Chapter 26 Summary
Robert Jordan sits shirtless in the sun, enjoying the warming rays after the snow. It is now three o’clock in the afternoon, and all the snow had melted by noon. No more horses had appeared. There is only sporadic gunfire from El Sordo’s camp. He is reading the letters found in the pockets of the soldier he killed that morning.
Robert Jordan learns that the soldier was from the village of Tafalla in Navarra (a region in northern Spain) and was twenty-one years old. He was unmarried and was the son of a blacksmith. He belonged to a regiment that Robert Jordan had believed still remained in the north. He was a Carlist (a traditionalist, monarchist faction) and had been wounded early in the war.
The first letter that Robert Jordan reads is from the man’s sister. She gives details of local happenings, including that ten men from Tafalla have been killed. She is proud of her brother in his fight against the Marxist forces. She reminds her brother of his protection by the saints.
The second letter is from his fiancée, who is concerned for his safety. After Robert Jordan reads this very personal letter, he reads no more. Cynically, he thinks to himself that he has done his good deed for the day. He asks Primitivo if he wants to read the letters, but the Spaniard says he cannot read. Robert Jordan gives Primitivo a general account of the contents of the letters, but he is waging an internal battle with himself.
Robert Jordan mentally apologizes to the dead youth. He hopes that will do some good, but he knows it does not. He asks himself how many he has killed. He does not know. He asks if he has a right to kill anyone. He decides that he does not. Not all those he has killed have been real Fascists; in fact, he only knows of two who were Fascists. He decides that no man has a right to kill anyone unless it is to prevent something worse happening to others. He refuses to keep count, but he has no right to forget those whom he has killed.
He asks himself if he has a right to love Maria. He decides that he does despite his purpose of establishing a purely materialistic conception of society; love is in no way materialistic. He wonders what it is like at El Sordo’s camp. He considers what it would be like to surrender once you have been surrounded. He then hears the approach of planes.