One Hundred Years of Solitude - Chapter 11


   At first Fernanda did not talk about her family, but in time she began to idealize her father. She spoke of him at the table as an exceptional being who had renounced all forms of vanity and was on his way to becoming a saint. Aureliano Segundo, startled at that unbridled glorification of his father-in-law, could not resist the temptation to make small jokes behind his wife’s back. The rest of the family followed his example. Even ?rsula, who was extremely careful to preserve family harmony and who suffered in secret from the domestic friction, once allowed herself the liberty of saying that her little great-great-grandson had his pontifical future assured because he was “the grandson of a saint and the son of a queen and a rustler.?In spite of that conspiracy of smiles, the children became accustomed to think of their grandfather as a legendary being who wrote them pious verses in his letters and every Christmas sent them a box of gifts that barely fitted through the outside door. Actually they were the last remains of his lordly inheritance. They used them to build an altar of life-size saints in the children’s bedroom, saints with glass eyes that gave them a disquietingly lifelike look, whose artistically embroidered clothing was better than that worn by any inhabitant of Macondo. Little by little the funereal splendor of the ancient and icy mansion was being transformed into the splendor of the House of Buendía. “They’ve already sent us the whole family cemetery,?Aureliano Segundo commented one day. “All we need now are the weeping willows and the tombstones.?Although nothing ever arrived in the boxes that the children could play with, they would spend all year waiting for December because, after all, the antique and always unpredictable gifts were something, new in the house. On the tenth Christmas, when little Jos?Arcadio was getting ready to go to the seminary, the enormous box from their grandfather arrived earlier than usual, nailed tight and protected with pitch, and addressed in the usual Gothic letters to the Very Distinguished Lady Do?a Fernanda del Carpio de Buendía. While she read the letter in her room the children hastened to open the box. Aided as was customary by Aureliano Segundo, they broke the seals, opened the cover, took out the protective sawdust, and found inside a long lead chest closed by copper bolts. Aureliano Segundo took out the eight bolts as the children watched impatiently, and he barely had time to give a cry and push the children aside when be raised the lead cover and saw Don Fernando, dressed in black and with a crucifix on his chest, his skin broken out in pestilential sores and cooking slowly in a frothy stew with bubbles like live pearls.