One Hundred Years of Solitude - Chapter 11


   “The only candle that will make him come is always lighted.?
   Just as she had foreseen, Aureliano Segundo went back to her house as soon as the honeymoon was over. He brought his usual old friends, a traveling photographer, and the gown and ermine cape soiled with blood that Fernanda had worn during the carnival. In the heat of the merriment that broke out that evening, he had Petra Cotes dress up as queen, crowned her absolute and lifetime ruler of Madagascar, and handed out copies of the picture to his friends, she not only went along with the game, but she felt sorry for him inside, thinking that he must have been very frightened to have conceived of that extravagant means of reconciliation. At seven in the evening, still dressed as the queen, she received him in bed. He had been married scarcely two months, but she realized at once that things were not going well in the nuptial bed, and she had the delicious pleasure of vengeance fulfilled. Two days later, however, when he did not dare return but sent an intermediary to arrange the terms of the separation, she understood that she was going to need more patience than she had foreseen because he seemed ready to sacrifice himself for the sake of appearances. Nor did she get upset that time. Once again she made things easy with a submission that confirmed the generalized belief that she was a poor devil, and the only souvenir she kept of Aureliano Segundo was a pair of patent leather boots, which, according to what he himself had said, were the ones he wanted to wear in his coffin. She kept them wrapped in cloth in the bottom of a trunk and made ready to feed on memories, waiting without despair.
   “He has to come sooner or later,?she told herself, “even if it’s just to put on those boots.?
   She did not have to wait as long as she had imagined. Actually, Aureliano Segundo understood from the night of his wedding that he would return to the house of Petra Cotes much sooner than when he would have to put on the patent leather boots: Fernanda was a woman who was lost in the world. She had been born and raised in a city six hundred miles away, a gloomy city where on ghostly nights the coaches of the viceroys still rattled through the cobbled streets, Thirty-two belfries tolled a dirge at six in the afternoon. In the manor house, which was paved with tomblike slabs, the sun was never seen. The air had died in the cypresses in the courtyard, in the pale trappings of the bedrooms, in the dripping archways of the garden of perennials. Until puberty Fernanda had no news of the world except for the melancholy piano lessons taken in some neighboring house by someone who for years and years had the drive not to take a siesta. In the room of her sick mother, green and yellow under the powdery light from the windowpanes, she would listen to the methodical, stubborn, heartless scales and think that that music was in the world while she was being consumed as she wove funeral wreaths. Her mother, perspiring with five-o’clock fever, spoke to her of the splendor of the past. When she was a little girl, on one moonlit night Fernanda saw a beautiful woman dressed in white crossing the garden toward the chapel. What bothered her most about that fleeting vision was that she felt it was exactly like her, as if she had seen herself twenty years in advance. “It was your great-grandmother the queen,?her mother told her during a truce in her coughing. “She died of some bad vapors while she was cutting a string of bulbs.?Many years later, when she began to feel she was the equal of her great-grandmother, Fernanda doubted her childhood vision, but her mother scolded her disbelief.