Mr. Rushworth greets his guests at the door, and shows them to the drawing room where Mrs. Rushworth greets them. They all head to the dining room to eat, and over their meal they discuss how Henry should be shown the grounds to make his recommendations for the renovation. They debate which carriage to take outside. Mr. Rushworth suggests the chaise, which no one is enthusiastic about. Then he suggests a tour of the house, which is better received.
Once again, the choice of carriage, which represents levels of wealth and fashionableness, becomes a central debate question among the group, revealing the young people’s shallowness. Mr. Rushworth’s suggestion that they take chaise shows how out of touch he is with the group’s social nuances.
Mrs. Rushworth leads them through the rooms of the house, which is beautiful and full of luxurious furniture. Mary, who is used to these kinds of houses, is not especially impressed, but Fanny thinks it is breathtaking, and listens attentively to Mrs. Rushworth’s explanations.
Fanny, who never experienced material comforts during her early childhood in Portsmouth, can appreciate luxury, while Mary, who is spoiled, cannot appreciate the nice things that the Rushworths own.
The group enters the family chapel, which is simply furnished. Mrs. Rushworth tells them how the whole family used to gather there for prayer twice a day before the practice was discontinued. Mary jokes that “every generation has its improvements.” Fanny exclaims that she thinks it’s a shame that the family no longer gathers for daily prayer. Mary laughs and imagines the family forcing their servants to go to prayer while coming up with excuses to avoid going themselves. Edmund defends Fanny’s viewpoint.
This section contrasts Mary and Fanny’s moral and religious attitudes. Mary is very critical of the church, which the book presents as evidence of her inferior character. Fanny, meanwhile, appreciates services, aligning her as the better candidate for Edmund’s affections, since Edmund intends to work as a clergyman.
Mary goes on to say she thinks it is better to leave religion to people’s private lives, since forcing people into praying takes away the authenticity of it. She imagines the Rushworth daughters bored at church, with an unattractive chaplain, and thinking only of men. Edmund and Fanny do not respond to her right away. Fanny is extremely angry, but Edmund collects himself and says that Mary’s mind is lively, and she can’t be serious about anything, even something as serious as religion. They continue to debate back about forth about religion for a while.
Mary evaluates the church services in terms of the chaplain’s sexual attractiveness, degrading the religion that Fanny and Edmund hold dear. Edmund shrugs off her irreverence, showing how he is willing to overlook indications of Mary’s questionable morality because of his romantic interest in her. Of course, to the modern reader Mary might seem more sympathetic (or at least interesting) here than the stiffly righteous Fanny and Edmund.
Julia, meanwhile, calls Henry’s attention to Maria and Mr. Rushworth, saying that the chapel surroundings make them look like a bride and groom. Henry smiles, and then whispers to Maria that he would not like to see her at the altar. Maria is startled. They exchange a few more flirtatious phrases.
As Julia imagines the wedding between Maria and Mr. Rushworth (and makes a seemingly pointed remark meant to remind Maria that she isn’t supposed to flirt with Henry), Henry’s comment makes him a real potential threat to their engagement, and an option for romance that is totally outside of the institution of marriage.
Julia states that she wishes Edmund were already a clergyman so that he could marry them right then. Mary, who did not realize that Edmund intended to join the clergy, looks aghast. Fanny feels bad for her, since Mary just said so many flippant things about religion. Mary asks if it is true, and Edmund confirms that he is to be ordained at Christmas. Mary says that if she had known, she would have been more respectful, and changes the subject.
Julia’s wish that Maria and Mr. Rushworth could marry immediately is clearly due to the fact that Julia wants to remove her sister from competition for Henry’s attentions. Meanwhile, Mary’s comment shows how Mary favors tact and agreeability over expressing her real opinion.
The party leaves the chapel and goes into the garden. Slowly, they make their way out of the garden and towards the gate out of the garden and into the woods, with Henry heading to the terrace first, then Maria, and Mr. Rushworth following. Edmund, Mary, and Fanny show up close to the gate, sticking together in a group. Lastly, Mrs. Rushworth, Mrs. Norris, and Julia are far behind.
The large group separates into smaller trios that correspond to two developing love triangles: Mr. Rushworth and Henry with Maria, and Mary and Fanny with Edmund. Julia’s fall from favor with Henry is represented symbolically as she is left behind with the older women.
Mary, Edmund, and Fanny go into the woods, where the temperature will be cooler. Mary brings up Edmund’s choice to become a clergyman again, saying it surprises her. Edmund asks why, and Mary explains that she had not thought of it, and that usually an uncle or grandfather would have a fortune to leave to him as the second son.
Mary thinks of Edmund’s career choice in terms of his position as a second son and thus in terms of his lack of inheritance. Again, inheritance not only determines wealth, but also marriageability and career choice in turn.
Edmund says that is not his case, and asks if she thinks no one ever chooses the profession. Mary says that she would not use the word “never,” but that it’s not a very common choice. They discuss the reasons why someone might want to be a clergyman.
Mary cannot imagine that Edmund would be interested in religion of his own volition, highlighting the lack of common moral understanding between them.
Mary describes clergymen who give only one or two sermons a week and do little else. Edmund says that Mary is thinking of clergymen in London, not the rest of England. In the countryside, parishioners know how the clergyman acts in his daily life, so he can lead by example. Fanny agrees. Mary, however, thinks Edmund should go into law instead.
Austen aligns the city with a lack of morality and religious motivation, suggesting that the countryside is a more righteous, moral place. Fanny’s agreement shows how she and Edmund have more common values than Edmund and Mary.
They are quiet for a while. Fanny breaks the silence by saying she would like to sit down for a while. Edmund feels bad for not thinking of her strength earlier, and he takes her arm and Mary’s.
As is becoming a pattern, Edmund’s attention to Mary is taxing for Fanny, manifested physically here in her exhaustion.
The trio arrives at a bench and they all sit down. Edmund observes that Fanny is very tired. Fanny says she will soon be rested, but Mary gets up and wants to move, saying that resting tires her. She decides to go look at an iron gate she spies a ways away. Edmund and Mary playfully banter about how far away the fence is. They decide to walk more, and Fanny offers to come too, but Edmund insists she rest more, and so Edmund and Mary walk off together.
Again, Fanny’s tranquil nature is contrasted with Mary’s overactive, excitable personality. When she and Edmund walk off together, leaving Fanny behind, they physically manifest how Edmund’s affection for Mary causes him to leave Fanny behind in his thoughts and consideration.