One Hundred Years of Solitude - Chapter 18


   It was impossible to conceive of a man more like his mother. He was wearing a somber taffeta suit, a shirt with a round and hard collar, and a thin silk ribbon tied in a bow in place of a necktie. He was ruddy and languid with a startled look and weak lips. His black hair, shiny and smooth, parted in the middle of his head by a straight and tired line, had the same artificial appearance as the hair on the saints. The shadow of a well-uprooted beard on his paraffin face looked like a question of conscience. His hands were pale, with green veins and fingers that were like parasites, and he wore a solid gold ring with a round sunflower opal on his left index finger. When he opened the street door Aureliano did not have to be told who he was to realize that he came from far away. With his steps the house filled up with the fragrance of the toilet water that ?rsula used to splash on him when he was a child in order to find him in the shadows, in some way impossible to ascertain, after so many years of absence. Jos?Arcadio was still an autumnal child, terribly sad and solitary. He went directly to his mother’s bedroom, where Aureliano had boiled mercury for four months in his grandfather’s grandfather’s water pipe to conserve the body according to Melquíades?formula. Jos?Arcadio did not ask him any questions. He kissed the corpse on the forehead and withdrew from under her skirt the pocket of casing which contained three as yet unused pessaries and the key to her cabinet. He did everything with direct and decisive movements, in contrast to his languid look. From the cabinet he took a small damascene chest with the family crest and found on the inside, which was perfumed with sandalwood, the long letter in which Fernanda unburdened her heart of the numerous truths that she had hidden from him. He read it standing up, avidly but without anxiety, and at the third page he stopped and examined Aureliano with a look of second recognition.