Chapter 7 - The Brothers
When Clara and Blanca arrive back at "the big house on the corner," Clara sees to it that the household's former liveliness is restored, filling the house with guests. Jaime is studying at the university, and Nícolas is trying to "find himself." The twins buy a car, which they name Covadonga. Soon it becomes evident that Blanca is pregnant. When Esteban finds out, he finds the perfect scapegoat for his daughter's illegitimate pregnancy; he accuses Jean de Satigny of being the baby's father and secures the count's engagement to Blanca. The wedding is especially lavish to cover the scandal underlying it, and Blanca cries throughout the proceedings. Clara mollifies her by telling her that she knows Pedro Tercero is alive.
Both Jaime and Nícolas disappoint their father in different ways. Jaime becomes saintly, wanting no possessions save his numerous books and resolving to help those less fortunate. Nícolas involves himself in the scandalous habits of dancing, drinking, and doing drugs, and spends most of his time with Amanda. Jaime is in love with Amanda, but is too good at heart to attempt to steal her from his brother. Amanda herself is an orphan and the sole caregiver of her younger brother, Miguel. Clara helps get the boy into school and tries to look after both sister and brother. The narrator tells us that someday Amanda will have to give her life for Miguel.
When Esteban Trueba is elected Senator of the Republic, he and Clara come to a mild reconciliation. She still refuses to speak to him, but attends social and political functions with him to keep up appearances. At the same time, Pedro Tercero García finally regains his will to survive and overthrow political conservatism. He moves to the capital, where he continues to sing revolutionary folk songs and gather support for his cause. Back at "the big house on the corner," Nícolas tries to build a giant balloon in hopes of finding fame and fortune, but his attempt fails. After the din dies down, he goes looking for Amanda, who has disappeared. He is surprised to find her living in poverty with Miguel, because previously he had never visited her home nor suspected her financial situation. Amanda is pregnant. After much coercing (and out of his secret love for Amanda), Jaime agrees to perform an abortion on her. He has never performed any procedure, much less surgical - and much less alone - but he succeeds. While Nícolas is weak and useless in the face of the abortion, Jaime cares for Amanda heroically. Amanda and Miguel move into "the big house on the corner," and become part of the daily life there.
Chapter 8 - The Count
This chapter focuses on the beginning of Blanca and Jean de Satigny's marriage. Despite the uncomfortable and loveless circumstances of their union, the pair work well together. They are financially comfortable, and Jean does not wish to have sex with his wife, much to her relief. They move far north to hide Blanca's pregnancy from public view, and settle in a large mansion, where Blanca is quite uncomfortable among the Indian servants and strange, ostentatious decorations. She begins to hallucinate. Jean has a photography studio that he forbids Blanca to enter. He begins a business hiring Indians to excavate Incan tombs in the desert and selling the artifacts found there illegally. After several hallucinations that the mummies Jean traffics through the house are crawling around the rooms, Blanca decides to take action: after making sure that she is alone, she breaks into Jean's photography studio. There she finds the products of his obsession: photographs of the indigenous servants posed naked with each other and strange props. Blanca is shocked beyond belief, but suddenly understands that her husband is not "inclined to married life" because his sexual outlet is this strange, kinky private life. She also suspects that he is having a gay relationship with his most faithful male servant. At that moment, Blanca goes into labor. Unwilling to have her child born in the household that has been making a mockery of her, she hurries to the train station, where she waits for the train home.
Chapters 7 and 8 revolve around two major scandalous pregnancies, Blanca's and Amanda's. The pregnancies are handled very differently because of the nature of their conception. While Blanca's baby is illegitimate, it is conceived in the most passionate of love affairs and wanted very much by its mother. For this reason - among others - she never considers an abortion, and the greatest pains are taken to ensure that the scandal does not mar Senator Trueba's name. Amanda's baby is also illegitimate, but is conceived in an immature, although frantic, love affair. Amanda acknowledges that she and Nícolas do not love one another enough to keep the child, nor does she think Nícolas mature enough to take on the role of father. For these reasons, the couple opts for an abortion, bringing us back to the theme of violence and suffering.
Although Jaime is the gentlest of doctors, the abortion is an act of violence visited upon both fetus and mother, and quickly destroys the relationship between the baby's would-be parents. Not only the abortion itself, but the circumstances surrounding it remind us how love can result in pain, and how pain can discourage love's growth. Jaime loves Amanda, but is forbidden to have her because of his greater love for his brother. He can express his love for Amanda only in the necessarily violent language of surgery, and in helping her recover. Jaime's forbidden love for Amanda torments him just as Blanca's love for Pedro Tercero torments her.
In contrast with the other characters' passionate love affairs, Blanca and Jean de Satigny's marriage is frigid and stunted. It is the first in a series of events that turn Blanca's life into a hard and unremarkable one until her escape to Canada with Pedro Tercero. Blanca finds herself trapped, although to her relief, Jean does not want to have sex with her. He pays her virtually no attention and conducts a secret life that he forbids her to bear witness to. The awkwardness and silence of their relationship is echoed in the bizarre atmosphere of the house. The servants seem subversive, mocking, even violent; Blanca thinks she sees mummies roaming the house. The mood at the house is so bizarre that the reader may begin to wonder whether Blanca is indeed hallucinating everything, but when she discovers Jean de Satigny's secret, we are reminded of Allende's message that reality itself is sometimes beyond explanation.
Ironically, the discovery of her husband's infidelity and gay identity are sources of great relief for Blanca. Like her mother and grandmother before her, Blanca is concerned above all with her daughter's well-being. She would rather endure the terrible discomfort of traveling back home while in labor than give birth to Alba in a house that has disgraced her. "The big house on the corner" is not only a center of life in this family's history, but a haven for life. It is where Amanda can be safely nursed back to health and the only place Blanca sees fit to introduce her beloved Alba to life outside the womb. As a symbolic gesture, Blanca's return to the house reminds us that even though she is not spiritual like her mother, she is part of her family's courageous maternal line. It is only appropriate for her to welcome this line's newest descendent within the walls of the family house.