Part 7 out of 8
and those things, though nothing serious. Musical, literary,
artistic, but I should say normal--a very charming girl."
Margaret's anger and terror increased every moment. How dare
these men label her sister! What horrors lay ahead! What
impertinences that shelter under the name of science! The pack
was turning on Helen, to deny her human rights, and it seemed to
Margaret that all Schlegels were threatened with her. "Were they
normal?" What a question to ask! And it is always those who know
nothing about human nature, who are bored by psychology--and
shocked by physiology, who ask it. However piteous her sister's
state, she knew that she must be on her side. They would be mad
together if the world chose to consider them so.
It was now five minutes past three. The car slowed down by the
farm, in the yard of which Miss Avery was standing. Henry asked
her whether a cab had gone past. She nodded, and the next moment
they caught sight of it, at the end of the lane. The car ran
silently like a beast of prey. So unsuspicious was Helen that she
was sitting in the porch, with her back to the road. She had
come. Only her head and shoulders were visible. She sat framed in
the vine, and one of her hands played with the buds. The wind
ruffled her hair, the sun glorified it; she was as she had always
Margaret was seated next to the door. Before her husband could
prevent her, she slipped out. She ran to the garden gate, which
was shut, passed through it, and deliberately pushed it in his
face. The noise alarmed Helen. Margaret saw her rise with an
unfamiliar movement, and, rushing into the porch, learnt the
simple explanation of all their fears--her sister was with child.
"Is the truant all right?" called Henry.
She had time to whisper: "Oh, my darling--" The keys of the house
were in her hand. She unlocked Howards End and thrust Helen into
it. "Yes, all right," she said, and stood with her back to the
"Margaret, you look upset!" said Henry.
Mansbridge had followed. Crane was at the gate, and the flyman
had stood up on the box. Margaret shook her head at them; she
could not speak any more. She remained clutching the keys, as if
all their future depended on them. Henry was asking more
questions. She shook her head again. His words had no sense. She
heard him wonder why she had let Helen in. "You might have given
me a knock with the gate," was another of his remarks. Presently
she heard herself speaking. She, or someone for her, said, "Go
away." Henry came nearer. He repeated, "Margaret, you look upset
again. My dear, give me the keys. What are you doing with Helen?"
"Oh, dearest, do go away, and I will manage it all."
He stretched out his hand for the keys. She might have obeyed if
it had not been for the doctor.
"Stop that at least," she said piteously; the doctor had turned
back, and was questioning the driver of Helen's cab. A new
feeling came over her; she was fighting for women against men.
She did not care about rights, but if men came into Howards End,
it should be over her body.
"Come, this is an odd beginning," said her husband.
The doctor came forward now, and whispered two words to Mr.
Wilcox--the scandal was out. Sincerely horrified, Henry stood
gazing at the earth.
"I cannot help it," said Margaret. "Do wait. It's not my fault.
Please all four of you go away now."
Now the flyman was whispering to Crane.
"We are relying on you to help us, Mrs. Wilcox," said the young
doctor. "Could you go in and persuade your sister to come out?"
"On what grounds?" said Margaret, suddenly looking him straight
in the eyes.
Thinking it professional to prevaricate, he murmured something
about a nervous breakdown.
"I beg your pardon, but it is nothing of the sort. You are not
qualified to attend my sister, Mr. Mansbridge. If we require your
services, we will let you know."
"I can diagnose the case more bluntly if you wish," he retorted.
"You could, but you have not. You are, therefore, not qualified
to attend my sister."
"Come, come, Margaret!" said Henry, never raising his eyes. "This
is a terrible business, an appalling business. It's doctor's
orders. Open the door."
"Forgive me, but I will not."
"I don't agree."
Margaret was silent.
"This business is as broad as it's long," contributed the
doctor. "We had better all work together. You need us, Mrs.
Wilcox, and we need you."
"Quite so," said Henry.
"I do not need you in the least," said Margaret.
The two men looked at each other anxiously.
"No more does my sister, who is still many weeks from her
"Well, Henry, send your doctor away. What possible use is he
Mr. Wilcox ran his eye over the house. He had a vague feeling
that he must stand firm and support the doctor. He himself might
need support, for there was trouble ahead.
"It all turns on affection now," said Margaret. "Affection. Don't
you see?" Resuming her usual methods, she wrote the word on the
house with her finger. "Surely you see. I like Helen very much,
you not so much. Mr. Mansbridge doesn't know her. That's all.
And affection, when reciprocated, gives rights. Put that down in
your note-book, Mr. Mansbridge. It's a useful formula."
Henry told her to be calm.
"You don't know what you want yourselves," said Margaret, folding
her arms. "For one sensible remark I will let you in. But you
cannot make it. You would trouble my sister for no reason. I will
not permit it. I'll stand here all the day sooner."
"Mansbridge," said Henry in a low voice, "perhaps not now."
The pack was breaking up. At a sign from his master, Crane also
went back into the car.
"Now, Henry, you," she said gently. None of her bitterness had
been directed at him. "Go away now, dear. I shall want your
advice later, no doubt. Forgive me if I have been cross. But,
seriously, you must go."
He was too stupid to leave her. Now it was Mr. Mansbridge who
called in a low voice to him.
"I shall soon find you down at Dolly's," she called, as the gate
at last clanged between them. The fly moved out of the way, the
motor backed, turned a little, backed again, and turned in the
narrow road. A string of farm carts came up in the middle; but
she waited through all, for there was no hurry. When all was over
and the car had started, she opened the door. "Oh, my darling!"
she said. "My darling, forgive me." Helen was standing in the
Margaret bolted the door on the inside. Then she would have
kissed her sister, but Helen, in a dignified voice, that came
strangely from her, said:
"Convenient! You did not tell me that the books were unpacked. I
have found nearly everything that I want."
"I told you nothing that was true."
"It has been a great surprise, certainly. Has Aunt Juley been
"Helen, you wouldn't think I'd invent that?"
"I suppose not," said Helen, turning away, and crying a very
little. "But one loses faith in everything after this."
"We thought it was illness, but even then--I haven't behaved
Helen selected another book.
"I ought not to have consulted any one. What would our father
have thought of me?"
She did not think of questioning her sister, or of rebuking her.
Both might be necessary in the future, but she had first to purge
a greater crime than any that Helen could have committed--that
want of confidence that is the work of the devil.
"Yes, I am annoyed," replied Helen. "My wishes should have been
respected. I would have gone through this meeting if it was
necessary, but after Aunt Juley recovered, it was not necessary.
Planning my life, as I now have to do."
"Come away from those books," called Margaret. "Helen, do talk
"I was just saying that I have stopped living haphazard. One
can't go through a great deal of--"she left out the noun--
"without planning one's actions in advance. I am going to have a
child in June, and in the first place conversations, discussions,
excitement, are not good for me. I will go through them if
necessary, but only then. In the second place I have no right to
trouble people. I cannot fit in with England as I know it. I have
done something that the English never pardon. It would not be
right for them to pardon it. So I must live where I am not
"But why didn't you tell me, dearest?"
"Yes," replied Helen judicially. "I might have, but decided to
"I believe you would never have told me."
"Oh yes, I should. We have taken a flat in Munich."
Margaret glanced out of the window.
"By 'we' I mean myself and Monica. But for her, I am and have
been and always wish to be alone."
"I have not heard of Monica."
"You wouldn't have. She's an Italian--by birth at least. She
makes her living by journalism. I met her originally on Garda.
Monica is much the best person to see me through."
"You are very fond of her, then."
"She has been extraordinarily sensible with me."
Margaret guessed at Monica's type--"Italiano Inglesiato"
they had named it--the crude feminist of the South, whom one
respects but avoids. And Helen had turned to it in her need!
"You must not think that we shall never meet," said Helen, with a
measured kindness. "I shall always have a room for you when you
can be spared, and the longer you can be with me the better. But
you haven't understood yet, Meg, and of course it is very
difficult for you. This is a shock to you. It isn't to me, who
have been thinking over our futures for many months, and they
won't be changed by a slight contretemps, such as this. I cannot
live in England."
"Helen, you've not forgiven me for my treachery. You COULDN'T
talk like this to me if you had."
"Oh, Meg dear, why do we talk at all?" She dropped a book and
sighed wearily. Then, recovering herself, she said: "Tell me, how
is it that all the books are down here?"
"Series of mistakes."
"And a great deal of furniture has been unpacked."
"Who lives here, then?"
"I suppose you are letting it, though."
"The house is dead," said Margaret, with a frown. "Why worry on
"But I am interested. You talk as if I had lost all my interest
in life. I am still Helen, I hope. Now this hasn't the feel of a
dead house. The hall seems more alive even than in the old days,
when it held the Wilcoxes' own things."
"Interested, are you? Very well, I must tell you, I suppose. My
husband lent it on condition we--but by a mistake all our things
were unpacked, and Miss Avery, instead of--" She stopped. "Look
here, I can't go on like this. I warn you I won't. Helen, why
should you be so miserably unkind to me, simply because you hate
"I don't hate him now," said Helen. "I have stopped being a
schoolgirl, and, Meg, once again, I'm not being unkind. But as
for fitting in with your English life--no, put it out of your
head at once. Imagine a visit from me at Ducie Street! It's
Margaret could not contradict her. It was appalling to see her
quietly moving forward with her plans, not bitter or excitable,
neither asserting innocence nor confessing guilt, merely desiring
freedom and the company of those who would not blame her. She had
been through--how much? Margaret did not know. But it was enough
to part her from old habits as well as old friends.
"Tell me about yourself," said Helen, who had chosen her books,
and was lingering over the furniture.
"There's nothing to tell."
"But your marriage has been happy, Meg?"
"Yes, but I don't feel inclined to talk."
"You feel as I do."
"Not that, but I can't."
"No more can I. It is a nuisance, but no good trying."
Something had come between them. Perhaps it was Society, which
henceforward would exclude Helen. Perhaps it was a third life,
already potent as a spirit. They could find no meeting-place.
Both suffered acutely, and were not comforted by the knowledge
that affection survived.
"Look here, Meg, is the coast clear?"
"You mean that you want to go away from me?"
"I suppose so--dear old lady! it isn't any use. I knew we should
have nothing to say. Give my love to Aunt Juley and Tibby, and
take more yourself than I can say. Promise to come and see me in
"For that is all we can do."
It seemed so. Most ghastly of all was Helen's common sense;
Monica had been extraordinarily good for her.
"I am glad to have seen you and the things." She looked at the
bookcase lovingly, as if she was saying farewell to the past.
Margaret unbolted the door. She remarked: "The car has gone, and
here's your cab."
She led the way to it, glancing at the leaves and the sky. The
spring had never seemed more beautiful. The driver, who was
leaning on the gate, called out, "Please, lady, a message," and
handed her Henry's visiting-card through the bars.
"How did this come?" she asked.
Crane had returned with it almost at once.
She read the card with annoyance. It was covered with
instructions in domestic French. When she and her sister had
talked she was to come back for the night to Dolly's. Il faut
dormir sur ce sujet." while Helen was to be found une comfortable
chambre a l'hotel. The final sentence displeased her greatly
until she remembered that the Charles's had only one spare room,
and so could not invite a third guest.
"Henry would have done what he could," she interpreted.
Helen had not followed her into the garden. The door once open,
she lost her inclination to fly. She remained in the hall, going
from bookcase to table. She grew more like the old Helen,
irresponsible and charming.
"This IS Mr. Wilcox's house?" she inquired.
"Surely you remember Howards End?"
"Remember? I who remember everything! But it looks to be ours
"Miss Avery was extraordinary," said Margaret, her own spirits
lightening a little. Again she was invaded by a slight feeling of
disloyalty. But it brought her relief, and she yielded to it.
"She loved Mrs. Wilcox, and would rather furnish her home with
our things than think of it empty. In consequence here are all
the library books."
"Not all the books. She hasn't unpacked the Art books, in which
she may show her sense. And we never used to have the sword
"The sword looks well, though."
"Yes, doesn't it?"
"Where's the piano, Meg?"
"I warehoused that in London. Why?"
"Curious, too, that the carpet fits."
"The carpet's a mistake," announced Helen. "I know that we had it
in London, but this floor ought to be bare. It is far too
"You still have a mania for under-furnishing. Would you care to
come into the dining-room before you start? There's no carpet
there. They went in, and each minute their talk became more
"Oh, WHAT a place for mother's chiffonier!" cried Helen.
"Look at the chairs, though."
"Oh, look at them! Wickham Place faced north, didn't it?"
"Anyhow, it is thirty years since any of those chairs have felt
the sun. Feel. Their dear little backs are quite warm."
"But why has Miss Avery made them set to partners? I shall just--"
"Over here, Meg. Put it so that any one sitting will see the
Margaret moved a chair. Helen sat down in it.
"Ye--es. The window's too high."
"Try a drawing-room chair."
"No, I don't like the drawing-room so much. The beam has been
match-boarded. It would have been so beautiful otherwise."
"Helen, what a memory you have for some things! You're perfectly
right. It's a room that men have spoilt through trying to make it
nice for women. Men don't know what we want--,I
"And never will."
"I don't agree. In two thousand years they'll know. Look where
Tibby spilt the soup."
"Coffee. It was coffee surely."
Helen shook her head. "Impossible. Tibby was far too young to be
given coffee at that time."
"Was father alive?"
"Then you're right and it must have been soup. I thinking of much
later--that unsuccessful visit of Aunt Juley's, when she didn't
realise that Tibby had grown up. It was coffee then, for he threw
it down on purpose. There was some rhyme, 'Tea, coffee--coffee
tea,' that she said to him every morning at breakfast. Wait a
minute--how did it go?"
"I know--no, I don't. What a detestable boy Tibby was!"
"But the rhyme was simply awful. No decent person could put up
"Ah, that greengage-tree," cried Helen, as if the garden was also
part of their childhood. Why do I connect it with dumb-bells? And
there come the chickens. The grass wants cutting. I love
Margaret interrupted her. "I have got it," she announced.
"'Tea, tea, coffee, tea,
"That every morning for three weeks. No wonder Tibby was wild."
"Tibby is moderately a dear now," said Helen.
"There! I knew you'd say that in the end. Of course he's a dear."
A bell rang.
"Listen! what's that?"
Helen said, "Perhaps the Wilcoxes are beginning the siege."
And the triviality faded from their faces, though it left
something behind--the knowledge that they never could be parted
because their love was rooted in common things. Explanations and
appeals had failed; they had tried for a common meeting-ground,
and had only made each other unhappy. And all the time their
salvation was lying round them--the past sanctifying the present;
the present, with wild heart-throb, declaring that there would
after all be a future with laughter and the voices of children.
Helen, still smiling, came up to her sister. She said, "It is
always Meg." They looked into each other's eyes. The inner life
Solemnly the clapper tolled. No one was in the front. Margaret
went to the kitchen, and struggled between packing-cases to the
window. Their visitor was only a little boy with a tin can. And
"Little boy, what do you want?"
"Please, I am the milk."
"Did Miss Avery send you?" said Margaret, rather sharply.
"Then take it back and say we require no milk." While she called
to Helen, "No, it's not the siege, but possibly an attempt to
provision us against one."
"But I like milk," cried Helen. "Why send it away?"
"Do you? Oh, very well. But we've nothing to put it in, and he
wants the can."
"Please, I'm to call in the morning for the can," said the boy.
"The house will be locked up then."
"In the morning would I bring eggs too?"
"Are you the boy whom I saw playing in the stacks last week?"
The child hung his head.
"Well, run away and do it again."
"Nice little boy," whispered Helen. "I say, what's your name?
That was Helen all over. The Wilcoxes, too, would ask a child its
name, but they never told their names in return.
"Tom, this one here is Margaret. And at home we've another called
"Mine are lop-eareds," replied Tom, supposing Tibby to be a
"You're a very good and rather a clever little boy. Mind you come
again.--Isn't he charming?"
"Undoubtedly," said Margaret. "He is probably the son of Madge,
and Madge is dreadful. But this place has wonderful powers."
"What do you mean?"
"I don't know."
"Because I probably agree with you."
"It kills what is dreadful and makes what is beautiful live."
"I do agree," said Helen, as she sipped the milk. "But you said
that the house was dead not half an hour ago."
"Meaning that I was dead. I felt it."
"Yes, the house has a surer life than we, even if it was empty,
and, as it is, I can't get over that for thirty years the sun has
never shone full on our furniture. After all, Wickham Place was a
grave. Meg, I've a startling idea."
"What is it?"
"Drink some milk to steady you."
"No, I won't tell you yet," said Helen, "because you may laugh or
be angry. Let's go upstairs first and give the rooms an airing."
They opened window after window, till the inside, too, was
rustling to the spring. Curtains blew, picture frames tapped
cheerfully. Helen uttered cries of excitement as she found this
bed obviously in its right place, that in its wrong one. She was
angry with Miss Avery for not having moved the wardrobes up.
"Then one would see really." She admired the view. She was the
Helen who had written the memorable letters four years ago. As
they leant out, looking westward, she said: "About my idea.
Couldn't you and I camp out in this house for the night?"
"I don't think we could well do that," said Margaret.
"Here are beds, tables, towels--"
"I know; but the house isn't supposed to be slept in, and Henry's
"I require no suggestions. I shall not alter anything in my
plans. But it would give me so much pleasure to have one night
here with you. It will be something to look back on. Oh, Meg
lovey, do let's!"
"But, Helen, my pet," said Margaret, "we can't without getting
Henry's leave. Of course, he would give it, but you said yourself
that you couldn't visit at Ducie Street now, and this is equally
"Ducie Street is his house. This is ours. Our furniture, our sort
of people coming to the door. Do let us camp out, just one night,
and Tom shall feed us on eggs and milk. Why not? It's a moon."
Margaret hesitated. "I feel Charles wouldn't like it," she said
at last. "Even our furniture annoyed him, and I was going to
clear it out when Aunt Juley's illness prevented me. I sympathise
with Charles. He feels it's his mother's house. He loves it in
rather an untaking way. Henry I could answer for--not Charles."
"I know he won't like it," said Helen. "But I am going to pass
out of their lives. What difference will it make in the long run
if they say, 'And she even spent the night at Howards End'?"
"How do you know you'll pass out of their lives? We have thought
that twice before."
"Because my plans--"
"--which you change in a moment."
"Then because my life is great and theirs are little," said
Helen, taking fire. "I know of things they can't know of, and so
do you. We know that there's poetry. We know that there's death.
They can only take them on hearsay. We know this is our house,
because it feels ours. Oh, they may take the title-deeds and the
door-keys, but for this one night we are at home."
"It would be lovely to have you once more alone," said Margaret.
"It may be a chance in a thousand."
"Yes, and we could talk." She dropped her voice. "It won't be a
very glorious story. But under that wych-elm--honestly, I see
little happiness ahead. Cannot I have this one night with you?"
"I needn't say how much it would mean to me."
"Then let us."
"It is no good hesitating. Shall I drive down to Hilton now and
"Oh, we don't want leave."
But Margaret was a loyal wife. In spite of imagination and
poetry--perhaps on account of them--she could sympathise with the
technical attitude that Henry would adopt. If possible, she would
be technical, too. A night's lodging--and they demanded no more--
need not involve the discussion of general principles.
"Charles may say no," grumbled Helen.
"We shan't consult him."
"Go if you like; I should have stopped without leave."
It was the touch of selfishness, which was not enough to mar
Helen's character, and even added to its beauty. She would have
stopped without leave and escaped to Germany the next morning.
Margaret kissed her.
"Expect me back before dark. I am looking forward to it so much.
It is like you to have thought of such a beautiful thing."
"Not a thing, only an ending," said Helen rather sadly; and the
sense of tragedy closed in on Margaret again as soon as she left
She was afraid of Miss Avery. It is disquieting to fulfil a
prophecy, however superficially. She was glad to see no watching
figure as she drove past the farm, but only little Tom, turning
somersaults in the straw.
The tragedy began quietly enough, and, like many another talk, by
the man's deft assertion of his superiority. Henry heard her
arguing with the driver, stepped out and settled the fellow, who
was inclined to be rude, and then led the way to some chairs on
the lawn. Dolly, who had not been "told," ran out with offers of
tea. He refused them, and ordered them to wheel baby's
perambulator away, as they desired to be alone.
"But the diddums can't listen; he isn't nine months old," she
"That's not what I was saying," retorted her father-in-law.
Baby was wheeled out of earshot, and did not hear about the
crisis till later years. It was now the turn of Margaret.
"Is it what we feared?" he asked.
"Dear girl," he began, "there is a troublesome business ahead of
us, and nothing but the most absolute honesty and plain speech
will see us through." Margaret bent her head. "I am obliged to
question you on subjects we'd both prefer to leave untouched. As
you know, I am not one of your Bernard Shaws who consider nothing
sacred. To speak as I must will pain me, but there are occasions
-- We are husband and wife, not children. I am a man of the
world, and you are a most exceptional woman."
All Margaret's senses forsook her. She blushed, and looked past
him at the Six Hills, covered with spring herbage. Noting her
colour, he grew still more kind.
"I see that you feel as I felt when-- My poor little wife! Oh, be
brave! Just one or two questions, and I have done with you. Was
your sister wearing a wedding-ring?"
Margaret stammered a "No."
There was an appalling silence.
"Henry, I really came to ask a favour about Howards End."
"One point at a time. I am now obliged to ask for the name of her
She rose to her feet and held the chair between them. Her colour
had ebbed, and she was grey. It did not displease him that she
should receive his question thus.
"Take your time," he counselled her. "Remember that this is far
worse for me than for you."
She swayed; he feared she was going to faint. Then speech came,
and she said slowly: "Seducer? No; I do not know her seducer's
"Would she not tell you?"
"I never even asked her who seduced her," said Margaret, dwelling
on the hateful word thoughtfully.
"That is singular." Then he changed his mind. "Natural perhaps,
dear girl, that you shouldn't ask. But until his name is known,
nothing can be done. Sit down. How terrible it is to see you so
upset! I knew you weren't fit for it. I wish I hadn't taken you."
Margaret answered, "I like to stand, if you don't mind, for it
gives me a pleasant view of the Six Hills."
"As you like."
"Have you anything else to ask me, Henry?"
"Next you must tell me whether you have gathered anything. I have
often noticed your insight, dear. I only wish my own was as good.
You may have guessed something, even though your sister said
nothing. The slightest hint would help us."
"Who is 'we'?"
"I thought it best to ring up Charles."
"That was unnecessary," said Margaret, growing warmer. "This news
will give Charles disproportionate pain."
"He has at once gone to call on your brother."
"That too was unnecessary."
"Let me explain, dear, how the matter stands. You don't think
that I and my son are other than gentlemen? It is in Helen's
interests that we are acting. It is still not too late to save
Then Margaret hit out for the first time. "Are we to make her
seducer marry her?" she asked.
"If possible, yes."
"But, Henry, suppose he turned out to be married already? One has
heard of such cases."
"In that case he must pay heavily for his misconduct, and be
thrashed within an inch of his life."
So her first blow missed. She was thankful of it. What had
tempted her to imperil both of their lives. Henry's obtuseness
had saved her as well as himself. Exhausted with anger, she sat
down again, blinking at him as he told her as much as he thought
fit. At last she said: "May I ask you my question now?"
"Certainly, my dear."
"To-morrow Helen goes to Munich--"
"Well, possibly she is right."
"Henry, let a lady finish. To-morrow she goes; to-night, with
your permission, she would like to sleep at Howards End."
It was the crisis of his life. Again she would have recalled the
words as soon as they were uttered. She had not led up to them
with sufficient care. She longed to warn him that they were far
more important than he supposed. She saw him weighing them, as if
they were a business proposition.
"Why Howards End?" he said at last. "Would she not be more
comfortable, as I suggested, at the hotel?"
Margaret hastened to give him reasons. "It is an odd request, but
you know what Helen is and what women in her state are." He
frowned, and moved irritably. "She has the idea that one night in
your house would give her pleasure and do her good. I think
she's right. Being one of those imaginative girls, the presence
of all our books and furniture soothes her. This is a fact. It is
the end of her girlhood. Her last words to me were, 'A beautiful
"She values the old furniture for sentimental reasons, in fact."
"Exactly. You have quite understood. It is her last hope of being
"I don't agree there, my dear! Helen will have her share of the
goods wherever she goes--possibly more than her share, for you
are so fond of her that you'd give her anything of yours that she
fancies, wouldn't you? and I'd raise no objection. I could
understand it if it was her old home, because a home, or a
house," he changed the word, designedly; he had thought of a
telling point--"because a house in which one has once lived
becomes in a sort of way sacred, I don't know why. Associations
and so on. Now Helen has no associations with Howards End, though
I and Charles and Evie have. I do not see why she wants to stay
the night there. She will only catch cold."
"Leave it that you don't see," cried Margaret. "Call it fancy.
But realise that fancy is a scientific fact. Helen is fanciful,
and wants to."
Then he surprised her--a rare occurrence. He shot an unexpected
bolt. "If she wants to sleep one night she may want to sleep two.
We shall never get her out of the house, perhaps."
"Well?" said Margaret, with the precipice in sight. "And suppose
we don't get her out of the house? Would it matter? She would do
no one any harm."
Again the irritated gesture.
"No, Henry," she panted, receding. "I didn't mean that. We will
only trouble Howards End for this one night. I take her to
"Do you intend to sleep in a damp house, too?"
"She cannot be left alone."
"That's quite impossible! Madness. You must be here to meet
"I have already told you that your message to Charles was
unnecessary, and I have no desire to meet him."
"What has this business to do with Charles? If it concerns me
little, it concerns you less, and Charles not at all."
"As the future owner of Howards End," said Mr. Wilcox arching his
fingers, "I should say that it did concern Charles."
"In what way? Will Helen's condition depreciate the property?"
"My dear, you are forgetting yourself."
"I think you yourself recommended plain speaking."
They looked at each other in amazement. The precipice was at
their feet now.
"Helen commands my sympathy," said Henry. "As your husband, I
shall do all for her that I can, and I have no doubt that she
will prove more sinned against than sinning. But I cannot treat
her as if nothing has happened. I should be false to my position
in society if I did."
She controlled herself for the last time. "No, let us go back to
Helen's request," she said. "It is unreasonable, but the request
of an unhappy girl. Tomorrow she will go to Germany, and trouble
society no longer. To-night she asks to sleep in your empty
house--a house which you do not care about, and which you have
not occupied for over a year. May she? Will you give my sister
leave? Will you forgive her as you hope to be forgiven, and as
you have actually been forgiven? Forgive her for one night only.
That will be enough."
"As I have actually been forgiven--?"
"Never mind for the moment what I mean by that," said Margaret.
"Answer my question."
Perhaps some hint of her meaning did dawn on him. If so, he
blotted it out. Straight from his fortress he answered: "I seem
rather unaccommodating, but I have some experience of life, and
know how one thing leads to another. I am afraid that your sister
had better sleep at the hotel. I have my children and the memory
of my dear wife to consider. I am sorry, but see that she leaves
my house at once."
"You have mentioned Mrs. Wilcox."
"I beg your pardon?"
"A rare occurrence. In reply, may I mention Mrs. Bast?"
"You have not been yourself all day," said Henry, and rose from
his seat with face unmoved. Margaret rushed at him and seized
both his hands. She was transfigured.
"Not any more of this!" she cried. "You shall see the connection
if it kills you, Henry! You have had a mistress--I forgave you.
My sister has a lover--you drive her from the house. Do you see
the connection? Stupid, hypocritical, cruel--oh, contemptible!--a
man who insults his wife when she's alive and cants with her
memory when she's dead. A man who ruins a woman for his pleasure,
and casts her off to ruin other men. And gives bad financial
advice, and then says he is not responsible. These men are you.
You can't recognise them, because you cannot connect. I've had
enough of your unneeded kindness. I've spoilt you long enough.
All your life you have been spoiled. Mrs. Wilcox spoiled you. No
one has ever told what you are--muddled, criminally muddled. Men
like you use repentance as a blind, so don't repent. Only say to
yourself, 'What Helen has done, I've done.'"
"The two cases are different," Henry stammered. His real retort
was not quite ready. His brain was still in a whirl, and he
wanted a little longer.
"In what way different? You have betrayed Mrs. Wilcox, Helen only
herself. You remain in society, Helen can't. You have had only
pleasure, she may die. You have the insolence to talk to me of
Oh, the uselessness of it! Henry's retort came.
"I perceive you are attempting blackmail. It is scarcely a pretty
weapon for a wife to use against her husband. My rule through
life has been never to pay the least attention to threats, and I
can only repeat what I said before: I do not give you and your
sister leave to sleep at Howards End."
Margaret loosed his hands. He went into the house, wiping first
one and then the other on his handkerchief. For a little she
stood looking at the Six Hills, tombs of warriors, breasts of the
spring. Then she passed out into what was now the evening.
Charles and Tibby met at Ducie Street, where the latter was
staying. Their interview was short and absurd. They had nothing
in common but the English language, and tried by its help to
express what neither of them understood. Charles saw in Helen the
family foe. He had singled her out as the most dangerous of the
Schlegels, and, angry as he was, looked forward to telling his
wife how right he had been. His mind was made up at once; the
girl must be got out of the way before she disgraced them
farther. If occasion offered she might be married to a villain,
or, possibly, to a fool. But this was a concession to morality,
it formed no part of his main scheme. Honest and hearty was
Charles's dislike, and the past spread itself out very clearly
before him; hatred is a skilful compositor. As if they were heads
in a note-book, he ran through all the incidents of the
Schlegels' campaign: the attempt to compromise his brother, his
mother's legacy, his father's marriage, the introduction of the
furniture, the unpacking of the same. He had not yet heard of the
request to sleep at Howards End; that was to be their
master-stroke and the opportunity for his. But he already felt
that Howards End was the objective, and, though he disliked the
house, was determined to defend it.
Tibby, on the other hand, had no opinions. He stood above the
conventions: his sister had a right to do what she thought right.
It is not difficult to stand above the conventions when we leave
no hostages among them; men can always be more unconventional
than women, and a bachelor of independent means need encounter no
difficulties at all. Unlike Charles, Tibby had money enough; his
ancestors had earned it for him, and if he shocked the people in
one set of lodgings he had only to move into another. His was the
leisure without sympathy--an attitude as fatal as the strenuous;
a little cold culture may be raised on it, but no art. His
sisters had seen the family danger, and had never forgotten to
discount the gold islets that raised them from the sea. Tibby
gave all the praise to himself, and so despised the struggling
and the submerged.
Hence the absurdity of the interview; the gulf between them was
economic as well as spiritual. But several facts passed; Charles
pressed for them with an impertinence that the undergraduate
could not withstand. On what date had Helen gone abroad? To whom?
(Charles was anxious to fasten the scandal on Germany.) Then,
changing his tactics, he said roughly: "I suppose you realise
that you are your sister's protector?"
"In what sense?"
"If a man played about with my sister, I'd send a bullet through
him, but perhaps you don't mind."
"I mind very much," protested Tibby.
"Who d'ye suspect, then? Speak out man. One always suspects some
"No one. I don't think so." Involuntarily he blushed. He had
remembered the scene in his Oxford rooms.
"You are hiding something," said Charles. As interviews go, he
got the best of this one. "When you saw her last, did she mention
any one's name? Yes or no!" he thundered, so that Tibby started.
"In my rooms she mentioned some friends, called the Basts."
"Who are the Basts?"
"People--friends of hers at Evie's wedding."
"I don't remember. But, by great Scott, I do! My aunt told me
about some rag-tsag. Was she full of them when you saw her? Is
there a man? Did she speak of the man? Or--look here--have you
had any dealings with him?"
Tibby was silent. Without intending it, he had betrayed his
sister's confidence; he was not enough interested in human life
to see where things will lead to. He had a strong regard for
honesty, and his word, once given, had always been kept up to
now. He was deeply vexed, not only for the harm he had done
Helen, but for the flaw he had discovered in his own equipment.
"I see--you are in his confidence. They met at your rooms. Oh,
what a family, what a family! God help the poor pater--s"
And Tibby found himself alone.
Leonard--he would figure at length in a newspaper report, but
that evening he did not count for much. The foot of the tree was
in shadow, since the moon was still hidden behind the house. But
above, to right, to left, down the long meadow the moonlight was
streaming. Leonard seemed not a man, but a cause.
Perhaps it was Helen's way of falling in love--a curious way to
Margaret, whose agony and whose contempt of Henry were yet
imprinted with his image. Helen forgot people. They were husks
that had enclosed her emotion. She could pity, or sacrifice
herself, or have instincts, but had she ever loved in the noblest
way, where man and woman, having lost themselves in sex, desire
to lose sex itself in comradeship?
Margaret wondered, but said no word of blame. This was Helen's
evening. Troubles enough lay ahead of her--the loss of friends
and of social advantages, the agony, the supreme agony, of
motherhood, which is not even yet a matter of common knowledge.
For the present let the moon shine brightly and the breezes of
the spring blow gently, dying away from the gale of the day, and
let the earth, that brings increase, bring peace. Not even to
herself dare she blame Helen.
She could not assess her trespass by any moral code; it was
everything or nothing. Morality can tell us that murder is worse
than stealing, and group most sins in an order all must approve,
but it cannot group Helen. The surer its pronouncements on this
point, the surer may we be that morality is not speaking. Christ
was evasive when they questioned Him. It is those that cannot
connect who hasten to cast the first stone.
This was Helen's evening--won at what cost, and not to be marred
by the sorrows of others. Of her own tragedy Margaret never
uttered a word.
"One isolates," said Helen slowly. "I isolated Mr. Wilcox from
the other forces that were pulling Leonard downhill.
Consequently, I was full of pity, and almost of revenge. For
weeks I had blamed Mr. Wilcox only, and so, when your letters
"I need never have written them," sighed Margaret. "They never
shielded Henry. How hopeless it is to tidy away the past, even
"I did not know that it was your own idea to dismiss the Basts."
"Looking back, that was wrong of me."
"Looking back, darling, I know that it was right. It is right to
save the man whom one loves. I am less enthusiastic about justice
now. But we both thought you wrote at his dictation. It seemed
the last touch of his callousness. Being very much wrought up by
this time--and Mrs. Bast was upstairs. I had not seen her, and
had talked for a long time to Leonard--I had snubbed him for no
reason, and that should have warned me I was in danger. So when
the notes came I wanted us to go to you for an explanation. He
said that he guessed the explanation--he knew of it, and you
mustn't know. I pressed him to tell me. He said no one must know;
it was something to do with his wife. Right up to the end we were
Mr. Bast and Miss Schlegel. I was going to tell him that he must
be frank with me when I saw his eyes, and guessed that Mr.
Wilcox had ruined him in two ways, not one. I drew him to me.
I made him tell me. I felt very lonely myself. He is not to
blame. He would have gone on worshipping me. I want never to
see him again, though it sounds appalling. I wanted to give
him money and feel finished. Oh, Meg, the little that is known
about these things!"
She laid her face against the tree.
"The little, too, that is known about growth! Both times it was
loneliness, and the night, and panic afterwards. Did Leonard grow
out of Paul?"
Margaret did not speak for a moment. So tired was she that her
attention had actually wandered to the teeth--the teeth that had
been thrust into the tree's bark to medicate it. From where she
sat she could see them gleam. She had been trying to count them.
"Leonard is a better growth than madness," she said. "I was
afraid that you would react against Paul until you went over the
"I did react until I found poor Leonard. I am steady now. I
shan't ever like your Henry, dearest Meg, or even speak kindly
about him, but all that blinding hate is over. I shall never rave
against Wilcoxes any more. I understand how you married him, and
you will now be very happy."
Margaret did not reply.
"Yes," repeated Helen, her voice growing more tender, "I do at
"Except Mrs. Wilcox, dearest, no one understands our little
"Because in death--I agree."
"Not quite. I feel that you and I and Henry are only fragments of
that woman's mind. She knows everything. She is everything. She
is the house, and the tree that leans over it. People have their
own deaths as well as their own lives, and even if there is
nothing beyond death, we shall differ in our nothingness. I
cannot believe that knowledge such as hers will perish with
knowledge such as mine. She knew about realities. She knew when
people were in love, though she was not in the room. I don't
doubt that she knew when Henry deceived her."
"Good-night, Mrs. Wilcox," called a voice.
"Oh, good-night, Miss Avery."
"Why should Miss Avery work for us?" Helen murmured.
Miss Avery crossed the lawn and merged into the hedge that
divided it from the farm. An old gap, which Mr. Wilcox had filled
up, had reappeared, and her track through the dew followed the
path that he had turfed over, when he improved the garden and
made it possible for games.
"This is not quite our house yet," said Helen. "When Miss Avery
called, I felt we are only a couple of tourists."
"We shall be that everywhere, and for ever."
"But affectionate tourists."
"But tourists who pretend each hotel is their home."
"I can't pretend very long," said Helen. "Sitting under this tree
one forgets, but I know that to-morrow I shall see the moon rise
out of Germany. Not all your goodness can alter the facts of the
case. Unless you will come with me."
Margaret thought for a moment. In the past year she had grown so
fond of England that to leave it was a real grief. Yet what
detained her? No doubt Henry would pardon her outburst, and go on
blustering and muddling into a ripe old age. But what was the
good? She had just as soon vanish from his mind.
"Are you serious in asking me, Helen? Should I get on with your
"You would not, but I am serious in asking you."
"Still, no more plans now. And no more reminiscences."
They were silent for a little. It was Helen's evening.
The present flowed by them like a stream. The tree rustled. It
had made music before they were born, and would continue after
their deaths, but its song was of the moment. The moment had
passed. The tree rustled again. Their senses were sharpened, and
they seemed to apprehend life. Life passed. The tree rustled
"Sleep now," said Margaret.
The peace of the country was entering into her. It has no
commerce with memory, and little with hope. Least of all is it
concerned with the hopes of the next five minutes. It is the
peace of the present, which passes understanding. Its murmur came
"now," and "now" once more as they trod the gravel, and "now," as
the moonlight fell upon their father's sword. They passed
upstairs, kissed, and amidst the endless iterations fell
asleep. The house had enshadowed the tree at first, but as the
moon rose higher the two disentangled, and were clear fur a few
moments at midnight. Margaret awoke and looked into the garden.
How incomprehensible that Leonard Bast should have won her this
night of peace! Was he also part of Mrs. Wilcox's mind?
Far different was Leonard's development. The months after Oniton,
whatever minor troubles they might bring him, were all
overshadowed by Remorse. When Helen looked back she could
philosophise, or she could look into the future and plan for her
child. But the father saw nothing beyond his own sin. Weeks
afterwards, in the midst of other occupations, he would suddenly
cry out, "Brute--you brute, I couldn't have--" and be rent into
two people who held dialogues. Or brown rain would descend,
blotting out faces and the sky. Even Jacky noticed the change in
him. Most terrible were his sufferings when he awoke from sleep.
Sometimes he was happy at first, but grew conscious of a burden
hanging to him and weighing down his thoughts when they would
move. Or little irons scorched his body. Or a sword stabbed him.
He would sit at the edge of his bed, holding his heart and
moaning, "Oh what SHALL I do, whatever SHALL I do?" Nothing
brought ease. He could put distance between him and the trespass,
but it grew in his soul.
Remorse is not among the eternal verities. The Greeks were right
to dethrone her. Her action is too capricious, as though the
Erinyes selected for punishment only certain men and certain
sins. And of all means to regeneration Remorse is surely the most
wasteful. It cuts away healthy tissues with the poisoned. It is a
knife that probes far deeper than the evil. Leonard was driven
straight through its torments and emerged pure, but enfeebled--a
better man, who would never lose control of himself again, but
also a smaller man, who had less to control. Nor did purity mean
peace. The use of the knife can become a habit as hard to shake
off as passion itself, and Leonard continued to start with a cry
out of dreams.
He built up a situation that was far enough from the truth. It
never occurred to him that Helen was to blame. He forgot the
intensity of their talk, the charm that had been lent him by
sincerity, the magic of Oniton under darkness and of the
whispering river. Helen loved the absolute. Leonard had been
ruined absolutely, and had appeared to her as a man apart,
isolated from the world. A real man, who cared for adventure and
beauty, who desired to live decently and pay his way, who could
have travelled more gloriously through life than the juggernaut
car that was crushing him. Memories of Evie's wedding had warped
her, the starched servants, the yards of uneaten food, the rustle
of overdressed women, motor-cars oozing grease on the gravel, a
pretentious band. She had tasted the lees of this on her arrival;
in the darkness, after failure, they intoxicated her. She and the
victim seemed alone in a world of unreality, and she loved him
absolutely, perhaps for half an hour.
In the morning she was gone. The note that she left, tender and
hysterical in tone, and intended to be most kind, hurt her lover
terribly. It was as if some work of art had been broken by him,
some picture in the National Gallery slashed out of its frame.
When he recalled her talents and her social position, he felt
that the first passer-by had a right to shoot him down. He was
afraid of the waitress and the porters at the railway-station. He
was afraid at first of his wife, though later he was to regard
her with a strange new tenderness, and to think, "There is
nothing to choose between us, after all."
The expedition to Shropshire crippled the Basts permanently.
Helen in her flight forgot to settle the hotel bill, and took
their return tickets away with her; they had to pawn Jacky's
bangles to get home, and the smash came a few days afterwards. It
is true that Helen offered him five thousand pounds, but such a
sum meant nothing to him. He could not see that the girl was
desperately righting herself, and trying to save something out of
the disaster, if it was only five thousand pounds. But he had to
live somehow. He turned to his family, and degraded himself to a
professional beggar. There was nothing else for him to do.
"A letter from Leonard," thought Blanche, his sister; "and after
all this time." She hid it, so that her husband should not see,
and when he had gone to his work read it with some emotion, and
sent the prodigal a little money out of her dress allowance.
"A letter from Leonard!" said the other sister, Laura, a few days
later. She showed it to her husband. He wrote a cruel, insolent
reply, but sent more money than Blanche, so Leonard soon wrote to
And during the winter the system was developed.
Leonard realised that they need never starve, because it would be
too painful for his relatives. Society is based on the family,
and the clever wastrel can exploit this indefinitely. Without a
generous thought on either side, pounds and pounds passed. The
donors disliked Leonard, and he grew to hate them intensely. When
Laura censured his immoral marriage, he thought bitterly, "She
minds that! What would she say if she knew the truth?" When
Blanche's husband offered him work, he found some pretext for
avoiding it. He had wanted work keenly at Oniton, but too much
anxiety had shattered him, he was joining the unemployable. When
his brother, the lay-reader, did not reply to a letter, he wrote
again, saying that he and Jacky would come down to his village on
foot. He did not intend this as blackmail. Still the brother sent
a postal order, and it became part of the system. And so passed
his winter and his spring.
In the horror there are two bright spots. He never confused the
past. He remained alive, and blessed are those who live, if it is
only to a sense of sinfulness. The anodyne of muddledom, by which
most men blur and blend their mistakes, never passed Leonard's
"And if I drink oblivion of a day,
So shorten I the stature of my soul."
It is a hard saying, and a hard man wrote it, but it lies at the
root of all character.
And the other bright spot was his tenderness for Jacky. He pitied
her with nobility now--not the contemptuous pity of a man who
sticks to a woman through thick and thin. He tried to be less
irritable. He wondered what her hungry eyes desired--nothing that
she could express, or that he or any man could give her. Would
she ever receive the justice that is mercy--the justice for
by-products that the world is too busy to bestow? She was fond of
flowers, generous with money, and not revengeful. If she had
borne him a child he might have cared for her. Unmarried, Leonard
would never have begged; he would have flickered out and died.
But the whole of life is mixed. He had to provide for Jacky, and
went down dirty paths that she might have a few feathers and the
dishes of food that suited her.
One day he caught sight of Margaret and her brother. He was in
St. Paul's. He had entered the cathedral partly to avoid the rain
and partly to see a picture that had educated him in former
years. But the light was bad, the picture ill placed, and Time
and judgment were inside him now. Death alone still charmed him,
with her lap of poppies, on which all men shall sleep. He took
one glance, and turned aimlessly away towards a chair. Then down
the nave he saw Miss Schlegel and her brother. They stood in the
fairway of passengers, and their faces were extremely grave. He
was perfectly certain that they were in trouble about their
Once outside--and he fled immediately--he wished that he had
spoken to them. What was his life? What were a few angry words,
or even imprisonment? He had done wrong--that was the true
terror. Whatever they might know, he would tell them everything
he knew. He re-entered St. Paul's. But they had moved in his
absence, and had gone to lay their difficulties before Mr. Wilcox
The sight of Margaret turned remorse into new channels. He
desired to confess, and though the desire is proof of a weakened
nature, which is about to lose the essence of human intercourse,
it did not take an ignoble form. He did not suppose that
confession would bring him happiness. It was rather that he
yearned to get clear of the tangle. So does the suicide yearn.
The impulses are akin, and the crime of suicide lies rather in
its disregard for the feelings of those whom we leave behind.
Confession need harm no one--it can satisfy that test--and
though it was un-English, and ignored by our Anglican cathedral,
Leonard had a right to decide upon it.
Moreover, he trusted Margaret. He wanted her hardness now. That
cold, intellectual nature of hers would be just, if unkind. He
would do whatever she told him, even if he had to see Helen. That
was the supreme punishment she would exact. And perhaps she would
tell him how Helen was. That was the supreme reward.
He knew nothing about Margaret, not even whether she was married
to Mr. Wilcox, and tracking her out took several days. That
evening he toiled through the wet to Wickham Place, where the new
flats were now appearing. Was he also the cause of their move?
Were they expelled from society on his account? Thence to a
public library, but could find no satisfactory Schlegel in the
directory. On the morrow he searched again. He hung about outside
Mr. Wilcox's office at lunch time, and, as the clerks came out
said, "Excuse me, sir, but is your boss married?" Most of them
stared, some said, "What's that to you?" but one, who had not yet
acquired reticence, told him what he wished. Leonard could not
learn the private address. That necessitated more trouble with
directories and tubes. Ducie Street was not discovered till the
Monday, the day that Margaret and her husband went down on their
hunting expedition to Howards End.
He called at about four o'clock. The weather had changed, and the
sun shone gaily on the ornamental steps--black and white marble
in triangles. Leonard lowered his eyes to them after ringing the
bell. He felt in curious health; doors seemed to be opening and
shutting inside his body, and he had been obliged to sleep
sitting up in bed, with his back propped against the wall. When
the parlourmaid came he could not see her face; the brown rain
had descended suddenly.
"Does Mrs. Wilcox live here?" he asked.
"She's out," was the answer.
"When will she be back?"
"I'll ask," said the parlourmaid.
Margaret had given instructions that no one who mentioned her
name should ever be rebuffed. Putting the door on the chain--for
Leonard's appearance demanded this--she went through to the
smoking-room, which was occupied by Tibby. Tibby was asleep. He
had had a good lunch. Charles Wilcox had not yet rung him up for
the distracting interview. He said drowsily: "I don't know.
Hilton. Howards End. Who is it?"
"I'll ask, sir."
"No, don't bother."
"They have taken the car to Howards End," said the parlourmaid to
He thanked her, and asked whereabouts that place was.
"You appear to want to know a good deal," she remarked. But
Margaret had forbidden her to be mysterious. She told him against
her better judgment that Howards End was in Hertfordshire.
"Is it a village, please?"
"Village! It's Mr. Wilcox's private house--at least, it's one of
them. Mrs. Wilcox keeps her furniture there. Hilton is the
"Yes. And when will they be back?"
"Mr. Schlegel doesn't know. We can't know everything, can we?"
She shut him out, and went to attend to the telephone, which was
He loitered away another night of agony. Confession grew more
difficult. As soon as possible he went to bed. He watched a patch
of moonlight cross the floor of their lodging, and, as sometimes
happens when the mind is overtaxed, he fell asleep for the rest
of the room, but kept awake for the patch of moonlight. Horrible!
Then began one of those disintegrating dialogues. Part of him
said: "Why horrible? It's ordinary light from the moon." "But
it moves." "So does the moon." "But it is a clenched fist."
"Why not?" "But it is going to touch me." "Let it." And, seeming
to gather motion, the patch ran up his blanket. Presently a blue
snake appeared; then another parallel to it. "Is there life in
the moon?" "Of course." "But I thought it was uninhabited."
"Not by Time, Death, Judgment, and the smaller snakes." "Smaller
snakes!" said Leonard indignantly and aloud. "What a notion!" By
a rending effort of the will he woke the rest of the room up.
Jacky, the bed, their food, their clothes on the chair, gradually
entered his consciousness, and the horror vanished outwards, like
a ring that is spreading through water.
"I say, Jacky, I'm going out for a bit."
She was breathing regularly. The patch of light fell clear of the
striped blanket, and began to cover the shawl that lay over her
feet. Why had he been afraid? He went to the window, and saw that
the moon was descending through a clear sky. He saw her volcanoes,
and the bright expanses that a gracious error has named seas.
They paled, for the sun, who had lit them up, was coming to light
the earth. Sea of Serenity, Sea of Tranquillity, Ocean of the
Lunar Storms, merged into one lucent drop, itself to slip into
the sempiternal dawn. And he had been afraid of the moon!
He dressed among the contending lights, and went through his
money. It was running low again, but enough for a return ticket
to Hilton. As it clinked, Jacky opened her eyes.
"Hullo, Len! What ho, Len!"
"What ho, Jacky! see you again later."
She turned over and slept.
The house was unlocked, their landlord being a salesman at Covent
Garden. Leonard passed out and made his way down to the station.
The train, though it did not start for an hour, was already drawn
up at the end of the platform, and he lay down in it and slept.
With the first jolt he was in daylight; they had left the
gateways of King's Cross, and were under blue sky. Tunnels
followed, and after each the sky grew bluer, and from the
embankment at Finsbury Park he had his first sight of the sun. It
rolled along behind the eastern smokes--a wheel, whose fellow was
the descending moon--and as yet it seemed the servant of the blue
sky, not its lord. He dozed again. Over Tewin Water it was day.
To the left fell the shadow of the embankment and its arches; to
the right Leonard saw up into the Tewin Woods and towards the
church, with its wild legend of immortality. Six forest trees--
that is a fact--grow out of one of the graves in Tewin
churchyard. The grave's occupant--that is the legend--is an
atheist, who declared that if God existed, six forest trees would
grow out of her grave. These things in Hertfordshire; and farther
afield lay the house of a hermit--Mrs. Wilcox had known him--who
barred himself up, and wrote prophecies, and gave all he had to
the poor. While, powdered in between, were the villas of business
men, who saw life more steadily, though with the steadiness of
the half-closed eye. Over all the sun was streaming, to all the
birds were singing, to all the primroses were yellow, and the
speedwell blue, and the country, however they interpreted her,
was uttering her cry of "now." She did not free Leonard yet, and
the knife plunged deeper into his heart as the train drew up at
Hilton. But remorse had become beautiful.
Hilton was asleep, or at the earliest, breakfasting. Leonard
noticed the contrast when he stepped out of it into the country.
Here men had been up since dawn. Their hours were ruled, not by a
London office, but by the movements of the crops and the sun.
That they were men of the finest type only the sentimentalists
can declare. But they kept to the life of daylight. They are
England's hope. Clumsily they carry forward the torch of the sun,
until such time as the nation sees fit to take it up. Half
clodhopper, half board-school prig, they can still throw back to
a nobler stock, and breed yeomen.
At the chalk pit a motor passed him. In it was another type, whom
Nature favours--the Imperial. Healthy, ever in motion, it hopes
to inherit the earth. It breeds as quickly as the yeoman, and as
soundly; strong is the temptation to acclaim it as a super-yeoman,
who carries his country's virtue overseas. But the Imperialist is
not what he thinks or seems. He is a destroyer. He prepares the
way for cosmopolitanism, and though his ambitions may be fulfilled,
the earth that he inherits will be grey.
To Leonard, intent on his private sin, there came the conviction
of innate goodness elsewhere. It was not the optimism which he
had been taught at school. Again and again must the drums tap,
and the goblins stalk over the universe before joy can be purged
of the superficial. It was rather paradoxical, and arose from his
sorrow. Death destroys a man, but the idea of death saves him--
that is the best account of it that has yet been given. Squalor
and tragedy can beckon to all that is great in us, and strengthen
the wings of love. They can beckon; it is not certain that they
will, for they are not love's servants. But they can beckon, and
the knowledge of this incredible truth comforted him.
As he approached the house all thought stopped. Contradictory
notions stood side by side in his mind. He was terrified but
happy, ashamed, but had done no sin. He knew the confession:
"Mrs. Wilcox, I have done wrong," but sunrise had robbed its
meaning, and he felt rather on a supreme adventure.
He entered a garden, steadied himself against a motor-car that he
found in it, found a door open and entered a house. Yes, it would
be very easy. From a room to the left he heard voices, Margaret's
amongst them. His own name was called aloud, and a man whom he
had never seen said, "Oh, is he there? I am not surprised. I now
thrash him within an inch of his life."
"Mrs. Wilcox," said Leonard, "I have done wrong."
The man took him by the collar and cried, "Bring me a stick."
Women were screaming. A stick, very bright, descended. It hurt
him, not where it descended, but in the heart. Books fell over
him in a shower. Nothing had sense.
"Get some water," commanded Charles, who had all through kept
very calm. "He's shamming. Of course I only used the blade. Here,
carry him out into the air."
Thinking that he understood these things, Margaret obeyed him.
They laid Leonard, who was dead, on the gravel; Helen poured
water over him.
"That's enough," said Charles.
"Yes, murder's enough," said Miss Avery, coming out of the house
with the sword.
When Charles left Ducie Street he had caught the first train
home, but had no inkling of the newest development until late at
night. Then his father, who had dined alone, sent for him, and in
very grave tones inquired for Margaret.
"I don't know where she is, pater" said Charles. Dolly kept back
dinner nearly an hour for her."
"Tell me when she comes in."
Another hour passed. The servants went to bed, and Charles
visited his father again, to receive further instructions. Mrs.
Wilcox had still not returned.
"I'll sit up for her as late as you like, but she can hardly be
coming. Isn't she stopping with her sister at the hotel?"
"Perhaps," said Mr. Wilcox thoughtfully--"perhaps."
"Can I do anything for you, sir?"
"Not to-night, my boy."
Mr. Wilcox liked being called sir. He raised his eyes, and gave
his son more open a look of tenderness than he usually ventured.
He saw Charles as little boy and strong man in one. Though his
wife had proved unstable his children were left to him.
After midnight he tapped on Charles's door. "I can't sleep," he
said. "I had better have a talk with you and get it over."
He complained of the heat. Charles took him out into the garden,
and they paced up and down in their dressing-gowns. Charles
became very quiet as the story unrolled; he had known all along
that Margaret was as bad as her sister.
"She will feel differently in the morning," said Mr. Wilcox, who
had of course said nothing about Mrs. Bast. "But I cannot let
this kind of thing continue without comment. I am morally certain
that she is with her sister at Howards End. The house is mine--
and, Charles, it will be yours--and when I say that no one is to
live there, I mean that no one is to live there. I won't have
it." He looked angrily at the moon. "To my mind this question is
connected with something far greater, the rights of property
"Undoubtedly," said Charles.
Mr. Wilcox linked his arm in his son's, but somehow liked him
less as he told him more. "I don't want you to conclude that my
wife and I had anything of the nature of a quarrel. She was only
overwrought, as who would not be? I shall do what I can for
Helen, but on the understanding that they clear out of the house
at once. Do you see? That is a sine qua non."
"Then at eight to-morrow I may go up in the car?"
"Eight or earlier. Say that you are acting as my representative,
and, of course, use no violence, Charles."
On the morrow, as Charles returned, leaving Leonard dead upon the
gravel, it did not seem to him that he had used violence. Death
was due to heart disease. His stepmother herself had said so, and
even Miss Avery had acknowledged that he only used the flat of
the sword. On his way through the village he informed the police,
who thanked him, and said there must be an inquest. He found his
father in the garden shading his eyes from the sun.
"It has been pretty horrible," said Charles gravely. "They were
there, and they had the man up there with them too."
"I told you last night. His name was Bast."
"My God! is it possible?" said Mr. Wilcox. "In your mother's
house! Charles, in your mother's house!"
"I know, pater. That was what I felt. As a matter of fact, there
is no need to trouble about the man. He was in the last stages of
heart disease, and just before I could show him what I thought of
him he went off. The police are seeing about it at this moment."
Mr. Wilcox listened attentively.
"I got up there--oh, it couldn't have been more than half-past
seven. The Avery woman was lighting a fire for them. They were
still upstairs. I waited in the drawing-room. We were all
moderately civil and collected, though I had my suspicions. I
gave them your message, and Mrs. Wilcox said, 'Oh yes, I see;
yes,' in that way of hers."
"I promised to tell you, 'with her love,' that she was going to
Germany with her sister this evening. That was all we had time
Mr. Wilcox seemed relieved.
"Because by then I suppose the man got tired of hiding, for
suddenly Mrs. Wilcox screamed out his name. I recognised it,
and I went for him in the hall. Was I right, pater? I thought
things were going a little too far."
"Right, my dear boy? I don't know. But you would have been no son
of mine if you hadn't. Then did he just--just--crumple up as you
said?" He shrunk from the simple word.
"He caught hold of the bookcase, which came down over him. So I
merely put the sword down and carried him into the garden. We all
thought he was shamming. However, he's dead right enough. Awful
"Sword?" cried his father, with anxiety in his voice. "What
sword? Whose sword?"
"A sword of theirs."
"What were you doing with it?"
"Well, didn't you see, pater, I had to snatch up the first thing
handy. I hadn't a riding-whip or stick. I caught him once or twice
over the shoulders with the flat of their old German sword."
"He pulled over the bookcase, as I said, and fell," aid Charles,
with a sigh. It was no fun doing errands for his father, who was
never quite satisfied.
"But the real cause was heart disease? Of that you're sure?"
"That or a fit. However, we shall hear more than enough at the
inquest on such unsavoury topics."
They went in to breakfast. Charles had a racking headache,
consequent on motoring before food. He was also anxious about the
future, reflecting that the police must detain Helen and Margaret
for the inquest and ferret the whole thing out. He saw himself
obliged to leave Hilton. One could not afford to live near the
scene of a scandal--it was not fair on one's wife. His comfort was
that the pater's eyes were opened at last. There would be a
horrible smash-up, and probably a separation from Margaret; then
they would all start again, more as they had been in his mother's
"I think I'll go round to the police-station," said his father
when breakfast was over.
"What for?" cried Dolly, who had still not been "told."
"Very well, sir. Which car will you have?"
"I think I'll walk."
"It's a good half-mile," said Charles, stepping into the
garden. "The sun's very hot for April. Shan't I take you up, and
then, perhaps, a little spin round by Tewin?"
"You go on as if I didn't know my own mind " said Mr. Wilcox
fretfully. Charles hardened his mouth. "You young fellows' one
idea is to get into a motor. I tell you, I want to walk; I'm
very fond of walking."
"Oh, all right; I'm about the house if you want me for anything.
I thought of not going up to the office to-day, if that is your
"It is, indeed, my boy," said Mr. Wilcox, and laid a hand on his
Charles did not like it; he was uneasy about his father, who did
not seem himself this morning. There was a petulant touch about
him--more like a woman. Could it be that he was growing old? The
Wilcoxes were not lacking in affection; they had it royally, but
they did not know how to use it. It was the talent in the napkin,
and, for a warm-hearted man, Charles had conveyed very little
joy. As he watched his father shuffling up the road, he had a
vague regret--a wish that something had been different somewhere--
a wish (though he did not express it thus) that he had been
taught to say "I" in his youth. He meant to make up for Margaret's
defection, but knew that his father had been very happy with her
until yesterday. How had she done it? By some dishonest trick,
no doubt--but how?
Mr. Wilcox reappeared at eleven, looking very tired. There was to
be an inquest on Leonard's body to-morrow, and the police
required his son to attend.
"I expected that," said Charles. "I shall naturally be the most
important witness there."
Out of the turmoil and horror that had begun with Aunt Juley's
illness and was not even to end with Leonard's death, it seemed
impossible to Margaret that healthy life should re-emerge. Events
succeeded in a logical, yet senseless, train. People lost their
humanity, and took values as arbitrary as those in a pack of
playing-cards. It was natural that Henry should do this and cause
Helen to do that, and then think her wrong for doing it; natural
that she herself should think him wrong; natural that Leonard
should want to know how Helen was, and come, and Charles be angry
with him for coming--natural, but unreal. In this jangle of
causes and effects what had become of their true selves? Here
Leonard lay dead in the garden, from natural causes; yet life was
a deep, deep river, death a blue sky, life was a house, death a
wisp of hay, a flower, a tower, life and death were anything and
everything, except this ordered insanity, where the king takes
the queen, and the ace the king. Ah, no; there was beauty and
adventure behind, such as the man at her feet had yearned for;
there was hope this side of the grave; there were truer
relationships beyond the limits that fetter us now. As a prisoner
looks up and sees stars beckoning, so she, from the turmoil and
horror of those days, caught glimpses of the diviner wheels.
And Helen, dumb with fright, but trying to keep calm for the
child's sake, and Miss Avery, calm, but murmuring tenderly, "No
one ever told the lad he'll have a child"--they also reminded her
that horror is not the end. To what ultimate harmony we tend she
did not know, but there seemed great chance that a child would be
born into the world, to take the great chances of beauty and
adventure that the world offers. She moved through the sunlit
garden, gathering narcissi, crimson-eyed and white. There was
nothing else to be done; the time for telegrams and anger was
over and it seemed wisest that the hands of Leonard should be
folded on his breast and be filled with flowers. Here was the
father; leave it at that. Let Squalor be turned into Tragedy,
whose eyes are the stars, and whose hands hold the sunset and the
And even the influx of officials, even the return of the doctor,
vulgar and acute, could not shake her belief in the eternity of
beauty. Science explained people, but could not understand them.
After long centuries among the bones and muscles it might be
advancing to knowledge of the nerves, but this would never give
understanding. One could open the heart to Mr. Mansbridge and his
sort without discovering its secrets to them, for they wanted
everything down in black and white, and black and white was
exactly what they were left with.
They questioned her closely about Charles. She never suspected
why. Death had come, and the doctor agreed that it was due to
heart disease. They asked to see her father's sword. She
explained that Charles's anger was natural, but mistaken.
Miserable questions about Leonard followed, all of which she
answered unfalteringly. Then back to Charles again. "No doubt Mr.
Wilcox may have induced death," she said; "but if it wasn't one
thing it would have been another as you know." At last they
thanked her and took the sword and the body down to Hilton. She
began to pick up the books from the floor.
Helen had gone to the farm. It was the best place for her, since
she had to wait for the inquest. Though, as if things were not
hard enough, Madge and her husband had raised trouble; they did
not see why they should receive the offscourings of Howards End.
And, of course, they were right. The whole world was going to be
right, and amply avenge any brave talk against the conventions.
"Nothing matters," the Schlegels had said in the past, "except
one's self-respect and that of one's friends." When the time
came, other things mattered terribly. However, Madge had yielded,
and Helen was assured of peace for one day and night, and
to-morrow she would return to Germany.
As for herself, she determined to go too. No message came from
Henry; perhaps he expected her to apologise. Now that she had
time to think over her own tragedy, she was unrepentant. She
neither forgave him for his behaviour nor wished to forgive him.
Her speech to him seemed perfect. She would not have altered a
word. It had to be uttered once in a life, to adjust the
lopsidedness of the world. It was spoken not only to her husband,
but to thousands of men like him--a protest against the inner
darkness in high places that comes with a commercial age. Though
he would build up his life without hers, she could not apologise.
He had refused to connect, on the clearest issue that can be laid
before a man, and their love must take the consequences.
No, there was nothing more to be done. They had tried not to go
over the precipice, but perhaps the fall was inevitable. And it
comforted her to think that the future was certainly inevitable;
cause and effect would go jangling forward to some goal doubtless,
but to none that she could imagine. At such moments the soul
retires within, to float upon the bosom of a deeper stream, and
has communion with the dead, and sees the world's glory not
diminished, but different in kind to what she has supposed. She
alters her focus until trivial things are blurred. Margaret had
been tending this way all the winter. Leonard's death brought her
to the goal. Alas! that Henry should fade away as reality emerged,
and only her love for him should remain clear, stamped with his
image like the cameos we rescue out of dreams.
With unfaltering eye she traced his future. He would soon present
a healthy mind to the world again, and what did he or the world
care if he was rotten at the core? He would grow into a rich,
jolly old man, at times a little sentimental about women, but
emptying his glass with anyone. Tenacious of power, he would keep
Charles and the rest dependent, and retire from business
reluctantly and at an advanced age. He would settle down--though
she could not realise this. In her eyes Henry was always moving
and causing others to move, until the ends of the earth met. But
in time he must get too tired to move, and settle down. What next?
The inevitable word. The release of the soul to its appropriate
Would they meet in it? Margaret believed in immortality for
herself. An eternal future had always seemed natural to her. And
Henry believed in it for himself. Yet, would they meet again? Are
there not rather endless levels beyond the grave, as the theory
that he had censured teaches? And his level, whether higher or
lower, could it possibly be the same as hers?
Thus gravely meditating, she was summoned by him. He sent up
Crane in the motor. Other servants passed like water, but the
chauffeur remained, though impertinent and disloyal. Margaret
disliked Crane, and he knew it.
"Is it the keys that Mr. Wilcox wants?" she asked,
"He didn't say, madam."
"You haven't any note for me?"
"He didn't say, madam."
After a moment's thought she locked up Howards End. It was
pitiable to see in it the stirrings of warmth that would be
quenched for ever. She raked out the fire that was blazing in the
kitchen, and spread the coals in the gravelled yard. She closed
the windows and drew the curtains. Henry would probably sell the
She was determined not to spare him, for nothing new had happened
as far as they were concerned. Her mood might never have altered
from yesterday evening. He was standing a little outside
Charles's gate, and motioned the car to stop. When his wife got
out he said hoarsely: "I prefer to discuss things with you
"It will be more appropriate in the road, I am afraid," said
Margaret. "Did you get my message?"
"I am going to Germany with my sister. I must tell you now that I
shall make it my permanent home. Our talk last night was more
important than you have realised. I am unable to forgive you and
am leaving you. "
"I am extremely tired," said Henry, in injured tones. "I have
been walking about all the morning, and wish to sit down."
"Certainly, if you will consent to sit on the grass."
The Great North Road should have been bordered all its length
with glebe. Henry's kind had filched most of it. She moved to the
scrap opposite, wherein were the Six Hills. They sat down on the
farther side, so that they could not be seen by Charles or Dolly.
"Here are your keys," said Margaret. She tossed them towards
him. They fell on the sunlit slope of grass, and he did not pick
"I have something to tell you," he said gently.
She knew this superficial gentleness, this confession of
hastiness, that was only intended to enhance her admiration of
"I don't want to hear it," she replied. "My sister is going to be
ill. My life is going to be with her now. We must manage to build
up something, she and I and her child."
"Where are you going?"
"Munich. We start after the inquest, if she is not too ill."
"After the inquest?"
"Have you realised what the verdict at the inquest will be?"
"Yes, heart disease."
"No, my dear; manslaughter."
Margaret drove her fingers through the grass. The hill beneath
her moved as if it were alive.
"Manslaughter," repeated Mr. Wilcox. "Charles may go to prison. I
dare not tell him. I don't know what to do--what to do. I'm
No sudden warmth arose in her. She did not see that to break him
was her only hope. She did not enfold the sufferer in her arms.
But all through that day and the next a new life began to move.