Part 4 - Howards End Audiobook by E. M. Forster (Chs 22-29)

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Howards End by E. M. Forster CHAPTER 22
Margaret greeted her lord with peculiar tenderness on the morrow.
Mature as he was, she might yet be able to help him to the building of the rainbow
bridge that should connect the prose in us with the passion.
Without it we are meaningless fragments, half monks, half beasts, unconnected arches
that have never joined into a man.
With it love is born, and alights on the highest curve, glowing against the grey,
sober against the fire. Happy the man who sees from either aspect
the glory of these outspread wings.
The roads of his soul lie clear, and he and his friends shall find easy-going.
It was hard-going in the roads of Mr. Wilcox's soul.
From boyhood he had neglected them.
"I am not a fellow who bothers about my own inside."
Outwardly he was cheerful, reliable, and brave; but within, all had reverted to
chaos, ruled, so far as it was ruled at all, by an incomplete asceticism.
Whether as boy, husband, or widower, he had always the sneaking belief that bodily
passion is bad, a belief that is desirable only when held passionately.
Religion had confirmed him.
The words that were read aloud on Sunday to him and to other respectable men were the
words that had once kindled the souls of St. Catharine and St. Francis into a white-
hot hatred of the carnal.
He could-not be as the saints and love the Infinite with a seraphic ardour, but he
could be a little ashamed of loving a wife. "Amabat, amare timebat."
And it was here that Margaret hoped to help him.
It did not seem so difficult. She need trouble him with no gift of her
She would only point out the salvation that was latent in his own soul, and in the soul
of every man. Only connect!
That was the whole of her sermon.
Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will
be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.
Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to
either, will die. Nor was the message difficult to give.
It need not take the form of a good "talking."
By quiet indications the bridge would be built and span their lives with beauty.
But she failed.
For there was one quality in Henry for which she was never prepared, however much
she reminded herself of it: his obtuseness. He simply did not notice things, and there
was no more to be said.
He never noticed that Helen and Frieda were hostile, or that Tibby was not interested
in currant plantations; he never noticed the lights and shades that exist in the
grayest conversation, the finger-posts, the
milestones, the collisions, the illimitable views.
Once--on another occasion--she scolded him about it.
He was puzzled, but replied with a laugh: "My motto is Concentrate.
I've no intention of frittering away my strength on that sort of thing."
"It isn't frittering away the strength," she protested.
"It's enlarging the space in which you may be strong."
He answered: "You're a clever little woman, but my motto's Concentrate."
And this morning he concentrated with a vengeance.
They met in the rhododendrons of yesterday.
In the daylight the bushes were inconsiderable and the path was bright in
the morning sun. She was with Helen, who had been ominously
quiet since the affair was settled.
"Here we all are!" she cried, and took him by one hand, retaining her sister's in the
other. "Here we are.
Good-morning, Helen."
Helen replied, "Good-morning, Mr. Wilcox." "Henry, she has had such a nice letter from
the queer, cross boy--Do you remember him? He had a sad moustache, but the back of his
head was young."
"I have had a letter too. Not a nice one--I want to talk it over with
you:" for Leonard Bast was nothing to him now that she had given him her word; the
triangle of sex was broken for ever.
"Thanks to your hint, he's clearing out of the Porphyrion."
"Not a bad business that Porphyrion," he said absently, as he took his own letter
out of his pocket.
"Not a BAD--" she exclaimed, dropping his hand.
"Surely, on Chelsea Embankment--" "Here's our hostess.
Good-morning, Mrs. Munt.
Fine rhododendrons. Good morning, Frau Liesecke; we manage to
grow flowers in England, don't we?" "Not a BAD business?"
"No. My letter's about Howards End.
Bryce has been ordered abroad, and wants to sublet it.
I am far from sure that I shall give him permission.
There was no clause in the agreement.
In my opinion, subletting is a mistake. If he can find me another tenant, whom I
consider suitable, I may cancel the agreement.
Morning, Schlegel.
Don't you think that's better than subletting?"
Helen had dropped her hand now, and he had steered her past the whole party to the
seaward side of the house.
Beneath them was the bourgeois little bay, which must have yearned all through the
centuries for just such a watering-place as Swanage to be built on its margin.
The waves were colourless, and the Bournemouth steamer gave a further touch of
insipidity, drawn up against the pier and hooting wildly for excursionists.
"When there is a sublet I find that damage- -"
"Do excuse me, but about the Porphyrion. I don't feel easy--might I just bother you,
Her manner was so serious that he stopped, and asked her a little sharply what she
"You said on Chelsea Embankment, surely, that it was a bad concern, so we advised
this clerk to clear out.
He writes this morning that he's taken our advice, and now you say it's not a bad
"A clerk who clears out of any concern, good or bad, without securing a berth
somewhere else first, is a fool, and I've no pity for him."
"He has not done that.
He's going into a bank in Camden Town, he says.
The salary's much lower, but he hopes to manage--a branch of Dempster's Bank.
Is that all right?"
"Dempster! My goodness me, yes."
"More right than the Porphyrion?" "Yes, yes, yes; safe as houses--safer."
"Very many thanks.
I'm sorry--if you sublet--?" "If he sublets, I shan't have the same
In theory there should be no more damage done at Howards End; in practice there will
be. Things may be done for which no money can
For instance, I shouldn't want that fine wych-elm spoilt.
It hangs--Margaret, we must go and see the old place some time.
It's pretty in its way.
We'll motor down and have lunch with Charles."
"I should enjoy that," said Margaret bravely.
"What about next Wednesday?"
"Wednesday? No, I couldn't well do that.
Aunt Juley expects us to stop here another week at least."
"But you can give that up now."
"Er--no," said Margaret, after a moment's thought.
"Oh, that'll be all right. I'll speak to her."
"This visit is a high solemnity.
My aunt counts on it year after year. She turns the house upside down for us; she
invites our special friends--she scarcely knows Frieda, and we can't leave her on her
I missed one day, and she would be so hurt if I didn't stay the full ten."
"But I'll say a word to her. Don't you bother."
"Henry, I won't go.
Don't bully me." "You want to see the house, though?"
"Very much--I've heard so much about it, one way or the other.
Aren't there pigs' teeth in the wych-elm?"
"PIGS' TEETH?" "And you chew the bark for toothache."
"What a rum notion! Of course not!"
"Perhaps I have confused it with some other tree.
There are still a great number of sacred trees in England, it seems."
But he left her to intercept Mrs. Munt, whose voice could be heard in the distance:
to be intercepted himself by Helen.
"Oh, Mr. Wilcox, about the Porphyrion--" she began, and went scarlet all over her
face. "It's all right," called Margaret, catching
them up.
"Dempster's Bank's better." "But I think you told us the Porphyrion was
bad, and would smash before Christmas." "Did I?
It was still outside the Tariff Ring, and had to take rotten policies.
Lately it came in--safe as houses now." "In other words, Mr. Bast need never have
left it."
"No, the fellow needn't." "--and needn't have started life elsewhere
at a greatly reduced salary." "He only says 'reduced,'" corrected
Margaret, seeing trouble ahead.
"With a man so poor, every reduction must be great.
I consider it a deplorable misfortune."
Mr. Wilcox, intent on his business with Mrs. Munt, was going steadily on, but the
last remark made him say: "What? What's that?
Do you mean that I'm responsible?"
"You're ridiculous, Helen." "You seem to think--" He looked at his
watch. "Let me explain the point to you.
It is like this.
You seem to assume, when a business concern is conducting a delicate negotiation, it
ought to keep the public informed stage by stage.
The Porphyrion, according to you, was bound to say, 'I am trying all I can to get into
the Tariff Ring.
I am not sure that I shall succeed, but it is the only thing that will save me from
insolvency, and I am trying.' My dear Helen--"
"Is that your point?
A man who had little money has less--that's mine."
"I am grieved for your clerk. But it is all in the day's work.
It's part of the battle of life."
"A man who had little money," she repeated, "has less, owing to us.
Under these circumstances I do not consider 'the battle of life' a happy expression."
"Oh come, come!" he protested pleasantly.
"You're not to blame. No one's to blame."
"Is no one to blame for anything?" "I wouldn't say that, but you're taking it
far too seriously.
Who is this fellow?" "We have told you about the fellow twice
already," said Helen. "You have even met the fellow.
He is very poor and his wife is an extravagant imbecile.
He is capable of better things.
We--we, the upper classes--thought we would help him from the height of our superior
knowledge--and here's the result!" He raised his finger.
"Now, a word of advice."
"I require no more advice." "A word of advice.
Don't take up that sentimental attitude over the poor.
See that she doesn't, Margaret.
The poor are poor, and one's sorry for them, but there it is.
As civilization moves forward, the shoe is bound to pinch in places, and it's absurd
to pretend that anyone is responsible personally.
Neither you, nor I, nor my informant, nor the man who informed him, nor the directors
of the Porphyrion, are to blame for this clerk's loss of salary.
It's just the shoe pinching--no one can help it; and it might easily have been
worse." Helen quivered with indignation.
"By all means subscribe to charities-- subscribe to them largely--but don't get
carried away by absurd schemes of Social Reform.
I see a good deal behind the scenes, and you can take it from me that there is no
Social Question--except for a few journalists who try to get a living out of
the phrase.
There are just rich and poor, as there always have been and always will be.
Point me out a time when men have been equal--"
"I didn't say--"
"Point me out a time when desire for equality has made them happier.
No, no. You can't.
There always have been rich and poor.
I'm no fatalist. Heaven forbid!
But our civilization is moulded by great impersonal forces" (his voice grew
complacent; it always did when he eliminated the personal), "and there always
will be rich and poor.
You can't deny it" (and now it was a respectful voice)--"and you can't deny
that, in spite of all, the tendency of civilization has on the whole been upward."
"Owing to God, I suppose," flashed Helen.
He stared at her. "You grab the dollars.
God does the rest."
It was no good instructing the girl if she was going to talk about God in that
neurotic modern way. Fraternal to the last, he left her for the
quieter company of Mrs. Munt.
He thought, "She rather reminds me of Dolly."
Helen looked out at the sea. "Don't even discuss political economy with
Henry," advised her sister.
"It'll only end in a cry." "But he must be one of those men who have
reconciled science with religion," said Helen slowly.
"I don't like those men.
They are scientific themselves, and talk of the survival of the fittest, and cut down
the salaries of their clerks, and stunt the independence of all who may menace their
comfort, but yet they believe that somehow
good--and it is always that sloppy 'somehow'--will be the outcome, and that in
some mystical way the Mr. Basts of the future will benefit because the Mr. Basts
of today are in pain."
"He is such a man in theory. But oh, Helen, in theory!"
"But oh, Meg, what a theory!" "Why should you put things so bitterly,
"Because I'm an old maid," said Helen, biting her lip.
"I can't think why I go on like this myself."
She shook off her sister's hand and went into the house.
Margaret, distressed at the day's beginning, followed the Bournemouth steamer
with her eyes.
She saw that Helen's nerves were exasperated by the unlucky Bast business
beyond the bounds of politeness. There might at any minute be a real
explosion, which even Henry would notice.
Henry must be removed. "Margaret!" her aunt called.
It isn't true, surely, what Mr. Wilcox says, that you want to go away early next
"Not 'want,'" was Margaret's prompt reply; "but there is so much to be settled, and I
do want to see the Charles'."
"But going away without taking the Weymouth trip, or even the Lulworth?" said Mrs.
Munt, coming nearer. "Without going once more up Nine Barrows
"I'm afraid so." Mr. Wilcox rejoined her with, "Good!
I did the breaking of the ice." A wave of tenderness came over her.
She put a hand on either shoulder, and looked deeply into the black, bright eyes.
What was behind their competent stare? She knew, but was not disquieted.
Howards End by E. M. Forster CHAPTER 23
Margaret had no intention of letting things slide, and the evening before she left
Swanage she gave her sister a thorough scolding.
She censured her, not for disapproving of the engagement, but for throwing over her
disapproval a veil of mystery. Helen was equally frank.
"Yes," she said, with the air of one looking inwards, "there is a mystery.
I can't help it. It's not my fault.
It's the way life has been made."
Helen in those days was over-interested in the subconscious self.
She exaggerated the Punch and Judy aspect of life, and spoke of mankind as puppets,
whom an invisible showman twitches into love and war.
Margaret pointed out that if she dwelt on this she, too, would eliminate the
Helen was silent for a minute, and then burst into a queer speech, which cleared
the air. "Go on and marry him.
I think you're splendid; and if anyone can pull it off, you will."
Margaret denied that there was anything to "pull off," but she continued: "Yes, there
is, and I wasn't up to it with Paul.
I can only do what's easy. I can only entice and be enticed.
I can't, and won't attempt difficult relations.
If I marry, it will either be a man who's strong enough to boss me or whom I'm strong
enough to boss. So I shan't ever marry, for there aren't
such men.
And Heaven help any one whom I do marry, for I shall certainly run away from him
before you can say 'Jack Robinson.' There!
Because I'm uneducated.
But you, you're different; you're a heroine."
"Oh, Helen! Am I?
Will it be as dreadful for poor Henry as all that?"
"You mean to keep proportion, and that's heroic, it's Greek, and I don't see why it
shouldn't succeed with you.
Go on and fight with him and help him. Don't ask ME for help, or even for
sympathy. Henceforward I'm going my own way.
I mean to be thorough, because thoroughness is easy.
I mean to dislike your husband, and to tell him so.
I mean to make no concessions to Tibby.
If Tibby wants to live with me, he must lump me.
I mean to love YOU more than ever. Yes, I do.
You and I have built up something real, because it is purely spiritual.
There's no veil of mystery over us. Unreality and mystery begin as soon as one
touches the body.
The popular view is, as usual, exactly the wrong one.
Our bothers are over tangible things-- money, husbands, house-hunting.
But Heaven will work of itself."
Margaret was grateful for this expression of affection, and answered, "Perhaps."
All vistas close in the unseen--no one doubts it--but Helen closed them rather too
quickly for her taste.
At every turn of speech one was confronted with reality and the absolute.
Perhaps Margaret grew too old for metaphysics, perhaps Henry was weaning her
from them, but she felt that there was something a little unbalanced in the mind
that so readily shreds the visible.
The business man who assumes that this life is everything, and the mystic who asserts
that it is nothing, fail, on this side and on that, to hit the truth.
"Yes, I see, dear; it's about halfway between," Aunt Juley had hazarded in
earlier years. No; truth, being alive, was not halfway
between anything.
It was only to be found by continuous excursions into either realm, and though
proportion is the final secret, to espouse it at the outset is to insure sterility.
Helen, agreeing here, disagreeing there, would have talked till midnight, but
Margaret, with her packing to do, focussed the conversation on Henry.
She might abuse Henry behind his back, but please would she always, be civil to him in
company? "I definitely dislike him, but I'll do what
I can," promised Helen.
"Do what you can with my friends in return."
This conversation made Margaret easier.
Their inner life was so safe that they could bargain over externals in a way that
would have been incredible to Aunt Juley, and impossible for Tibby or Charles.
There are moments when the inner life actually "pays," when years of self-
scrutiny, conducted for no ulterior motive, are suddenly of practical use.
Such moments are still rare in the West; that they come at all promises a fairer
Margaret, though unable to understand her sister, was assured against estrangement,
and returned to London with a more peaceful mind.
The following morning, at eleven o'clock, she presented herself at the offices of the
Imperial and West African Rubber Company.
She was glad to go there, for Henry had implied his business rather than described
it, and the formlessness and vagueness that one associates with Africa had hitherto
brooded over the main sources of his wealth.
Not that a visit to the office cleared things up.
There was just the ordinary surface scum of ledgers and polished counters and brass
bars that began and stopped for no possible reason, of electric-light globes blossoming
in triplets, of little rabbit hutches faced with glass or wire, of little rabbits.
And even when she penetrated to the inner depths, she found only the ordinary table
and Turkey carpet, and though the map over the fireplace did depict a helping of West
Africa, it was a very ordinary map.
Another map hung opposite, on which the whole continent appeared, looking like a
whale marked out for blubber, and by its side was a door, shut, but Henry's voice
came through it, dictating a "strong" letter.
She might have been at the Porphyrion, or Dempster's Bank, or her own wine-
Everything seems just alike in these days. But perhaps she was seeing the Imperial
side of the company rather than its West African, and Imperialism always had been
one of her difficulties.
"One minute!" called Mr. Wilcox on receiving her name.
He touched a bell, the effect of which was to produce Charles.
Charles had written his father an adequate letter--more adequate than Evie's, through
which a girlish indignation throbbed. And he greeted his future stepmother with
"I hope that my wife--how do you do? --will give you a decent lunch," was his
opening. "I left instructions, but we live in a
rough-and-ready way.
She expects you back to tea, too, after you have had a look at Howards End.
I wonder what you'll think of the place. I wouldn't touch it with tongs myself.
Do sit down!
It's a measly little place." "I shall enjoy seeing it," said Margaret,
feeling, for the first time, shy.
"You'll see it at its worst, for Bryce decamped abroad last Monday without even
arranging for a charwoman to clear up after him.
I never saw such a disgraceful mess.
It's unbelievable. He wasn't in the house a month."
"I've more than a little bone to pick with Bryce," called Henry from the inner
"Why did he go so suddenly?" "Invalid type; couldn't sleep."
"Poor fellow!" "Poor fiddlesticks!" said Mr. Wilcox,
joining them.
"He had the impudence to put up notice- boards without as much as saying with your
leave or by your leave. Charles flung them down."
"Yes, I flung them down," said Charles modestly.
"I've sent a telegram after him, and a pretty sharp one, too.
He, and he in person is responsible for the upkeep of that house for the next three
years." "The keys are at the farm; we wouldn't have
the keys."
"Quite right." "Dolly would have taken them, but I was in,
fortunately." "What's Mr. Bryce like?" asked Margaret.
But nobody cared.
Mr. Bryce was the tenant, who had no right to sublet; to have defined him further was
a waste of time.
On his misdeeds they descanted profusely, until the girl who had been typing the
strong letter came out with it. Mr. Wilcox added his signature.
"Now we'll be off," said he.
A motor-drive, a form of felicity detested by Margaret, awaited her.
Charles saw them in, civil to the last, and in a moment the offices of the Imperial and
West African Rubber Company faded away.
But it was not an impressive drive. Perhaps the weather was to blame, being
grey and banked high with weary clouds. Perhaps Hertfordshire is scarcely intended
for motorists.
Did not a gentleman once motor so quickly through Westmoreland that he missed it? and
if Westmoreland can be missed, it will fare ill with a county whose delicate structure
particularly needs the attentive eye.
Hertfordshire is England at its quietest, with little emphasis of river and hill; it
is England meditative.
If Drayton were with us again to write a new edition of his incomparable poem, he
would sing the nymphs of Hertfordshire as indeterminate of feature, with hair
obfuscated by the London smoke.
Their eyes would be sad, and averted from their fate towards the Northern flats,
their leader not Isis or Sabrina, but the slowly flowing Lea.
No glory of raiment would be theirs, no urgency of dance; but they would be real
The chauffeur could not travel as quickly as he had hoped, for the Great North Road
was full of Easter traffic.
But he went quite quick enough for Margaret, a poor-spirited creature, who had
chickens and children on the brain. "They're all right," said Mr. Wilcox.
"They'll learn--like the swallows and the telegraph-wires."
"Yes, but, while they're learning--" "The motor's come to stay," he answered.
"One must get about.
There's a pretty church--oh, you aren't sharp enough.
Well, look out, if the road worries you-- right outward at the scenery."
She looked at the scenery.
It heaved and merged like porridge. Presently it congealed.
They had arrived. Charles's house on the left; on the right
the swelling forms of the Six Hills.
Their appearance in such a neighbourhood surprised her.
They interrupted the stream of residences that was thickening up towards Hilton.
Beyond them she saw meadows and a wood, and beneath them she settled that soldiers of
the best kind lay buried. She hated war and liked soldiers--it was
one of her amiable inconsistencies.
But here was Dolly, dressed up to the nines, standing at the door to greet them,
and here were the first drops of the rain.
They ran in gaily, and after a long wait in the drawing-room sat down to the rough-and-
ready lunch, every dish in which concealed or exuded cream.
Mr. Bryce was the chief topic of conversation.
Dolly described his visit with the key, while her father-in-law gave satisfaction
by chaffing her and contradicting all she said.
It was evidently the custom to laugh at Dolly.
He chaffed Margaret, too, and Margaret, roused from a grave meditation, was
pleased, and chaffed him back.
Dolly seemed surprised, and eyed her curiously.
After lunch the two children came down.
Margaret disliked babies, but hit it off better with the two-year-old, and sent
Dolly into fits of laughter by talking sense to him.
"Kiss them now, and come away," said Mr. Wilcox.
She came, but refused to kiss them: it was such hard luck on the little things, she
said, and though Dolly proffered Chorly- worly and Porgly-woggles in turn, she was
By this time it was raining steadily. The car came round with the hood up, and
again she lost all sense of space. In a few minutes they stopped, and Crane
opened the door of the car.
"What's happened?" asked Margaret. "What do you suppose?" said Henry.
A little porch was close up against her face.
"Are we there already?"
"We are." "Well, I never!
In years ago it seemed so far away."
Smiling, but somehow disillusioned, she jumped out, and her impetus carried her to
the front-door. She was about to open it, when Henry said:
"That's no good; it's locked.
Who's got the key?" As he had himself forgotten to call for the
key at the farm, no one replied.
He also wanted to know who had left the front gate open, since a cow had strayed in
from the road, and was spoiling the croquet lawn.
Then he said rather crossly: "Margaret, you wait in the dry.
I'll go down for the key. It isn't a hundred yards.
"Mayn't I come too?"
"No; I shall be back before I'm gone." Then the car turned away, and it was as if
a curtain had risen. For the second time that day she saw the
appearance of the earth.
There were the greengage-trees that Helen had once described, there the tennis lawn,
there the hedge that would be glorious with dog-roses in June, but the vision now was
of black and palest green.
Down by the dell-hole more vivid colours were awakening, and Lent Lilies stood
sentinel on its margin, or advanced in battalions over the grass.
Tulips were a tray of jewels.
She could not see the wych-elm tree, but a branch of the celebrated vine, studded with
velvet knobs, had covered the porch.
She was struck by the fertility of the soil; she had seldom been in a garden where
the flowers looked so well, and even the weeds she was idly plucking out of the
porch were intensely green.
Why had poor Mr. Bryce fled from all this beauty?
For she had already decided that the place was beautiful.
"Naughty cow!
Go away!" cried Margaret to the cow, but without indignation.
Harder came the rain, pouring out of a windless sky, and spattering up from the
notice-boards of the house-agents, which lay in a row on the lawn where Charles had
hurled them.
She must have interviewed Charles in another world--where one did have
interviews. How Helen would revel in such a notion!
Charles dead, all people dead, nothing alive but houses and gardens.
The obvious dead, the intangible alive, and--no connection at all between them!
Margaret smiled.
Would that her own fancies were as clear- cut!
Would that she could deal as high-handedly with the world!
Smiling and sighing, she laid her hand upon the door.
It opened. The house was not locked up at all.
She hesitated.
Ought she to wait for Henry? He felt strongly about property, and might
prefer to show her over himself.
On the other hand, he had told her to keep in the dry, and the porch was beginning to
drip. So she went in, and the drought from inside
slammed the door behind.
Desolation greeted her. Dirty finger-prints were on the hall-
windows, flue and rubbish on its unwashed boards.
The civilization of luggage had been here for a month, and then decamped.
Dining-room and drawing room--right and left--were guessed only by their wall-
They were just rooms where one could shelter from the rain.
Across the ceiling of each ran a great beam.
The dining-room and hall revealed theirs openly, but the drawing-room's was match-
boarded--because the facts of life must be concealed from ladies?
Drawing-room, dining-room, and hall--how petty the names sounded!
Here were simply three rooms where children could play and friends shelter from the
Yes, and they were beautiful. Then she opened one of the doors opposite--
there were two--and exchanged wall-papers for whitewash.
It was the servants' part, though she scarcely realized that: just rooms again,
where friends might shelter. The garden at the back was full of
flowering cherries and plums.
Farther on were hints of the meadow and a black cliff of pines.
Yes, the meadow was beautiful.
Penned in by the desolate weather, she recaptured the sense of space which the
motor had tried to rob from her.
She remembered again that ten square miles are not ten times as wonderful as one
square mile, that a thousand square miles are not practically the same as heaven.
The phantom of bigness, which London encourages, was laid for ever when she
paced from the hall at Howards End to its kitchen and heard the rains run this way
and that where the watershed of the roof divided them.
Now Helen came to her mind, scrutinizing half Wessex from the ridge of the Purbeck
Downs, and saying: "You will have to lose something."
She was not so sure.
For instance, she would double her kingdom by opening the door that concealed the
Now she thought of the map of Africa; of empires; of her father; of the two supreme
nations, streams of whose life warmed her blood, but, mingling, had cooled her brain.
She paced back into the hall, and as she did so the house reverberated.
"Is that you, Henry?" she called. There was no answer, but the house
reverberated again.
"Henry, have you got in?" But it was the heart of the house beating,
faintly at first, then loudly, martially. It dominated the rain.
It is the starved imagination, not the well-nourished, that is afraid.
Margaret flung open the door to the stairs. A noise as of drums seemed to deafen her.
A woman, an old woman, was descending, with figure erect, with face impassive, with
lips that parted and said dryly: "Oh! Well, I took you for Ruth Wilcox."
Margaret stammered: "I--Mrs. Wilcox--I?"
"In fancy, of course--in fancy. You had her way of walking.
Good-day." And the old woman passed out into the rain.
Howards End by E. M. Forster CHAPTER 24
"It gave her quite a turn," said Mr. Wilcox, when retailing the incident to
Dolly at tea-time. "None of you girls have any nerves, really.
Of course, a word from me put it all right, but silly old Miss Avery--she frightened
you, didn't she, Margaret? There you stood clutching a bunch of weeds.
She might have said something, instead of coming down the stairs with that alarming
bonnet on. I passed her as I came in.
Enough to make the car shy.
I believe Miss Avery goes in for being a character; some old maids do."
He lit a cigarette. "It is their last resource.
Heaven knows what she was doing in the place; but that's Bryce's business, not
mine." "I wasn't as foolish as you suggest," said
"She only startled me, for the house had been silent so long."
"Did you take her for a spook?" asked Dolly, for whom "spooks" and "going to
church" summarized the unseen.
"Not exactly." "She really did frighten you," said Henry,
who was far from discouraging timidity in females.
"Poor Margaret!
And very naturally. Uneducated classes are so stupid."
"Is Miss Avery uneducated classes?"
Margaret asked, and found herself looking at the decoration scheme of Dolly's
drawing-room. "She's just one of the crew at the farm.
People like that always assume things.
She assumed you'd know who she was.
She left all the Howards End keys in the front lobby, and assumed that you'd seen
them as you came in, that you'd lock up the house when you'd done, and would bring them
on down to her.
And there was her niece hunting for them down at the farm.
Lack of education makes people very casual. Hilton was full of women like Miss Avery
"I shouldn't have disliked it, perhaps." "Or Miss Avery giving me a wedding
present," said Dolly. Which was illogical but interesting.
Through Dolly, Margaret was destined to learn a good deal.
"But Charles said I must try not to mind, because she had known his grandmother."
"As usual, you've got the story wrong, my good Dorothea."
"I mean great-grandmother--the one who left Mrs. Wilcox the house.
Weren't both of them and Miss Avery friends when Howards End, too, was a farm?"
Her father-in-law blew out a shaft of smoke.
His attitude to his dead wife was curious.
He would allude to her, and hear her discussed, but never mentioned her by name.
Nor was he interested in the dim, bucolic past.
Dolly was--for the following reason.
"Then hadn't Mrs. Wilcox a brother--or was it an uncle?
Anyhow, he popped the question, and Miss Avery, she said 'No.'
Just imagine, if she'd said 'Yes,' she would have been Charles's aunt.
(Oh, I say,--that's rather good! 'Charlie's Aunt'!
I must chaff him about that this evening.)
And the man went out and was killed. Yes, I'm certain I've got it right now.
Tom Howard--he was the last of them." "I believe so," said Mr. Wilcox
"I say! Howards End--Howard's Ended!" cried Dolly.
"I'm rather on the spot this evening, eh?" "I wish you'd ask whether Crane's ended."
"Oh, Mr. Wilcox, how CAN you?"
"Because, if he has had enough tea, we ought to go.--Dolly's a good little woman,"
he continued, "but a little of her goes a long way.
I couldn't live near her if you paid me."
Margaret smiled. Though presenting a firm front to
outsiders, no Wilcox could live near, or near the possessions of, any other Wilcox.
They had the colonial spirit, and were always making for some spot where the white
man might carry his burden unobserved.
Of course, Howards End was impossible, so long as the younger couple were established
in Hilton. His objections to the house were plain as
daylight now.
Crane had had enough tea, and was sent to the garage, where their car had been
trickling muddy water over Charles's.
The downpour had surely penetrated the Six Hills by now, bringing news of our restless
civilization. "Curious mounds," said, Henry, "but in with
you now; another time."
He had to be up in London by seven--if possible, by six-thirty.
Once more she lost the sense of space; once more trees, houses, people, animals, hills,
merged and heaved into one dirtiness, and she was at Wickham Place.
Her evening was pleasant.
The sense of flux which had haunted her all the year disappeared for a time.
She forgot the luggage and the motor-cars, and the hurrying men who know so much and
connect so little.
She recaptured the sense of space, which is the basis of all earthly beauty, and,
starting from Howards End, she attempted to realize England.
She failed--visions do not come when we try, though they may come through trying.
But an unexpected love of the island awoke in her, connecting on this side with the
joys of the flesh, on that with the inconceivable.
Helen and her father had known this love, poor Leonard Bast was groping after it, but
it had been hidden from Margaret till this afternoon.
It had certainly come through the house and old Miss Avery.
Through them: the notion of "through" persisted; her mind trembled towards a
conclusion which only the unwise have put into words.
Then, veering back into warmth, it dwelt on ruddy bricks, flowering plum-trees, and all
the tangible joys of, spring.
Henry, after allaying her agitation, had taken her over his property, and had
explained to her the use and dimensions of the various rooms.
He had sketched the history of the little estate.
"It is so unlucky," ran the monologue, "that money wasn't put into it about fifty
years ago.
Then it had four--five-times the land-- thirty acres at least.
One could have made something out of it then--a small park, or at all events
shrubberies, and rebuilt the house farther away from the road.
What's the good of taking it in hand now?
Nothing but the meadow left, and even that was heavily mortgaged when I first had to
do with things--yes, and the house too. Oh, it was no joke."
She saw two women as he spoke, one old, the other young, watching their inheritance
melt away. She saw them greet him as a deliverer.
"Mismanagement did it--besides, the days for small farms are over.
It doesn't pay--except with intensive cultivation.
Small holdings, back to the land--ah! philanthropic bunkum.
Take it as a rule that nothing pays on a small scale.
Most of the land you see (they were standing at an upper window, the only one
which faced west) belongs to the people at the Park--they made their pile over copper-
-good chaps.
Avery's Farm, Sishe's--what they call the Common, where you see that ruined oak--one
after the other fell in, and so did this, as near as is no matter.
"But Henry had saved it; without fine feelings or deep insight, but he had saved
it, and she loved him for the deed.
"When I had more control I did what I could: sold off the two and a half animals,
and the mangy pony, and the superannuated tools; pulled down the outhouses; drained;
thinned out I don't know how many guelder-
roses and elder-trees; and inside the house I turned the old kitchen into a hall, and
made a kitchen behind where the dairy was. Garage and so on came later.
But one could still tell it's been an old farm.
And yet it isn't the place that would fetch one of your artistic crew."
No, it wasn't; and if he did not quite understand it, the artistic crew would
still less: it was English, and the wych- elm that she saw from the window was an
English tree.
No report had prepared her for its peculiar glory.
It was neither warrior, nor lover, nor god; in none of these roles do the English
It was a comrade, bending over the house, strength and adventure in its roots, but in
its utmost fingers tenderness, and the girth, that a dozen men could not have
spanned, became in the end evanescent, till
pale bud clusters seemed to float in the air.
It was a comrade. House and tree transcended any similes of
Margaret thought of them now, and was to think of them through many a windy night
and London day, but to compare either to man, to woman, always dwarfed the vision.
Yet they kept within limits of the human.
Their message was not of eternity, but of hope on this side of the grave.
As she stood in the one, gazing at the other, truer relationship had gleamed.
Another touch, and the account of her day is finished.
They entered the garden for a minute, and to Mr. Wilcox's surprise she was right.
Teeth, pigs' teeth, could be seen in the bark of the wych-elm tree--just the white
tips of them showing. "Extraordinary!" he cried.
"Who told you?"
"I heard of it one winter in London," was her answer, for she, too, avoided
mentioning Mrs. Wilcox by name.
Howards End by E. M. Forster CHAPTER 25
Evie heard of her father's engagement when she was in for a tennis tournament, and her
play went simply to pot.
That she should marry and leave him had seemed natural enough; that he, left alone,
should do the same was deceitful; and now Charles and Dolly said that it was all her
"But I never dreamt of such a thing," she grumbled.
"Dad took me to call now and then, and made me ask her to Simpson's.
Well, I'm altogether off Dad."
It was also an insult to their mother's memory; there they were agreed, and Evie
had the idea of returning Mrs. Wilcox's lace and jewellery "as a protest."
Against what it would protest she was not clear; but being only eighteen, the idea of
renunciation appealed to her, the more as she did not care for jewellery or lace.
Dolly then suggested that she and Uncle Percy should pretend to break off their
engagement, and then perhaps Mr. Wilcox would quarrel with Miss Schlegel, and break
off his; or Paul might be cabled for.
But at this point Charles told them not to talk nonsense.
So Evie settled to marry as soon as possible; it was no good hanging about with
these Schlegels eyeing her.
The date of her wedding was consequently put forward from September to August, and
in the intoxication of presents she recovered much of her good-humour.
Margaret found that she was expected to figure at this function, and to figure
largely; it would be such an opportunity, said Henry, for her to get to know his set.
Sir James Bidder would be there, and all the Cahills and the Fussells, and his
sister-in-law, Mrs. Warrington Wilcox, had fortunately got back from her tour round
the world.
Henry she loved, but his set promised to be another matter.
He had not the knack of surrounding himself with nice people--indeed, for a man of
ability and virtue his choice had been singularly unfortunate; he had no guiding
principle beyond a certain preference for
mediocrity; he was content to settle one of the greatest things in life haphazard, and
so, while his investments went right, his friends generally went wrong.
She would be told, "Oh, So-and-so's a good sort--a thundering good sort," and find, on
meeting him, that he was a brute or a bore.
If Henry had shown real affection, she would have understood, for affection
explains everything. But he seemed without sentiment.
The "thundering good sort" might at any moment become "a fellow for whom I never
did have much use, and have less now," and be shaken off cheerily into oblivion.
Margaret had done the same as a schoolgirl.
Now she never forgot anyone for whom she had once cared; she connected, though the
connection might be bitter, and she hoped that some day Henry would do the same.
Evie was not to be married from Ducie Street.
She had a fancy for something rural, and, besides, no one would be in London then, so
she left her boxes for a few weeks at Oniton Grange, and her banns were duly
published in the parish church, and for a
couple of days the little town, dreaming between the ruddy hills, was roused by the
clang of our civilization, and drew up by the roadside to let the motors pass.
Oniton had been a discovery of Mr. Wilcox's--a discovery of which he was not
altogether proud.
It was up towards the Welsh border, and so difficult of access that he had concluded
it must be something special. A ruined castle stood in the grounds.
But having got there, what was one to do?
The shooting was bad, the fishing indifferent, and women-folk reported the
scenery as nothing much.
The place turned out to be in the wrong part of Shropshire, damn it, and though he
never damned his own property aloud, he was only waiting to get it off his hands, and
then to let fly.
Evie's marriage was its last appearance in public.
As soon as a tenant was found, it became a house for which he never had had much use,
and had less now, and, like Howards End, faded into Limbo.
But on Margaret Oniton was destined to make a lasting impression.
She regarded it as her future home, and was anxious to start straight with the clergy,
etc., and, if possible, to see something of the local life.
It was a market-town--as tiny a one as England possesses--and had for ages served
that lonely valley, and guarded our marches against the Kelt.
In spite of the occasion, in spite of the numbing hilarity that greeted her as soon
as she got into the reserved saloon at Paddington, her senses were awake and
watching, and though Oniton was to prove
one of her innumerable false starts, she never forgot it, nor the things that
happened there.
The London party only numbered eight--the Fussells, father and son, two Anglo-Indian
ladies named Mrs. Plynlimmon and Lady Edser, Mrs. Warrington Wilcox and her
daughter, and lastly, the little girl, very
smart and quiet, who figures at so many weddings, and who kept a watchful eye on
Margaret, the bride-elect, Dolly was absent--a domestic event detained her at
Hilton; Paul had cabled a humorous message;
Charles was to meet them with a trio of motors at Shrewsbury.
Helen had refused her invitation; Tibby had never answered his.
The management was excellent, as was to be expected with anything that Henry
undertook; one was conscious of his sensible and generous brain in the
They were his guests as soon as they reached the train; a special label for
their luggage; a courier; a special lunch; they had only to look pleasant and, where
possible, pretty.
Margaret thought with dismay of her own nuptials--presumably under the management
of Tibby.
"Mr. Theobald Schlegel and Miss Helen Schlegel request the pleasure of Mrs.
Plynlimmon's company on the occasion of the marriage of their sister Margaret."
The formula was incredible, but it must soon be printed and sent, and though
Wickham Place need not compete with Oniton, it must feed its guests properly, and
provide them with sufficient chairs.
Her wedding would either be ramshackly or bourgeois--she hoped the latter.
Such an affair as the present, staged with a deftness that was almost beautiful, lay
beyond her powers and those of her friends.
The low rich purr of a Great Western express is not the worst background for
conversation, and the journey passed pleasantly enough.
Nothing could have exceeded the kindness of the two men.
They raised windows for some ladies, and lowered them for others, they rang the bell
for the servant, they identified the colleges as the train slipped past Oxford,
they caught books or bag-purses in the act of tumbling on to the floor.
Yet there was nothing finicky about their politeness: it had the Public School touch,
and, though sedulous, was virile.
More battles than Waterloo have been won on our playing-fields, and Margaret bowed to a
charm of which she did not wholly approve, and said nothing when the Oxford colleges
were identified wrongly.
"Male and female created He them"; the journey to Shrewsbury confirmed this
questionable statement, and the long glass saloon, that moved so easily and felt so
comfortable, became a forcing-house for the idea of sex.
At Shrewsbury came fresh air.
Margaret was all for sight-seeing, and while the others were finishing their tea
at the Raven, she annexed a motor and hurried over the astonishing city.
Her chauffeur was not the faithful Crane, but an Italian, who dearly loved making her
Charles, watch in hand, though with a level brow, was standing in front of the hotel
when they returned. It was perfectly all right, he told her;
she was by no means the last.
And then he dived into the coffee-room, and she heard him say, "For God's sake, hurry
the women up; we shall never be off," and Albert Fussell reply, "Not I; I've done my
share," and Colonel Fussell opine that the ladies were getting themselves up to kill.
Presently Myra (Mrs. Warrington's daughter) appeared, and as she was his cousin,
Charles blew her up a little: she had been changing her smart traveling hat for a
smart motor hat.
Then Mrs. Warrington herself, leading the quiet child; the two Anglo-Indian ladies
were always last.
Maids, courier, heavy luggage, had already gone on by a branch-line to a station
nearer Oniton, but there were five hat- boxes and four dressing-bags to be packed,
and five dust-cloaks to be put on, and to
be put off at the last moment, because Charles declared them not necessary.
The men presided over everything with unfailing good-humour.
By half-past five the party was ready, and went out of Shrewsbury by the Welsh Bridge.
Shropshire had not the reticence of Hertfordshire.
Though robbed of half its magic by swift movement, it still conveyed the sense of
They were nearing the buttresses that force the Severn eastern and make it an English
stream, and the sun, sinking over the Sentinels of Wales, was straight in their
Having picked up another guest, they turned southward, avoiding the greater mountains,
but conscious of an occasional summit, rounded and mild, whose colouring differed
in quality from that of the lower earth, and whose contours altered more slowly.
Quiet mysteries were in progress behind those tossing horizons: the West, as ever,
was retreating with some secret which may not be worth the discovery, but which no
practical man will ever discover.
They spoke of Tariff Reform. Mrs. Warrington was just back from the
Like many other critics of Empire, her mouth had been stopped with food, and she
could only exclaim at the hospitality with which she had been received, and warn the
Mother Country against trifling with young Titans.
"They threaten to cut the painter," she cried, "and where shall we be then?
Miss Schlegel, you'll undertake to keep Henry sound about Tariff Reform?
It is our last hope."
Margaret playfully confessed herself on the other side, and they began to quote from
their respective hand-books while the motor carried them deep into the hills.
Curious these were, rather than impressive, for their outlines lacked beauty, and the
pink fields--on their summits suggested the handkerchiefs of a giant spread out to dry.
An occasional outcrop of rock, an occasional wood, an occasional "forest,"
treeless and brown, all hinted at wildness to follow, but the main colour was an
agricultural green.
The air grew cooler; they had surmounted the last gradient, and Oniton lay below
them with its church, its radiating houses, its castle, its river-girt peninsula.
Close to the castle was a grey mansion, unintellectual but kindly, stretching with
its grounds across the peninsula's neck-- the sort of mansion that was built all over
England in the beginning of the last
century, while architecture was still an expression of the national character.
That was the Grange, remarked Albert, over his shoulder, and then he jammed the brake
on, and the motor slowed down and stopped.
"I'm sorry," said he, turning round. "Do you mind getting out--by the door on
the right? Steady on!"
"What's happened?" asked Mrs. Warrington.
Then the car behind them drew up, and the voice of Charles was heard saying: "Get out
the women at once."
There was a concourse of males, and Margaret and her companions were hustled
out and received into the second car. What had happened?
As it started off again, the door of a cottage opened, and a girl screamed wildly
at them. "What is it?" the ladies cried.
Charles drove them a hundred yards without speaking.
Then he said: "It's all right. Your car just touched a dog."
"But stop!" cried Margaret, horrified.
"It didn't hurt him." "Didn't really hurt him?" asked Myra.
"No." "Do PLEASE stop!" said Margaret, leaning
She was standing up in the car, the other occupants holding her knees to steady her.
"I want to go back, please." Charles took no notice.
"We've left Mr. Fussell behind," said another; "and Angelo, and Crane."
"Yes, but no woman."
"I expect a little of"--Mrs. Warrington scratched her palm--" will be more to the
point than one of us!"
"The insurance company sees to that," remarked Charles, "and Albert will do the
talking." "I want to go back, though, I say!"
repeated Margaret, getting angry.
Charles took no notice. The motor, loaded with refugees, continued
to travel very slowly down the hill. "The men are there," chorused the others.
"Men will see to it."
"The men CAN'T see to it. Oh, this is ridiculous!
Charles, I ask you to stop." "Stopping's no good," drawled Charles.
"Isn't it?" said Margaret, and jumped straight out of the car.
She fell on her knees, cut her gloves, shook her hat over her ear.
Cries of alarm followed her.
"You've hurt yourself," exclaimed Charles, jumping after her.
"Of course I've hurt myself!" she retorted. "May I ask what--"
"There's nothing to ask," said Margaret.
"Your hand's bleeding." "I know."
"I'm in for a frightful row from the pater."
"You should have thought of that sooner, Charles."
Charles had never been in such a position before.
It was a woman in revolt who was hobbling away from him, and the sight was too
strange to leave any room for anger. He recovered himself when the others caught
them up: their sort he understood.
He commanded them to go back. Albert Fussell was seen walking towards
them. "It's all right!" he called.
"It wasn't a dog, it was a cat."
"There!" exclaimed Charles triumphantly. "It's only a rotten cat.
"Got room in your car for a little un? I cut as soon as I saw it wasn't a dog; the
chauffeurs are tackling the girl."
But Margaret walked forward steadily. Why should the chauffeurs tackle the girl?
Ladies sheltering behind men, men sheltering behind servants--the whole
system's wrong, and she must challenge it.
"Miss Schlegel! 'Pon my word, you've hurt your hand."
"I'm just going to see," said Margaret. "Don't you wait, Mr. Fussell."
The second motor came round the corner.
"lt is all right, madam," said Crane in his turn.
He had taken to calling her madam. "What's all right?
The cat?"
"Yes, madam. The girl will receive compensation for it."
"She was a very ruda girla," said Angelo from the third motor thoughtfully.
"Wouldn't you have been rude?"
The Italian spread out his hands, implying that he had not thought of rudeness, but
would produce it if it pleased her. The situation became absurd.
The gentlemen were again buzzing round Miss Schlegel with offers of assistance, and
Lady Edser began to bind up her hand.
She yielded, apologizing slightly, and was led back to the car, and soon the landscape
resumed its motion, the lonely cottage disappeared, the castle swelled on its
cushion of turf, and they had arrived.
No doubt she had disgraced herself. But she felt their whole journey from
London had been unreal. They had no part with the earth and its
They were dust, and a stink, and cosmopolitan chatter, and the girl whose
cat had been killed had lived more deeply than they.
"Oh, Henry," she exclaimed, "I have been so naughty," for she had decided to take up
this line. "We ran over a cat.
Charles told me not to jump out, but I would, and look!"
She held out her bandaged hand. "Your poor Meg went such a flop."
Mr. Wilcox looked bewildered.
In evening dress, he was standing to welcome his guests in the hall.
"Thinking it was a dog," added Mrs. Warrington.
"Ah, a dog's a companion!" said Colonel Fussell.
"A dog'll remember you." "Have you hurt yourself, Margaret?"
"Not to speak about; and it's my left hand."
"Well, hurry up and change." She obeyed, as did the others.
Mr. Wilcox then turned to his son.
"Now, Charles, what's happened?" Charles was absolutely honest.
He described what he believed to have happened.
Albert had flattened out a cat, and Miss Schlegel had lost her nerve, as any woman
She had been got safely into the other car, but when it was in motion had leapt out--
again, in spite of all that they could say.
After walking a little on the road, she had calmed down and had said that she was
His father accepted this explanation, and neither knew that Margaret had artfully
prepared the way for it. It fitted in too well with their view of
feminine nature.
In the smoking-room, after dinner, the Colonel put forward the view that Miss
Schlegel had jumped it out of devilry.
Well he remembered as a young man, in the harbour of Gibraltar once, how a girl--a
handsome girl, too--had jumped overboard for a bet.
He could see her now, and all the lads overboard after her.
But Charles and Mr. Wilcox agreed it was much more probably nerves in Miss
Schlegel's case.
Charles was depressed. That woman had a tongue.
She would bring worse disgrace on his father before she had done with them.
He strolled out on to the castle mound to think the matter over.
The evening was exquisite.
On three sides of him a little river whispered, full of messages from the west;
above his head the ruins made patterns against the sky.
He carefully reviewed their dealings with this family, until he fitted Helen, and
Margaret, and Aunt Juley into an orderly conspiracy.
Paternity had made him suspicious.
He had two children to look after, and more coming, and day by day they seemed less
likely to grow up rich men.
"It is all very well," he reflected, "the pater saying that he will be just to all,
but one can't be just indefinitely. Money isn't elastic.
What's to happen if Evie has a family?
And, come to that, so may the pater. There'll not be enough to go round, for
there's none coming in, either through Dolly or Percy.
It's damnable!"
He looked enviously at the Grange, whose windows poured light and laughter.
First and last, this wedding would cost a pretty penny.
Two ladies were strolling up and down the garden terrace, and as the syllables
"Imperialism" were wafted to his ears, he guessed that one of them was his aunt.
She might have helped him, if she too had not had a family to provide for.
"Every one for himself," he repeated--a maxim which had cheered him in the past,
but which rang grimly enough among the ruins of Oniton.
He lacked his father's ability in business, and so had an ever higher regard for money;
unless he could inherit plenty, he feared to leave his children poor.
As he sat thinking, one of the ladies left the terrace and walked into the meadow; he
recognized her as Margaret by the white bandage that gleamed on her arm, and put
out his cigar, lest the gleam should betray him.
She climbed up the mound in zigzags, and at times stooped down, as if she was stroking
the turf.
It sounds absolutely incredible, but for a moment Charles thought that she was in love
with him, and had come out to tempt him.
Charles believed in temptresses, who are indeed the strong man's necessary
complement, and having no sense of humour, he could not purge himself of the thought
by a smile.
Margaret, who was engaged to his father, and his sister's wedding-guest, kept on her
way without noticing him, and he admitted that he had wronged her on this point.
But what was she doing?
Why was she stumbling about amongst the rubble and catching her dress in brambles
and burrs?
As she edged round the keep, she must have got to leeward and smelt his cigar-smoke,
for she exclaimed, "Hullo! Who's that?"
Charles made no answer.
"Saxon or Kelt?" she continued, laughing in the darkness.
"But it doesn't matter. Whichever you are, you will have to listen
to me.
I love this place. I love Shropshire.
I hate London. I am glad that this will be my home.
Ah, dear"--she was now moving back towards the house--"what a comfort to have
arrived!" "That woman means mischief," thought
Charles, and compressed his lips.
In a few minutes he followed her indoors, as the ground was getting damp.
Mists were rising from the river, and presently it became invisible, though it
whispered more loudly.
There had been a heavy downpour in the Welsh hills.
Howards End by E. M. Forster CHAPTER 26
Next morning a fine mist covered the peninsula.
The weather promised well, and the outline of the castle mound grew clearer each
moment that Margaret watched it.
Presently she saw the keep, and the sun painted the rubble gold, and charged the
white sky with blue. The shadow of the house gathered itself
together and fell over the garden.
A cat looked up at her window and mewed. Lastly the river appeared, still holding
the mists between its banks and its overhanging alders, and only visible as far
as a hill, which cut off its upper reaches.
Margaret was fascinated by Oniton. She had said that she loved it, but it was
rather its romantic tension that held her.
The rounded Druids of whom she had caught glimpses in her drive, the rivers hurrying
down from them to England, the carelessly modelled masses of the lower hills,
thrilled her with poetry.
The house was insignificant, but the prospect from it would be an eternal joy,
and she thought of all the friends she would have to stop in it, and of the
conversion of Henry himself to a rural life.
Society, too, promised favourably.
The rector of the parish had dined with them last night, and she found that he was
a friend of her father's, and so knew what to find in her.
She liked him.
He would introduce her to the town. While, on her other side, Sir James Bidder
sat, repeating that she only had to give the word, and he would whip up the county
families for twenty miles round.
Whether Sir James, who was Garden Seeds, had promised what he could perform, she
doubted, but so long as Henry mistook them for the county families when they did call,
she was content.
Charles and Albert Fussell now crossed the lawn.
They were going for a morning dip, and a servant followed them with their bathing-
She had meant to take a stroll herself before breakfast, but saw that the day was
still sacred to men, and amused herself by watching their contretemps.
In the first place the key of the bathing- shed could not be found.
Charles stood by the riverside with folded hands, tragical, while the servant shouted,
and was misunderstood by another servant in the garden.
Then came a difficulty about a spring- board, and soon three people were running
backwards and forwards over the meadow, with orders and counter orders and
recriminations and apologies.
If Margaret wanted to jump from a motor- car, she jumped; if Tibby thought paddling
would benefit his ankles, he paddled; if a clerk desired adventure, he took a walk in
the dark.
But these athletes seemed paralysed. They could not bathe without their
appliances, though the morning sun was calling and the last mists were rising from
the dimpling stream.
Had they found the life of the body after all?
Could not the men whom they despised as milksops beat them, even on their own
She thought of the bathing arrangements as they should be in her day--no worrying of
servants, no appliances, beyond good sense.
Her reflections were disturbed by the quiet child, who had come out to speak to the
cat, but was now watching her watch the men.
She called, "Good-morning, dear," a little sharply.
Her voice spread consternation.
Charles looked round, and though completely attired in indigo blue, vanished into the
shed, and was seen no more. "Miss Wilcox is up--" the child whispered,
and then became unintelligible.
"What's that?" It sounded like, "--cut-yoke--sack back--"
"I can't hear." "--On the bed--tissue-paper--"
Gathering that the wedding-dress was on view, and that a visit would be seemly, she
went to Evie's room. All was hilarity here.
Evie, in a petticoat, was dancing with one of the Anglo-Indian ladies, while the other
was adoring yards of white satin. They screamed, they laughed, they sang, and
the dog barked.
Margaret screamed a little too, but without conviction.
She could not feel that a wedding was so funny.
Perhaps something was missing in her equipment.
Evie gasped: "Dolly is a rotter not to be here!
Oh, we would rag just then!"
Then Margaret went down to breakfast. Henry was already installed; he ate slowly
and spoke little, and was, in Margaret's eyes, the only member of their party who
dodged emotion successfully.
She could not suppose him indifferent either to the loss of his daughter or to
the presence of his future wife.
Yet he dwelt intact, only issuing orders occasionally--orders that promoted the
comfort of his guests.
He inquired after her hand; he set her to pour out the coffee and Mrs. Warrington to
pour out the tea.
When Evie came down there was a moment's awkwardness, and both ladies rose to vacate
their places. "Burton," called Henry, "serve tea and
coffee from the side-board!"
It wasn't genuine tact, but it was tact, of a sort--the sort that is as useful as the
genuine, and saves even more situations at Board meetings.
Henry treated a marriage like a funeral, item by item, never raising his eyes to the
whole, and "Death, where is thy sting? Love, where is thy victory?" one would
exclaim at the close.
After breakfast she claimed a few words with him.
It was always best to approach him formally.
She asked for the interview, because he was going on to shoot grouse tomorrow, and she
was returning to Helen in town. "Certainly, dear," said he.
"Of course, I have the time.
What do you want?" "Nothing."
"I was afraid something had gone wrong." "No; I have nothing to say, but you may
Glancing at his watch, he talked of the nasty curve at the lych-gate.
She heard him with interest.
Her surface could always respond to his without contempt, though all her deeper
being might be yearning to help him. She had abandoned any plan of action.
Love is the best, and the more she let herself love him, the more chance was there
that he would set his soul in order.
Such a moment as this, when they sat under fair weather by the walks of their future
home, was so sweet to her that its sweetness would surely pierce to him.
Each lift of his eyes, each parting of the thatched lip from the clean-shaven, must
prelude the tenderness that kills the Monk and the Beast at a single blow.
Disappointed a hundred times, she still hoped.
She loved him with too clear a vision to fear his cloudiness.
Whether he droned trivialities, as today, or sprang kisses on her in the twilight,
she could pardon him, she could respond. "If there is this nasty curve," she
suggested, "couldn't we walk to the church?
Not, of course, you and Evie; but the rest of us might very well go on first, and that
would mean fewer carriages." "One can't have ladies walking through the
Market Square.
The Fussells wouldn't like it; they were awfully particular at Charles's wedding.
My--she--one of our party was anxious to walk, and certainly the church was just
round the corner, and I shouldn't have minded; but the Colonel made a great point
of it."
"You men shouldn't be so chivalrous," said Margaret thoughtfully.
"Why not?" She knew why not, but said that she did not
He then announced that, unless she had anything special to say, he must visit the
wine-cellar, and they went off together in search of Burton.
Though clumsy and a little inconvenient, Oniton was a genuine country house.
They clattered down flagged passages, looking into room after room, and scaring
unknown maids from the performance of obscure duties.
The wedding-breakfast must be in readiness when they came back from church, and tea
would be served in the garden.
The sight of so many agitated and serious people made Margaret smile, but she
reflected that they were paid to be serious, and enjoyed being agitated.
Here were the lower wheels of the machine that was tossing Evie up into nuptial
glory. A little boy blocked their way with pig-
His mind could not grasp their greatness, and he said: "By your leave; let me pass,
please." Henry asked him where Burton was.
But the servants were so new that they did not know one another's names.
In the still-room sat the band, who had stipulated for champagne as part of their
fee, and who were already drinking beer.
Scents of Araby came from the kitchen, mingled with cries.
Margaret knew what had happened there, for it happened at Wickham Place.
One of the wedding dishes had boiled over, and the cook was throwing cedar-shavings to
hide the smell. At last they came upon the butler.
Henry gave him the keys, and handed Margaret down the cellar-stairs.
Two doors were unlocked.
She, who kept all her wine at the bottom of the linen-cupboard, was astonished at the
"We shall never get through it!" she cried, and the two men were suddenly drawn into
brotherhood, and exchanged smiles. She felt as if she had again jumped out of
the car while it was moving.
Certainly Oniton would take some digesting. It would be no small business to remain
herself, and yet to assimilate such an establishment.
She must remain herself, for his sake as well as her own, since a shadowy wife
degrades the husband whom she accompanies; and she must assimilate for reasons of
common honesty, since she had no right to marry a man and make him uncomfortable.
Her only ally was the power of Home. The loss of Wickham Place had taught her
more than its possession.
Howards End had repeated the lesson. She was determined to create new sanctities
among these hills.
After visiting the wine-cellar, she dressed, and then came the wedding, which
seemed a small affair when compared with the preparations for it.
Everything went like one o'clock.
Mr. Cahill materialized out of space, and was waiting for his bride at the church
No one dropped the ring or mispronounced the responses, or trod on Evie's train, or
In a few minutes--the clergymen performed their duty, the register was signed, and
they were back in their carriages, negotiating the dangerous curve by the
Margaret was convinced that they had not been married at all, and that the Norman
church had been intent all the time on other business.
There were more documents to sign at the house, and the breakfast to eat, and then a
few more people dropped in for the garden party.
There had been a great many refusals, and after all it was not a very big affair--not
as big as Margaret's would be.
She noted the dishes and the strips of red carpet, that outwardly she might give Henry
what was proper.
But inwardly she hoped for something better than this blend of Sunday church and fox-
hunting. If only someone had been upset!
But this wedding had gone off so particularly well--"quite like a Durbar" in
the opinion of Lady Edser, and she thoroughly agreed with her.
So the wasted day lumbered forward, the bride and bridegroom drove off, yelling
with laughter, and for the second time the sun retreated towards the hills of Wales.
Henry, who was more tired than he owned, came up to her in the castle meadow, and,
in tones of unusual softness, said that he was pleased.
Everything had gone off so well.
She felt that he was praising her, too, and blushed; certainly she had done all she
could with his intractable friends, and had made a special point of kowtowing to the
They were breaking camp this evening: only the Warringtons and quiet child would stay
the night, and the others were already moving towards the house to finish their
"I think it did go off well," she agreed. "Since I had to jump out of the motor, I'm
thankful I lighted on my left hand.
I am so very glad about it, Henry dear; I only hope that the guests at ours may be
half as comfortable.
You must all remember that we have no practical person among us, except my aunt,
and she is not used to entertainments on a large scale."
"I know," he said gravely.
"Under the circumstances, it would be better to put everything into the hands of
Harrod's or Whiteley's, or even to go to some hotel."
"You desire a hotel?"
"Yes, because--well, I mustn't interfere with you.
No doubt you want to be married from your old home."
"My old home's falling into pieces, Henry.
I only want my new. Isn't it a perfect evening--"
"The Alexandrina isn't bad--"
"The Alexandrina," she echoed, more occupied with the threads of smoke that
were issuing from their chimneys, and ruling the sunlit slopes with parallels of
"It's off Curzon Street." "Is it?
Let's be married from off Curzon Street." Then she turned westward, to gaze at the
swirling gold.
Just where the river rounded the hill the sun caught it.
Fairyland must lie above the bend, and its precious liquid was pouring towards them
past Charles's bathing-shed.
She gazed so long that her eyes were dazzled, and when they moved back to the
house, she could not recognize the faces of people who were coming out of it.
A parlour-maid was preceding them.
"Who are those people?" she asked. "They're callers!" exclaimed Henry.
"It's too late for callers." "Perhaps they're town people who want to
see the wedding presents."
"I'm not at home yet to townees." "Well, hide among the ruins, and if I can
stop them, I will." He thanked her.
Margaret went forward, smiling socially.
She supposed that these were unpunctual guests, who would have to be content with
vicarious civility, since Evie and Charles were gone, Henry tired, and the others in
their rooms.
She assumed the airs of a hostess; not for long.
For one of the group was Helen--Helen in her oldest clothes, and dominated by that
tense, wounding excitement that had made her a terror in their nursery days.
"What is it?" she called.
"Oh, what's wrong? Is Tibby ill?"
Helen spoke to her two companions, who fell back.
Then she bore forward furiously.
"They're starving!" she shouted. "I found them starving!"
"Who? Why have you come?" "The Basts."
"Oh, Helen!" moaned Margaret.
"Whatever have you done now?" "He has lost his place.
He has been turned out of his bank. Yes, he's done for.
We upper classes have ruined him, and I suppose you'll tell me it's the battle of
life. Starving.
His wife is ill.
Starving. She fainted in the train."
"Helen, are you mad?" "Perhaps.
Yes. If you like, I'm mad.
But I've brought them. I'll stand injustice no longer.
I'll show up the wretchedness that lies under this luxury, this talk of impersonal
forces, this cant about God doing what we're too slack to do ourselves."
"Have you actually brought two starving people from London to Shropshire, Helen?"
Helen was checked. She had not thought of this, and her
hysteria abated.
"There was a restaurant car on the train," she said.
"Don't be absurd. They aren't starving, and you know it.
Now, begin from the beginning.
I won't have such theatrical nonsense. How dare you!
Yes, how dare you!" she repeated, as anger filled her, "bursting in to Evie's wedding
in this heartless way.
My goodness! but you've a perverted notion of philanthropy.
Look"--she indicated the house--"servants, people out of the windows.
They think it's some vulgar scandal, and I must explain, 'Oh no, it's only my sister
screaming, and only two hangers-on of ours, whom she has brought here for no
conceivable reason.'"
"Kindly take back that word 'hangers-on,'" said Helen, ominously calm.
"Very well," conceded Margaret, who for all her wrath was determined to avoid a real
"I, too, am sorry about them, but it beats me why you've brought them here, or why
you're here yourself. "It's our last chance of seeing Mr.
Margaret moved towards the house at this. She was determined not to worry Henry.
"He's going to Scotland. I know he is.
I insist on seeing him."
"Yes, tomorrow." "I knew it was our last chance."
"How do you do, Mr. Bast?" said Margaret, trying to control her voice.
"This is an odd business.
What view do you take of it?" "There is Mrs. Bast, too," prompted Helen.
Jacky also shook hands.
She, like her husband, was shy, and, furthermore, ill, and furthermore, so
bestially stupid that she could not grasp what was happening.
She only knew that the lady had swept down like a whirlwind last night, had paid the
rent, redeemed the furniture, provided them with a dinner and breakfast, and ordered
them to meet her at Paddington next morning.
Leonard had feebly protested, and when the morning came, had suggested that they
shouldn't go.
But she, half mesmerized, had obeyed.
The lady had told them to, and they must, and their bed-sitting-room had accordingly
changed into Paddington, and Paddington into a railway carriage, that shook, and
grew hot, and grew cold, and vanished
entirely, and reappeared amid torrents of expensive scent.
"You have fainted," said the lady in an awe-struck voice.
"Perhaps the air will do you good."
And perhaps it had, for here she was, feeling rather better among a lot of
flowers. "I'm sure I don't want to intrude," began
Leonard, in answer to Margaret's question.
"But you have been so kind to me in the past in warning me about the Porphyrion
that I wondered--why, I wondered whether--" "Whether we could get him back into the
Porphyrion again," supplied Helen.
"Meg, this has been a cheerful business. A bright evening's work that was on Chelsea
Embankment." Margaret shook her head and returned to Mr.
"I don't understand. You left the Porphyrion because we
suggested it was a bad concern, didn't you?"
"That's right."
"And went into a bank instead?"
"I told you all that," said Helen; "and they reduced their staff after he had been
in a month, and now he's penniless, and I consider that we and our informant are
directly to blame."
"I hate all this," Leonard muttered. "I hope you do, Mr. Bast.
But it's no good mincing matters. You have done yourself no good by coming
If you intend to confront Mr. Wilcox, and to call him to account for a chance remark,
you will make a very great mistake." "I brought them.
I did it all," cried Helen.
"I can only advise you to go at once. My sister has put you in a false position,
and it is kindest to tell you so.
It's too late to get to town, but you'll find a comfortable hotel in Oniton, where
Mrs. Bast can rest, and I hope you'll be my guests there."
"That isn't what I want, Miss Schlegel," said Leonard.
"You're very kind, and no doubt it's a false position, but you make me miserable.
I seem no good at all."
"It's work he wants," interpreted Helen. "Can't you see?"
Then he said: "Jacky, let's go. We're more bother than we're worth.
We're costing these ladies pounds and pounds already to get work for us, and they
never will. There's nothing we're good enough to do."
"We would like to find you work," said Margaret rather conventionally.
"We want to--I, like my sister. You're only down in your luck.
Go to the hotel, have a good night's rest, and some day you shall pay me back the
bill, if you prefer it." But Leonard was near the abyss, and at such
moments men see clearly.
"You don't know what you're talking about," he said.
"I shall never get work now. If rich people fail at one profession, they
can try another.
Not I. I had my groove, and I've got out of it.
I could do one particular branch of insurance in one particular office well
enough to command a salary, but that's all.
Poetry's nothing, Miss Schlegel. One's thoughts about this and that are
nothing. Your money, too, is nothing, if you'll
understand me.
I mean if a man over twenty once loses his own particular job, it's all over with him.
I have seen it happen to others. Their friends gave them money for a little,
but in the end they fall over the edge.
It's no good. It's the whole world pulling.
There always will be rich and poor." He ceased.
"Won't you have something to eat?" said Margaret.
"I don't know what to do.
It isn't my house, and though Mr. Wilcox would have been glad to see you at any
other time--as I say, I don't know what to do, but I undertake to do what I can for
Helen, offer them something. Do try a sandwich, Mrs. Bast."
They moved to a long table behind which a servant was still standing.
Iced cakes, sandwiches innumerable, coffee, claret-cup, champagne, remained almost
intact: their overfed guests could do no more.
Leonard refused.
Jacky thought she could manage a little. Margaret left them whispering together and
had a few more words with Helen. She said: "Helen, I like Mr. Bast.
I agree that he's worth helping.
I agree that we are directly responsible." "No, indirectly.
Via Mr. Wilcox." "Let me tell you once for all that if you
take up that attitude, I'll do nothing.
No doubt you're right logically, and are entitled to say a great many scathing
things about Henry. Only, I won't have it.
So choose.
Helen looked at the sunset. "If you promise to take them quietly to the
George, I will speak to Henry about them-- in my own way, mind; there is to be none of
this absurd screaming about justice.
I have no use for justice. If it was only a question of money, we
could do it ourselves. But he wants work, and that we can't give
him, but possibly Henry can."
"It's his duty to," grumbled Helen. "Nor am I concerned with duty.
I'm concerned with the characters of various people whom we know, and how,
things being as they are, things may be made a little better.
Mr. Wilcox hates being asked favours: all business men do.
But I am going to ask him, at the risk of a rebuff, because I want to make things a
little better."
"Very well. I promise.
You take it very calmly." "Take them off to the George, then, and
I'll try.
Poor creatures! but they look tried." As they parted, she added: "I haven't
nearly done with you, though, Helen. You have been most self-indulgent.
I can't get over it.
You have less restraint rather than more as you grow older.
Think it over and alter yourself, or we shan't have happy lives."
She rejoined Henry.
Fortunately he had been sitting down: these physical matters were important.
"Was it townees?" he asked, greeting her with a pleasant smile.
"You'll never believe me," said Margaret, sitting down beside him.
"It's all right now, but it was my sister." "Helen here?" he cried, preparing to rise.
"But she refused the invitation.
I thought she despised weddings." "Don't get up.
She has not come to the wedding. I've bundled her off to the George."
Inherently hospitable, he protested.
"No; she has two of her proteges with her, and must keep with them."
"Let 'em all come." "My dear Henry, did you see them?"
"I did catch sight of a brown bunch of a woman, certainly.
"The brown bunch was Helen, but did you catch sight of a sea-green and salmon
"What! are they out beanfeasting?" "No; business.
They wanted to see me, and later on I want to talk to you about them."
She was ashamed of her own diplomacy.
In dealing with a Wilcox, how tempting it was to lapse from comradeship, and to give
him the kind of woman that he desired! Henry took the hint at once, and said: "Why
later on?
Tell me now. No time like the present."
"Shall I?" "If it isn't a long story."
"Oh, not five minutes; but there's a sting at the end of it, for I want you to find
the man some work in your office." "What are his qualifications?"
"I don't know.
He's a clerk." "How old?"
"Twenty-five, perhaps." "What's his name?"
"Bast," said Margaret, and was about to remind him that they had met at Wickham
Place, but stopped herself. It had not been a successful meeting.
"Where was he before?"
"Dempster's Bank." "Why did he leave?" he asked, still
remembering nothing. "They reduced their staff."
"All right; I'll see him."
It was the reward of her tact and devotion through the day.
Now she understood why some women prefer influence to rights.
Mrs. Plynlimmon, when condemning suffragettes, had said: "The woman who
can't influence her husband to vote the way she wants ought to be ashamed of herself."
Margaret had winced, but she was influencing Henry now, and though pleased
at her little victory, she knew that she had won it by the methods of the harem.
"I should be glad if you took him," she said, "but I don't know whether he's
qualified." "I'll do what I can.
But, Margaret, this mustn't be taken as a precedent."
"No, of course--of course--" "I can't fit in your proteges every day.
Business would suffer."
"I can promise you he's the last. He--he's rather a special case."
"Proteges always are." She let it stand at that.
He rose with a little extra touch of complacency, and held out his hand to help
her up. How wide the gulf between Henry as he was
and Henry as Helen thought he ought to be!
And she herself--hovering as usual between the two, now accepting men as they are, now
yearning with her sister for Truth. Love and Truth--their warfare seems
Perhaps the whole visible world rests on it, and if they were one, life itself, like
the spirits when Prospero was reconciled to his brother, might vanish into air, into
thin air.
"Your protege has made us late," said he. "The Fussells will just be starting."
On the whole she sided with men as they are.
Henry would save the Basts as he had saved Howards End, while Helen and her friends
were discussing the ethics of salvation.
His was a slap-dash method, but the world has been built slap-dash, and the beauty of
mountain and river and sunset may be but the varnish with which the unskilled
artificer hides his joins.
Oniton, like herself, was imperfect. Its apple-trees were stunted, its castle
It, too, had suffered in the border warfare between the Anglo Saxon and the Kelt,
between things as they are and as they ought to be.
Once more the west was retreating, once again the orderly stars were dotting the
eastern sky. There is certainly no rest for us on the
But there is happiness, and as Margaret descended the mound on her lover's arm, she
felt that she was having her share.
To her annoyance, Mrs. Bast was still in the garden; the husband and Helen had left
her there to finish her meal while they went to engage rooms.
Margaret found this woman repellent.
She had felt, when shaking her hand, an overpowering shame.
She remembered the motive of her call at Wickham Place, and smelt again odours from
the abyss--odours the more disturbing because they were involuntary.
For there was no malice in Jacky.
There she sat, a piece of cake in one hand, an empty champagne glass in the other,
doing no harm to anybody. "She's overtired," Margaret whispered.
"She's something else," said Henry.
"This won't do. I can't have her in my garden in this
state." "Is she--" Margaret hesitated to add
Now that she was going to marry him, he had grown particular.
He discountenanced risque conversations now.
Henry went up to the woman.
She raised her face, which gleamed in the twilight like a puff-ball.
"Madam, you will be more comfortable at the hotel," he said sharply.
Jacky replied: "If it isn't Hen!"
"Ne crois pas que le mari lui ressemble," apologized Margaret.
"Il est tout a fait different." "Henry!" she repeated, quite distinctly.
Mr. Wilcox was much annoyed.
"I can't congratulate you on your proteges," he remarked.
"Hen, don't go. You do love me, dear, don't you?"
"Bless us, what a person!" sighed Margaret, gathering up her skirts.
Jacky pointed with her cake. "You're a nice boy, you are."
She yawned.
"There now, I love you." "Henry, I am awfully sorry."
"And pray why?" he asked, and looked at her so sternly that she feared he was ill.
He seemed more scandalized than the facts demanded.
"To have brought this down on you." "Pray don't apologize."
The voice continued.
"Why does she call you 'Hen'?" said Margaret innocently.
"Has she ever seen you before?" "Seen Hen before!" said Jacky.
"Who hasn't seen Hen?
He's serving you like me, my dear. These boys!
You wait--Still we love 'em." "Are you now satisfied?"
Henry asked.
Margaret began to grow frightened. "I don't know what it is all about," she
said. "Let's come in."
But he thought she was acting.
He thought he was trapped. He saw his whole life crumbling.
"Don't you indeed?" he said bitingly. "I do.
Allow me to congratulate you on the success of your plan."
"This is Helen's plan, not mine." "I now understand your interest in the
Very well thought out. I am amused at your caution, Margaret.
You are quite right--it was necessary. I am a man, and have lived a man's past.
I have the honour to release you from your engagement."
Still she could not understand. She knew of life's seamy side as a theory;
she could not grasp it as a fact.
More words from Jacky were necessary--words unequivocal, undenied.
"So that--" burst from her, and she went indoors.
She stopped herself from saying more.
"So what?" asked Colonel Fussell, who was getting ready to start in the hall.
"We were saying--Henry and I were just having the fiercest argument, my point
being--" Seizing his fur coat from a footman, she offered to help him on.
He protested, and there was a playful little scene.
"No, let me do that," said Henry, following.
"Thanks so much!
You see--he has forgiven me!" The Colonel said gallantly: "I don't expect
there's much to forgive. He got into the car.
The ladies followed him after an interval.
Maids, courier, and heavier luggage had been sent on earlier by the branch--line.
Still chattering, still thanking their host and patronizing their future hostess, the
guests were home away.
Then Margaret continued: "So that woman has been your mistress?"
"You put it with your usual delicacy," he replied.
"When, please?"
"Why?" "When, please?"
"Ten years ago." She left him without a word.
For it was not her tragedy: it was Mrs. Wilcox's.
Howards End by E. M. Forster CHAPTER 27
Helen began to wonder why she had spent a matter of eight pounds in making some
people ill and others angry.
Now that the wave of excitement was ebbing, and had left her, Mr. Bast, and Mrs. Bast
stranded for the night in a Shropshire hotel, she asked herself what forces had
made the wave flow.
At all events, no harm was done. Margaret would play the game properly now,
and though Helen disapproved of her sister's methods, she knew that the Basts
would benefit by them in the long run.
"Mr. Wilcox is so illogical," she explained to Leonard, who had put his wife to bed,
and was sitting with her in the empty coffee-room.
"If we told him it was his duty to take you on, he might refuse to do it.
The fact is, he isn't properly educated. I don't want to set you against him, but
you'll find him a trial."
"I can never thank you sufficiently, Miss Schlegel," was all that Leonard felt equal
to. "I believe in personal responsibility.
Don't you?
And in personal everything. I hate--I suppose I oughtn't to say that--
but the Wilcoxes are on the wrong tack surely.
Or perhaps it isn't their fault.
Perhaps the little thing that says 'I' is missing out of the middle of their heads,
and then it's a waste of time to blame them.
There's a nightmare of a theory that says a special race is being born which will rule
the rest of us in the future just because it lacks the little thing that says 'I.'
Had you heard that?"
"I get no time for reading." "Had you thought it, then?
That there are two kinds of people--our kind, who live straight from the middle of
their heads, and the other kind who can't, because their heads have no middle?
They can't say 'I.'
They AREN'T in fact, and so they're supermen.
Pierpont Morgan has never said 'I' in his life."
Leonard roused himself.
If his benefactress wanted intellectual conversation, she must have it.
She was more important than his ruined past.
"I never got on to Nietzsche," he said.
"But I always understood that those supermen were rather what you may call
egoists." "Oh, no, that's wrong," replied Helen.
"No superman ever said 'I want,' because 'I want' must lead to the question, 'Who am
I?' and so to Pity and to Justice. He only says 'want.'
'Want Europe,' if he's Napoleon; 'want wives,' if he's Bluebeard; 'want
Botticelli,' if he's Pierpont Morgan.
Never the 'I'; and if you could pierce through him, you'd find panic and emptiness
in the middle." Leonard was silent for a moment.
Then he said: "May I take it, Miss Schlegel, that you and I are both the sort
that say 'I'?" "Of course."
"And your sister too?"
"Of course," repeated Helen, a little sharply.
She was annoyed with Margaret, but did not want her discussed.
"All presentable people say 'I.'"
"But Mr. Wilcox--he is not perhaps--" "I don't know that it's any good discussing
Mr. Wilcox either." "Quite so, quite so," he agreed.
Helen asked herself why she had snubbed him.
Once or twice during the day she had encouraged him to criticize, and then had
pulled him up short.
Was she afraid of him presuming? If so, it was disgusting of her.
But he was thinking the snub quite natural. Everything she did was natural, and
incapable of causing offence.
While the Miss Schlegels were together he had felt them scarcely human--a sort of
admonitory whirligig. But a Miss Schlegel alone was different.
She was in Helen's case unmarried, in Margaret's about to be married, in neither
case an echo of her sister.
A light had fallen at last into this rich upper world, and he saw that it was full of
men and women, some of whom were more friendly to him than others.
Helen had become "his" Miss Schlegel, who scolded him and corresponded with him, and
had swept down yesterday with grateful vehemence.
Margaret, though not unkind, was severe and remote.
He would not presume to help her, for instance.
He had never liked her, and began to think that his original impression was true, and
that her sister did not like her either. Helen was certainly lonely.
She, who gave away so much, was receiving too little.
Leonard was pleased to think that he could spare her vexation by holding his tongue
and concealing what he knew about Mr. Wilcox.
Jacky had announced her discovery when he fetched her from the lawn.
After the first shock, he did not mind for himself.
By now he had no illusions about his wife, and this was only one new stain on the face
of a love that had never been pure.
To keep perfection perfect, that should be his ideal, if the future gave him time to
have ideals. Helen, and Margaret for Helen's sake, must
not know.
Helen disconcerted him by fuming the conversation to his wife.
"Mrs. Bast--does she ever say 'I'?" she asked, half mischievously, and then, "Is
she very tired?"
"It's better she stops in her room," said Leonard.
"Shall I sit up with her?" "No, thank you; she does not need company."
"Mr. Bast, what kind of woman is your wife?"
Leonard blushed up to his eyes. "You ought to know my ways by now.
Does that question offend you?"
"No, oh no, Miss Schlegel, no." "Because I love honesty.
Don't pretend your marriage has been a happy one.
You and she can have nothing in common."
He did not deny it, but said shyly: "I suppose that's pretty obvious; but Jacky
never meant to do anybody any harm.
When things went wrong, or I heard things, I used to think it was her fault, but,
looking back, it's more mine. I needn't have married her, but as I have I
must stick to her and keep her."
"How long have you been married?" "Nearly three years."
"What did your people say?" "They will not have anything to do with us.
They had a sort of family council when they heard I was married, and cut us off
altogether." Helen began to pace up and down the room.
"My good boy, what a mess!" she said gently.
"Who are your people?" He could answer this.
His parents, who were dead, had been in trade; his sisters had married commercial
travellers; his brother was a lay-reader. "And your grandparents?"
Leonard told her a secret that he had held shameful up to now.
"They were just nothing at all," he said, "--agricultural labourers and that sort."
"So! From which part?"
"Lincolnshire mostly, but my mother's father--he, oddly enough, came from these
parts round here." "From this very Shropshire.
Yes, that is odd.
My mother's people were Lancashire. But why do your brother and your sisters
object to Mrs. Bast?" "Oh, I don't know."
"Excuse me, you do know.
I am not a baby. I can bear anything you tell me, and the
more you tell the more I shall be able to help.
Have they heard anything against her?"
He was silent. "I think I have guessed now," said Helen
very gravely. "I don't think so, Miss Schlegel; I hope
"We must be honest, even over these things. I have guessed.
I am frightfully, dreadfully sorry, but it does not make the least difference to me.
I shall feel just the same to both of you.
I blame, not your wife for these things, but men."
Leonard left it at that--so long as she did not guess the man.
She stood at the window and slowly pulled up the blinds.
The hotel looked over a dark square. The mists had begun.
When she turned back to him her eyes were shining.
"Don't you worry," he pleaded. "I can't bear that.
We shall be all right if I get work.
If I could only get work--something regular to do.
Then it wouldn't be so bad again. I don't trouble after books as I used.
I can imagine that with regular work we should settle down again.
It stops one thinking." "Settle down to what?"
"Oh, just settle down."
"And that's to be life!" said Helen, with a catch in her throat.
"How can you, with all the beautiful things to see and do--with music--with walking at
"Walking is well enough when a man's in work," he answered.
"Oh, I did talk a lot of nonsense once, but there's nothing like a bailiff in the house
to drive it out of you.
When I saw him fingering my Ruskins and Stevensons, I seemed to see life straight
real, and it isn't a pretty sight.
My books are back again, thanks to you, but they'll never be the same to me again, and
I shan't ever again think night in the woods is wonderful."
"Why not?" asked Helen, throwing up the window.
"Because I see one must have money." "Well, you're wrong."
"I wish I was wrong, but--the clergyman--he has money of his own, or else he's paid;
the poet or the musician--just the same; the tramp--he's no different.
The tramp goes to the workhouse in the end, and is paid for with other people's money.
Miss Schlegel, the real thing's money and all the rest is a dream."
"You're still wrong.
You've forgotten Death." Leonard could not understand.
"If we lived for ever what you say would be true.
But we have to die, we have to leave life presently.
Injustice and greed would be the real thing if we lived for ever.
As it is, we must hold to other things, because Death is coming.
I love Death--not morbidly, but because He explains.
He shows me the emptiness of Money.
Death and Money are the eternal foes. Not Death and Life.
Never mind what lies behind Death, Mr. Bast, but be sure that the poet and the
musician and the tramp will be happier in it than the man who has never learnt to
say, 'I am I.'"
"I wonder." "We are all in a mist--I know but I can
help you this far--men like the Wilcoxes are deeper in the mist than any.
Sane, sound Englishmen! building up empires, levelling all the world into what
they call common sense.
But mention Death to them and they're offended, because Death's really Imperial,
and He cries out against them for ever." "I am as afraid of Death as any one."
"But not of the idea of Death."
"But what is the difference?" "Infinite difference," said Helen, more
gravely than before.
Leonard looked at her wondering, and had the sense of great things sweeping out of
the shrouded night. But he could not receive them, because his
heart was still full of little things.
As the lost umbrella had spoilt the concert at Queen's Hall, so the lost situation was
obscuring the diviner harmonies now.
Death, Life and Materialism were fine words, but would Mr. Wilcox take him on as
a clerk?
Talk as one would, Mr. Wilcox was king of this world, the superman, with his own
morality, whose head remained in the clouds.
"I must be stupid," he said apologetically.
While to Helen the paradox became clearer and clearer.
"Death destroys a man: the idea of Death saves him."
Behind the coffins and the skeletons that stay the vulgar mind lies something so
immense that all that is great in us responds to it.
Men of the world may recoil from the charnel-house that they will one day enter,
but Love knows better.
Death is his foe, but his peer, and in their age-long struggle the thews of Love
have been strengthened, and his vision cleared, until there is no one who can
stand against him.
"So never give in," continued the girl, and restated again and again the vague yet
convincing plea that the Invisible lodges against the Visible.
Her excitement grew as she tried to cut the rope that fastened Leonard to the earth.
Woven of bitter experience, it resisted her.
Presently the waitress entered and gave her a letter from Margaret.
Another note, addressed to Leonard, was inside.
They read them, listening to the murmurings of the river.
Howards End by E. M. Forster CHAPTER 28
For many hours Margaret did nothing; then she controlled herself, and wrote some
She was too bruised to speak to Henry; she could pity him, and even determine to marry
him, but as yet all lay too deep in her heart for speech.
On the surface the sense of his degradation was too strong.
She could not command voice or look, and the gentle words that she forced out
through her pen seemed to proceed from some other person.
"My dearest boy," she began, "this is not to part us.
It is everything or nothing, and I mean it to be nothing.
It happened long before we ever met, and even if it had happened since, I should be
writing the same, I hope. I do understand."
But she crossed out "I do understand"; it struck a false note.
Henry could not bear to be understood. She also crossed out, "It is everything or
"Henry would resent so strong a grasp of the situation.
She must not comment; comment is unfeminine.
"I think that'll about do," she thought.
Then the sense of his degradation choked her.
Was he worth all this bother?
To have yielded to a woman of that sort was everything, yes, it was, and she could not
be his wife. She tried to translate his temptation into
her own language, and her brain reeled.
Men must be different, even to want to yield to such a temptation.
Her belief in comradeship was stifled, and she saw life as from that glass saloon on
the Great Western, which sheltered male and female alike from the fresh air.
Are the sexes really races, each with its own code of morality, and their mutual love
a mere device of Nature to keep things going?
Strip human intercourse of the proprieties, and is it reduced to this?
Her judgment told her no.
She knew that out of Nature's device we have built a magic that will win us
Far more mysterious than the call of sex to sex is the tenderness that we throw into
that call; far wider is the gulf between us and the farmyard than between the farm-yard
and the garbage that nourishes it.
We are evolving, in ways that Science cannot measure, to ends that Theology dares
not contemplate. "Men did produce one jewel," the gods will
say, and, saying, will give us immortality.
Margaret knew all this, but for the moment she could not feel it, and transformed the
marriage of Evie and Mr. Cahill into a carnival of fools, and her own marriage--
too miserable to think of that, she tore up the letter, and then wrote another:
Dear Mr. Bast,
I have spoken to Mr. Wilcox about you, as I promised, and am sorry to say that he has
no vacancy for you. Yours truly, M. J. Schlegel
She enclosed this in a note to Helen, over which she took less trouble than she might
have done; but her head was aching, and she could not stop to pick her words:
Dear Helen,
Give him this. The Basts are no good.
Henry found the woman drunk on the lawn.
I am having a room got ready for you here, and will you please come round at once on
getting this? The Basts are not at all the type we should
trouble about.
I may go round to them myself in the morning, and do anything that is fair.
M In writing this, Margaret felt that she was
being practical.
Something might be arranged for the Basts later on, but they must be silenced for the
moment. She hoped to avoid a conversation between
the woman and Helen.
She rang the bell for a servant, but no one answered it; Mr. Wilcox and the Warringtons
were gone to bed, and the kitchen was abandoned to Saturnalia.
Consequently she went over to the George herself.
She did not enter the hotel, for discussion would have been perilous, and, saying that
the letter was important, she gave it to the waitress.
As she recrossed the square she saw Helen and Mr. Bast looking out of the window of
the coffee-room, and feared she was already too late.
Her task was not yet over; she ought to tell Henry what she had done.
This came easily, for she saw him in the hall.
The night wind had been rattling the pictures against the wall, and the noise
had disturbed him. "Who's there?" he called, quite the
Margaret walked in and past him. "I have asked Helen to sleep," she said.
"She is best here; so don't lock the front- door."
"I thought someone had got in," said Henry.
"At the same time I told the man that we could do nothing for him.
I don't know about later, but now the Basts must clearly go."
"Did you say that your sister is sleeping here, after all?"
"Probably." "Is she to be shown up to your room?"
"I have naturally nothing to say to her; I am going to bed.
Will you tell the servants about Helen? Could someone go to carry her bag?"
He tapped a little gong, which had been bought to summon the servants.
"You must make more noise than that if you want them to hear."
Henry opened a door, and down the corridor came shouts of laughter.
"Far too much screaming there," he said, and strode towards it.
Margaret went upstairs, uncertain whether to be glad that they had met, or sorry.
They had behaved as if nothing had happened, and her deepest instincts told
her that this was wrong.
For his own sake, some explanation was due. And yet--what could an explanation tell
her? A date, a place, a few details, which she
could imagine all too clearly.
Now that the first shock was over, she saw that there was every reason to premise a
Mrs. Bast.
Henry's inner life had long laid open to her--his intellectual confusion, his
obtuseness to personal influence, his strong but furtive passions.
Should she refuse him because his outer life corresponded?
Perhaps. Perhaps, if the dishonour had been done to
her, but it was done long before her day.
She struggled against the feeling. She told herself that Mrs. Wilcox's wrong
was her own. But she was not a bargain theorist.
As she undressed, her anger, her regard for the dead, her desire for a scene, all grew
Henry must have it as he liked, for she loved him, and some day she would use her
love to make him a better man. Pity was at the bottom of her actions all
through this crisis.
Pity, if one may generalize, is at the bottom of woman.
When men like us, it is for our better qualities, and however tender their liking,
we dare not be unworthy of it, or they will quietly let us go.
But unworthiness stimulates woman.
It brings out her deeper nature, for good or for evil.
Here was the core of the question. Henry must be forgiven, and made better by
love; nothing else mattered.
Mrs. Wilcox, that unquiet yet kindly ghost, must be left to her own wrong.
To her everything was in proportion now, and she, too, would pity the man who was
blundering up and down their lives.
Had Mrs. Wilcox known of his trespass? An interesting question, but Margaret fell
asleep, tethered by affection, and lulled by the murmurs of the river that descended
all the night from Wales.
She felt herself at one with her future home, colouring it and coloured by it, and
awoke to see, for the second time, Oniton Castle conquering the morning mists.
Howards End by E. M. Forster CHAPTER 29
"Henry dear--" was her greeting. He had finished his breakfast, and was
beginning the TIMES. His sister-in-law was packing.
She knelt by him and took the paper from him, feeling that it was unusually heavy
and thick. Then, putting her face where it had been,
she looked up in his eyes.
"Henry dear, look at me. No, I won't have you shirking.
Look at me. There.
That's all."
"You're referring to last evening," he said huskily.
"I have released you from your engagement. I could find excuses, but I won't.
No, I won't.
A thousand times no. I'm a bad lot, and must be left at that."
Expelled from his old fortress, Mr. Wilcox was building a new one.
He could no longer appear respectable to her, so he defended himself instead in a
lurid past. It was not true repentance.
"Leave it where you will, boy.
It's not going to trouble us: I know what I'm talking about, and it will make no
difference." "No difference?" he inquired.
"No difference, when you find that I am not the fellow you thought?"
He was annoyed with Miss Schlegel here. He would have preferred her to be
prostrated by the blow, or even to rage.
Against the tide of his sin flowed the feeling that she was not altogether
womanly. Her eyes gazed too straight; they had read
books that are suitable for men only.
And though he had dreaded a scene, and though she had determined against one,
there was a scene, all the same. It was somehow imperative.
"I am unworthy of you," he began.
"Had I been worthy, I should not have released you from your engagement.
I know what I am talking about. I can't bear to talk of such things.
We had better leave it."
She kissed his hand.
He jerked it from her, and, rising to his feet, went on: "You, with your sheltered
life, and refined pursuits, and friends, and books, you and your sister, and women
like you--I say, how can you guess the temptations that lie round a man?"
"It is difficult for us," said Margaret; "but if we are worth marrying, we do
"Cut off from decent society and family ties, what do you suppose happens to
thousands of young fellows overseas? Isolated.
No one near.
I know by bitter experience, and yet you say it makes 'no difference.'"
"Not to me." He laughed bitterly.
Margaret went to the side-board and helped herself to one of the breakfast dishes.
Being the last down, she turned out the spirit-lamp that kept them warm.
She was tender, but grave.
She knew that Henry was not so much confessing his soul as pointing out the
gulf between the male soul and the female, and she did not desire to hear him on this
"Did Helen come?" she asked. He shook his head.
"But that won't do at all, at all! We don't want her gossiping with Mrs.
"Good God! no!" he exclaimed, suddenly natural.
Then he caught himself up. "Let them gossip.
My game's up, though I thank you for your unselfishness--little as my thanks are
worth." "Didn't she send me a message or anything?"
"I heard of none."
"Would you ring the bell, please?" "What to do?"
"Why, to inquire." He swaggered up to it tragically, and
sounded a peal.
Margaret poured herself out some coffee. The butler came, and said that Miss
Schlegel had slept at the George, so far as he had heard.
Should he go round to the George?
"I'll go, thank you," said Margaret, and dismissed him.
"It is no good," said Henry. "Those things leak out; you cannot stop a
story once it has started.
I have known cases of other men--I despised them once, I thought that I'M different, I
shall never be tempted. Oh, Margaret--" He came and sat down near
her, improvising emotion.
She could not bear to listen to him. "We fellows all come to grief once in our
time. Will you believe that?
There are moments when the strongest man-- 'Let him who standeth, take heed lest he
fall.' That's true, isn't it?
If you knew all, you would excuse me.
I was far from good influences--far even from England.
I was very, very lonely, and longed for a woman's voice.
That's enough.
I have told you too much already for you to forgive me now."
"Yes, that's enough, dear." "I have"--he lowered his voice--"I have
been through hell."
Gravely she considered this claim. Had he?
Had he suffered tortures of remorse, or had it been, "There! that's over.
Now for respectable life again"?
The latter, if she read him rightly. A man who has been through hell does not
boast of his virility. He is humble and hides it, if, indeed, it
still exists.
Only in legend does the sinner come forth penitent, but terrible, to conquer pure
woman by his resistless power. Henry was anxious to be terrible, but had
not got it in him.
He was a good average Englishman, who had slipped.
The really culpable point--his faithlessness to Mrs. Wilcox--never seemed
to strike him.
She longed to mention Mrs. Wilcox. And bit by bit the story was told her.
It was a very simple story. Ten years ago was the time, a garrison town
in Cyprus the place.
Now and then he asked her whether she could possibly forgive him, and she answered, "I
have already forgiven you, Henry." She chose her words carefully, and so saved
him from panic.
She played the girl, until he could rebuild his fortress and hide his soul from the
When the butler came to clear away, Henry was in a very different mood--asked the
fellow what he was in such a hurry for, complained of the noise last night in the
servants' hall.
Margaret looked intently at the butler.
He, as a handsome young man, was faintly attractive to her as a woman--an attraction
so faint as scarcely to be perceptible, yet the skies would have fallen if she had
mentioned it to Henry.
On her return from the George the building operations were complete, and the old Henry
fronted her, competent, cynical, and kind.
He had made a clean breast, had been forgiven, and the great thing now was to
forget his failure, and to send it the way of other unsuccessful investments.
Jacky rejoined Howards End and Ducie Street, and the vermilion motor-car, and
the Argentine Hard Dollars, and all the things and people for whom he had never had
much use and had less now.
Their memory hampered him. He could scarcely attend to Margaret who
brought back disquieting news from the George.
Helen and her clients had gone.
"Well, let them go--the man and his wife, I mean, for the more we see of your sister
the better." "But they have gone separately--Helen very
early, the Basts just before I arrived.
They have left no message. They have answered neither of my notes.
I don't like to think what it all means." "What did you say in the notes?"
"I told you last night."
"Oh--ah--yes! Dear, would you like one turn in the
garden?" Margaret took his arm.
The beautiful weather soothed her.
But the wheels of Evie's wedding were still at work, tossing the guests outwards as
deftly as they had drawn them in, and she could not be with him long.
It had been arranged that they should motor to Shrewsbury, whence he would go north,
and she back to London with the Warringtons.
For a fraction of time she was happy.
Then her brain recommenced. "I am afraid there has been gossiping of
some kind at the George. Helen would not have left unless she had
heard something.
I mismanaged that. It is wretched.
I ought to--have parted her from that woman at once.
"Margaret!" he exclaimed, loosing her arm impressively.
"Yes--yes, Henry?"
"I am far from a saint--in fact, the reverse--but you have taken me, for better
or worse. Bygones must be bygones.
You have promised to forgive me.
Margaret, a promise is a promise. Never mention that woman again."
"Except for some practical reason--never." "Practical!
You practical!"
"Yes, I'm practical," she murmured, stooping over the mowing-machine and
playing with the grass which trickled through her fingers like sand.
He had silenced her, but her fears made him uneasy.
Not for the first time, he was threatened with blackmail.
He was rich and supposed to be moral; the Basts knew that he was not, and might find
it profitable to hint as much. "At all events, you mustn't worry," he
"This is a man's business." He thought intently.
"On no account mention it to anybody." Margaret flushed at advice so elementary,
but he was really paving the way for a lie.
If necessary he would deny that he had ever known Mrs. Bast, and prosecute her for
libel. Perhaps he never had known her.
Here was Margaret, who behaved as if he had not.
There the house. Round them were half a dozen gardeners,
clearing up after his daughter's wedding.
All was so solid and spruce, that the past flew up out of sight like a spring-blind,
leaving only the last five minutes unrolled.
Glancing at these, he saw that the car would be round during the next five, and
plunged into action.
Gongs were tapped, orders issued, Margaret was sent to dress, and the housemaid to
sweep up the long trickle of grass that she had left across the hall.
As is Man to the Universe, so was the mind of Mr. Wilcox to the minds of some men--a
concentrated light upon a tiny spot, a little Ten Minutes moving self-contained
through its appointed years.
No Pagan he, who lives for the Now, and may be wiser than all philosophers.
He lived for the five minutes that have past, and the five to come; he had the
business mind.
How did he stand now, as his motor slipped out of Oniton and breasted the great round
hills? Margaret had heard a certain rumour, but
was all right.
She had forgiven him, God bless her, and he felt the manlier for it.
Charles and Evie had not heard it, and never must hear.
No more must Paul.
Over his children he felt great tenderness, which he did not try to track to a cause:
Mrs. Wilcox was too far back in his life. He did not connect her with the sudden
aching love that he felt for Evie.
Poor little Evie! he trusted that Cahill would make her a decent husband.
And Margaret? How did she stand?
She had several minor worries.
Clearly her sister had heard something. She dreaded meeting her in town.
And she was anxious about Leonard, for whom they certainly were responsible.
Nor ought Mrs. Bast to starve.
But the main situation had not altered. She still loved Henry.
His actions, not his disposition, had disappointed her, and she could bear that.
And she loved her future home.
Standing up in the car, just where she had leapt from it two days before, she gazed
back with deep emotion upon Oniton.
Besides the Grange and the Castle keep, she could now pick out the church and the
black-and-white gables of the George. There was the bridge, and the river
nibbling its green peninsula.
She could even see the bathing-shed, but while she was looking for Charles's new
springboard, the forehead of the hill rose up and hid the whole scene.
She never saw it again.
Day and night the river flows down into England, day after day the sun retreats
into the Welsh mountains, and the tower chimes, "See the Conquering Hero."
But the Wilcoxes have no part in the place, nor in any place.
It is not their names that recur in the parish register.
It is not their ghosts that sigh among the alders at evening.
They have swept into the valley and swept out of it, leaving a little dust and a
little money behind.