As for Captain Tiago, he is happy and relieved to see that nobody pays him much attention during these turbulent times. Unlike many of his friends—whom the Captain General orders to live in government buildings for several days—he is permitted to remain in his home. While his acquaintances undergo close investigations, he is left alone. Rumors circulate that Ibarra will be hanged. The de Espadañas return to visit Tiago again, and Doña Victorina has adopted a new way of speaking, an imitation of a southern Spanish person’s lisp—she takes this affectation so far that it’s difficult to understand what she’s saying.
Captain Tiago clearly owes his immunity to the fact that he immediately distanced himself—and his daughter—from Ibarra. Indeed, his decision to pair María Clara with Linares instead of Ibarra protected him from the fickle prejudices running throughout the community—prejudices that can quickly go from celebrating a person’s respectability to slandering that same person’s honor.
While Doña Victorina and Captain Tiago discuss plans for María Clara and Linares’s wedding, Aunt Isabel comforts her niece, telling her that marrying Linares will grant her all kinds of privileges. “Everyone will envy us, they’ll die of envy!” she says. The next night, Tiago hosts a party, where the ensign brags about the battle, portraying himself as a great hero. Indeed, he has been promoted to a commanding lieutenant. Turning his attention to Father Salví, the ensign says that he’s heard the priest is leaving San Diego. Salví acknowledges this, saying there’s nothing left for him in this town. The ensign then brags that he too is leaving because the government has called upon him to eradicate subversion in other provinces.
Aunt Isabel’s statement that the town will envy María Clara and her family if she marries Linares reveals what really matters to her: that she be coveted for her position in high society. Once again, Rizal demonstrates that the citizens of San Diego are chiefly interested in superficial notions of power and social currency. In keeping with this, the ensign brags about his bravery despite the fact that he hardly had do anything to stop the attack (since he knew of it ahead of time). He therefore invests himself not in any form of actual bravery, but in his ability to seem as if he is brave—a blatantly superficial thing to be proud of.
Overhearing a conversation about Ibarra’s fate, the lieutenant Señor Guevara angrily juts in, saying that it is only because Ibarra trusted the wrong people that he landed in such unfavorable and compromising circumstances. He casts a stern gaze at Father Salví, who turns away. Hearing this, María Clara drops the flowers she’s holding and goes perfectly still. Guevara continues by saying that the defense attorney in Ibarra’s case told him that “apart from several ambiguous lines [Ibarra] wrote to a woman before leaving for Spain, lines in which the prosecutor saw the planning and a threat against the government, and which he acknowledged were his, they couldn’t accuse him of anything.”
The letter used to condemn Ibarra is the note he sent to María Clara upon leaving for Europe (the one she read aloud to him on the terrace earlier in the novel). This is made clear by the fact that María drops the flowers upon hearing Guevara’s remark. The lines the prosecutor claimed show Ibarra was “planning” a “threat against the government” most likely come from the portion of the letter in which he writes about what his father said to him, namely that he must “sacrifice today for a useful tomorrow,” a phrase that can be construed as urging the young man to “plan” something secretive (given its forward-looking sentiment).
One of the people speaking with Señor Guevara brings up the point that one of the bandits said Ibarra was the ringleader of the rebels. Guevara dismisses this, saying that the defense attorney later “negated all that” since at a different time the same bandit said he only ever spoke to Lucas. And since Lucas was an old enemy of Ibarra’s, Guevara argues, it’s obvious Ibarra was framed. One of the people listening to Guevara asks him about the incriminating letter, wondering how it made its way into the hands of the prosecutors in court. At this, Guevara falls silent and looks meaningfully at Father Salví before leaving.
Yet again, Father Salví seems to have somehow manipulated his powerful station in order to harm Ibarra, though Rizal does not yet make clear how the priest got ahold of this incriminating letter. Regardless, his obvious involvement once more places the church at the center of an ominous situation, thereby reminding readers of the institution’s corruption and its ability to trick the government into acting on its behalf.
On his way out, Señor Guevara stoops to whisper to María Clara, who has been listening to his conversation about Ibarra. “You did well to give them the letter,” he says, “it will assure you a peaceful future.” When he’s gone, María Clara retreats to her room, feeling ill and curling up on the floor, where she says “Mother, Mother, Mother!” over and over.
In this moment, María Clara shows deep remorse for having betrayed Ibarra by parting with his letter. Realizing that she has nobody to turn to in this time of sorrow and grief, she calls out to her dead mother, a fact that highlights the fact that the people surrounding her—who claim to have her best interest in mind—offer little in the way of true help or comfort.
Finally the party ends and the house goes quiet. María Clara opens her eyes and walks onto her private patio. Perched against the railing, she sees a boat docking below. A man emerges and climbs up the patio, and she sees that it is Ibarra. Elías has freed him from prison and now he’s come to say goodbye. Before he leaves, though, María Clara tries to explain why she parted with his letter—which was used to find him guilty in court—but he isn’t interested in listening. Still, she persists, saying: “You hate me and your hatred will embitter me until I die.” Insisting that she’ll always love him, she explains, “On one of the painful nights of my suffering, a man revealed the name of my real father to me and then forbade my love for you…unless my real father would forgive the injury you have done to him.”
By saying the phrase, “…unless my real father would forgive the injury you have done to him,” María subtly reveals that her father is Fray Dámaso, since he is the only person in the novel Ibarra actually “injur[es].” This piece of information makes sense of how invested Dámaso has been in interfering with María Clara and Ibarra’s wedding, since Ibarra is the son of Dámaso’s old enemy, Don Rafael—it’s clear that it would be unbearable for him if his daughter married his foe.
Proceeding with her explanation, María Clara informs Ibarra that the man who came to her during her illness threatened to tell the public who her real father is if she didn’t give him Ibarra’s letter. Because she didn’t want to disgrace Captain Tiago or the memory of her mother, she had no choice but to comply. She knew the man was telling the truth about her father because he showed her letters that her mother wrote before dying, letters that confirmed his claims. Ibarra forgives María Clara for having sold him out, and before he leaves, she tells him she won’t “forget the oaths of fidelity” she’s made to him. When he asks how she plans to do this, considering that she’s engaged to Linares, she says, “The future is dark and destiny lies in the shadows!”
María Clara’s explanation finally sheds light on how the powerful Father Salví found a way to force her into endangering Ibarra. Although Rizal doesn’t specify that this “man” who came to her during “one of the painful nights of [her] suffering” was Salví, readers can intuit that it was him because of his (much) earlier question—in chapter 22—regarding whether or not María Clara had ever “dreamed about letters from [her] mother.” As such, it’s evident that the priest has been planning all along to blackmail María Clara into condemning Ibarra.