One Hundred Years of Solitude - Chapter 16


   The condition of the streets alarmed Aureliano Segundo. He finally became worried about the state of his animals and he threw an oilcloth over his head and sent to Petra Cotes’s house. He found her in the courtyard, in the water up to her waist, trying to float the corpse of a horse. Aureliano Segundo helped her with a lever, and the enormous swollen body gave a turn like a bell and was dragged away by the torrent of liquid mud. Since the rain began, all that Petra Cotes had done was to clear her courtyard of dead animals. During the first weeks she sent messages to Aureliano Segundo for him to take urgent measures and he had answered that there was no rush, that the situation was not alarming, that there would be plenty of time to think about something when it cleared. She sent him word that the horse pastures were being flooded, that the cattle were fleeing to high ground, where there was nothing to eat and where they were at the mercy of jaguars and sickness. “There’s nothing to be done,?Aureliano Segundo answered her. “Others will be born when it clears.?Petra Cates had seen them die in dusters and the was able to butcher only those stuck in the mud. She saw with quiet impotence how the deluge was pitilessly exterminating a fortune that at one time was considered the largest and most solid in Macondo, and of which nothing remained but pestilence. When Aureliano Segundo decided to go see what was going on, he found only the corpse of the horse and a squalid mule in the ruins of the stable. Petra Cotes watched him arrive without surprise, joy, or resentment, and she only allowed herself an ironic smile.
   “It’s about time!?she said.
   She had aged, all skin and bones, and her tapered eyes of a carnivorous animal had become sad and tame from looking at the rain so much. Aureliano Segundo stayed at her house more than three months, not because he felt better there than in that of his family, but because he needed all that time to make the decision to throw the piece of oilcloth back over his head. “There’s no rush,?he said, as he had said in the other home. “Let’s hope that it clears in the next few hours.?During the course of the first week he became accustomed to the inroads that time and the rain had made in the health of his concubine, and little by little he was seeing her as she had been before, remembering her jubilant excesses and the delirious fertility that her love provoked in the animals, and partly through love, partly through interest, one night during the second week he awoke her with urgent caresses. Petra Cotes did not react. “Go back to sleep,?she murmured. “These aren’t times for things like that.?Aureliano Segundo saw himself in the mirrors on the ceiling, saw Petra Cotes’s spinal column like a row of spools strung together along a cluster of withered nerves, and he saw that she was right, not because of the times but because of themselves, who were no longer up to those things.