The renown of Dr. Urbino's pet parrot to Urbino and Fermina's most serious argument.
Dr. Urbino has paid more attention to his parrot, a family fixture for over twenty years, than he has paid to his children. Urbino teaches the bird to speak fluent French, recite religious gospel, and do arithmetic. The bird's reputation spreads, and many distinguished visitors, including the President of the Republic, along with his cabinet ministers, ask to see the parrot. Against the advice of his wife, Fermina Daza Dr. Urbino permits the President and his ministers to see the bird, which refuses to speak a word during their two-hour visit.
Fermina idolizes domestic animals and tropical flowers, though the doctor has a strong aversion to both. At the start of the marriage, she owns many animals: a vast array of dogs, cats, birds, and reptiles. Tragedy, however, intervenes when one of the German Mastiffs, sick with rabies, attacks. The doctor and his wife have no way of knowing which animals have been infected, and have no choice but to kill and burn all of the surviving creatures, all but the tortoise, who is forgotten.
It is only because of the thieves who robbed their home that the doctor allows Fermina Daza another pet. He will not tolerate another dog, and declares that any creature that does not speak is not permitted in the house. Fermina Daza, however, makes him regret his hasty generalization when she brings home the parrot. When the thieves make a second attempt at entry, the parrot frightens them away by barking like a dog and crying, "Stop thief, stop!". Afterwards, Urbino dedicates himself to educating the bird. He allows it to wander the house until it falls from a ceiling beam into a pot of stew. The parrot is rescued by the cook, but emerges completely deplumed, and is, from then on, kept in its cage.
Urbino's servants, who had removed the bird from his cage to clip its wings, continue their three-hour struggle to coax it down from the mango tree. Despite their efforts, the bird remains in the tree. Dr. Urbino sends for the fire department, which he himself established, and of which he is the honorary president. However, Urbino is too disturbed by Saint-Amour's letter to care about the fate of the parrot.
Urbino and Fermina have just celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. A woman of class and style, Fermina is beautiful, even in her seventy-two years of age, and exudes a haughtiness that demands respect. Recently, she has noticed her husband's aging mind and body, though she sees these changes as a reversion to childhood, rather than decay. The couple's morning routine has for years been a source of contention between them. Every morning Urbino rises at dawn, dresses in darkness, and wakes his wife in the process. She feigns sleep, furious that she has been awakened, though he is aware that she is angry and not truly asleep. They continue to play this game until it nearly ends their thirty years of marriage. One morning, Urbino grumbles that he has been bathing for nearly a week without soap. Upon hearing this, Fermina is enraged; she had forgotten to replace the soap, though it had not yet been a week. From bed, she yells that she has bathed every day, and always with soap.