Henry Crawford’s surprise visit to Fanny in Portsmouth unsettles Fanny’s reserve. Introduced only as William’s friend, he does not allude to Mrs. Price his real reason for being there. He, Fanny and Susan walk through Portsmouth and soon meet Mr. Price in high spirits, which horrifies and embarrasses Fanny. As they tour the dockyards, Henry informs Fanny of his business at his estate, and how he met his tenants, some for the first time, all for her benefit to show his charity and change in nature. Fanny is repulsed, but notices an improved change in his manner. He tells Fanny privately that he is there to see her, and for no other reason. Mr. Price invites Henry to dine with them, but thankfully, he declines by prior engagement. Fanny is relieved not to have him at family table.
Henry Crawford appears again at the Price’s door and attends Sunday service with them. As they walk after church on the ramparts, he expresses concern for Fanny’s return to Mansfield and her diminished health. “She requires constant air and exercise.” Being overly attentive, he implores if she feels unwell, she must inform his sister and he will come and take her to Mansfield. He asks for her opinion on his business matters. She decline, “We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.” Henry departs for a meal with a friend at the inn. Fanny dines with her family, but can not tolerate the unpalatable food. Sir Thomas’ plan may starve Fanny instead of cure her. Fanny is very low, and reflects on the small changes in Henry, an his continued attentions.
Fanny receives a chatty letter from Mary Crawford about her London parties and connections informing her of her cousin Maria’s successful party, Edmund being approved by the society ladies, and Henry’s desire to go to Norfolk to act on her advice! Fanny dissects the letter and is ashamed of Mary. She only values material things; a house in town, parties and praise from society. She is alarmed that Henry and Maria Rushworth will be meeting again. Fanny longs for a letter from Edmund. Susan and Fanny continue their reading and Fanny is pleased with her interest and progress, regretting leaving her behind when she returns to Mansfield. If she had her own home, she could offer her refuge. Henry is genteel and obliging. Would he agree?
A long letter from Edmund finally arrives discussing Mary Crawford, and the changes he sees in her from the influence of Mrs. Fraser a cold-hearted, vain woman who married for convenience whose association has altered Mary for the worse. He sees the differences between what she wants (money) and what he can offer more acutely. But, “She is the only woman in the world whom I could ever think of as a wife.” At a party, he witnesses Henry and Maria together. Her cool indifference confirmed Fanny’s story of the extent of their previous involvement. Mansfield is now lonely without her, and her uncle can not fetch her until after Easter. She is missed. Her aunt talks of her every hour. Fanny reflects on the missive and wants Edmund to “Fix, commit, condemn yourself ” in regard to Mary. Lady Bertram writes to inform Fanny that Tom is gravely ill with fever in Newmarket, and Edmund departs to attend him and brings him home shortly after. Lady Bertram keeps Fanny informed of the events of his serious illness with daily letters. Susan is Fanny’s only support, as her mother shows not enough interest to even trouble to write to her sister.
Fanny receives word from Lady Bertram that Tom is improving. Edmund clarifies that his fever has broken, but they are apprehensive of his lungs and his improvement is alarming slow. Easter comes and goes. It is now April, three months in Portsmouth and no word of her return to Mansfield from Sir Thomas. Fanny longs to be home, but in delicacy to her parents, does not speak of Mansfield as if it is her home. Fanny is amazed that Tom’s sisters Maria and Julia do not return to visit their brother Tom. Fanny receives a letter from Mary Crawford after a long wait. She wants all the particulars of Tom’s illness from Mansfield, and relays the benefit of there being a new ‘Sir’ if Edmund should succeed as Baronet. Through Mary, Henry offers to retrieve Fanny and they all return to Mansfield. Fanny is disgusted by her attitudes, and reluctant to bring her and Edmund back together. Fanny replies and declines the offer of transport, owing to her uncle’s authority.
Fanny receives a cryptic second letter from Mary that is all business. She warns her of a rumor, that she is certain Henry is innocent of. Fanny is uncertain what it all means. No further word from Mary, but Mr. Price reads of the scandal in the newspaper and relays it to Fanny! Mrs. Rushworth has run off with Mr. Crawford, and it is not known whither they have gone. At first, Fanny does not want to believe it, but pieces the facts together from Mary’s letter and changes her mind. Two days pass and no further word from Mary or Mansfield. Edmund writes having returned to Mansfield. No trace of the couple can be found, adding further bad news. Julia and Mr. Yates have eloped to Scotland, though this deed is a trifle in comparison. It also informs her that Sir Thomas requests her return and to bring Susan. Edmund arrives two days later brings a happy reunion, “My Fanny, my only sister; my only comfort now!” Edmund, Fanny and Susan depart for Mansfield with little regret of leaving Portsmouth. Edmund is sullen and silent on the journey. Fanny and Susan are anxious for different reasons; Susan for her country manners and Fanny for the unpleasant moods she will find there.
Of the three still at Mansfield, Mrs. Norris is taking the bad news the hardest and blames Fanny for Henry and Maria’s folly. If she had married him, this would not have happened. Lady Bertram is happy to have her Fanny back at Mansfield and comforted by her care. She is resolved that she has lost a daughter and gained a disgrace never to be wiped off. Fanny learns the history of Maria and Henry’s indiscretion and exit through Lady Bertram and her husband’s letters from London. It appears that Mrs. Rushworth (senior), in deference to her not approving of her daughter-in-law’s behavior, spread the news to support her position. The other Bertram sister not much better off, “Julia was yet as more pardonable than Maria as folly than vice. ” Fanny feels for Sir Thomas as every child but Edmund is racking at his heart. Edmund finally talks to Fanny of Mary and relays his shock that she blamed the folly on it’s being public, not the offense. Mary blames Fanny for Henry’s actions. If she had married him, it would not have happened. The charm of Mary is now broken for Edmund. He sees her faults, still blaming them on others who have been her unprincipled example, but can not forgive her. He is done with her, and clings to Fanny’s friendship.
Fanny is now returned to Mansfield, useful, beloved, and safe from Henry. Edmund is no longer the dupe of Miss Crawford. Sir Thomas reflects on his faulty parenting and hoped time would mend the beaches. Little hope of that for Maria, but Julia and Mr. Yates are forgiven, Tom sensible from his illness and everything that he ought to be to his parents, and Edmund improved in spirits. Henry will not marry Maria and they mutually separate. Mr. Rushworth procures an easy divorce and will try to marry again. Sir Tomas will not admit Maria back into his fold. Mrs. Norris in support of her favorite leaves Mansfield to reside with her in another county, where it is “reasonably supposed that their tempers became their mutual punishment“. Everyone is happy to see her go. Henry regrets his involvement with Maria because it meant the end of his future with Fanny. Dr. Grant is promoted to Westminster and they leave Mansfield to reside in London with Mary again. Edmund “thinks it impossible that he should ever meet with such a woman again” then realizes he has a better woman in his midst. Susan takes Fanny’s place assisting her aunt. With Sir Thomas’ blessing, Fanny and Edmund marry and reside near their family in the Mansfield parsonage, vacated by the Grants and the ghosts of former residents.
© 2008 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose