Robert Jordan and Anselmo return to the cave, and Robert Jordan goes to the dynamite packs immediately. He takes out cigarettes and a flask (his two best friends). After thinking about it, he picks up both packs and goes into the cave.
Around a table sit Pablo, Rafael, and three new men. One's older and has a flat-face, the other two are twenty-something brothers. Pablo's wife and Maria are near a fire in another corner of the cave.
Pablo doesn't like the dynamite in the cave, but Robert Jordan points out it's not near the fire.
Robert Jordan, taking a cigarette, can tell they've all been talking about him. The situation is tense.
As any real man does in tense situations, Robert Jordan has a drink. That's absinthe he's got in his flask. Real wormwood and all. He dilutes it with a bit of water in a glass.
Oh, the tension builds. Pablo wants to do another train. They all did the last train. Why can't they do another train? No train until after the bridge, says Robert Jordan.
Pablo drops the bomb: he and his people aren't going to help with the bridge. Fine, just fine. Robert Jordan and Anselmo will do it by themselves, without this "coward."
Pablo says no bridge will be blown up. Period.
Not if Pablo's wife has anything to say about it. She's all for the bridge, and against Pablo. Drama!
Flat-face agrees, as do the two brothers and Rafael – they're all with the mujer. Jordan readies his hand on his pistol in case Pablo tries anything.
Pablo says the bridge will be the end of them all; the mujer calls him a coward. He retorts that she's just foolish, and he's the only one who sees how bad the bridge affair will be.
Thinking to himself, Robert Jordan agrees with Pablo – only he and Pablo see how dangerous the bridge will be. Grim foreshadowing?
Pablo contends that the bridge plan merely serves the foreigners, and that he is for the safety of all.
The mujer retorts that there can't be any safety in an already dangerous situation. To illustrate her point, she compares Pablo's talk to that of some bullfighters she knew. From the story, we learn that her name is Pilar (though the narrator continues to refer to her as "the woman of Pablo"). To top it off she calls Pablo a drunkard again.
Pablo's wife asks him if he still believes he commands. He does.
She says that's a joke. He threatens to kill her and Robert Jordan, and she dares him to try it; Robert Jordan's gun is ready. As happens whenever things begin to look remotely unsavory, the mujer orders Maria to leave.
The whole little power play repeats itself. This time Pablo concedes. Saying one last time that he's not stupid, he asks for supper. His wife calls back Maria, who serves food.
Now that that's settled, Robert Jordan shows his sketch of the bridge to the whole band (except Pablo, who's sulking), and talks about the plan.
We learn the names of flat-face (Primitivo), and one of the brothers (Andrés), though not the other one.
Maria rests her hand on Robert Jordan's shoulder.
Pilar and Pablo have one last mouth-off, which leaves Pilar enraged. As she simmers, Pilar's rage turns into an enervating (weakening, energy-sapping) sorrow, but she resolves in her thoughts not to let it affect her.