THE NEW HOUSE, white, like a dove, was inaugurated with a dance. ?rsula had got that idea from the afternoon when she saw Rebeca and Amaranta changed into adolescents, and it could almost have been said that the main reason behind the construction was a desire to have a proper place for the girls to receive visitors. In order that nothing would be lacking in splendor she worked like a galley slave as the repairs were under way, so that before they were finished she had ordered costly necessities for the decorations, the table service, and the marvelous invention that was to arouse the astonishment of the town and the jubilation of the young people: the pianola. They delivered it broken down, packed in several boxes that were unloaded along with the Viennese furniture, the Bohemian crystal, the table service from the Indies Company, the tablecloths from Holland, and a rich variety of lamps and candlesticks, hangings and drapes. The import house sent along at its own expense an Italian expert, Pietro Crespi, to assemble and tune the pianola, to instruct the purchasers in its functioning, and to teach them how to dance the latest music printed on its six paper rolls.
Pietro Crespi was young and blond, the most handsome and well mannered man who had ever been seen in Macondo, so scrupulous in his dress that in spite of the suffocating heat he would work in his brocade vest and heavy coat of dark cloth. Soaked in sweat, keeping a reverent distance from the owners of the house, he spent several weeks shut up is the parlor with a dedication much like that of Aureliano in his silverwork. One morning, without opening the door, without calling anyone to witness the miracle, he placed the first roll in the pianola and the tormenting hammering and the constant noise of wooden lathings ceased in a silence that was startled at the order and neatness of the music. They all ran to the parlor. Jos? Arcadio Buend?a was as if struck by lightning, not because of the beauty of the melody, but because of the automatic working of the keys of the pianola, and he set up Melqu?ades’ camera with the hope of getting a daguerreotype of the invisible player. That day the Italian had lunch with them. Rebeca and Amaranta, serving the table, were intimidated by the way in which the angelic man with pale and ringless hands manipulated the utensils. In the living room, next to the parlor, Pietro Crespi taught them how to dance. He showed them the steps without touching them, keeping time with a metronome, under the friendly eye of ?rsula, who did not leave the room for a moment while her daughters had their lesson. Pietro Crespi wore special pants on those days, very elastic and tight, and dancing slippers, “You don’t have to worry so much,” Jos? Arcadio Buend?a told her. “The man’s a fairy.” But she did not leave off her vigilance until the apprenticeship was over and the Italian left Macondo. Then they began to organize the party. ?rsula drew up a strict guest list, in which the only ones invited were the descendants of the founders, except for the family of Pilar Ternera, who by then had had two more children by unknown fathers. It was truly a high-class list, except that it was determined by feelings of friendship, for those favored were not only the oldest friends of Jos? Arcadio Buend?a’s house since before they undertook the exodus and the founding of Macondo, but also their sons and grandsons, who were the constant companions of Aureliano and Arcadio since infancy, and their daughters, who were the only ones who visited the house to embroider with Rebeca and Amaranta. Don Apolinar Moscote, the benevolent ruler whose activity had been reduced to the maintenance from his scanty resources of two policemen armed with wooden clubs, was a figurehead. In older to support the household expenses his daughters had opened a sewing shop, where they made felt flowers as well as guava delicacies, and wrote love notes to order. But in spite of being modest and hard-working, the most beautiful girls in Iowa, and the most skilled at the new dances, they did not manage to be considered for the party.
While ?rsula and the girls unpacked furniture, polished silverware, and hung pictures of maidens in boats full of roses, which gave a breath of new life to the naked areas that the masons had built, Jos? Arcadio Buend?a stopped his pursuit of the image of God, convinced of His nonexistence, and he took the pianola apart in order to decipher its magical secret. Two days before the party, swamped in a shower of leftover keys and hammers, bungling in the midst of a mix-up of strings that would unroll in one direction and roll up again in the other, he succeeded in a fashion in putting the instrument back together. There had never been as many surprises and as much dashing about as in those days, but the new pitch lamps were lighted on the designated day and hour. The house was opened, still smelling of resin and damp whitewash, and the children and grandchildren of the founders saw the porch with ferns and begonias, the quiet rooms, the garden saturated with the fragrance of the roses, and they gathered together in the parlor, facing the unknown invention that had been covered with a white sheet. Those who were familiar with the piano, popular in other towns in the swamp, felt a little disheartened, but more bitter was ?rsula’s disappointment when she put in the first roll so that Amaranta and Rebeca could begin the dancing and the mechanism did not work. Melqu?ades, almost blind by then, crumbling with decrepitude, used the arts of his timeless wisdom in an attempt to fix it. Finally Jos? Arcadio Buend?a managed, by mistake, to move a device that was stuck and the music came out, first in a burst and then in a flow of mixed-up notes. Beating against the strings that had been put in without order or concert and had been tuned with temerity, the hammers let go. But the stubborn descendants of the twenty-one intrepid people who plowed through the mountains in search of the sea to the west avoided the reefs of the melodic mix-up and the dancing went on until dawn.
Pietro Crespi came back to repair the pianola. Rebeca and Amaranta helped him put the strings in order and helped him with their laughter at the mix-up of the melodies. It was extremely pleasant and so chaste in its way that ?rsula ceased her vigilance. On the eve of his departure a farewell dance for him was improvised with the pianola and with Rebeca he put on a skillful demonstration of modern dance, Arcadio and Amaranta matched them in grace and skill. But the exhibition was interrupted because Pilar Ternera, who was at the door with the onlookers, had a fight, biting and hair pulling, with a woman who had dared to comment that Arcadio had a woman’s behind. Toward midnight Pietro Crespi took his leave with a sentimental little speech, and he promised to return very soon. Rebeca accompanied him to the door, and having closed up the house and put out the lamps, she went to her room to weep. It was an inconsolable weeping that lasted for several days, the cause of which was not known even by Amaranta. Her hermetism was not odd. Although she seemed expansive and cordial, she had a solitary character and an impenetrable heart. She was a splendid adolescent with long and firm bones, but she still insisted on using the small wooden rocking chair with which she had arrived at the house, reinforced many times and with the arms gone. No one had discovered that even at that age she still had the habit of sucking her finger. That was why she would not lose an opportunity to lock herself in the bathroom and had acquired the habit of sleeping with her face to the wall. On rainy afternoons, embroidering with a group of friends on the begonia porch, she would lose the thread of the conversation and a tear of nostalgia would salt her palate when she saw the strips of damp earth and the piles of mud that the earthworms had pushed up in the garden. Those secret tastes, defeated in the past by oranges and rhubarb, broke out into an irrepressible urge when she began to weep. She went back to eating earth. The first time she did it almost out of curiosity, sure that the bad taste would be the best cure for the temptation. And, in fact, she could not bear the earth in her mouth. But she persevered, overcome by the growing anxiety, and little by little she was getting back her ancestral appetite, the taste of primary minerals, the unbridled satisfaction of what was the original food. She would put handfuls of earth in her pockets, and ate them in small bits without being seen, with a confused feeling of pleasure and rage, as she instructed her girl friends in the most difficult needlepoint and spoke about other men, who did not deserve the sacrifice of having one eat the whitewash on the walls because of them. The handfuls of earth made the only man who deserved that show of degradation less remote and more certain, as if the ground that he walked on with his fine patent leather boots in another part of the world were transmitting to her the weight and the temperature of his blood in a mineral savor that left a harsh aftertaste in her mouth and a sediment of peace in her heart. One afternoon, for no reason, Amparo Moscote asked permission to see the house. Amaranta and Rebeca, disconcerted by the unexpected visit, attended her with a stiff formality. They showed her the remodeled mansion, they had her listen to the rolls on the pianola, and they offered her orange marmalade and crackers. Amparo gave a lesson in dignity, personal charm, and good manners that impressed ?rsula in the few moments that she was present during the visit. After two hours, when the conversation was beginning to wane, Amparo took advantage of Amaranta’s distraction and gave Rebeca a letter. She was able to see the name of the Estimable Se?orita Rebeca Buend?a, written in the same methodical hand, with the same green ink, and the same delicacy of words with which the instructions for the operation of the pianola were written, and she folded the letter with the tips of her fingers and hid it in her bosom, looking at Amparo Moscote with an expression of endless and unconditional gratitude and a silent promise of complicity unto death.
The sudden friendship between Amparo Moscote and Rebeca Buend?a awakened the hopes of Aureliano. The memory of little Remedios had not stopped tormenting him, but he had not found a chance to see her. When he would stroll through town with his closest friends, Magn?fico Visbal and Gerineldo M?rquez—the sons of the founders of the same names—he would look for her in the sewing shop with an anxious glance, but he saw only the older sisters. The presence of Amparo Moscote in the house was like a premonition. “She has to come with her,” Aureliano would say to himself in a low voice. “She has to come.” He repeated it so many times and with such conviction that one afternoon when he was putting together a little gold fish in the work shop, he had the certainty that she had answered his call. Indeed, a short time later he heard the childish voice, and when he looked up his heart froze with terror as he saw the girl at the door, dressed in pink organdy and wearing white boots.
“You can’t go in there, Remedios, Amparo Moscote said from the hall. They’re working.”
But Aureliano did not give her time to respond. He picked up the little fish by the chain that came through its mouth and said to her.
Remedios went over and asked some questions about the fish that Aureliano could not answer because he was seized with a sudden attack of asthma. He wanted to stay beside that lily skin forever, beside those emerald eyes, close to that voice that called him “sir” with every question. showing the same respect that she gave her father. Melqu?ades was in the corner seated at the desk scribbling indecipherable signs. Aureliano hated him. All he could do was tell Remedios that he was going to give her the little fish and the girl was so startled by the offer that she left the workshop as fast as she could. That afternoon Aureliano lost the hidden patience with which he had waited for a chance to see her. He neglected his work. In several desperate efforts of concentration he willed her to appear but Remedios did not respond. He looked for her in her sisters’ shop, behind the window shades in her house, in her father’s office, but he found her only in the image that saturated his private and terrible solitude. He would spend whole hours with Rebeca in the parlor listening to the music on the pianola. She was listening to it because it was the music with which Pietro Crespi had taught them how to dance. Aureliano listened to it simply because everything, even music, reminded him of Remedios.
The house became full of loves Aureliano expressed it in poetry that had no beginning or end. He would write it on the harsh pieces of parchment that Melqu?ades gave him, on the bathroom walls, on the skin of his arms, and in all of it Remedios would appear transfigured: Remedios in the soporific air of two in the afternoon, Remedios in the soft breath of the roses, Remedios in the water-clock secrets of the moths, Remedios in the steaming morning bread, Remedios everywhere and Remedios forever. Rebeca waited for her love at four in the afternoon, embroidering by the window. She knew that the mailman’s mule arrived only every two weeks, but she always waited for him, convinced that he was going to arrive on some other day by mistake. It happened quite the opposite: once the mule did not come on the usual day. Mad with desperation, Rebeca got up in the middle of the night and ate handfuls of earth in the garden with a suicidal drive, weeping with pain and fury, chewing tender earthworms and chipping her teeth on snail shells. She vomited until dawn. She fell into a state of feverish prostration, lost consciousness, and her heart went into a shameless delirium. ?rsula, scandalized, forced the lock on her trunk and found at the bottom, tied together with pink ribbons, the sixteen perfumed letters and the skeletons of leaves and petals preserved in old books and the dried butterflies that turned to powder at the touch.
Aureliano was the only one capable of understanding such desolation. That afternoon, while ?rsula was trying to rescue Rebeca from the slough of delirium, he went with Magn?fico Visbal and Gerineldo M?rquez to Catarino’s store. The establishment had been expanded with a gallery of wooden rooms where single women who smelled of dead flowers lived. A group made up of an accordion and drums played the songs of Francisco the Man, who had not been seen in Macondo for several years. The three friends drank fermented cane juice. Magn?fico and Gerineldo, contemporaries of Aureliano but more skilled in the ways of the world, drank methodically with the women seated on their laps. One of the women, withered and with goldwork on her teeth, gave Aureliano a caress that made him shudder. He rejected her. He had discovered that the more he drank the more he thought about Remedios, but he could bear the torture of his recollections better. He did not know exactly when he began to float. He saw his friends and the women sailing in a radiant glow, without weight or mass, saying words that did not come out of their mouths and making mysterious signals that did not correspond to their expressions. Catarino put a hand on his shoulder and said to him: “It’s going on eleven.” Aureliano turned his head, saw the enormous disfigured face with a felt flower behind the ear, and then he lost his memory, as during the times of forgetfulness, and he recovered it on a strange dawn and in a room that was completely foreign, where Pilar Ternera stood in her slip, barefoot, her hair down, holding a lamp over him, startled with disbelief.
Aureliano checked his feet and raised his head. He did not know how he had come there, but he knew what his aim was, because he had carried it hidden since infancy in an inviolable backwater of his heart.
“I’ve come to sleep with you,” he said.
His clothes were smeared with mud and vomit. Pilar Ternera, who lived alone at that time with her two younger children, did not ask him any questions. She took him to the bed. She cleaned his face with a damp cloth, took of his clothes, and then got completely undressed and lowered the mosquito netting so that her children would not see them if they woke up. She had become tired of waiting for the man who would stay, of the men who left, of the countless men who missed the road to her house, confused by the uncertainty of the cards. During the wait her skin had become wrinkled, her breasts had withered, the coals of her heart had gone out. She felt for Aureliano in the darkness, put her hand on his stomach and kissed him on the neck with a maternal tenderness. “My poor child,” she murmured. Aureliano shuddered. With a calm skill, without the slightest misstep, he left his accumulated grief behind and found Remedios changed into a swamp without horizons, smelling of a raw animal and recently ironed clothes. When he came to the surface he was weeping. First they were involuntary and broken sobs. Then he emptied himself out in an unleashed flow, feeling that something swollen and painful had burst inside of him. She waited, snatching his head with the tips of her fingers, until his body got rid of the dark material that would not let him live. They Pilar Ternera asked him: “Who is it?” And Aureliano told her. She let out a laugh that in other times frightened the doves and that now did not even wake up the children. “You’ll have to raise her first,” she mocked, but underneath the mockery Aureliano found a reservoir of understanding. When he went out of the room, leaving behind not only his doubts about his virility but also the bitter weight that his heart had borne for so many months, Pilar Ternera made him a spontaneous promise.
“I’m going to talk to the girl,” she told him, “and you’ll see what I’ll serve her on the tray.”
She kept her promise. But it was a bad moment, because the house had lost its peace of former days. When she discovered Rebeca’s passion, which was impossible to keep secret because of her shouts, Amaranta suffered an attack of fever. She also suffered from the barb of a lonely love. Shut up in the bathroom, she would release herself from the torment of a hopeless passion by writing feverish letters, which she finally hid in the bottom of her trunk. ?rsula barely had the strength to take care of the two sick girls. She was unable, after prolonged and insidious interrogations, to ascertain the causes of Amaranta’s prostration. Finally, in another moment of inspiration, she forced the lock on the trunk and found the letters tied with a pink ribbon, swollen with fresh lilies and still wet with tears, addressed and never sent to Pietro Crespi. Weeping with rage, she cursed the day that it had occurred to her to buy the pianola, and she forbade the embroidery lessons and decreed a kind of mourning with no one dead which was to be prolonged until the daughters got over their hopes. Useless was the intervention of Jos? Arcadio Buend?a, who had modified his first impression of Pietro Crespi and admired his ability in the manipulation of musical machines. So that when Pilar Ternera told Aureliano that Remedios had decided on marriage, he could see that the news would only give his parents more trouble. Invited to the parlor for a formal interview, Jos? Arcadio Buend?a and ?rsula listened stonily to their son’s declaration. When he learned the name of the fianc?e, however, Jos? Arcadio Buend?a grew red with indignation. “Love is a disease,” he thundered. “With so many pretty and decent girls around, the only thing that occurs to you is to get married to the daughter of our enemy.” But ?rsula agreed with the choice. She confessed her affection for the seven Moscote sisters. for their beauty, their ability for work, their modesty, and their good manners, and she celebrated her son’s prudence. Conquered by his wife’s enthusiasm, Jos? Arcadio Buend?a then laid down one condition: Rebeca, who was the one he wanted, would marry Pietro Crespi. ?rsula would take Amaranta on a trip to the capital of the province when she had time, so that contact with different people would alleviate her disappointment. Rebeca got her health back just as soon as she heard of the agreement, and she wrote her fianc? a jubilant letter that she submitted to her parents’ approval and put into the mail without the use of any intermediaries. Amaranta pretended to accept the decision and little by little she recovered from her fevers, but she promised herself that Rebeca would marry only over her dead body.
The following Saturday Jos? Arcadio Buend?a put on his dark suit, his celluloid collar, and the deerskin boots that he had worn for the first time the night of the party, and went to ask for the hand of Remedios Moscote. The magistrate and his wife received him, pleased and worried at the same time, for they did not know the reason for the unexpected visit, and then they thought that he was confused about the name of the intended bride. In order to remove the mistake, the mother woke Remedios up and carried her into the living room, still drowsy from sleep. They asked her if it was true that she had decided to get married, and she answered, whimpering, that she only wanted them to let her sleep. Jos? Arcadio Buend?a, understanding the distress of the Moscotes, went to clear things up with Aureliano. When he returned, the Moscotes had put on formal clothing, had rearranged the furniture and put fresh flowers in the vases, and were waiting in the company of their older daughters. Overwhelmed by the unpleasantness of the occasion and the bothersome hard collar, Jos? Arcadio Buend?a confirmed the fact that Remedios, indeed, was the chosen one. “It doesn’t make sense,” Don Apolinar Moscote said with consternation. “We have six other daughters, all unmarried, and at an age where they deserve it, who would be delighted to be the honorable wife of a gentleman as serious and hard-working as your son, and Aurelito lays his eyes precisely on the one who still wets her bed.” His wife, a well-preserved woman with afflicted eyelids and expression, scolded his mistake. When they finished the fruit punch, they willingly accepted Aureliano’s decision. Except that Se?ora Moscote begged the favor of speaking to ?rsula alone. Intrigued, protesting that they were involving her in men’s affairs, but really feeling deep emotion, ?rsula went to visit her the next day. A half hour later she returned with the news that Remedios had not reached puberty. Aureliano did not consider that a serious barrier. He had waited so long that he could wait as long as was necessary until his bride reached the age of conception.
The newfound harmony was interrupted by the death of Melqu?ades. Although it was a foreseeable event, the circumstances were not. A few months after his return, a process of aging had taken place in him that was so rapid and critical that soon he was treated as one of those useless great-grandfathers who wander about the bedrooms like shades, dragging their feet, remembering better times aloud, and whom no one bothers about or remembers really until the morning they find them dead in their bed. At first Jos? Arcadio Buend?a helped him in his work, enthusiastic over the novelty of the daguerreotypes and the predictions of Nostradamus. But little by little he began abandoning him to his solitude, for communication was becoming Increasingly difficult. He was losing his sight and his hearing, he seemed to confuse the people he was speaking to with others he had known in remote epochs of mankind, and he would answer questions with a complex hodgepodge of languages. He would walk along groping in the air, although he passed between objects with an inexplicable fluidity, as if be were endowed with some instinct of direction based on an immediate prescience. One day he forgot to put in his false teeth, which at night he left in a glass of water beside his bed, and he never put them in again. When ?rsula undertook the enlargement of the house, she had them build him a special room next to Aureliano’s workshop, far from the noise and bustle of the house, with a window flooded with light and a bookcase where she herself put in order the books that were almost destroyed by dust and moths, the flaky stacks of paper covered with indecipherable signs, and the glass with his false teeth, where some aquatic plants with tiny yellow flowers had taken root. The new place seemed to please Melqu?ades, because he was never seen any more, not even in the dining room, He only went to Aureliano’s workshop, where he would spend hours on end scribbling his enigmatic literature on the parchments that he had brought with him and that seemed to have been made out of some dry material that crumpled like puff paste. There he ate the meals that Visitaci?n brought him twice a day, although in the last days he lost his appetite and fed only on vegetables. He soon acquired the forlorn look that one sees in vegetarians. His skin became covered with a thin moss, similar to that which flourished on the antique vest that he never took off, and his breath exhaled the odor of a sleeping animal. Aureliano ended up forgetting about him, absorbed in the composition of his poems, but on one occasion he thought he understood something of what Melqu?ades was saying in his groping monologues, and he paid attention. In reality, the only thing that could be isolated in the rocky paragraphs was the insistent hammering on the word equinox, equinox, equinox, and the name of Alexander von Humboldt. Arcadio got a little closer to him when he began to help Aureliano in his silverwork. Melqu?ades answered that effort at communication at times by giving forth with phrases in Spanish that had very little to do with reality. One afternoon, however, he seemed to be illuminated by a sudden emotion. Years later, facing the firing squad, Arcadio would remember the trembling with which Melqu?ades made him listen to several pages of his impenetrable writing, which of course he did not understand, but which when read aloud were like encyclicals being chanted. Then he smiled for the first time in a long while and said in Spanish: “When I die, burn mercury in my room for three days.” Arcadio told that to Jos? Arcadio Buend?a and the latter tried to get more explicit information, but he received only one answer: “I have found immortality.” When Melqu?ades’ breathing began to smell, Arcadio took him to bathe in the river on Thursday mornings. He seemed to get better. He would undress and get into the water with the boys, and his mysterious sense of orientation would allow him to avoid the deep and dangerous spots. “We come from the water,” he said on a certain occasion. Much time passed in that way without anyone’s seeing him in the house except on the night when he made a pathetic effort to fix the pianola, and when he would go to the river with Arcadio, carrying under his arm a gourd and a bar of palm oil soap wrapped in a towel. One Thursday before they called him to go to the river, Aureliano heard him say: “I have died of fever on the dunes of Singapore.” That day he went into the water at a bad spot and they did not find him until the following day, a few miles downstream, washed up on a bright bend in the river and with a solitary vulture sitting on his stomach. Over the scandalized protests of ?rsula, who wept with more grief than she had had for her own father, Jos? Arcadio Buend?a was opposed to their burying him. “He is immortal,” he said, “and he himself revealed the formula of his resurrection.” He brought out the forgotten water pipe and put a kettle of mercury to boil next to the body, which little by little was filling with blue bubbles. Don Apolinar Moscote ventured to remind him that an unburied drowned man was a danger to public health. “None of that, because he’s alive,” was the answer of Jos? Arcadio Buend?a, who finished the seventy-two hours with the mercurial incense as the body was already beginning to burst with a livid fluorescence, the soft whistles of which impregnated the house with a pestilential vapor. Only then did he permit them to bury him, not in any ordinary way, but with the honors reserved for Macondo’s greatest benefactor. It was the first burial and the best-attended one that was ever seen in the town, only surpassed, a century later, by Big Mama’s funeral carnival. They buried him in a grave dug in the center of the plot destined for the cemetery, with a stone on which they wrote the only thing they knew about him: MELQU?ADES. They gave him his nine nights of wake. In the tumult that gathered in the courtyard to drink coffee, tell jokes, and play cards. Amaranta found a chance to confess her love to Pietro Crespi, who a few weeks before had formalized his promise to Rebeca and had set up a store for musical instruments and mechanical toys in the same section where the Arabs had lingered in other times swapping knickknacks for macaws, and which the people called the Street of the Turks. The Italian, whose head covered with patent leather curls aroused in women an irrepressible need to sigh, dealt with Amaranta as with a capricious little girl who was not worth taking seriously.
“I have a younger brother,” he told her. “He’s coming to help me in the store.”
Amaranta felt humiliated and told Pietro Crespi with a virulent anger that she was prepared to stop her sister’s wedding even if her own dead body had to lie across the door. The Italian was so impressed by the dramatics of the threat that he could not resist the temptation to mention it to Rebeca. That was how Amaranta’s trip, always put off by ?rsula’s work, was arranged in less than a week. Amaranta put up no resistance, but when she kissed Rebeca good-bye she whispered in her ear:
“Don’t get your hopes up. Even if they send me to the ends of the earth I’ll find some way of stopping you from getting married, even if I have to kill you.”
With the absence of ?rsula, with the invisible presence of Melqu?ades, who continued his stealthy shuffling through the rooms, the house seemed enormous and empty. Rebeca took charge of domestic order, while the Indian woman took care of the bakery. At dusk, when Pietro Crespi would arrive, preceded by a cool breath of lavender and always bringing a toy as a gift, his fianc?e would receive the visitor in the main parlor with doors and windows open to be safe from any suspicion. It was an unnecessary precaution, for the Italian had shown himself to be so respectful that he did not even touch the hand of the woman who was going to be his wife within the year. Those visits were filling the house with remarkable toys. Mechanical ballerinas, music boxes, acrobatic monkeys, trotting horses, clowns who played the tambourine: the rich and startling mechanical fauna that Pietro Crespi brought dissipated Jos? Arcadio Buend?a’s affliction over the death of Melqu?ades and carried him back to his old days as an alchemist. He lived at that time in a paradise of disemboweled animals, of mechanisms that had been taken apart in an attempt to perfect them with a system of perpetual motion based upon the principles of the pendulum. Aureliano, for his part, had neglected the workshop in order to teach little Remedios to read and write. At first the child preferred her dolls to the man who would come every afternoon and who was responsible for her being separated from her toys in order to be bathed and dressed and seated in the parlor to receive the visitor. But Aureliano’s patience and devotion finally won her over, up to the point where she would spend many hours with him studying the meaning of the letters and sketching in a notebook with colored pencils little houses with cows in the corral and round suns with yellow rays that hid behind the hills.
Only Rebeca was unhappy, because of Amaranta’s threat. She knew her sister’s character, the haughtiness of her spirit, and she was frightened by the virulence of her anger. She would spend whole hours sucking her finger in the bathroom, holding herself back with an exhausting iron will so as not to eat earth. In search of some relief for her uncertainty, she called Pilar Ternera to read her future. After a string of conventional vagaries, Pilar Ternera predicted:
“You will not be happy as long as your parents remain unburied.”
Rebeca shuddered. As in the memory of a dream she saw herself entering the house as a very small girl, with the trunk and the little rocker, and a bag whose contents she had never known. She remembered a bald gentleman dressed in linen and with his collar closed by a gold button, who had nothing to do with the king of hearts. She remembered a very young and beautiful woman with warm and perfumed hands, who had nothing in common with the jack of diamonds and his rheumatic hands, and who used to put flowers in her hair and take her out walking in the afternoon through a town with green streets.
“I don’t understand,” she said.
Pilar Ternera seemed disconcerted:
“I don’t either, but that’s what the cards say.”
Rebeca was so preoccupied with the enigma that she told it to Jos? Arcadio Buend?a, and he scolded her for believing in the predictions of the cards, but he undertook the silent task of searching closets and trunks, moving furniture and turning over beds and floorboards looking for the bag of bones. He remembered that he had not seen it since the time of the rebuilding. He secretly summoned the masons and one of them revealed that he had walled up the bag in some bedroom because it bothered him in his work. After several days of listening, with their ears against the walls, they perceived the deep cloc-cloc. They penetrated the wall and there were the bones in the intact bag. They buried it the same day in a grave without a stone next to that of Melqu?ades, and Jos? Arcadio Buend?a returned home free of a burden that for a moment had weighed on his conscience as much as the memory of Prudencio Aguilar. When he went through the kitchen he kissed Rebeca on the forehead.
“Get those bad thoughts out of your head,” he told her. “You’re going to be happy.”
The friendship with Rebeca opened up to Pilar Ternera the doors of the house, closed by ?rsula since the birth of Arcadio. She would arrive at any hour of the day, like a flock of goats, and would unleash her feverish energy in the hardest tasks. Sometimes she would go into the workshop and help Arcadio sensitize the daguerreotype plates with an efficiency and a tenderness that ended up by confusing him. That woman bothered him. The tan of her skin, her smell of smoke, the disorder of her laughter in the darkroom distracted his attention and made him bump into things.
On a certain occasion Aureliano was there working on his silver, and Pilar Ternera leaned over the table to admire his laborious patience. Suddenly it happened. Aureliano made sure that Arcadio was in the darkroom before raising his eyes and meeting those of Pilar Ternera, whose thought was perfectly visible, as if exposed to the light of noon.
“Well,” Aureliano said. “Tell me what it is.”
Pilar Ternera bit her lips with a sad smile.
“That you’d be good in a war,” she said. “Where you put your eye, you put your bullet.”
Aureliano relaxed with the proof of the omen. He went back to concentrate on his work as if nothing had happened, and his voice took on a restful strength.
“I will recognize him,” he said. “He’ll bear my name.”
Jos? Arcadio Buend?a finally got what he was looking for: he connected the mechanism of the clock to a mechanical ballerina, and the toy danced uninterruptedly to the rhythm of her own music for three days. That discovery excited him much more than any of his other harebrained undertakings. He stopped eating. He stopped sleeping. Only the vigilance and care of Rebeca kept him from being dragged off by his imagination into a state of perpetual delirium from which he would not recover. He would spend the nights walking around the room thinking aloud, searching for a way to apply the principles of the pendulum to oxcarts, to harrows, to everything that was useful when put into motion. The fever of insomnia fatigued him so much that one dawn he could not recognize the old man with white hair and uncertain gestures who came into his bedroom. It was Prudencio Aguilar. When he finally identified him, startled that the dead also aged, Jos? Arcadio Buend?a felt himself shaken by nostalgia. “Prudencio,” he exclaimed. “You’ve come from a long way off!” After many years of death the yearning for the living was so intense, the need for company so pressing, so terrifying the neatness of that other death which exists within death, that Prudencio Aguilar had ended up loving his worst enemy. He had spent a great deal of time looking for him. He asked the dead from Riohacha about him, the dead who came from the Upar Valley, those who came from the swamp, and no one could tell him because Macondo was a town that was unknown to the dead until Melqu?ades arrived and marked it with a small black dot on the motley maps of death. Jos? Arcadio Buend?a conversed with Prudencio Aguilar until dawn. A few hours later, worn out by the vigil, he went into Aureliano’s workshop and asked him: “What day is today?” Aureliano told him that it was Tuesday. “I was thinking the same thing,” Jos? Arcadio Buend?a said, “but suddenly I realized that it’s still Monday, like yesterday. Look at the sky, look at the walls, look at the begonias. Today is Monday too.” Used to his manias, Aureliano paid no attention to him. On the next day, Wednesday, Jos? Arcadio Buend?a went back to the workshop. “This is a disaster,” he said. “Look at the air, listen to the buzzing of the sun, the same as yesterday and the day before. Today is Monday too.” That night Pietro Crespi found him on the porch, weeping for Prudencio Aguilar, for Melqu?ades, for Rebeca’s parents, for his mother and father, for all of those he could remember and who were now alone in death. He gave him a mechanical bear that walked on its hind legs on a tightrope, but he could not distract him from his obsession. He asked him what had happened to the project he had explained to him a few days before about the possibility of building a pendulum machine that would help men to fly and he answered that it was impossible because a pendulum could lift anything into the air but it could not lift itself. On Thursday he appeared in the workshop again with the painful look of plowed ground. “The time machine has broken,” he almost sobbed, “and ?rsula and Amaranta so far away!” Aureliano scolded him like a child and he adopted a contrite air. He spent six hours examining things, trying to find a difference from their appearance on the previous day in the hope of discovering in them some change that would reveal the passage of time. He spent the whole night in bed with his eyes open, calling to Prudencio Aguilar, to Melqu?ades, to all the dead, so that they would share his distress. But no one came. On Friday. before anyone arose, he watched the appearance of nature again until he did not have the slightest doubt but that it was Monday. Then he grabbed the bar from a door and with the savage violence of his uncommon strength he smashed to dust the equipment in the alchemy laboratory, the daguerreotype room, the silver workshop, shouting like a man possessed in some high-sounding and fluent but completely incomprehensible language. He was about to finish off the rest of the house when Aureliano asked the neighbors for help. Ten men were needed to get him down, fourteen to tie him up, twenty to drag him to the chestnut tree in the courtyard, where they left him tied up, barking in the strange language and giving off a green froth at the mouth. When ?rsula and Amaranta returned he was still tied to the trunk of the chestnut tree by his hands and feet, soaked with rain and in a state of total innocence. They spoke to him and he looked at them without recognizing them, saying things they did not understand. ?rsula untied his wrists and ankles, lacerated by the pressure of the rope, and left him tied only by the waist. Later on they built him a shelter of palm brandies to protect him from the sun and the rain.