Chapter 36 Summary
The day before Henry and Mary Crawford are to leave Mansfield Park to travel to London, Mary stops by to talk to Fanny. When they are alone, Fanny fears the scolding she anticipates from Mary. The two young women enter the East Room, where a fire has kept the room warm. Once Fanny opens the door, Mary recalls the only other time she has been in this room.
She asks if Fanny remembers the day they had come here to rehearse for the play they were planning. Mary had wanted to read her lines with Fanny reciting the role opposite her. Then Edmund appeared in the room. This was a time, Mary recalls, when her relationship with Edmund was just budding and there were no arguments between them. They were to act the roles of two lovers. The scene they rehearsed was an announcement of their love and their plans to marry. The memories of those moments makes Mary nostalgic, and she wishes she could return to those better times.
Fanny relaxes as Mary recounts those days. Maybe she has no reason to fear Mary’s reprisals about Fanny’s refusal to accept Henry’s proposal. Mary, too, has softened her manner. Although she had meant to chide Fanny, she finds her heart has opened more fully to this young woman whom she has learned to love. But she cannot leave without telling Fanny that she thinks Fanny is making a terrible mistake. Mary tells Fanny that she wishes she were going to London with them. If Fanny were to see how adored Henry is in London, maybe she would change her mind. Fanny has no idea, Mary says, how much other women will wonder how Fanny could possibly not accept Henry. So many women would give everything they have to win Henry’s affection, and yet the only woman Henry wants is Fanny. Mary tells Fanny she is the only woman she knows who acts indifferently toward her brother.
Fanny tells Mary that she does not trust Henry. She has seen him act frivolously around women and sport with their feelings, not caring how much he might hurt them. Mary confesses that her brother has been at fault in that regard, but it is his only fault. Now he is truly in love with Fanny, and she knows her brother will always be so. His attraction to Fanny is stronger than any she has ever seen. Mary reminds Fanny of Henry’s having procured William’s promotion. That was a sign of his love for her.
Fanny is very grateful for what Henry did. She knows that he must have worked hard at it and that he had to confront his uncle, whom he does not like. This is the only reason she feels any guilt for refusing him.
The next morning, Fanny knows that Mary and Henry have gone. She is glad for it.