The party arrives at Sotherton and is given the tour by Mr. Rushworth and his mother. Miss Crawford is bored; Fanny is entranced in the magnificent home. The group enters the chapel where Mary Crawford learns that Edmund will take orders soon. The party moves outside and is shown the ‘wilderness’ where the party separate into groups as they advance. Mary Crawford taunts Edmund about his choice of profession and proclaims that clergymen are nothing. Edmund rebukes her criticism stating that they are “the arbiters of good-breeding, the regulators of refinement and courtesy, the masters of the ceremonies of life“. Fanny agrees. They walk on and Fanny is tired and sits on a bench at Edmunds urgence. Edmund and Mary walk on together and leave Fanny to rest.
Patiently, Fanny waits a long while wondering where Edmund and Mary are? Maria, Henry and Mr. Rushworth appear to find Fanny alone. Maria and Henry wish to proceed through a locked gate. Mr. Rushworth goes for the key. Impatient, Henry and Maria transverse the gate, much to Fanny’s concern who is left to her solitude. Julia is miffed to arrive and find only Fanny waiting at the gate. Fanny explains. Julia impatient to find Henry and Maria scrambles over the gate in pursuit. Mr. Rushworth arrives with the key. Fanny anxiously explains. He is vexed, takes a seat, and gloomily questions Fanny on her opinion of Henry Crawford, all the while dishing him himself. Miffed, Mr. Rushworth uses the key to pursue Maria and Henry. One hour passes. Fanny waits no longer and searches to find Edmund and Mary enjoying each other’s company. All return to the house and Fanny observes gloom on the face of Mr. Rushworth and Julia and glee on Maria and Henry’s.
The visit concludes with an evening drive back to Mansfield, the carriage loaded down with parcels of goods that Aunt Norris had sponged from her gracious hostess.
Sir Thomas will return home from Antigua in November but his return is not happily anticipated by his daughters, especially Maria, who will marry upon his return. Mary Crawford views Maria’s marriage and Edmund taking orders as a sacrifice to the god’s for Sir Thomas’s safe return! She continues to bait Edmund on his choice of profession claiming clergymen have nothing to do but be “slovenly and selfish-read the newspaper, watch the weather, and quarrel with his wife.” Fanny and Edmund do not agree, but Edmund is besotted with Mary all the same. Fanny and Edmund gaze out a window and reflect on the harmony and rapture of the stars, until Edmund is pulled back into Mary’s grasp.
It is near to August and the hunting season draws Tom home from Antigua. Others continue their own version of romantic hunting as well. Mary Crawford is amused by Tom’s attentions, but now prefers the other brother. Mr. Crawford returns to his estate Everingham which makes life dull for the Bertram sisters, but is soon drawn back by want of their charms. Fanny thinks Henry is keen on the wrong Bertram sister. Edmund sees no favour, so Fanny corrects her thinking. Everyone else thinks Henry is keen on Julia.
Tom Bertram’s friend The Hon. Mr. Yates arrives with the design of putting on a private theatrical at Mansfield Park. Tom is all for it, but Edmund vehemently apposes thinking that it would be highly injudicious in his father’s absence and with Maria’s delicate situation (her being engaged and under scrutiny until the marriage). Edmund and Tom bicker over the decorum, logistics and expense. Tom is determined. Edmund will not act and attempts to dissuade his sisters from doing so also. They do not see the harm and do not agree. The scheme advances, as opposition was in vain, and no objection was made by anyone but Edmund and Fanny.
Which play shall they do? No one can agree. The carpenter begins construction on the stage, and curtains are being sewn by the housemaids. Still no play. All the best plays are run over; Hamlet, Macbeth, The School for Scandal etc and nothing will suit all. Everyone is growing weary from indecision. Lovers’ Vows is accepted. Three male characters are cast immediately. Wait! There are two female parts and three ladies. Julia and Maria cleverly spar for the parts of Agatha and Amelia, as they are the best. Tom and Mr. Yates are determined that Miss Crawford is best suited for Amelia and Maria as Agatha. Julia, miffed by the slight, quits the play. Maria immediately departs for the parsonage to entreat Mary Crawford to accept the part. Fanny, silently observes the fray, and then reads the play to discover how unsuitable the two female parts are for genteel ladies and hopes that when Edmund discovers their choice, will intervene.
Mary Crawford will be Amelia. Indecisive Mr. Rushworth lets Maria select the part of Count Cassel for him. Mr. Rushworth breaks the news to Edmund that they have selected the play Lovers’ Vows. He shall wear a pink cloak and have two-and-forty speeches! Edmund thinks the content of the play “exceedingly unfit” for private performance and entreats his sister Maria to take the lead in propriety and reconsider. She will not retract her consent as “everything is too far settled.” Lady Bertam is ambivalent and Mrs. Norris takes Maria’s lead as to its suitability, only concerned for the waste of expense that has already been expended if the play should not be put on. A heavy cloud descends on the party until Mary and Henry Crawford’s arrival to complement all on their excellent choice. Mary questions which gentleman she will “have the pleasure of making love too?” Who will be Anholt? Will Edmund take the part? Even Mary can not convince him. Tom recruits Fanny to be Cottager’s wife. No! She will not act. Phoo, phoo you shall. Aunt Norris reproaches Fanny for being unobliging and ungrateful to her cousins “considering who and what she is” and insists she take the part. Edmund intercedes in her defense. Fanny cries. Mary consoles her. Who will be Anholt?
Fanny, agitated and shocked retreats to her room to reflect on the attack by her cousin. Is she obstinate and ungrateful? Fanny’s private world consists of her small white attic and a room previously used as a school room that nobody else wanted. There she has been given permission to care for plants, books and her meager, but cherished belongings with the stipulation from her Aunt Norris that she is not to have a fire. There she questions if her denial is justified in spite of the others. Should she follow Edmund’s judgment or her Aunt’s reproach? Edmund seeks Fanny’s opinion on Tom’s wish to engage a neighbor to fill the part of Anholt expressing a concern for the loss of privacy in casting outside of the family circle. According to Edmund, there is but one resolution; he will regretfully play Anholt to contain the privacy and hopefully influence the tone of the play in some way. He pleads to consider Miss Crawford being forced to act with a stranger. Will Fanny give her approbation? Fanny inwardly questions if after all of Edmund’s resistance, has he lost his good judgment over his concerns of privacy and containment, or for Miss Crawford? How could Edmund be so inconsistent?
© 2008 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose