Study Guide

The House of the Spirits Chapter 8

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Chapter 8

The Count

  • Blanca and Clara write each other tons of letters while Blanca is living in the North with her new husband, the Count Jean de Satigny.
  • When she reads Blanca's first letter, Clara can tell that Blanca won't be gone for long. She sets up a bedroom for her daughter and puts a cradle in it.
  • Blanca is still in love with Pedro Tercero, and knows she'll never consummate her marriage to Jean de Satigny.
  • Jean has no intentions of having sex with Blanca, either. He explains to her that he's not interested in married life, and that they can live together without being intimate. Blanca is relieved. Jean acts like a brother to her.
  • The next day, Jean goes clothes shopping with the cash that Esteban Trueba gave them as a wedding present. Blanca gets bored waiting for him and takes a cab to her parents' house. Esteban is furious and says that people are going to think her husband sent her home because she wasn't a virgin on her wedding night. Blanca reminds him that she wasn't a virgin on her wedding night.
  • Jean and Blanca take an English ocean liner to the farthest northern province in the country, and Jean finds an ancient mansion to rent. His decorating style seems a little exotic to Blanca.
  • Jean hires several Indians to take care of the house, and dresses them up in gaudy uniforms. Blanca thinks they look "like costumes from an operetta" (8.16).
  • Blanca is uncomfortable in the mansion, and thinks that the servants dislike her.
  • One day Blanca notices that one of the servants has his feet stuck in a pair of antique shoes with twisted high heels and velvet laces. Clara responds in a letter that Blanca must be seeing things.
  • On another occasion, Blanca finds a small, dead lizard on her dinner plate, and suspects that the cook put it there intentionally, and with her husband's knowledge.
  • Jean designates a section of the house as his private photo lab, and asks Blanca never to enter without permission. He locks the door and carries the key with him everywhere he goes.
  • Blanca spends most of her time knitting and preparing for the baby's arrival.
  • Jean socializes, gambles at the local casino, buys antiques, and spends money on expensive imported liqueurs. He and Blanca only argue when she tries to look into their finances. So Blanca gives up and lets Jean spend their money however he sees fit.
  • Blanca feels pretty apathetic about everything. She lies around the house a lot, and doesn't do much. At one point she does try making her clay crèches again, but decides she can't compete with the beautiful Indian pottery of the region, so she gives it up.
  • Jean develops an illegal business that involves trafficking Incan relics. He organizes teams of Indians to dig up antiquities and smuggles them out of the country.
  • Every once in a while Jean's team of diggers unearth a mummy. The mummies remain in the house for weeks at a time until arrangements can be made to smuggle them abroad. Blanca is afraid of the mummies, and has dreams and hallucinations that they're walking around the house.
  • Blanca decides to spy on the mummies, and becomes convinced that she can hear them scurrying down the halls towards Jean de Satigny's secret photo labs.
  • Blanca tells Jean about the noises of the mummies, and he freezes. He attempts to convince her that she's just imagining things, but his overreaction makes Blanca suspicious.
  • That night Blanca decides to follow the mummies. She sees a tiny, crouched figure moving down the hall at midnight and follows it to Jean de Satigny's secret rooms. When she presses her ear to the door, she hears mysterious moans and becomes convinced that "something atrocious [is] going on in her husband's secret den" (8.29).
  • The next day Blanca waits for her husband to leave for his morning walk. She then sends the servants out on an errand and sneaks into Jean's photo lab, using a big knife to pry open the door.
  • The room is filled not only with photography equipment, but also with trunks full of costumes, a trapeze, a stuffed llama, and other exotic-looking objects. The walls are covered in erotic photographs of the household servants.
  • Blanca is "overcome with horror," and decides she has to flee the house before her baby can be born in that sordid environment (8.36). She packs a bag and waits for a train to take her to her parents' house.

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