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Chapter 13

IN THE BEWILDERMENT of her last years, úrsula had had very little free time to attend to the papal education of José Arcadio, and the time came for him to get ready to leave for the seminary right away. Meme, his sister, dividing her time between Fernanda's rigidity and Amaranta's bitterness, at almost the same moment reached the age set for to be sent to the nuns' school, where they would make a virtuoso on the clavichord of her. úrsula felt tormented by grave doubts concerning the effectiveness of the methods with which she had molded the spirit of the languid apprentice Supreme Pontiff, but she did not put the blame on her staggering old age or the dark clouds that barely permitted her to make out the shape of things, but on something that she herself could not really define and that she conceived confusedly as a progressive breakdown of time. "The years nowadays don't pass the way the old ones used to," she would say, feeling that everyday reality was slipping through her hands. In the past, she thought, children took a long time to grow up. All one had to do was remember all the time needed for José Arcadio, the elder, to go away with the gypsies and all that happened before he came back painted like a snake and talking like an astronomer, and the things that happened in the house before Amaranta and Arca-dio forgot the language of the Indians and learned Spanish. One had to see only the days of sun and dew that poor José Arcadio Buendía went through under the chestnut tree all the time weeded to mourn his death before they brought in a dying Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía, who after so much war and so much suffering from it was still not fifty years of age. In other times, after spending the whole day making candy animals, she had more than enough time for the children, to see from the whites of their eyes that they needed a dose of castor oil. Now, however, when she had nothing to do and would go about with José Arcadio riding on her hip from dawn to dusk, this bad kind of time compelled her to leave things half done. The truth was that úrsula resisted growing old even when she had already lost count of her age and she was a bother on all sides as she tried to meddle in everything and as she annoyed strangers with her questions as to whether they had left a plaster Saint Joseph to be kept until the rains were over during the days of the war. No one knew exactly when she had begun to lose her sight. Even in her later years, when she could no longer get out of bed, it seemed that she was simply defeated by decrepitude, but no one discovered that she was blind. She had noticed it before the birth of José Arcadio. At first she thought it was a matter of a passing debility and she secretly took marrow syrup and put honey on her eyes, but quite soon she began to realize that she was irrevocably sinking into the darkness, to a point where she never had a clear notion of the invention of the electric light, for when they put in the first bulbs she was only able to perceive the glow. She did not tell anyone about it because it would have been a public recognition of her uselessness. She concentrated on a silent schooling in the distances of things and peoples voices, so that she would still be able to see with her memory what the shadows cataracts no longer allowed her to. Later on she was to discover the unforeseen help of odors, which were defined in the shadows with a strength that was much more convincing than that of bulk and color, and which saved her finally from the shame of admitting defeat. In the darkness of the room she was able to thread a needle and sew a buttonhole and she knew when the milk was about to boil. She knew with so much certainty the location of everything that she herself forgot that she was blind at times. On one occasion Fernanda had the whole house upset because she had lost her wedding ring, and úrsula found it on a shelf in the children's bedroom. Quite simply, while the others were going carelessly all about, she watched them with her four senses so that they never took her by surprise, after some time she discovered that every member of the family, without realizing it, repeated the same path every day, the same actions, and almost repeated the same words at the same hour. Only when they deviated from meticulous routine did they run the risk of losing something. So when she heard Fernanda all upset be cause she had lost her ring, úrsula remembered that the only thing different that she had done that day was to put the mattresses out in the sun because Meme had found a bedbug the might before. Since the children had been present at the fumigation, úrsula figured that Fernanda had put the ring in the only place where they could not reach it: the shelf. Fernanda, on the other hand, looked for it in vain along the paths of her everyday itinerary without knowing that the search for lost things is hindered by routine habits and that is why it is so difficult to find them.
The rearing of José Arcadio helped úrsula in the exhausting task of keeping herself up to date on the smallest changes in the house. When she realized that Amaranta was dressing the saints in the bedroom she pretended to show the boy the differences in the colors.
"Let's see," she would tell him. "Tell me what color the Archangel Raphael is wearing."
In that way the child gave her the information that was denied her by her eyes, and long before he went away to the seminary úrsula could already distinguish the different colors of the saints' clothing by the texture. Sometimes unforeseen accidents would happen. One afternoon when Amaranta was 'embroidering on the porch with the begonias úrsula bumped into her.
"For heaven's sake," Amaranta protested. "watch where you're going."
"It's your fault," úrsula said. "You're not sitting where you're supposed to."
She was sure of it. But that day she began to realize something that no one had noticed and it was that with the passage of the year the sun imperceptibly changed position and those who sat on the porch had to change their position little by little without being aware of it. From then on úrsula had only to remember the date in order to know exactly where Amaranta was sitting. Even though the trembling of her hands was more and more noticeable and the weight of her feet was too much for her, her small figure was never seen in so many places at the same time. She was almost as diligent as when she had the whole weight of the house on her shoulders. Nevertheless, in the impenetrable solitude of decrepitude she had such clairvoyance as she examined the most insignificant happenings in the family that for the first time she saw clearly the truths that her busy life in former times had prevented her from seeing. Around the time they were preparing José Arcadio for the seminary she had already made a detailed recapitulation of life in the house since the founding of Macon-do and had completely changed the opinion that she had always held of her descendants. She realized that Colonel Aure-liano Buendía had not lost his love for the family because he had been hardened by the war, as she had thought before, but that he had never loved anyone, not even his wife Remedios or the countless one-night women who had passed through his life, much less his sons. She sensed that he had fought so many wars not out of idealism, as everyone had thought, nor had he renounced a certain victory because of fatigue, as everyone had thought, but that he had won and lost for the same reason, pure and sinful pride. She reached the conclusion that the son for whom she would have given her life was simply a man incapable love. One night when she was carrying him in her belly she heard him weeping. It was such a definite lament that José Arcadio Buendía woke up beside her and was happy with the idea that his son was going to be a ventriloquist. Other people predicted that he would be a prophet. She, on the other hand, shuddered from the certainty that the deep moan was a first indication of the fearful pig tail and she begged God to let the child die in her womb. But the lucidity of her old age allowed to see, and she said so many times, that the cries children in their mothers' wombs are not announcements of ventriloquism or a faculty for prophecy but an unmistakable sign of an incapacity for love. The lowering of the image of her son brought out in her all at once all the compassion that she owed him. Amaranta, however, whose hardness of heart frightened her, whose concentrated bitterness made her bitter, suddenly became clear to her in the final analysis as the most tender woman who had ever existed, and she understood with pitying clarity that the unjust tortures to which she had submitted Pietro Crespi had not been dictated by a desire for vengeance, as everyone had thought, nor had the slow martyrdom with which she had frustrated the life of Colonel Geri-neldo Márquez been determined by the gall of her bitterness, as everyone had thought, but that both actions had been a mortal struggle between a measureless love and an invincible cowardice, and that the irrational fear that Amaranta had always had of her own tormented heart had triumphed in the end. It was during that time that úrsula, began to speak Rebeca's name, bringing back the memory of her with an old love that was exalted by tardy repentance and a sudden admiration, coming to understand that only she, Rebeca, the one who had never fed of her milk but only of the earth of the land and the whiteness of the walls, the one who did not carry the blood of her veins in hers but the unknown blood of the strangers whose bones were still clocing in their grave. Rebeca, the one with an impatient heart, the one with a fierce womb, was the only one who bad the unbridled courage that úrsula had wanted for her line.
"Rebeca," she would say, feeling along the walls, "how unfair we've been to you!"
In the house they simply thought that her mind was wandering, especially since the time she had begun walking about with her right arm raised like the Arch-angel Gabriel. Fernanda, however, realized that there was a sun of clairvoyance in the shadows of that wandering, for úrsula could say without hesitation how much money had been spent in the house during the previous year. Amaranta had a similar idea one day as her mother was stirring a pot of soup in the kitchen and said all at once without knowing that they were listening to her that the corn grinder they had bought from the first gypsies and that had disappeared during the time before José Arcadio, had taken his sixty-five trips around the world was still in Pilar Ternera's house. Also almost a hundred years old, but fit and agile in spite inconceivable fatness, which frightened children as her laughter had frightened the doves in other times, Pilar Ternera was not surprised that úrsula was correct because her own experience was beginning to tell her that an alert old age can be more keen than the cards.
Nevertheless, when úrsula realized that she had not had enough time to consolidate the vocation of José Arcadio, she let herself be disturbed by consternation. She began to make mistakes, trying to see with her eyes the things that intuition allowed her to see with greater clarity. One morning she poured the contents of an inkwell over the boy's head thinking that it was rose water. She stumbled so much in her insistence in taking part in everything that she felt herself upset by gusts of bad humor and she tried to get rid of the shadows that were beginning to wrap her in a straitjacket of cobwebs. It was then that it occurred to her that her clumsiness was not the first victory of decrepitude and darkness but a sentence passed by time. She thought that previously, when God did not make the same traps out of the months and years that the Turks used when they measured a yard of percale, things were different. Now children not only grew faster, but even feelings developed in a different way. No sooner had Remedios the Beauty ascended to heaven in body and soul than the inconsiderate Fernanda was going about mumbling to herself because her sheets had been carried off. The bodies of the Aureli-anos were no sooner cold in their graves than Aureli-ano Segun-do had the house lighted up again, filled with drunkards playing the accordion and dousing themselves in champagne, as if dogs and not Christians had died, and as if that madhouse which had cost her so many headaches and so many candy animals was destined to become a trash heap of perdition. Remembering those things as she prepared José Arcadio's trunk, úrsula wondered if it was not preferable to lie down once and for all in her grave and let them throw the earth over her, and she asked God, without fear, if he really believed that people were made iron in order to bear so many troubles and mortifications, and asking over and over she was stirring up her own confusion and she felt irrepressible desires to let herself go and scamper about like a foreigner and allow herself at last an instant of rebellion, that instant yearned for so many times and so many times postponed, putting her resignation aside and shitting on everything once and for all and drawing out of her heart the infinite stacks of bad words that she had been forced to swallow over a century of conformity.
"Shit!" she shouted.
Amaranta, who was starting to put the clothes into the trunk, thought that she had been bitten by a scorpion.
"Where is it?" she asked in alarm.
"The bug!" Amaranta said.
úrsula put a finger on her heart.
On Thursday, at two in the afternoon, José Arcadio left for the seminary. 'úrsula would remember him always as she said goodbye to him, languid and serious, without shedding a tear, as she had taught him, sweltering in the heat in the green corduroy suit copper buttons and a starched bow around his neck. He left the dining room impregnated with the penetrating fragrance of rose water that she had sprinkled on his head so that she could follow his tracks through the house. While the farewell lunch was going on, the family concealed its nervousness with festive expressions and they celebrated with exaggerated enthusiasm the remarks that Father Antonio Isabel made. But when they took out the trunk bound in velvet and with silver corners, it was as if they had taken a coffin out of the house. The only one who refused to take part in the farewell was Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía.
"That's all we need," he muttered. "A Pope!"
Three months later Aureli-ano Segun-do and Fernanda took Meme to school and came back with a clavichord, which took the place of the pianola. It was around that time that Amaranta started sewing her own shroud. The banana fever had calmed down. The old inhabitants of Macon-do found themselves surrounded by newcomers and working hard to cling to their precarious resources times gone by, but comforted in any case by the sense that they had survived a shipwreck. In the house they still had guests for lunch and the old routine was never really set up again until the banana company left years later. Nevertheless, there were radical changes in the traditional sense of hospitality because at that time it was Fernanda who imposed her rules. With úrsula relegated to the shadows and with Amaranta absorbed In the work of her winding cloth, the former apprentice queen had the freedom to choose the guests and impose on them the rigid norms that parents had taught her. Her severity made the house a redoubt of old customs in a town convulsed by the vulgarity with which the outsiders squandered their easy fortunes. For her, with no further questions asked, proper people were those who had nothing to do with the banana company. Even José Arcadio Segun-do, her brother-in-law, was the victim of her discriminatory jealousy because during the excitement of the first days he gave up his stupendous fighting cocks again and took a job as foreman with the banana company.

"He won't ever come into this house again," Fernanda said, "as long as he carries the rash of the foreigners."
Such was the narrowness imposed in the house that Aureli-ano Segun-do felt more comfortable at Petra Cotes's. First, the pretext of taking the burden off his wife, he transferred his parties. Then, the pretext that the animals were losing their fertility, he transferred his barns and stables. Finally, with the pretext that it was cooler in his concubine's house, he transferred the small office in which he handled his business. When Fernanda realized that she was a widow whose husband had still not died, it was already too late for things to return to their former state. Aureli-ano Segun-do barely ate at home and the only appearances he put in, such as to sleep with his wife, were not enough to convince anyone. One night, out of carelessness, morning found him in Petra Cotes's bed. Fernan-da, contrary to expectations, did not reproach him in the least or give the slightest sigh of resentment, but on the same day she sent two trunks with his clothing to the house of his concubine. She sent them in broad daylight and with instructions that they be carried through the middle of the street so that everyone could see them, thinking that her straying husband would be unable to bear the shame and would return to the fold with his head hung low. But that heroic gesture was just one more proof of how poorly Fernanda knew not only the character of her husband but the character of a community that had nothing to do with that of her parents, for everyone who saw the trunks pass by said that it was the natural culmination of a story wh............

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