One Hundred Years of Solitude - Chapter 14


   The news that Amaranta Buendía was sailing at dusk carrying the mail of death spread throughout Macondo before noon, and at three in the afternoon there was a whole carton full of letters in the parlor. Those who did not want to write gave Amaranta verbal messages, which she wrote down in a notebook with the name and date of death of the recipient. “Don’t worry,?she told the senders. “The first thing I’ll do when I get there is to ask for him and give him your message.?It was farcical. Amaranta did not show any upset or the slightest sign of grief, and she even looked a bit rejuvenated by a duty accomplished. She was as straight and as thin as ever. If it had not been for her hardened cheekbones and a few missing teeth, she would have looked much younger than she really was. She herself arranged for them to put the letters in a box sealed with pitch and told them to place it in her grave in a way best to protect it from the dampness. In the morning she had a carpenter called who took her measurements for the coffin as she stood in the parlor, as if it were for a new dress. She showed such vigor in her last hours that Fernanda thought she was making fun of everyone. ?rsula, with the experience that Buendías died without any illness, did not doubt at all that Amaranta had received an omen of death, but in any case she was tormented by the fear that with the business of the letters and the anxiety of the senders for them to arrive quickly they would bury her alive in their confusion. So she set about clearing out the house, arguing with the intruders as she shouted at them, and by four in the afternoon she was successful. At that time Amaranta had finished dividing her things among the poor and had left on the severe coffin of unfinished boards only the change of clothing and the simple cloth slippers that she would wear in death. She did not neglect that precaution because she remembered that when Colonel Aureliano Buendía died they had to buy a pair of new shoes for him because all he had left were the bedroom slippers that he wore in the workshop. A little before five Aureliano Segundo came to fetch Meme for the concert and was surprised that the house was prepared for the funeral. if anyone seemed alive at the moment it was the serene Amaranta, who had even had enough time to cut her corns. Aureliano Segundo and Meme took leave of her with mocking farewells and promised her that on the following Saturday they would have a big resurrection party. Drawn by the public talk that Amaranta Buendía was receiving letters for the dead, Father Antonio Isabel arrived at five o’clock for the last rites and he had to wait for more than fifteen minutes for the recipient to come out of her bath. When he saw her appear in a madapollam nightshirt and with her hair loose over her shoulders, the decrepit parish priest thought that it was a trick and sent the altar boy away. He thought however, that he would take advantage of the occasion to have Amaranta confess after twenty years of reticence. Amaranta answered simply that she did not need spiritual help of any kind because her conscience was clean. Fernanda was scandalized. Without caring that people could hear her she asked herself aloud what horrible sin Amaranta had committed to make her prefer an impious death to the shame of confession. Thereupon Amaranta lay down and made ?rsula give public testimony as to her virginity.