فصل 10

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فصل 10

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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Chapter 10

YEARS LATER on his deathbed Aureliano Segundo would remember the rainy afternoon in June when he went into the bedroom to meet his first son. Even though the child was languid and weepy, with no mark of a Buendía, he did not have to think twice about naming him.

“We’ll call him José Arcadio,” he said.

Fernanda del Carpio, the beautiful woman he had married the year before, agreed. Úrsula, on the other hand, could not conceal a vague feeling of doubt. Throughout the long history of the family the insistent repetition of names had made her draw some conclusions that seemed to be certain. While the Aurelianos were withdrawn, but with lucid minds, the José Arcadios were impulsive and enterprising, but they were marked with a tragic sign. The only cases that were impossible to classify were those of José Arcadio Segundo and Aureliano Segundo. They were so much alike and so mischievous during childhood that not even Santa Sofía de la Piedad could tell them apart. On the day of their christening Amaranta put bracelets on them with their respective names and dressed them in different colored clothing marked with each one’s initials, but when they began to go to school they decided to exchange clothing and bracelets and call each other by opposite names. The teacher, Melchor Escalona, used to knowing José Arcadio Segundo by his green shirt, went out of his mind when he discovered that the latter was wearing Aureliano Segundo’s bracelet and that the other one said, nevertheless, that his name was Aureliano Segundo in spite of the fact that he was wearing the white shirt and the bracelet with José Arcadio Segundo’s name. From then on he was never sure who was who. Even when they grew up and life made them different. Úrsula still wondered if they themselves might not have made a mistake in some moment of their intricate game of confusion and had become changed forever. Until the beginning of adolescence they were two synchronized machines. They would wake up at the same time, have the urge to go to the bathroom at the same time, suffer the same upsets in health, and they even dreamed about the same things. In the house, where it was thought that they coordinated their actions with a simple desire to confuse, no one realized what really was happening until one day when Santa Sofía de la Piedad gave one of them a glass of lemonade and as soon as he tasted it the other one said that it needed sugar. Santa Sofía de la Piedad, who had indeed forgotten to put sugar in the lemonade, told Úrsula about it. “That’s what they’re all like,” she said without surprise. “crazy from birth.” In time things became less disordered. The one who came out of the game of confusion with the name of Aureliano Segundo grew to monumental size like his grandfathers, and the one who kept the name of José Arcadio Segundo grew to be bony like the colonel, and the only thing they had in common was the family’s solitary air. Perhaps it was that crossing of stature, names, and character that made Úrsula suspect that they had been shuffled like a deck of cards since childhood.

The decisive difference was revealed in the midst of the war, when José Arcadio Segundo asked Colonel Gerineldo Márquez to let him see an execution. Against Úrsula’s better judgment his wishes were satisfied. Aureliano Segundo, on the other hand, shuddered at the mere idea of witnessing an execution. He preferred to stay home. At the age of twelve he asked Úrsula what was in the locked room. “Papers,” she answered. “Melquíades’ books and the strange things that he wrote in his last years.” Instead of calming him, the answer increased his curiosity. He demanded so much, promised with such insistence that he would not mistreat the things, that Úrsula, gave him the keys. No one had gone into the room again since they had taken Melquíades’ body out and had put on the door a padlock whose parts had become fused together with rust. But when Aureliano Segundo opened the windows a familiar light entered that seemed accustomed to lighting the room every day and there was not the slightest trace of dust or cobwebs, with everything swept and clean, better swept and cleaner than on the day of the burial, and the ink had not dried up in the inkwell nor had oxidation diminished the shine of the metals nor had the embers gone out under the water pipe where José Arcadio Buendía had vaporized mercury. On the shelves were the books bound in a cardboardlike material, pale, like tanned human skin, and the manuscripts were intact. In spite of the room’s having been shut up for many years, the air seemed fresher than in the rest of the house. Everything was so recent that several weeks later, when Úrsula went into the room with a pail of water and a brush to wash the floor, there was nothing for her to do. Aureliano Segundo was deep in the reading of a book. Although it had no cover and the title did not appear anywhere, the boy enjoyed the story of a woman who sat at a table and ate nothing but kernels of rice, which she picked up with a pin, and the story of the fisherman who borrowed a weight for his net from a neighbor and when he gave him a fish in payment later it had a diamond in its stomach, and the one about the lamp that fulfilled wishes and about flying carpets. Surprised, he asked Úrsula if all that was true and she answered him that it was, that many years ago the gypsies had brought magic lamps and flying mats to Macondo.

“What’s happening,” she sighed, “is that the world is slowly coming to an end and those things don’t come here any more.”

When he finished the book, in which many of the stories had no endings because there were pages missing, Aureliano Segundo set about deciphering the manuscripts. It was impossible. The letters looked like clothes hung out to dry on a line and they looked more like musical notation than writing. One hot noontime, while he was poring over the, manuscripts, he sensed that he was not alone in the room. Against the light from the window, sitting with his hands on his knees, was Melquíades. He was under forty years of age. He was wearing the same oldfashioned vest and the hat that looked like a raven’s wings, and across his pale temples there flowed the grease from his hair that had been melted by the heat, just as Aureliano and José Arcadio had seen him when they were children. Aureliano Segundo recognized him at once, because that hereditary memory had been transmitted from generation to generation and had come to him through the memory of his grandfather.

“Hello,” Aureliano Segundo said.

“Hello, young man,” said Melquíades.

From then on, for several years, they saw each other almost every afternoon. Melquíades talked to him about the world, tried to infuse him with his old wisdom, but he refused to translate the manuscripts. “No one must know their meaning until he has reached one hundred years of age,” he explained. Aureliano kept those meetings secret forever. On one occasion he felt that his private world had fallen apart because Úrsula came in when Melquíades was in the room. But she did not see him.

“Who were you talking to?” she asked him.

“Nobody,” Aureliano Segundo said.

“That’s what your great-grandfather did,” Úrsula, said. “He used to talk to himself too.”

José Arcadio Segundo, in the meantime, had satisfied his wish to see a shooting. For the rest of his life he would remember the livid flash of the six simultaneous shots-and the echo of the discharge as it broke against the hills and the sad smile and perplexed eyes of the man being shot, who stood erect while his shirt became soaked with blood, and who was still smiling even when they untied him from the post and put him in a box filled with quicklime. “He’s alive,” he thought. “They’re going to bury him alive.” It made such an impression on him that from then on he detested military practices and war, not because of the executions but because of the horrifying custom of burying the victims alive. No one knew then exactly when he began to ring the bells in the church tower and assist Father Antonio Isabel, the successor to “The Pup,” at mass, and take can of the fighting cocks in the courtyard of the parish house. When Colonel Gerineldo Márquez found out he scolded him strongly for learning occupations repudiated by the Liberals. “The fact is,” he answered, “I think I’ve turned out to be a Conservative.” He believed it as if it had been determined by fate. Colonel Gerineldo Márquez, scandalized, told Úrsula about it.

“It’s better that way,” she approved. “Let’s hope that he becomes a priest so that God will finally come into this house.”

It was soon discovered that Father Antonio Isabel was preparing him for his first communion. He was teaching him the catechism as he shaved the necks of his roosters. He explained to him with simple examples, as he put the brooding hens into their nests, how it had occurred to God on the second day of creation that chickens would be formed inside of an egg. From that time on the parish priest began to show the signs of senility that would lead him to say years later that the devil had probably won his rebellion against God, and that he was the one who sat on the heavenly throne, without revealing his true identity in order to trap the unwary. Warmed up by the persistence of his mentor, in a few months José Arcadio Segundo came to be as adept in theological tricks used to confuse the devil as he was skilled in the tricks of the cockpit. Amaranta made him a linen suit with a collar and tie, bought him a pair of white shoes, and engraved his name in gilt letters on the ribbon of the candle. Two nights before the first communion, Father Antonio Isabel closeted himself with him in the sacristy to hear his confession with the help of a dictionary of sins. It was such a long list that the aged priest, used to going to bed at six o’clock, fell asleep in his chair before it was over. The interrogation was a revelation for José Arcadio Segundo. It did not surprise him that the priest asked him if he had done bad things with women, and he honestly answered no, but he was upset with the question as to whether he had done them with animals. The first Friday in May he received communion, tortured by curiosity. Later on he asked Petronio, the sickly sexton who lived in the belfry and who, according to what they said, fed himself on bats, about it, and Petronio, answered him: “There are some corrupt Christians who do their business with female donkeys.” José Arcadio Segundo still showed so much curiosity and asked so many questions that Petronio lost his patience.

“I go Tuesday nights,” he confessed. “if you promise not to tell anyone I’ll take you next Tuesday.”

Indeed, on the following Tuesday Petronio came down out of the tower with a wooden stool which until then no one had known the use of, and he took José Arcadio Segundo to a nearby pasture. The boy became so taken with those nocturnal raids that it was a long time before he was seen at Catarino’s. He became a cockfight man. “Take those creatures somewhere else,” Úrsula ordered him the first time she saw him come in with his fine fighting birds. “Roosters have already brought too much bitterness to this house for you to bring us any more.” José Arcadio Segundo took them away without any argument, but he continued breeding them at the house of Pilar Ternera, his grandmother, who gave him everything he needed in exchange for having him in her house. He soon displayed in the cockpit the wisdom that Father Antonio Isabel had given him, and he made enough money not only to enrich his brood but also to look for a man’s satisfactions. Úrsula compared him with his brother at that time and could not understand how the twins, who looked like the same person in childhood, had ended up so differently. Her perplexity did not last very long, for quite soon Aureliano Segundo began to show signs of laziness and dissipation. While he was shut up in Melquíades’ room he was drawn into himself the way Colonel Aureliano Buendía had been in his youth. But a short time after the Treaty of Neerlandia, a piece of chance took him out of his withdrawn self and made him face the reality of the world. A young woman who was selling numbers for the raffle of an accordion greeted him with a great deal of familiarity. Aureliano Segundo was not surprised, for he was frequently confused with his brother. But he did not clear up the mistake, not even when the girl tried to soften his heart with sobs, and she ended taking him to her room. She liked him so much from that first meeting that she fixed things so that he would win the accordion in the raffle. At the end of two weeks Aureliano Segundo realized that the woman had been going to bed alternately with him and his brother, thinking that they were the same man, and instead of making things clear, he arranged to prolong the situation. He did not return to Melquíades’ room. He would spend his afternoons in the courtyard, learning to play the accordion by ear over the protests of Úrsula, who at that time had forbidden music in the house because of the mourning and who, in addition, despised the accordion as an instrument worthy only of the vagabond heirs of Francisco the Man. Nevertheless, Aureliano Segundo became a virtuoso on the accordion and he still was after he had married and had children and was one of the most respected men in Macondo.

For almost two months he shared the woman with his brother. He would watch him, mix up his plans, and when he was sure that José Arcadio Segundo was not going to visit their common mistress that night, he would go and sleep with her. One morning he found that he was sick. Two days later he found his brother clinging to a beam in the bathroom, soaked in sweat and with tears pouring down, and then he understood. His brother confessed to him that the woman had sent him away because he had given her what she called a low-life sickness. He also told him how Pilar Ternera had tried to cure him. Aureliano Segundo submitted secretly to the burning baths of permanganate and to diuretic waters, and both were cured separately after three months of secret suffering. José Arcadio Segundo did not see the woman again. Aureliano Segundo obtained her pardon and stayed with her until his death.

Her name was Petra Cotes. She had arrived in Macondo in the middle of the war with a chalice husband who lived off raffles, and when the man died she kept up the business. She was a clean young mulatto woman with yellow almond-shaped eyes that gave her face the ferocity of a panther, but she had a generous heart and a magnificent vocation for love. When Úrsula realized that José Arcadio Segundo was a cockfight man and that Aureliano Segundo played the accordion at his concubine’s noisy parties, she thought she would go mad with the combination. It was as if the defects of the family and none of the virtues had been concentrated in both. Then she decided that no one again would be called Aureliano or José Arcadio. Yet when Aureliano Segundo had his first son she did not dare go against his will.

“All right,” Úrsula said, “but on one condition: I will bring him up.”

Although she was already a hundred years old and on the point of going blind from cataracts, she still had her physical dynamism, her integrity of character, and her mental balance intact. No one would be better able than she to shape the virtuous man who would restore the prestige of the family, a man who would never have heard talk of war, fighting cocks, bad women, or wild undertakings, four calamities that, according to what Úrsula thought, had determined the downfall. of their line. “This one will be a priest,” she promised solemnly. “And if God gives me life he’ll be Pope someday.” They all laughed when they heard her, not only in the bedroom but all through the house, where Aureliano Segundo’s rowdy friends were gathered. The war, relegated to the attic of bad memories, was momentarily recalled with the popping of champagne bottles.

“To the health of the Pope,” Aureliano Segundo toasted.

The guests toasted in a chorus. Then the man of the house played the accordion, fireworks were set off, and drums celebrated the event throughout the town. At dawn the guests, soaked in champagne, sacrificed six cows and put them in the street at the disposal of the crowd. No one was scandalized. Since Aureliano Segundo had taken charge of the house those festivities were a common thing, even when there was no motive as proper as the birth of a Pope. In a few years, without effort, simply by luck, he had accumulated one of the largest fortunes in the swamp thanks to the supernatural proliferation of his animals. His mares would bear triplets, his hens laid twice a day, and his hogs fattened with such speed that no one could explain such disorderly fecundity except through the use of black magic. “Save something now,” Úrsula would tell her wild greatgrandson. “This luck is not going to last all your life.” But Aureliano Segundo paid no attention to her. The more he opened champagne to soak his friends, the more wildly his animals gave birth and the more he was convinced that his lucky star was not a matter of his conduct but an influence of Petra Cotes, his concubine, whose love had the virtue of exasperating nature. So convinced was he that this was the origin of his fortune that he never kept Petra Cotes far away from his breeding grounds and even when he married and had children he continued living with her with the consent of Fernanda. Solid, monumental like his grandfathers, but with a joie de vivre and an irresistible good humor that they did not have, Aureliano Segundo scarcely had time to look after his animals. All he had to do was to take Petra Cores to his breeding grounds and have her ride across his land in order to have every animal marked with his brand succumb to the irremediable plague of proliferation.

Like all the good things that occurred in his long life, that tremendous fortune had its origins in chance. Until the end of the wars Petra Cotes continued to support herself with the returns from her raffles and Aureliano Segundo was able to sack Úrsula’s savings from time to time. They were a frivolous couple, with no other worries except going to bed every night, even on forbidden days, and frolicking there until dawn. “That woman has been your ruination,” Úrsula would shout at her greatgrandson when she saw him coming into the house like a sleepwalker. “She’s got you so bewitched that one of these days I’m going to see you twisting around with colic and with a toad in your belly.” José Arcadio Segundo, who took a long time to discover that he had been supplanted, was unable to understand his brother’s passion. He remembered Petra Cotes as an ordinary woman, rather lazy in bed, and completely lacking in any resources for lovemaking. Deaf to Úrsula’s clamor and the teasing of his brother, Aureliano Segundo only thought at that time of finding a trade that would allow him to maintain a house for Petra Cotes, and to die with her, on top of her and underneath her, during a night of feverish license. When Colonel Aureliano Buendía opened up his workshop again, seduced at last by the peaceful charms of old age, Aureliano Segundo thought that it would be good business to devote himself to the manufacture of little gold fishes. He spent many hours in the hot room watching how the hard sheets of metal, worked by the colonel with the inconceivable patience of disillusionment, were slowly being converted into golden scales. The work seemed so laborious to him and the thought of Petra Cotes was so persistent and pressing that after three weeks he disappeared from the workshop. It was during that time that it occurred to Petra Cotes to raffle off rabbits. They reproduced and grew up so fast that there was barely time to sell the tickets for the raffle. At first Aureliano Segundo did not notice the alarming proportions of the proliferation. But one night, when nobody in town wanted to hear about the rabbit raffle any more, he heard a noise by the courtyard door. “Don’t get worried,” Petra, Cotes said. “It’s only the rabbits.” They could not sleep, tormented by the uproar of the animals. At dawn Aureliano Segundo opened the door and saw the courtyard paved with rabbits, blue in the glow of dawn. Petra Cotes, dying with laughter, could not resist the temptation of teasing him.

“Those are the ones who were born last night,” she aid.

“Oh my God!” he said. “Why don’t you raffle off cows?”

A few days later, in an attempt to clean out her courtyard, Petra Cotes exchanged the rabbits for a cow, who two months later gave birth to triplets. That was how things began. Overnight Aureliano Segundo be. came the owner of land and livestock and he barely had time to enlarge his overflowing barns and pigpens. It was a delirious prosperity that even made him laugh, and he could not help doing crazy things to release his good humor. “Cease, cows, life is short,” he would shout. Úrsula wondered what entanglements he had got into, whether he might be stealing, whether he had become a rustler, and every time she saw him uncorking champagne just for the pleasure of pouring the foam over his head, she would shout at him and scold him for the waste. It annoyed him so much that one day when he awoke in a merry mood, Aureliano Segundo appeared with a chest full of money, a can of paste, and a brush, and singing at the top of his lungs the old songs of Francisco the Man, he papered the house inside and out and from top to bottom, with one-peso banknotes. The old mansion, painted white since the time they had brought the pianola, took on the strange look of a mosque. In the midst of the excitement of the family the scandalization of Úrsula, the joy of the people cramming the street to watch that apotheosis of squandering. Aureliano Segundo finished by papering the house from the front to the kitchen, including bathrooms and bedrooms, and threw the leftover bills into the courtyard.

“Now,” he said in a final way, “I hope that nobody in this house ever talks to me about money again.”

That was what happened. Úrsula had the bills taken down, stuck to great cakes of whitewash, and the house was painted white again. “Dear Lord,” she begged, “make us poor again the way we were when we founded this town so that you will not collect for this squandering in the other life.” Her prayers were answered in reverse. One of the workmen removing the bills bumped into an enormous plaster statue of Saint Joseph that someone had left in the house during the last years of the war and the hollow figure broke to pieces on the floor. It had been stuffed with gold coins. No one could remember who had brought that life-sized saint. “Three men brought it,” Amaranta explained. “They asked us to keep it until the rains were over and I told them to put it there in the corner where nobody would bump into it, and there they put it, very carefully, and there it’s been ever since because they never came back for it.” Later on, Úrsula had put candles on it and had prostrated herself before it, not suspecting that instead of a saint she was adoring almost four bundled pounds of gold. The tardy evidence of her involuntary paganism made her even more upset. She spat on the spectacular pile of coins, put them in three canvas sacks, and buried them in a secret place, hoping that sooner or later the three unknown men would come to reclaim them. Much later, during the difficult years of her decrepitude, Úrsula would intervene in the conversations of the many travelers who came by the house at that time and ask them if they had left a plaster Saint Joseph there during the war to be taken care of until the rains passed.

Things like that which gave Úrsula such consternation, were commonplace in those days. Macondo was swamped in a miraculous prosperity. The adobe houses of the founders had been replaced by brick buildings with wooden blinds and cement floors which made the suffocating heat of two o’clock in the afternoon more bearable. All that remained at that time of José Arcadio Buendía’s ancient village were the dusty almond trees, destined to resist the most arduous of circumstances, and the river of clear water whose prehistoric stones had been pulverized by the frantic hammers of José Arcadio Segundo when he set about opening the channel in order to establish a boat line. It was a mad dream, comparable to those of his great-grandfather, for the rocky riverbed and the numerous rapids prevented navigation from Macondo to the sea. But José Arcadio Segundo, in an unforeseen burst of temerity, stubbornly kept on with the project. Until then he had shown no sign of imagination. Except for his precarious adventure with Petra Cotes, he had never known a woman. Úrsula had considered him the quietest example the family had ever produced in all its history, incapable of standing out even as a handler of fighting cocks, when Colonel Aureliano Buendía told him the story of the Spanish galleon aground eight miles from the sea, the carbonized frame of which he had seen himself during the war. The story, which for so many years had seemed fantastic to so many people, was a revelation for José Arcadio Segundo. He auctioned off his roosters to the highest bidder, recruited men, bought tools, and set about the awesome task of breaking stones, digging canals, clearing away rapids, and even harnessing waterfalls. “I know all of this by heart,” Úrsula would shout. “It’s as if time had turned around and we were back at the beginning.” When he thought that the river was navigable, José Arcadio Segundo gave his brother a detailed account of his plans and the latter gave him the money he needed for the enterprise. He disappeared for a long time. It had been said that his plan to buy a boat was nothing but a trick to make off with his brother’s money when the news spread that a strange craft was approaching the town. The inhabitants of Macondo, who no longer remembered the colossal undertakings of José Arcadio Buendía, ran to the riverbank and saw with eyes popping in disbelief the arrival of the first and last boat ever to dock in the town. It was nothing but a log raft drawn by thick ropes pulled by twenty men who walked along the bank. In the prow, with a glow of satisfaction in his eyes, José Arcadio Segundo was directing the arduous maneuver. There arrived with him a rich group of splendid matrons who were protecting themselves from the burning sun with gaudy parasols, and wore on their shoulders fine silk kerchiefs, with colored creams on their faces and natural flowers in their hair and golden serpents on their arms and diamonds in their teeth. The log raft was the only vessel that José Arcadio Segundo was able to bring to Macondo, and only once, but he never recognized the failure of his enterprise, but proclaimed his deed as a victory of will power. He gave a scrupulous accounting to his brother and very soon plunged back into the routine of cockfights. The only thing that remained of that unfortunate venture was the breath of renovation that the matrons from France brought, as their magnificent arts transformed traditional methods of love and their sense of social well-being abolished Catarino’s antiquated place and turned the street into a bazaar of Japanese lanterns and nostalgic hand organs. They were the promoters of the bloody carnival that plunged Macondo into delirium for three days and whose only lasting consequence was having given Aureliano Segundo the opportunity to meet Fernanda del Carpio.

Remedios the Beauty was proclaimed queen. Úrsula, who shuddered at the disquieted beauty of her great-granddaughter, could not prevent the choice. Until then she had succeeded in keeping her off the streets unless it was to go to mass with Amaranta, but she made her cover her face with a black shawl. The most impious men, those who would disguise themselves as priests to say sacrilegious masses in Catarino’s store, would go to church with an aim to see, if only for an instant, the face of Remedios the Beauty, whose legendary good looks were spoken of with alarming excitement throughout the swamp. It was a long time before they were able to do so, and it would have been better for them if they never had, because most of them never recovered their peaceful habits of sleep. The man who made it possible, a foreigner, lost his serenity forever, became involved in the sloughs of abjection and misery, and years later was cut to pieces by a train after he had fallen asleep on the tracks. From the moment he was seen in the church, wearing a green velvet suit and an embroidered vest, no one doubted that he came from far away, perhaps from some distant city outside of the country, attracted by the magical fascination of Remedios the Beauty. He was so handsome, so elegant and dignified, with such presence, that Pietro Crespi would have been a mere fop beside him and many women whispered with spiteful smiles that he was the one who really should have worn the shawl. He did not speak to anyone in Macondo. He appeared at dawn on Sunday like a prince in a fairy tale, riding a horse with silver stirrups and a velvet blanket, and he left town after mass.

The power of his presence was such that from the first time he was seen in the church everybody took it for granted that a silent and tense duel had been established between him and Remedios the Beauty, a secret pact, an irrevocable challenge that would end not only in love but also in death. On the sixth Sunday the gentleman appeared with a yellow rose in his hand. He heard mass standing, as he always did, and at the end he stepped in front of Remedios the Beauty and offered her the solitary rose. She took it with a natural gesture, as if she had been prepared for that homage, and then she uncovered her face and gave her thanks with a smile. That was all she did. Not only for the gentleman, but for all the men who had the unfortunate privilege of seeing her, that was an eternal instant.

From then on the gentleman had a band of musicians play beside the window of Remedios the Beauty, sometimes until dawn. Aureliano Segundo was the only one who felt a cordial compassion for him and he tried to break his perseverance. “Don’t waste your time any more,” he told him one night. “The women in this house are worse than mules.” He offered him his friendship, invited him to bathe in champagne, tried to make him understand that the females of his family had insides made of flint, but he could not weaken his obstinacy. Exasperated by the interminable nights of music, Colonel Aureliano Buendía threatened to cure his affliction with a few pistol shots. Nothing made him desist except his own lamentable state of demoralization. From a well-dressed and neat individual he became filthy and ragged. It was rumored that he had abandoned power and fortune in his distant nation, although his origins were actually never known. He became argumentative, a barroom brawler, and he would wake up rolling in his own filth in Catarino’s store. The saddest part of his drama was that Remedios the Beauty did not notice him not even when he appeared in church dressed like a prince. She accepted the yellow rose without the least bit of malice, amused, rather, by the extravagance of the act, and she lifted her shawl to see his face better, not to show hers.

Actually, Remedios the Beauty was not a creature of this world. Until she was well along in puberty Santa Sofía de la. Piedad had to bathe and dress her, and even when she could take care of herself it was necessary to keep an eye on her so that she would not paint little animals on the walls with a stick daubed in her own excrement. She reached twenty without knowing how to read or write, unable to use the silver at the table, wandering naked through the house because her nature rejected all manner of convention. When the young commander of the guard declared his love for her, she rejected him simply because his frivolity startled her. “See how simple he is,” she told Amaranta. “He says that he’s dying because of me, as if I were a bad case of colic.” When, indeed, they found him dead beside her window, Remedios the Beauty confirmed her first impression.

“You see,” she commented. “He was a complete Simpleton.”

It seemed as if some penetrating lucidity permitted her to see the reality of things beyond any formalism. That at least was the point of view of Colonel Aureliano Buendía, for whom Remedios the Beauty was in no way mentally retarded, as was generally believed, but quite the opposite. “It’s as if she’s come back from twenty years of war,” he would say. Úrsula, for her part, thanked God for having awarded the family with a creature of exceptional purity, but at the same time she was disturbed by her beauty, for it seemed a contradictory virtue to her, a diabolical trap at the center of her innocence. It was for that reason that she decided to keep her away from the world, to protect her from all earthly temptation, not knowing that Remedios the Beauty, even from the time when she was in her mother’s womb, was safe from any contagion. It never entered her head that they would elect her beauty queen of the carnival pandemonium. But Aureliano, Segundo, excited at the caprice of disguising himself as a tiger, brought Father Antonio Isabel to the house in order to convince Úrsula that the carnival was not a pagan feast, as she said, but a Catholic tradition. Finally convinced, even though reluctantly, she consented to the coronation.

The news that Remedios Buendía was going to be the sovereign ruler of the festival went beyond the limits of the swamp in a few hours, reached distant places where the prestige of her beauty was not known, and it aroused the anxiety of those who still thought of her last name as a symbol of subversion. The anxiety was baseless. If anyone had become harmless at that time it was the aging and disillusioned Colonel Aureliano Buendía, who was slowly losing all contact with the reality of the nation. Enclosed in his workshop, his only relationship with the rest of the world was his business in little gold fishes. One of the soldiers who had guarded his house during the first days of peace would go sell them in the villages of the swamp and return loaded down with coins and news. That the Conservative government, he would say, with the backing of the Liberals, was reforming the calendar so that every president could remain in power for a hundred years. That the concordat with the Holy See had finally been signed and a cardinal had come from Rome with a crown of diamonds and a throne of solid gold, and that the Liberal ministers had had their pictures taken on their knees in the act of kissing his ring. That the leading lady of a Spanish company passing through the capital had been kidnapped by a band of masked highwaymen and on the following Sunday she had danced in the nude at the summer house of the president of the republic. “Don’t talk to me about politics,” the colonel would tell him. “Our business is selling little fishes.” The rumor that he did not want to hear anything about the situation in the country because he was growing rich in his workshop made Úrsula laugh when it reached her ears. With her terrible practical sense she could not understand the colonel’s business as he exchanged little fishes for gold coins and then converted the coins into little fishes, and so on, with the result that he had to work all the harder with the more he sold in order to satisfy an exasperating vicious circle. Actually, what interested him was not the business but the work. He needed so much concentration to link scales, fit minute rubies into the eyes, laminate gills, and put on fins that there was not the smallest empty moment left for him to fill with his disillusionment of the war. So absorbing was the attention required by the delicacy of his artistry that in a short time he had aged more than during all the years of the war, and his position had twisted his spine and the close work had used up his eyesight, but the implacable concentration awarded him with a peace of the spirit. The last time he was seen to take an interest in some matter related to the war was when a group of veterans from both parties sought his support for the approval of lifetime pensions, which had always been promised and were always about to be put into effect. “Forget about it,” he told them. “You can see how I refuse my pension in order to get rid of the torture of waiting for it until the day I died.” At first Colonel Gerineldo Márquez would visit him at dusk and they would both sit in the street door and talk about the past. But Amaranta could not bear the memories that that man, whose baldness had plunged him into the abyss of premature old age, aroused in her, and she would torment him with snide remarks until he did not come back except on special occasions and he finally disappeared, extinguished by paralysis. Taciturn, silent, insensible to the new breath of vitality that was shaking the house, Colonel Aureliano Buendía could understand only that the secret of a good old age is simply an honorable pact with solitude. He would get up at five in the morning after a light sleep, have his eternal mug of bitter coffee in the kitchen, shut himself up all day in the workshop, and at four in the afternoon he would go along the porch dragging a stool, not even noticing the fire of the rose bushes or the brightness of the hour or the persistence of Amaranta, whose melancholy made the noise of a boiling pot, which was perfectly perceptible at dusk, and he would sit in the street door as long as the mosquitoes would allow him to. Someone dared to disturb his solitude once.

“How are you, Colonel?” he asked in passing.

“Right here,” he answered. “Waiting for my funeral procession to pass.”

So that the anxiety caused by the public reappearance of his family name, having to do with the coronation of Remedios the Beauty, was baseless. Many people did not think that way, however. Innocent of the tragedy that threatened it, the town poured into the main square in a noisy explosion of merriment. The carnival had reached its highest level of madness and Aureliano Segundo had satisfied at last his dream of dressing up like a tiger and was walking along the wild throng, hoarse from so much roaring, when on the swamp road a parade of several people appeared carrying in a gilded litter the most fascinating woman that imagination could conceive. For a moment the inhabitants of Macondo took off their masks in order to get a better look at the dazzling creature with a crown of emeralds and an ermine cape, who seemed invested with legitimate authority, and was not merely a sovereign of bangles and crepe paper. There were many people who had sufficient insight to suspect that it was a question of provocation. But Aureliano Segundo immediately conquered his perplexity and declared the new arrivals to be guests of honor, and with the wisdom of Solomon he seated Remedios the Beauty and the intruding queen on the same dais. Until midnight the strangers, disguised as bedouins, took part in the delirium and even enriched it with sumptuous fireworks and acrobatic skills that made one think of the art of the gypsies. Suddenly, during the paroxysm of the celebration, someone broke the delicate balance.

“Long live the Liberal party!” he shouted. “Long live Colonel Aureliano Buendía!”

The rifle shots drowned out the splendor of the fireworks and the cries of terror drowned out the music and joy turned into panic. Many years later there were those who still insisted that the royal guard of the intruding queen was a squad of regular army soldiers who were concealing government-issue rifles under their rich Moorish robes. The government denied the charge in a special proclamation and promised a complete investigation of the bloody episode. But the truth never came to light, and the version always prevailed that the royal guard, without provocation of any kind, took up combat positions upon a signal from their commander and opened fire without pity on the crowd. When calm was restored, not one of the false bedouins remained in town and there were many dead and wounded lying on the square: nine clowns, four Columbines, seventeen playing-card kings, one devil, three minstrels, two peers of France, and three Japanese empresses. In the confusion of the panic José Arcadio Segundo managed to rescue Remedios the Beauty and Aureliano Segundo carried the intruding queen to the house in his arms, her dress torn and the ermine cape stained with blood. Her name was Fernanda del Carpio. She had been chosen as the most beautiful of the five thousand most beautiful women in the land and they had brought her to Macondo with the promise of naming her Queen of Madagascar. Úrsula took care of her as if she were her own daughter. The town, instead of doubting her innocence, pitied her candor. Six months after the massacre, when the wounded had recovered and the last flowers on the mass grave had withered, Aureliano Segundo went to fetch her from the distant city where she lived with her father and he married her in Macondo with a noisy celebration that lasted twenty days.

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