Sir Thomas, inspired by William’s comment that he has never seen Fanny dance, decides to throw a ball before William leaves. Mrs. Norris suggests instead a ball when Maria and Julia return at Christmas, but Sir Thomas rejects that idea. Edmund, William, and Fanny are all excited. Mrs. Norris insists on putting herself at the center of the ball’s organization, and the ball is set for the last day of William’s visit.
Sir Thomas shows his newfound generosity towards Fanny by throwing her a ball. He goes against the advice of Mrs. Norris, who is still trying to keep up class distinctions and proposes waiting until Maria and Julia are home so they can steal the spotlight from Fanny.
Fanny worries over her dress. William has bought her a cross that she would like to wear, but she has no gold chain to wear it with, and so she frets that she will have to put it on a ribbon instead.
Though Fanny has been coming up in the family’s esteem, she still lacks the financial resources to buy jewelry like her cousins.
Edmund, meanwhile, is preoccupied by his impending ordainment, and the fact that he has decided for certain that he would like to marry Mary. He worries that Mary, who has expressed her dislike for his profession and the countryside, will not feel the same. A proposal would also be time sensitive, since Mary is about to leave Mansfield to visit with a friend in London. Edmund worries about the ball and how he will interact with his sweetheart.
Edmund’s anxiety over a potential proposal to Mary and their interactions at the ball shows how their relationship, which is so uncertain, lacks communication. Again, Mary’s preference for the city and her disdain for the clergy—essentially, her dislike of major aspects of who Edmund is as a person—continues to be a problem for them.
The day before the ball, Fanny decides to go to the Parsonage to consult Mrs. Grant and Mary about her dress. She runs into Mary outside and the two of them go up to Mary’s room. They decide on Fanny’s dress, but Mary asks what Fanny will do for a necklace. Mary, knowing that Fanny intends to wear William’s cross, but that she has no chain for it, tells Fanny to pick one of Mary’s own gold chains as a gift so she will have something to wear. Fanny tries to decline, saying the gift is too valuable.
Mary, who knows that Fanny needs a chain for William’s cross, gives her one, in what seems to be a very kind, unselfish gesture. The chain in some ways represents Fanny’s initiation into the luxury of upper class society. Fanny continues to be uncomfortable with that identity, however, and she tries to decline the gift.
Mary, however, insists, and Fanny at last chooses the gold chain that she thinks is the plainest and least expensive. Fanny does not like being indebted to Mary, but she is very grateful nonetheless. She tells Mary she will think of her when she wears the necklace, and Mary says that she must think of Henry as well, since he gave her the necklace in the first place. Fanny, horrified to take someone else’s gift, tries to give it back, but Mary protests, and at last Fanny keeps it. Fanny, however, wonders whether Henry might have had a hand in Mary offering her the necklace.
Fanny’s choice of the plainest and least expensive-looking chain shows her discomfort with the valuable jewelry. When Mary then tells her that the chain was given to her by Henry, Fanny suspects that Henry is trying to manipulate her into thinking well of him. Henry’s elaborate gestures and trickery continue to make Fanny wary, since she still believes he is not sincere in his affection.