One Hundred Years of Solitude - Chapter 20


   During the pauses in their delirium, Amaranta ?rsula would answer Gaston’s letters. She felt him to be so far away and busy that his return seemed impossible to her. In one of his first letters he told her that his Partners had actually sent the airplane, but that a shipping agent in Brussels had sent it by mistake to Tanganyika, where it was delivered to the scattered tribe of the Makondos. That mix-up brought on so many difficulties that just to get the plane back might take two years. So Amaranta ?rsula dismissed the possibility of an inopportune return. Aureliano, for his part, had no other contact with the world except for the letters from the wise Catalonian and the news he had of Gabriel through Mercedes, the silent pharmacist. At first they were real contacts. Gabriel had turned in his return ticket in order to stay in Paris, selling the old newspapers and empty bottles that the chambermaids threw out of a gloomy hotel on the Rue Dauphine. Aureliano could visualize him then in a turtleneck sweater which he took off only when the sidewalk Cafés on Montparnasse filled with springtime lovers, and sleeping by day and writing by night in order to confuse hunger in the room that smelled of boiled cauliflower where Rocamadour was to die. Nevertheless, news about him was slowly becoming so uncertain, and the letters from the wise man so sporadic and melancholy, that Aureliano grew to think about them as Amaranta ?rsula thought about her husband, and both of them remained floating in an empty universe where the only everyday and eternal reality was love.
   Suddenly, like the stampede in that world of happy unawareness, came the news of Gaston’s return. Aureliano and Amaranta ?rsula opened their eyes, dug deep into their souls, looked at the letter with their hands on their hearts, and understood that they were so close to each other that they preferred death to separation. Then she wrote her husband a letter of contradictory truths in which she repeated her love and said how anxious she was to see him again, but at the same time she admitted as a design of fate the impossibility of living without Aureliano. Contrary to what they had expected, Gaston sent them a calm, almost paternal reply, with two whole pages devoted to a warning against the fickleness of passion and a final paragraph with unmistakable wishes for them to be as happy as he had been during his brief conjugal experience. It was such an unforeseen attitude that Amaranta ?rsula felt humiliated by the idea that she had given her husband the pretext that he had wanted in order to abandon her to her fate. The rancor was aggravated six months later when Gaston wrote again from Léopoldville, where he had finally recovered the airplane, simply to ask them to ship him the velocipede, which of all that he had left behind in Macondo was the only thing that had any sentimental value for him. Aureliano bore Amaranta ?rsula’s spite patiently and made an effort to show her that he could be as good a husband in adversity as in prosperity, and the daily needs that besieged them when Gaston’s last money ran out created a bond of solidarity between them that was not as dazzling and heady as passion, but that let them make love as much and be as happy as during their uproarious and salacious days. At the time Pilar Ternera died they were expecting a child.