Instead of taking Tita to the asylum, Dr. Brown decides to care for her in his own home. For this Tita is grateful because she feared she may have actually gone crazy if forced to stay in an asylum. Tita spends her days in silence and continues to work on the bedspread at night. She promises to thank Dr. Brown when she decides to speak again. Tita eats irregularly and sometimes instead of eating, she simply stares at her hands amazed at the new freedom she has to decide what they will do. On her mother’s ranch, Tita had always been told what to do. She is unaccustomed with the idea that she alone controls the activity of her hands at Dr. Brown’s house.
One day Tita smells something pleasant coming from a small room in the house that causes her to think about Nacha. Intrigued by the smell, Tita goes to the room where she finds an 80-year-old Indian woman who gives her a cup of tea. Tita continues to visit the woman every day until Dr. Brown takes over the space for his scientific experiments. Tita decides that when she begins speaking she will ask for the name of the mysterious Indian woman.
Doctor Brown works tirelessly in his laboratory in order to find scientific backing for the medical miracles performed by his grandmother, Morning Light, during her lifetime. Morning Light entered the Brown family as a captive of Dr. Brown’s grandfather who took her from her native Kikapu Indian tribe and married her. The Brown family never honored the marriage between his grandparents and they disparagingly called Morning Light “the Kikapu.” However, one day Morning Light used her healing customs to save Peter, Dr. Brown’s great-grandfather, from dying of lung disease. After she saves Peter, the Brown family makes Morning Light their family doctor. People begin to associate Morning Light with medical miracles. Morning Light spends a lot of her time in a small laboratory John built for her so that she could avoid the cruelty of his family. Here, a young Dr. Brown spent much of his time observing his grandmother’s methods. After attending university, he stops going to his grandmother’s laboratory because of the contrasts between his grandmother’s methods and the teachings at school.
As an older man, John returns to his grandmother’s laboratory convinced that he will find advanced medicine there. Tita enjoys watching the doctor in his laboratory and Dr. Brown narrates his actions aloud so that Tita can follow what he is doing. She watches as he makes matches. Dr. Brown shows Tita how phosphorous combined with oxygen can create a flame. He shares with her one of his grandmother’s old sayings that everyone has a box of matches inside them that can only be lit by oxygen and a candle. The oxygen, says Dr. Brown is a lover and the candle can be any other pleasure in life. He claims that finding the elements to ignite the matches within is a task that each person must complete in order to nourish his soul. If a person does not discover what ignites their matches then the matchbox dampens and the soul leaves the body in search of something to nourish it.
Tita begins to fear that her matches are too damp to ever be lit again but Dr. Brown tells her that there is a cure. He warns her to stay away from those who might try to extinguish her fire. As Dr. Brown describes his dead grandmother, Tita realizes that her ghost was the woman who gave her tea.
Dr. Brown tells Tita that his grandmother taught him to read thoughts when he was younger. He asks her to write down why she refuses to talk on the wall in phosphorus, which appears invisible on surfaces. He promises to be able to determine her thoughts from this invisible writing. Dr. Brown does not tell Tita that the phosphorous glows in the dark and instead of reading her thoughts he reads the message Tita leaves on the wall, which says, “Because I don’t want to.”
Tita considers Dr. Brown’s proposition that her matches can still be lit and wonders who will light them, Dr. Brown perhaps. She knows that she does not wish to return to the ranch or to see Mama Elena ever again.
After Tita escapes, Mama Elena’s strict rule she takes up residence with Dr. Brown. Though she is free from Mama Elena, Tita remains silent. The grief of Roberto’s death is still too painful for her to bear. Tita is also unaccustomed to the ample free time she has at Dr. Brown’s house. Her hands, a symbol of all of the cooking and domestic work she completed at the ranch, are left idle and Tita marvels over her new freedom.
This chapter reveals that Tita’s silence is not merely an effect of grief but is also a result of her new sense of control. When Dr. Brown asks her to write down why she will not speak, Tita writes “Because I don’t want to.” Tita discovers a hitherto unknown autonomy and exercises it by choosing to remain silent until she decides to speak.
Dr. Brown inherits his medical profession and gift for healing in the same way that Tita inherits her cooking gifts. Both Tita and Dr. Brown are inspired by maternal figures with whom they spent much time during their childhood. Nacha leads Tita to cooking and Dr. Brown’s grandmother Morning Light inspires him to practice medicine.
Likewise, the memory of these two women continues to affect the daily lives of both Tita and Dr. Brown. Indeed, Tita is first drawn to the ghost of Morning Light by a smell that reminds her of Nacha. The supernatural presence of both women affects the lives of both Tita and Dr. Brown. Dr. Brown’s laboratory is like a kitchen of science. He uses the same precision and tradition to recreate his grandmother’s remedies.
In this chapter, Dr. Brown also explains the necessity to light one’s inner matches in order to properly nourish the soul. Instead of oxygen, one must find a lover and passion. When they two combine, they light the inner matches and nurture the soul. A failure to light one’s matches means that the soul will flee the body in search of nourishment. Although Tita fears that her matches are too damp to ever be lit again, Dr. Brown reassures her that they can so long as she avoids any people who seek to extinguish her flame. She resigns never to go back to Mama Elena or the ranch where her fire would surely be snuffed out.