As the interaction between Mansfield and the parsonage is renewed, Sir Thomas notices that Henry has an inclination for his niece Fanny. All in the Mansfield household dine at the parsonage. After dinner, Henry teaches Fanny and Lady Bertram to play the card game speculation while the other groups play cards also. During the course of the evening, Henry relates his chance visit to Thornton Lacey which is to be Edmund’s parish upon his ordination. He shares his ideas on extensive improvements to the parsonage, and Edmund sees very few of his ideas practical or useful. Mary recommends Henry to Edmund as a judicial improver. Henry desires a residence near Mansfield and thinks with improvements that Thornton can be a fine gentleman’s residence. Sir Thomas intercedes and reminds him that an absent minister can not tend his flock and that the parsonage is the last residence he would be happy to see Henry residing in. With all this talk of Edmund and Thornton Lacy, Mary is reminded he will shortly be residing there himself and no longer at her disposal. William and Fanny talk of his hope to be a lieutenant soon, and laments that “everybody gets made but me.” William has a desire to see Fanny dance. Henry continues in his obvious attentions to Fanny.
Sir Thomas will give a ball at Mansfield in honor of Fanny and William and the the invitations are dispatched. Fanny ponders what she will wear. Edmund contemplates his ordination and matrimony. Did Mary love him enough to forgo her attachment to town, and be pious enough as a minister’s wife? The Ball approaches and Fanny seeks the advice of Mrs. Grant and Mary on what to wear. Mary offers advice and a chain for the amber cross that William has given her. Fanny is very reluctant to accept because it had previously been a gift to Mary from her brother Henry; the connection improper. Mary insists, and claims no consequence. Fanny, still uncomfortable hesitantly accepts.
Returning to Mansfield, Fanny finds Edmund waiting with a gift for her also – a chain for her cross! Grateful but agitated, she informs Edmund of Mary’s gift. Should she return it? Absolutely no! She must wear it in consideration of one whose attentions have been to kind to her. He would not have any conflict “between the two dearest objects I have on earth.” Fanny realizes with a stab, that Edmund is very seriously in love with Mary. He can now be nothing dearer than a friend to her. Henry invites William to London to dine with Admiral Crawford. Fanny is saddened to be robbed of so many hours in his company. Edmund returns from the parsonage to reveal that Mary has allotted him the first two dances at the ball, and then will never dance with him again! She will not dance with clergymen. Vexed by Mary’s last attempt to dissuade him from his calling, Edmund seeks solace in Fanny the kind listener explaining that Mary is not at fault for her behavior, but attributes it to her upbringing. Fanny dresses for the ball and discovers that Mary’s chain is too wide for the cross but Edmund’s chain fits perfectly, pairing two gifts from two dear people in her life.
Everyone admires Fanny’s appearance for the ball. The guests arrive and much to Fanny’s discomfort, Henry Crawford secures her first two dances. Sir Thomas instructs Fanny to lead the first dance of honor to begin the ball. Reluctant to be placed above all the other elegant ladies, she but obeys her uncle. Mary Crawford quizzes Fanny about her brother’s objective in going to town tomorrow as she can not stand that he is so secretive. Edmund and Fanny have their two dances. He is worn out from civility and happy for the peace and the luxury of silence with her. The evening affords Edmund little pleasure and he and Mary have their two dances, then part with mutual vexation. Fanny is satisfied. At 3:00 am the ball raps up and Fanny is off to bed thinking that “in spite of everything, that a ball was indeed delightful.”
William’s departure with Henry Crawford to London deeply saddens Fanny. Edmund departs for Peterborough to be ordained. Fanny has no friend to discuss the Ball with as her aunts have no interest in the deconstruction of the night’s events. Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram also feel the loss in numbers, and Mansfield is now quite and lonely with their reduced group. Edmund’s “two dearest ones in the world” are feeling his departure to be ordained for opposite reasons; Fanny is relieved, and Mary in pain. Mary feels contrite over the heated words that she and Edmund shared on their departure. Mary quizzes Fanny on Edmund’s affairs. Are there any other young ladies? Fanny does not know. She continues fishing for information and assurances that she will be missed when she shortly leaves for London herself.
Henry arrives from London in good spirits still closed mouthed about why he went. After visiting with Fanny and Lady Bertram, Henry informs Mary that he is determined to marry Fanny Price! He gushes about her beauty and charms like a man besotted with love. Mary supports his choice, but concedes that Fanny is getting the better end of the bargain by marrying up. Mary question what will Mrs. Rushworth and Julia say? He cares not since they have treated Fanny so abominably. Mrs. Rushworth can swallow the bitter pill; he will save Fanny from their tyranny and make her happy, comfortable and safe. He will be her savior!
Henry arrives very early at Mansfield to inform Fanny that her brother William is made lieutenant! Fanny is overjoyed with the news and astonished at Henry’s part in putting his case to his uncle the Admiral. Fanny is grateful and wishes to share the news with her uncle, but Henry detains her proclaiming his love and devotion. Offering marriage, he presses an immediate answer. Fanny is horrified and begs him to stop, tearing herself away. She sees Sir Thomas and informs him of William’s promotion only. The news of Henry leaving the house is a relief to Fanny, but his return for dinner that night sets off new alarms. He arrives bearing a note from his sister who congratulates Fanny, giving her joyful consent and approval. The dinner drags on for what seems like infinity. Fanny eats very little and says near to nothing. She contemplates if Henry and his sister can be serious in his wish to marry since she has witnessed other dalliances with her cousins that came to naught. Henry entreats her to reply to Mary’s note. Complying, it is short and to the point. She thanks her for her congratulations on William’s promotion, but begs her to never speak again to her of the other matter.
Fanny hopes that her note will end Henry’s pursuit and he will go away. He does not, and appears at Mansfield early the next morning. She hides in the east room hoping to not be called for. Her uncle enters and discovers a cold room with no fire even though there is snow on the ground. Reluctantly, she reveals that it is her Aunt Norris’ doing and Sir Thomas understands conceding that her Aunt can over do. He informs her that Henry is down stairs and has asked for her hand in marriage. Much to Sir Thomas’ profound consternation, Fanny flatly refuses Henry’s proposal. He questions her reasons. Fanny is reluctant to reveal all. Anxious to save her cousins his wrath if he should discover their involvement with Henry, she holds firm and will not change her mind. Sir Thomas thinks her “Self-willed, obstinate, selfish, and ungrateful” and leaves the room to speak with Henry. Fanny is all wretchedness and misery confounded by her uncle’s alarming return to relay that Henry has gone, but asks for a brief meeting with her later. Her uncle advises a walk to quell her tears and compose her spirits. She returns to find a fire in the east room! Later after dinner, Sir Thomas calls Fanny to his room, and there finds Henry Crawford waiting for her.
© 2008 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose