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The House of the Spirits

Isabel Allende

Chapter Ten, The Epoch of Decline

Chapter 9, Little Alba

Chapter Ten, The Epoch of Decline, page 2

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The night Clara dies, Esteban sleeps in her bed beside her. Next to her, he notices that he has shrunk further. He feels that they are finally reconciled. Esteban arranges an elaborate funeral for Clara. He erects a mausoleum to hold Clara, Rosa the Beautiful, and himself, so that they can all be united in death. He and Jaime have to steal Rosa's body from the del Valle family plot in order to put it into the mausoleum.

After Clara's death, the big house on the corner deteriorates. The flowers that once filled it wilt and die, the building falls into disrepair, and the family members draw apart. Blanca stays in the house and tries desperately to maintain it, but the random amounts of money her father gives her for the upkeep are never enough. She can only barely keep the house from complete ruin and still has to borrow money from whomever she can.

Nicolas begins charging his spiritual students and makes enough money to rent a house for the group he names the Institute for Union with Nothingness. Esteban tolerates his son's activities until he finds that Alba has joined them in shaving her head and chanting "om." Esteban releases his fury on Nicolas, who in return shows up the next day, naked and chanting, in front of the gates of the Congress. The shock and anger give Esteban a heart attack. He recovers three weeks later and forces Nicolas to leave the country with instructions to never return. Esteban sends Nicolas enough money to support him and to keep him away.

Once Alba's hair grows back, Esteban enrolls her in a British school for girls, convinced that it is of utmost importance for her to learn English. Alba hates the school, but Esteban insists that she stay there for ten years. To ward off the nightmares that plague her after Clara's death, Alba is allowed to move into Blanca's room. Their relationship deepens, as Blanca reads to Alba from Uncle Marcos's books and tells her wild family stories each night, just as Clara had done with her.

In the senate, Esteban is convinced that the communists are gaining power in the country and must be stopped. No one takes him seriously. He is so often made fun of that he becomes quite well known and always wins his bids for re-election. After Pedro Segundo's departure and Clara's death, Tres Marias does not produce well. Esteban refuses to sell Tres Marias because of its symbolic value but pays it little attention.

Pedro Tercero continues to meet with Blanca regularly and often with Alba as well. Alba loves him but never realizes he is her father, Pedro Tercero continues to ask Blanca to come live with him, but she refuses, not wanting to give up the romantic image she has of their relationship for the mundane experience of everyday life together. Jaime and Pedro Tercero also maintain a deep friendship.

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