Chapter 21 Summary
Sir Thomas has cast a sombre gloom over the household. He wants to entertain no outsiders, not even the Grants, though they are an important part of Mansfield Park. Only the Rushworths are now welcome, as far as Sir Thomas is concerned. That is his final word.
Edmund complains to Fanny that the family is so serious now. Fanny reminds Edmund that nothing has really changed. Sir Thomas's appearance in the household has always caused a quiet mood. It is only that his absence was so extended that his return stands out in such contrast. Edmund teases Fanny, saying that she likes his father because Sir Thomas likes to flatter her. His father thinks Fanny is pretty, Edmund says. And rightly so, Edmund adds. Fanny is growing up and becoming healthier. She ought not to be embarrassed at people looking at her and admiring her. Mary often talks in Fanny's favor, Edmund tells her. Mary thinks Fanny should talk more, though. She should share more of her thoughts.
Fanny tells Edmund that she thoroughly enjoys listening to Sir Thomas talk of his adventures. But she wonders why the conversation about the slave trade that her uncle is involved with in Antigua did not go further. No one else had any questions, so Fanny was concerned about encouraging it.
Edmund's mind is somewhere else. He continues to talk about Mary. He tells Fanny that he hopes Mary will learn to like his father and that in turn his father will appreciate Mary. Edmund also remarks on his sister. He has noticed that Sir Thomas has given his approval of Mr. Rushworth. He wonders if that will continue once Sir Thomas discovers how dull Mr. Rushworth is. Edmund wishes Maria would break her engagement with the man.
Sir Thomas does come to see Mr. Rushworth in an altered light. Mr. Rushworth's lack of skill in business as well as his inferiority in book learning startles Sir Thomas. He has also noted Maria's lack of interest and her coldness toward Mr. Rushworth. He questions why she has chosen to marry the man. He will not have his daughter sacrifice her happiness. Sir Thomas questions Maria about her engagement, and he tells her that he will take the steps necessary to break it.
Maria, however, will not allow it. She insists that she has the highest esteem for Mr. Rushworth. Sir Thomas relents, believing that maybe Mr. Rushworth is young enough to improve. Maria, for her part, is convinced of going forward with the marriage, especially since she has not received one letter from Henry. As the chapter closes, the couple is wed.