Chapter 16

IT RAINED FOR four years, eleven months, and two days. There were periods of drizzle during which everyone put on his full dress and a convalescent look to celebrate the clearing, but the people soon grew accustomed to interpret the pauses as a sign of redoubled rain. The sky crumbled into a set of destructive storms and out of the north came hurricanes that scattered roofs about and knocked down walls and uprooted every last plant of the banana groves. Just as during the insomnia plague, as ?rsula came to remember during those days, the calamity itself inspired defenses against boredom. Aureliano Segundo was one of those who worked hardest not to be conquered by idleness. He had gone home for some minor matter on the night that Mr. Brown unleashed the storm, and Fernanda tried to help him with a half-blown-out umbrella that she found in a closet. “I don’t need it,” he said. “I’ll stay until it clears.” That was not, of course, an ironclad promise, but he would accomplish it literally. Since his clothes were at Petra Cotes’s, every three days he would take off what he had on and wait in his shorts until they washed. In order not to become bored, he dedicated himself to the task of repairing the many things that needed fixing in the house. He adjusted hinges, oiled locks, screwed knockers tight, and planed doorjambs. For several months he was seen wandering about with a toolbox that the gypsies must have left behind in Jos? Arcadio Buend?a’s days, and no one knew whether because of the involuntary exercise, the winter tedium or the imposed abstinence, but his belly was deflating little by little like a wineskin and his face of a beatific tortoise was becoming less bloodshot and his double chin less prominent until he became less pachydermic all over and was able to tie his own shoes again. Watching him putting in latches and repairing clocks, Fernanda wondered whether or not he too might be falling into the vice of building so that he could take apart like Colonel Aureliano Buend?a and his little gold fishes, Amaranta and her shroud and her buttons, Jos? Arcadio and the parchments, and ?rsula and her memories. But that was not the case. The worst part was that the rain was affecting everything and the driest of machines would have flowers popping out among their gears if they were not oiled every three days, and the threads in brocades rusted, and wet clothing would break out in a rash of saffron-colored moss. The air was so damp that fish could have come in through the doors and swum out the windows, floating through the atmosphere in the rooms. One morning ?rsula woke up feeling that she was reaching her end in a placid swoon and she had already asked them to take her to Father Antonio Isabel, even if it had to be on a stretcher, when Santa Sof?a de la Piedad discovered that her back was paved with leeches. She took them off one by one, crushing them with a firebrand before they bled her to death. It was necessary to dig canals to get the water out of the house and rid it of the frogs and snails so that they could dry the floors and take the bricks from under the bedposts and walk in shoes once more. Occupied with the many small details that called for his attention, Aureliano Segundo did not realize that he was getting old until one afternoon when he found himself contemplating the premature dusk from a rocking chair and thinking about Petra Cotes without quivering. There would have been no problem in going back to Fernanda’s insipid love, because her beauty had become solemn with age, but the rain had spared him from all emergencies of passion and had filled him with the spongy serenity of a lack of appetite. He amused himself thinking about the things that he could have done in other times with that rain which had already lasted a year. He had been one of the first to bring zinc sheets to Macondo, much earlier than their popularization by the banana company, simply to roof Petra Cotes’s bedroom with them and to take pleasure in the feeling of deep intimacy that the sprinkling of the rain produced at that time. But even those wild memories of his mad youth left him unmoved, just as during his last debauch he had exhausted his quota of salaciousness and all he had left was the marvelous gift of being able to remember it without bitterness or repentance. It might have been thought that the deluge had given him the opportunity to sit and reflect and that the business of the pliers and the oilcan had awakened in him the tardy yearning of so many useful trades that he might have followed in his life and did not; but neither case was true, because the temptation of a sedentary domesticity that was besieging him was not the result of any rediscovery or moral lesion. it came from much farther off, unearthed by the rain’s pitchfork from the days when in Melqu?ades’ room he would read the prodigious fables about flying carpets and whales that fed on entire ships and their crews. It was during those days that in a moment of carelessness little Aureliano appeared on the porch and his grandfather recognized the secret of his identity. He cut his hair, dressed him taught him not to be afraid of people, and very soon it was evident that he was a legitimate Aureliano Buend?a, with his high cheekbones, his startled look, and his solitary air. It was a relief for Fernanda. For some time she had measured the extent of her pridefulness, but she could not find any way to remedy it because the more she thought of solutions the less rational they seemed to her. If she had known that Aureliano Segundo was going to take things the way he did, with the fine pleasure of a grandfather, she would not have taken so many turns or got so mixed up, but would have freed herself from mortification the year before Amaranta ?rsula, who already had her second teeth, thought of her nephew as a scurrying toy who was a consolation for the tedium of the rain. Aureliano Segundo remembered then the English encyclopedia that no one had since touched in Meme’s old room. He began to show the children the pictures, especially those of animals, and later on the maps and photographs of remote countries and famous people. Since he did not know any English and could identify only the most famous cities and people, he would invent names and legends to satisfy the children’s insatiable curiosity.

Fernanda really believed that her husband was waiting for it to clear to return to his concubine. During the first months of the rain she was afraid that he would try to slip into her bedroom and that she would have to undergo the shame of revealing to him that she was incapable of reconciliation since the birth of Amaranta ?rsula. That was the reason for her anxious correspondence with the invisible doctors, interrupted by frequent disasters of the mail. During the first months when it was learned that the trains were jumping their tracks in the rain, a letter from the invisible doctors told her that hers were not arriving. Later on, when contact with the unknown correspondents was broken, she had seriously thought of putting on the tiger mask that her husband had worn in the bloody carnival and having herself examined under a fictitious name by the banana company doctors. But one of the many people who regularly brought unpleasant news of the deluge had told her that the company was dismantling its dispensaries to move them to where it was not raining. Then she gave up hope. She resigned herself to waiting until the rain stopped and the mail service was back to normal, and in the meantime she sought relief from her secret ailments with recourse to her imagination, because she would rather have died than put herself in the hands of the only doctor left in Macondo, the extravagant Frenchman who ate grass like a donkey. She drew close to ?rsula, trusting that she would know of some palliative for her attacks. But her twisted habit of not calling things by their names made her put first things last and use “expelled” for “gave birth” and “burning” for “flow” so that it would all be less shameful, with the result that ?rsula reached the reasonable conclusion that her trouble was intestinal rather than uterine, and she advised her to take a dose of calomel on an empty stomach. If it had not been for that suffering, which would have had nothing shameful about it for someone who did not suffer as well from shamefulness, and if it had not been for the loss of the letters, the rain would not have bothered Fernanda, because, after all, her whole life had been spent as if it had been raining. She did not change her schedule or modify her ritual. When the table was still raised up on bricks and the chairs put on planks so that those at the table would not get their feet wet, she still served with linen tablecloths and fine chinaware and with lighted candles, because she felt that the calamities should not be used as a pretext for any relaxation in customs. No one went out into the street any more. If it had depended on Fernanda, they would never have done so, not only since it started raining but since long before that, because she felt that doors had been invented to stay closed and that curiosity for what was going on in the street was a matter for harlots. Yet she was the first one to look out when they were told that the funeral procession for Colonel Gerineldo M?rquez was passing by and even though she only watched it through the half-opened window it left her in such a state of affliction that for a long time she repented in her weakness.

She could not have conceived of a more desolate cortege. They had put the coffin in an oxcart over which they built a canopy of banana leaves, but the pressure of the rain was so intense and the streets so muddy that with every step the wheels got stuck and the covering was on the verge of falling apart. The streams of sad water that fell on the coffin were soaking the flag that had been placed on top which was actually the flag stained with blood and gunpowder that had been rejected by more honorable veterans. On the coffin they had also placed the saber with tassels of silver and copper, the same one that Colonel Gerineldo M?rquez used to hang on the coat rack in order to go into Amaranta’s sewing room unarmed. Behind the cart, some barefoot and all of them with their pants rolled up, splashing in the mud were the last survivors of the surrender at Neerlandia carrying a drover’s staff in one hand and in the other a wreath of paper flowers that had become discolored in the rain. They appeared like an unreal vision along the street which still bore the name of Colonel Aureliano Buend?a and they all looked at the house as they passed and turned the corner at the square, where they had to ask for help to move the cart, which was stuck. ?rsula had herself carried to the door by Santa Sof?a de la Piedad. She followed the difficulties of the procession with such attention that no one doubted that she was seeing it, especially because her raised hand of an archangelic messenger was moving with the swaying of the cart.

“Good-bye, Gerineldo, my son,” she shouted. “Say hello to my people and tell them I’ll see them when it stops raining.”

Aureliano Segundo helped her back to bed and with the same informality with which he always treated her, he asked her the meaning of her farewell.

“It’s true,” she said. “I’m only waiting for the rain to stop in order to die.”

The condition of the streets alarmed Aureliano Segundo. He finally became worried about the state of his animals and he threw an oilcloth over his head and sent to Petra Cotes’s house. He found her in the courtyard, in the water up to her waist, trying to float the corpse of a horse. Aureliano Segundo helped her with a lever, and the enormous swollen body gave a turn like a bell and was dragged away by the torrent of liquid mud. Since the rain began, all that Petra Cotes had done was to clear her courtyard of dead animals. During the first weeks she sent messages to Aureliano Segundo for him to take urgent measures and he had answered that there was no rush, that the situation was not alarming, that there would be plenty of time to think about something when it cleared. She sent him word that the horse pastures were being flooded, that the cattle were fleeing to high ground, where there was nothing to eat and where they were at the mercy of jaguars and sickness. “There’s nothing to be done,” Aureliano Segundo answered her. “Others will be born when it clears.” Petra Cates had seen them die in dusters and the was able to butcher only those stuck in the mud. She saw with quiet impotence how the deluge was pitilessly exterminating a fortune that at one time was considered the largest and most solid in Macondo, and of which nothing remained but pestilence. When Aureliano Segundo decided to go see what was going on, he found only the corpse of the horse and a squalid mule in the ruins of the stable. Petra Cotes watched him arrive without surprise, joy, or resentment, and she only allowed herself an ironic smile.

“It’s about time!” she said.

She had aged, all skin and bones, and her tapered eyes of a carnivorous animal had become sad and tame from looking at the rain so much. Aureliano Segundo stayed at her house more than three months, not because he felt better there than in that of his family, but because he needed all that time to make the decision to throw the piece of oilcloth back over his head. “There’s no rush,” he said, as he had said in the other home. “Let’s hope that it clears in the next few hours.” During the course of the first week he became accustomed to the inroads that time and the rain had made in the health of his concubine, and little by little he was seeing her as she had been before, remembering her jubilant excesses and the delirious fertility that her love provoked in the animals, and partly through love, partly through interest, one night during the second week he awoke her with urgent caresses. Petra Cotes did not react. “Go back to sleep,” she murmured. “These aren’t times for things like that.” Aureliano Segundo saw himself in the mirrors on the ceiling, saw Petra Cotes’s spinal column like a row of spools strung together along a cluster of withered nerves, and he saw that she was right, not because of the times but because of themselves, who were no longer up to those things.

Aureliano Segundo returned home with his trunks, convinced that not only ?rsula but all the inhabitants of Macondo were waiting for it to dear in order to die. He had seen them as he passed by, sitting in their parlors with an absorbed look and folded arms, feeling unbroken time pass, relentless times, because it was useless to divide it into months and years, and the days into hours, when one could do nothing but contemplate the rain. The children greeted Aureliano Segundo with excitement because he was playing the asthmatic accordion for them again. But the concerts did not attract their attention as much as the sessions with the encyclopedia, and once more they got together in Meme’s room, where Aureliano Segundo’s imagination changed a dirigible into a flying elephant who was looking for a place to sleep among the clouds. On one occasion he came across a man on horseback who in spite of his strange outfit had a familiar look, and after examining him closely he came to the conclusion that it was a picture of Colonel Aureliano Buend?a. He showed it to Fernanda and she also admitted the resemblance of the horseman not only to the colonel but to everybody in the family, although he was actually a Tartar warrior. Time passed in that way with the Colossus of Rhodes and snake charmers until his wife told him that there were only three pounds of dried meat and a sack of rice left in the pantry.

And what do you want me to do about it?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” Fernanda answered. “That’s men’s business.”

“Well,” Aureliano Segundo said, “something will be done when it clears.”

He was more interested in the encyclopedia than In the domestic problem, even when he had to content himself with a scrap of meat and a little rice for lunch. “It’s impossible to do anything now,” he would say. “It can’t rain for the rest of our lives.” And while the urgencies of the pantry grew greater, Fernanda’s indignation also grew, until her eventual protests, her infrequent outbursts came forth in an uncontained, unchained torrent that begin one morning like the monotonous drone of a guitar and as the day advanced rose in pitch, richer and more splendid. Aureliano Segundo was not aware of the singsong until the following day after breakfast when he felt himself being bothered by a buzzing that was by then more fluid and louder than the sound of the rain, and it was Fernanda, who was walking throughout the house complaining that they had raised her to be a queen only to have her end up as a servant in a madhouse, with a lazy, idolatrous, libertine husband who lay on his back waiting for bread to rain down from heaven while she was straining her kidneys trying to keep afloat a home held together with pins where there was so much to do, so much to bear up under and repair from the time God gave his morning sunlight until it was time to go to bed that when she got there her eyes were full of ground glass, and yet no one ever said to her, “Good morning, Fernanda, did you sleep well?” Nor had they asked her, even out of courtesy, why she was so pale or why she awoke with purple rings under her eyes in spite of the fact that she expected it, of course, from a family that had always considered her a nuisance, an old rag, a booby painted on the wall, and who were always going around saying things against her behind her back, calling her church mouse, calling her Pharisee, calling her crafty, and even Amaranta, may she rest in peace, had said aloud that she was one of those people who could not tell their rectums from their ashes, God have mercy, such words, and she had tolerated everything with resignation because of the Holy Father, but she had not been able to tolerate it any more when that evil Jos? Arcadio Segundo said that the damnation of the family had come when it opened its doors to a stuck-up highlander, just imagine, a bossy highlander, Lord save us, a highlander daughter of evil spit of the same stripe as the highlanders the government sent to kill workers, you tell me, and he was referring to no one but her, the godchild of the Duke of Alba, a lady of such lineage that she made the liver of presidents’ wives quiver, a noble dame of fine blood like her, who had the right to sign eleven peninsular names and who was the only mortal creature in that town full of bastards who did not feel all confused at the sight of sixteen pieces of silverware, so that her adulterous husband could die of laughter afterward and say that so many knives and forks and spoons were not meant for a human being but for a centipede, and the only one who could tell with her eyes closed when the white wine was served and on what side and in which glass and when the red wine and on what side and in which glass, and not like that peasant of an Amaranta, may she rest in peace, who thought that white wine was served in the daytime and red wine at night, and the only one on the whole coast who could take pride in the fact that she took care of her bodily needs only in golden chamberpots, so that Colonel Aureliano Buend?a, may he rest in peace, could have the effrontery to ask her with his Masonic Ill humor where she had received that privilege and whether she did not shit shit but shat sweet basil, just imagine, with those very words, and so that Renata, her own daughter, who through an oversight had seen her stool in the bedroom, had answered that even if the pot was all gold and with a coat of arms, what was inside was pure shit, physical shit, and worse even than any other kind because it was stuck-up highland shit, just imagine, her own daughter, so that she never had any illusions about the rest of the family, but in any case she had the right to expect a little more consideration from her husband because, for better or for worse, he was her consecrated spouse her helpmate, her legal despoiler, who took upon himself of his own free and sovereign will the grave responsibility of taking her away from her paternal home, where she never wanted for or suffered from anything, where she wove funeral wreaths as a pastime, since her godfather had sent a letter with his signature and the stamp of his ring on the sealing wax simply to say that the hands of his goddaughter were not meant for tasks of this world except to play the clavichord, and, nevertheless, her insane husband had taken her from her home with all manner of admonitions and warnings and had brought her to that frying pan of hell where a person could not breathe because of the heat, and before she had completed her Pentecostal fast he had gone off with his wandering trunks and his wastrel’s accordion to loaf in adultery with a wretch of whom it was only enough to see her behind, well, that’s been said, to see her wiggle her mare’s behind in order to guess that she was a, that she was a, just the opposite of her, who was a lady in a palace or a pigsty, at the table or in bed, a lady of breeding, God-fearing, obeying His laws and submissive to His wishes, and with whom he could not perform, naturally, the acrobatics and trampish antics that he did with the other one, who, of course, was ready for anything like the French matrons, and even worse, if one considers well, because they at least had the honesty to put a red light at their door, swinishness like that, just imagine, and that was all that was needed by the only and beloved daughter of Do?a Renata Argote and Don Fernando del Carpio, and especially the latter, an upright man, a fine Christian, a Knight of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher, those who receive direct from God the privilege of remaining intact in their graves with their skin smooth like the cheeks of a bride and their eyes alive and clear like emeralds.

“That’s not true,” Aureliano Segundo interrupted her. “He was already beginning to smell when they brought him here.”

He had the patience to listen to her for a whole day until he caught her in a slip. Fernanda did not pay him any mind, but she lowered her voice. That night at dinner the exasperating buzzing of the singsong had conquered the sound of the rain. Aureliano, Segundo ate very little, with his head down, and he went to his room early. At breakfast on the following day Fernanda was trembling, with a look of not having slept well, and she seemed completely exhausted by her rancor. Nevertheless, when her husband asked if it was not possible to have a soft-boiled egg, she did not answer simply that they had run out of eggs the week before, but she worked up a violent diatribe against men who spent their time contemplating their navels and then had the gall to ask for larks’ livers at the table. Aureliano Segundo took the children to look at the encyclopedia, as always, and Fernanda pretended to straighten out Meme’s room just so that he could listen to her muttering, of course, that it certainly took cheek for him to tell the poor innocents that there was a picture of Colonel Aureliano Buend?a in the encyclopedia. During the afternoon, while the children were having their nap, Aureliano Segundo sat on the porch and Fernanda pursued him even there, provoking him, tormenting him, hovering about him with her implacable horsefly buzzing, saying that, of course, while there was nothing to eat except stones, her husband was sitting there like a sultan of Persia, watching it rain, because that was all he was, a slob, a sponge, a good-for-nothing, softer than cotton batting, used to living off women and convinced that he had married Jonah’s wife, who was so content with the story of the whale. Aureliano Segundo listened to her for more than two hours, impassive, as if he were deaf. He did not interrupt her until late in the afternoon, when he could no longer bear the echo of the bass drum that was tormenting his head.

“Please shut up,” he begged.

Fernanda, quite the contrary, raised her pitch. “I don’t have any reason to shut up,” she said. “Anyone who doesn’t want to listen to me can go someplace else.” Then Aureliano Segundo lost control. He stood up unhurriedly, as if he only intended to stretch, and with a perfectly regulated and methodical fury he grabbed the pots with the begonias one after the other, those with the ferns, the oregano, and one after the  other he smashed them onto the floor. Fernanda was frightened because until then she had really not had a clear indication of the tremendous inner force of her singsong, but it was too late for any attempt at rectification. Intoxicated by the uncontained torrent of relief, Aureliano Segundo broke the glass on the china closet and piece by piece, without hurrying, he took out the chinaware and shattered it on the floor. Systematically, serenely, in the same parsimonious way in which he had papered the house with banknotes, he then set about smashing the Bohemian crystal ware against the walls, the hand-painted vases, the pictures of maidens in flower-laden boats, the mirrors in their gilded frames, everything that was breakable, from parlor to pantry, and he finished with the large earthen jar in the kitchen, which exploded in the middle of the courtyard with a hollow boom. Then he washed his hands, threw the oilcloth over himself, and before midnight he returned with a few strings of dried meat, several bags of rice, corn with weevils, and some emaciated bunches of bananas. From then on there was no more lack of food.

Amaranta ?rsula and little Aureliano would remember the rains as a happy time. In spite of Fernanda’s strictness, they would splash in the puddles in the courtyard, catch lizards and dissect them, and pretend that they were poisoning the soup with dust from butterfly wings when Santa Sof?a de la Piedad was not looking ?rsula was their most amusing plaything. They looked upon her as a big,. broken-down doll that they carried back and forth from one corner to another wrapped in colored cloth and with her face painted with soot and annatto, and once they were on the point of plucking out her eyes with the pruning shears as they had done with the frogs. Nothing gave them as much excitement as the wanderings of her mind. Something, indeed, must have happened to her mind during the third year of the rain, for she was gradually losing her sense of reality and confusing present time with remote periods of her life to the point where, on one occasion, she spent three days weeping deeply over the death of Petronila Iguar?n, her great-grandmother, buried for over a century. She sank into such an insane state of confusion that she thought little Aureliano was her son the colonel during the time he was taken to see ice, and that the Jos? Arcadio who was at that time in the seminary was her firstborn who had gone off with the gypsies. She spoke so much about the family that the children learned to make up imaginary visits with beings who had not only been dead for a long time, but who had existed at different times. Sitting on the bed, her hair covered with ashes and her face wrapped in a red kerchief, ?rsula was happy in the midst of the unreal relatives whom the children described in all detail, as if they had really known them. ?rsula would converse with her forebears about events that took place before her own existence, enjoying the news they gave her, and she would weep with them over deaths that were much more recent than the guests themselves. The children did not take long to notice that in the course of those ghostly visits ?rsula would always ask a question destined to establish the one who had brought a life-size plaster Saint Joseph to the house to be kept until the rains stopped. It was in that way that Aureliano Segundo remembered the fortune buried in some place that only ?rsula knew, but the questions and astute maneuvering that occurred to him were of no use because in the labyrinth of her madness she seemed to preserve enough of a margin of lucidity to keep the secret which she would reveal only to the one who could prove that he was the real owner of the buried gold. She was so skillful and strict that when Aureliano Segundo instructed one of his carousing companions to pass himself off as the owner of the fortune, she got him all caught up in a minute interrogation sown with subtle traps.

Convinced that ?rsula would carry the secret to her grave, Aureliano Segundo hired a crew of diggers under the pretext that they were making some drainage canals in the courtyard and the backyard, and he himself took soundings in the earth with iron bars and all manner of metal-detectors without finding anything that resembled gold in three months of exhaustive exploration. Later on he went to Pilar Ternera with the hope that the cards would we more than the diggers, but she began by explaining that any attempt would be useless unless ?rsula cut the cards. On the other hand, she confirmed the existence of the treasure with the precision of its consisting of seven thousand two hundred fourteen coins buried in three canvas sacks reinforced with copper wire within a circle with a radius of three hundred eighty-eight feet with ?rsula’s bed as the center, but she warned that it would not be found until it stopped raining and the suns of three consecutive Junes had changed the piles of mud into dust. The profusion and meticulous vagueness of the information seemed to Aureliano Segundo so similar to the tales of spiritualists that he kept on with his enterprise in spite of the fact that they were in August and they would have to wait at least three years in order to satisfy the conditions of the prediction. The first thing that startled him, even though it increased his confusion at the same time, was the fact that it was precisely three hundred eighty-eight feet from ?rsula’s bed to the backyard wall. Fernanda feared that he was as crazy as his twin brother when she saw him taking the measurements, and even more when he told the digging crew to make the ditches three feet deeper. Overcome by an exploratory delirium comparable only to that of his great-grandfather when he was searching for the route of inventions, Aureliano Segundo lost the last layers of fat that he had left and the old resemblance to his twin brother was becoming accentuated again, not only because of his slim figure, but also because of the distant air and the withdrawn attitude. He no longer bothered with the children. He ate at odd hours, muddled from head to toe, and he did so in a corner in the kitchen, barely answering the occasional questions asked by Santa Sof?a de la Piedad. Seeing him work that way, as she had never dreamed him capable of doing, Fernanda thought that his stubbornness was diligence, his greed abnegation, and his thick-headedness perseverance, and her insides tightened with remorse over the virulence with which she had attacked his idleness. But Aureliano Segundo was in no mood for merciful reconciliations at that time. Sunk up to his neck in a morass of dead brandies and rotting flowers, he flung the dirt of the garden all about after having finished with the courtyard and the backyard, and he excavated so deeply under the foundations of the east wing of the house that one night they woke up in terror at what seemed to be an earthquake, as much because of the trembling as the fearful underground creaking. Three of the rooms were collapsing and a frightening crack had opened up from the porch to Fernanda’s room. Aureliano Segundo did not give up the search because of that. Even when his last hopes had been extinguished and the only thing that seemed to make any sense was what the cards had predicted, he reinforced the jagged foundation, repaired the crack with mortar, and continued on the side to the west. He was still there on the second week of the following June when the rain began to abate and the clouds began to lift and it was obvious from one moment to the next that it was going to clear. That was what happened. On Friday at two in the afternoon the world lighted up with a crazy crimson sun as harsh as brick dust and almost as cool as water, and it did not rain again for ten years.

Macondo was in ruins. In the swampy streets there were the remains of furniture, animal skeletons covered with red lilies, the last memories of the hordes of newcomers who had fled Macondo as wildly as they had arrived. The houses that had been built with such haste during the banana fever had been abandoned. The banana company tore down its installations. All that remained of the former wired-in city were the ruins. The wooden houses, the cool terraces for breezy card-playing afternoons, seemed to have been blown away in an anticipation of the prophetic wind that years later would wipe Macondo off the face of the earth. The only human trace left by that voracious blast was a glove belonging to Patricia Brown in an automobile smothered in wild pansies. The enchanted region explored by Jos? Arcadio Buend?a in the days of the founding, where later on the banana plantations flourished, was a bog of rotting roots, on the horizon of which one could manage to see the silent foam of the sea. Aureliano Segundo went through a crisis of affliction on the first Sunday that he put on dry clothes and went out to renew his acquaintance with the town. The survivors of the catastrophe, the same ones who had been living in Macondo before it had been struck by the banana company hurricane, were sitting in the middle of the street enjoying their first sunshine. They still had the green of the algae on their skin and the musty smell of a corner that had been stamped on them by the rain, but in their hearts they seemed happy to have recovered the town in which they had been born. The Street of the Turks was again what it had been earlier, in the days when the Arabs with slippers and rings in their ears were going about the world swapping knickknacks for macaws and had found in Macondo a good bend in the road where they could find respite from their age-old lot as wanderers. Having crossed through to the other side of the rain. the merchandise in the booths was falling apart, the cloths spread over the doors were splotched with mold, the counters undermined by termites, the walls eaten away by dampness, but the Arabs of the third generation were sitting in the same place and in the same position as their fathers and grandfathers, taciturn, dauntless, invulnerable to time and disaster, as alive or as dead as they had been after the insomnia plague and Colonel Aureliano Buend?a’s thirty-two wars. Their strength of spirit in the face of ruins of the gaming tables, the fritter stands, the shooting galleries, and the alley where they interpreted dreams and predicted the future made Aureliano Segundo ask them with his usual informality what mysterious resources they had relied upon so as not to have gone awash in the storm, what the devil they had done so as not to drown, and one after the other, from door to door, they returned a crafty smile and a dreamy look, and without any previous consultation they all gave the answer:

“Swimming.”

Petra Cotes was perhaps the only native who had an Arab heart. She had seen the final destruction of her stables, her barns dragged off by the storm. but she had managed to keep her house standing. During the second year she had sent pressing messages to Aureliano Segundo and he had answered that he did not know when he would go back to her house, but that in any case he would bring along a box of gold coins to pave the bedroom floor with. At that time she had dug deep into her heart, searching for the strength that would allow her to survive the misfortune, and she had discovered a reflective and just rage with which she had sworn to restore the fortune squandered by her lover and then wiped out by the deluge. It was such an unbreakable decision that Aureliano Segundo went back to her house eight months after the last message and found her green disheveled, with sunken eyelids and skin spangled with mange, but she was writing out numbers on small pieces of paper to make a raffle. Aureliano Segundo was astonished, and he was so dirty and so solemn that Petra Cotes almost believed that the one who had come to see her was not the lover of all her life but his twin brother.

“You’re crazy,” he told her. “Unless you plan to raffle off bones.”

Then she told him to look in the bedroom and Aureliano Segundo saw the mule. Its skin was clinging to its bones like that of its mistress, but it was just as alive and resolute as she. Petra Cotes had fed it with her wrath, and when there was no more hay or corn or roots, she had given it shelter in her own bedroom and fed it on the percale sheets, the Persian rugs, the plush bedspreads, the velvet drapes, and the canopy embroidered with gold thread and silk tassels on the episcopal bed.

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