?RSULA HAD to make a great effort to fulfill her promise to die when it cleared. The waves of lucidity that were so scarce during the rains became more frequent after August, when an and wind began to blow and suffocated the rose bushes and petrified the piles of mud, and ended up scattering over Macondo the burning dust that covered the rusted zinc roofs and the age-old almond trees forever. ?rsula cried in lamentation when she discovered that for more than three years she had been a plaything for the children. She washed her painted face, took off the strips of brightly colored cloth, the dried lizards and frogs, and the rosaries and old Arab necklaces that they had hung all over her body, and for the first time since the death of Amaranta she got up out of bed without anybody’s help to join in the family life once more. The spirit of her invincible heart guided her through the shadows. Those who noticed her stumbling and who bumped into the archangelic arm she kept raised at head level thought that she was having trouble with her body, but they still did not think she was blind. She did not need to see to realize that the flower beds, cultivated with such care since the first rebuilding, had been destroyed by the rain and ruined by Aureliano Segundo’s excavations, and that the walls and the cement of the floors were cracked, the furniture mushy and discolored, the doors off their hinges, and the family menaced by a spirit of resignation and despair that was inconceivable in her time. Feeling her way along through the empty bedrooms she perceived the continuous rumble of the termites as they carved the wood, the snipping of the moths in the clothes closets, and the devastating noise of the enormous red ants that had prospered during the deluge and were undermining the foundations of the house. One day she opened the trunk with the saints and had to ask Santa Sof?a de la Piedad to get off her body the cockroaches that jumped out and that had already turned the clothing to dust. “A person can’t live in neglect like this,” she said. “If we go on like this we’ll be devoured by animals.” From then on she did not have a moment of repose. Up before dawn, she would use anybody available, even the children. She put the few articles of clothing that were still usable out into the sun, she drove the cockroaches off with powerful insecticide attacks, she scratched out the veins that the termites had made on doors and windows and asphyxiated the ants in their anthills with quicklime. The fever of restoration finally brought her to the forgotten rooms. She cleared out the rubble and cobwebs in the room where Jos? Arcadio Buend?a had lost his wits looking for the Philosopher’s stone, she put the silver shop which had been upset by the soldiers in order, and lastly she asked for the keys to Melqu?ades’ room to see what state it was in. Faithful to the wishes of Jos? Arcadio Segundo, who had forbidden anyone to come in unless there was a clear indication that he had died, Santa Sof?a de la Piedad tried all kinds of subterfuges to throw ?rsula off the track. But so inflexible was her determination not to surrender even the most remote corner of the house to the insects that she knocked down every obstacle in her path, and after three days of insistence she succeeded in getting them to open the door for her. She had to hold on to the doorjamb so that the stench would not knock her over, but she needed only two seconds to remember that the schoolgirls’ seventy-two chamberpots were in there and that on one of the rainy nights a patrol of soldiers had searched the house looking for Jos? Arcadio Segundo and had been unable to find him.
“Lord save us!” she exclaimed, as if she could see everything. “So much trouble teaching you good manners and you end up living like a pig.”
Jos? Arcadio Segundo was still reading over the parchments. The only thing visible in the intricate tangle of hair was the teeth striped with green dime and his motionless eyes. When he recognized his great-grandmother’s voice he turned his head toward the door, tried to smile, and without knowing it repeated an old phrase of ?rsula’s.
“What did you expect?” he murmured. “Time passes.”
“That’s how it goes,” ?rsula said, “but not so much.”
When she said it she realized that she was giving the same reply that Colonel Aureliano Buend?a had given in his death cell, and once again she shuddered with the evidence that time was not passing, as she had just admitted, but that it was turning in a circle. But even then she did not give resignation a chance. She scolded Jos? Arcadio Segundo as if he were a child and insisted that he take a bath and shave and lend a hand in fixing up the house. The simple idea of abandoning the room that had given him peace terrified Jos? Arcadio Segundo. He shouted that there was no human power capable of making him go out because he did not want to see the train with two hundred cars loaded with dead people which left Macondo every day at dusk on its way to the sea. “They were all of those who were at the station,” he shouted. “Three thousand four hundred eight.” Only then did ?rsula realize that he was in a world of shadows more impenetrable than hers, as unreachable and solitary as that of his great-grandfather. She left him in the room, but she succeeded in getting them to leave the padlock off, clean it every day, throw the chamberpots away except for one, and to keep Jos? Arcadio Segundo as clean and presentable as his great-grandfather had been during his long captivity under the chestnut tree. At first Fernanda interpreted that bustle as an attack of senile madness and it was difficult for her to suppress her exasperation. But about that time Jos? Arcadio told her that he planned to come to Macondo from Rome before taking his final vows, and the good news filled her with such enthusiasm that from morning to night she would be seen watering the flowers four times a day so that her son would not have a bad impression of the house. It was that same incentive which induced her to speed up her correspondence with the invisible doctors and to replace the pots of ferns and oregano and the begonias on the porch even before ?rsula found out that they had been destroyed by Aureliano Segundo’s exterminating fury. Later on she sold the silver service and bought ceramic dishes, pewter bowls and soup spoons, and alpaca tablecloths, and with them brought poverty to the cupboards that had been accustomed to India Company chinaware and Bohemian crystal. ?rsula always tried to go a step beyond. “Open the windows and the doors,” she shouted. “Cook some meat and fish, buy the largest turtles around, let strangers come and spread their mats in the corners and urinate in the rose bushes and sit down to eat as many times as they want and belch and rant and muddy everything with their boots, and let them do whatever they want to us, because that’s the only way to drive off rain.” But it was a vain illusion. She was too old then and living on borrowed time to repeat the miracle of the little candy animals, and none of her descendants had inherited her strength. The house stayed closed on Fernanda’s orders.
Aureliano Segundo, who had taken his trunks back to the house of Petra Cotes, barely had enough means to see that the family did not starve to death. With the raffling of the mule, Petra Cotes and he bought some more animals with which they managed to set up a primitive lottery business. Aureliano Segundo would go from house to house selling the tickets that he himself painted with colored ink to make them more attractive and convincing, and perhaps he did not realize that many people bought them out of gratitude and most of them out of pity. Nevertheless, even the most pitying purchaser was getting a chance to win a pig for twenty cents or a calf for thirty-two, and they became so hopeful that on Tuesday nights Petra Cotes’s courtyard overflowed with people waiting for the moment when a child picked at random drew the winning number from a bag. It did not take long to become a weekly fair, for at dusk food and drink stands would be set up in the courtyard and many of those who were favored would slaughter the animals they had won right there on the condition that someone else supply the liquor and music, so that without having wanted to, Aureliano Segundo suddenly found himself playing the accordion again and participating in modest tourneys of voracity. Those humble replicas of the revelry of former times served to show Aureliano Segundo himself how much his spirits had declined and to what a degree his skill as a masterful carouser had dried up. He was a changed man. The two hundred forty pounds that he had attained during the days when he had been challenged by The Elephant had been reduced to one hundred fifty-six; the glowing and bloated tortoise face had turned into that of an iguana, and he was always on the verge of boredom and fatigue. For Petra Cotes, however, he had never been a better man than at that time, perhaps because the pity that he inspired was mixed with love, and because of the feeling of solidarity that misery aroused in both of them. The broken-down bed ceased to be the scene of wild activities and was changed into an intimate refuge. Freed of the repetitious mirrors, which had been auctioned off to buy animals for the lottery, and from the lewd damasks and velvets, which the mule had eaten, they would stay up very late with the innocence of two sleepless grandparents, taking advantage of the time to draw up accounts and put away pennies which they formerly wasted just for the sake of it. Sometimes the cock’s crow would find them piling and unpiling coins, taking a bit away from here to put there, to that this bunch would be enough to keep Fernanda happy and that would be for Amaranta ?rsula’s shoes, and that other one for Santa Sof?a de la Piedad, who had not had a new dress since the time of all the noise, and this to order the coffin if ?rsula died, and this for the coffee which was going up a cent a pound in price every three months, and this for the sugar which sweetened less every day, and this for the lumber which was still wet from the rains, and this other one for the paper and the colored ink to make tickets with, and what was left over to pay off the winner of the April calf whose hide they had miraculously saved when it came down with a symptomatic carbuncle just when all of the numbers in the raffle had already been sold. Those rites of poverty were so pure that they nearly always set aside the largest share for Fernanda, and they did not do so out of remorse or charity, but because her well-being was more important to them than their own. What was really happening to them, although neither of them realized it, was that they both thought of Fernanda as the daughter that they would have liked to have and never did, to the point where on a certain occasion they resigned themselves to eating crumbs for three days, so that she could buy a Dutch tablecloth. Nevertheless, no matter how much they killed themselves with work, no matter how much money they eked out, and no matter how many schemes they thought of, their guardian angels were asleep with fatigue while they put in coins and took them out trying to get just enough to live with. During the waking hours when the accounts were bad. they wondered what had happened in the world for the animals not to breed with the same drive as before, why money slipped through their fingers, and why people who a short time before had burned rolls of bills in the carousing considered it highway robbery to charge twelve cents for a raffle of six hens. Aureliano Segundo thought without saying so that the evil was not in the world but in some hidden place in the mysterious heart of Petra Cotes, where something had happened during the deluge that had turned the animals sterile and made money scarce. Intrigued by that enigma, he dug so deeply into her sentiments that in search of interest he found love, because by trying to make her love him he ended up falling in love with her. Petra Cotes, for her part, loved him more and more as she felt his love increasing, and that was how in the ripeness of autumn she began to believe once more in the youthful superstition that poverty was the servitude of love. Both looked back then on the wild revelry, the gaudy wealth, and the unbridled fornication as an annoyance and they lamented that it had cost them so much of their lives to fund the paradise of shared solitude. Madly in love after so many years of sterile complicity, they enjoyed the miracle of loving each other as much at the table as in bed, and they grew to be so happy that even when they were two worn-out old people they kept on blooming like little children and playing together like dogs.
The raffles never got very far. At first Aureliano Segundo would spend three days of the week shut up in what had been his rancher’s office drawing ticket after ticket, Painting with a fair skill a red cow, a green pig, or a group of blue hens, according to the animal being raffled, and he would sketch out a good imitation of printed numbers and the name that Petra Cotes thought good to call the business: Divine Providence Raffles. But with time he felt so tired after drawing up to two thousand tickets a week that he had the animals, the name, and the numbers put on rubber stamps, and then the work was reduced to moistening them on pads of different colors. In his last years it occurred to him to substitute riddles for the numbers so that the prize could be shared by all of those who guessed it, but the system turned out to be so complicated and was open to so much suspicion that he gave it up after the second attempt.
Aureliano Segundo was so busy trying to maintain the prestige of his raffles that he barely had time to see the children. Fernanda put Amaranta ?rsula in a small private school where they admitted only six girls, but she refused to allow Aureliano to go to public school. She considered that she had already relented too much in letting him leave the room. Besides, the schools in those days accepted only the legitimate offspring of Catholic marriages and on the birth certificate that had been pinned to Aureliano’s clothing when they brought him to the house he was registered as a foundling. So he remained shut In at the mercy of Santa Sof?a de la Piedad’s loving eyes and ?rsula’s mental quirks, learning in the narrow world of the house whatever his grandmothers explained to him. He was delicate, thin, with a curiosity that unnerved the adults, but unlike the inquisitive and sometimes clairvoyant look that the colonel had at his age, his look was blinking and somewhat distracted. While Amaranta ?rsula was in kindergarten, he would hunt earthworms and torture insects in the garden. But once when Fernanda caught him putting scorpions in a box to put in ?rsula’s bed, she locked him up in Meme’s old room, where he spent his solitary hours looking through the pictures in the encyclopedia. ?rsula found him there one afternoon when she was going about sprinkling the house with distilled water and a bunch of nettles, and in spite of the fact that she had been with him many times she asked him who he was.
“I’m Aureliano Buend?a,” he said.
“That’s right” she replied. “And now it’s time for you to start learning how to be a silversmith.”
She had confused him with her son again, because the hot wind that came after the deluge and had brought occasional waves of lucidity to ?rsula’s brain had passed. She never got her reason back. When she went into the bedroom she found Petronila Iguar?n there with the bothersome crinolines and the beaded jacket that she put on for formal visits, and she found Tranquilina Maria Miniata Alacoque Buend?a, her grandmother, fanning herself with a peacock feather in her invalid’s rocking chair, and her great-grandfather Aureliano Arcadio Buend?a, with his imitation dolman of the viceregal guard, and Aureliano Iguar?n, her father, who had invented a prayer to make the worms shrivel up and drop off cows, and her timid mother, and her cousin with the pig’s tail, and Jos? Arcadio Buend?a, and her dead sons, all sitting in chairs lined up against the wall as if it were a wake and not a visit. She was tying a colorful string of chatter together, commenting on things from many separate places and many different times, so that when Amaranta ?rsula returned from school and Aureliano grew tired of the encyclopedia, they would find her sitting on her bed, talking to herself and lost in a labyrinth of dead people. “Fire!” she shouted once in terror and for an instant panic spread through the house, but what she was telling about was the burning of a barn that she had witnessed when she was four years old. She finally mixed up the past with the present in such a way that in the two or three waves of lucidity that she had before she died, no one knew for certain whether she was speaking about what she felt or what she remembered. Little by little she was shrinking, turning into a fetus, becoming mummified in life to the point that in her last months she was a cherry raisin lost inside of her nightgown, and the arm that she always kept raised looked like the paw of a marimonda monkey. She was motionless for several days, and Santa Sof?a de la Piedad had to shake her to convince herself that she was alive and sat her on her lap to feed her a few spoonfuls of sugar water. She looked like a newborn old woman. Amaranta ?rsula and Aureliano would take her in and out of the bedroom, they would lay her on the altar to see if she was any larger than the Christ child, and one afternoon they hid her in a closet in the Pantry where the rats could have eaten her. One Palm Sunday they went into the bedroom while Fernanda was in church and carried ?rsula out by the neck and ankles.
“Poor great-great-grandmother,” Amaranta ?rsula said. “She died of old age.”
?rsula was startled.
“I’m alive!” she said.
“You can see.” Amaranta ?rsula said, suppressing her laughter, “that she’s not even breathing.”
“I’m talking!” ?rsula shouted.
“She can’t even talk,” Aureliano said. “She died like a little cricket.”
Then ?rsula gave in to the evidence. “My God,” she exclaimed in a low voice. “So this is what it’s like to be dead.” She started an endless, stumbling, deep prayer that lasted more than two days, and that by Tuesday had degenerated into a hodgepodge of requests to God and bits of practical advice to stop the red ants from bringing the house down, to keep the lamp burning by Remedios’ daguerreotype, and never to let any Buend?a marry a person of the same blood because their children would be born with the tail of a pig. Aureliano Segundo tried to take advantage of her delirium to get her to ten him where the gold was buried, but his entreaties were useless once more “When the owner appears,” ?rsula said, “God will illuminate him so that he will find it.” Santa Sof?a de la Piedad had the certainty that they would find her dead from one moment to the next, because she noticed during those days a certain confusion in nature: the roses smelled like goosefoot, a pod of chick peas fell down and the beans lay on the ground in a perfect geometrical pattern in the shape of a starfish and one night she saw a row of luminous orange disks pass across the sky.
They found her dead on the morning of Good Friday. The last time that they had helped her calculate her age, during the time of the banana company, she had estimated it as between one hundred fifteen and one hundred twenty-two. They buried her in a coffin that was not much larger than the basket in which Aureliano had arrived, and very few people were at the funeral, partly because there wet not many left who remembered her, and partly because it was so hot that noon that the birds in their confusion were running into walls like day pigeons and breaking through screens to die in the bedrooms.
At first they thought it was a plague. Housewives were exhausted from sweeping away so many dead birds, especially at siesta time, and the men dumped them into the river by the cartload. On Easter Sunday the hundred-year-old Father Antonio Isabel stated from the pulpit that the death of the birds was due to the evil influence of the Wandering Jew, whom he himself had seen the night before. He described him as a cross between a billy goat and a female heretic, an infernal beast whose breath scorched the air and whose look brought on the birth of monsters in newlywed women. There were not many who paid attention to his apocalyptic talk, for the town was convinced that the priest was rambling because of his age. But one woman woke everybody up at dawn on Wednesday because she found the tracks of a biped with a cloven hoof. They were so clear and unmistakable that those who went to look at them had no doubt about the existence of a fearsome creature similar to the one described by the parish priest and they got together to set traps in their courtyards. That was how they managed to capture it. Two weeks after ?rsula’s death, Petra Cotes and Aureliano Segundo woke up frightened by the especially loud bellowing of a calf that was coming from nearby. When they got there a group of men were already pulling the monster off the sharpened stakes they had set in the bottom of a pit covered with dry leaves, and it stopped lowing. It was as heavy as an ox in spite of the fact that it was no taller than a young steer, and a green and greasy liquid flowed from its wounds. Its body was covered with rough hair, plagued with small ticks, and the skin was hardened with the scales of a remora fish, but unlike the priest’s description, its human parts were more like those of a sickly angel than of a man, for its hands were tense and agile, its eyes large and gloomy, and on its shoulder blades it had the scarred-over and calloused stumps of powerful wings which must have been chopped off by a woodsman’s ax. They hung it to an almond tree in the square by its ankles so that everyone could see it, and when it began to rot they burned it in a bonfire, for they could not determine whether its bastard nature was that of an animal to be thrown into the river or a human being to be buried. It was never established whether it had really caused the death of the birds, but the newly married women did not bear the predicted monsters, nor did the intensity of the heat decrease.
Rebeca died at the end of that year. Arg?nida, her lifelong servant, asked the authorities for help to knock down the door to the bedroom where her mistress had been locked in for three days, and they found her, on her solitary bed, curled up like a shrimp, with her head bald from ringworm and her finger in her mouth. Aureliano Segundo took charge of the funeral and tried to restore the house in order to sell it, but the destruction was so far advanced in it that the walls became scaly as soon as they were painted and there was not enough mortar to stop the weeds from cracking the floors and the ivy from rotting the beams.
That was how everything went after the deluge. The indolence of the people was in contrast to the voracity of oblivion, which little by little was undermining memories in a pitiless way, to such an extreme that at that time, on another anniversary of the Treaty of Neerlandia, some emissaries from the president of the republic arrived in Macondo to award at last the decoration rejected several times by Colonel Aureliano Buend?a, and they spent a whole afternoon looking for someone who could tell them where they could find one of his descendants. Aureliano Segundo was tempted to accept it, thinking that it was a medal of solid gold, but Petra Cotes convinced him that it was not proper when the emissaries already had some proclamations and speeches ready for the ceremony. It was also around that time that the gypsies returned, the last heirs to Melqu?ades’ science, and they found the town so defeated and its inhabitants so removed from the rest of the world that once more they went through the houses dragging magnetized ingots as if that really were the Babylonian wise men’s latest discovery, and once again they concentrated the sun’s rays with the giant magnifying glass, and there was no lack of people standing open-mouthed watching kettles fall and pots roll and who paid fifty cents to be startled as a gypsy woman put in her false teeth and took them out again. A broken-down yellow train that neither brought anyone in nor took anyone out and that scarcely paused at the deserted station was the only thing that was left of the long train to which Mr. Brown would couple his glass-topped coach with the episcopal lounging chairs and of the fruit trains with one hundred twenty cars which took a whole afternoon to pass by. The ecclesiastical delegates who had come to investigate the report of the strange death of the birds and the sacrifice of the Wandering Jew found Father Antonio Isabel playing blind man’s buff with the children, and thinking that his report was the product of a hallucination, they took him off to an asylum. A short time later they sent Father Augusto Angel, a crusader of the new breed, intransigent, audacious, daring, who personally rang the bells several times a day so that the peoples spirits would not get drowsy, and who went from house to house waking up the sleepers to go to mass but before a year was out he too was conquered by the negligence that one breathed in with the air, by the hot dust that made everything old and clogged up, and by the drowsiness caused by lunchtime meatballs in the unbearable heat of siesta time.
With ?rsula’s death the house again fell into a neglect from which it could not be rescued even by a will as resolute and vigorous as that of Amaranta ?rsula, who many years later, being a happy, modern woman without prejudices, with her feet on the ground, opened doors and windows in order to drive away the rain, restored the garden, exterminated the red ants who were already walking across the porch in broad daylight, and tried in vain to reawaken the forgotten spirit of hospitality. Fernanda’s cloistered passion built in impenetrable dike against ?rsula’s torrential hundred years. Not only did she refuse to open doors when the arid wind passed through, but she had the windows nailed shut with boards in the shape of a cross, obeying the paternal order of being buried alive. The expensive correspondence with the invisible doctors ended in failure. After numerous postponements, she shut herself up in her room on the date and hour agreed upon, covered only by a white sheet and with her head pointed north, and at one o’clock in the morning she felt that they were covering her head with a handkerchief soaked in a glacial liquid. When she woke up the sun was shining in the window and she had a barbarous stitch in the shape of an arc that began at her crotch and ended at her sternum. But before she could complete the prescribed rest she received a disturbed letter from the invisible doctors, who mid they had inspected her for six hours without finding anything that corresponded to the symptoms so many times and so scrupulously described by her. Actually, her pernicious habit of not calling things by their names had brought about a new confusion, for the only thing that the telepathic surgeons had found was a drop in the uterus which could be corrected by the use of a pessary. The disillusioned Fernanda tried to obtain more precise information, but the unknown correspondents did not answer her letters any more. She felt so defeated by the weight of an unknown word that she decided to put shame behind her and ask what a pessary was, and only then did she discover that the French doctor had hanged himself to a beam three months earlier and had been buried against the wishes of the townspeople by a former companion in arms of Colonel Aureliano Buend?a. Then she confided in her son Jos? Arcadio and the latter sent her the pessaries from Rome along with a pamphlet explaining their use, which she flushed down the toilet after committing it to memory so that no one would learn the nature of her troubles. It was a useless precaution because the only people who lived in the house scarcely paid any attention to her. Santa Sof?a de la Piedad was wandering about in her solitary old age, cooking the little that they ate and almost completely dedicated to the care of Jos? Arcadio Segundo. Amaranta ?rsula, who had inherited certain attractions of Remedios the Beauty, spent the time that she had formerly wasted tormenting ?rsula at her schoolwork, and she began to show good judgment and a dedication to study that brought back to Aureliano Segundo the high hopes that Meme had inspired in him. He had promised her to send her to finish her studies in Brussels, in accord with a custom established during the time of the banana company, and that illusion had brought him to attempt to revive the lands devastated by the deluge. The few times that he appeared at the house were for Amaranta ?rsula, because with time he had become a stranger to Fernanda and little Aureliano was becoming withdrawn as he approached puberty. Aureliano Segundo had faith that Fernanda’s heart would soften with old age so that the child could join in the life of the town where no one certainly would make any effort to speculate suspiciously about his origins. But Aureliano himself seemed to prefer the cloister of solitude and he did not show the least desire to know the world that began at the street door of the house. When ?rsula had the door of Melqu?ades’ room opened he began to linger about it, peeping through the half-opened door, and no one knew at what moment he became close to Jos? Arcadio Segundo in a link of mutual affection. Aureliano Segundo discovered that friendship a long time after it had begun, when he heard the child talking about the killing at the station. It happened once when someone at the table complained about the ruin into which the town had sunk when the banana company had abandoned it, and Aureliano contradicted him with maturity and with the vision of a grown person. His point of view, contrary to the general interpretation, was that Macondo had been a prosperous place and well on its way until it was disordered and corrupted and suppressed by the banana company, whose engineers brought on the deluge as a pretext to avoid promises made to the workers. Speaking with such good sense that to Fernanda he was like a sacrilegious parody of Jews among the wise men, the child described with precise and convincing details how the army had machine-gunned more than three thousand workers penned up by the station and how they loaded the bodies onto a two-hundred-car train and threw them into the sea. Convinced as most people were by the official version that nothing had happened, Fernanda was scandalized with the idea that the child had inherited the anarchist ideas of Colonel Aureliano Buend?a and told him to be quiet. Aureliano Segundo, on the other hand, recognized his twin brother’s version. Actually, in spite of the fact that everyone considered him mad, Jos? Arcadio Segundo was at that time the most lucid inhabitant of the house. He taught little Aureliano how to read and write, initiated him in the study of the parchments, and he inculcated him with such a personal interpretation of what the banana company had meant to Macondo that many years later, when Aureliano became part of the world, one would have thought that he was telling a hallucinated version, because it was radically opposed to the false one that historians had created and consecrated in the schoolbooks. In the small isolated room where the arid air never penetrated, nor the dust, nor the heat, both had the atavistic vision of an old man, his back to the window, wearing a hat with a brim like the wings of a crow who spoke about the world many years before they had been born. Both described at the same time how it was always March there and always Monday, and then they understood that Jos? Arcadio Buend?a was not as crazy as the family said, but that he was the only one who had enough lucidity to sense the truth of the fact that time also stumbled and had accidents and could therefore splinter and leave an eternalized fragment in a room. Jos? Arcadio Segundo had managed, furthermore, to classify the cryptic letters of the parchments. He was certain that they corresponded to an alphabet of forty-seven to fifty-three characters, which when separated looked like scratching and scribbling, and which in the fine hand of Melqu?ades looked like pieces of clothing put out to dry on a line. Aureliano remembered having seen a similar table in the English encyclopedia, so he brought it to the room to compare it with that of Jos? Arcadio Segundo. They were indeed the same.
Around the time of the riddle lottery, Aureliano Segundo began waking up with a knot in his throat, as if he were repressing a desire to weep. Petra Cotes interpreted it as one more of so many upsets brought on by the bad situation, and every morning for over a year she would touch his palate with a dash of honey and give him some radish syrup. When the knot in his throat became so oppressive that it was difficult for him to breathe, Aureliano Segundo visited Pilar Ternera to see if she knew of some herb that would give him relief. The dauntless grandmother, who had reached a hundred years of age managing a small, clandestine brothel, did not trust therapeutic superstitions, so she turned the matter over to her cards. She saw the queen of diamonds with her throat wounded by the steel of the jack of spades, and she deduced that Fernanda was trying to get her husband back home by means of the discredited method of sticking pins into his picture but that she had brought on an internal tumor because of her clumsy knowledge of the black arts. Since Aureliano Segundo had no other pictures except those of his wedding and the copies were all in the family album, he kept searching all through the house when his wife was not looking, and finally, in the bottom of the dresser, he came across a half-dozen pessaries in their original boxes. Thinking that the small red rubber rings were objects of witchcraft he put them in his pocket so that Pilar Ternera could have a look at them. She could not determine their nature, but they looked so suspicious to her that in any case she burned them in a bonfire she built in the courtyard. In order to conjure away Fernanda’s alleged curse, she told Aureliano Segundo that he should soak a broody hen and bury her alive under the chestnut tree, and he did it with such good faith that when he finished hiding the turned-up earth with dried leaves he already felt that he was breathing better. For her part, Fernanda interpreted the disappearance as a reprisal by the invisible doctors and she sewed a pocket of casing to the inside of her camisole where she kept the new pessaries that her son sent her.
Six months after he had buried the hen, Aureliano Segundo woke up at midnight with an attack of coughing and the feeling that he was being strangled within by the claws of a crab. It was then that he understood that for all of the magical pessaries that he destroyed and all the conjuring hens that he soaked, the single and sad piece of truth was that he was dying. He did not tell anyone. Tormented by the fear of dying without having sent Amaranta ?rsula to Brussels, he worked as he had never done, and instead of one he made three weekly raffles. From very early in the morning he could be seen going through the town, even in the most outlying and miserable sections, trying to sell tickets with an anxiety that could only be conceivable in a dying man. “Here’s Divine Providence,” he hawked. “Don’t let it get away, because it only comes every hundred years.” He made pitiful efforts to appear gay, pleasant, talkative, but it was enough to see his sweat and paleness to know that his heart was not in it. Sometimes he would go to vacant lots, where no one could see him, and sit down to rest from the claws that were tearing him apart inside. Even at midnight he would be in the red-light district trying to console with predictions of good luck the lonely women who were weeping beside their phonographs. “This number hasn’t come up in four months,” he told them, showing them the tickets. “Don’t let it get away, life is shorter than you think.” They finally lost respect for him, made fun of him, and in his last months they no longer called him Don Aureliano, as they had always done, but they called him Mr. Divine Providence right to his face. His voice was becoming filled with wrong notes. It was getting out of tune, and it finally diminished into the growl of a dog, but he still had the drive to see that there should be no diminishing of the hope people brought to Petra Cates’s courtyard. As he lost his voice, however, and realized that in a short time he would be unable to bear the pain, he began to understand that it was not through raffled pigs and goats that his daughter would get to Brussels, so he conceived the idea of organizing the fabulous raffle of the lands destroyed by the deluge, which could easily be restored by a person with the money to do so. It was such a spectacular undertaking that the mayor himself lent his aid by announcing it in a proclamation, and associations were formed to buy tickets at one hundred pesos apiece and they were sold out in less than a week. The night of the raffle the winners held a huge celebration, comparable only to those of the good days of the banana company, and Aureliano Segundo, for the last time, played the forgotten songs of Francisco the Man on the accordion, but he could no longer sing them.
Two months later Amaranta ?rsula went to Brussels. Aureliano Segundo gave her not only the money from the special raffle, but also what he had managed to put aside over the previous months and what little he had received from the sale of the pianola, the clavichord, and other junk that had fallen into disrepair. According to his calculations, that sum would be enough for her studies, so that all that was lacking was the price of her fare back home. Fernanda was against the trip until the last moment, scandalized by the idea that Brussels was so close to Paris and its perdition, but she calmed down with the letter that Father Angel gave her addressed to a boardinghouse run by nuns for Catholic young ladies where Amaranta ?rsula promised to stay until her studies were completed. Furthermore, the parish priest arranged for her to travel under the care of a group of Franciscan nuns who were going to Toledo, where they hoped to find dependable people to accompany her to Belgium. While the urgent correspondence that made the coordination possible went forward, Aureliano Segundo, aided by Petra Cates, prepared Amaranta ?rsula’s baggage. The night on which they were packing one of Fernanda’s bridal trunks, the things were so well organized that the schoolgirl knew by heart which were the suits and cloth slippers she could wear crossing the Atlantic and the blue cloth coat with copper buttons and the cordovan shoes she would wear when she landed. She also knew how to walk so as not to fall into the water as she went up the gangplank, that at no time was she to leave the company of the nuns or leave her cabin except to eat, and that for no reason was she to answer the questions asked by people of any sex while they were at sea. She carried a small bottle with drops for seasickness and a notebook written by Father Angel in his own hand containing six prayers to be used against storms. Fernanda made her a canvas belt to keep her money in, and she would not have to take it off even to sleep. She tried to give her the chamberpot, washed out with lye and disinfected with alcohol, but Amaranta ?rsula refused it for fear that her schoolmates would make fun of her. A few months later, at the hour of his death, Aureliano Segundo would remember her as he had seen her for the last time as she tried unsuccessfully to lower the window of the second-class coach to hear Fernanda’s last piece of advice. She was wearing a pink silk dress with a corsage of artificial pansies pinned to her left shoulder, her cordovan shoes with buckles and low heels, and sateen stockings held up at the thighs with elastic garters. Her body was slim, her hair loose and long, and she had the lively eyes that ?rsula had had at her age and the way in which she said good-bye, without crying but without smiling either, revealed the same strength of character. Walking beside the coach as it picked up speed and holding Fernanda by the arm so that she would not stumble, Aureliano scarcely had time to wave at his daughter as she threw him a kiss with the tips of her fingers. The couple stood motionless under the scorching sun, looking at the train as it merged with the black strip of the horizon, linking arms for the first time since the day of their wedding.
On the ninth of August, before they received the first letter from Brussels, Jos? Arcadio Segundo was speaking to Aureliano in Melqu?ades’ room and, without realizing it, he said:
“Always remember that they were more than three thousand and that they were thrown into the sea.”
Then he fell back on the parchments and died with his eyes open. At that same instant, in Fernanda’s bed, his twin brother came to the end of the prolonged and terrible martyrdom of the steel crabs that were eating his throat away. One week previously he had returned home, without any voice, unable to breathe, and almost skin and bones, with his wandering trunks and his wastrel’s accordion, to fulfill the promise of dying beside his wife. Petra Cotes helped him pack his clothes and bade him farewell without shedding a tear, but she forgot to give him the patent leather shoes that he wanted to wear in his coffin. So when she heard that he had died, she dressed in black, wrapped the shoes up in a newspaper, and asked Fernanda for permission to see the body. Fernanda would not let her through the door.
“Put yourself in my place,” Petra Cotes begged. “Imagine how much I must have loved him to put up with this humiliation.”
“There is no humiliation that a concubine does not deserve,” Fernanda replied. “So wait until another one of your men dies and put the shoes on him.”
In fulfillment of her promise, Santa Sof?a de la Piedad cut the throat of Jos? Arcadio Segundo’s corpse with a kitchen knife to be sure that they would not bury him alive. The bodies were placed in identical coffins, and then it could be seen that once more in death they had become as Identical as they had been until adolescence. Aureliano Segundo’s old carousing comrades laid on his casket a wreath that had a purple ribbon with the words: Cease, cows, life is short. Fernanda was so indignant with such irreverence that she had the wreath thrown onto the trash heap. In the tumult of the last moment, the sad drunkards who carried them out of the house got the coffins mixed up and buried them in the wrong graves.