Fanny returns home to put the necklace in her box in the East Room, where she finds Edmund seated and writing a letter. Edmund tells her he came to look for her, and was just writing her a note asking her to accept a gold chain that he bought her for William’s cross. He leaves the chain on the table and is about to dash out when Fanny stops him. Edmund’s gesture touches Fanny greatly, and the chain he picked is perfect for her.
When Fanny returns to find Edmund writing her a letter, and he explains that he has bought her a chain, she reacts much more happily than she did with Mary. Unlike with Mary’s chain, the gift does not embarrass Fanny, but rather touches her. It is not too fancy, showing how Edmund understands Fanny better.
Fanny then tells Edmund that Mary has just gifted her a gold chain, and she asks Edmund’s advice as to whether she should return it. Edmund insists that she must not, and tells her to wear the one that Mary has given her. He tells her he would hate it if her not wearing the necklace were to cause “the shadow of coolness between the two dearest objects” he has. Edmund then leaves.
Fanny’s proposal to return the gold chain shows her preference for Edmund’s love over Mary’s, and by extension, Henry’s. Edmund, however, does not understand this, and his sense of good manners makes him implore Fanny not to return the necklace.
Fanny is unsure of whether to be happy or sad that she is one of Edmund’s two dearest objects, considering that the other is Mary, and that this clearly means he intends to marry her. Fanny thinks Mary does not deserve Edmund, and the idea of them marrying makes her cry. Fanny reads the note he began writing her, obsessing over the handwriting and the fact that it is her only letter from him.
Edmund’s remark that Fanny and Mary are his two dearest objects puts the two women once again in competition and comparison, and proves to Fanny that Edmund wishes to marry Mary. She idolizes his letter as a physical representation of Edmund’s love.
The day of the ball arrives. Henry sends a note offering to give William a ride with him to London and inviting him to dinner with him and his uncle the Admiral. William accepts, meaning that he will have to leave Mansfield a few hours earlier. Sir Thomas approves of the idea, since he believes that meeting the Admiral might benefit William’s career.
Henry continues to try to curry favor with Fanny by using her love for her brother. Henry’s offer of dinner with the Admiral could improve William’s career, showing how important connections and high social status are to William’s rank.
Fanny is excited but nervous for the ball, which will be Fanny’s first big debut. She walks upstairs to the East Room, where she again finds Edmund, who seems upset. He tells her that he has just come from the Parsonage, where he asked Mary for the first two dances. Mary agreed, but told Edmund it was the last time he would dance with her because she will not want to dance with him once he is a clergyman.
Fanny continues to be the person that Edmund turns to when he is upset about Mary, a role that has pained Fanny for a long time. Mary’s pettiness comes out in her unwillingness to dance with Edmund as a clergyman, thinking ministers to be too lowly for her.
Edmund goes on to say that he thinks Mary is naturally good, but has been ruined by her upbringing by the Admiral and his wife. Fanny, unsure what to say, tells him she is happy to listen to him, but cannot tell him what he should do, and asks him to not tell her anything he will later regret. Edmund says he has given up the idea of marrying Mary, but then they are interrupted by a housemaid, their conversation ends, and they part ways.
Edmund’s comment that Mary has been ruined by her childhood influences suggests that not just birth, but also upbringing determines a person’s goodness. Edmund’s assertion that he is done considering marrying Mary is unreliable, however, because he reneges on this promise.
Fanny, now alone and dressing for the ball, is thrilled about Edmund’s bad news which, along with the note from Henry asking William to dine with him and the Admiral, puts her in good spirits. She tries to thread Mary’s chain through the cross, but it does not fit, and so she happily has an excuse to wear Edmund’s instead. When Lady Bertram sends up her servant to help Fanny, she finds her already dressed.
Fanny’s joy at Edmund’s rejection affirms her continued love for Edmund. The fact that Mary/Henry’s chain does not fit William’s cross, while Edmund’s does, seems to be a sign that Henry’s love would not fit Fanny right, whereas Edmund’s would, since he understands her tastes and values much better.