Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point.
Every year during the month of March a family of ragged gypsies would set up their tents near the village, and with a great uproar of pipes and kettledrums they would display new inventions. First they brought the magnet. A heavy gypsy with an untamed beard and sparrow hands, who introduced himself as Melquíades, put on a bold public demonstration of what he himself called the eighth wonder of the learned alchemists of Macedonia. He went from house to house dragging two metal ingots and everybody was amazed to see pots, pans, tongs and braziers tumble down from their places and beams creak from the desperation of nails and screws trying to emerge, and even objects that had been lost for a long time appeared from where they had been searched for most and went dragging along in turbulent confusion behind Melquíades’ magical irons. ‘Things have a life of their own,’ the gypsy proclaimed with a harsh accent. ‘It’s simply a matter of waking up their souls.’
José Arcadio Buendía, whose unbridled imagination always went beyond the genius of nature and even beyond miracles and magic, thought that it would be possible to make use of that useless invention to extract gold from the bowels of the earth. Melquíades, who was an honest man, warned him: ‘It won’t work for that.’ But José Arcadio Buendía at that time did not believe in the honesty of gypsies, so he traded his mule and a pair of goats for the two magnetized ingots. Úrsula Iguarán, his wife, who relied on those animals to increase their poor domestic holdings, was unable to dissuade him. ‘Very soon we’ll have gold enough and more to pave the floors of the house,’ her husband replied. For several months he worked hard to demonstrate the truth of his idea. He explored every inch of the region, even the riverbed, dragging the two iron ingots along and reciting Melquíades’ incantation aloud. The only thing he succeeded in doing was to unearth a suit of fifteenth-century armour which had all of its pieces soldered together with rust and inside of which there was the hollow resonance of an enormous stone-filled gourd. When José Arcadio Buendía and the four men of his expedition managed to take the armour apart, they found inside a calcified skeleton with a copper locket containing a woman’s hair around its neck.
In March the gypsies returned. This time they brought a telescope and a magnifying glass the size of a drum, which they exhibited as the latest discovery of the Jews of Amsterdam. They placed a gypsy woman at one end of the village and set up the telescope at the entrance to the tent. For the price of five reales, people could look into the telescope and see the gypsy woman an arm’s length away. ‘Science has eliminated distance,’ Melquíades proclaimed. ‘In a short time, man will be able to see what is happening in any place in the world without leaving his own house.’ A burning noonday sun brought out a startling demonstration with the gigantic magnifying glass: they put a pile of dry hay in the middle of the street and set it on fire by concentrating the sun’s rays.
At this point they came in sight of thirty-forty windmills that there are on plain, and as soon as Don Quixote saw them he said to his squire, “Fortune is arranging matters for us better than we could have shaped our desires ourselves, for look there, friend Sancho Panza, where thirty or more monstrous giants present themselves, all of whom I mean to engage in battle and slay, and with whose spoils we shall begin to make our fortunes; for this is righteous warfare, and it is God’s good service to sweep so evil a breed from off the face of the earth.”
“What giants?” said Sancho Panza.
“Those thou seest there,” answered his master, “with the long arms, and some have them nearly two leagues long.”
“Look, your worship,” said Sancho; “what we see there are not giants but windmills, and what seem to be their arms are the sails that turned by the wind make the millstone go.”
“It is easy to see,” replied Don Quixote, “that thou art not used to this business of adventures; those are giants; and if thou art afraid, away with thee out of this and betake thyself to prayer while I engage them in fierce and unequal combat.”
So saying, he gave the spur to his steed Rocinante, heedless of the cries his squire Sancho sent after him, warning him that most certainly they were windmills and not giants he was going to attack. He, however, was so positive they were giants that he neither heard the cries of Sancho, nor perceived, near as he was, what they were, but made at them shouting, “Fly not, cowards and vile beings, for a single knight attacks you.”
A slight breeze at this moment sprang up, and the great sails began to move, seeing which Don Quixote exclaimed, “Though ye flourish more arms than the giant Briareus, ye have to reckon with me.”
So saying, and commending himself with all his heart to his lady Dulcinea, imploring her to support him in such a peril, with lance in rest and covered by his buckler, he charged at Rocinante’s fullest gallop and fell upon the first mill that stood in front of him; but as he drove his lance-point into the sail the wind whirled it round with such force that it shivered the lance to pieces, sweeping with it horse and rider, who went rolling over on the plain, in a sorry condition. Sancho hastened to his assistance as fast as his ass could go, and when he came up found him unable to move, with such a shock had Rocinante fallen with him.
“God bless me!” said Sancho, “did I not tell your worship to mind what you were about, for they were only windmills? and no one could have made any mistake about it but one who had something of the same kind in his head.”
“Hush, friend Sancho,” replied Don Quixote, “the fortunes of war more than any other are liable to frequent fluctuations; and moreover I think, and it is the truth, that that same sage Friston who carried off my study and books, has turned these giants into mills in order to rob me of the glory of vanquishing them, such is the enmity he bears me; but in the end his wicked arts will avail but little against my good sword.”
“God order it as he may,” said Sancho Panza, and helping him to rise got him up again on Rocinante, whose shoulder was half out; and then, discussing the late adventure, they followed the road to Puerto Lapice, for there, said Don Quixote, they could not fail to find adventures in abundance and variety, as it was a great thoroughfare.
How will the struggle for existence, discussed too briefly in the last chapter, act in regard to variation? Can the principle of selection, which we have seen is so potent in the hands of man, apply in nature? I think we shall see that it can act most effectually. Let it be borne in mind in what an endless number of strange peculiarities our domestic productions, and, in a lesser degree, those under nature, vary; and how strong the hereditary tendency is. Under domestication, it may be truly said that the, whole organisation becomes in some degree plastic. Let it be borne in mind how infinitely complex and close-fitting are the mutual relations of all organic beings to each other and to their physical conditions of life.
Can it, then, be thought improbable, seeing that variations useful to man have undoubtedly occurred, that other variations useful in some way to each being in the great and complex battle of life, should sometimes occur in the course of thousands of generations? If such do occur, can we doubt (remembering that many more individuals are born than can possibly survive) that individuals having any advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance of surviving and of procreating their kind? On the other hand, we may feel sure that any variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed. This preservation of favourable variations and the rejection of injurious variations, I call Natural Selection. Variations neither useful nor injurious would not be affected by natural selection, and would be left a fluctuating element, as perhaps we see in the species called polymorphic.
As man can produce and certainly has produced a great result by his methodical and unconscious means of selection, what may not nature effect? Man can act only on external and visible characters: nature cares nothing for appearances, except in so far as they may be useful to any being. She can act on every internal organ, on every shade of constitutional difference, on the whole machinery of life. Man selects only for his own good; Nature only for that of the being which she tends. Every selected character is fully exercised by her; and the being is placed under well-suited conditions of life.
Man keeps the natives of many climates in the same country; he seldom exercises each selected character in some peculiar and fitting manner; he feeds a long and a short beaked pigeon on the same food; he does not exercise a longbacked or long-legged quadruped in any peculiar manner; he exposes sheep with long and short wool to the same climate. He does not allow the most vigorous males to struggle for the females. He does not rigidly destroy all inferior animals, but protects during each varying season, as far as lies in his power, all his productions. He often begins his selection by some half-monstrous form; or at least by some modification prominent enough to catch his eye, or to be plainly useful to him. Under nature, the slightest difference of structure or constitution may well turn the nicely-balanced scale in the struggle for life, and so be preserved. How fleeting are the wishes and efforts of man! how short his time! and consequently how poor will his products be, compared with those accumulated by nature during whole geological periods. Can we wonder, then, that nature’s productions should be far ‘truer’ in character than man’s productions; that they should be infinitely better adapted to the most complex conditions of life, and should plainly bear the stamp of far higher workmanship?
It may be said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinising, throughout the world, every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good…We see nothing of these slow changes in progress, until the hand of time has marked the long lapses of ages, and then so imperfect is our view into long past geological ages, that we only see that the forms of life are now different from what they formerly were.
Simple black rocks, formed millions of years ago, have provided people with fuel for centuries Coal is plentiful in many parts of the United States, sometimes close to the surface, sometimes a few thousand feet below it. Before Europeans reached North America, the Pueblo Indians found coal and burned it to cook food and make pottery. In 1673 French explorers found coal along the Mississippi River and several decades later, it was discovered near the James River in Virginia. That region became the site of the first commercial coal operation in what would become the United States.
The demand for coal led Americans to look for more sources, and they easily found them as they moved westward. The biggest need for coal came when the United States and much of the rest of the world began to industrialize. Coal created the heat that fueled steam engines which in turn powered machines of all kinds. Steam power, based on coal, propelled the first trains. Later, after the Civil War, a material made from coal called coke became essential for making steel. During the 1870s and 1880s, U. S. coal production quadrupled as the demand continued to rise. Soon coal would also become a source of power for the plants that generated electricity.
When the first settlers came to the area around the South Pittston, Pennsylvania they found a region rich with coal. The type of coal there is called anthracite. The first miners soon discovered that anthracite was hard to light. But once lit, it burned longer and more cleanly than other coal, and it provided a strong heat. Mining anthracite became a major industry in northeastern Pennsylvania, where a region covering about 500 square miles (1,295 square kilometers) contained almost three-quarters of the world’s known supply of anthracite.
Although some anthracite coal was found near the earth’s surface, most of it was much deeper. Mining companies dug long shafts into the sides of hills or straight down into the ground. Large timbers lined the roofs and walls of the shafts to hold up the dirt and rocks. Deep underground, water often flowed into the shafts. Pumps kept most of the water out, but the miners still sometimes worked in knee-deep water.
The job presented many dangers. Miners used explosives to break off the coal from the surrounding rock. If miners mishandled the explosives, they could easily die in an accidental blast. The timbers holding back the earth and rock could break, causing a collapse that could kill the miners or cut off the route back to the surface. Or parts of the mine could fill with methane, a gas released by coal. In the days before batteries, miners carried lamps with open flames to see their way in the dark mines. A spark from a lamp could cause the methane to explode, killing everyone nearby. Other gases found in the mines could kill without a spark because breathing them was deadly.
No government agencies then protected workers doing dangerous jobs. Many Americans believed that government should not interfere with how companies ran their businesses. And the companies used their political influence in some states to prevent the creation of safety laws. Finally the growing number of disasters and deaths led the U.S government to force companies to improve mine safety.
Even if the miners survived working in the mines, many faced a long-term health risk. Over time the dust from the coal collected in their lungs, causing black lung disease. The disease makes it hard to breathe and can lead to other lung diseases that can kill, such as emphysema. About three-fourths of miners eventually developed black lung disease – if they didn’t die in the mines first. By one estimate, three miners died every two days in the anthracite mines of Pennsylvania. Improvements in technology and laws to protect workers slowly lowered the numbers. But even in the middle of the 20th century, on average, one miner a day was killed in a U. S. coal mine.
Omoro told his sons that after their manhood training, his two older brothers Janneh and Saloum had left Juffure, and the passing of time brought news of them as well-known travelers in strange and distant places. Their first return home came when drum talk all the way from Juffure told them of the birth of Omoro’s first son. They spent sleepless days and nights on the trail to attend the naming ceremony. And gone from home so long, the brothers joyously embraced some of their kafo mates of boyhood. But those few sadly told of others gone and lost—some in burned villages, some killed by fearsome firesticks, some kidnapped, some missing while farming, hunting, or traveling–and all because of toubob.
Omoro said that his brothers had then angrily asked him to join them on a trip to see what the toubob were doing, to see what might be done. So the three brothers trekked for three days along the banks of the Kamby Bolongo, keeping carefully concealed in the bush, until they found what they were looking for. About twenty great toubob canoes were moored in the river, each big enough that its insides might hold all the people of Juffure, each with a huge white cloth tied by ropes to a tree like pole as tall as ten men. Nearby was an island, and on the island was a fortress.
Many toubob were moving about, and black helpers were with them, both on the fortress and in small
canoes. The small canoes were taking such things as dried indigo, cotton, beeswax, and hides to the big canoes. More terrible than he could describe, however, said Omoro, were the beatings and other cruelties they saw being dealt out to those who had been captured for the toubob to take away.
For several moments, Omoro was quiet, and Kunta sensed that he was pondering something else to tell him. Finally he spoke: “Not as many of our people are being taken away now as then.” When Kunta was a baby, he said, the King of Barra, who ruled this part of The Gambia, had ordered that there would be no more burning of villages with the capturing or killing of all their people. And soon it did stop, after the soldiers of some angry kings had burned the big canoes down to the water, killing all the toubob on board.
“Now,” said Omoro, “nineteen guns are fired in salute to the King of Barra by every toubob canoe entering the Kamby Bolongo.” He said that the King’s personal agents now supplied most of the
people whom the toubob took away–usually criminals or debtors, or anyone convicted for suspicion of plotting against the king–often for little more than whispering. More people seemed to get convicted of crimes, said Omoro, whenever toubob ships sailed in the Kamby Bolongo looking for slaves to buy.
“But even a king cannot stop the stealings of some people from their villages,” Omoro continued. “You have known some of those lost from our village, three from among us just within the past few moons, as you know, and you have heard the drum talk from other villages.” He looked hard at his sons, and spoke slowly. “The things I’m going to tell you now, you must hear with more than your ears for not to do what I say can mean your being stolen away forever!” Kunta and Lamin listened with rising fright. “Never be alone when you can help it,” said Omoro; “Never be out at night when you can help it. And day or night, when you’re alone, keep away from any high weeds or bush if you can avoid it.”