Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Classical Novels > One Hundred Years of Solitude > Chapter 9
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】
Chapter 9

COLONEL GERINELDO MáRQUEZ was the first to perceive the emptiness of the war. In his position as civil and military leader of Macondo he would have telegraphic conversations twice a week Colonel Aure-liano Buendía. At first those exchanges would determine the course of a flesh-and-blood war, the perfectly defined outlines of which told them at any moment the exact spot -where it was and the prediction of its future direction. Although he never let himself be pulled into the area of confidences, not even by his closest friends, Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía still had at that time the familiar tone that made it possible to identify him at the otend of the wire. Many times he would prolong the talk beyond the expected limit and let them drift into comments of a domestic nature. Little by little, however, and as the war became more intense widespread, his image was fading away into a universe of unreality. The characteristics his speech were more and more uncertain, and they cam togetcombined to form words that were gradually losing all meaning. Colonel Gerineldo Márquez limited himself then to just listening, burdened by the impression that he was in telegraphic contact with a stranger from another world.
"I understand, Aureli-ano," he would conclude on the key. "Long live the Liberal party!"
"How strange men are," she said, because she could not think of anything else to say. "They spend their lives fighting against priests and then give prayerbooks as gifts."
From that time on, even during the most critical days the war, he visited her every afternoon. Many times, when Remedios the Beauty was not present, it was he who turned the wheel on the sewing machine. Amaranta felt upset by the perseverance, the loyalty, the submissiveness that man who was invested with so much authority and who nevertheless took off his sidearm in the living room so that he could go into the sewing room without weapons, But for four years he kept repeating his love and she would always find a way to reject him without hurting him, for even though she had not succeeded in loving him she could no longer live without him. Remedios the Beauty, who seemed indifferent to everything who was thought to be mentally retarded, was not insensitive to so much devotion and she intervened in Colonel Gerineldo Márquez's favor. Amaranta suddenly discovered that the girl she had raised, who was just entering adolescence, was already the most beautiful creature that had even been seen in Macondo. She felt reborn in her heart the rancor that she had felt in other days for Rebeca, and begging God not to impel into the extreme state of wishing her dead, she banished her from the sewing room. It was around that time that Colonel Gerineldo Márquez began to feel the boredom the war. He summoned his reserves of persuasion, his broad and repressed tenderness, ready to give up for Amaranta a glory that had cost him the sacrifice of his best years. But he could not succeed in convincing her. One August afternoon, overcome by the unbearable weight of her own obstinacy, Amaranta locked herself in bedroom to weep over her solitude unto death after giving her final answer to her tenacious suitor:
Colonel Gerineldo Márquez had a telegraphic call from Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía that afternoon. It was a routine conversation which was not going to bring about any break in the stagnant war. At the end, Colonel Gerineldo Márquez looked at the desolate streets, the crystal water on the almond trees, and he found himself lost in solitude.
There was a long silence on the line. Suddenly the apparatus jumped with the pitiless letters from Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía.
"Don't be a jackass, Gerineldo," the signals said. "It's natural for it to be raining in August."
They had not seen each other for such a long time that Colonel Gerineldo Márquez was upset by the aggressiveness of the reaction. Two months later, however, when Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía returned to Macondo, his upset was changed to stupefaction. Even úrsula was surprised at how much he had changed. He came with no noise, no escort, wrapped in a cloak in spite of the heat, and with three mistresses, whom he installed in the same house, where he spent most of his time lying in a hammock. He scarcely read the telegraphic dispatches that reported routine operations. On one occasion Colonel Gerineldo Márquez asked him for instructions for the evacuation of a spot on the border where there was a danger that the conflict would become an international affair.
"Don't bother me with trifles," he ordered him. "Consult Divine Providence."
It was perhaps the most critical moment the war. The Liberal landowners, who had supported the revolution in the beginning, had made secret alliances with the Conservative landowners in order to stop the revision of property titles. The politicians who supplied funds for the war from exile had Publicly repudiated the drastic aims of Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía, but even that withdrawal of authorization did not seem to bothim. He had not returned to reading his poetry, which filled more than five volumes and lay forgotten at the bottom of his trunk. At night or at siesta time he would call one of his women to his hammock and obtain a rudimentary satisfaction from her, and then he would sleep like a stone that was not concerned by the slightest indication of worry. Only he knew at that time that his confused heart was condemned to uncertainty forever. At first, intoxicated by the glory of his return, by his remarkable victories, he had peeped into the abyss of greatness. He took pleasure in keeping by his right hand the Duke of Marlborough, his great teacher in the art of war, whose attire of skins and tiger claws aroused the respect of adults and the awe of children. It was then that he decided that no human being, not even úrsula, could come closer to him than ten feet. In the center of the chalk circle that his aides would draw wherever he stopped, and which only he could enter, he would decide with brief orders that had no appeal the fate of the world. The first time that he was in Manaure after the shooting of General Moncada, he hastened to fulfill his victim's last wish and the widow took the glasses, the medal, the watch, and the ring, but she would not let him in the door.
"You can't come in, colonel," she told him. "You may be in command of your war, but I'm in command of my house."
Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía did not show any sign of anger, but his spirit only calmed down when his bodyguard had sacked the widow's house and reduced it to ashes. "Watch out for your heart, Aureli-ano," Colonel Gerineldo Márquez would say to him then. "You're rotting alive." About that time he called together a second assembly of the principal rebel commanders. He found all types: idealists, ambitious people, adventurers, those with social resentments, even common criminals. There was even a former Conservative functionary who had taken refuge in the revolt to escape a judgment for -misappropriation of funds. Many of them did not even know why they were fighting in the midst of that motley crowd, whose differences of values were on the verge of causing an internal explosion, one gloomy authority stood out: General Te6filo Vargas. He was a full-blooded Indian, untamed, illiterate, endowed with quiet wiles and a messianic vocation that aroused a demented fanaticism in his men. Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía called the meeting with the aim of unifying the rebel command against the maneuvers of the politicians. General Teófilo Vargas came forward with his intentions: in a few hours he shattered the coalition of better-qualified commanders and took charge of the main command. "He's a wild beast worth watching," Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía told his officers. "That man is more dangerous to us than the Minister of War." Then a very young captain who had always been outstanding for his timidity raised a cautious index finger.
"It's quite simple, colonel," he proposed. "He has to be killed."
Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía was not alarmed by the coldness of the proposition but by the way in which, by a fraction of a second, it had anticipated his own thoughts.
"Don't expect me to give an order like that," he said.
He did not give it, as a matter of fact. But two weeks later General Teófilo Vargas was cut to bits by machetes in an ambush and Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía assumed the main command. The same night that his authority was recognized by all the rebel commands, he woke up in a fright, calling for a blanket. An inner coldness which shattered his bones and tortured him even in the heat of the sun would not let him sleep for several months, until it became a habit. The intoxication of power began to break apart under waves of discomfort. Searching for a cure against the chill, he had the young officer who had proposed the murder of General Teófilo Vargas shot. His orders were being carried out even before they were given, even before he thought of them, and they always went much beyond what he would have dared have them do. Lost in the solitude of his immense power, he began to lose direction. He was bothered by the people who cheered him in neighboring villages, and he imagined that they were the same cheers they gave the enemy. Everywhere he met adolescents who looked at him with his own eyes, who spoke to him with his own voice, who greeted him with the same mistrust with which he greeted them, and who said they were his sons. He felt scattered about, multiplied, and more solitary than ever. He was convinced that his own officers were lying to him. He fought with the Duke of Marlborough. "The best friend a person has," he would say at that time, "is one who has just died." He was weary of the uncertainty, of the vicious circle of that eternal war that always found him in the same place, but always older, wearier, even more in the position of not knowing why, or how, or even when. There was always someone outside of the chalk circle. Someone who needed money, someone who had a son with whooping cough, or someone who wanted to go off and sleep forever because he could not stand the shit taste of the war in his mouth and who, nevertheless, stood at attention to inform him: "Everything normal, colonel." And normality was precisely the most fearful part of that infinite war: nothing ever happened. Alone, abandoned by his premonitions, fleeing the chill that was to accompany him until death, he sought a last refuge in Macondo in the warmth of his oldest memories. His indolence was so serious that when they announced the arrival of a commission from his party that was authorized to discuss the stalemate of the war, he rolled over in his hammock without completely waking up.
"Take them to the whores," he said.
They were six lawyers in frock coats and top hats who endured the violent November sun with stiff stoicism. úrsula put them up in her house. They spent the greater part of the day closeted in the bedroom in hermetic conferences and at dusk they asked for an escort and some accordion players and took over Catarino's store. "Leave them alone," Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía ordered. "After all, I know what they want." At the beginning December the long-awaited interview, which many had foreseen as an interminable argument, was resolved in less than an hour.
In the hot parlor, beside the specter of the pianola shrouded in a white sheet, Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía did not sit down that time inside the chalk circle that his aides had drawn. He sat in a chair between his political advisers and, wrapped in his woolen blanket, he listened in silence to the brief proposals of the emissaries. They asked first that he renounce the revision of property titles in order to get back the support of the Liberal landowners. They asked, secondly, that he renounce the fight against clerical influence in order to obtain the support of the Catholic masses. They asked, finally, that he renounce the aim of equal rights for natural and illegitimate children in order to preserve the integrity of the home.
"That means," Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía said, smiling when the reading was over, "that all we're fighting for is power."
"They're tactical changes," one of the delegates replied. "Right now the main thing is to broaden the popular base of the war. Then we'll have another look."
One of Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía's political advisers hastened to intervene.
"It's a contradiction" he said. "If these changes are good, it means that the Conservative regime is good. If we succeed in broadening the popular base of the war with them, as you people say, it means that the regime his a broad popular base. It means, in short, that for almost twenty years we've been fighting against the sentiments of the nation."
"Since that's the way it is," he concluded, "we have no objection to accepting."
His men looked at one another in consternation. "Excuse me, colonel," Colonel Gerineldo Márquez said softly, "but this is a betrayal."
Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía held the inked pen in the air and discharged the whole weight of his authority on him.

"Surrender your weapons," he ordered.
Colonel Gerineldo Márquez stood up and put his sidearms on the table.
"Report to the barracks," Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía ordered him. "Put yourself at the disposition of the revolutionary court."
"Here an your papers, gentlemen. I hope you can get some advantage out of them."
Two days later, Colonel Gerineldo Márquez, accused of high treason, was condemned to death. Lying in his hammock, Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía was insensible to the pleas for clemency. On the eve of the execution, disobeying the order not to bother him, úrsula visited in his bedroom. Encased in black, invested with a rare solemnity, she stood during the three minutes of the interview. "I know that you're going to shoot Geri-neldo," she said calmly, "and that I can't do anything to stop it. But I give you one warning: as soon as I see his body I swear to you by the bones of my father and mother, by the memory of José Arcadio Buendía, I swear to you before God that I will drag you out from wherever you're hiding and kill you with my own two hands." Before leaving the room, without waiting for any reply, she concluded:
"It's the same as if you'd been born with the tail of a pig."
During that interminable night while Colonel Geri-neldo Márquez thought about his dead afternoons in Amaranta's sewing room, Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía scratched for many hours trying to break the hard shell of his solitude. His only happy moments, since that remote afternoon when his father had taken him to see ice, had taken place in his silver workshop where he passed the time putting little gold fishes together. He had had to start thirty-two wars and had had to violate all of his pacts with death and wallow like a hog in the dungheap of glory in order to discover the privileges of simplicity almost forty years late.
At dawn, worn out by the tormented vigil, he appeared in the cell an hour before the execution. "The farce is over, old friend," he said to Colonel Geri-neldo Márquez. "Let's get out of here before the mosquitoes in here execute you." Colonel Geri-neldo Márquez could not repress the disdain that was inspired in him by that attitude.
"You won't see me," Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía said. "Put on your shoes and help me get this shitty war over with."
When he said it he did not know that it was easier to start a war than to end one. It took him almost a year of fierce and bloody effort to force the government to propose conditions of peace favorable to the rebels and another year to convince his own partisans of the convenience of accepting them. He went to inconceivable extremes of cruelty to put down the rebellion of his own officers, who resisted and called for victory, and he finally relied on enemy forces to make them submit.
He was never a greater soldier than at that time. The certainty that he was finally fighting for his own liberation and not for abstract ideals, for slogans that politicians could twist left and right according to the circumstances, filled him with an ardent enthusiasm. Colonel Geri-neldo Márquez, who fought for defeat with as much conviction and loyalty as he had previously fought for victory, reproached him for his useless temerity. "Don't worry," he would say, smiling. "Dying is much more difficult than one imagines." In his case it was true. The certainty that his day was assigned gave him a mysterious immunity, an immortality or a fixed period that made invulnerable to the risks of war and in the end permitted him to win a defeat that was much more difficult, much more bloody and costly than victory.
In almost twenty years of war, Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía had been at his house many times, but the state of urgency with which he always arrived, the military retinue that accompanied him everywhere, the aura of legend that glowed about his presence and of which even úrsula was aware, changed him into a stranger in the end. The last time that he was in Macondo and took a house for his three concubines, he was seen in his own house only on two or three occasions when he had the time to accept an invitation to dine. Remedios the Beauty and the twins, born during the middle of the war, scarcely knew him. Amaranta could not reconcile her image of the brother who had spent his adolescence making little gold fishes with that of the mythical warrior who had placed a distance of ten feet between himself the rest of humanity. But when the approach of the armistice became known and they thought that he would return changed back into a human being, delivered at last for the hearts of his own people, the family feelings, dormant for such a long time, were reborn stronger than ever.
"We'll finally have a man in the house again," úrsula said.
Amaranta was the first to suspect that they had lost him forever. One week before the armistice, when he entered the house without an escort, preceded by two barefoot orderlies who deposited on the porch the saddle from the mule and the trunk of poetry, all that was left of his former imperial baggage, she saw him pass by the sewing room and she called to him. Co............

Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading
   
 

Login into Your Account

Email: 
Password: 
  Remember me on this computer.
Tools

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018 wenovel.com, All Rights Reserved