Study Guide

For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 23

By Ernest Hemingway

Chapter 23

  • Robert Jordan frantically gestures for Agustín and Anselmo (who's coming back with the trees) to get down. Primitivo sends down a stone and indicates with his rifle that there are four men approaching.
  • Four horsemen ride out of the timber, one ahead and three behind. The one in the lead rides out to where Pablo had circled and stopped.
  • The leader of the four turns toward the gun emplacement and looks almost directly at it.
  • He doesn't seem to see it, and points back into the timber, where Pablo's trail led. He and the others ride off in that direction.
  • Rafael comes toward them with a pair of cloth saddlebags. More gesturing from Robert Jordan, and he ducks.
  • Agustín is all, "But I really wanted to kill them!" but the ever prudent Robert Jordan warns that they don't know if more horsemen might be following them.
  • Sure enough, Primitivo sends down another stone and signals that there are too many to count.
  • On cue, twenty horsemen come to the same spot, and then also leave through the timber, following the first four.
  • By the way, we are informed that the sun is bright, so the snow is quickly melting. That's good news for tomorrow's operation at least.
  • Primitivo signals that no more enemies are coming.
  • Robert Jordan gives Anselmo instructions to do the same thing he did yesterday, namely, go and keep tally of fascist movements on the road. He should wait until the snow is gone, so as not to make tracks.
  • Speaking of tracks, Robert Jordan wonders about Pablo. Will he be caught? Agustín assures him Pablo is very smart and good at looking after himself; he won't get caught. After all, Pablo's managed to avoid getting killed by any of them despite being extremely irritating.
  • Anselmo seems hung up on the idea of going to La Granja (a fascist town nearby) and gathering information. He'll use his "papers" if he needs to.
  • They all start to talk about the war (they're talking a lot, Robert Jordan thinks, because they're all shook up). Robert Jordan says if they don't win the war, all will be lost and it will be "the most grand carajo [like a bummer, but worse]."
  • Anselmo wishes they could win the war without shooting anybody. Agustín would like to swim ten leagues in "a soup made from the cojones [testicles] of all of them [fascists]."
  • Agustín, who was sweating a lot during the encounter with the horsemen, says he wasn't sweating only from fear, but also from bloodlust, which he likens to being a sex-crazed mare in heat.
  • Somehow, that reminds Robert Jordan that he is hungry. He tells Anselmo to get the food which Rafael has brought and send him back for more. Robert Jordan is very hungry.