Chapter 38 Summary
Fanny enjoys the long traveling hours she spends with William. Without any of the adults of Mansfield Park with them, they relate stories to one another without censorship.
During a quiet moment, Fanny thinks about Edmund. She recalls letters she received from Mary before she left. Mary’s writing was often interspersed with notes from Henry, which made Fanny feel uncomfortable. Another discomfort came from Mary’s comments about how much she missed Mansfield Park and the people who lived there, which made Fanny feel obliged to read aloud all of Mary’s letters to Edmund. Fanny hopes Mary’s correspondence will cease now that she is gone. She suspects that Mary only wrote to her so that Fanny would relay her sentiments to Edmund.
Upon arriving in Portsmouth, one of Fanny’s younger brothers runs out of the family house to tell William that his ship has already docked there. Someone in uniform had come looking for William. This is disappointing news for William. It signals that he must leave sooner than he expected. He had wanted to spend more time with his family and especially with Fanny.
As they walk into the house, Fanny is surprised at the small size of the rooms. She suspects one room is a hallway until she does not see a second door. She sits down in the tiny space and watches and listens to her very noisy and rambunctious family.
Mrs. Price asks no questions of Fanny about the family at Mansfield Park nor of any of Fanny’s experiences there. Her mother’s attention is entirely focused on all the other children gathered around her. Mrs. Price orders the girls to bring food and then complains that she has not bought enough groceries.
When Fanny’s father comes in, he is more excited about seeing William. Fanny acknowledges that whereas William had remained at home until he was old enough to enter the navy, she left the home as a young child. She was not there when several of her younger brothers were born, so she could not expect them to remember her, but she is pained by her mother’s and her father’s lack of interest in her. William attempts several times to bring his parent’s attention back to Fanny, but each time he fails.
William goes to the back and puts on his uniform. When he comes out, Fanny is flushed with emotion. She is so proud to see him dressed as an officer. When she hugs him, she uses the embrace as excuse to release all her other emotions about the disappointment of her reunion with her family.