Tom leaves Mansfield. Mary anticipates that, with Edmund as the head of the household, their social events with the Bertrams will be much less fun.
Mary lacks enthusiasm about Edmund as a romantic partner because she likes the idea of Tom’s inheritance.
Mr. Rushworth visits Mansfield for the first time since Henry and Mary have arrived. Mr. Rushworth plans to renovate the grounds of his estate, Sotherton Court, and talks of little else. The party discusses who might be best able to help Mr. Rushworth plan the changes.
Mr. Rushworth is incredibly boring, as evidenced by the fact that he can’t talk about anything but his renovations. This emphasizes how important money was in Maria’s decision to marry him.
Mrs. Norris praises Mr. Rushworth’s wealth, commenting that she imagines he will spare no expense. She then rambles about her own improvements to the Parsonage when she lived there with Mr. Norris, including the planting of an apricot tree. Dr. Grant tells her that the tree is still there but that it bears bad fruit, which offends Mrs. Norris, who says the tree comes from a good orchard. Mrs. Grant smoothes over the awkward moment by telling Mrs. Norris that Dr. Grant hasn’t even eaten many of the apricots.
Mrs. Norris meets her match in Dr. Grant, who checks her ego by telling her that her apricot tree bears bad fruit. Mrs. Norris’s insistence that the tree comes from a good orchard could be read as a metaphor for not overestimating the role of hereditary traits in determining someone or something’s quality— in other words, Mrs. Norris should judge on merit rather than birth.
But then Mr. Rushworth again brings up the grounds at Sotherton, comparing them to other estates in the area. As they talk, Fanny tells Edmund she wishes she could see Sotherton before Mr. Rushworth makes the improvements. Edmund, surprised she has never been, wishes they could find a way to show her.
Each time he returns to the renovations, Mr. Rushworth shows himself to be more and more tiresome. Edmund’s kindness shines through once again when he tries to think of ways for Fanny to go to Sotherton.
Mary asks what style of building Sotherton is, and Edmund describes the house. Mary is impressed by his genteel manner in replying. They discuss improving estates, and Mary says something negative about her uncle (the Admiral) and mentions that Henry has excellent design taste. Edmund is disappointed that Mary would speak so negatively of her uncle.
Mary begins to notice Edmund, despite his calm nature and lack of a fortune. Edmund, meanwhile, is surprised when Mary speaks negatively of her uncle in mixed company. Mary’s manners are generally very good, but the remark seems to Edmund to reveal bad character.
Mary talks about her harp, which she is having sent to the Parsonage and arrives the next day. Edmund expresses his desire to hear her play. Mary discusses the difficulty she had in transporting her instrument because the farmers were in harvest season, a problem that surprised her.
Edmund says that the harp is his favorite instrument, and Fanny says that she has never heard the harp, but would like to very much. Mary offers to play for them. Mary tells Edmund to write to Tom and tell him the harp has arrived.
Mary offers to play her harp as a way to attract romantic attention. She continues to focus on Tom, which she makes clear when she asks Edmund to write to him.
Edmund tells Mary has no plans to write to Tom soon. Mary then launches into a rant about how brothers are bad at correspondence, and only write to each other when absolutely necessary. She comments that there is a “manly” style to writing these letters that is curt and unemotional. Fanny, who has a long, fulfilling correspondence with William, pushes back on this idea, and Edmund explains that Fanny’s brother is a sailor and a devoted correspondent.
Mary’s insistence that there is a “manly” style of writing shows that she believes that letters can reveal an essential truth about the person writing them. Fanny, however, rejects this one-to-one view of letters as reliable windows to the truth of character. The reliability of letters continues to be a thematic focus throughout the rest of the book.
Mary asks questions about William, making Fanny uncomfortable. Mary and Edmund discuss the navy men they know. Mary, having lived with her uncle the Admiral, is well acquainted with navy men, and makes a risqué joke about them, causing Edmund to feel uncomfortable. The conversation reverts to a discussion of Mary’s harp.
Once again, Mary reveals what Edmund and Fanny perceive as a character flaw when she makes an off-color joke about the navy. This demonstrates how, despite her good manners, Mary might harbor some unsavory personality traits (or at least a lack of the kind of prudence that Edmund and Fanny so cherish).
Meanwhile, the rest of the party is still discussing Mr. Rushworth’s landscaping. Mrs. Grant asks Henry if he has any thoughts on the matter, since he has experience in design on his own estate, Everingham, which is known to be extremely beautiful.
That Mr. Rushworth continues to dominant the conversation, despite the fact that he is very boring, shows how his money gives him social influence and power.
Julia and Mrs. Grant encourage him to share his opinion, and Henry agrees to give it. Mr. Rushworth invites him to come to Sotherton to take a look at the place, and Mrs. Norris suggests that they all go, saying they can either dine at Sotherton or back at Mansfield Park afterward, and Fanny will stay home with Lady Bertram. Everyone agrees except Edmund, who is quiet.
As the group makes plans to visit Sotherton, Fanny is once again left out because her lower social status obliges her to be the one to stay at home with (the ever couch-bound) Lady Bertram. Edmund, kind as usual, seems unhappy with this arrangement.