Skip over navigation

Bel Canto

Ann Patchett

Chapter Eight

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight, page 2

page 1 of 2


Hosokawa sits in the sitting room with General Benjamin and plays chess. This has become a routine of theirs. Hosokawa thinks about how much his life has changed. The things that used to be important to him, like his business and his family, no longer seem to matter. He thinks about the fondness he feels for the general. He thinks about how wonderful it is to listen to Coss sing for hours every day, and to sit near her and laugh with her. It would be impossible to explain to the rest of the world how happy he is.

Messner arrives, but General Benjamin does not want to stop playing chess. Coss escorts Messner out. Messner tells Coss that because of her captivity, she has become so famous that she could double or even triple her price for performances if she is freed. This news thrills Coss. The narrator tells us that Messner has come to be fond of the terrorists. He knows they are bound to lose the standoff with the government and wishes the terrorists could escape through the air conditioner vents, the way they came in.

Iglesias walks into the sitting room where Ishmael, a young terrorist, is playing chess. General Benjamin expresses pride in the boy’s intelligence. In the hall, Iglesias offers the general a bottle of antibiotics. Iglesias had taken the antibiotics after General Alfredo struck him in the face with his gun, and now he offers them as a salve for the shingles that rage across General Benjamin’s face. Skeptical, the general asks if he can trust the vice president. Iglesias swallows one of the pills to show he means well.

Back in the main room, Father Arguedas is hearing confessions. Oscar Mendoza, the businessman and friend of Iglesias, tells the priest he dreams that boys are having sex with his daughters, and that he returns home and kills them all. What he wants more than absolution is the reassurance that his daughters are safe. Next, Beatriz confesses. She confesses not because her sins weigh on her but because she is bored and irritable, and because she likes the attention and kindness she gets from Father Arguedas. Though she does not plan to stop sinning—the generals wouldn’t allow it, and anyway, she doesn’t want to—she likes the idea of a cycle of sinning and forgiveness. Father Arguedas tells her that as part of her repentance, she has to try to be kind for a day. She agrees to try.

That afternoon, Watanabe and Carmen meet and embrace. Watanabe relays a request from Coss: she wants Carmen to bring Hosokawa to her that night. If Carmen agrees to help Coss, she risks losing the trust of the generals, her place in the organization, and maybe her life. But Coss has been kind to her, sometimes even braiding her hair as a mother or sister would, and she wishes to return that kindness. She agrees to help.

That night, when everyone else is asleep, Carmen takes Hosokawa to Coss’s room. As they pass through one of the rooms, Beatriz sees them and points her gun at Hosokawa. Carmen explains the situation and begs Beatriz not to tell. Beatriz, who was asleep on duty, would get in trouble if Carmen reported her. She also remembers that she told the priest she would try to be kind for the day. She agrees not to tell.

More Help

Previous Next

Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!

Follow Us