One Hundred Years of Solitude - Chapter 5


   ?rsula ordered a mourning period of closed doors and windows, with no one entering or leaving except on matters of utmost necessity. She prohibited any talking aloud for a year and she put Remedios?daguerreotype in the place where her body had been laid out, with a black ribbon around it and an oil lamp that was always kept lighted. Future generations, who never let the lamp go out, would be puzzled at that girl in a pleated skirt, white boots, and with an organdy band around her head, and they were never able to connect her with the standard image of a great-grandmother. Amaranta took charge of Aureliano Jos? She adopted him as a son who would share her solitude and relieve her from the involutary laudanum that her mad beseeching had thrown into Remedios?coffee. Pietro Crespi would tiptoe in at dusk, with a black ribbon on his hat, and he would pay a silent visit to Rebeca, who seemed to be bleeding to death inside the black dress with sleeves down to her wrists. Just the idea of thinking about a new date for the wedding would have been so irreverent that the engagement turned into an eternal relationship, a fatigued love that no one worried about again, as if the lovers, who in other days had sabotaged the lamps in order to kiss, had been abandoned to the free will of death. Having lost her bearings, completely demoralized, Rebeca began eating earth again.
   Suddenly—when the mourning had gone on so long that the needlepoint sessions began again—someone pushed open the street door at two in the afternoon in the mortal silence of the heat and the braces in the foundation shook with such force that Amaranta and her friends sewing on the porch, Rebeca sucking her finger in her bedroom, ?rsula in the kitchen, Aureliano in the workshop, and even Jos?Arcadio Buendía under the solitary chestnut tree had the impression that an earthquake was breaking up the house. A huge man had arrived. His square shoulders barely fitted through the doorways. He was wearing a medal of Our Lady of Help around his bison neck, his arms and chest were completely covered with cryptic tattooing, and on his right wrist was the tight copper bracelet of the ni?os-en-cruz amulet. His skin was tanned by the salt of the open air, his hair was short and straight like the mane of a mule, his jaws were of iron, and he wore a sad smile. He had a belt on that was twice as thick as the cinch of a horse, boots with leggings and spurs and iron on the heels, and his presence gave the quaking impression of a seismic tremor. He went through the parlor and the living room, carrying some half-worn saddlebags in his hand, and he appeared like a thunderclap on the porch with the begonias where Amaranta and her friends were paralyzed, their needles in the air. “Hello,?he said to them in a tired voice, threw the saddlebags on a worktable, and went by on his way to the back of the house. “Hello,?he said to the startled Rebecca, who saw him pass by the door of her bedroom. “Hello,?he said to Aureliano, who was at his silversmith’s bench with all five senses alert. He did not linger with anyone. He went directly to the kitchen and there he stopped for the first time at the end of a trip that had begun of the other side of the world. “Hello,?he said. ?rsula stood for a fraction of a second with her mouth open, looked into his eyes, gave a cry, and flung her arms around his neck, shouting and weeping with joy. It was Jos?Arcadio. He was returning as poor as when he had left, to such an extreme that ?rsula had to give him two pesos to pay for the rental of his horse. He spoke a Spanish that was larded with sailor slang. They asked where he had been and he answered: “Out there.?He hung his hammock in the room they assigned him and slept for three days. When he woke up, after eating sixteen raw eggs, he went directly to Catarino’s store, where his monumental size provoked a panic of curiosity among the women. He called for music and cane liquor for everyone, to be put on his bill. He would Indian-wrestle with five men at the same time. “It can’t be done,?they said, convinced that they would not be able to move his arm. “He has ni?os-en-cruz.?Catarino, who did not believe in magical tricks of strength, bet him twelve pesos that he could not move the counter. Jos?Arcadio pulled it out of its place, lifted it over his head, and put it in the street. It took eleven men to put it back. In the heat of the party he exhibited his unusual masculinity on the bar, completely covered with tattoos of words in several languages intertwined in blue and red. To the women who were besieging him and coveting him he put the question as to who would pay the most. The one who had the most money offered him twenty pesos. Then he proposed raffling himself off among them at ten pesos a chance. It was a fantastic price because the most sought-after woman earned eight pesos a night, but they all accepted. They wrote their names on fourteen pieces of paper which they put into a hat and each woman took one out. When there were only two pieces left to draw, it was established to whom they belonged.