Mrs. Norris is extraordinarily disturbed by Maria’s scandal and the general disruption in the house due to Tom’s illness. Naturally, she is also furious that Fanny is back, and even less happy to see Susan.
Mrs. Norris has always favored Maria, and treated her much better than Fanny because of her higher class, so Maria’s mistake disturbs her.
Fanny consoles and supports Lady Bertram, who tells her exactly what happened between Maria and Henry, detailing the flirtation that led up to their escape together.
Maria and Henry’s affair shows that Henry did not in fact change, vindicating Fanny’s decision not to marry him.
Lady Bertram tells how, upon learning the news via letter, Sir Thomas and Edmund went to London to find Maria, but did not succeed, and a unhappy servant exposed the story to the public. Sir Thomas is extremely distressed by Maria’s scandal and Julia’s elopement (which, though a very unwelcome event, pales in comparison to Maria’s actions).
Once again, letters prove to be of central importance to the story, sometimes obscuring the truth (as Mary’s letter tried to do) and other times revealing it. That one of Maria’s servants exposed the story suggests that Maria did not treat her servants well.
Edmund does not speak to Fanny until five days after she arrives in Mansfield. Edmund tells Fanny that he went to see Mary while he was in London, where Mary expressed anger at both Henry and Maria. Her anger, though, was at the fact that they let themselves be found out, not that they had done what they did in the first place. Mary also expressed sadness that Henry had ruined his chances with Fanny as a result, but was simultaneously mad at Fanny for not marrying him earlier so the scandal could be avoided. Mary even suggested that Henry and Maria must marry in order to clear up the scandal.
Edmund at last sees Mary as Fanny sees her: someone who, although pleasant and beautiful, has been corrupted by her environment and her upbringing in the Admiral’s household. Mary’s suggestion that Henry and Maria should get married to cover up their mistake shows yet another way that the institution of marriage could be abused as a convenient social tool, rather than a true love match.
Edmund is so disgusted by Mary blaming Fanny, and her focus on the detection of the affair and covering it up rather than the affair itself, that he gives up on Mary once and for all. Edmund tells Mary that his romantic interest in her is over, and though Mary tries to detain him, he leaves. Fanny and Edmund discuss the faults of Mary a while longer before Lady Bertram interrupts them.
Mary’s anger that Henry and Maria were discovered, not that they committed adultery in the first place, shows Edmund how Mary favors the appearance and manners of morality and goodness, but does not care about morality and goodness when no one is watching.