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Howards End by E. M. Forster

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The verdict was brought in. Charles was committed for trial. It
was against all reason that he should be punished, but the law,
notwithstanding, sentenced him to three years' imprisonment. Then
Henry's fortress gave way. He could bear no one but his wife; he
shambled up to Margaret afterwards and asked her to do what she
could with him. She did what seemed easiest--she took him down to
recruit at Howards End.


Tom's father was cutting the big meadow. He passed again and
again amid whirring blades and sweet odours of grass,
encompassing with narrowing circles the sacred centre of the
field. Tom was negotiating with Helen. "I haven't any idea," she
replied. "Do you suppose baby may, Meg?"

Margaret put down her work and regarded them absently. "What was
that?" she asked.

"Tom wants to know whether baby is old enough to play with hay?"

"I haven't the least notion," answered Margaret, and took up her
work again.

"Now, Tom, baby is not to stand; he is not to lie on his face; he
is not to lie so that his head wags; he is not to be teased or
tickled; and he is not to be cut into two or more pieces by the
cutter. Will you be as careful as all that?"

Tom held out his arms.

"That child is a wonderful nursemaid," remarked Margaret.

"He is fond of baby. That's why he does it!" was Helen's answer.
"They're going to be lifelong friends."

"Starting at the ages of six and one?"

"Of course. It will be a great thing for Tom."

"It may be a greater thing for baby."

Fourteen months had passed, but Margaret still stopped at Howards
End. No better plan had occurred to her. The meadow was being
recut, the great red poppies were reopening in the garden. July
would follow with the little red poppies among the wheat, August
with the cutting of the wheat. These little events would become
part of her year after year. Every summer she would fear lest the
well should give out, every winter lest the pipes should freeze;
every westerly gale might blow the wych-elm down and bring the
end of all things, and so she could not read or talk during a
westerly gale. The air was tranquil now. She and her sister were
sitting on the remains of Evie's rockery, where the lawn merged
into the field.

"What a time they all are!" said Helen. "What can they be doing
inside?" Margaret, who was growing less talkative, made no answer.
The noise of the cutter came intermittently, like the breaking of
waves. Close by them a man was preparing to scythe out one of
the dell-holes.

"I wish Henry was out to enjoy this," said Helen. "This lovely
weather and to be shut up in the house! It's very hard."

"It has to be," said Margaret. "The hay fever is his chief
objection against living here, but he thinks it worth while."

"Meg, is or isn't he ill? I can't make out."

"Not ill. Eternally tired. He has worked very hard all his life,
and noticed nothing. Those are the people who collapse when they
do notice a thing."

"I suppose he worries dreadfully about his part of the tangle."

"Dreadfully. That is why I wish Dolly had not come, too, to-day.
Still, be wanted them all to come. It has to be."

"Why does he want them?"

Margaret did not answer.

"Meg, may I tell you something? I like Henry."

"You'd be odd if you didn't, " said Margaret.

"I usen't to."

"Usen't!" She lowered her eyes a moment to the black abyss of the
past. They had crossed it, always excepting Leonard and Charles.
They were building up a new life, obscure, yet gilded with
tranquillity. Leonard was dead; Charles had two years more in
prison. One usen't always to see clearly before that time. It was
different now.

"I like Henry because he does worry."

"And he likes you because you don't."

Helen sighed. She seemed humiliated, and buried her face in her
hands. After a time she said: "About love," a transition less
abrupt than it appeared.

Margaret never stopped working.

"I mean a woman's love for a man. I supposed I should hang my
life on to that once, and was driven up and down and about as if
something was worrying through me. But everything is peaceful
now; I seem cured. That Herr Forstmeister, whom Frieda keeps
writing about, must be a noble character, but he doesn't see that
I shall never marry him or anyone. It isn't shame or mistrust of
myself. I simply couldn't. I'm ended. I used to be so dreamy
about a man's love as a girl, and think that for good or evil
love must be the great thing. But it hasn't been; it has been
itself a dream. Do you agree?"

"I do not agree. I do not."

"I ought to remember Leonard as my lover," said Helen, stepping
down into the field. "I tempted him, and killed him, and it is
surely the least I can do. I would like to throw out all my heart
to Leonard on such an afternoon as this. But I cannot. It is no
good pretending. I am forgetting him." Her eyes filled with
tears. "How nothing seems to match--how, my darling, my
precious--" She broke off. "Tommy!"

"Yes, please?"

"Baby's not to try and stand.--There's something wanting in me. I
see you loving Henry, and understanding him better daily, and I
know that death wouldn't part you in the least. But I-- Is it
some awful, appalling, criminal defect?"

Margaret silenced her. She said: "It is only that people are far
more different than is pretended. All over the world men and
women are worrying because they cannot develop as they are
supposed to develop. Here and there they have the matter out, and
it comforts them. Don't fret yourself, Helen. Develop what you
have; love your child. I do not love children. I am thankful to
have none. I can play with their beauty and charm, but that is
all--nothing real, not one scrap of what there ought to be. And
others--others go farther still, and move outside humanity
altogether. A place, as well as a person, may catch the glow.
Don't you see that all this leads to comfort in the end? It is
part of the battle against sameness. Differences, eternal
differences, planted by God in a single family, so that there may
always be colour; sorrow perhaps, but colour in the daily grey.
Then I can't have you worrying about Leonard. Don't drag in the
personal when it will not come. Forget him."

"Yes, yes, but what has Leonard got out of life?"

"Perhaps an adventure."

"Is that enough?"

"Not for us. But for him."

Helen took up a bunch of grass. She looked at the sorrel, and the
red and white and yellow clover, and the quaker grass, and the
daisies, and the bents that composed it. She raised it to her

"Is it sweetening yet?" asked Margaret.

"No, only withered."

"It will sweeten to-morrow."

Helen smiled. "Oh, Meg, you are a person," she said. "Think of
the racket and torture this time last year. But now I couldn't
stop unhappy if I tried. What a change--and all through you!"

"Oh, we merely settled down. You and Henry learnt to understand
one another and to forgive, all through the autumn and the

"Yes, but who settled us down?"

Margaret did not reply. The scything had begun, and she took off
her pince-nez to watch it.

"You!" cried Helen. "You did it all, sweetest, though you're too
stupid to see. Living here was your plan--I wanted you; he wanted
you; and everyone said it was impossible, but you knew. Just
think of our lives without you, Meg--I and baby with Monica,
revolting by theory, he handed about from Dolly to Evie. But you
picked up the pieces, and made us a home. Can't it strike you--
even for a moment--that your life has been heroic? Can't you
remember the two months after Charles's arrest, when you began to
act, and did all?"

"You were both ill at the time," said Margaret. "I did the
obvious things. I had two invalids to nurse. Here was a house,
ready furnished and empty. It was obvious. I didn't know myself
it would turn into a permanent home. No doubt I have done a
little towards straightening the tangle, but things that I can't
phrase have helped me."

"I hope it will be permanent," said Helen, drifting away to other

"I think so. There are moments when I feel Howards End peculiarly
our own."

"All the same, London's creeping."

She pointed over the meadow--over eight or nine meadows, but at
the end of them was a red rust.

"You see that in Surrey and even Hampshire now," she continued.
"I can see it from the Purbeck Downs. And London is only part of
something else, I'm afraid. Life's going to be melted down, all
over the world."

Margaret knew that her sister spoke truly. Howards End, Oniton,
the Purbeck Downs, the Oderberge, were all survivals, and the
melting-pot was being prepared for them. Logically, they had no
right to be alive. One's hope was in the weakness of logic. Were
they possibly the earth beating time?

"Because a thing is going strong now, it need not go strong for
ever," she said. "This craze for motion has only set in during
the last hundred years. It may be followed by a civilisation that
won't be a movement, because it will rest on the earth. All the
signs are against it now, but I can't help hoping, and very early
in the morning in the garden I feel that our house is the
future as well as the past."

They turned and looked at it. Their own memories coloured it now,
for Helen's child had been born in the central room of the nine.
Then Margaret said, "Oh, take care--!" for something moved behind
the window of the hall, and the door opened.

"The conclave's breaking at last. I'll go."

It was Paul.

Helen retreated with the children far into the field. Friendly
voices greeted her. Margaret rose, to encounter a man with a
heavy black moustache.

"My father has asked for you," he said with hostility.

She took her work and followed him.

"We have been talking business," he continued, "but I dare say
you knew all about it beforehand."

"Yes, I did."

Clumsy of movement--for he had spent all his life in the saddle--
Paul drove his foot against the paint of the front door. Mrs.
Wilcox gave a little cry of annoyance. She did not like anything
scratched; she stopped in the hall to take Dolly's boa and gloves
out of a vase.

Her husband was lying in a great leather chair in the dining-room,
and by his side, holding his hand rather ostentatiously, was Evie.
Dolly, dressed in purple, sat near the window. The room was a
little dark and airless; they were obliged to keep it like this
until the carting of the hay. Margaret joined the family without
speaking; the five of them had met already at tea, and she knew
quite well what was going to be said. Averse to wasting her time,
she went on sewing. The clock struck six.

"Is this going to suit everyone?" said Henry in a weary voice. He
used the old phrases, but their effect was unexpected and
shadowy. "Because I don't want you all coming here later on and
complaining that I have been unfair."

"It's apparently got to suit us," said Paul.

"I beg your pardon, my boy. You have only to speak, and I will
leave the house to you instead."

Paul frowned ill-temperedly, and began scratching at his arm. "As
I've given up the outdoor life that suited me, and I have come
home to look after the business, it's no good my settling down
here," he said at last. "It's not really the country, and it's
not the town."

"Very well. Does my arrangement suit you, Evie?"

"Of course, father."

"And you, Dolly?"

Dolly raised her faded little face, which sorrow could wither but
not steady. "Perfectly splendidly," she said. "I thought Charles
wanted it for the boys, but last time I saw him he said no,
because we cannot possibly live in this part of England again.
Charles says we ought to change our name, but I cannot think what
to, for Wilcox just suits Charles and me, and I can't think of
any other name."

There was a general silence. Dolly looked nervously round, fearing
that she had been inappropriate. Paul continued to scratch his arm.

"Then I leave Howards End to my wife absolutely," said Henry.
"And let everyone understand that; and after I am dead let there
be no jealousy and no surprise."

Margaret did not answer. There was something uncanny in her
triumph. She, who had never expected to conquer anyone, had
charged straight through these Wilcoxes and broken up their

"In consequence, I leave my wife no money," said Henry. "That is
her own wish. All that she would have had will be divided among
you. I am also giving you a great deal in my lifetime, so that
you may be independent of me. That is her wish, too. She also is
giving away a great deal of money. She intends to diminish her
income by half during the next ten years; she intends when she
dies to leave the house to her nephew, down in the field. Is all
that clear? Does everyone understand?"

Paul rose to his feet. He was accustomed to natives, and a very
little shook him out of the Englishman. Feeling manly and
cynical, he said: "Down in the field? Oh, come! I think we might
have had the whole establishment, piccaninnies included."

Mrs. Cahill whispered: "Don't, Paul. You promised you'd take
care." Feeling a woman of the world, she rose and prepared to
take her leave.

Her father kissed her. "Good-bye, old girl, "he said; "don't you
worry about me."

"Good-bye, dad."

Then it was Dolly's turn. Anxious to contribute, she laughed
nervously, and said: "Good-bye, Mr. Wilcox. It does seem curious
that Mrs. Wilcox should have left Margaret Howards End, and yet
she get it, after all."

From Evie came a sharply-drawn breath. "Goodbye," she said to
Margaret, and kissed her.

And again and again fell the word, like the ebb of a dying sea.


"Good-bye, Dolly."

"So long, father."

"Good-bye, my boy; always take care of yourself."

"Good-bye, Mrs. Wilcox."


Margaret saw their visitors to the gate. Then she returned to her
husband and laid her head in his hands. He was pitiably tired.
But Dolly's remark had interested her. At last she said: "Could
you tell me, Henry, what was that about Mrs. Wilcox having left
me Howards End?"

Tranquilly he replied: "Yes, she did. But that is a very old
story. When she was ill and you were so kind to her she wanted to
make you some return, and, not being herself at the time,
scribbled 'Howards End' on a piece of paper. I went into it
thoroughly, and, as it was clearly fanciful, I set it aside,
little knowing what my Margaret would be to me in the future."

Margaret was silent. Something shook her life in its inmost
recesses, and she shivered.

"I didn't do wrong, did I?" he asked, bending down.

"You didn't, darling. Nothing has been done wrong."

From the garden came laughter. "Here they are at last!" exclaimed
Henry, disengaging himself with a smile. Helen rushed into the
gloom, holding Tom by one hand and carrying her baby on the
other. There were shouts of infectious joy.

"The field's cut!" Helen cried excitedly--"the big meadow! We've
seen to the very end, and it'll be such a crop of hay as never!"

WEYBRIDGE, 1908-191O.

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