One Hundred Years of Solitude - Chapter 4

   Pietro Crespi came back to repair the pianola. Rebeca and Amaranta helped him put the strings in order and helped him with their laughter at the mix-up of the melodies. It was extremely pleasant and so chaste in its way that ?rsula ceased her vigilance. On the eve of his departure a farewell dance for him was improvised with the pianola and with Rebeca he put on a skillful demonstration of modern dance, Arcadio and Amaranta matched them in grace and skill. But the exhibition was interrupted because Pilar Ternera, who was at the door with the onlookers, had a fight, biting and hair pulling, with a woman who had dared to comment that Arcadio had a woman’s behind. Toward midnight Pietro Crespi took his leave with a sentimental little speech, and he promised to return very soon. Rebeca accompanied him to the door, and having closed up the house and put out the lamps, she went to her room to weep. It was an inconsolable weeping that lasted for several days, the cause of which was not known even by Amaranta. Her hermetism was not odd. Although she seemed expansive and cordial, she had a solitary character and an impenetrable heart. She was a splendid adolescent with long and firm bones, but she still insisted on using the small wooden rocking chair with which she had arrived at the house, reinforced many times and with the arms gone. No one had discovered that even at that age she still had the habit of sucking her finger. That was why she would not lose an opportunity to lock herself in the bathroom and had acquired the habit of sleeping with her face to the wall. On rainy afternoons, embroidering with a group of friends on the begonia porch, she would lose the thread of the conversation and a tear of nostalgia would salt her palate when she saw the strips of damp earth and the piles of mud that the earthworms had pushed up in the garden. Those secret tastes, defeated in the past by oranges and rhubarb, broke out into an irrepressible urge when she began to weep. She went back to eating earth. The first time she did it almost out of curiosity, sure that the bad taste would be the best cure for the temptation. And, in fact, she could not bear the earth in her mouth. But she persevered, overcome by the growing anxiety, and little by little she was getting back her ancestral appetite, the taste of primary minerals, the unbridled satisfaction of what was the original food. She would put handfuls of earth in her pockets, and ate them in small bits without being seen, with a confused feeling of pleasure and rage, as she instructed her girl friends in the most difficult needlepoint and spoke about other men, who did not deserve the sacrifice of having one eat the whitewash on the walls because of them. The handfuls of earth made the only man who deserved that show of degradation less remote and more certain, as if the ground that he walked on with his fine patent leather boots in another part of the world were transmitting to her the weight and the temperature of his blood in a mineral savor that left a harsh aftertaste in her mouth and a sediment of peace in her heart. One afternoon, for no reason, Amparo Moscote asked permission to see the house. Amaranta and Rebeca, disconcerted by the unexpected visit, attended her with a stiff formality. They showed her the remodeled mansion, they had her listen to the rolls on the pianola, and they offered her orange marmalade and crackers. Amparo gave a lesson in dignity, personal charm, and good manners that impressed ?rsula in the few moments that she was present during the visit. After two hours, when the conversation was beginning to wane, Amparo took advantage of Amaranta’s distraction and gave Rebeca a letter. She was able to see the name of the Estimable Se?orita Rebeca Buendía, written in the same methodical hand, with the same green ink, and the same delicacy of words with which the instructions for the operation of the pianola were written, and she folded the letter with the tips of her fingers and hid it in her bosom, looking at Amparo Moscote with an expression of endless and unconditional gratitude and a silent promise of complicity unto death.