Chapter 28 Summary
Fanny comes downstairs, dressed for the ball. Sir Thomas comments on how pretty she looks but does not press the subject until Fanny leaves the room. After she is gone, he continues to talk of Fanny to his wife and Mrs. Norris. It is obvious that Sir Thomas is very proud of how well Fanny has grown up.
Mrs. Norris takes the opportunity to give herself and Sir Thomas credit for everything about Fanny that is positive. Fanny's beauty and fine manner are due to the advantage that Mrs. Norris and Sir Thomas have provided, she says.
As Fanny walks out of the room, she meets Edmund, who insists that she save two dances for him. As guests arrive, Fanny is thus in a good mood. However, she has been given no preparation for all the attention she is about to receive. Sir Thomas takes special effort to introduce her to everyone at the ball. This embarrasses Fanny because she is not used to being so visible. In between the introductions, she watches her brother William and wishes she were with him. Another distraction is provided by her observations of Edmund and Mary Crawford. Fanny attempts to interpret any further development in their relationship.
When Henry Crawford arrives, he seeks out Fanny and asks to be her partner for the first dance. Fanny is not aware of the significance of the first dance until Sir Thomas informs her that she and Henry are to lead the way in opening the ball. Fanny does not comprehend why she has this honor. She had assumed that Edmund, being the son of Sir Thomas, would open the dancing. Fanny tries to argue with Sir Thomas. Opening the ball would make her feel out of place, she tells him. However, Sir Thomas insists.
As she and Henry dance, Fanny thinks about Maria and Julia. They had always wanted a ball at Mansfield Park. And yet here she is enjoying all the pleasures. She hopes the Bertram sisters, once they hear of the dance, will not be jealous.
When it is time for Edmund to dance with Fanny, he tells her he is grateful to be with her. He has become tired from talking so much all night. In contrast to every other partner, Edmund knows he can dance with Fanny in complete silence and only she would understand his need. Their silence, when observed by others, assures everyone that Fanny and Sir Thomas's son have no attraction for one another.
Bystanders also notice Henry Crawford's attention to Fanny. By the end of the night, even Sir Thomas concludes that Henry Crawford will, more than likely, soon make Fanny a proposal of marriage.