge and the road. He could see the trucks now, all down the lower road. The gray of the trucks showed through the trees. Then he looked back up the road to where it came down over the hill.
They will be coming soon now, he thought.