Chapter 12 Summary

In September, Tom Bertram, the older son, returns home to Mansfield Park. He has been away with friends, spending much of his time partying. He entertains the other people staying at his home by telling them of his adventures.

Mary's affections for Tom have changed. In his absence, Mary has become more attracted to Tom's younger brother, Edmund. Tom also shows a loss of interest in Mary.

Around the same time that Tom returns, Henry Crawford decides to travel. He goes to Norfolk, and this makes both Maria and Julia upset. They think him selfish to leave them. However, Henry comes back to Mansfield Park earlier than expected, which, of course, pleases the Bertram girls, who forgive him immediately. Fanny admits to herself that she must be the only one who is not pleased to see Henry come back.

Maria has become especially bored by Mr. Rushworth by now, although she hides her feelings. Fanny, however, thinks she sees through Maria's pretense. She mentions to Edmund that Maria appears more interested in Henry than in Mr. Rushworth. Edmund disagrees. He believes that Henry likes Julia the most. This causes Fanny some confusion. She relies so heavily on Edmund's considerations that she does not trust her own evaluation. So she continues to watch Maria, seeking confirmation one way or the other of her own intuitions or of Edmund's reflections.

At one point, Fanny is sitting near Mrs. Norris and Mrs. Rushworth, overhearing their conversation. Maria and Mr. Rushworth are paired for their fourth dance in a row, and Mrs. Norris comments on how happy Maria looks. Maria's eyes are sparkling. Mrs. Norris evaluates Maria's countenance and concludes that Maria is very much in love with Mr. Rushworth. Fanny, on the other hand, remembers how for the first three dances, Maria's expressions were much sadder. It was not until Henry entered the room and was dancing near Maria that her face reflected any pleasure.

This is Fanny's first ball, but she finds herself sitting on the sidelines, hoping someone will ask her to dance. Tom Bertram enters, sees Fanny, and walks toward her. Fanny hopes Tom is coming over to ask her to dance. But instead, Tom sits down next to her and tells her of a sick horse he had been nursing. He then awkwardly asks Fanny if she wants to dance, adding that he thinks dancing is mere folly. Fanny turns down his invitation. Only when Mrs. Grant approaches him and asks him to join her party at a card table does Tom excuse himself by telling her he had already promised Fanny a dance.

Tom confesses to Fanny his dislike of the social customs expected of him. He did not enjoy the pressure that Mrs. Grant had employed to try to make him play cards with her. She gave him little room to refuse.