Active, small, and indomitable like ?rsula, and almost as pretty and provocative as Remedios the Beauty, she was endowed with a rare instinct for anticipating fashion. When she received pictures of the most recent fashions in the mail, they only proved that she had not been wrong about the models that she designed herself and sewed on Amaranta’s primitive pedal machine. She subscribed to every fashion magazine, art publication. and popular music review published in Europe, and she had only to glance at them to realize that things in the world were going just as she imagined they were. It was incomprehensible why a woman with that spirit would have returned to a dead town burdened by dust and heat, and much less with a husband who had more than enough money to live anywhere in the world and who loved her so much that he let himself be led around by her on a silk leash. As time passed, however, her intention to stay was more obvious, because she did not make any plans that were not a long way off, nor did shedo anything that did not have as an aim the search for a comfortable life and a peaceful old age in Macondo. The canary cage showed that those aims were made up on the spur of the moment. Remembering that her mother had told her in a letter about the extermination of the birds, she had delayed her trip several months until she found a ship that stopped at the Fortunate Isles and there she chose the finest twenty-five pairs of canaries so that she could repopulate the skies of Macondo. That was the most lamentable of her numerous frustrated undertakings. As the birds reproduced Amaranta ?rsula would release them in pairs, and no sooner did they feel themselves free than they fled the town. She tried in vain to awaken love in them by means of the bird cage that ?rsula had built during the first reconstruction of the house. Also in vain were the artificial nests built of esparto grass in the almond trees and the birdseed strewn about the roofs, and arousing the captives so that their songs would dissuade the deserters, because they would take flights on their first attempts and make a turn in the sky, just the time needed to find the direction to the Fortunate Isles.
One hot dawn they both woke up in alarm at an urgent knocking on the street door. It was a dark old man with large green eyes that gave his face a ghostly phosphorescence and with a cross of ashes on his forehead. His clothing in tatters, his shoes cracked, the old knapsack on his shoulder his only luggage, he looked like a beggar, but his bearing had a dignity that was in frank contradiction to his appearance. It was only necessary to look at him once, even in the shadows of the parlor, to realize that the secret strength that allowed him to live was not the instinct of self-preservation but the habit of fear. It was Aureliano Amador, the only survivor of Colonel Aureliano Buendía’s seventeen sons, searching for a respite in his long and hazardous existence as a fugitive. He identified himself, begged them to give him refuge in that house which during his nights as a pariah he had remembered as the last redoubt of safety left for him in life. But Jos?Arcadio and Aureliano did not remember him. Thinking that he was a tramp, they pushed him into the street. They both saw from the doorway the end of a drama that had began before Jos?Arcadio had reached the age of reason. Two policemen who had been chasing Aureliano Amador for years, who had tracked him like bloodhounds across half the world, came out from among the almond trees on the opposite sidewalk and took two shots with their Mausers which neatly penetrated the cross of ashes.
Almost a year after his return home, having sold the silver candlesticks and the heraldic chamberpot—which at the moment of truth turned out to have only a little gold plating on the crest—in order to eat, the only distraction of Jos?Arcadio was to pick up children in town so that they could play in the house. He would appear with them at siesta time and have them skip rope in the garden, sing on the porch, and do acrobatics on the furniture in the living room while he would go among the groups giving lessons in good manners. At that time he had finished with the tight pants and the silk shirts and was wearing an ordinary suit of clothing that he had bought in the Arab stores, but he still maintained his languid dignity and his papal air. The children took over the house just as Meme’s schoolmates had done in the past. Until well into the night they could be heard chattering and singing and tap-dancing, so that the house resembled a boarding school where there was no discipline. Aureliano did not worry about the invasion as long as they did not bother him in Melquíades?room. One morning two children pushed open the door and were startled at the sight of a filthy and hairy man who was still deciphering the parchments on the worktable. They did not dare go in, but they kept on watching the room. They would peep in through the cracks, whispering, they threw live animals in through the transom, and on one occasion they nailed up the door and the window and it took Aureliano half a day to force them open. Amused at their unpunished mischief, four of the children went into the room one morning while Aureliano was in the kitchen, preparing to destroy the parchments. But as soon as they laid hands on the yellowed sheets an angelic force lifted them off the ground and held them suspended in the air until Aureliano returned and took the parchments away from them. From then on they did not bother him.