PILAR TERNERA’S son was brought to his grand parents’ house two weeks after he was born. ?rsula admitted him grudgingly, conquered once more by the obstinacy of her husband, who could not tolerate the idea that an offshoot of his blood should be adrift, but he imposed the condition that the child should never know his true identity. Although he was given the name Jos? Arcadio, they ended up calling him simply Arcadio so as to avoid confusion. At that time there was so much activity in the town and so much bustle in the house that the care of the children was relegated to a secondary level. They were put in the care of Visitaci?n, a Guajiro Indian woman who had arrived in town with a brother in flight from a plague of insomnia that had been scourging their tribe for several years. They were both so docile and willing to help that ?rsula took them on to help her with her household chores. That was how Arcadio and Amaranta came to speak the Guajiro language before Spanish, and they learned to drink lizard broth and eat spider eggs without ?rsula’s knowing it, for she was too busy with a promising business in candy animals. Macondo had changed. The people who had come with ?rsula spread the news of the good quality of its soil and its privileged position with respect to the swamp, so that from the narrow village of past times it changed into an active town with stores and workshops and a permanent commercial route over which the first Arabs arrived with their baggy pants and rings in their ears, swapping glass beads for macaws. Jos? Arcadio Buend?a did not have a moment’s rest. Fascinated by an immediate reality that came to be more fantastic than the vast universe of his imagination, he lost all interest in the alchemist’s laboratory, put to rest the material that had become attenuated with months of manipulation, and went back to being the enterprising man of earlier days when he had decided upon the layout of the streets and the location of the new houses so that no one would enjoy privileges that everyone did not have. He acquired such authority among the new arrivals that foundations were not laid or walls built without his being consulted, and it was decided that he should be the one in charge of the distribution of the land. When the acrobat gypsies returned, with their vagabond carnival transformed now into a gigantic organization of games of luck and chance, they were received with great joy, for it was thought that Jos? Arcadio would be coming back with them. But Jos? Arcadio did not return, nor did they come with the snake-man, who, according to what ?rsula thought, was the only one who could tell them about their son, so the gypsies were not allowed to camp in town or set foot in it in the future, for they were considered the bearers of concupiscence and perversion. Jos? Arcadio Buend?a, however, was explicit in maintaining that the old tribe of Melqu?ades, who had contributed so much to the growth of the village with his age-old wisdom and his fabulous inventions, would always find the gates open. But Melqu?ades’ tribe, according to what the wanderers said, had been wiped off the face of the earth because they had gone beyond the limits of human knowledge.
Emancipated for the moment at least from the torment of fantasy, Jos? Arcadio Buend?a in a short time set up a system of order and work which allowed for only one bit of license: the freeing of the birds, which, since the time of the founding, had made time merry with their flutes, and installing in their place musical clocks in every house. They were wondrous clocks made of carved wood, which the Arabs had traded for macaws and which Jos? Arcadio Buend?a had synchronized with such precision that every half hour the town grew merry with the progressive chords of the same song until it reached the climax of a noontime that was as exact and unanimous as a complete waltz. It was also Jos? Arcadio Buend?a who decided during those years that they should plant almond trees instead of acacias on the streets, and who discovered, without ever revealing it, a way to make them live forever. Many years later, when Macondo was a field of wooden houses with zinc roofs, the broken and dusty almond trees still stood on the oldest streets, although no one knew who had planted them. While his father was putting the town in order and his mother was increasing their wealth with her marvelous business of candied little roosters and fish, which left the house twice a day strung along sticks of balsa wood, Aureliano spent interminable hours in the abandoned laboratory, learning the art of silverwork by his own experimentation. He had shot up so fast that in a short time the clothing left behind by his brother no longer fit him and he began to wear his father’s, but Visitaci?n had to sew pleats in the shirt and darts in the pants, because Aureliano had not sequined the corpulence of the others. Adolescence had taken away the softness of his voice and had made him silent and definitely solitary, but, on the other hand, it had restored the intense expression that he had had in his eyes when he was born. He concentrated so much on his experiments in silverwork that he scarcely left the laboratory to eat. Worried ever his inner withdrawal, Jos? Arcadio Buend?a gave him the keys to the house and a little money, thinking that perhaps he needed a woman. But Aureliano spent the money on muriatic acid to prepare some aqua regia and he beautified the keys by plating them with gold. His excesses were hardly comparable to those of Arcadio and Amaranta, who had already begun to get their second teeth and still went about all day clutching at the Indians’ cloaks, stubborn in their decision not to speak Spanish but the Guajiro language. “You shouldn’t complain.” ?rsula told her husband. “Children inherit their parents’ madness.” And as she was lamenting her misfortune, convinced that the wild behavior of her children was something as fearful as a pig’s tail, Aureliano gave her a look that wrapped her in an atmosphere of uncertainty.
“Somebody is coming,” he told her.
?rsula, as she did whenever he made a prediction, tried to break it down with her housewifely logic. It was normal for someone to be coming. Dozens of strangers came through Macondo every day without arousing suspicion or secret ideas. Nevertheless, beyond all logic, Aureliano was sure of his prediction.
“I don’t know who it will be,” he insisted, “but whoever it is is already on the way.”
That Sunday, in fact, Rebeca arrived. She was only eleven years old. She had made the difficult trip from Manaure with some hide dealers who had taken on the task of delivering her along with a letter to Jos? Arcadio Buend?a, but they could not explain precisely who the person was who had asked the favor. Her entire baggage consisted of a small trunk, a little rocking chair with small hand-painted flowers, and a canvas sack which kept making a cloc-cloc-cloc sound, where she carried her parents’ bones. The letter addressed to Jos? Arcadio Buend?a was written is very warm terms by someone who still loved him very much in spite of time and distance, and who felt obliged by a basic humanitarian feeling to do the charitable thing and send him that poor unsheltered orphan, who was a second cousin of ?rsula’s and consequently also a relative of Jos? Arcadio Buend?a, although farther removed, because she was the daughter of that unforgettable friend Nicanor Ulloa and his very worthy wife Rebeca Montiel, may God keep them in His holy kingdom, whose remains the girl was carrying so that they might be given Christian burial. The names mentioned, as well as the signature on the letter, were perfectly legible, but neither Jos? Arcadio, Buend?a nor ?rsula remembered having any relatives with those names, nor did they know anyone by the name of the sender of the letter, much less the remote village of Manaure. It was impossible to obtain any further information from the girl. From the moment she arrived she had been sitting in the rocker, sucking her finger and observing everyone with her large, startled eyes without giving any sign of understanding what they were asking her. She wore a diagonally striped dress that had been dyed black, worn by use, and a pair of scaly patent leather boots. Her hair was held behind her ears with bows of black ribbon. She wore a scapular with the images worn away by sweat, and on her right wrist the fang of a carnivorous animal mounted on a backing of copper as an amulet against the evil eye. Her greenish skin, her stomach, round and tense as a drum. revealed poor health and hunger that were older than she was, but when they gave her something to eat she kept the plate on her knees without tasting anything. They even began to think that she was a deaf-mute until the Indians asked her in their language if she wanted some water and she moved her eyes as if she recognized them and said yes with her head.
They kept her, because there was nothing else they could do. They decided to call her Rebeca, which according to the letter was her mother’s name, because Aureliano had the patience to read to her the names of all the saints and he did not get a reaction from any one of them. Since there was no cemetery in Macondo at that time, for no one had died up till then, they kept the bag of bones to wait for a worthy place of burial, and for a long time it got in the way everywhere and would be found where least expected, always with its clucking of a broody hen. A long time passed before Rebeca became incorporated into the life of the family. She would sit in her small rocker sucking her finger in the most remote corner of the house. Nothing attracted her attention except the music of the clocks, which she would look for every half hour with her frightened eyes as if she hoped to find it someplace in the air. They could not get her to eat for several days. No one understood why she had not died of hunger until the Indians, who were aware of everything, for they went ceaselessly about the house on their stealthy feet, discovered that Rebeca only liked to eat the damp earth of the courtyard and the cake of whitewash that she picked of the walls with her nails. It was obvious that her parents, or whoever had raised her, had scolded her for that habit because she did it secretively and with a feeling of guilt, trying to put away supplies so that she could eat when no one was looking. From then on they put her under an implacable watch. They threw cow gall onto the courtyard and, rubbed hot chili on the walls, thinking they could defeat her pernicious vice with those methods, but she showed such signs of astuteness and ingenuity to find some earth that ?rsula found herself forced to use more drastic methods. She put some orange juice and rhubarb into a pan that she left in the dew all night and she gave her the dose the following day on an empty stomach. Although no one had told her that it was the specific remedy for the vice of eating earth, she thought that any bitter substance in an empty stomach would have to make the liver react. Rebeca was so rebellious and strong in spite of her frailness that they had to tie her up like a calf to make her swallow the medicine, and they could barely keep back her kicks or bear up under the strange hieroglyphics that she alternated with her bites and spitting, and that, according to what the scandalized Indians said, were the vilest obscenities that one could ever imagine in their language. When ?rsula discovered that, she added whipping to the treatment. It was never established whether it was the rhubarb or the beatings that had effect, or both of them together, but the truth was that in a few weeks Rebeca began to show signs of recovery. She took part in the games of Arcadio and Amaranta, who treated her like an older sister, and she ate heartily, using the utensils properly. It was soon revealed that she spoke Spanish with as much fluency as the Indian language, that she had a remarkable ability for manual work, and that she could sing the waltz of the clocks with some very funny words that she herself had invented. It did not take long for them to consider her another member of the family. She was more affectionate to ?rsula than any of her own children had been, and she called Arcadio, and Amaranta brother and sister, Aureliano uncle, and Jos? Arcadio Buend?a grandpa. So that she finally deserved, as much as the others, the name of Rebeca Buend?a, the only one that she ever had and that she bore with dignity until her death.
One night about the time that Rebeca was cured of the vice of eating earth and was brought to sleep in the other children’s room, the Indian woman, who slept with them awoke by chance and heard a strange, intermittent sound in the corner. She got up in alarm, thinking that an animal had come into the room, and then she saw Rebeca in the rocker, sucking her finger and with her eyes lighted up in the darkness like those of a cat. Terrified, exhausted by her fate, Visitaci?n recognized in those eyes the symptoms of the sickness whose threat had obliged her and her brother to exile themselves forever from an age-old kingdom where they had been prince and princess. It was the insomnia plague.
Cataure, the Indian, was gone from the house by morning. His sister stayed because her fatalistic heart told her that the lethal sickness would follow her, no matter what, to the farthest corner of the earth. No one understood Visitaci?n’s alarm. “If we don’t ever sleep again, so much the better,” Jos? Arcadio Buend?a said in good humor. “That way we can get more out of life.” But the Indian woman explained that the most fearsome part of the sickness of insomnia was not the impossibility of sleeping, for the body did not feel any fatigue at all, but its inexorable evolution toward a more critical manifestation: a loss of memory. She meant that when the sick person became used to his state of vigil, the recollection of his childhood began to be erased from his memory, then the name and notion of things, and finally the identity of people and even the awareness of his own being, until he sank into a kind of idiocy that had no past. Jos? Arcadio Buend?a, dying with laughter, thought that it was just a question of one of the many illnesses invented by the Indians’ superstitions. But ?rsula, just to be safe, took the precaution of isolating Rebeca from the other children.
After several weeks, when Visitaci?n’s terror seemed to have died down, Jos? Arcadio Buend?a found himself rolling over in bed, unable to fall asleep. ?rsula, who had also awakened, asked him what was wrong, and he answered: “I’m thinking about Prudencio Aguilar again.” They did not sleep a minute, but the following day they felt so rested that they forgot about the bad night. Aureliano commented with surprise at lunchtime that he felt very well in spite of the fact that he had spent the whole night in the laboratory gilding a brooch that he planned to give to ?rsula for her birthday. They did not become alarmed until the third day, when no one felt sleepy at bedtime and they realized that they had gone more than fifty hours without sleeping.
“The children are awake too,” the Indian said with her fatalistic conviction. “Once it gets into a house no one can escape the plague.”
They had indeed contracted the illness of insomnia. ?rsula, who had learned from her mother the medicinal value of plants, prepared and made them all drink a brew of monkshood, but they could not get to sleep and spent the whole day dreaming on their feet. In that state of hallucinated lucidity, not only did they see the images of their own dreams, but some saw the images dreamed by others. It was as if the house were full of visitors. Sitting in her rocker in a corner of the kitchen, Rebeca dreamed that a man who looked very much like her, dressed in white linen and with his shirt collar closed by a gold button, was bringing her a bouquet of roses. He was accompanied by a woman with delicate hands who took out one rose and put it in the child’s hair. ?rsula understood that the man and woman were Rebeca’s parents, but even though she made a great effort to recognize them, she confirmed her certainty that she had never seen them. In the meantime, through an oversight that Jos? Arcadio Buend?a never forgave himself for, the candy animals made in the house were still being sold in the town. Children and adults sucked with delight on the delicious little green roosters of insomnia, the exquisite pink fish of insomnia, and the tender yellow ponies of insomnia, so that dawn on Monday found the whole town awake. No one was alarmed at first. On the contrary, they were happy at not sleeping because there was so much to do in Macondo in those days that there was barely enough time. They worked so hard that soon they had nothing else to do and they could be found at three o’clock in the morning with their arms crossed, counting the notes in the waltz of the clock. Those who wanted to sleep, not from fatigue but because of the nostalgia for dreams, tried all kinds of methods of exhausting themselves. They would gather together to converse endlessly, to tell over and over for hours on end the same jokes, to complicate to the limits of exasperation the story about the capon, which was an endless game in which the narrator asked if they wanted him to tell them the story about the capon, and when they answered yes, the narrator would say that he had not asked them to say yes, but whether they wanted him to tell them the story about the capon, and when they answered no, the narrator told them that he had not asked them to say no, but whether they wanted him to tell them the story about the capon, and when they remained silent the narrator told them that he had not asked them to remain silent but whether they wanted him to tell them the story about the capon, and no one could leave because the narrator would say that he had not asked them to leave but whether they wanted him to tell them the story about the capon, and so on and on in a vicious circle that lasted entire nights.
When Jos? Arcadio Buend?a realized that the plague had invaded the town, he gathered together the heads of families to explain to them what he knew about the sickness of insomnia, and they agreed on methods to prevent the scourge from spreading to other towns in the swamp. That was why they took the bells off the goats, bells that the Arabs had swapped them for macaws, and put them at the entrance to town at the disposal of those who would not listen to the advice and entreaties of the sentinels and insisted on visiting the town. All strangers who passed through the streets of Macondo at that time had to ring their bells so that the sick people would know that they were healthy. They were not allowed to eat or drink anything during their stay, for there was no doubt but that the illness was transmitted by mouth, and all food and drink had been contaminated by insomnia. In that way they kept the plague restricted to the perimeter of the town. So effective was the quarantine that the day came when the emergency situation was accepted as a natural thing and life was organized in such a way that work picked up its rhythm again and no one worried any more about the useless habit of sleeping.
It was Aureliano who conceived the formula that was to protect them against loss of memory for several months. He discovered it by chance. An expert insomniac, having been one of the first, he had learned the art of silverwork to perfection. One day he was looking for the small anvil that he used for laminating metals and he could not remember its name. His father told him: “Stake.” Aureliano wrote the name on a piece of paper that he pasted to the base of the small anvil: stake. In that way he was sure of not forgetting it in the future. It did not occur to him that this was the first manifestation of a loss of memory, because the object had a difficult name to remember. But a few days later be, discovered that he had trouble remembering almost every object in the laboratory. Then he marked them with their respective names so that all he had to do was read the inscription in order to identify them. When his father told him about his alarm at having forgotten even the most impressive happenings of his childhood, Aureliano explained his method to him, and Jos? Arcadio Buend?a put it into practice all through the house and later on imposed it on the whole village. With an inked brush he marked everything with its name: table, chair, clock, door, wall, bed, pan. He went to the corral and marked the animals and plants: cow, goat, pig, hen, cassava, caladium, banana. Little by little, studying the infinite possibilities of a loss of memory, he realized that the day might come when things would be recognized by their inscriptions but that no one would remember their use. Then he was more explicit. The sign that he hung on the neck of the cow was an exemplary proof of the way in which the inhabitants of Macondo were prepared to fight against loss of memory: This is the cow. She must be milked every morning so that she will produce milk, and the milk must be boiled in order to be mixed with coffee to make coffee and milk. Thus they went on living in a reality that was slipping away, momentarily captured by words, but which would escape irremediably when they forgot the values of the written letters.
At the beginning of the road into the swamp they put up a sign that said MACONDO and another larger one on the main street that said GOD EXISTS. In all the houses keys to memorizing objects and feelings had been written. But the system demanded so much vigilance and moral strength that many succumbed to the spell of an imaginary reality, one invented by themselves, which was less practical for them but more comforting. Pilar Ternera was the one who contributed most to popularize that mystification when she conceived the trick of reading the past in cards as she had read the future before. By means of that recourse the insomniacs began to live in a world built on the uncertain alternatives of the cards, where a father was remembered faintly as the dark man who had arrived at the beginning of April and a mother was remembered only as the dark woman who wore a gold ring on her left hand, and where a birth date was reduced to the last Tuesday on which a lark sang in the laurel tree. Defeated by those practices of consolation, Jos? Arcadio Buend?a then decided to build the memory machine that he had desired once in order to remember the marvelous inventions of the gypsies. The artifact was based on the possibility of reviewing every morning, from beginning to end, the totality of knowledge acquired during one’s life. He conceived of it as a spinning dictionary that a person placed on the axis could operate by means of a lever, so that in a very few hours there would pass before his eyes the notions most necessary for life. He had succeeded in writing almost fourteen thousand entries when along the road from the swamp a strange-looking old man with the sad sleepers’ bell appeared, carrying a bulging suitcase tied with a rope and pulling a cart covered with black cloth. He went straight to the house of Jos? Arcadio Buend?a.
Visitaci?n did not recognize him when she opened the door and she thought he had come with the idea of selling something, unaware that nothing could be sold in a town that was sinking irrevocably into the quicksand of forgetfulness. He was a decrepit man. Although his voice was also broken by uncertainty and his hands seemed to doubt the existence of things, it was evident that he came from the world where men could still sleep and remember. Jos? Arcadio Buend?a found him sitting in the living room fanning himself with a patched black hat as he read with compassionate attention the signs pasted to the walls. He greeted him with a broad show of affection, afraid that he had known him at another time and that he did not remember him now. But the visitor was aware of his falseness, He felt himself forgotten, not with the irremediable forgetfulness of the heart, but with a different kind of forgetfulness, which was more cruel and irrevocable and which he knew very well because it was the forgetfulness of death. Then he understood. He opened the suitcase crammed with indecipherable objects and from among then he took out a little case with many flasks. He gave Jos? Arcadio Buend?a a drink of a gentle color and the light went on in his memory. His eyes became moist from weeping even before he noticed himself in an absurd living room where objects were labeled and before he was ashamed of the solemn nonsense written on the walls, and even before he recognized the newcomer with a dazzling glow of joy. It was Melqu?ades.
While Macondo was celebrating the recovery of its memory, Jos? Arcadio Buend?a and Melqu?ades dusted off their old friendship. The gypsy was inclined to stay in the town. He really had been through death, but he had returned because he could not bear the solitude. Repudiated by his tribe, having lost all of his supernatural faculties because of his faithfulness to life, he decided to take refuge in that corner of the world which had still not been discovered by death, dedicated to the operation of a daguerreotype laboratory. Jos? Arcadio Buend?a had never heard of that invention. But when he saw himself and his whole family fastened onto a sheet of iridescent metal for an eternity, he was mute with stupefaction. That was the date of the oxidized daguerreotype in which Jos? Arcadio Buend?a appeared with his bristly and graying hair, his card board collar attached to his shirt by a copper button, and an expression of startled solemnity, whom ?rsula described, dying with laughter, as a “frightened general.” Jos? Arcadio Buend?a was, in fact, frightened on that dear December morning when the daguerreotype was made, for he was thinking that people were slowly wearing away while his image would endure an a metallic plaque. Through a curious reversal of custom, it was ?rsula who got that idea out of his head, as it was also she who forgot her ancient bitterness and decided that Melqu?ades would stay on in the house, although she never permitted them to make a daguerreotype of her because (according to her very words) she did not want to survive as a laughingstock for her grandchildren. That morning she dressed the children in their best clothes, powdered their faces, and gave a spoonful of marrow syrup to each one so that they would all remain absolutely motionless during the nearly two minutes in front of Melqu?ades fantastic camera. In the family daguerreotype, the only one that ever existed, Aureliano appeared dressed in black velvet between Amaranta and Rebeca. He had the same languor and the same clairvoyant look that he would have years later as he faced the firing squad. But he still had not sensed the premonition of his fate. He was an expert silversmith, praised all over the swampland for the delicacy of his work. In the workshop, which he shared with Melqu?ades’ mad laboratory, he could barely be heard breathing. He seemed to be taking refuge in some other time, while his father and the gypsy with shouts interpreted the predictions of Nostradamus amidst a noise of flasks and trays and the disaster of spilled acids and silver bromide that was lost in the twists and turns it gave at every instant. That dedication to his work, the good judgment with which he directed his attention, had allowed Aureliano to earn in a short time more money than ?rsula had with her delicious candy fauna, but everybody thought it strange that he was now a full-grown man and had not known a woman. It was true that he had never had one.
Several months later saw the return of Francisco the Man, as ancient vagabond who was almost two hundred years old and who frequently passed through Macondo distributing songs that he composed himself. In them Francisco the Man told in great detail the things that had happened in the towns along his route, from Manaure to the edge of the swamp, so that if anyone had a message to send or an event to make public, he would pay him two cents to include it in his repertory. That was how ?rsula learned of the death of her mother, as a simple consequence of listening to the songs in the hope that they would say something about her son Jos? Arcadio. Francisco the Man, called that because he had once defeated the devil in a duel of improvisation, and whose real name no one knew, disappeared from Macondo during the insomnia plague and one night he appeared suddenly in Catarino’s store. The whole town went to listen to him to find out what had happened in the world. On that occasion there arrived with him a woman who was so fat that four Indians had to carry her in a rocking chair, and an adolescent mulatto girl with a forlorn look who protected her from the sun with an umbrella. Aureliano went to Catarino’s store that night. He found Francisco the Man, like a monolithic chameleon, sitting in the midst of a circle of bystanders. He was singing the news with his old, out-of-tune voice, accompanying himself with the same archaic accordion that Sir Walter Raleigh had given him in the Guianas and keeping time with his great walking feet that were cracked from saltpeter. In front of a door at the rear through which men were going and coming, the matron of the rocking chair was sitting and fanning herself in silence. Catarino, with a felt rose behind his ear, was selling the gathering mugs of fermented cane juice, and he took advantage of the occasion to go over to the men and put his hand on them where he should not have. Toward midnight the heat was unbearable. Aureliano listened to the news to the end without hearing anything that was of interest to his family. He was getting ready to go home when the matron signaled him with her hand.
“You go in too.” she told him. “It only costs twenty cents.”
Aureliano threw a coin into the hopper that the matron had in her lap and went into the room without knowing why. The adolescent mulatto girl, with her small bitch’s teats, was naked on the bed. Before Aureliano sixty-three men had passed through the room that night. From being used so much, kneaded with sweat and sighs, the air in the room had begun to turn to mud. The girl took off the soaked sheet and asked Aureliano to hold it by one side. It was as heavy as a piece of canvas. They squeezed it, twisting it at the ends until it regained its natural weight. They turned over the mat and the sweat came out of the other side. Aureliano was anxious for that operation never to end. He knew the theoretical mechanics of love, but he could not stay on his feet because of the weakness of his knees, and although he had goose pimples on his burning skin he could not resist the urgent need to expel the weight of his bowels. When the girl finished fixing up the bed and told him to get undressed, he gave her a confused explanation: “They made me come in. They told me to throw twenty cents into the hopper and hurry up.” The girl understood his confusion. “If you throw in twenty cents more when you go out, you can stay a little longer,” she said softly. Aureliano got undressed, tormented by shame, unable to get rid of the idea that-his nakedness could not stand comparison with that of his brother. In spite of the girl’s efforts he felt more and more indifferent and terribly alone. “I’ll throw in other twenty cents,” he said with a desolate voice. The girl thanked him in silence. Her back was raw. Her skin was stuck to her ribs and her breathing was forced because of an immeasurable exhaustion. Two years before, far away from there, she had fallen asleep without putting out the candle and had awakened surrounded by flames. The house where she lived with the grandmother who had raised her was reduced to ashes. Since then her grandmother carried her from town to town, putting her to bed for twenty cents in order to make up the value of the burned house. According to the girl’s calculations, she still had ten years of seventy men per night, because she also had to pay the expenses of the trip and food for both of them as well as the pay of the Indians who carried the rocking chair. When the matron knocked on the door the second time, Aureliano left the room without having done anything, troubled by a desire to weep. That night he could not sleep, thinking about the girl, with a mixture of desire and pity. He felt an irresistible need to love her and protect her. At dawn, worn out by insomnia and fever, he made the calm decision to marry her in order to free her from the despotism of her grandmother and to enjoy all the nights of satisfaction that she would give the seventy men. But at ten o’clock in the morning, when he reached Catarino’s store, the girl had left town.
Time mitigated his mad proposal, but it aggravated his feelings of frustration. He took refuge in work. He resigned himself to being a womanless man for all his life in order to hide the shame of his uselessness. In the meantime, Melqu?ades had printed on his plates everything that was printable in Macondo, and he left the daguerreotype laboratory to the fantasies of Jos? Arcadio Buend?a who had resolved to use it to obtain scientific proof of the existence of God. Through a complicated process of superimposed exposures taken in different parts of the house, he was sure that sooner or later he would get a daguerreotype of God, if He existed, or put an end once and for all to the supposition of His existence. Melqu?ades got deeper into his interpretations of Nostradamus. He would stay up until very late, suffocating in his faded velvet vest, scribbling with his tiny sparrow hands, whose rings had lost the glow of former times. One night he thought he had found a prediction of the future of Macondo. It was to be a luminous city with great glass houses where there was no trace remaining of the race of the Buend?a. “It’s a mistake,” Jos? Arcadio Buend?a thundered. “They won’t be houses of glass but of ice, as I dreamed, and there will always be a Buend?a, per omnia secula seculorum.” ?rsula fought to preserve common sense in that extravagant house, having broadened her business of little candy animals with an oven that went all night turning out baskets and more baskets of bread and a prodigious variety of puddings, meringues, and cookies, which disappeared in a few hours on the roads winding through the swamp. She had reached an age where she had a right to rest, but she was nonetheless more and more active. So busy was she in her prosperous enterprises that one afternoon she looked distractedly toward the courtyard while the Indian woman helped her sweeten the dough and she saw two unknown and beautiful adolescent girls doing frame embroidery in the light of the sunset. They were Rebeca and Amaranta. As soon as they had taken off the mourning clothes for their grandmother, which they wore with inflexible rigor for three years, their bright clothes seemed to have given them a new place in the world. Rebeca, contrary to what might have been expected, was the more beautiful. She had a light complexion, large and peaceful eyes, and magical hands that seemed to work out the design of the embroidery with invisible threads. Amaranta, the younger, was somewhat graceless, but she had the natural distinction, the inner tightness of her dead grandmother. Next to them, although he was already revealing the physical drive of his father, Arcadio looked like a child. He set about learning the art of silverwork with Aureliano, who had also taught him how to read and write. ?rsula suddenly realized that the house had become full of people, that her children were on the point of marrying and having children, and that they would be obliged to scatter for lack of space. Then she took out the money she had accumulated over long years of hard labor, made some arrangements with her customers, and undertook the enlargement of the house. She had a formal parlor for visits built, another one that was more comfortable and cool for daily use, a dining room with a table with twelve places where the family could sit with all of their guests, nine bedrooms with windows on the courtyard and a long porch protected from the heat of noon by a rose garden with a railing on which to place pots of ferns and begonias. She had the kitchen enlarged to hold two ovens. The granary where Pilar Ternera had read Jos? Arcadio’s future was torn down and another twice as large built so that there would never be a lack of food in the house. She had baths built is the courtyard in the shade of the chestnut tree, one for the women and another for the men, and in the rear a large stable, a fenced-in chicken yard, a shed for the milk cows, and an aviary open to the four winds so that wandering birds could roost there at their pleasure. Followed by dozens of masons and carpenters, as if she had contracted her husband’s hallucinating fever, ?rsula fixed the position of light and heat and distributed space without the least sense of its limitations. The primitive building of the founders became filled with tools and materials, of workmen exhausted by sweat, who asked everybody please not to molest them, exasperated by the sack of bones that followed them everywhere with its dull rattle. In that discomfort, breathing quicklime and tar, no one could see very well how from the bowels of the earth there was rising not only the largest house is the town, but the most hospitable and cool house that had ever existed in the region of the swamp. Jos? Buend?a, trying to surprise Divine Providence in the midst of the cataclysm, was the one who least understood it. The new house was almost finished when ?rsula drew him out of his chimerical world in order to inform him that she had an order to paint the front blue and not white as they had wanted. She showed him the official document. Jos? Arcadio Buend?a, without understanding what his wife was talking about, deciphered the signature.
“Who is this fellow?” he asked:
“The magistrate,” ?rsula answered disconsolately. They say he’s an authority sent by the government.”
Don Apolinar Moscote, the magistrate, had arrived in Macondo very quietly. He put up at the Hotel Jacob—built by one of the first Arabs who came to swap knickknacks for macaws—and on the following day he rented a small room with a door on the street two blocks away from the Buend?a house. He set up a table and a chair that he had bought from Jacob, nailed up on the wall the shield of the republic that he had brought with him, and on the door he painted the sign: Magistrate. His first order was for all the houses to be painted blue in celebration of the anniversary of national independence. Jos? Arcadio Buend?a, with the copy of the order in his hand, found him taking his nap in a hammock he had set up in the narrow office. “Did you write this paper?” he asked him. Don Apolinar Moscote, a mature man, timid, with a ruddy complexion, said yes. “By what right?” Jos? Arcadio Buend?a asked again. Don Apolinar Moscote picked up a paper from the drawer of the table and showed it to him. “I have been named magistrate of this town.” Jos? Arcadio Buend?a did not even look at the appointment.
“In this town we do not give orders with pieces of paper,” he said without losing his calm. “And so that you know it once and for all, we don’t need any judge here because there’s nothing that needs judging.”
Facing Don Apolinar Moscote, still without raising his voice, he gave a detailed account of how they had founded the village, of how they had distributed the land, opened the roads, and introduced the improvements that necessity required without having bothered the government and without anyone having bothered them. “We are so peaceful that none of us has died even of a natural death,” he said. “You can see that we still don’t have any cemetery.” No once was upset that the government had not helped them. On the contrary, they were happy that up until then it had let them grow in peace, and he hoped that it would continue leaving them that way, because they had not founded a town so that the first upstart who came along would tell them what to do. Don Apolinar had put on his denim jacket, white like his trousers, without losing at any moment the elegance of his gestures.
“So that if you want to stay here like any other ordinary citizen, you’re quite welcome,” Jos? Arcadio Buend?a concluded. “But if you’ve come to cause disorder by making the people paint their houses blue, you can pick up your junk and go back where you came from. Because my house is going to be white, white, like a dove.”
Don Apolinar Moscote turned pale. He took a step backward and tightened his jaws as he said with a certain affliction:
“I must warn you that I’m armed.”
Jos? Arcadio Buend?a did not know exactly when his hands regained the useful strength with which he used to pull down horses. He grabbed Don Apolinar Moscote by the lapels and lifted him up to the level of his eyes.
“I’m doing this,” he said, “because I would rather carry you around alive and not have to keep carrying you around dead for the rest of my life.”
In that way he carried him through the middle of the street, suspended by the lapels, until he put him down on his two feet on the swamp road. A week later he was back with six barefoot and ragged soldiers, armed with shotguns, and an oxcart in which his wife and seven daughters were traveling. Two other carts arrived later with the furniture, the baggage, and the household utensils. He settled his family in the Hotel Jacob, while he looked for a house, and he went back to open his office under the protection of the soldiers. The founders of Macondo, resolving to expel the invaders, went with their older sons to put themselves at the disposal of Jos? Arcadio Buend?a. But he was against it, as he explained, because it was not manly to make trouble for someone in front of his family, and Don Apolinar had returned with his wife and daughters. So he decided to resolve the situation in a pleasant way.
Aureliano went with him. About that time he had begun to cultivate the black mustache with waxed tips and the somewhat stentorian voice that would characterize him in the war. Unarmed, without paying any attention to the guards, they went into the magistrate’s office. Don Apolinar Moscote did not lose his calm. He introduced them to two of his daughters who happened to be there: Amparo, sixteen, dark like her mother, and Remedios, only nine, a pretty little girl with lily-colored skin and green eyes. They were gracious and well-mannered. As soon as the men came in, before being introduced, they gave them chairs to sit on. But they both remained standing.
“Very well, my friend,” Jos? Arcadio Buend?a said, “you may stay here, not because you have those bandits with shotguns at the door, but out of consideration for your wife and daughters.”
Don Apolinar Moscote was upset, but Jos? Arcadio Buend?a did not give him time to reply. “We only make two conditions,” he went on. “The first: that everyone can paint his house the color he feels like. The second: that the soldiers leave at once. We will guarantee order for you.” The magistrate raised his right hand with all the fingers extended.
“Your word of honor?”
“The word of your enemy,” Jos? Arcadio Buend?a said. And he added in a bitter tone: “Because I must tell you one thing: you and I are still enemies.”
The soldiers left that same afternoon. A few days later Jos? Arcadio Buend?a found a house for the magistrate’s family. Everybody was at peace except Aureliano. The image of Remedios, the magistrate’s younger daughter, who, because of her age, could have been his daughter, kept paining him in some part of his body. It was a physical sensation that almost bothered him when he walked, like a pebble in his shoe.