Chapter 43 Summary
Fanny receives a letter from Mary, who relates Henry’s happiness in seeing Fanny. It is obvious that Henry has told his sister everything of his visit and how anxious he is to return. Mary writes that Henry might go to Portsmouth in a few days; the only thing holding him back is a party Mary is giving. She mentions other parties, such as the one given by Maria, which Mary writes was a success. Maria looked well in all her finery and was very content in her new lavish manor in London.
Mary’s letter also includes vague references to Edmund. Fanny reads the letter several times to gather the information Mary has inferred. In the end, Fanny assumes that Edmund has not yet asked for Mary’s hand. Fanny is disgusted that Mary mentions how other people in her life describe Edmund and praise him for his good looks. Fanny questions why Mary is evaluating Edmund by the impressions of others rather than by how she feels about him. She wonders why Mary does not talk about Edmund through her own feelings of him. Mary is the one who should know him best. After rereading the letter several times, Fanny is convinced that Mary will never let Edmund go.
Mary’s mentioning that Henry is returning to Portsmouth makes Fanny feel anxious. Every day she expects to receive a letter from him, but none comes. As time passes, her anxiety eases, and she returns her attention to her sister Susan. She finds that Susan has an almost unquenchable appetite for learning. Although she is not as prone to reading as Fanny is, Susan loves to hear Fanny recite stories from history. She eagerly grasps new concepts, Fanny thinks, because she does not want to appear ignorant. Susan’s favorite stories are those Fanny tells her of Mansfield Park. Susan repeatedly asks for details of people’s dress and manners. She wants to know all about the people who live there and what life is like with the Bertrams.
The closer Fanny draws to Susan, the more she dreads leaving her behind. She begins to wonder what it would be like to take her sister with her. This leads Fanny to think about marrying Henry. If she could manage to accept Henry, she knows she could talk him into taking Susan out of Portsmouth and introducing her to a more elevated style of life.