One Hundred Years of Solitude - Chapter 14


   Among Meme’s friends there were three young American girls who broke through the electrified chicken fence barrier and made friends with girls from Macondo. One of them was Patricia Brown. Grateful for the hospitality of Aureliano Segundo, Mr. Brown opened the doors of his house to Meme and invited her to the Saturday dances, which were the only ones where gringos and natives mingled. When Fernanda found out about it she forgot about Amaranta ?rsula and the invisible doctors for a moment and became very melodramatic. “Just think,?she said to Meme, “what the colonel must be thinking in his grave.?She sought, of course, the backing of ?rsula. But the blind old woman, contrary to what everyone expected, saw nothing reproachable in Meme’s going to the dances and making friends with American girls her own age as long as she kept her strict habits and was not converted to the Protestant religion. Meme sensed the thought of her great-great-grandmother very well and the day after the dances she would get up earlier than usual to go to mass. Fernanda’s opposition lasted until the day when Meme broke down her resistance with the news that the Americans wanted to hear her play the clavichord. The instrument was taken out of the house again and carried to Mr. Brown’s, where the young concert artist really did receive very sincere applause and the most enthusiastic congratulations. From then on she was invited not only to the dances but also to the Sunday swim parties in the pool and to lunch once a week. Meme learned to swim like a professional, to play tennis, and to eat Virginia ham with slices of pineapple. Among dances, swimming, and tennis she soon found herself getting involved in the English language. Aureliano Segundo was so enthusiastic over the progress of his daughter that from a traveling salesman he bought a six-volume English encyclopedia with many color prints which Meme read in her spare time. The reading occupied the attention that she had formerly given to gossip about sweethearts and the experimental retreats that she would go through with her girl friends, not because it was imposed as discipline but because she had lost all interest by then in talking about mysteries that were in the public domain. She looked back on the drunken episode as an infantile adventure and it seemed so funny to her that she told Aureliano Segundo about it and he thought it was more amusing than she did. “If your mother only knew,?he told her, doubling up with laughter, as he always said when he told her something in confidence. He had made her promise that she would let him know about her first love affair with the same confidence, and Meme told him that she liked a redheaded American boy who had come to spend his vacation with his parents. “What do you know,?Aureliano Segundo said, laughing. “If your mother only knew.?But Meme also told him that the boy had gone back to his country and had disappeared from sight. The maturity of her judgment ensured peace in the family. Aureliano Segundo then devoted more time to Petra Cotes, and although his body and soul no longer permitted him the debauches of days gone by, he lost no chance to arrange them and to dig out the accordion, which by then had some keys held in place by shoelaces. At home, Amaranta was weaving her interminable shroud and ?rsula dragged about in her decrepitude through the depths of the shadows where the only thing that was still visible was the ghost of Jos?Arcadio Buendía under the chestnut tree. Fernanda consolidated her authority. Her monthly letters to her son Jos?Arcadio at that time did not carry a string of lies and she hid from him only her correspondence with the invisible doctors, who had diagnosed a benign tumor in her large intestine and were preparing her for a telepathic operation.