Twenty minutes go by and Fanny is still sitting on the bench, surprised to be left for so long. Maria, Mr. Rushworth, and Henry stumble upon her. Fanny explains her exhaustion and Edmund and Mary’s abandonment. Maria, Mr. Rushworth, and Henry sit down on the bench as well. They discuss the improvements Henry suggests, with Mr. Rushworth complacently agreeing to everything he mentions.
Fanny, sad and surprised to be left behind, observes the dynamic between Henry, Maria, and Mr. Rushworth. When the narrative juxtaposes the two men, Henry clearly is more dynamic and charismatic, making Maria’s interest in Henry somewhat understandable.
Maria says she would like to go through the iron gate into the park. Everyone agrees, and they decide to go to a knoll that they spot, that looks like it’s about a half mile away. Mr. Rushworth, however, has forgotten the key to the gate, and so he heads back to the house to get it.
Mr. Rushworth clearly cares about Maria, as he walks all the way back to the house to get the gate key so she can fulfill her wish. (And notably, he wants to go through the iron gate, which comes to represent marriage and social propriety, the “proper” way.)
With Mr. Rushworth gone, Maria and Henry discuss his thoughts on the house. Henry says it is bigger and grander than he expected, and then whispers that next summer he imagines he would not enjoy it as much. Maria is embarrassed, and replies with her doubts, which Henry protests.
Maria and Henry, meanwhile, linger in front of the gate, and Henry flirts heavily with Maria while Fanny silently observes the dangerous behavior.
There is a silence between them, and then Maria comments that Henry seemed to enjoy driving with Julia that morning. Henry says he does not even remember, and then recollects that he was telling her a story about an uncle’s servant, and that she loves to laugh. Maria asks if he finds Julia more light-hearted than herself, and Henry replies that she is more easily amused. Maria replies that, unlike Julia, she has more important things to think of, and Henry agrees, but thinks Maria should smile more anyway, since she has a lot to smile about. Maria agrees, but mentions that the iron gate is making her feel trapped.
Maria tests Henry’s interest in Julia by commenting on their ride together, and Henry confirms his lack of interest in Julia by first implying that the trip was not memorable, and second describing Julia in a way that, although seemingly complimentary, makes Julia seem like she is not especially interesting. Maria’s comment about the iron gate is a metaphor for how she feels that the institution of marriage is stifling to her.
Henry proposes that they jump the fence instead of waiting for the key. Maria agrees. Henry says that even if they are out of sight before he returns, Fanny can tell him where they’ve gone. Fanny protests that Maria will hurt herself climbing the fence, but as she is speaking Maria and Henry take off.
Henry and Maria jump over the iron gate, metaphorically representing their later moral transgression when Maria leaves her marriage to Mr. Rushworth to be with Henry, resulting in her social ruin.
Fanny, alone again, is annoyed that Henry and Maria would do something so bold. She thinks sadly of Edmund and Mary, who seem to have forgotten her. Suddenly, Fanny hears footsteps, and Julia approaches, asking where everyone is. Fanny explains where Maria and Henry have gone, and Julia decides to try to catch up to them.
Fanny finds herself, as usual, observing the romances and transgressions of her cousins. Julia, lagging behind the group, is like Fanny—also often left outside these romantic dynamics.
Fanny suggests that Julia should wait for Mr. Rushworth to arrive with the key, but Julia says that she has “had enough” of the Rushworths, having spent so much time with Mrs. Rushworth that morning. Fanny asks if Julia has at least seen Mr. Rushworth on her way from the house. Julia tells her she did, and that he was in a rush to get the key. Julia then jumps the fence and walks away.
Julia, frustrated by having to spend time with the older women instead of the young people, decides to follow Maria and Henry over the fence, foreshadowing how, at the end of the book, Maria’s transgression triggers Julia’s own elopement with Mr. Yates.
Five minutes after Julia leaves, Mr. Rushworth shows up, and when Fanny explains that the others have not waited for him, he is upset. He stands before the gate, unsure of whether to cross. He says that by the time he would get to the knoll, they would likely already be gone, and sits down. Fanny does her best to console him.
Mr. Rushworth, who has been left behind, goes unconsidered by Maria and the others not just now, but also throughout the book as Maria pursues a romance with Henry.
Mr. Rushworth asks Fanny if she likes Henry as much as everyone else seems to, saying that he does not understand the appeal. Fanny says she does not think he is handsome, and Mr. Rushworth agrees, saying they were better off without the Crawfords. Fanny continues to try to sooth Mr. Rushworth’s hurt feelings, then tries to encourage him to catch up with Maria, Julia, and Henry. At last Mr. Rushworth agrees and sets off, going through the gate with his key and walking away.
Mr. Rushworth clearly views Henry as a threat to his marriage to Maria, since he brings him up only to criticize him. Although Mr. Rushworth hesitates, he ultimately follows the others through the gate, showing how Mr. Rushworth’s pursuit of Maria, despite his awareness that she does not love him, puts him also at fault for their unhappy marriage.
Fanny turns her thoughts back to Mary and Edmund, and decides to go look for them. She finds them mid-laughter, having just crossed back into the woods. Fanny, whose romantic feelings for Edmund are by now fairly established, is upset that they had forgotten her.
Yet again, Fanny is upset to have been forgotten by Edmund as he tries to woo Mary. By now, Fanny’s romantic love for Edmund is quite clear, rendering the slight even more painful.
On their way back toward the house, they run into Mrs. Rushworth and Mrs. Norris, who are just arriving to the woods. Mrs. Norris has enjoyed her time at the house so far because she has received cheese from Mrs. Rushworth and a heath plant from the gardener. They all return to the house to lounge in the salon and wait for the others to return.
As usual, the narrator shows Mrs. Norris’s conniving, materialistic nature by describing how she enjoyed her time with Mrs. Rushworth simply because she received several gifts from her and members of the staff.
Maria, Julia, Henry, and Mr. Rushworth return late. Things are still a little tense because Maria did not wait for her fiancé at the gate, and Julia and Mr. Rushworth seem gloomy. Henry and Maria are more spirited.
The iron gate debacle has clearly upset the scorned Julia and embarrassed Mr. Rushworth. Henry and Maria, meanwhile, are invigorated by their adventure.
They all have dinner together, and then everyone loads back into the carriage for the drive back. Mrs. Norris settles in with all her gifts from Mrs. Rushworth and her staff. Henry suggests that Julia sit with him again up front, much to Julia’s delight and Maria’s disappointment. Mr. Rushworth says goodbye to Maria, helping her into the carriage.
Henry, despite the fact that he has been acting as if he is most interested in Maria, now returns to paying attention to Julia instead. His continuously noncommittal behavior shows his resistance to the restrictions of marriage and his naturally flirtatious, manipulative nature.
As they drive away, Mrs. Norris comments that it was a good day for Fanny, and that she expects her to be grateful as a result. Maria makes a snarky comment about how Mrs. Norris has left with so many presents and is taking up so much carriage space with them. Mrs. Norris prattles on about where she got each of her gifts. When she is done, the carriage is quiet.
Mrs. Norris’s hypocrisy strikes again when she says that Fanny should be grateful for being allowed to come with them due to her lower status, and then brags about each of the gifts she received from Mrs. Rushworth.