One Hundred Years of Solitude - Chapter 17


   The raffles never got very far. At first Aureliano Segundo would spend three days of the week shut up in what had been his rancher’s office drawing ticket after ticket, Painting with a fair skill a red cow, a green pig, or a group of blue hens, according to the animal being raffled, and he would sketch out a good imitation of printed numbers and the name that Petra Cotes thought good to call the business: Divine Providence Raffles. But with time he felt so tired after drawing up to two thousand tickets a week that he had the animals, the name, and the numbers put on rubber stamps, and then the work was reduced to moistening them on pads of different colors. In his last years it occurred to him to substitute riddles for the numbers so that the prize could be shared by all of those who guessed it, but the system turned out to be so complicated and was open to so much suspicion that he gave it up after the second attempt.
   Aureliano Segundo was so busy trying to maintain the prestige of his raffles that he barely had time to see the children. Fernanda put Amaranta ?rsula in a small private school where they admitted only six girls, but she refused to allow Aureliano to go to public school. She considered that she had already relented too much in letting him leave the room. Besides, the schools in those days accepted only the legitimate offspring of Catholic marriages and on the birth certificate that had been pinned to Aureliano’s clothing when they brought him to the house he was registered as a foundling. So he remained shut In at the mercy of Santa Sofía de la Piedad’s loving eyes and ?rsula’s mental quirks, learning in the narrow world of the house whatever his grandmothers explained to him. He was delicate, thin, with a curiosity that unnerved the adults, but unlike the inquisitive and sometimes clairvoyant look that the colonel had at his age, his look was blinking and somewhat distracted. While Amaranta ?rsula was in kindergarten, he would hunt earthworms and torture insects in the garden. But once when Fernanda caught him putting scorpions in a box to put in ?rsula’s bed, she locked him up in Meme’s old room, where he spent his solitary hours looking through the pictures in the encyclopedia. ?rsula found him there one afternoon when she was going about sprinkling the house with distilled water and a bunch of nettles, and in spite of the fact that she had been with him many times she asked him who he was.