Aunt Isabel and María Clara visit church the next morning. When the service ends, María Clara promptly rushes away, ignoring her aunt’s scolding for her disrespectful exit. At home, the family decides that she will move to San Diego. At this point, Ibarra arrives, discusses his engagement to María Clara with Captain Tiago, and then goes onto the terrace to speak privately with the young woman herself. Together they talk about the time they’ve been away from one another, and María Clara explains that she has been in the convent since he left. She lightly challenges him, trying to discern if he’s been faithful to her before coming to believe that she has been the only woman on his mind these past seven years.
In contrast to Captain Tiago’s false piety—which is primarily fueled by his riches—Aunt Isabel shows herself to be a genuinely religious woman who invests herself in the importance of attending church, though even she appears to adhere to the notion that social appearances factor into spirituality, as evidenced by her desire to linger after the church service—a desire that seems to say that being seen in church is as important as hearing the sermon.
To further convince her of his fidelity, Ibarra implores María Clara to read a letter he sent her. The letter unexpectedly recounts the last interaction he had with his father, in which Ibarra’s father chastised him for not wanting to go away to school. Ibarra told Don Rafael that he loved María Clara and thus didn’t want to go to Europe. “To you, the future opens its doors, to me it closes them. Your love is being born, mine lies dying,” his father told him. “And yet you cry and cannot figure out how to sacrifice today for a useful tomorrow, for you and your country!” Hearing María Clara read these lines to him once more, Ibarra goes pale, telling her he must go because she has “made [him] forget [his] responsibilities.”
Ibarra’s statement that he has forgotten his “responsibilities” reinforces the idea that his guilt over his father’s death drives him throughout the novel in his attempt to reform the country, though at this point it’s unclear what he believes his “responsibilities” are. Nonetheless, readers can reasonably assume that these “responsibilities” have something to do with Don Rafael’s assertion that one must “sacrifice today for a useful tomorrow,” especially since the old man applies this both to Ibarra’s personal life and to the wellbeing of the country itself.