One Hundred Years of Solitude - Chapter 14


   “What’s the matter??she asked.
   “Nothing,?Meme answered. “I was only now discovering how much I loved you both.?
   Amaranta was startled by the obvious burden of hate that the declaration carried. But Fernanda felt so moved that she thought she would go mad when Meme awoke at midnight with her head splitting with pain and drowning in vomited gall. She gave her a vial of castor oil, put compresses on her stomach and ice cubes on her head, and she made her stay in bed for five days and follow the diet ordered by the new and outlandish French doctor, who after examining her for more than two hours reached the foggy conclusion that she had an ailment peculiar to women. Having lost her courage, in a miserable state of demoralization, Meme had no other recourse but to bear up under it. ?rsula, completely blind by then but still active and lucid, was the only one who guessed the exact diagnosis. “As far as I can see,?she thought, “that’s the same thing that happens to drunken people.?But she not only rejected the idea, she reproached herself for the frivolity of her thought. Aureliano Segundo felt a twinge of conscience when he saw Meme’s state of prostration and he promised himself to take better care of her in the future. That was how the relationship of jolly comradeship was born between father and daughter, which freed him for a time from the bitter solitude of his revels and freed her from Fernanda’s watchful eye without necessity of provoking the domestic crisis that seemed inevitable by then. At that time Aureliano Segundo postponed any appointments in order to be with Meme, to take her to the movies or the circus, and he spent the greater part of his idle time with her. In recent times his annoyance with the absurd obesity that prevented him from tying his shoes and his abusive satisfaction with all manner of appetites had began to sour his character. The discovery of his daughter restored his former joviality and the pleasure of being with her was slowly leading him away from dissipation. Meme was entering a fruitful age. She was not beautiful, as Amaranta had never been, but on the other hand she was pleasant, uncomplicated, and she had the virtue of making a good impression on people from the first moment. She had a modem spirit that wounded the antiquated sobriety and poorly disguised miserly heart of Fernanda, and that, on the other hand, Aureliano Segundo took pleasure in developing. It was he who resolved to take her out of the bedroom she had occupied since childhood, where the fearful eyes of the saints still fed her adolescent terrors, and he furnished for her a room with a royal bed, a large dressing table, and velvet curtains, not realizing that he was producing a second version of Petra Cotes’s room. He was so lavish with Meme that he did not even know how much money he gave her because she herself would take it out of his pockets, and he kept abreast of every kind of new beauty aid that arrived in the commissary of the banana company. Meme’s room became filled with pumice-stone cushions to polish her nails with, hair curlers, toothbrushes, drops to make her eyes languid, and so many and such new cosmetics and artifacts of beauty that every time Fernanda went into the room she was scandalized by the idea that her daughter’s dressing table must have been the same as those of the French matrons. Nevertheless Fernanda divided her time in those days between little Amaranta ?rsula, who was mischievous and sickly, and a touching correspondence with the invisible physicians. So that when she noticed the complicity between father and daughter the only promise she extracted from Aureliano Segundo was that he would never take Meme to Petra Cotes’s house. It was a meaningless demand because the concubine was so annoyed with the comradeship between her lover and his daughter that she did not want anything to do with her. Petra was tormented by an unknown fear, as if instinct were telling her that Meme, by just wanting it, could succeed in what Fernanda had been unable to do: deprive her of a love that by then she considered assured until death. For the first time Aureliano Segundo had to tolerate the harsh expressions and the violent tirades of his concubine, and he was even afraid that his wandering trunks would make the return journey to his wife’s house. That did not happen. No one knew a man better than Petra Cotes knew her lover and she knew that the trunks would remain where they had been sent because if Aureliano Segundo detested anything it was complicating his life with modifications and changes. So the trunks stayed where they were and Petra Cotes set about reconquering the husband by sharpening the only weapons that his daughter could not use on him. It too was an unnecessary effort because Meme had no desire to intervene in her father’s affairs and if she had, it would certainly have been in favor of the concubine. She had no time to bother anybody. She herself swept her room and made her bed, as the nuns had taught her. In the morning she took care of her clothes, sewing on the porch or using Amaranta’s old pedal machine. While the others were taking their siestas she would practice the clavichord for two hours, knowing that the daily sacrifice would keep Fernanda calm. For the same reason she continued giving concerts at church fairs and school parties, even though the requests were less and less frequent. At nightfall she would fix herself up, put on one of her simple dresses and her stiff high shoes, and if she had nothing to do with her father she would go to the homes of her girl friends, where she would stay until dinnertime. It was rare that Aureliano Segundo would not call for her then to take her to the movies.