One Hundred Years of Solitude - Chapter 6


   Arcadio gave a rare display of generosity by decreeing official mourning for Pietro Crespi. ?rsula interpreted it as the return of the strayed lamb. But she was mistaken. She had lost Arcadio, not when he had put on his military uniform, but from the beginning. She thought she had raised him as a son, as she had raised Rebeca, with no privileges or discrimination. Nevertheless, Arcadio was a solitary and frightened child during the insomnia plague, in the midst of ?rsula’s utilitarian fervor, during the delirium of Jos?Arcadio Buendía, the hermetism of Aureliano, and the mortal rivalry between Amaranta and Rebeca. Aureliano had taught him to read and write, thinking about other things, as he would have done with a stranger. He gave him his clothing so that Visitación could take it in when it was ready to be thrown away. Arcadio suffered from shoes that were too large, from his patched pants, from his female buttocks. He never succeeded in communicating with anyone better than he did with Visitación and Cataure in their language. Melquíades was the only one who really was concerned with him as he made him listen to his incomprehensible texts and gave him lessons in the art of daguerreotype. No one imagined how much he wept in secret and the desperation with which he tried to revive Melquíades with the useless study of his papers. The school, where they paid attention to him and respected him, and then power, with his endless decrees and his glorious uniform, freed him from the weight of an old bitterness. One night in Catarino’s store someone dared tell him, “you don’t deserve the last name you carry.?Contrary to what everyone expected, Arcadio did not have him shot.
   “To my great honor,?he said, “I am not a Buendía.?
   Those who knew the secret of his parentage thought that the answer meant that he too was aware of it, but he had really never been. Pilar Ternera, his mother, who had made his blood boil in the darkroom, was as much an irresistible obsession for him as she had been first for Jos?Arcadio and then for Aureliano. In spite of her having lost her charms and the splendor of her laugh, he sought her out and found her by the trail of her smell of smoke. A short time before the war, one noon when she was later than usual in coming for her younger son at school, Arcadio was waiting for her in the room where he was accustomed to take his siesta and where he later set up the stocks. While the child played in the courtyard, he waited in his hammock, trembling with anxiety, knowing that Pillar Ternera would have to pass through there. She arrived. Arcadio grabbed her by the wrist and tried to pull her into the hammock. “I can’t, I can’t,?Pilar Ternera said in horror. “You can’t imagine how much I would like to make you happy, but as God is my witness I can’t.?Arcadio took her by the waist with his tremendous hereditary strength and he felt the world disappear with the contact of her skin. “Don’t play the saint,?he said. “After all, everybody knows that you’re a whore.?Pilar overcame the disgust that her miserable fate inspired in her.