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Chapter 6

MEANWHILE, the daily--more particularly nightly--round, the common task. Sentry-go, patrols, digging; mud, rain, shrieking winds, and occasional snow. It was not till well into April that the nights grew noticeably warmer. Up here on the plateau the March days were mostly like an English March, with bright blue skies and nagging winds. The winter barley was a foot high, crimson buds were forming on the cherry trees (the line here ran through deserted orchards and vegetable gardens), and if you searched the ditches you could find violets and a kind of wild hyacinth like a poor specimen of a bluebell. Immediately behind the line there ran a wonderful, green, bubbling stream, the first transparent water I had seen since coming to the front. One day I set my teeth and crawled into the river to have my first bath in six weeks. It was what you might call a brief bath, for the water was mainly snow-water and not much above freezing-point.

Meanwhile nothing happened, nothing ever happened. The English had got into the habit of saying that this wasn't a war, it was a bloody pantomime. We were hardly under direct fire from the Fascists. The only danger was from stray bullets, which, as the lines curved forward on either side, came from several directions. All the casualties at this time were from strays. Arthur Clinton got a mysterious bullet that smashed his left shoulder and disabled his arm, permanently, I am afraid. There was a little shell-fire, but it was extraordinarily ineffectual. The scream and crash of the shells was actually looked upon as a mild diversion. The Fascists never dropped their shells on our parapet. A few hundred yards behind us there was a country house, called La Granja, with big farm-buildings, which was used as a store, headquarters, and cook-house for this sector of the line. It was this that the Fascist gunners were trying for, but they were five or six kilometres away and they never aimed well enough to do more than smash the windows and chip the walls. You were only in danger if you happened to be coming up the road when the firing started, and the shells plunged into the fields on either side of you. One learned almost immediately the mysterious art of knowing by the sound of a shell how close it will fall. The shells the Fascists were firing at this period were wretchedly bad. Although they were 150 mm. they only made a crater about six feet wide by four deep, and at least one in four failed to explode. There were the usual romantic tales of sabotage in the Fascist factories and unexploded shells in which, instead of the charge, there was found a scrap of paper saying 'Red Front', but I never saw one. The truth was that the shells were hopelessly old; someone picked up a brass fuse-cap stamped with the date, and it was 1917. The Fascist guns were of the same make and calibre as our own, and the unexploded shells were often reconditioned and fired back. There was said to be one old shell with a nickname of its own which travelled daily to and fro, never exploding.

At night small patrols used to be sent into no man's land to lie in ditches near the Fascist lines and listen for sounds (bugle-calls, motor-horns, and so forth) that indicated activity in Huesca. There was a constant come-and-go of Fascist troops, and the numbers could be checked to some extent from listeners' reports. We always had special orders to report the ringing of church bells. It seemed that the Fascists always heard mass before going into action. In among the fields and orchards there were deserted mud-walled huts which it was safe to explore with a lighted match when you had plugged up the windows. Sometimes you came on valuable pieces of loot such as a hatchet or a Fascist water-bottle (better than ours and greatly sought after). You could explore in the daytime as well, but mostly it had to be done crawling on all fours. It was queer to creep about in those empty, fertile fields where everything had been arrested just at the harvest-moment. Last year's crops had never been touched. The unpruned vines were snaking across the ground, the cobs on the standing maize had gone as hard as stone, the mangels and sugar-beets were hyper--trophied into huge woody lumps. How the peasants must have cursed both armies! Sometimes parties of men went spud-gathering in no man's land. About a mile to the right of us, where the lines were closer together, there was a patch of potatoes that was frequented both by the Fascists and ourselves. We went there in the daytime, they only at night, as it was commanded by our machine-guns. One night to our annoyance they turned out en masse and cleared up the whole patch. We discovered another patch farther on, where there was practically no cover and you had to lift the potatoes lying on your belly--a fatiguing job. If their machine-gunners spotted you, you had to flatten yourself out like a rat when it squirms under a door, with the bullets cutting up the clods a few yards behind you. It seemed worth it at the time. Potatoes were getting very scarce. If you got a sackful you could take them down to the cook-house and swap them for a water-bottleful of coffee.

And still nothing happened, nothing ever looked like happening. 'When are we going to attack? Why don't we attack?' were the questions you heard night and day from Spaniard and Englishman alike. When you think what fighting means it is queer that soldiers want to fight, and yet undoubtedly they do. In stationary warfare there are three things that all soldiers long for: a battle, more cigarettes, and a week's leave. We were somewhat better armed now than before. Each man had a hundred and fifty rounds of ammunition instead of fifty, and by degrees we were being issued with bayonets, steel helmets, and a few bombs. There were constant rumours of forthcoming battles, which I have since thought were deliberately circulated to keep up the spirits of the troops. It did not need much military knowledge to see that there would be no major action on this side of Huesca, at any rate for the time being. The strategic point was the road to Jaca, over on the other side. Later, when the Anarchists made their attacks on the Jaca road, our job was to make 'holding attacks' and force the Fascists to divert troops from the other side.

During all this time, about six weeks, there was only one action on our part of the front. This was when our Shock Troopers attacked the Manicomio, a disused lunatic asylum which the Fascists had converted into a fortress. There were several hundred refugee Germans serving with the P.O.U.M. They were organized in a special battalion called the Batallon de Cheque, and from a military point of view they were on quite a different level from the rest of the militia--indeed, were more like soldiers than anyone I saw in Spain, except the Assault Guards and some of the International Column. The attack was mucked up, as usual. How many operations in this war, on the Government side, were not mucked up, I wonder? The Shock Troops took the Manicomio by storm, but the troops, of I forget which militia, who were to support them by seizing the neighbouring hill that commanded the Manicomio, were badly let down. The captain who led them was one of those Regular Army officers of doubtful loyalty whom the Government persisted in employing. Either from fright or treachery he warned the Fascists by flinging a bomb when they were two hundred yards away. I am glad to say his men shot him dead on the spot. But the surprise-attack was no surprise, and the militiamen were mown down by heavy fire and driven off the hill, and at nightfall the Shock Troops had to abandon the Manicomio. Through the night the ambulances filed down the abominable road to Sietamo, killing the badly wounded with their joltings.

All of us were lousy by this time; though still cold it was warm enough for that. I have had a big experience of body vermin of various kinds, and for sheer beastliness the louse beats everything I have encountered. Other insects, mosquitoes for instance, make you suffer more, but at least they aren't resident vermin. The human louse somewhat resembles a tiny lobster, and he lives chiefly in your trousers. Short of burning all your clothes there is no known way of getting rid of him. Down the seams of your trousers he lays his glittering white eggs, like tiny grains of rice, which hatch out and breed families of their own at horrible speed. I think the pacifists might find it helpful to illustrate their pamphlets with enlarged photographs of lice. Glory of war, indeed! In war all soldiers are lousy, at least when it is warm enough. The men who fought at Verdun, at Waterloo, at Flodden, at Senlac, at Thermopylae--every one of them had lice crawling over his testicles. We kept the brutes down to some extent by burning out the eggs and by bathing as often as we could face it. Nothing short of lice could have driven me into that ice-cold river.

Everything was running short--boots, clothes, tobacco, soap, candles, matches, olive oil. Our uniforms were dropping to pieces, and many of the men had no boots, only rope-soled sandals. You came on piles of worn-out boots everywhere. Once we kept a dug-out fire burning for two days mainly with boots, which are not bad fuel. By this time my wife was in Barcelona and used to send me tea, chocolate, and even cigars when such things were procurable, but even in Barcelona everything was running short, especially tobacco. The tea was a godsend, though we had no milk and seldom any sugar. Parcels were constantly being sent from England to men in the contingent but they never arrived; food, clothes, cigarettes--everything was either refused by the Post Office or seized in France. Curiously enough, the only firm that succeeded in sending packets of tea--even, on one memorable occasion, a tin of biscuits--to my wife was the Army and Navy Stores. Poor old Army and Navy! They did their duty nobly, but perhaps they might have felt happier if the stuff had been going to Franco's side of the barricade. The shortage of tobacco was the worst of all. At the beginning we had been issued with a packet of cigarettes a day, then it got down to eight cigarettes a day, then to five. Finally there were ten deadly days when there was no issue of tobacco at all. For the first time, in Spain, I saw something that you see every day in London--people picking up fag-ends.

Towards the end of March I got a poisoned hand that had to be lanced and put in a sling. I had to go into hospital, but it was not worth sending me to Sietamo for such a petty injury, so I stayed in the so--called hospital at Monflorite, which was merely a casualty clearing station. I was there ten days, part of the time in bed. The practicantes (hospital assistants) stole practically every valuable object I possessed, including my camera and all my photographs. At the front everyone stole, it was the inevitable effect of shortage, but the hospital people were always the worst. Later, in the hospital at Barcelona, an American who had come to join the International Column on a ship that was torpedoed by an Italian submarine, told me how he was carried ashore wounded, and how, even as they lifted him into the ambulance, the stretcher-bearers pinched his wrist-watch.

While my arm was in the sling I spent several blissful days wandering about the country-side. Monflorite was the usual huddle of mud and stone houses, with narrow tortuous alleys that had been churned by lorries till they looked like the craters of the moon. The church had been badly knocked about but was used as a military store. In the whole neighbourhood there were only two farm-houses of any size, Torre Lorenzo and Torre Fabian, and only two really large buildings, obviously the houses of the landowners who had once lorded it over the countryside; you could see their wealth reflected in the miserable huts of the peasants. Just behind the river, close to the front line, there was an enormous flour-mill with a country-house attached to it. It seemed shameful to see the huge costly machine rusting useless and the wooden flour-chutes torn down for firewood. Later on, to get firewood for the troops farther back, parties of men were sent in lorries to wreck the place systematically. They used to smash the floorboards of a room by bursting a hand-grenade in it. La Granja, our store and cook-house, had possibly at one time been a convent. It had huge courtyards and out-houses, covering an acre or more, with stabling for thirty or forty horses. The country-houses in that part of Spain are of no interest architecturally, but their farm-buildings, of lime-washed stone with round arches and magnificent roof-beams, are noble places, built on a plan that has probably not altered for centuries. Sometimes it gave you a sneaking sympathy with the Fascist ex-owners to see the way the militia treated the buildings they had seized. In La Granja every room that was not in use had been turned into a latrine--a frightful shambles of smashed furniture and excrement. The little church that adjoined it, its walls perforated by shell-holes, had its floor inches deep in dung. In the great courtyard where the cooks ladled out the rations the litter of rusty tins, mud, mule dung, and decaying food was revolting. It gave point to the old army song:

    There are rats, rats,     Rats as big as cats,     In the quartermaster's store!

The ones at La Granja itself really were as big as cats, or nearly; great bloated brutes that waddled over the beds of muck, too impudent even to run away unless you shot at them.

Spring was really here at last. The blue in the sky was softer, the air grew suddenly balmy. The frogs were mating noisily in the ditches. Round the drinking-pool that served for the village mules I found exquisite green frogs the size of a penny, so brilliant that the young grass looked dull beside them. Peasant lads went out with buckets hunting for snails, which they roasted alive on sheets of tin. As soon as the weather improved the peasants had turned out for the spring ploughing. It is typical of the utter vagueness in which the Spanish agrarian revolution is wrapped that I could not even discover for certain whether the land here was collectivized or whether the peasants had simply divided it up among themselves. I fancy that in theory it was collectivized, this being P.O.U.M. and Anarchist territory. At any rate the landowners were gone, the fields were being cultivated, and people seemed satisfied. The friendliness of the peasants towards ourselves never ceased to astonish me. To some of the older ones the war must have seemed meaningless, visibly it produced a shortage of everything and a dismal dull life for everybody, and at the best of times peasants hate having troops quartered upon them. Yet they were invariably friendly--I suppose reflecting that, however intolerable we might be in other ways, we did stand between them and their one-time landlords. Civil war is a queer thing. Huesca was not five miles away, it was these people's market town, all of them had relatives there, every week of their lives they had gone there to sell their poultry and vegetables. And now for eight months an impenetrable barrier of barbed wire and machine-guns had lain between. Occasionally it slipped their memory. Once I was talking to an old woman who was carrying one of those tiny iron lamps in which the Spaniards bum olive oil. 'Where can I buy a lamp like that?' I said.' In Huesca,' she said without thinking, and then we both laughed. The village girls were splendid vivid creatures with coal-black hair, a swinging walk, and a straightforward, man-to-man demeanour which was probably a by-product of the revolution.

Men in ragged blue shirts and black corduroy breeches, with broad--brimmed straw hats, were ploughing the fields behind teams of mules with rhythmically flopping ears. Their ploughs were wretched things, only stirring the soil, not cutting anything we should regard as a furrow. All the agricultural implements were pitifully antiquated, everything being governed by the expensiveness of metal. A broken ploughshare, for instance, was patched, and then patched again, till sometimes it was mainly patches. Rakes and pitchforks were made of wood. Spades, among a people who seldom possessed boots, were unknown; they did their digging with a clumsy hoe like those used in India. There was a kind of harrow that took one straight back to the later Stone Age. It was made of boards joined together, to about the size of a kitchen table; in the boards hundreds of holes were morticed, and into each hole was jammed a piece of flint which had been chipped into shape exactly as men used to chip them ten thousand years ago. I remember my feelings almost of horror when I first came upon one of these things in a derelict hut in no man's land. I had to puzzle over it for a long while before grasping that it was a harrow. It made me sick to think of the work that must go into the making of such a thing, and the poverty that was obliged to use flint in place of steel. I have felt more kindly towards industrialism ever since. But in the village there were two up-to-date farm tractors, no doubt seized from some big landowner's estate.

Once or twice I wandered out to the little walled graveyard that stood a mile or so from the village. The dead from the front were normally sent to Sietamo; these were the village dead. It was queerly different from an English graveyard. No reverence for the dead here! Everything overgrown with bushes and coarse grass, human bones littered everywhere. But the really surprising thing was the almost complete lack of religious inscriptions on the gravestones, though they all dated from before the revolution. Only once, I think, I saw the 'Pray for the Soul of So-and-So' which is usual on Catholic graves. Most of the inscriptions were purely secular, with ludicrous poems about the virtues of the deceased. On perhaps one grave in four or five there was a small cross or a perfunctory reference to Heaven; this had usually been chipped off by some industrious atheist with a chisel.

It struck me that the people in this part of Spain must be genuinely without religious feeling--religious feeling, I mean, in the orthodox sense. It is curious that all the time I was in Spain I never once saw a person cross himself; yet you would think such a movement would become instinctive, revolution or no revolution. Obviously the Spanish Church will come back (as the saying goes, night and the Jesuits always return), but there is no doubt that at the outbreak of the revolution it collapsed and was smashed up to an extent that would be unthinkable even for the moribund C. of E. in like circumstances. To the Spanish people, at any rate in Catalonia and Aragon, the Church was a racket pure and simple. And possibly Christian belief was replaced to some extent by Anarchism, whose influence is widely spread and which undoubtedly has a religious tinge.

It was the day I came back from hospital that we advanced the line to what was really its proper position, about a thousand yards forward, along the little stream that lay a couple of hundred yards in front of the Fascist line. This operation ought to have been carried out months earlier. The point of doing it now was that the Anarchists were attacking on the Jaca road, and to advance on this side made them divert troops to face us.

We were sixty or seventy hours without sleep, and my memories go down into a sort of blue, or rather a series of pictures. Listening-duty in no man's land, a hundred yards from the Casa Francesa, a fortified farm-house which was part of the Fascist line. Seven hours lying in a horrible marsh, in reedy-smelling water into which one's body subsided gradually deeper and deeper: the reedy smell, the numbing cold, the stars immovable in the black sky, the harsh croaking of the frogs. Though this was April it was the coldest night that I remember in Spain. Only a hundred yards behind us the working-parties were hard at it, but there was utter silence except for the chorus of the frogs. Just once during the night I heard a sound--the familiar noise of a sand-bag being flattened with a spade. It is queer how, just now and again, Spaniards can carry out a brilliant feat of organization. The whole move was beautifully planned. In seven hours six hundred men constructed twelve hundred metres of trench and parapet, at distances of from a hundred and fifty to three hundred yards from the Fascist line, and all so silently that the Fascists heard nothing, and during the night there was only one casualty. There were more next day, of course. Every man had his job assigned to him, even to the cook-house orderlies who suddenly arrived when the work was done with buckets of wine laced with brandy.

And then the dawn coming up and the Fascists suddenly discovering that we were there. The square white block of the Casa Francesa, though it was two hundred yards away, seemed to tower over us, and the machine--guns in its sandbagged upper windows seemed to be pointing straight down into the trench. We all stood gaping at it, wondering why the Fascists didn't see us. Then a vicious swirl of bullets, and everyone had flung himself on his knees and was frantically digging, deepening the trench and scooping out small shelters in the side. My arm was still in bandages, I could not dig, and I spent most of that day reading a detective story--The Missing Money-lender its name was. I don't remember the plot of it, but I remember very clearly the feeling of sitting there reading it; the dampish clay of the trench bottom underneath me, the constant shifting of my legs out of the way as men hurried stopping down the trench, the crack-crack-crack of bullets a foot or two overhead. Thomas Parker got a bullet through the top of his thigh, which, as he said, was nearer to being a D.S.O. than he cared about. Casualties were happening all along the line, but nothing to what there would have been if they had caught us on the move during the night. A deserter told us afterwards that five Fascist sentries were shot for negligence. Even now they could have massacred us if they had had the initiative to bring up a few mortars. It was an awkward job getting the wounded down the narrow, crowded trench. I saw one poor devil, his breeches dark with blood, flung out of his stretcher and gasping in agony. One had to carry wounded men a long distance, a mile or more, for even when a road existed the ambulances never came very near the front line. If they came too near the Fascists had a habit of shelling them--justifiably, for in modern war no one scruples to use an ambulance for carrying ammunition.

And then, next night, waiting at Torre Fabian for an attack that was called off at the last moment by wireless. In the barn where we waited the floor was a thin layer of chaff over deep beds of bones, human bones and cows' bones mixed up, and the place was alive with rats. The filthy brutes came swarming out of the ground on every side. If there is one thing I hate more than another it is a rat running over me in the darkness. However, I had the satisfaction of catching one of them a good punch that sent him flying.

And then waiting fifty or sixty yards from the Fascist parapet for the order to attack. A long line of men crouching in an irrigation ditch with their bayonets peeping over the edge and the whites of their eyes shining through the darkness. Kopp and Benjamin squatting behind us with a man who had a wireless receiving-box strapped to his shoulders. On the western horizon rosy gun-flashes followed at intervals of several seconds by enormous explosions. And then a pip-pip-pip noise from the wireless and the whispered order that we were to get out of it while the going was good. We did so, but not quickly enough. Twelve wretched children of the J.C.I. (the Youth League of the P.O.U.M., corresponding to the J.S.U. of the P.S.U.C.) who had been posted only about forty yards from the Fascist parapet, were caught by the dawn and unable to escape. All day they had to lie there, with only tufts of grass for cover, the Fascists shooting at them every time they moved. By nightfall seven were dead, then the other five managed to creep away in the darkness.

And then, for many mornings to follow, the sound of the Anarchist attacks on the other side of Huesca. Always the same sound. Suddenly, at some time in the small hours, the opening crash of several score bombs bursting simultaneously-- even from miles away a diabolical, rending crash--and then the unbroken roar of massed rifles and machine-guns, a heavy rolling sound curiously similar to the roll of drums. By degrees the firing would spread all round the lines that encircled Huesca, and we would stumble out into the trench to lean sleepily against the parapet while a ragged meaningless fire swept overhead.

In the daytime the guns thundered fitfully. Torre Fabian, now our cookhouse, was shelled and partially destroyed. It is curious that when you are watching artillery-fire from a safe distance you always want the gunner to hit his mark, even though the mark contains your dinner and some of your comrades. The Fascists were shooting well that morning; perhaps there were German gunners on the job. They bracketed neatly on Torre Fabian. One shell beyond it, one shell short of it, then whizz-BOOM' Burst rafters leaping upwards and a sheet of uralite skimming down the air like a nicked playing-card. The next shell took off a corner of a building as neatly as a giant might do it with a knife. But the cooks produced dinner on time--a memorable feat.

As the days went on the unseen but audible guns began each to assume a distinct personality. There were the two batteries of Russian 75-mm. guns which fired from close in our rear and which somehow evoked in my mind the picture of a fat man hitting a golf-ball. These were the first Russian guns I had seen--or heard, rather. They had a low trajectory and a very high velocity, so that you heard the cartridge explosion, the whizz, and the shell-burst almost simultaneously. Behind Monflorite were two very heavy guns which fired a few times a day, with a deep, muffled roar that was like the baying of distant chained-up monsters. Up at Mount Aragon, the medieval fortress which the Government troops had stormed last year (the first time in its history, it was said), and which guarded one of the approaches to Huesca, there was a heavy gun which must have dated well back into the nineteenth century. Its great shells whistled over so slowly that you felt certain you could run beside them and keep up with them. A shell from this gun sounded like nothing so much as a man riding along on a bicycle and whistling. The trench-mortars, small though they were, made the most evil sound of all. Their shells are really a kind of winged torpedo, shaped like the darts thrown in public-houses and about the size of a quart bottle; they go off with a devilish metallic crash, as of some monstrous globe of brittle steel being shattered on an anvil. Sometimes our aeroplanes flew over and let loose the aerial torpedoes whose tremendous echoing roar makes the earth tremble even at two miles' distance. The shell-bursts from the Fascist anti--aircraft guns dotted the sky like cloudlets in a bad water-colour, but I never saw them get within a thousand yards of an aeroplane. When an aeroplane swoops down and uses its machine-gun the sound, from below, is like the fluttering of wings.

On our part of the line not much was happening. Two hundred yards to the right of us, where the Fascists were on higher ground, their snipers picked off a few of our comrades. Two hundred yards to the left, at the bridge over the stream, a sort of duel was going on between the Fascist mortars and the men who were building a concrete barricade across the bridge. The evil little shells whizzed over, zwing-crash! zwing-crash!, making a doubly diabolical noise when they landed on the asphalt road. A hundred yards away you could stand in perfect safety and watch the columns of earth and black smoke leaping into the air like magic trees. The poor devils round the bridge spent much of the daytime cowering in the little man-holes they had scooped in the side of the trench. But there were less casualties than might have been expected, and the barricade rose steadily, a wall of concrete two feet thick, with embrasures for two machine-guns and a small field gun. The concrete was being reinforced with old bedsteads, which apparently was the only iron that could be found for the purpose.

 

与往常一样,我们的日常任务——尤其是晚上——依然是站岗、巡逻和挖掘战壕。到处都是泥泞、雨水、呼啸的寒风,还有间或飘落的雪花。直到进入四月,晚间才渐渐地显得稍微暖和一些。在比这里海拔更高一些的地方,三月里的天气有点类似于英国,清澈无云的蓝天和令人心烦的料峭寒风。越冬大麦长出了一英尺高,樱桃树上萌出了深红色的芽(这里是因战争而废弃的果园和菜园),如果留意一下沟渠的话,你会发现紫罗兰和野风信子,它们干瘪得有如可怜的圆叶风铃草的标本。在我们阵地的后面,有一条水流清澈碧绿、泛着串串小水泡的可爱小溪,我自来到前线后首次见到如此明亮洁净的水。有一天,我咬紧牙关,慢慢地迈入溪中洗了个澡,这是我六个星期以来第一次洗澡。这也许不能叫做洗澡,实际上只是用溪水稍稍擦了一下身体,因为这溪水是山上刚刚融化了的雪水,仅比冰点略高一些而已。

与此同时,整个战线平静无事,什么事情也没有发生过。这里的英国人已经习惯于说,这不是一场真正的战争,只是一场血腥的哑剧。我们几乎从未受到法西斯分子炮火的直接威胁。唯一的危险来自流弹,因为双方的前线阵地相互交错,流弹可能来自各个不同方向。我们阵地上的所有伤亡都是流弹造成的。亚瑟?克林顿被一颗来路不明的流弹击碎了左肩,胳膊无法活动,也许将终身残废。这里也时常听到炮声,但这显得更无意义。法西斯分子把发射炮弹的轰鸣声和爆炸声,作为一种轻松的娱乐活动。法西斯分子从未将炮弹打到我们战壕前的胸墙上。在我们阵地后数百码的地方有一个农庄,名叫拉格拉尼亚(LaGranja)。农庄上有不少大型建筑,被我们这一前线战区征用为军需仓库、指挥部和野战厨房。这里才是法西斯炮手真正想要打击的地方。然而,他们距离这里尚有五六英里之遥,瞄得根本不准,打过来的炮弹最多只能震坏几块窗玻璃或部分墙壁。只有在开火时恰巧接近公路、而且炮弹落在身边时,才会遭遇真正的危险。谁都能够很快学会这种看似神秘的艺术:只要听到炮弹飞行的声音,就能判断出炮弹将会落在离自己多远的地方爆炸。在整个这段时间里,法西斯分子开的炮真是差劲得可怜。尽管他们的大炮口径达150毫米,但炸出来的弹坑却只有六英尺宽四英尺深,而且每四发炮弹中至少有一发是不会爆炸的哑弹。人们经常能够听到关于有人在法西斯分子兵工厂进行破坏的传奇故事,据说在那些哑弹中,填装的不是炸药,而是碎纸片,纸上写着“红色阵线”。可我一次也没有见到过。实际上,这些炮弹已经陈旧得无话可说了。有人曾经捡到一只铜质炮弹引信,那上面标刻的竟是“1917”字样。法西斯分子装备的火炮在质量和口径上与我们的完全相同。那些没有爆炸的炮弹,双方都会稍加修理然后再发射回去。据说,有一发炮弹还得了个“旅行家”的绰号,它每天都在双方阵地上空来回旅行,而且从不爆炸。

夜间,我们常常派出小型巡逻队,悄悄进入军事无人区,潜伏在靠近法西斯分子营地的沟渠中,窃听他们的声响(军号声、发动机轰鸣声等等),并根据这些信息判断他们在韦斯卡的活动情况。在这些地方经常有法西斯部队往返,通过窃听一般都可以弄清其准确数量。我们常常接到特殊指令,监听和汇报教堂里的钟声。法西斯分子在采取行动时常常以钟声作为集合信号。在田野和果园中,有许多荒废的泥糊棚屋,夜间,如果你进入泥棚中找到点有用的东西,比如短柄斧头或法西斯分子的水壶(比我们的好得多,大家都想找到一个)。在大白天,你也可以前往寻找,但在多数情况下必须匍匐前进。在匍匐爬行时,你会为眼前沃土上的那些早已过了成熟期却没有收割的农作物感到惊奇。去年成熟的庄稼至今还簇立在田里。未修剪的葡萄藤在地面上胡乱攀爬,秸杆上的玉米棒变得像石头一样僵硬,饲料和糖用甜菜都因逾期不收而变成木头般的硬疙瘩。不难想象,农民们该会如何诅咒交战双方的军队啊!敌我双方都常常派出许多人到无人区去搜索食粮。在我们右边一英里处,敌我阵地更为接近,双方阵地之间有一大片马铃薯田块,那里也是双方人员经常出没之处。我们一般在白天去那里,而法西斯分子则只敢在夜间前往,因为这里处在我方机枪火力的控制之下。使我们感到特别恼火的是,有一个夜晚,法西斯分子倾巢而出,把这里的马铃薯全部挖走了。在更远一些的地方,我们又找到了一处种植马铃薯的地块,但那儿几乎没有任何可供隐蔽的东西,你必须平趴在地上扒拔马铃薯——这是一项十分累人的差事。如果敌人的机枪手一旦发现了你,你就必须像一只想从门缝下钻出去的老鼠那样紧贴地面,子弹会把你身后几码远的地方搅得泥沙飞扬。即使如此,这么干仍是划得来的。当时的马铃薯很稀缺,如能弄回满满一袋的话,你就可以把它拎进厨房换取整整一水壶咖啡。

依然平静无事,而且看起来根本不会发生任何事。“我们何时才会发动进攻?我们为何不发动进攻?”类似问题无论在西班牙人那里,还是在英国人那里,随时都能听到。当你想到战争的含义时,一定会觉得士兵们急切盼望战斗的情绪简直不可思议,可他们确实就是这么期盼的。在攻防战中,所有士兵通常迫切向往三件事:一场战斗,更多的香烟,还有一周的假期。现在,我们的装备比以前稍好一些。人人都有150发子弹而不是过去的50发,此外还给我们装备了刺刀、钢盔和一些手榴弹。所谓即将到来的战斗,已经谣传了很长的时间,我认为这种消息完全是故意散布的,其目的无非是为了振奋士气。稍有军事常识的人都能看出,在韦斯卡的这一侧,无论如何,至少在短时间内不会有大规模的战斗发生。因为我们的战略重点是从另一侧切断韦斯卡通往杰卡的道路。在无政府主义向杰卡方面的要道发起进攻时,我们所担任的任务是发起“有限进攻”,真实意图在于吸收法西斯分子的主力部队向我们这边转移,以减轻那里的压力。

在大约六个星期的时间内,我们这里的前线部队只发动过一次进攻。那就是我们的突击部队攻击了玛尼科米奥(Manicomio),这是一座荒废的精神病院,法西斯分子把它改造成为要塞。在突击部队中有一支为马统工党服务的、由数百名德国难民组成的特殊队伍,叫做巴塔龙德肖克(BattallondeChoque),从纯军事角度来看,他们与其他民兵全然不同,比我在西班牙看到的任何人都更像战士,当然,突袭部队和国际纵队的那面发动的军事行动,究竟有多少次是没被弄糟的?突击部队夺取了玛尼科米奥,但是另一支支援的部队(我忘了哪个部队了)本应占领旁边俯瞰玛尼科米奥的那座山,却遭受了重创。那支民兵部队的上尉是一名正规军的军官,其忠诚度非常可疑,但政府却坚持任用他。不管是出于害怕还是变节,当法西斯分子还远在两百码之外时,他就投出一颗手榴弹向对方发出了警示信号。使我感到高兴的是,那个上尉的部下当场将其开枪击毙。结果,这次突袭并未成功,民兵们遭遇猛烈的火力压制,不得不从山下撤退,黄昏时,突击部队也不得不放弃玛尼科米奥。当晚,尽管有好几辆救护车鱼贯而来抢运伤员,但在前往谢塔莫的那条糟糕透顶的道路上,仍有许多重伤员由于颠簸过度而送了命。

这期间我们所有人都生了虱子。尽管天气尚冷,但对于虱子来说已经够暖和的了。我对各种害人的寄生虫有着丰富的经验,不过我现在感到的却是些绝对令人恶心的家伙。其他昆虫,比如说蚊子,会使你遭受很多的痛苦,但它至少不是寄生在肉体上的那种。现在赖在你身上的寄生虫,形状有点类似于小龙虾,而且主要在你的裤子里活动。除非烧掉你的全部衣服,没有其他的根除办法。它沿着你的裤缝产下成堆亮晶晶的乳白色的卵,就像袖珍的小米粒,这些卵以极其可怕的速度孵化为成虫并迅速繁殖。我想,和平主义者们如果在反战宣传手册中配上虱子的放大照片,宣传效果一定会更好。战争光荣,真的吗?在战争中,所有的士兵都生了虱子,至少在稍有暖意的时候。那些曾经在凡尔登、滑铁卢、佛洛顿*、森拉克**、温泉关战斗过的人们,就连阴囊上都叮满了虱子。我们一般烘烤它们的卵以及只要条件允许就尽可能多多洗澡,把这些孽种的数量控制在尽可能少的程度上。没有任何东西能够像虱子那样逼迫着我跳进冰冷的河水中。

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*1513年英格兰人在边境打败苏格兰人的战役。这次战役结束了苏格兰的长期威胁。——译者

**加拿大城市名。——译者

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所有物品都日渐短缺——包括靴子、衣服、烟草、香皂、蜡烛、火柴、橄榄油。我们的制服已经破成碎片了,许多人没有靴子穿,只能穿系带便鞋。你到处都能找到成堆的破烂不堪的靴子。有一次,我们在地面上挖了个坑,用烂靴子升起了一堆火,足足燃烧了两天,用这些烂靴子生火取暖还真是挺不错的主意。此时,我的妻子已经来到了巴塞罗那,并常常给我寄来茶叶、巧克力,甚至雪茄,当时这些东西碰巧还能买到。但即使在巴塞罗那,各类物品也日趋短缺,特别是烟草。茶叶是一种意外的惊喜,尽管我们这里既没有牛奶也很少有糖。人们经常从英国给分遣队的志愿者寄送包裹,但这些包裹从未到过他们的手中;食物、衣服、纸烟之类的任何东西,不是遭英国邮局拒寄,就是在法国海关被没收了。最让人感到惊奇的是,唯一一家将茶叶包裹——其中甚至还有一听饼干——成功寄送给我妻子的商店,竟然是陆海军商店。可怜的老陆军和海军!他们勇敢地完成了自己的任务,但是如果能够越过街垒把这些东西送到佛朗哥那里,他们也许会更感到高兴。在所有短缺物资中,烟草短缺的情况最为严重。最初我们每天尚能配给一包,后来减少为每天八支,接下来是五支。最后,竟有该死的十天哪怕一支烟也没发。我在西班牙第一次看到了你在伦敦街头每天都会看到的事情——人们遍地寻找烟屁股。

快到三月底的时候,我的手部感染了毒,必须手术治疗并缠上绷带。我需要立即住院,但又无须小题大做把我送去谢塔莫的医院,所以我就被留在蒙佛洛莱特的医院里,这家所谓医院其实只是前线伤病处理站。我在那里待了十天,部分时间躺在病床上。实习医生实际上偷走了我的所有稍微值点钱的东西,其中包括照相机和所有照片。在前线,每个人都会干出这种事情,这是物资极度匮乏所造成的必然结果,而医院里的这种情形又最糟糕。稍后,在巴塞罗那的医院里,有一位前来参加国际纵队的美国人——他所乘坐的船只被意大利潜水艇发射的鱼雷击中——告诉我,在抢救上岸的过程中,他被折腾得伤上加伤,而在把他抬进救护车时,担架员还顺便偷走了他的手表。

在手臂上仍然缠着绷带的时候,我就经常到乡村间四处闲逛,过了几天轻松愉快、无忧无虑的日子。在蒙佛洛莱特,用泥土或石块垒建起来的棚屋挤成一团,狭窄而又弯曲的道路被卡车蹂躏得看起来如同月球上的陨石坑。教堂已经被破坏得不成样子,但仍被用作军需仓库。在这一带地区只有两种农庄宅院:洛伦佐塔楼和法比恩塔楼,其中也只有几栋真正的大型建筑物,那明显是地主的房屋,他们曾经在这儿的农村中作威作福。不难看出,他们的财富都是从那些栖身低矮肮脏棚屋的农民们身上榨取来的。在河流北面靠近前线的地方,有一座巨大的磨房,与之毗连的是一座农庄。看到那些巨大、昂贵的机器正在无谓地锈蚀,传送面粉的长木箱子被劈作柴火,你真会感到悲哀。此后,前线部队的燃料奇缺进一步助长了破坏行为,卡车载来许多强壮男子,系统地毁坏了这个地方。他们通常用手榴弹炸开地板,并当作柴火运走。LaGranja是我们的库房和厨房,这里原来可能是一座女修道院。这里有巨大的庭院和许多耳房*,占地达一英亩甚至更多,另外还有可能栓养三十到四十匹马的马厩。西班牙这种农庄宅院从建筑学角度来看,没有任何值得称道的地方。在这种乡间邸宅中,凡那些石材用石灰水粉刷过的、带有圆形拱门和华丽顶梁的地方,都是所谓高贵场所,其建筑风格也许好几个世纪以来从未改变过。有时,当你看到民兵们对待夺取到手的建筑物的那种方式,会让你对以前的法西斯所有者产生一种短暂的同情感。在拉格拉尼亚,每一间没派上用场的房间都成为随意方便之处——一种可怕而混乱不堪的场所,其中充满了被打碎的家具和排泄物。在与之毗邻的小教堂,墙壁上布满了弹孔,地板上的粪便厚达数英寸。在厨师用勺子分配食物的大庭院里,随手乱扔的锈罐头盒、泥土、骡子的粪便、腐败的食物之类遍地都是,令人厌恶。这很容易让人想起那首古老的军队歌曲:

这里有老鼠,老鼠,

老鼠大似猫,

就在军需官的库房里!

拉格拉尼亚的老鼠个头真的和猫一样大,或者差不多,这些硕大而又臃肿肥胖的家伙们在粪便上大模大样地结队而行,放肆到了从不逃走的地步,除非你冲着它们开枪。

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*与正屋分开的附属建筑。——译者

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春天终于来到这里了。天空中的蓝色更柔和,天气渐渐变得暖和起来。青蛙们开始在沟渠中吵吵嚷嚷地忙着交配。在经过村庄的饮驴池塘时,我发现了一种浑身翠绿的青蛙,只有一便士硬币大小,它是如此地璀璨夺目,以至于光鲜碧嫩的草叶都显得相形见绌了。乡间少年常常拎着桶出去捉蜗牛,然后把蜗牛放在马口铁皮上烤了吃.天气刚刚变暖,农民们就已经开始春耕.西班牙农业革命的实际情形被重重包裹着,这种不清不楚的状况是非常典型的。我甚至无法确定,这里的土地究竟是集体化了的,还是农民们只是相互简单地划分了一下。我想,从理论上说应该是集体化了的,因为这是马统工党和无政府主义者的地盘。不管怎么样,反正原先的土地所有者逃跑了,土地正在被耕种,人们看起来像是满意的。我一直因农民对我们表现友善而感到吃惊。在那些年纪较大的农民看来,战争肯定毫无意义,十分明显,战争不仅造成各种物资奇缺,而且给人们的生活蒙上了凄惨的阴影;即使在情况最好的时候,农民们也非常讨厌大兵住在自己的家中。但不管我们在其他方面让他们多么难以忍受,而且我们也确实是站在他们和他们土地的昔日所有者的中间立场上,可是他们对我们总是友善相待的。内战是一件非常奇特的事情。韦斯卡离这里不到五英里远,那儿也是这里的人们的集镇,这里的所有人在那儿都有亲戚,他们每周都要去那儿出售家禽和蔬菜。而现在,两地之间被带刺铁丝网和机枪子弹阻隔已经八个月了。然而,过去的一切仍在他们的记忆中闪现。一次,我遇到了一个老妇人,她手里拿着一盏小小的铁制油灯。这种油灯在西班牙比较常见,人们会用它来点橄榄油。我问老人,“什么地方能够买到这种灯呢?”“韦斯卡。”她不假思索地回答道。紧接着,我们都笑了起来。村里的姑娘们都极为活泼可爱,她们长着煤炭般乌黑发亮的头发,走起路来步伐强健有力,待人接物的态度非常直接坦率,这也许是革命的一种副产品。

男人们身穿粗糙的蓝衬衫和黑灯心绒马裤,头上戴着宽沿草帽,紧紧地跟在有节奏地煽动着耳朵的骡子后面,在田间辛勤地耕作。他们所使用的犁非常差劲,只能搅动泥土,却不能犁出我们称之为犁沟的东西。几乎所有的农具都原始落后得令人遗憾,各种农具都是根据其金属材料的价钱来加以管理的。比如,一张用坏了的犁铧,他们会加以修补,以后还会补了再补,直到犁铧上尽是大大小小的铁补丁实在无法再补为止。耙子和干草叉都是用树木的枝条加工制作的。在这些没穿过靴子的人们中间,根本不知道铁锨为何物。他们使用一种笨拙的锄头来刨地,与印度人所使用的工具差不多。有一种耙能把人直接带回石器时代。这种耙子是用好多块木板连接在一起的,大小和一张餐桌差不多;其中每块木板上都凿了数百个洞,每个洞里都塞进了一块坚硬的石块,这些石块均被敲打成形,与人类在一万年前沿习制作的模样毫无二致。我记得,在非交战区一个废弃棚屋里首次碰上这种东西的时候,我实在惊骇不已。我不得不用了很多时间来苦思冥想,最后总算弄明白这是一种碎土用的耙。想一想制作这么一件工具所需的工作量,我感到心里很不是滋味。是贫困迫使人们用坚硬的石头来代替钢铁的。从此以后,我开始以一种更为宽容的态度来对待工业主义者了。不过,村里也有两台新式的农用拖拉机,毫无疑问,这一定是从某个大地主那里没收来的。

我曾到离村子约一英里的带围墙的墓地上去过几次。在前线阵亡的士兵通常会被送到谢塔莫安葬。这里所安葬的都是本村的死者。这儿的墓地与英国的墓地存在着令人惊讶的差别。这里缺乏对死者的应有尊重!遍地都是拥挤的灌木丛和疯长杂乱的野草,死者的遗骨散落得到处都是。真正让人惊奇的是,墓碑上几乎全无宗教碑铭,尽管立碑日期都在革命之前。我想,我只看到过一次通常出现在天主教徒墓碑上的“为某某人的灵魂祈祷”的字样。大部分碑铭都是纯世俗的颂扬死者美德的愚蠢诗歌。大约四五座墓碑中才有一座带有小十字架或含糊地提到天堂的字句,就这些还常常被勤勉的无神论者给凿掉。

这件事情让我受到了打击。这一地区的西班牙人很可能确实没有宗教信仰——宗教信仰,我的意思是指那种最正统的精神寄托。我在西班牙没有看到任何人划过十字,这令人感到好生奇怪。你也许会认为这个动作出自本能,不管革命还是不革命。很明显,西班牙的教会还会卷土重来(就像有句谚语说的,夜晚和耶稣会士总是会回来的),但毫无疑问,在革命爆发的时候,教会就已经崩溃和瓦解到了一种不可思议的程度,甚至themoribundC.ofE.也处于类似的境地。对西班牙人民来说,至少在加泰罗尼亚和阿拉贡,教堂正不折不扣地面临着严峻考验。基督教的信仰很可能已在相当程度上被无政府主义取代了,无政府主义得到广泛传播,其影响深入人心,毋庸置疑,无政府主义本身也带有某种宗教意味。

就在我从医院回来的那天,我方也将战线向前推进了一千码,这才是合适的位置,前线阵地与一条小溪平行,距法西斯分子的阵地数百码。这一军事行动早在几个月之前就该执行了。现在这样坐待目的是,无政府主义者正在攻打杰卡战略通道,我方在这一侧挺进可以吸引和分散法西斯分子的兵力,支援杰卡方向的无政府主义民兵。

我已经六十或七十个小时没有睡觉了,我的记忆变得相当僵化迟钝,或者说脑袋中只有一些模糊不清的东西。我们潜入军事无人地带,潜伏在距离CasaFrancesa*大约一百码的地方对敌人进行窃听,CasaFrancesa是一座被加固了的农舍——这是法西斯分子战线的一部分。我们在到处都是腐烂芦苇的沼泽中泡了七个小时,身体在淤泥中越陷越深:腐烂芦苇的臭味,令人麻木的寒冷,夜空中凝固的群星,青蛙的嘶哑鸣叫声。尽管现在已是四月天气,但这仍是我记忆中来西班牙后最冷的夜晚。在我们后方一百码的地方,情报分析小组正在努力工作。这里除了青蛙的大合唱,万籁俱寂。在这个夜晚我只听到了一次其他声响——用铁锨拍击沙袋而发出的熟悉噪音。很奇怪,为什么西班牙人能够随时有组织地、完美地完成某项壮举。整个行动事先就已作出了很好的计划。他们六百多个人,在七个小时里,抢修了1200米长的战壕和胸墙,而且距离法西斯分子的阵地仅150到300码。他们的行动是如此悄然地进行,以至于法西斯分子什么也没听到。整个晚上只有一人受伤。只是到了第二天,受伤的人数才明显增多。人人都在力求做好分配给自己的工作。工作完成后,厨房的勤务人员立即送来了成桶掺兑白兰地的葡萄酒。

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*西班牙语,意为法式房屋。——译者

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当黎明来临之际,法西斯分子方才突然发现我们已经近在咫尺了。CasaFrancesa那白色方形要塞,尽管远在两百码之外,看起来似乎仍耸立在我们的上方,从沙袋搭成的射击孔中探出的重机枪居高临下直指我们的战壕。我们全都站立着,呆呆地看着那些枪口,人人都想弄清楚法西斯分子为什么没发现我们。突然间,敌人恶毒地用机枪对我们进行齐射,密集而来的子弹迫使大家赶紧蹲下,并近乎疯狂地挖深战壕或从侧面挖出蔽身之处。我的胳膊上还缠着绷带,无法挖掘战壕,所以那天我用了大部分时间阅读一本侦探小说——《失踪的放贷人》。我已经不记得这本小说的情节了,但我对阅读这本小说时的周围情景却记得非常清楚:我坐在战壕底部潮湿的泥土上,每当人们在战壕中匆忙走动,我便缩回双腿以方便他们行走,子弹在我头顶上方一两英尺处发出啪啪啪的声响。托马斯?帕克的大腿根部挨了一颗子弹,对此,用他的话来说,他担心都快要能得到D.S.O.*了。整个战线不断地发生人员伤亡,但是,如果我们在秘密推进的那个晚上让敌人发现的话,伤亡会大得多,所以现在也就算不了什么了。后来有个对方的逃兵告诉我们,那天晚上五名值岗的法西斯分子全部被以失职罪枪毙。其实,假如敌方调来迫击炮并主动行事的话,即使现在也能将我们全打死。把伤员抢救到狭窄、拥挤的战壕中是一件十分棘手的事。我见到一个可怜的民兵伤员,马裤已被鲜血湿透,鲜血甚至从担架下面淌出来,非常痛苦地喘着粗气。人们必须将伤员抬出一英里或更远,因为即使有道路可走,救护车也绝对不敢离前线太近。如救护车太接近前线,法西斯分子便会马上开炮轰击——而在现代战争中,没有人会用救护车运送军火,这是毫无疑问的。

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*DistinguishedServiceOrder,英国的优异服务勋章。——译者

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在接下来的第二个晚上,我们在托尔费边等候新的进攻命令,但在最后一刻我们通过无线电接到取消进攻的命令。在我们等候进攻的那个谷仓里,地面上有一层薄薄的谷糠,谷糠下面则是厚厚的一层动物骨骼,其中既有牛骨也有人骨。这里到处都是老鼠。这些污秽肮脏的家伙遍地乱窜。如果说我生平有一件胜过一切的厌恶之事,那就是有只老鼠在黑暗中从我身上爬过。我抓住了其中的一只并予以一记重击,将它摔死在地。

接着,我们又在靠近法西斯分子阵地只有五六十码的地方等候新的进攻命令。一大批男子汉猫着腰隐蔽在一条沟渠中,他们枪上刺刀的锋芒若隐若现,他们的眼白在黑暗中闪光。蹲在我们后面的有柯普、本杰明还有另一个人,那个人的肩上背了一部无线电接受器。在西面的地平线上,每隔数秒钟就有大炮的玫瑰色闪光,紧接着又是一次巨大的爆炸声。无线电接受器里传来一阵扑扑扑的噪音,如同耳语一般命令我们一有适当机会就立即撤退。我们这样做了,但还不够快。J.C.I.(马统工党的青年同盟[theYoutuLeague],相当于加联社党下属的J.S.U.[加泰罗尼亚联合社会党青年同盟])的十二个可怜的孩子们,由于离法西斯分子阵地仅四十码,迟至黎明时分,也没找到机会脱身。他们只好又在那里隐蔽了一整天,身上只盖了少许野草,只要稍稍一下,法西斯分子就会向那里开枪。一直挨到了黄昏,他们被打死七人,其余五人总算利用夜色作掩护逃回了自己的阵地。

在此后的很多个黎明中,我们都能听到韦斯卡另一侧无政府主义者发动攻击的枪炮声。那声音总是非常相像。但有一天凌晨的某个时刻,突然从那边传来数十枚炸弹同时爆炸的巨大轰鸣声——数英里以外都如临现场的那恶魔般撕心裂肺的爆炸声——紧接着的是无数来复枪和机关枪的持续咆哮,这是一种带有沉重起伏节奏的、与鼓点有着奇特相似之处的声音。从炮火的激烈程度上来说,这场战斗应该震撼了韦斯卡围困战的整个战线,照理说,我们也应该紧紧张张地冲进战壕,疲惫困倦地斜卧在壕沟前的胸墙上,与此同时,敌人也会立即慌张草率、漫无目标地向我的头顶上方开枪扫射。

白天,轰鸣的枪炮声断断续续。托尔费边现在是我们的野战厨房,墙壁上弹痕累累,有些部分已被摧毁了。说起来真是那以思议,当你在安全距离观看炮火时,你总是希望炮手能够击中目标,哪怕这目标包括你的正餐,还有你的一些同志。在那个上午,法西斯分子的大炮打得很准,也许操作这些大炮的是一些德国炮手。他们巧妙地对托尔费边进行了交叉射击*。一发炮弹落在它后面,一发炮弹落在它前面,接着嗖——啵,炸断了的椽子跃向天空,一片纤闪石从空中向下掠过,就像缺角的扑克牌。第二颗炮弹削去了一座建筑的一个角利落得像巨人用刀削出的那样齐整。但厨师还是按时做出了正餐——这是一件非常值得赞美的英雄事迹。

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*指为测定距离而向目标试射的远弹和近弹。——译者

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日子一天天地过去。那些见不着却听得到的火炮,似乎每一门都有自己独特的个性。有两门俄国制造的75毫米口径的大炮,炮台设在我们后面不远的地方,不知何故,只要它们一开火,就会在我记忆中唤起这样一幅画面:一个胖子在打一只高尔夫球。这是我第一次见到俄制大炮——更准确地说,是听到。它们的弹道非常低,速度非常快,以至于你在听到大炮发射的轰鸣声和炮弹飞行的嘶嘶声时,几乎同时就能听到炮弹的爆炸声。在蒙佛洛莱特的后方有两门重型大炮,每天都要发射好多次那种深沉的、压抑的咆哮声,有如远方被锁住的怪兽发出的吼声。在南部的阿拉贡群山中,政府军去年强攻下一处中世纪的要塞(据说,这是历史上第一次),要塞扼守通往韦斯卡的要道。要塞中有门重型大炮,其久远历史可以追溯至十九世纪。这门大炮发射出来的巨大炮弹的飞行啸音是那么斯文优雅,以至于使你感到确有把握可以跟在它后面奔跑,并且追上它。这门大炮的炮弹在飞行时所发出的声音,与一个人骑在自行车上吹出来的口哨声再像不过了。迫击炮,尽管口径比较小,但其炮弹飞行的声音却是所有炮弹飞行声中最令人讨厌的。炮击炮弹实际上一种有翼鱼雷,样子像酒吧里投掷的飞镖,个头与一夸脱容量的瓶子大致相当;这种炮弹爆炸时会发出恶魔般的金属爆炸声,如同某种用生铁铸造的巨球在铁砧上被打击得粉碎时发出的那种声音。我方飞机投下的空投鱼雷爆炸时,所发出的巨大的、回音不绝的轰鸣声,甚至使得两英里外的地面都在颤抖。法西斯分子的防空炮火在天空中爆炸时,如同劣质水墨画出的小小云朵,在天空中星罗棋布,但我从未看到它们在一千码距离内接近过任何一架飞机。当一架飞机突然俯冲并用机关枪射击时,那声音从下面听起来就像是一群鸽子拍翅膀的声音。

在我们这一段战线中没有发生多少事。在我们右侧200码处,那里的法西斯分子阵地源源高出我方阵地,他们的狙击手伤害了我方的不少同志。在我们左侧200码处的河流上有一座桥梁,法西斯分子正在用迫击炮与那些在桥头修筑混凝土路障的人们进行战斗。那些邪恶的小炮弹嗖嗖地飞过去,咚——爆炸了!咚——爆炸了!当它们落在沥青路面上时,发出了双倍的恶魔般的噪音。你可以站在100码外——这是极其安全的距离——观看从地面上升起的柱状的和如同魔法树般迅速飞腾空中的黑烟。在白天,那些待在桥梁附近的可怜的民兵战士,大部分时间都蜷缩在战壕侧面他们自己挖的藏身洞中。但这里的人员伤亡比事先预料的要少得多,而且路障正在有序地建造起来,混凝土铸成了两英尺厚的护墙,并为两挺机关枪和一门小型野战炮预留了射击孔。此外,他们还用旧床架加强混凝土护墙的强度,显然,旧床架已经是他们能够找到的唯一合适的铁制品了。