Chapter 27 Summary

On the hilltop, El Sordo and his men are surrounded but making a valiant defense. His horse had been hit, so he rode it to a place between two rocks, shot it, and used it as a barrier over which to fire. Of the five men who made it to the hilltop, three are wounded. El Sordo has been shot once in the leg and twice in the arm.

The five men are spread out along the hilltop. The teenager, Joaquin, has used his helmet to dig a small trench for protection. He recites Communist slogans: “Hold out and fortify, and you will win” and “It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.” One of the other guerrillas tells him that their Soviet leaders have their sons safely hiding in Russia rather than fighting in Spain. Joaquin does not believe it.

El Sordo believes that, as long as he has four men, he can hold out unless the Fascists bring up a trench mortar. He thinks of the young lieutenant he shot who had led the advance up the hill. He admires the men’s bravery; he can tell they will not attack until the planes come. One of the other men curses Pilar for not coming to assist them. El Sordo reflects that he is not afraid to die, as seems likely, but he is angry at being trapped on the hilltop. He hears the men below tell them to surrender before the planes blow them to pieces. This strikes El Sordo as amusing, and he laughs.

Below on the slope, the Fascist Captain Mora sees no movement above. The other officers wonder if the guerrillas are all dead. The planes should have come an hour previously, and it is still an hour before the mortar is expected to arrive. Lieutenant Berrenda looks at the body of Julian on the hillside. Captain Mora tells a young officer to go up to the hilltop, but he refuses unless it is a direct order. Berrenda agrees, thinking the silence might be a trap. Captain Mora stands up, waves his arms, and shouts to the guerrillas to shoot him. Above, El Sordo just laughs. Captain Mora continues to shout profanities, which bothers Berrenda, who is a devout Catholic. He does not want that kind of language on their consciences at this time, when they might die soon. El Sordo shoots the jumping Mora just as the planes arrive. As the artillery rains down on them, Joaquin begins to recite the Hail Mary. All of El Sordo’s men on the hilltop are killed, with the exception of Joaquin. The Fascists climb to the top. Berrenda sees Joaquin moving. He shoots him in the back of the head then says prayers over the dead.