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Chapter 12

"Look at the mess we've got ourselves into," Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía said at that time, "just because we invited a gringo to eat some bananas."
Aureli-ano Segun-do, on the other hand, could not contain his happiness over the avalanche foreigners. The house was suddenly filled with unknown guests, with invincible and worldly carousers, and it became necessary to add bedrooms off the courtyard, widen the dining room, and exchange the old table for one that held sixteen people, with new china and silver, and even then they had to eat lunch in shifts. Fernanda had to swallow her scruples and their guests of the worst sort like kings as they muddied the porch with their boots, urinated in the garden. laid their mats down anywhere to take their siesta, and spoke without regard for the sensitivities of ladies or the proper behavior of gentlemen. Amaranta, was so scandalized with the plebeian invasion that she went back to eating in the kitchen as in olden days. Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía, convinced that the majority of those who came into his workshop to greet him were not doing it because of sympathy or regard but out of the curiosity to meet a historical relic, a museum fossil, decided to shut himself in by barring the door and he was not seen any more except on very rare occasions when he would sit at the street door. úrsula, on the other hand, even during the days when she was already dragging her feet and walking about groping along the walls, felt a juvenile excitement as the time for the arrival of the train approached. "We have to prepare some meat and fish," she would order the four cooks, who hastened to have everything ready under the imperturbable direction of Santa Sofía de la Piedad. "We have to prepare everything," she insisted, "because we never know what these strangers like to eat." The train arrived during the hottest time of day. At lunchtime the house shook with the bustle of a marketplace, and the perspiring guests-who did not even know who their hosts were-trooped in to occupy the best places at the table, while the cooks bumped into each other with enormous kettles of soup, pots of meat, large gourds filled with vegetables, and troughs of rice, and passed around the contents of barrels of lemonade with inexhaustible ladles. The disorder was such that Fernanda was troubled by the idea that many were eating twice and on more than one occasion she was about to burst out with a vegetable hawker's insults because someone at the table in confusion asked her for the check. More than a year had gone by since Mr. Herbert's visit and the only thing that was known was that the gringos were planning to plant banana trees in the enchanted region that José Arcadio Buendía and his men had crossed in search of the route to the great inventions. Two other sons Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía, with the cross of ashes on their foreheads, arrived, drawn by that great volcanic belch, and they justified their determination with a phrase that may have explained everybody's reasons.
"We came," they said, "because everyone is coming."
Remedios the Beauty was the only one who was immune to the banana plague. She was becalmed in a magnificent adolescence, more and more impenetrable to formality, more and more indifferent to malice and suspicion, happy in her own world of simple realities. She did not understand why women complicated their lives with corsets and petticoats, so she sewed herself a coarse cassock that she simply put over her and without further difficulties resolved the problem of dress, without taking away the feeling of being naked, which according to her lights was the only decent way to be when at home. They bothered her so much to cut the rain of hair that already reached to her thighs and to make rolls with combs and braids with red ribbons that she simply shaved her head and used the hair to make wigs for the saints. The startling thing about her simplifying instinct was that the more she did away with fashion in a search for comfort and the more she passed over conventions as she obeyed spontaneity, the more disturbing her incredible beauty became and the more provocative she became to men. When the sons of Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía were in Macon-do for the first time, úrsula remembered that in their veins they bore the same blood as her great-granddaughter she shuddered with a forgotten fright. "Keep your eyes wide open," she warned her. "With any of them your children will come out with the tail of a pig." The girl paid such little attention to the warning that she dressed up as a man and rolled around in the sand in order to climb the greased pole, and she was at the point of bringing on a tragedy among the seventeen cousins, who were driven mad by the unbearable spectacle. That was why none of them slept at the house when they visited the town and the four who had stayed lived in rented rooms at úrsula's insistence. Remedios the Beauty, however, would have died laughing if she had known about that precaution. Until her last moment on earth she was unaware that her irreparable fate as a disturbing woman was a daily disaster. Every time she appeared in the dining room, against úrsula's orders, she caused a panic of exasperation among the outsiders. It was all too evident that she was completely naked underneath her crude nightshirt and no one could understand that her shaved perfect skull was not some kind of challenge, and that the boldness with which she uncovered her thighs to cool off was not a criminal provocation, nor was her pleasure when she sucked her fingers after. eating. What no member of the family ever knew was that the strangers did not take long to realize that Remedios the Beauty gave off a breath of perturbation, a tormenting breeze that was still perceptible several hours after she had passed by. Men expert in the disturbances of love, experienced all over the world, stated that they had never suffered an anxiety similar to the one produced by the natural smell of Remedios the Beauty. On the porch the begonias, in the parlor, in any place in the house, it was possible to point out the exact place where she had been and the time that had passed since she had left it. It was a definite, unmistakable trace that no one in the family could distinguish because it had been incorporated into the daily odors for a long time, but it was one that the outsiders identified immediately. They were the only ones, therefore, who understood how the young commander of the guard had died of love and how a gentleman from a faraway lhad been plunged into desperation. Unaware of the restless circle in which she moved, of the unbearable state intimate calamity that she provoked as she passed by, Remedios the Beauty treated the men without the least bit malice and in the end upset them with her innocent complaisance. When úrsula succeeded in imposing the commthat she eat with Amaranta in the kitchen so that the outsiders would not see her, she felt more comfortable, because, after all, she was beyond all discipline. In reality, it made no difference to her where she ate, and not at regular hours but according to the whims appetite. Sometimes she would get up to have lunch at three in the morning, sleep all day long, and she spent several months with her timetable all in disarray until some casual incident would bring her back into the order things. When things were going better she would get up at eleven o'clock in the morning and shut herself up until two o'clock, completely nude, in the bathroom, killing scorpions as she came out of her dense prolonged sleep. Then she would throw water from the cistern over herself with a gourd. It was an act so prolonged, so meticulous, so rich in ceremonial aspects that one who did not know well would have thought that she was given over to the deserved adoration of her own body. For her, however, that solitary rite lacked all sensuality and was simply a way of passing the time until she was hungry. One day, as she began to bathe herself, a stranger lifted a tile from the roof and was breathless at the tremendous spectacle of her nudity. She saw his desolate eyes through the broken tiles and had no reaction of shame but rather one of alarm.

"I just wanted to see you," the foreigner murmured.
"Oh, all right," she said. "But be careful, those tiles are rotten."
The stranger's face had a pained expression of stupor and he seemed to be battling silently against his primary instincts so as not to break up the mirage. Remedios the Beauty thought that he was suffering from the fear that the tiles would break and she bathed herself more quickly than usual so that the man would not be in danger. While she was pouring water from the, cistern she told him that the roof was in that state because she thought that the bed of leaves had been rotted by the rain and that was what was filling the bathroom with scorpions. The stranger thought that her small talk was a way of covering her complaisance, so that when she began to soap herself he gave into temptation went a step further.
"Let me soap you," he murmured.
"Thank you for your good intentions," she said, "but my two hands are quite enough."
"Even if it's just your back," the foreigner begged.
"That would be silly," she said. "People never soap their backs."
Then, while she was drying herself, the stranger begged her, with his eyes full of tears, to marry him. She answered him sincerely that she would never marry a man who was so simple that he had wasted almost an hour and even went without lunch just to see a woman taking a bath. Finally, when she put on her cassock, the man could not bear the proof that, indeed, she was not wearing anything underneath, as everyone had suspected, and he felt himself marked forever with the white-hot iron of that secret. Then he took two more tiles off in order to drop down into the bathroom.
"It's very high," she warned him in fright. "You'll kill yourself!"
The rotten tiles broke with a noise of disaster and the man barely had time to let out a cry of terror as he cracked his skull and was killed outright on the cement floor. The foreigners who heard the noise in the dining room and hastened to remove the body noticed the suffocating odor of Remedios the Beauty on his skin. It was so deep in his body that the cracks in his skull did not give off blood but an amber-colored oil that was impregnated with that secret perfume, and then they understood that the smell of Remedios the Beauty kept on torturing men beyond death, right down to the dust of their bones. Nevertheless, they did not relate that horrible accident to the other two men who had died because of Remedios the Beauty. A victim was still needed before the outsiders and many of the old inhabitants of Macon-do would credit the legend that Remedios Buendía did not give off a breath of love but a fatal emanation. The occasion for the proof of it came some months later on one afternoon when Remedios the Beauty went with a group of girl friends to look at the new plantings. For the girls of Macon-do that novel game was reason for laughter and surprises, frights and jokes, at night they would talk about their walk as if it had been an experience in a dream. Such was the prestige of that silence that úrsula did not have the heart to take the fun away from Remedios the Beauty, and she let her go one afternoon, providing that she wore a hat and a decent dress. As soon as the group of friends went into the plantings the air became impregnated with a fatal fragrance. The men who were working along the rows felt possessed by a strange fascination, menaced by some invisible danger, and many succumbed to a terrible desire to weep. Remedios the Beauty and her startled friends managed to take refuge in a nearby house just as they were about to be assaulted by a pack of ferocious males. A short time later they were rescued by the flour Aureli-anos, whose crosses of ash inspired a sacred respect, as if they were caste marks, stamps of invulnerability. Remedios the Beauty did not tell anyone that one of the men, taking advantage of the tumult, had managed to attack her stomach with a hand that was more like the claw of an eagle clinging to the edge a precipice. She faced the attacker in a kind of instantaneous flash and saw the disconsolate eyes, which remained stamped on her heart like the hot coals of pity. That night the man boasted of his audacity and swaggered over his good luck on the Street of the Turks a few minutes before the kick of a horse crushed his chest and a crowd of outsiders saw him die in the middle of the street, drowned in his own bloody vomiting.
The supposition that Remedios the Beauty Possessed powers of death was then borne out by four irrefutable events. Although some men who were easy with their words said that it was worth sacrificing one's life for a night of love with such an arousing woman, the truth was that no one made any effort to do so. Perhaps, not only to attain her but also to conjure away her dangers, all that was needed was a feeling as primitive and as simple as that of love, but that was the only thing that did not occur to anyone. úrsula did not worry about her any more. On another occasion, when she had not yet given up the idea of saving her for the world, she had tried to get her interested in basic domestic affairs. "Men demand much more than you think," she would tell her enigmatically. "There's a lot of cooking, a lot of sweeping, a lot of suffering over little things beyond what you think." She was deceiving herself within, trying to train her for domestic happiness because she was convinced that once his passion was satisfied them would not be a man on the face of the earth capable of tolerating even for a day a negligence that was beyond all understanding. The birth of the latest José Arcadio and her unshakable will to bring up to be Pope finally caused her to cease worrying about her great--granddaughter. She abandoned her to her fate, trusting that sooner or later a miracle would take place that in this world of everything there would also be a man -with enough sloth to put up with her. For a long time already Amaranta had given up trying to make her into a useful woman. Since those forgotten afternoons when her niece barely had enough interest to turn the crank on the sewing machine, she had reached the conclusion that she was simpleminded. "Were going to have to raffle you off," she would tell her, perplexed at the fact that men's words would not penetrate her. Later on, when úrsula insisted that Remedios the Beauty go to mass with her face covered with a shawl, Amaranta thought that a mysterious recourse like that would turn out to be so provoking that soon a man would come who would be intrigued enough to search out patiently for the weak ............

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