One Hundred Years of Solitude - Chapter 8

   Visitación died around that time. She had the pleasure of dying a natural death after having renounced a throne out of fear of insomnia, and her last wish was that they should dig up the wages she had saved for more than twenty years under her bed and send the money to Colonel Aureliano Buendía so that he could go on with the war. But ?rsula did not bother to dig it up because it was rumored in those days that Colonel Aureliano Buendía had been killed in a landing near the provincial capital. The official announcement—the fourth in less than two years—was considered true for almost six months because nothing further was heard of him. Suddenly, when ?rsula and Amaranta had added new mourning to the past period, unexpected news arrived. Colonel Aureliano Buendía was alive, but apparently he had stopped harassing the government of his country and had joined with the victorious federalism of other republics of the Caribbean. He would show up under different names farther and farther away from his own country. Later it would be learned that the idea that was working on him at the time was the unification of the federalist forms of Central America in order to wipe out conservative regimes from Alaska to Patagonia. The first direct news that ?rsula received from him, several years after his departure, was a wrinkled and faded letter that had arrived, passing through various hands, from Santiago, Cuba.
   “We’ve lost him forever,??rsula exclaimed on reading it. “If he follows this path he’ll spend Christmas at the ends of the earth.?
   The person to whom she said it, who was the first to whom she showed the letter, was the Conservative general Jos?Raquel Moncada, mayor of Macondo since the end of the war. “This Aureliano,?General Moncada commented, “what a pity that he’s not a Conservative.?He really admired him. Like many Conservative civilians, Jos?Raquel Moncada had waged war in defense of his party and had earned the title of general on the field of battle, even though he was not a military man by profession. On the contrary, like so many of his fellow party members, he was an antimilitarist. He considered military men unprincipled loafers, ambitious plotters, experts in facing down civilians in order to prosper during times of disorder. Intelligent, pleasant, ruddy-faced, a man who liked to eat and watch cockfights, he had been at one time the most feared adversary of Colonel Aureliano Buendía. He succeeded in imposing his authority over the career officers in a wide sector along the coast. One time when he was forced by strategic circumstances to abandon a stronghold to the forces of Colonel Aureliano Buendía, he left two letters for him. In one of them quite long, he invited him to join in a campaign to make war more humane. The other letter was for his wife, who lived in Liberal territory, and he left it with a plea to see that it reached its destination. From then on, even in the bloodiest periods of the war, the two commanders would arrange truces to exchange prisoners. They were pauses with a certain festive atmosphere, which General Moncada took advantage of to teach Colonel Aureliano Buendía how to play chess. They became great friends. They even came to think about the possibility of coordinating the popular elements of both parties, doing away with the influence of the military men and professional politicians, and setting up a humanitarian regime that would take the best from each doctrine. When the war was over, while Colonel Aureliano, Buendía was sneaking about through the narrow trails of permanent sub. version, General Moncada was named magistrate of Macondo. He wore civilian clothes, replaced the soldiers with unarmed policemen, enforced the amnesty laws, and helped a few families of Liberals who had been killed in the war. He succeeded in having Macondo raised to the status of a municipality and he was therefore its first mayor, and he created an atmosphere of confidence that made people think of the war as an absurd nightmare of the past. Father Nicanor, consumed by hepatic fever, was replaced by Father Coronel, whom they called “The Pup,?a veteran of the first federalist war. Bruno Crespi, who was married to Amparo Mos. cote, and whose shop of toys and musical instruments continued to prosper, built a theater which Spanish companies included in their Itineraries. It was a vast open-air hall with wooden benches, a velvet curtain with Greek masks, and three box offices in the shape of lions?heads, through whose mouths the tickets were sold. It was also about that time that the school was rebuilt. It was put under the charge of Don Melchor Escalona, an old teacher brought from the swamp, who made his lazy students walk on their knees in the lime-coated courtyard and made the students who talked in class eat hot chili with the approval of their parents. Aureliano Segundo and Jos?Arcadio Segundo, the willful twins of Santa Sofía de la Piedad, were the first to sit in the classroom, with their slates, their chalk, and their aluminum jugs with their names on them. Remedios, who inherited her mother’s pure beauty, began to be known as Remedios the Beauty. In spite of time, of the superimposed Periods of mourning, and her accumulated afflictions, ?rsula resisted growing old. Aided by Santa Sofía de la Piedad, she gave a new drive to her pastry business and in a few years not only recovered the fortune that her son had spent in the war, but she once more stuffed with pure gold the gourds buried in the bedroom. “As long as God gives me life,?she would say, “there will always be money in this madhouse.?That was how things were when Aureliano Jos?deserted the federal troops in Nicaragua, signed on as a crewman on a German ship, and appeared in the kitchen of the house, sturdy as a horse, as dark and long-haired as an Indian, and with a secret determination to marry Amaranta.