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Chapter 6

COLONEL AURELIANO BUENDíA organized thirty--two armed uprisings and he lost them all. He had seventeen male children by seventeen different women and they were exterminated one after the other on a single night before the oldest one had reached the age of thirty-five. He survived fourteen attempts on his life, seventy-three ambushes, and a firing squad. He lived through a dose of strychnine in his coffee that was enough to kill a horse. He refused the Order of Merit, which the President of the Republic awarded him. He rose to be Commander in Chief of the revolutionary forces, with jurisdiction and command from one border to the other, and the man most feared by the government, but he never let himself be photographed. He declined the lifetime pension offered him after the war and until old age he made his living from the little gold fishes that he manufactured in his workshop in Macondo. Although he always fought at the head of his men, the only wound that he received was the one he gave himself after signing the Treaty of Neerlandia, which put an end to almost twenty years of civil war. He shot himself in the chest with a pistol and the bullet came out through his back without damaging any vital organ. The only thing left of all that was a street that bore his name in Macondo. And yet, as he declared a few years before he died of old age, he had not expected any of that on the dawn he left with his twenty-one men to join the forces of General Victorio Medina.
"We leave Macondo in your care." was all that he said to Arcadio before leaving. "We leave it to you in good shape, try to have it in better shape when we return."
Arcadio gave a very personal interpretation to the instructions. He invented a uniform with the braid and epaulets of a marshal, inspired by the prints in one of Melquíades' books, and around his waist he buckled the saber with gold tassels that had belonged to the executed captain. He set up the two artillery pieces at the entrance to town, put uniforms on his former pupils, who had been amused by his fiery proclamations, and let them wander through the streets armed in order to give outsiders an impression of invulnerability. It was a doubleedged deception, for the government did not dare attack the place for ten months, but when it did it unleashed such a large force against it that resistance was liquidated in a half hour. From the first day of his rule Arcadio revealed his predilection for decrees. He would read as many as four a day in order to decree and institute everything that came into his head. He imposed obligatory military service for men over eighteen, declared to be public property any animals walking the streets after six in the evening, and made men who were overage wear red armbands. He sequestered Father Nicanor in the parish house under pain of execution and prohibited from saying mass or ringing the bells unless it was for a Liberal victory. In order that no one would doubt the severity of his aims, he ordered a firing squad organized in the square and had it shoot at a scarecrow. At first no one took him seriously. They were, after all, schoolchildren playing at being grownups. But one night, when Arcadio went into Catarino's store, the trumpeter in the group greeted him with a fanfare that made the customers laugh and Arcadio had him shot for disrespect for the authorities. People who protested were put on bread and water with their ankles in a set of stocks that he had set up in a schoolroom. "You murderer!" úrsula would shout at him every time she learned of some new arbitrary act. "When Aureliano finds out he's going to shoot you and I'll be the first one to be glad." But it was of no use. Arcadio continued tightening the tourniquet with unnecessary rigor until he became the cruelest ruler that Macondo had ever known. "Now let them suffer the difference," Don Apolinar Moscote said on one occasion. "This is the Liberal paradise." Arcadio found out about it. At the head of a patrol he assaulted the house, destroyed the furniture, flogged the daughters, and dragged out Don Apolinar Moscote. When úrsula burst into the courtyard of headquarters, after having gone through the town shouting shame brandishing with rage a pitch-covered whip, Arcadio himself was preparing to give the squad the command to fire.
"I dare you to, bastard!" úrsula shouted.
Before Arcadio had time to read she let go with the first blow of the lash. "I dare you to, murderer!" she shouted. "And kill me too, son an evil mother. That way I won't have the eyes to weep for the shame of having raised a monster." Whipping him without mercy, she chased him to the back of the courtyard, where Arcadio curled up like a snail in its shell. Don Apolinar Moscote was unconscious, tied to the post where previously they had had the scarecrow that had been cut to pieces by shots fired in fun. The boys in the squad scattered, fearful that úrsula would go after them too. But she did not even look at them. She left Arcadio with his uniform torn, roaring with pain and rage, and she untied Don Apolinar Moscote and took him home. Before leaving the headquarters she released the prisoners from the stocks.
From that time on she was the one who ruled in the town. She reestablished Sunday masses, suspended the use of red armbands, and abrogated the harebrained decrees. But in spite of her strength, she still wept over her unfortunate fate. She felt so much alone that she sought the useless company of her husband, who had been forgotten under the chestnut tree. "Look what we've come to," she would tell him as the June rains threatened to knock the shelter down. "Look at the empty house, our children scattered all over the world, and the two of us alone again, the same as in the beginning." José Arcadio Buendía, sunk in an abyss of unawareness, was deaf to her lamentations. At the beginning of his madness he would announce his daily needs with urgent Latin phrases. In fleeting clear spells of lucidity, when Amaranta would bring him his meals he would tell her what bothered him most and would accept her sucking glasses and mustard plasters in a docile way. But at the time when úrsula went to lament by his side he had lost all contact with reality. She would bathe him bit by bit as he sat on his stool while she gave him news of the family. "Aureliano went to war more than four months ago and we haven't heard anything about him," she would say, scrubbing his back with a soaped brush. "José Arcadio came back a big man, taller than you, all covered with needle-work, but he only brought shame to our house." She thought she noticed, however, that her husband would grow sad with the bad news. Then she decided to lie to him. 'Rou won't believe what I'm going to tell you," she said as she threw ashes over his excrement in order to pick it up with the shovel. "God willed that José Arcadio and Rebeca should get married, and now they're very happy." She got to be so sincere in the deception that she ended up by consoling herself with her own lies. "Arcadio is a serious man now," she said, "and very brave, and a fine-looking young man with his uniform and saber." It was like speaking to a dead man, for José Arcadio Buendía was already beyond the reach of any worry. But she insisted. He seemed so peaceful, so indifferent to everything that she decided to release him. He did not even move from his stool. He stayed there, exposed to the sun and the rain, as if the thongs were unnecessary, for a dominion superior to any visible bond kept tied to the trunk of the chestnut tree. Toward August, when winter began to last forever, úrsula was finally able to give him a piece of news that sounded like the truth.
"Would you believe it that good luck is still pouring down on us?" she told him. "Amaranta and the pianola Italian are going to get married."
Amaranta and Pietro Crespi had, in fact, deepened their friendship, protected by úrsula, who this time did not think it necessary to watch over the visits. It was a twilight engagement. The Italian would arrive at dusk, with a gardenia in his buttonhole, and he would translate Petrarch's sonnets for Amaranta. They would sit on the porch, suffocated by the oregano and the roses, he reading and she sewing lace cuffs, indifferent to the shocks and bad news the war, until the mosquitoes made them take refuge in the parlor. Amaranta's sensibility, her discreet but enveloping tenderness had been wearing an invisible web about her fiancé, which he had to push aside materially his pale and ringless fingers in order to leave the house at eight o'clock. They had put together a delightful album with the postcards that Pietro Crespi received from Italy. They were pictures of lovers in lonely parks, vignettes of hearts pierced with arrows and golden ribbons held by doves. "I've been to this park in Florence," Pietro Crespi would say, going through the cards. "A person can put out his hand and the birds will come to feed." Sometimes, over a watercolor of Venice, nostalgia would transform the smell of mud and putrefying shellfish of the canals into the warm aroma of flowers. Amaranta would sigh, laugh, and dream of a second homeland of handsome men and beautiful women who spoke a childlike language with ancient cities of whose past grandeur only the cats among the rubble remained. After crossing the ocean in search of it, after having confused passion with the vehement stroking of Rebeca, Pietro Crespi had found love. Happiness was accompanied by prosperity. His warehouse at that time occupied almost a whole block and it was a hothouse of fantasy, with reproductions of the bell tower of Florence that told time with a concert of carillons, and music boxes from Sorrento and compacts from China that sang five-note melodies when they were opened, and all the musical instruments imaginable and all the mechanical toys that could be conceived. Bruno Crespi, his younger brother, was in charge of the store because Pietro Crespi barely had enough time to take care the music school. Thanks to him the Street of the Turks, with its dazzling display of knickknacks, became a melodic oasis where one could forget Arcadio's arbitrary acts and the distant nightmare of the war. When úrsula ordered the revival of Sunday mass, Pietro Crespi donated a German harmonium to the church, organized a children's chorus, and prepared a Gregorian repertory that added a note of splendor to Father Nicanor's quiet rite. No one doubted that he would make Amaranta a fortunate mate. Not pushing their feelings, letting themselves be borne along by the natural flow of their hearth they reached a point where all that was left to do was set a wedding date. They did not encounter any obstacles. úrsula accused herself inwardly of having twisted Rebecca's destiny with repeated postponements and she was not about to add more remorse. The rigor of the mourning for Remedios had been relegated to the background by the mortifications of the war, Aureliano's absence, Arcadio's brutality, and the expulsion José Arcadio and Rebeca. With the imminence of the wedding, Pietro Crespi had hinted that Aureliano José, in whom he had stirred up a love that was almost filial, would be considered their oldest child. Everything made Amaranta think that she was heading toward a smooth happiness. But unlike Rebeca, she did not reveal the slightest anxiety. With the same patience with which she dyed tablecloths, sewed lace masterpieces, embroidered needlepoint peacocks, she waited for Pietro Crespi to be unable to bear the urges of his heart and more. Her day came with the illfated October rains. Pietro Crespi took the sewing basket from her lap and he told her, "We'll get married next month." Amaranta did not tremble at the contact with his icy hands. She withdrew hers like a timid little animal and went back to her work.
"Don't be simple, Crespi." She smiled. "I wouldn't marry you even if I were dead."
Pietro Crespi lost control of himself. He wept shamelessly, almost breaking his fingers with desperation, but he could not break her down. "Don't waste your time," was all that Amaranta said. "If you really love me so much, don't set foot in this house again." úrsula thought she would go mad with shame. Pietro Crespi exhausted all manner of pleas. He went through incredible extremes of humiliation. He wept one whole afternoon in úrsula's lap and she would have sold her soul in order to comfort him. On rainy nights he could be seen prowling about the house with an umbrella, waiting for a light in Amaranta's bedroom. He was never better dressed than at that time. His august head of a tormented emperor had acquired a strange air of grandeur. He begged Amaranta's friends, the ones who sewed with her on the porch, to try to persuade her. He neglected his business. He would spend the day in the rear of the store writing wild notes, which he would send to Amaranta with flower petals and dried butterflies, and which she would return unopened. He would shut himself up for hours on end to play the zither. One night he sang. Macondo woke up in a kind of angelic stupor that was caused by a zither that deserved more than this world and a voice that led one to believe that no other person on earth could feel such love. Pietro Crespi then saw the lights go on in every window in town except that of Amaranta. On November second, All Souls' Day, his brother opened the store and found all the lamps lighted, all the music boxes opened, and all the docks striking an interminable hour, in the midst of that mad concert he found Pietro Crespi at the desk in the rear with his wrists cut by a razor and his hands thrust into a basin of benzoin.
úrsula decreed that the wake would be in house. Father Nicanor was against a religious ceremony and burial in consecrated ground. úrsula stood up to him. "In a way that neither you nor I can understand, that man was a saint," she said. "So I am going to bury him, against your wishes, beside Melquíades' grave." She did it the support of the whole town and with a magnificent funeral. Amaranta did not leave her bedroom. From her bed she heard úrsula's weeping, the steps and whispers of the multitude that invaded the house, the wailing of the mourners, and then a deep silence that smelled of trampled flowers. For a long time she kept on smelling Pietro Crespi's lavender breath at dusk, but she had the strength not to succumb to delirium. úrsula abandoned her. She did not even raise her eyes to pity her on the afternoon when Amaranta went into the kitchen and put her hand into the coals of the stove until it hurt her so much that she felt no more pain but instead smelled the pestilence of her own singed flesh. It was a stupid cure for her remorse. For several days she went about the house with her hand in a pot of egg whites, and when the burns healed it appeared as if the whites had also scarred over the sores on her heart. The only external trace that the tragedy left was the bandage of black gauze that she put on her burned hand and that she wore until her death.

Arcadio gave a rare display of generosity by decreeing official mourning for Pietro Crespi. úrsula interpreted it as the return of the strayed lamb. But she was mistaken. She had lost Arcadio, not when he had put on his military uniform, but from the beginning. She thought she had raised him as a son, as she had raised Rebeca, with no privileges or discrimination. Nevertheless, Arcadio was a solitary and frightened child during the insomnia plague, in the midst of úrsula's utilitarian fervor, during the delirium of José Arcadio Buendía, the hermetism of Aureliano, and the mortal rivalry between Amaranta Rebeca. Aureliano had taught him to read and write, thinking about other things, as he would have done with a stranger. He gave him his clothing so that Visitación could take it in when it was ready to be thrown away. Arcadio suffered from shoes that were too large, from his patched pants, from his female buttocks. He never succeeded in communicating with anyone better than he did with Visitación and Cataure in their language. Melquíades was the only one who really was concerned with him as he made him listen to his incomprehensible texts and gave him lessons in the art of daguerreotype. No one imagined how much he wept in secret and the desperation with which he tried to revive Melquíades with the useless study of his papers. The school, where they paid attention to him and respected him, and then power, with his endless decrees and his glorious uniform, freed him from the weight of an old bitterness. One night in Catarino's store someone dared tell him, "you don't deserve the last name you carry." Contrary to what everyone expected, Arcadio did not have him shot.
"To my great honor," he said, "I am not a Buendía."
Those who knew the secret of his parentage thought that the answer meant that he too was aware of it, but he had really never been. Pilar Ternera, his mother, who had made his blood boil in the darkroom, was as much an irresistible obsession for him as she had been first for José Arcadio and then for Aureliano. In spite of her having lost her charms the splendor of her laugh, he sought her out and found her by the trail of her smell of smoke. A short time before the war, one noon when she was later than usual in coming for her younger son at school, Arcadio was waiting for her in the room where he was accustomed to take his siesta and where he later set up the stocks. While the child played in the courtyard, he waited in his hammock, trembling with anxiety, knowing that Pillar Ternera would have to pass through there. She arrived. Arcadio grabbed her by the wrist and tried to pull her into the hammock. "I can't, I can't," Pilar Ternera said in horror. "You can't imagine how much I would like to make you happy, but as God is my witness I can't." Arcadio took by the waist with his tremendous hereditary strength and he felt the world disappear with the contact of her skin. "Don't play the saint," he said. "After all, everybody knows that you're a whore." Pilar overcame the disgust that her miserable fate inspired in her.
"The children will find out," she murmured. "It will be better if you leave the bar off the door tonight."
The only relatives who knew about it were José Arcadio and Rebeca, with whom Arcadio maintained close relations at that time, based not so much on kinship as on complicity. José Arcadio had put his neck into the marital yoke. Rebeca's firm character, the voracity stomach, her tenacious ambition absorbed the tremendous energy of her husband, who had been changed from a lazy, womanchasing man into an enormous work animal. They kept a clean and neat house. Rebeca would open it wide at dawn and the wind from the graveyard would come in through the windows and go out through the doors to the yard and leave the whitewashed walls and furniture tanned by the saltpeter of the dead. Her hunger for earth, the cloccloc of her parents' bones, the impatience of her blood as it faced Pietro Crespi's passivity were relegated to the attic of her memory. All day long she would embroider beside the window, withdrawn from the uneasiness of the war, until the ceramic pots would begin to vibrate in the cupboard and she would get up to warm the meal, much before the appearance, first, of the mangy hounds, and then of the colossus in leggings and spurs with a double-barreled shotgun, who sometimes carried a deer on his shoulder and almost always a string rabbits or wild ducks. One afternoon, at the beginning of his rule, Arcadio paid them a surprise visit. They had not seen him since they had left the house, but he seemed so friendly and familiar that they invited him to share the stew.
Only when they were having coffee did Arcadio reveal the motive behind his visit: he had received a complaint against José Arcadio. It was said that he had begun by plowing his own yard and had gone straight ahead into neighboring lands, knocking down fences and buildings with his oxen until he took forcible possession of the best plots of land around. On the peasants whom he had not despoiled because he was not interested in their lands, he levied a contribution which he collected every Saturday with his hunting dogs and his double-barreled shotgun. He did not deny it. He based his right on the fact that the usurped lands had been distributed by José Arcadio Buendía at the time of the founding, and he thought it possible to prove that his father had been crazy ever since that time, for he had disposed of a patrimony that really belonged to the family. It was an unnecessary allegation, because Arcadio had not come to do justice. He simply offered to set up a registry office so that José Arcadio could legalize his title to the usurped land, under the condition that he delegate to the local government the right to collect the contributions. They made an agreement. Years later, when Colonel Aureliano Buendía examined the titles to property, he found registered in his brother's name all of the land between the hill where his yard was on up to the horizon, including the cemetery, and discovered that during the eleven months of his rule, Arcadio had collected not only the money of the contributions, but had also collected fees from people for the right to bury their dead in José Arcadio's land.
It took úrsula several months to find out what was already public knowledge because people hid it from her so as not to increase her suffering. At first she suspected it. "Arcadio is building a house," she confided with feigned pride to her husband as she tried to put a spoonful of calabash syrup into his mouth. Nevertheless, she involuntarily sighed and said, "I don't know why, but all this has a bad smell to me." Later on, when she found out that Arcadio had not only built a house but had ordered some Viennese furniture, she confirmed her suspicion that he was using public funds. "You're the shame of our family name," she shouted at him one Sunday after mass when she saw him in his new house playing cards with his officers. Arcadio paid no attention to her. Only then did úrsula know that he had a six-month-old daughter and that Santa Sofía de la Piedad, with whom he was living outside of marriage, was pregnant again. She decided to write to Colonel Aureliano Buendía, wherever he was, to bring him up to date on the situation. But the fast-moving events of those days not only prevented her plans from being carried out, they made her regret having conceived them. The war, which until then had been only a word to designate a vague and remote circumstance, became a concrete and dramatic reality. Around the end of February an old woman with an ashen look arrived in Macondo riding a donkey loaded down with brooms. She seemed so inoffensive that the sentries let her pass without any questions as another vendor, one of the many who often arrived from the towns in the swamp. She went directly to the barracks. Arcadio received her in the place where the classroom used to be and which at that time had been transformed into a kind of rearguard encampment, with roiled hammocks hanging on hooks and mats piled up in the corners, and rifles and carbines and even hunting shotguns scattered on the floor. The old woman stiffened into a military salute before identifying herself:
"I am Colonel Gregorio Stevenson."
He brought bad news. The last centers Liberal resistance, according to what he said, were being wiped out. Colonel Aureliano Buendía, whom he had left fighting in retreat near Riohacha, had given him a message for Arcadio. He should surrender the town without resistance on the condition that the lives and property of Liberals would be respected. Arcadio examined that strange messenger who could have been a fugitive grandmother with a look of pity.
"You have brought something in writing, naturally," he said.
"Naturally," the emissary answered, "I have brought nothing of the sort. It's easy to understand that under the present circumstances a person can't carry anything that would compromise him."
As he was speaking he reached into his bodice and took out a small gold fish. "I think that this will be sufficient," he said. Arcadio could see that indeed it was one of the little fishes made by Colonel Aureliano Buendía. But anyone could have bought it before the war or stolen it, and it had no merit as a safe-conduct pass. The messenger even went to the extreme of violating a military secret so that they would believe his identity. He revealed that he was on a mission to Cura鏰o, where he hoped to recruit exiles from all over the Caribbean and acquire arms and supplies sufficient to attempt a landing at the end of the year. With faith in that plan, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was not in favor of any useless sacrifices at that time. But Arcadio was inflexible. He had the prisoner put into the stocks until he could prove his identity and he resolved to defend the town to the death.
He did not have long to wait. The news of the Liberal defeat was more and more concrete. Toward the end March, before a dawn of premature rain, the tense calm of the previous weeks was abruptly broken by the desperate sounds of a cornet and a cannon shot that knocked down the steeple of the church. Actually, Arcadio's decision to resist was madness. He had only fifty poorly armed men with a ration of twenty cartridges apiece. But among them, his former pupils, excited by the high-sounding proclamations, the determination reigned to sacrifice their skins for a lost cause. In the midst of the tramping of boots, contradictory commands, cannon shots that made the earth tremble, wild shooting, and the senseless sound of cornets, the supposed Colonel Stevenson managed to speak to Arcadio. "Don't let me undergo the indignity of dying in the stocks in these women's clothes," he said to him. "If I have to die, let me die fighting." He succeeded in convincing him. Arcadio ordered them to give him a weapon and twenty cartridges, and he left him with five men to defend headquarters while he went off with his staff to head up the resistance. He did not get to the road to the swamp. The barricades had been broken and the defenders were openly fighting in the streets, first until they used up their ration rifle bullets, then with pistols against rifles, and finally hto hand. With the imminence of defeat, some women went into the street armed with sticks and kitchen knives. In that confusion Arcadio found Amaranta, who was looking for him like a madwoman, in her nightgown two old pistols that had belonged to José Arcadio Buendía. He gave his rifle to an officer who had been disarmed in the fight and escaped with Amaranta through a nearby street to take her home. úrsula was, in the doorway waiting, indifferent to the cannon shots that had opened up a hole in the front of the house next door. The rain was letting up, but the streets were as slippery and as smooth as melted soap, and one had to guess distances in the darkness. Arcadio left Amaranta with úrsula and made an attempt to face two soldiers who had opened up with heavy firing from the corner. The old pistols that had been kept for many years in the bureau did not work. Protecting Arcadio with her body, úrsula tried to drag him toward the house.
"Come along in the name of God," she shouted at him. "There's been enough madness!"
The soldiers aimed at them.
"Let go of that man, ma'am," one of them shouted, "or we won't be responsible!"
Arcadio pushed úrsula toward the house and surrendered. A short time later the shooting stopped and the bells began to toll. The resistance had been wiped out in less than half an hour. Not a single one of Arcadio's men had survived the attack, but before dying they had killed three hundred soldiers. The last stronghold was the barracks. Before being attacked, the supposed Colonel Gregorio Stevenson had freed the prisoners and ordered his men to go out and fight in the street. The extraordinary mobility and accurate aim which he placed his twenty cartridges gave the impression that the barracks was well-defended, and the attackers blew it to pieces with cannon fire. The captain who directed the operation was startled to find the rubble deserted and a single dead man in his undershorts with an empty rifle still clutched in an arm that had been blown completely off. He had a woman's full head of hair held at the neck with a comb and on his neck a chain with a small gold fish. When he turned him over the tip of his boot and put the light on his face, the captain was perplexed. "Jesus Christ," he exclaimed. Other officers came over.
"Look where this fellow turned up," the captain said. "It's Gregorio Stevenson."
Before they took him to the execution wall FatNicanor tried to attend him. "I have nothing to repent," Arcadio said, and he put himself under the orders of the squad after drinking a cup of black coffee. The leader of the squad, a specialist in summary executions, had a name that had much more about it than chance: Captain Roque Carnicero, which meant butcher. On the way to the cemetery, under the persistent drizzle, Arcadio saw that a radiant Wednesday was breaking out on the horizon. His nostalgia disappeared with the mist and left an immense curiosity in its place. Only when they ordered him to put his back to the wall did Arcadio see Rebeca, with wet hair and a pink flowered dress, opening wide the door. He made an effort to get her to recognize him. And Rebeca did take a casual look toward the wall and was paralyzed with stupor, barely able to react and wave goodbye to Arcadio. Arcadio answered her the same way. At that instant the smoking mouths of the rifles were aimed at him and letter by letter he heard the encyclicals that Melquíades had chanted and he heard the lost steps of Santa Sofía de la Piedad, a virgin, in the classroom, and in his nose he felt the same icy hardness that had drawn his attention in the nostrils of the corpse of Remedios. "Oh, God damn it!" he managed to think. "I forgot to say that if it was a girl they should name her Remedios." Then, all accumulated in the rip of a claw, he felt again all the terror that had tormented him in his life. The captain gave the order to fire. Arcadio barely had time to put out his chest and raise his head, not understanding where the hot liquid that burned his thighs was pouring from.
"Bastards!" he shouted. "Long live the Liberal Party!"

 

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