One Hundred Years of Solitude - Chapter 1

   “It’s the smell of the devil,?she said.
   “Not at all,?Melquíades corrected her. “It has been proven that the devil has sulphuric properties and this is just a little corrosive sublimate.?
   Always didactic, he went into a learned exposition of the diabolical properties of cinnabar, but ?rsula paid no attention to him, although she took the children off to pray. That biting odor would stay forever in her mind linked to the memory of Melquíades.
   The rudimentary laboratory—in addition to a profusion of pots, funnels, retorts, filters, and sieves—was made up of a primitive water pipe, a glass beaker with a long, thin neck, a reproduction of the philosopher’s egg, and a still the gypsies themselves had built in accordance with modern descriptions of the three-armed alembic of Mary the Jew. Along with those items, Melquíades left samples of the seven metals that corresponded to the seven planets, the formulas of Moses and Zosimus for doubling the quantity of gold, and a set of notes and sketches concerning the processes of the Great Teaching that would permit those who could interpret them to undertake the manufacture of the philosopher’s stone. Seduced by the simplicity of the formulas to double the quantity of gold, Jos?Arcadio Buendía paid court to ?rsula for several weeks so that she would let him dig up her colonial coins and increase them by as many times as it was possible to subdivide mercury. ?rsula gave in, as always, to her husband’s unyielding obstinacy. Then Jos?Arcadio Buendía threw three doubloons into a pan and fused them with copper filings, orpiment, brimstone, and lead. He put it all to boil in a pot of castor oil until he got a thick and pestilential syrup which was more like common caramel than valuable gold. In risky and desperate processes of distillation, melted with the seven planetary metals, mixed with hermetic mercury and vitriol of Cyprus, and put back to cook in hog fat for lack of any radish oil, ?rsula’s precious inheritance was reduced to a large piece of burnt hog cracklings that was firmly stuck to the bottom of the pot.