Henry Dashwood’s wife and daughters become guests in what used to be their home. John Dashwood invites them to stay, and he and his wife are civil. Mrs. Henry Dashwood accepts their hospitality until she can find another residence.
John Dashwood’s wife Fanny objects to the amount her husband plans to bestow upon his sisters, which she doesn’t feel he has any obligation to. His idea of giving them a 1,000 pounds each robs his own son of his rightful legacy. She figures her father-in-law’s request that his son help his widow and daughters was made when he was out of his senses. John points out that he did promise to help them, though he hadn’t agreed to a particular sum. He does reconsider it when he thinks about his son, who may need a large fortune. He thinks about reducing it to 500 lbs, which Fanny still thinks is too generous.
Fanny points out the girls will inherit 3000 lbs each when their mother dies. Whether they marry or not, they will be comfortable. John considers giving Mrs. Henry Dashwood an income. Fanny believes it is inadvisable, for the woman may live a long life. Annuities are often troublesome because it can be difficult to pay them, and sometimes you receive false reports of deaths. Fanny’s mother had been obligated to pay annuities to old servants, and it had robbed her of her independence. She begs her husband not to tie them with such an obligation. It might also be inconvenient in the future to part with the annual sum.
John Dashwood agrees, further stating that it might also cause the girls to live more extravagantly than they should. He decides an occasional gift of 50 pounds will fulfill his promise. Fanny comments that she doubts her father-in-law even meant financial assistance when he asked his son to help his widow and daughters. She further points out that he left them Norland’s furnishings and china. He only seemed to think about them.
In the end, John Dashwood feels no obligation to help his stepmother or her daughters beyond what he would do for a neighbor.