One Hundred Years of Solitude - Chapter 11


   Fernanda carried a delicate calendar with small golden keys on which her spiritual adviser had marked in purple ink the dates of venereal abstinence. Not counting Holy week, Sundays, holy days of obligation, first Fridays, retreats, sacrifices, and cyclical impediments, her effective year was reduced to forty-two days that were spread out through a web of purple crosses. Aureliano Segundo, convinced that time would break up that hostile network, prolonged the wedding celebration beyond the expected time. Tired of throwing out so many empty brandy and champagne bottles so that they would not clutter up the house and at the same time intrigued by the fact that the newlyweds slept at different times and in separate rooms while the fireworks and music and the slaughtering of cattle went on, ?rsula remembered her own experience and wondered whether Fernanda might have a chastity belt too which would sooner or later provoke jokes in the town and give rise to a tragedy. But Fernanda confessed to her that she was just letting two weeks go by before allowing the first contact with her husband. Indeed, when the period was over, she opened her bedroom with a resignation worthy of an expiatory victim and Aureliano Segundo saw the most beautiful woman on earth, with her glorious eyes of a frightened animal and her long, copper-colored hair spread out across the pillow. He was so fascinated with that vision that it took him a moment to realize that Fernanda was wearing a white nightgown that reached down to her ankles, with long sleeves and with a large, round buttonhole, delicately trimmed, at the level of her lower stomach. Aureliano Segundo could not suppress an explosion of laughter.
   “That’s the most obscene thing I’ve ever seen in my life,?he shouted with a laugh that rang through the house. “I married a Sister of Charity.?
   A month later, unsuccessful in getting his wife to take off her nightgown, he had the picture taken of Petra Cotes dressed as a queen. Later on, when he succeeded in getting Fernanda to come back home, she gave in to his urges in the fever of reconciliation, but she could not give him the repose he had dreamed about when he went to fetch her in the city with the thirty-two belfries. Aureliano Segundo found only a deep feeling of desolation in her. One night, a short time before their first child was born, Fernanda realized that her husband had returned in secret to the bed of Petra Cotes.