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Chapter 11

THE MARRIAGE was on the point of breaking up after two months because Aureli-ano Segun-do, in an attempt to placate Petra Cotes, had a picture taken of her dressed as the Queen of Madagascar. When Fernan-da found out about it she repacked her bridal trunks and left Macon-do without saying goodbye. Aureli-ano Segun-do caught up with her on the swamp road. After much pleading and promises of reform he succeeded in getting her to come home and he abandoned his concubine.
Petra Cotes, aware of her strength, showed no signs of worry. She had made a man of him. While he was still a child she had drawn him out of Melquíades' room, his head full of fantastic ideas and lacking any contact with reality, she had given him a place in the world. Nature had made reserved and withdrawn. with tendencies toward solitary meditation, and she had molded an opposite character in him, one that was vital, expansive, open, and she had injected him with a joy for living and a pleasure in spending and celebrating until she had converted him inside and out, into the man she had dreamed of for herself ever since adolescence. Then he married, as all sons marry sooner or later. He did not dare tell her the news. He assumed an attitude that was quite childish under the circumstances, feigning anger and imaginary resentment so that Petra Cotes would be the one who would bring about the break. One day, when Aureli-ano Segun-do reproached her unjustly, she eluded the trap and put things in their proper place.
"What it all means," she said, "is that you want to marry the queen."
Aureli-ano Segun-do, ashamed, pretended an attack of rage, said that he was misunderstood and abused, and did not visit her again. Petra Cotes, without losing her poise of a wild beast in repose for a single instant, heard the music and the fireworks from the wedding, the wild bustle of the celebration as if all of it were nothing but some new piece of mischief on the part of Aureli-ano Segun-do. Those who pitied her fate were calmed with a smile. "Don't worry," she told them. "Queens run errands for me." To a neighbor woman who brought her a set of candles so that she could light up the picture of her lost lover with them, she said with an enigmatic security:
"The only candle that will make him come is always lighted."
Just as she had foreseen, Aureli-ano Segun-do went back to her house as soon as the honeymoon was over. He brought his usual old friends, a traveling photographer, and the gown and ermine cape soiled with blood that Fernanda had worn during the carnival. In the heat of the merriment that broke out that evening, he had Petra Cotes dress up as queen, crowned her absolute and lifetime ruler of Madagascar, and handed out copies of the picture to his friends, she not only went along with the game, but she felt sorry for him inside, thinking that he must have been very frightened to have conceived of that extravagant means of reconciliation. At seven in the evening, still dressed as the queen, she received him in bed. He had been married scarcely two months, but she realized at once that things were not going well in the nuptial bed, and she had the delicious pleasure of vengeance fulfilled. Two days later, however, when he did not dare return but sent an intermediary to arrange the terms of the separation, she understood that she was going to need more patience than she had foreseen because he seemed ready to sacrifice himself for the sake of appearances. Nor did she get upset that time. Once again she made things easy with a submission that confirmed the generalized belief that she was a poor devil, and the only souvenir she kept of Aureli-ano Segun-do was a pair patent leather boots, which, according to what he himself had said, were the ones he wanted to wear in his coffin. She kept them wrapped in cloth in the bottom of a trunk and made ready to feed on memories, waiting without despair.
"He has to come sooner or later," she told herself, "even if it's just to put on those boots."
She did not have to wait as long as she had imagined. Actually, Aureli-ano Segun-do understood from the night of his wedding that he would return to the house of Petra Cotes much sooner than when he would have to put on the patent leather boots: Fernanda was a woman who was lost in the world. She had been born and raised in a city six hundred miles away, a gloomy city where on ghostly nights the coaches of the viceroys still rattled through the cobbled streets, Thirty-two belfries tolled a dirge at six in the afternoon. In the manor house, which was paved with tomblike slabs, the sun was never seen. The air had died in the cypresses in the courtyard, in the pale trappings of the bedrooms, in the dripping archways of the garden of perennials. Until puberty Fernanda had no news of the world except for the melancholy piano lessons taken in some neighboring house by someone who for years and years had the drive not to take a siesta. In the room of her sick mother, green and yellow under the powdery light from the windowpanes, she would listen to the methodical, stubborn, heartless scales and think that that music was in the world while she was being consumed as she wove funeral wreaths. Her mother, perspiring with five-o'clock fever, spoke to her of the splendor of the past. When she was a little girl, on one moonlit night Fernanda saw a beautiful woman dressed in white crossing the garden toward the chapel. What bothered her most about that fleeting vision was that she felt it was exactly like her, as if she had seen herself twenty years in advance. "It was your great-grandmother the queen," her mottold her during a truce in her coughing. "She died of some bad vapors while she was cutting a string of bulbs." Many years later, when she began to feel she was the equal of her great-grandmother, Fernanda doubted her childhood vision, but her mother scolded her disbelief.
"We are immensely rich and powerful," she told her. "One day you will be a queen."
She believed it, even though they were sitting at the long table with a linen tablecloth and silver service to have a cup of watered chocolate a sweet bun. Until the day of her wedding she dreamed about a legendary kingdom, in spite of the fact that her father, Don Fernando, had to mortgage the house in order to buy her trousseau. It was not innocence or delusions of grandeur. That was how they had brought her up. Since she had had the use of reason she remembered having done her duty in a gold pot with the family crest on it. She left the house for the first time at the age of twelve in a coach and horses that had to travel only two blocks to take her to the convent. Her classmates were surprised that she sat apart from them in a chair with a very high back and that she would not even mingle with them during recess. "She's different," the nuns would explain. "She's going to be a queen." Her schoolmates believed this because she was already the most beautiful, distinguished, discreet girl they had ever seen. At the end of eight years, after having learned to write Latin poetry, play the clavichord, talk about falconry with gentlemen and apologetics, with archbishops, discuss affairs of state with foreign rulers and affairs of God with the Pope, she returned to her parents' home to weave funeral wreaths. She found it despoiled. All that was left was the furniture that was absolutely necessary, the silver candelabra and table service, for the everyday utensils had been sold one by one to underwrite the costs of her education. Her mother had succumbed to five-o'clock fever. Her father, Don Fernando, dressed in black with a stiff collar and a gold watch chain, would give her a silver coin on Mondays for the household expenses, and the funeral wreaths finished the week before would be taken away. He spent most of his time shut up in his study and the few times that he went out he would return to recite the rosary with her. She had intimate friendships no one. She had never heard mention of the wars that were bleeding the country. She continued her piano lessons at three in the afternoon. She had even began to lose the illusion of being a queen when two peremptory raps of the knocker sounded at the door and she opened it to a well--groomed military officer with ceremonious manners who had a scar on his cheek and a gold medal on his chest. He closeted himself with her father in the study. Two hours later her father came to get her in the sewing room. "Get your things together," he told her. "You have to take a long trip." That was how they took her to Macon-do. In one single day, with a brutal slap, life threw on top of her the whole weight of a reality that her parents had kept hidden from her for many years. When she returned home she shut herself up in her room to weep, indifferent to Don Fernando's pleas and explanations as he tried to erase the scars of that strange joke. She had sworn to herself never to leave her bedroom until she died when Aureli-ano Segun-do came to get her. It was an act of impossible fate, because in the confusion of her indignation, in the fury of her shame, she had lied to him so that he would never know her real identity. The only real clues that Aureli-ano Segun-do had when he left to look for her were her unmistakable highland accent and her trade as a weaver of funeral wreaths. He searched for her without cease. With the fierce temerity with which José Arcadio Buendía had crossed the mountains to found Macon-do, with the blind pride with which Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía had undertaken his fruitless wars, with the mad tenacity with which úrsula watched over the survival of the line, Aureli-ano Segun-do looked for Fernanda, without a single moment of respite. When he asked where they sold funeral wreaths they took him from house to house so that he could choose the best ones. When he asked for the most beautiful woman who had ever been seen on this earth, all the women brought him their daughters. He became lost in misty byways, in times reserved for oblivion, in labyrinths of disappointment. He crossed a yellow plain where the echo repeated one's thoughts where anxiety brought on premonitory mirages. After sterile weeks he came to an unknown city where all the bells were tolling a dirge. Although he had never seen them and no one had ever described them to him he immediately recognized the walls eaten away by bone salt, the brokendown wooden balconies gutted by fungus, and nailed to the outside door, almost erased by rain, the saddest cardboard sign in the world: Funeral Wreaths for Sale. From that moment until the icy morning when Fernanda left her house under the care of the Mother Superior there was barely enough time for the nuns to sew her trousseau and in six trunks put the candelabra, the silver service, and the gold chamber-pot along with the countless and useless remains of a family catastrophe that had been two centuries late in its fulfillment. Don Fernando declined the invitation to go along. He promised to go later when he had cleared up his affairs, and from the moment when he gave his daughter his blessing he shut himself up in his study again to write out the announcements with mournful sketches and the family coat of arms, which would be the first human contact that Fernanda and her father would have had in all their lives. That was the real date of her birth for her. For Aureli-ano Segun-do it was almost simultaneously the beginning and the end of happiness.
Fernanda carried a delicate calendar with small golden keys on which her spiritual adviser had marked in purple ink the dates of venereal abstinence. Not counting Holy week, Sundays, holy days of obligation, first Fridays, retreats, sacrifices, and cyclical impediments, her effective year was reduced to forty-two days that were spread out through a web of purple crosses. Aureli-ano Segun-do, convinced that time would break up that hostile network, prolonged the wedding celebration beyond the expected time. Tired of throwing out so many empty brandy and champagne bottles so that they would not clutter up the house and at the same time intrigued by the fact that the newlyweds slept at different times and in separate rooms while the fireworks and music and the slaughtering of cattle went on, úrsula remembered her own experience and wondered whether Fer-nanda might have a chastity belt too which would sooner or later provoke jokes in the town and give rise to a tragedy. But Fernanda confessed to her that she was just letting two weeks go by before allowing the first contact with her husband. Indeed, when the period was over, she opened her bedroom with a resignation worthy of an expiatory victim and Aureli-ano Segun-do saw the most beautiful woman on earth, with her glorious eyes of a frightened animal and her long, copper-colored hair spread out across the pillow. He was so fascinated with that vision that it took him a moment to realize that Fernanda was wearing a white nightgown that reached down to her ankles, with long sleeves and with a large, round buttonhole, delicately trimmed, at the level of her lower stomach. Aureli-ano Segun-do could not suppress an explosion laughter.
"That's the most obscene thing I've ever seen in my life," he shouted with a laugh that rang through the house. "I married a Sister of Charity."
A month later, unsuccessful in getting his wife to take off her nightgown, he had the picture taken of Petra Cotes dressed as a queen. Later on, when he succeeded in getting Fernanda to come back home, she gave in to his urges in the fever of reconciliation, but she could not give him the repose he had dreamed about when he went to fetch her in the city with the thirty-two belfries. Aureli-ano Segun-do found only a deep feeling of desolation in her. One night, a short time before their first child was born, Fernanda realized that her husband had returned in secret to the bed of Petra Cotes.
"That's happened," he admitted. And he explained in a tone of prostrated resignation: "I had to do it so that the animals would keep on breeding."
He needed a little time to convince her about such a strange expedient, but when he finally did so by means of proofs that seemed irrefutable, the only promise that Fernanda demanded from him was that he should not be surprised by death in his concubine's bed. In that way the three them continued living without bothering each other. Aureli-ano Segun-do, punctual loving with both of them. Petra Cotes, strutting because of the reconciliation, and Fernanda, pretending that she did not know the truth.
The pact did not succeed, however, in incorporating Fernanda into the family. úrsula insisted in vain that she take off the woolen ruff which she would have on when she got up from making love and which made the neighbors whisper. She could not convince her to use the bathroom or the night lavatory and sell the gold chamberpot to Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía so that he could convert it into little fishes. Amaranta felt so uncomfortable with her defective diction and her habit of using euphemisms to designate everything that she would always speak gibberish in front her.

"Thifisif." she would say, "ifisif onefos ofosif thofosif whosufu cantantant statantand thefesef smufumellu ofosif therisir owfisown shifisifit."
One day, irritated by the mockery, Fernanda wanted to know what Amaranta was saying, and she did not use euphemisms in answering her.
"I was saying," she told her, "that you're one of those people who mix up their ass and their ashes."
From that time on they did not speak to each other again. When circumstances demanded it they would send notes. In spite of the visible hostility of the family, Fernanda did not give up her drive to impose the customs of her ancestors. She put an end to the custom of eating in the kitchen and whenever anyone was hungry, and she imposed the obligation of doing it at regular hours at the large table in the dining room, covered with a linen cloth and with silver candlesticks and table service. The solemnity of an act which úrsula had considered the most simple one of daily life created a tense atmosphere against which the silent José Arca-dio Segun-do rebelled before anyone else. But the custom was imposed, the same as that of reciting the rosary before dinner, and it drew the attention of the neighbors, who soon spread the rumor that the Buendías did not sit down to the table like other mortals but had changed the act of eating into a kind of high mass. Even úrsula's superstitions, with origins that came more from an inspiration of the moment than from tradition, came into conflict with those of Fernanda, who had inherited them from her parents and kept them defined and catalogued for every occasion. As long as úrsula had full use of her faculties some of the old customs survived and the life of the family kept some quality of her impulsiveness, but when she lost her sight and the weight of her years relegated her to a corner, the circle of rigidity begun by Fernanda from the moment she arrived finally closed completely and no one but she determined the des............

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