bilder wohnzimmer jugendstil
howards end by e. m. forsterchapter 30 tibby was now approaching his last year atoxford. he had moved out of college, and wascontemplating the universe, or such portions of it as concerned him, from hiscomfortable lodgings in long wall. he was not concerned with much. when a young man is untroubled by passionsand sincerely indifferent to public opinion, his outlook is necessarilylimited. tibby neither wished to strengthen theposition of the rich nor to improve that of the poor, and so was well content to watchthe elms nodding behind the mildly
embattled parapets of magdalen. there are worse lives.though selfish, he was never cruel; though affected in manner, he never posed. like margaret, he disdained the heroicequipment, and it was only after many visits that men discovered schlegel topossess a character and a brain. he had done well in mods, much to thesurprise of those who attended lectures and took proper exercise, and was now glancingdisdainfully at chinese in case he should some day consent to qualify as a studentinterpreter. to him thus employed helen entered.a telegram had preceded her.
he noticed, in a distant way, that hissister had altered. as a rule he found her too pronounced, andhad never come across this look of appeal, pathetic yet dignified--the look of asailor who has lost everything at sea. "i have come from oniton," she began. "there has been a great deal of troublethere." "who's for lunch?" said tibby, picking upthe claret, which was warming in the hearth. helen sat down submissively at the table."why such an early start?" he asked. "sunrise or something--when i could getaway."
"so i surmise. why?" "i don't know what's to be done, tibby.i am very much upset at a piece of news that concerns meg, and do not want to faceher, and i am not going back to wickham place. i stopped here to tell you this."the landlady came in with the cutlets. tibby put a marker in the leaves of hischinese grammar and helped them. oxford--the oxford of the vacation--dreamedand rustled outside, and indoors the little fire was coated with grey where thesunshine touched it. helen continued her odd story.
"give meg my love and say that i want to bealone. i mean to go to munich or else bonn.""such a message is easily given," said her brother. "as regards wickham place and my share ofthe furniture, you and she are to do exactly as you like.my own feeling is that everything may just as well be sold. what does one want with dusty economic,books, which have made the world no better, or with mother's hideous chiffoniers?i have also another commission for you. i want you to deliver a letter."
she got up."i haven't written it yet. why shouldn't i post it, though?"she sat down again. "my head is rather wretched. i hope that none of your friends are likelyto come in." tibby locked the door.his friends often found it in this condition. then he asked whether anything had gonewrong at evie's wedding. "not there," said helen, and burst intotears. he had known her hysterical--it was one ofher aspects with which he had no concern--
and yet these tears touched him assomething unusual. they were nearer the things that didconcern him, such as music. he laid down his knife and looked at hercuriously. then, as she continued to sob, he went onwith his lunch. the time came for the second course, andshe was still crying. apple charlotte was to follow, which spoilsby waiting. "do you mind mrs. martlett coming in?" heasked, "or shall i take it from her at the door?" "could i bathe my eyes, tibby?"he took her to his bedroom, and introduced
the pudding in her absence.having helped himself, he put it down to warm in the hearth. his hand stretched towards the grammar, andsoon he was turning over the pages, raising his eyebrows scornfully, perhaps at humannature, perhaps at chinese. to him thus employed helen returned. she had pulled herself together, but thegrave appeal had not vanished from her eyes."now for the explanation," she said. "why didn't i begin with it? i have found out something about mr.wilcox.
he has behaved very wrongly indeed, andruined two people's lives. it all came on me very suddenly last night;i am very much upset, and i do not know what to do.mrs. bast--" "oh, those people!" helen seemed silenced."shall i lock the door again?" "no, thanks, tibbikins.you're being very good to me. i want to tell you the story before i goabroad. you must do exactly what you like--treat itas part of the furniture. meg cannot have heard it yet, i think.
but i cannot face her and tell her that theman she is going to marry has misconducted himself.i don't even know whether she ought to be told. knowing as she does that i dislike him, shewill suspect me, and think that i want to ruin her match.i simply don't know what to make of such a thing. i trust your judgment.what would you do?" "i gather he has had a mistress," saidtibby. helen flushed with shame and anger.
"and ruined two people's lives.and goes about saying that personal actions count for nothing, and there always will berich and poor. he met her when he was trying to get richout in cyprus--i don't wish to make him worse than he is, and no doubt she wasready enough to meet him. but there it is. they met.he goes his way and she goes hers. what do you suppose is the end of suchwomen?" he conceded that it was a bad business. "they end in two ways: either they sinktill the lunatic asylums and the workhouses
are full of them, and cause mr. wilcox towrite letters to the papers complaining of our national degeneracy, or else they entrap a boy into marriage before it is toolate. she--i can't blame her. "but this isn't all," she continued after along pause, during which the landlady served them with coffee."i come now to the business that took us to oniton. we went all three.acting on mr. wilcox's advice, the man throws up a secure situation and takes aninsecure one, from which he is dismissed.
there are certain excuses, but in the mainmr. wilcox is to blame, as meg herself admitted.it is only common justice that he should employ the man himself. but he meets the woman, and, like the curthat he is, he refuses, and tries to get rid of them.he makes meg write. two notes came from her late that evening--one for me, one for leonard, dismissing him with barely a reason.i couldn't understand. then it comes out that mrs. bast had spokento mr. wilcox on the lawn while we left her to get rooms, and was still speaking abouthim when leonard came back to her.
this leonard knew all along. he thought it natural he should be ruinedtwice. natural!could you have contained yourself?. "it is certainly a very bad business," saidtibby. his reply seemed to calm his sister."i was afraid that i saw it out of proportion. but you are right outside it, and you mustknow. in a day or two--or perhaps a week--takewhatever steps you think fit. i leave it in your hands."
she concluded her charge. "the facts as they touch meg are all beforeyou," she added; and tibby sighed and felt it rather hard that, because of his openmind, he should be empanelled to serve as a juror. he had never been interested in humanbeings, for which one must blame him, but he had had rather too much of them atwickham place. just as some people cease to attend whenbooks are mentioned, so tibby's attention wandered when "personal relations" cameunder discussion. ought margaret to know what helen knew thebasts to know?
similar questions had vexed him frominfancy, and at oxford he had learned to say that the importance of human beings hasbeen vastly overrated by specialists. the epigram, with its faint whiff of theeighties, meant nothing. but he might have let it off now if hissister had not been ceaselessly beautiful. "you see, helen--have a cigarette--i don'tsee what i'm to do." "then there's nothing to be done.i dare say you are right. let them marry. there remains the question ofcompensation." "do you want me to adjudicate that too?had you not better consult an expert?"
"this part is in confidence," said helen. "it has nothing to do with meg, and do notmention it to her. the compensation--i do not see who is topay it if i don't, and i have already decided on the minimum sum. as soon as possible i am placing it to youraccount, and when i am in germany you will pay it over for me.i shall never forget your kindness, tibbikins, if you do this." "what is the sum?""five thousand." "good god alive!" said tibby, and wentcrimson.
"now, what is the good of driblets? to go through life having done one thing--to have raised one person from the abyss: not these puny gifts of shillings andblankets--making the grey more grey. no doubt people will think meextraordinary." "i don't care a damn what people think!"cried he, heated to unusual manliness of diction. "but it's half what you have.""not nearly half." she spread out her hands over her soiledskirt. "i have far too much, and we settled atchelsea last spring that three hundred a
year is necessary to set a man on his feet.what i give will bring in a hundred and fifty between two. it isn't enough."he could not recover. he was not angry or even shocked, and hesaw that helen would still have plenty to live on. but it amazed him to think what haycockspeople can make of their lives. his delicate intonations would not work,and he could only blurt out that the five thousand pounds would mean a great deal ofbother for him personally. "i didn't expect you to understand me."
"i? i understand nobody.""but you'll do it?" "apparently.""i leave you two commissions, then. the first concerns mr. wilcox, and you areto use your discretion. the second concerns the money, and is to bementioned to no one, and carried out literally. you will send a hundred pounds on accounttomorrow." he walked with her to the station, passingthrough those streets whose serried beauty never bewildered him and never fatigued. the lovely creature raised domes and spiresinto the cloudless blue, and only the
ganglion of vulgarity round carfax showedhow evanescent was the phantom, how faint its claim to represent england. helen, rehearsing her commission, noticednothing: the basts were in her brain, and she retold the crisis in a meditative way,which might have made other men curious. she was seeing whether it would hold. he asked her once why she had taken thebasts right into the heart of evie's wedding.she stopped like a frightened animal and said, "does that seem to you so odd?" her eyes, the hand laid on the mouth, quitehaunted him, until they were absorbed into
the figure of st. mary the virgin, beforewhom he paused for a moment on the walk home. it is convenient to follow him in thedischarge of his duties. margaret summoned him the next day. she was terrified at helen's flight, and hehad to say that she had called in at oxford.then she said: "did she seem worried at any rumour about henry?" he answered, "yes.""i knew it was that!" she exclaimed. "i'll write to her."tibby was relieved.
he then sent the cheque to the address thathelen gave him, and stated that later on he was instructed to forward five thousandpounds. an answer came back, very civil and quietin tone--such an answer as tibby himself would have given. the cheque was returned, the legacyrefused, the writer being in no need of money. tibby forwarded this to helen, adding inthe fulness of his heart that leonard bast seemed somewhat a monumental person afterall. helen's reply was frantic.
he was to take no notice.he was to go down at once and say that she commanded acceptance.he went. a scurf of books and china ornamentsawaited them. the basts had just been evicted for notpaying their rent, and had wandered no one knew whither. helen had begun bungling with her money bythis time, and had even sold out her shares in the nottingham and derby railway.for some weeks she did nothing. then she reinvested, and, owing to the goodadvice of her stockbrokers, became rather richer than she had been before.
> howards end by e. m. forsterchapter 31 houses have their own ways of dying,falling as variously as the generations of men, some with a tragic roar, some quietly,but to an after-life in the city of ghosts, while from others--and thus was the death of wickham place--the spirit slips beforethe body perishes. it had decayed in the spring,disintegrating the girls more than they knew, and causing either to accostunfamiliar regions. by september it was a corpse, void ofemotion, and scarcely hallowed by the
memories of thirty years of happiness. through its round-topped doorway passedfurniture, and pictures, and books, until the last room was gutted and the last vanhad rumbled away. it stood for a week or two longer, open-eyed, as if astonished at its own emptiness.then it fell. navvies came, and spilt it back into thegrey. with their muscles and their beery goodtemper, they were not the worst of undertakers for a house which had alwaysbeen human, and had not mistaken culture for an end.
the furniture, with a few exceptions, wentdown into hertfordshire, mr. wilcox having most kindly offered howards end as awarehouse. mr. bryce had died abroad--anunsatisfactory affair--and as there seemed little guarantee that the rent would bepaid regularly, he cancelled the agreement, and resumed possession himself. until he relet the house, the schlegelswere welcome to stack their furniture in the garage and lower rooms. margaret demurred, but tibby accepted theoffer gladly; it saved him from coming to any decision about the future.
the plate and the more valuable picturesfound a safer home in london, but the bulk of the things went country-ways, and wereentrusted to the guardianship of miss avery. shortly before the move, our hero andheroine were married. they have weathered the storm, and mayreasonably expect peace. to have no illusions and yet to love--whatstronger surety can a woman find? she had seen her husband's past as well ashis heart. she knew her own heart with a thoroughnessthat commonplace people believe impossible. the heart of mrs. wilcox was alone hidden,and perhaps it is superstitious to
speculate on the feelings of the dead. they were married quietly--really quietly,for as the day approached she refused to go through another oniton. her brother gave her away, her aunt, whowas out of health, presided over a few colourless refreshments. the wilcoxes were represented by charles,who witnessed the marriage settlement, and by mr. cahill.paul did send a cablegram. in a few minutes, and without the aid ofmusic, the clergyman made them man and wife, and soon the glass shade had fallenthat cuts off married couples from the
world. she, a monogamist, regretted the cessationof some of life's innocent odours; he, whose instincts were polygamous, feltmorally braced by the change, and less liable to the temptations that had assailedhim in the past. they spent their honeymoon near innsbruck. henry knew of a reliable hotel there, andmargaret hoped for a meeting with her sister.in this she was disappointed. as they came south, helen retreated overthe brenner, and wrote an unsatisfactory postcard from the shores of the lake ofgarda, saying that her plans were uncertain
and had better be ignored. evidently she disliked meeting henry. two months are surely enough to accustom anoutsider to a situation which a wife has accepted in two days, and margaret hadagain to regret her sister's lack of self- control. in a long letter she pointed out the needof charity in sexual matters: so little is known about them; it is hard enough forthose who are personally touched to judge; then how futile must be the verdict ofsociety. "i don't say there is no standard, for thatwould destroy morality; only that there can
be no standard until our impulses areclassified and better understood." helen thanked her for her kind letter--rather a curious reply. she moved south again, and spoke ofwintering in naples. mr. wilcox was not sorry that the meetingfailed. helen left him time to grow skin over hiswound. there were still moments when it painedhim. had he only known that margaret wasawaiting him--margaret, so lively and intelligent, and yet so submissive--hewould have kept himself worthier of her. incapable of grouping the past, he confusedthe episode of jacky with another episode
that had taken place in the days of hisbachelorhood. the two made one crop of wild oats, forwhich he was heartily sorry, and he could not see that those oats are of a darkerstock which are rooted in another's dishonour. unchastity and infidelity were as confusedto him as to the middle ages, his only moral teacher. ruth (poor old ruth!) did not enter intohis calculations at all, for poor old ruth had never found him out.his affection for his present wife grew steadily.
her cleverness gave him no trouble, and,indeed, he liked to see her reading poetry or something about social questions; itdistinguished her from the wives of other men. he had only to call, and she clapped thebook up and was ready to do what he wished. then they would argue so jollily, and onceor twice she had him in quite a tight corner, but as soon as he grew reallyserious, she gave in. man is for war, woman for the recreation ofthe warrior, but he does not dislike it if she makes a show of fight.she cannot win in a real battle, having no muscles, only nerves.
nerves make her jump out of a moving motor-car, or refuse to be married fashionably. the warrior may well allow her to triumphon such occasions; they move not the imperishable plinth of things that touchhis peace. margaret had a bad attack of these nervesduring the honeymoon. he told her--casually, as was his habit--that oniton grange was let. she showed her annoyance, and asked rathercrossly why she had not been consulted. "i didn't want to bother you," he replied."besides, i have only heard for certain this morning." "where are we to live?" said margaret,trying to laugh.
"i loved the place extraordinarily.don't you believe in having a permanent home, henry?" he assured her that she misunderstood him.it is home life that distinguishes us from the foreigner.but he did not believe in a damp home. "this is news. i never heard till this minute that onitonwas damp." "my dear girl!"--he flung out his hand--"have you eyes? have you a skin? how could it be anything but damp in such asituation? in the first place, the grange is on clay,and built where the castle moat must have
been; then there's that destestable littleriver, steaming all night like a kettle. feel the cellar walls; look up under theeaves. ask sir james or anyone.those shropshire valleys are notorious. the only possible place for a house inshropshire is on a hill; but, for my part, i think the country is too far from london,and the scenery nothing special." margaret could not resist saying, "why didyou go there, then?" "i--because--" he drew his head back andgrew rather angry. "why have we come to the tyrol, if it comesto that? one might go on asking such questionsindefinitely."
one might; but he was only gaining time fora plausible answer. out it came, and he believed it as soon asit was spoken. "the truth is, i took oniton on account ofevie. don't let this go any further.""certainly not." "i shouldn't like her to know that shenearly let me in for a very bad bargain. no sooner did i sign the agreement than shegot engaged. poor little girl! she was so keen on it all, and wouldn'teven wait to make proper inquiries about the shooting.afraid it would get snapped up--just like
all of your sex. well, no harm's done.she has had her country wedding, and i've got rid of my house to some fellows who arestarting a preparatory school." "where shall we live, then, henry? i should enjoy living somewhere.""i have not yet decided. what about norfolk?"margaret was silent. marriage had not saved her from the senseof flux. london was but a foretaste of this nomadiccivilization which is altering human nature so profoundly, and throws upon personalrelations a stress greater than they have
ever borne before. under cosmopolitanism, if it comes, weshall receive no help from the earth. trees and meadows and mountains will onlybe a spectacle, and the binding force that they once exercised on character must beentrusted to love alone. may love be equal to the task! "it is now what?" continued henry."nearly october. let us camp for the winter at ducie street,and look out for something in the spring. "if possible, something permanent. i can't be as young as i was, for thesealterations don't suit me."
"but, my dear, which would you rather have--alterations or rheumatism?" "i see your point," said margaret, gettingup. "if oniton is really damp, it isimpossible, and must be inhabited by little boys. only, in the spring, let us look before weleap. i will take warning by evie, and not hurryyou. remember that you have a free hand thistime. these endless moves must be bad for thefurniture, and are certainly expensive." "what a practical little woman it is!
what's it been reading?theo--theo--how much?" "theosophy."so ducie street was her first fate--a pleasant enough fate. the house, being only a little larger thanwickham place, trained her for the immense establishment that was promised in thespring. they were frequently away, but at home liferan fairly regularly. in the morning henry went to the business,and his sandwich--a relic this of some prehistoric craving--was always cut by herown hand. he did not rely upon the sandwich forlunch, but liked to have it by him in case
he grew hungry at eleven. when he had gone, there was the house tolook after, and the servants to humanize, and several kettles of helen's to keep onthe boil. her conscience pricked her a little aboutthe basts; she was not sorry to have lost sight of them. no doubt leonard was worth helping, butbeing henry's wife, she preferred to help someone else.as for theatres and discussion societies, they attracted her less and less. she began to "miss" new movements, and tospend her spare time re-reading or
thinking, rather to the concern of herchelsea friends. they attributed the change to her marriage,and perhaps some deep instinct did warn her not to travel further from her husband thanwas inevitable. yet the main cause lay deeper still; shehad outgrown stimulants, and was passing from words to things. it was doubtless a pity not to keep up withwedekind or john, but some closing of the gates is inevitable after thirty, if themind itself is to become a creative power. howards end by e. m. forsterchapter 32 she was looking at plans one day in thefollowing spring--they had finally decided
to go down into sussex and build--when mrs.charles wilcox was announced. "have you heard the news?" dolly cried, as soon as she entered theroom. "charles is so ang--i mean he is sure youknow about it, or rather, that you don't know." "why, dolly!" said margaret, placidlykissing her. "here's a surprise!how are the boys and the baby?" boys and the baby were well, and indescribing a great row that there had been at hilton tennis club, dolly forgot hernews.
the wrong people had tried to get in. the rector, as representing the olderinhabitants, had said--charles had said-- the tax-collector had said--charles hadregretted not saying--and she closed the description with, "but lucky you, with fourcourts of your own at midhurst." "it will be very jolly," replied margaret."are those the plans? does it matter me seeing them?" "of course not.""charles has never seen the plans." "they have only just arrived.here is the ground floor--no, that's rather difficult.
try the elevation.we are to have a good many gables and a picturesque sky-line.""what makes it smell so funny?" said dolly, after a moment's inspection. she was incapable of understanding plans ormaps. "i suppose the paper.""and which way up is it?" "just the ordinary way up. that's the sky-line, and the part thatsmells strongest is the sky." "well, ask me another.margaret--oh--what was i going to say? how's helen?"
"quite well.""is she never coming back to england? every one thinks it's awfully odd shedoesn't." "so it is," said margaret, trying toconceal her vexation. she was getting rather sore on this point."helen is odd, awfully. she has now been away eight months. "but hasn't she any address?""a poste restante somewhere in bavaria is her address.do write her a line. i will look it up for you." "no, don't bother.that's eight months she has been away,
surely?""exactly. she left just after evie's wedding. it would be eight months.""just when baby was born, then?" "just so."dolly sighed, and stared enviously round the drawing-room. she was beginning to lose her brightnessand good looks. the charles' were not well off, for mr.wilcox, having brought up his children with expensive tastes, believed in letting themshift for themselves. after all, he had not treated themgenerously.
yet another baby was expected, she toldmargaret, and they would have to give up the motor. margaret sympathized, but in a formalfashion, and dolly little imagined that the step-mother was urging mr. wilcox to makethem a more liberal allowance. she sighed again, and at last theparticular grievance was remembered. "oh yes," she cried, "that is it: missavery has been unpacking your packing- cases." "why has she done that?how unnecessary!" "ask another.i suppose you ordered her to."
"i gave no such orders. perhaps she was airing the things.she did undertake to light an occasional fire.""it was far more than an air," said dolly solemnly. "the floor sounds covered with books.charles sent me to know what is to be done, for he feels certain you don't know.""books!" cried margaret, moved by the holy word. "dolly, are you serious?has she been touching our books?" "hasn't she, though!what used to be the hall's full of them.
charles thought for certain you knew ofit." "i am very much obliged to you, dolly.what can have come over miss avery? i must go down about it at once. some of the books are my brother's, and arequite valuable. she had no right to open any of the cases.""i say she's dotty. she was the one that never got married, youknow. oh, i say, perhaps she thinks your booksare wedding-presents to herself. old maids are taken that way sometimes. miss avery hates us all like poison eversince her frightful dust-up with evie."
"i hadn't heard of that," said margaret.a visit from dolly had its compensations. "didn't you know she gave evie a presentlast august, and evie returned it, and then--oh, goloshes!you never read such a letter as miss avery wrote." "but it was wrong of evie to return it.it wasn't like her to do such a heartless thing.""but the present was so expensive." "why does that make any difference, dolly?" "still, when it costs over five pounds--ididn't see it, but it was a lovely enamel pendant from a bond street shop.you can't very well accept that kind of
thing from a farm woman. now, can you?""you accepted a present from miss avery when you were married."oh, mine was old earthenware stuff--not worth a halfpenny. evie's was quite different.you'd have to ask anyone to the wedding who gave you a pendant like that. uncle percy and albert and father andcharles all said it was quite impossible, and when four men agree, what is a girl todo? evie didn't want to upset the old thing, sothought a sort of joking letter best, and
returned the pendant straight to the shopto save miss avery trouble." "but miss avery said--" dolly's eyes grew round."it was a perfectly awful letter. charles said it was the letter of a madman. in the end she had the pendant back againfrom the shop and threw it into the duckpond."did she give any reasons?" "we think she meant to be invited tooniton, and so climb into society." "she's rather old for that," said margaretpensively. "may not she have given the present to eviein remembrance of her mother?"
"that's a notion.give every one their due, eh? well, i suppose i ought to be toddling. come along, mr. muff--you want a new coat,but i don't know who'll give it you, i'm sure;" and addressing her apparel withmournful humour, dolly moved from the room. margaret followed her to ask whether henryknew about miss avery's rudeness. "oh yes.""i wonder, then, why he let me ask her to look after the house." "but she's only a farm woman," said dolly,and her explanation proved correct. henry only censured the lower classes whenit suited him.
he bore with miss avery as with crane--because he could get good value out of them. "i have patience with a man who knows hisjob," he would say, really having patience with the job, and not the man. paradoxical as it may sound, he hadsomething of the artist about him; he would pass over an insult to his daughter soonerthan lose a good charwoman for his wife. margaret judged it better to settle thelittle trouble herself. parties were evidently ruffled. with henry's permission, she wrote apleasant note to miss avery, asking her to
leave the cases untouched. then, at the first convenient opportunity,she went down herself, intending to repack her belongings and store them properly inthe local warehouse: the plan had been amateurish and a failure. tibby promised to accompany her, but at thelast moment begged to be excused. so, for the second time in her life, sheentered the house alone. howards end by e. m. forsterchapter 33 the day of her visit was exquisite, and thelast of unclouded happiness that she was to have for many months.
her anxiety about helen's extraordinaryabsence was still dormant, and as for a possible brush with miss avery--that onlygave zest to the expedition. she had also eluded dolly's invitation toluncheon. walking straight up from the station, shecrossed the village green and entered the long chestnut avenue that connects it withthe church. the church itself stood in the villageonce. but it there attracted so many worshippersthat the devil, in a pet, snatched it from its foundations, and poised it on aninconvenient knoll, three-quarters of a mile away.
if this story is true, the chestnut avenuemust have been planted by the angels. no more tempting approach could be imaginedfor the luke-warm christian, and if he still finds the walk too long, the devil isdefeated all the same, science having built holy trinity, a chapel of ease, near thecharles', and roofed it with tin. up the avenue margaret strolled slowly,stopping to watch the sky that gleamed through the upper branches of thechestnuts, or to finger the little horseshoes on the lower branches. why has not england a great mythology?our folklore has never advanced beyond daintiness, and the greater melodies aboutour country-side have all issued through
the pipes of greece. deep and true as the native imagination canbe, it seems to have failed here. it has stopped with the witches and thefairies. it cannot vivify one fraction of a summerfield, or give names to half a dozen stars. england still waits for the supreme momentof her literature--for the great poet who shall voice her, or, better still, for thethousand little poets whose voices shall pass into our common talk. at the church the scenery changed.the chestnut avenue opened into a road, smooth but narrow, which led into theuntouched country.
she followed it for over a mile. its little hesitations pleased her.having no urgent destiny, it strolled downhill or up as it wished, taking notrouble about the gradients, nor about the view, which nevertheless expanded. the great estates that throttle the southof hertfordshire were less obtrusive here, and the appearance of the land was neitheraristocratic nor suburban. to define it was difficult, but margaretknew what it was not: it was not snobbish. though its contours were slight, there wasa touch of freedom in their sweep to which surrey will never attain, and the distantbrow of the chilterns towered like a
mountain. "left to itself," was margaret's opinion,"this county would vote liberal." the comradeship, not passionate, that isour highest gift as a nation, was promised by it, as by the low brick farm where shecalled for the key. but the inside of the farm wasdisappointing. a most finished young person received her. "yes, mrs. wilcox; no, mrs. wilcox; oh yes,mrs. wilcox, auntie received your letter quite duly.auntie has gone up to your little place at the present moment.
shall i send the servant to direct you?"followed by: "of course, auntie does not generally look after your place; she onlydoes it to oblige a neighbour as something exceptional. it gives her something to do.she spends quite a lot of her time there. my husband says to me sometimes, 'where'sauntie?' i say, 'need you ask? she's at howards end.'yes, mrs. wilcox. mrs. wilcox, could i prevail upon you toaccept a piece of cake? not if i cut it for you?"
margaret refused the cake, butunfortunately this acquired her gentility in the eyes of miss avery's niece."i cannot let you go on alone. now don't. you really mustn't.i will direct you myself if it comes to that.i must get my hat. now"--roguishly--"mrs. wilcox, don't youmove while i'm gone." stunned, margaret did not move from thebest parlour, over which the touch of art nouveau had fallen. but the other rooms looked in keeping,though they conveyed the peculiar sadness
of a rural interior.here had lived an elder race, to which we look back with disquietude. the country which we visit at week-ends wasreally a home to it, and the graver sides of life, the deaths, the partings, theyearnings for love, have their deepest expression in the heart of the fields. all was not sadness.the sun was shining without. the thrush sang his two syllables on thebudding guelder-rose. some children were playing uproariously inheaps of golden straw. it was the presence of sadness at all thatsurprised margaret, and ended by giving her
a feeling of completeness. in these english farms, if anywhere, onemight see life steadily and see it whole, group in one vision its transitoriness andits eternal youth, connect--connect without bitterness until all men are brothers. but her thoughts were interrupted by thereturn of miss avery's niece, and were so tranquillizing that she suffered theinterruption gladly. it was quicker to go out by the back door,and, after due explanations, they went out by it. the niece was now mortified by unnumerablechickens, who rushed up to her feet for
food, and by a shameless and maternal sow.she did not know what animals were coming to. but her gentility withered at the touch ofthe sweet air. the wind was rising, scattering the strawand ruffling the tails of the ducks as they floated in families over evie's pendant. one of those delicious gales of spring, inwhich leaves stiff in bud seem to rustle, swept over the land and then fell silent."georgia," sang the thrush. "cuckoo," came furtively from the cliff ofpine-trees. "georgia, pretty georgia," and the otherbirds joined in with nonsense.
the hedge was a half-painted picture whichwould be finished in a few days. celandines grew on its banks, lords andladies and primroses in the defended hollows; the wild rose-bushes, stillbearing their withered hips, showed also the promise of blossom. spring had come, clad in no classical garb,yet fairer than all springs; fairer even than she who walks through the myrtles oftuscany with the graces before her and the zephyr behind. the two women walked up the lane full ofoutward civility. but margaret was thinking how difficult itwas to be earnest about furniture on such a
day, and the niece was thinking about hats. thus engaged, they reached howards end.petulant cries of "auntie!" severed the air.there was no reply, and the front door was locked. "are you sure that miss avery is up here?"asked margaret. "oh yes, mrs. wilcox, quite sure.she is here daily." margaret tried to look in through thedining-room window, but the curtain inside was drawn tightly.so with the drawing-room and the hall. the appearance of these curtains wasfamiliar, yet she did not remember them
being there on her other visit: herimpression was that mr. bryce had taken everything away. they tried the back. here again they received no answer, andcould see nothing; the kitchen-window was fitted with a blind, while the pantry andscullery had pieces of wood propped up against them, which looked ominously likethe lids of packing-cases. margaret thought of her books, and shelifted up her voice also. at the first cry she succeeded. "well, well!" replied someone inside thehouse.
"if it isn't mrs. wilcox come at last!""have you got the key, auntie?" "madge, go away," said miss avery, stillinvisible. "auntie, it's mrs. wilcox--"margaret supported her. "your niece and i have come together--" "madge, go away.this is no moment for your hat." the poor woman went red."auntie gets more eccentric lately," she said nervously. "miss avery!" called margaret."i have come about the furniture. could you kindly let me in?""yes, mrs. wilcox," said the voice, "of
course." but after that came silence.they called again without response. they walked round the house disconsolately."i hope miss avery is not ill," hazarded margaret. "well, if you'll excuse me," said madge,"perhaps i ought to be leaving you now. the servants need seeing to at the farm.auntie is so odd at times." gathering up her elegancies, she retireddefeated, and, as if her departure had loosed a spring, the front door opened atonce. miss avery said, "well, come right in, mrs.wilcox!" quite pleasantly and calmly.
"thank you so much," began margaret, butbroke off at the sight of an umbrella- stand. it was her own."come right into the hall first," said miss avery.she drew the curtain, and margaret uttered a cry of despair. for an appalling thing had happened.the hall was fitted up with the contents of the library from wickham place. the carpet had been laid, the big work-table drawn up near the window; the bookcases filled the wall opposite thefireplace, and her father's sword--this is
what bewildered her particularly--had been drawn from its scabbard and hung nakedamongst the sober volumes. miss avery must have worked for days."i'm afraid this isn't what we meant," she began. "mr. wilcox and i never intended the casesto be touched. for instance, these books are my brother's.we are storing them for him and for my sister, who is abroad. when you kindly undertook to look afterthings, we never expected you to do so much.""the house has been empty long enough,"
said the old woman. margaret refused to argue."i dare say we didn't explain," she said civilly."it has been a mistake, and very likely our mistake." "mrs. wilcox, it has been mistake uponmistake for fifty years. the house is mrs. wilcox's, and she wouldnot desire it to stand empty any longer." to help the poor decaying brain, margaretsaid: "yes, mrs. wilcox's house, the mother ofmr. charles." "mistake upon mistake," said miss avery.
"mistake upon mistake.""well, i don't know," said margaret, sitting down in one of her own chairs."i really don't know what's to be done." she could not help laughing. the other said: "yes, it should be a merryhouse enough." "i don't know--i dare say.well, thank you very much, miss avery. yes, that's all right. delightful.""there is still the parlour." she went through the door opposite and drewa curtain. light flooded the drawing-room and thedrawing-room furniture from wickham place.
"and the dining-room."more curtains were drawn, more windows were flung open to the spring. "then through here--" miss avery continuedpassing and repassing through the hall. her voice was lost, but margaret heard herpulling up the kitchen blind. "i've not finished here yet," sheannounced, returning. "there's still a deal to do. the farm lads will carry your greatwardrobes upstairs, for there is no need to go into expense at hilton.""it is all a mistake," repeated margaret, feeling that she must put her foot down.
"a misunderstanding.mr. wilcox and i are not going to live at howards end.""oh, indeed. on account of his hay fever?" "we have settled to build a new home forourselves in sussex, and part of this furniture--my part--will go down therepresently." she looked at miss avery intently, tryingto understand the kink in her brain. here was no maundering old woman.her wrinkles were shrewd and humorous. she looked capable of scathing wit and alsoof high but unostentatious nobility. "you think that you won't come back to livehere, mrs. wilcox, but you will."
"that remains to be seen," said margaret,smiling. "we have no intention of doing so for thepresent. we happen to need a much larger house. circumstances oblige us to give bigparties. of course, some day--one never knows, doesone?" miss avery retorted: "some day! tcha! tcha!don't talk about some day. you are living here now.""am i?" "you are living here, and have been for thelast ten minutes, if you ask me."
it was a senseless remark, but with a queerfeeling of disloyalty margaret rose from her chair. she felt that henry had been obscurelycensured. they went into the dining-room, where thesunlight poured in upon her mother's chiffonier, and upstairs, where many an oldgod peeped from a new niche. the furniture fitted extraordinarily well. in the central room--over the hall, theroom that helen had slept in four years ago--miss avery had placed tibby's oldbassinette. "the nursery," she said.
margaret turned away without speaking.at last everything was seen. the kitchen and lobby were still stackedwith furniture and straw, but, as far as she could make out, nothing had been brokenor scratched. a pathetic display of ingenuity! then they took a friendly stroll in thegarden. it had gone wild since her last visit.the gravel sweep was weedy, and grass had sprung up at the very jaws of the garage. and evie's rockery was only bumps.perhaps evie was responsible for miss avery's oddness.
but margaret suspected that the cause laydeeper, and that the girl's silly letter had but loosed the irritation of years."it's a beautiful meadow," she remarked. it was one of those open-air drawing-roomsthat have been formed, hundreds of years ago, out of the smaller fields. so the boundary hedge zigzagged down thehill at right angles, and at the bottom there was a little green annex--a sort ofpowder-closet for the cows. "yes, the maidy's well enough," said missavery, "for those that is, who don't suffer from sneezing."and she cackled maliciously. "i've seen charlie wilcox go out to my ladsin hay time--oh, they ought to do this--
they mustn't do that--he'd learn them to belads. and just then the tickling took him. he has it from his father, with otherthings. there's not one wilcox that can stand upagainst a field in june--i laughed fit to burst while he was courting ruth." "my brother gets hay fever too," saidmargaret. "this house lies too much on the land forthem. naturally, they were glad enough to slip inat first. but wilcoxes are better than nothing, as isee you've found."
margaret laughed. "they keep a place going, don't they?yes, it is just that." "they keep england going, it is myopinion." but miss avery upset her by replying: "ay,they breed like rabbits. well, well, it's a funny world.but he who made it knows what he wants in it, i suppose. if mrs. charlie is expecting her fourth, itisn't for us to repine." "they breed and they also work," saidmargaret, conscious of some invitation to disloyalty, which was echoed by the verybreeze and by the songs of the birds.
"it certainly is a funny world, but so longas men like my husband and his sons govern it, i think it'll never be a bad one--neverreally bad." "no, better'n nothing," said miss avery,and turned to the wych-elm. on their way back to the farm she spoke ofher old friend much more clearly than before. in the house margaret had wondered whethershe quite distinguished the first wife from the second. now she said: "i never saw much of ruthafter her grandmother died, but we stayed civil.it was a very civil family.
old mrs. howard never spoke againstanybody, nor let anyone be turned away without food. then it was never 'trespassers will beprosecuted' in their land, but would people please not come in.mrs. howard was never created to run a farm." "had they no men to help them?"margaret asked. miss avery replied: "things went on untilthere were no men." "until mr. wilcox came along," correctedmargaret, anxious that her husband should receive his dues.
"i suppose so; but ruth should have marrieda--no disrespect to you to say this, for i take it you were intended to get wilcox anyway, whether she got him first or no." "whom should she have married?" "a soldier!" exclaimed the old woman."some real soldier." margaret was silent.it was a criticism of henry's character far more trenchant than any of her own. she felt dissatisfied."but that's all over," she went on. "a better time is coming now, though you'vekept me long enough waiting. in a couple of weeks i'll see your lightsshining through the hedge of an evening.
have you ordered in coals?""we are not coming," said margaret firmly. she respected miss avery too much to humourher. "no. not coming.never coming. it has all been a mistake. the furniture must be repacked at once, andi am very sorry but i am making other arrangements, and must ask you to give methe keys." "certainly, mrs. wilcox," said miss avery,and resigned her duties with a smile. relieved at this conclusion, and havingsent her compliments to madge, margaret walked back to the station.
she had intended to go to the furniturewarehouse and give directions for removal, but the muddle had turned out moreextensive than she expected, so she decided to consult henry. it was as well that she did this.he was strongly against employing the local man whom he had previously recommended, andadvised her to store in london after all. but before this could be done an unexpectedtrouble fell upon her. howards end by e. m. forsterchapter 34 it was not unexpected entirely.aunt juley's health had been bad all the winter.
she had had a long series of colds andcoughs, and had been too busy to get rid of she had scarcely promised her niece "toreally take my tiresome chest in hand," when she caught a chill and developed acutepneumonia. margaret and tibby went down to swanage. helen was telegraphed for, and that springparty that after all gathered in that hospitable house had all the pathos of fairmemories. on a perfect day, when the sky seemed blueporcelain, and the waves of the discreet little bay beat gentlest of tattoos uponthe sand, margaret hurried up through the rhododendrons, confronted again by thesenselessness of death.
one death may explain itself, but it throwsno light upon another: the groping inquiry must begin anew. preachers or scientists may generalize, butwe know that no generality is possible about those whom we love; not one heavenawaits them, not even one oblivion. aunt juley, incapable of tragedy, slippedout of life with odd little laughs and apologies for having stopped in it so long. she was very weak; she could not rise tothe occasion, or realize the great mystery which all agree must await her; it onlyseemed to her that she was quite done up-- more done up than ever before; that she saw
and heard and felt less every moment; andthat, unless something changed, she would soon feel nothing. her spare strength she devoted to plans:could not margaret take some steamer expeditions? were mackerel cooked as tibbyliked them? she worried herself about helen's absence,and also that she could be the cause of helen's return. the nurses seemed to think such interestsquite natural, and perhaps hers was an average approach to the great gate. but margaret saw death stripped of anyfalse romance; whatever the idea of death
may contain, the process can be trivial andhideous. "important--margaret dear, take thelulworth when helen comes." "helen won't be able to stop, aunt juley.she has telegraphed that she can only get away just to see you. she must go back to germany as soon as youare well." "how very odd of helen!mr. wilcox--" "yes, dear?" "can he spare you?"henry wished her to come, and had been very kind.yet again margaret said so.
mrs. munt did not die. quite outside her will, a more dignifiedpower took hold of her and checked her on the downward slope.she returned, without emotion, as fidgety as ever. on the fourth day she was out of danger."margaret--important," it went on: "i should like you to have some companion totake walks with. do try miss conder." "i have been a little walk with missconder." "but she is not really interesting.if only you had helen."
"i have tibby, aunt juley." "no, but he has to do his chinese.some real companion is what you need. really, helen is odd.""helen is odd, very," agreed margaret. "not content with going abroad, why doesshe want to go back there at once?" "no doubt she will change her mind when shesees us. she has not the least balance." that was the stock criticism about helen,but margaret's voice trembled as she made it.by now she was deeply pained at her sister's behaviour.
it may be unbalanced to fly out of england,but to stop away eight months argues that the heart is awry as well as the head. a sick-bed could recall helen, but she wasdeaf to more human calls; after a glimpse at her aunt, she would retire into hernebulous life behind some poste restante. she scarcely existed; her letters hadbecome dull and infrequent; she had no wants and no curiosity.and it was all put down to poor henry's account! henry, long pardoned by his wife, was stilltoo infamous to be greeted by his sister- in-law.
it was morbid, and, to her alarm, margaretfancied that she could trace the growth of morbidity back in helen's life for nearlyfour years. the flight from oniton; the unbalancedpatronage of the basts; the explosion of grief up on the downs--all connected withpaul, an insignificant boy whose lips had kissed hers for a fraction of time. margaret and mrs. wilcox had feared thatthey might kiss again. foolishly: the real danger was reaction.reaction against the wilcoxes had eaten into her life until she was scarcely sane. at twenty-five she had an idee fixe.what hope was there for her as an old
woman?the more margaret thought about it the more alarmed she became. for many months she had put the subjectaway, but it was too big to be slighted now.there was almost a taint of madness. were all helen's actions to be governed bya tiny mishap, such as may happen to any young man or woman?can human nature be constructed on lines so insignificant? the blundering little encounter at howardsend was vital. it propagated itself where graverintercourse lay barren; it was stronger
than sisterly intimacy, stronger thanreason or books. in one of her moods helen had confessedthat she still "enjoyed" it in a certain sense.paul had faded, but the magic of his caress endured. and where there is enjoyment of the pastthere may also be reaction--propagation at both ends. well, it is odd and sad that our mindsshould be such seed-beds, and we without power to choose the seed. but man is an odd, sad creature as yet,intent on pilfering the earth, and heedless
of the growths within himself.he cannot be bored about psychology. he leaves it to the specialist, which is asif he should leave his dinner to be eaten by a steam-engine.he cannot be bothered to digest his own soul. margaret and helen have been more patient,and it is suggested that margaret has succeeded--so far as success is yetpossible. she does understand herself, she has somerudimentary control over her own growth. whether helen has succeeded one cannot say.the day that mrs. munt rallied helen's letter arrived.
she had posted it at munich, and would bein london herself on the morrow. it was a disquieting letter, though theopening was affectionate and sane. dearest meg, give helen's love to aunt juley.tell her that i love, and have loved, her ever since i can remember.i shall be in london thursday. my address will be care of the bankers. i have not yet settled on a hotel, so writeor wire to me there and give me detailed news. if aunt juley is much better, or if, for aterrible reason, it would be no good my
coming down to swanage, you must not thinkit odd if i do not come. i have all sorts of plans in my head. i am living abroad at present, and want toget back as quickly as possible. will you please tell me where our furnitureis. i should like to take out one or two books;the rest are for you. forgive me, dearest meg. this must read like rather a tiresomeletter, but all letters are from your lovinghelen it was a tiresome letter, for it temptedmargaret to tell a lie.
if she wrote that aunt juley was still indanger her sister would come. unhealthiness is contagious. we cannot be in contact with those who arein a morbid state without ourselves deteriorating. to "act for the best" might do helen good,but would do herself harm, and, at the risk of disaster, she kept her colours flying alittle longer. she replied that their aunt was muchbetter, and awaited developments. tibby approved of her reply.mellowing rapidly, he was a pleasanter companion than before.
oxford had done much for him.he had lost his peevishness, and could hide his indifference to people and his interestin food. but he had not grown more human. the years between eighteen and twenty-two,so magical for most, were leading him gently from boyhood to middle age. he had never known young-manliness, thatquality which warms the heart till death, and gives mr. wilcox an imperishable charm.he was frigid, through no fault of his own, and without cruelty. he thought helen wrong and margaret right,but the family trouble was for him what a
scene behind footlights is for most people.he had only one suggestion to make, and that was characteristic. "why don't you tell mr. wilcox?""about helen?" "perhaps he has come across that sort ofthing." "he would do all he could, but--" "oh, you know best.but he is practical." it was the student's belief in experts.margaret demurred for one or two reasons. presently helen's answer came. she sent a telegram requesting the addressof the furniture, as she would now return
at once.margaret replied, "certainly not; meet me at the bankers at four." she and tibby went up to london.helen was not at the bankers, and they were refused her address.helen had passed into chaos. margaret put her arm round her brother. he was all that she had left, and never hadhe seemed more unsubstantial. "tibby love, what next?"he replied: "it is extraordinary." "dear, your judgment's often clearer thanmine. have you any notion what's at the back?""none, unless it's something mental."
"oh--that!" said margaret. "quite impossible."but the suggestion had been uttered, and in a few minutes she took it up herself.nothing else explained. and london agreed with tibby. the mask fell off the city, and she saw itfor what it really is--a caricature of infinity. the familiar barriers, the streets alongwhich she moved, the houses between which she had made her little journeys for somany years, became negligible suddenly. helen seemed one with grimy trees and thetraffic and the slowly-flowing slabs of
mud.she had accomplished a hideous act of renunciation and returned to the one. margaret's own faith held firm.she knew the human soul will be merged, if it be merged at all, with the stars and thesea. yet she felt that her sister had been goingamiss for many years. it was symbolic the catastrophe should comenow, on a london afternoon, while rain fell slowly. henry was the only hope.henry was definite. he might know of some paths in the chaosthat were hidden from them, and she
determined to take tibby's advice and laythe whole matter in his hands. they must call at his office. he could not well make it worse.she went for a few moments into st. paul's, whose dome stands out of the welter sobravely, as if preaching the gospel of form. but within, st. paul's is as itssurroundings--echoes and whispers, inaudible songs, invisible mosaics, wetfootmarks crossing and recrossing the floor. si monumentum requiris, circumspice: itpoints us back to london.
there was no hope of helen here.henry was unsatisfactory at first. that she had expected. he was overjoyed to see her back fromswanage, and slow to admit the growth of a new trouble. when they told him of their search, he onlychaffed tibby and the schlegels generally, and declared that it was "just like helen"to lead her relatives a dance. "that is what we all say," repliedmargaret. "but why should it be just like helen?why should she be allowed to be so queer, and to grow queerer?"
"don't ask me.i'm a plain man of business. i live and let live.my advice to you both is, don't worry. margaret, you've got black marks againunder your eyes. you know that's strictly forbidden.first your aunt--then your sister. no, we aren't going to have it. are we, theobald?"he rang the bell. "i'll give you some tea, and then you gostraight to ducie street. i can't have my girl looking as old as herhusband." "all the same, you have not quite seen ourpoint," said tibby.
mr. wilcox, who was in good spirits,retorted, "i don't suppose i ever shall." he leant back, laughing at the gifted butridiculous family, while the fire flickered over the map of africa. margaret motioned to her brother to go on.rather diffident, he obeyed her. "margaret's point is this," he said."our sister may be mad." charles, who was working in the inner room,looked round. "come in, charles," said margaret kindly."could you help us at all? we are again in trouble." "i'm afraid i cannot.what are the facts?
we are all mad more or less, you know, inthese days." "the facts are as follows," replied tibby,who had at times a pedantic lucidity. "the facts are that she has been in englandfor three days and will not see us. she has forbidden the bankers to give usher address. she refuses to answer questions.margaret finds her letters colourless. there are other facts, but these are themost striking." "she has never behaved like this before,then?" asked henry. "of course not!" said his wife, with afrown. "well, my dear, how am i to know?"a senseless spasm of annoyance came over
her. "you know quite well that helen never sinsagainst affection," she said. "you must have noticed that much in her,surely." "oh yes; she and i have always hit it offtogether." "no, henry--can't you see?--i don't mean that." she recovered herself, but not beforecharles had observed her. stupid and attentive, he was watching thescene. "i was meaning that when she was eccentricin the past, one could trace it back to the heart in the long run.she behaved oddly because she cared for
someone, or wanted to help them. there's no possible excuse for her now.she is grieving us deeply, and that is why i am sure that she is not well.'mad' is too terrible a word, but she is not well. i shall never believe it.i shouldn't discuss my sister with you if i thought she was well--trouble you abouther, i mean." henry began to grow serious. ill-health was to him something perfectlydefinite. generally well himself, he could notrealize that we sink to it by slow
gradations. the sick had no rights; they were outsidethe pale; one could lie to them remorselessly. when his first wife was seized, he hadpromised to take her down into hertfordshire, but meanwhile arranged witha nursing-home instead. helen, too, was ill. and the plan that he sketched out for hercapture, clever and well-meaning as it was, drew its ethics from the wolf-pack."you want to get hold of her?" he said. "that's the problem, isn't it?
she has got to see a doctor.""for all i know she has seen one already." "yes, yes; don't interrupt."he rose to his feet and thought intently. the genial, tentative host disappeared, andthey saw instead the man who had carved money out of greece and africa, and boughtforests from the natives for a few bottles of gin. "i've got it," he said at last."it's perfectly easy. leave it to me.we'll send her down to howards end." "how will you do that?" "after her books.tell her that she must unpack them herself.
then you can meet her there.""but, henry, that's just what she won't let me do. it's part of her--whatever it is--never tosee me." "of course you won't tell her you're going.when she is there, looking at the cases, you'll just stroll in. if nothing is wrong with her, so much thebetter. but there'll be the motor round the corner,and we can run her up to a specialist in no time." margaret shook her head."it's quite impossible."
"why?""it doesn't seem impossible to me," said tibby; "it is surely a very tippy plan." "it is impossible, because--" she looked ather husband sadly. "it's not the particular language thathelen and i talk if you see my meaning. it would do splendidly for other people,whom i don't blame." "but helen doesn't talk," said tibby."that's our whole difficulty. she won't talk your particular language,and on that account you think she's ill." "no, henry; it's sweet of you, but icouldn't." "i see," he said; "you have scruples."
"i suppose so.""and sooner than go against them you would have your sister suffer.you could have got her down to swanage by a word, but you had scruples. and scruples are all very well.i am as scrupulous as any man alive, i hope; but when it is a case like this, whenthere is a question of madness--" "i deny it's madness." "you said just now--""it's madness when i say it, but not when you say it."henry shrugged his shoulders. "margaret!
margaret!" he groaned."no education can teach a woman logic. now, my dear, my time is valuable.do you want me to help you or not?" "not in that way." "answer my question.plain question, plain answer. do--"charles surprised them by interrupting. "pater, we may as well keep howards end outof it," he said. "why, charles?" charles could give no reason; but margaretfelt as if, over tremendous distance, a salutation had passed between them."the whole house is at sixes and sevens,"
he said crossly. "we don't want any more mess.""who's 'we'?" asked his father. "my boy, pray, who's 'we'?""i am sure i beg your pardon," said charles. "i appear always to be intruding."by now margaret wished she had never mentioned her trouble to her husband.retreat was impossible. he was determined to push the matter to asatisfactory conclusion, and helen faded as he talked. her fair, flying hair and eager eyescounted for nothing, for she was ill,
without rights, and any of her friendsmight hunt her. sick at heart, margaret joined in thechase. she wrote her sister a lying letter, at herhusband's dictation; she said the furniture was all at howards end, but could be seenon monday next at 3 p.m., when a charwoman would be in attendance. it was a cold letter, and the moreplausible for that. helen would think she was offended. and on monday next she and henry were tolunch with dolly, and then ambush themselves in the garden.
after they had gone, mr. wilcox said to hisson: "i can't have this sort of behaviour, my boy.margaret's too sweet-natured to mind, but i mind for her." charles made no answer."is anything wrong with you, charles, this afternoon?""no, pater; but you may be taking on a bigger business than you reckon." "how?""don't ask me." howards end by e. m. forsterchapter 35 one speaks of the moods of spring, but thedays that are her true children have only
one mood; they are all full of the risingand dropping of winds, and the whistling of birds. new flowers may come out, the greenembroidery of the hedges increase, but the same heaven broods overhead, soft, thick,and blue, the same figures, seen and unseen, are wandering by coppice andmeadow. the morning that margaret had spent withmiss avery, and the afternoon she set out to entrap helen, were the scales of asingle balance. time might never have moved, rain neverhave fallen, and man alone, with his schemes and ailments, was troubling natureuntil he saw her through a veil of tears.
she protested no more. whether henry was right or wrong, he wasmost kind, and she knew of no other standard by which to judge him.she must trust him absolutely. as soon as he had taken up a business, hisobtuseness vanished. he profited by the slightest indications,and the capture of helen promised to be staged as deftly as the marriage of evie. they went down in the morning as arranged,and he discovered that their victim was actually in hilton. on his arrival he called at all the livery-stables in the village, and had a few
minutes' serious conversation with theproprietors. what he said, margaret did not know--perhaps not the truth; but news arrived after lunch that a lady had come by thelondon train, and had taken a fly to howards end. "she was bound to drive," said henry."there will be her books. "i cannot make it out," said margaret forthe hundredth time. "finish your coffee, dear. we must be off.""yes, margaret, you know you must take plenty," said dolly.margaret tried, but suddenly lifted her
hand to her eyes. dolly stole glances at her father-in-lawwhich he did not answer. in the silence the motor came round to thedoor. "you're not fit for it," he said anxiously. "let me go alone.i know exactly what to do." "oh yes, i am fit," said margaret,uncovering her face. "only most frightfully worried. i cannot feel that helen is really alive.her letters and telegrams seem to have come from someone else.her voice isn't in them.
i don't believe your driver really saw herat the station. i wish i'd never mentioned it.i know that charles is vexed. yes, he is--" she seized dolly's hand andkissed it. "there, dolly will forgive me.there. now we'll be off." henry had been looking at her closely.he did not like this breakdown. "don't you want to tidy yourself?" heasked. "have i time?" "yes, plenty."she went to the lavatory by the front door,
and as soon as the bolt slipped, mr. wilcoxsaid quietly: "dolly, i'm going without her." dolly's eyes lit up with vulgar excitement.she followed him on tip-toe out to the car. "tell her i thought it best.""yes, mr. wilcox, i see." "say anything you like. all right."the car started well, and with ordinary luck would have got away. but porgly-woggles, who was playing in thegarden, chose this moment to sit down in the middle of the path.crane, in trying to pass him, ran one wheel
over a bed of wallflowers. dolly screamed.margaret, hearing the noise, rushed out hatless, and was in time to jump on thefootboard. she said not a single word: he was onlytreating her as she had treated helen, and her rage at his dishonesty only helped toindicate what helen would feel against she thought, "i deserve it: i am punishedfor lowering my colours." and she accepted his apologies with acalmness that astonished him. "i still consider you are not fit for it,"he kept saying. "perhaps i was not at lunch.but the whole thing is spread clearly
before me now." "i was meaning to act for the best.""just lend me your scarf, will you? this wind takes one's hair so.""certainly, dear girl. are you all right now?" "look!my hands have stopped trembling." "and have quite forgiven me?then listen. her cab should already have arrived athowards end. (we're a little late, but no matter.) our first move will be to send it down towait at the farm, as, if possible, one
doesn't want a scene before servants. a certain gentleman"--he pointed at crane'sback--"won't drive in, but will wait a little short of the front gate, behind thelaurels. have you still the keys of the house?" "yes.""well, they aren't wanted. do you remember how the house stands?""yes." "if we don't find her in the porch, we canstroll round into the garden. our object--"here they stopped to pick up the doctor. "i was just saying to my wife, mansbridge,that our main object is not to frighten
miss schlegel. the house, as you know, is my property, soit should seem quite natural for us to be there.the trouble is evidently nervous--wouldn't you say so, margaret?" the doctor, a very young man, began to askquestions about helen. was she normal?was there anything congenital or hereditary? had anything occurred that was likely toalienate her from her family? "nothing," answered margaret, wonderingwhat would have happened if she had added:
"though she did resent my husband'simmorality." "she always was highly strung," pursuedhenry, leaning back in the car as it shot past the church."a tendency to spiritualism and those things, though nothing serious. musical, literary, artistic, but i shouldsay normal--a very charming girl." margaret's anger and terror increased everymoment. 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 herhuman rights, and it seemed to margaret that all schlegels were threatened withher. "were they normal?" what a question to ask!and it is always those who know nothing about human nature, who are bored bypsychology and shocked by physiology, who ask it. however piteous her sister's state, sheknew that she must be on her side. they would be mad together if the worldchose to consider them so. it was now five minutes past three.
the car slowed down by the farm, in theyard of which miss avery was standing. henry asked her whether a cab had gonepast. she nodded, and the next moment they caughtsight of it, at the end of the lane. the car ran silently like a beast of prey. so unsuspicious was helen that she wassitting on 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 herhands played with the buds. the wind ruffled her hair, the sunglorified it; she was as she had always
been. 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 unfamiliarmovement, and, rushing into the porch, learnt the simple explanation of all theirfears--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 heleninto it. "yes, all right," she said, and stood withher back to the door. howards end by e. m. forsterchapter 36 "margaret, you look upset!" said henry.mansbridge had followed. crane was at the gate, and the flyman hadstood up on the box. margaret shook her head at them; she couldnot speak any more. she remained clutching the keys, as if alltheir 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 helenin. "you might have given me a knock with thegate," 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 upsetagain. my dear, give me the keys.what are you doing with helen?" "oh, dearest, do go away, and i will manageit all." "manage what?"he stretched out his hand for the keys. she might have obeyed if it had not beenfor 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 wasfighting for women against men. she did not care about rights, but if mencame into howards end, it should be over her body. "come, this is an odd beginning," said herhusband. the doctor came forward now, and whisperedtwo words to mr. wilcox--the scandal was out. sincerely horrified, henry stood gazing atthe earth.
"i cannot help it," said margaret."do wait. it's not my fault. please all four of you to 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 sisterto come out?" "on what grounds?" said margaret, suddenlylooking him straight in the eyes. thinking it professional to prevaricate, hemurmured 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 letyou know." "i can diagnose the case more bluntly ifyou wish," he retorted. "you could, but you have not.you are, therefore, not qualified to attend my sister." "come, come, margaret!" said henry, neverraising his eyes. "this is a terrible business, an appallingbusiness. 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," saidmargaret. the two men looked at each other anxiously."no more does my sister, who is still many weeks from her confinement." "margaret, margaret!""well, henry, send your doctor away. what possible use is he now?"mr. wilcox ran his eye over the house.
he had a vague feeling that he must standfirm and support the doctor. he himself might need support, for therewas trouble ahead. "it all turns on affection now," saidmargaret. "affection.don't you see?" resuming her usual methods, she wrote theword 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 notebook, 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 motorbacked, turned a little, backed again, and
turned in the narrow road. a string of farm carts came up in themiddle; 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 hall. howards end by e. m. forsterchapter 37 margaret bolted the door on the inside.then she would have kissed her sister, but helen, in a dignified voice, that camestrangely from her, said:
"convenient! you did not tell me that the books wereunpacked. 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 ill?""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 afterthis." "we thought it was illness, but even then--i haven't behaved worthily."
helen selected another book. "i ought not to have consulted anyone.what would our father have thought of me?" she did not think of questioning hersister, nor of rebuking her. both might be necessary in the future, butshe had first to purge a greater crime than any that helen could have committed--thatwant 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 ifit 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 to me." "i was just saying that i have stoppedliving haphazard. one can't go through a great deal of"--shemissed out the noun--"without planning one's actions in advance. i am going to have a child in june, and inthe 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 totrouble 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 pardonit. so i must live where i am not known.""but why didn't you tell me, dearest?" "yes," replied helen judicially. "i might have, but decided to wait."" i believe you would never have told me." "oh yes, i should.we have taken a flat in munich." margaret glanced out of 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 onerespects but avoids.
and helen had turned to it in her need! "you must not think that we shall nevermeet," said helen, with a measured kindness. "i shall always have a room for you whenyou 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'tbe 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: "tellme, how is it that all the books are down here?" "series of mistakes.""and a great deal of the furniture has been unpacked.""all." "who lives here, then?"
"no one.""i suppose you are letting it though--" "the house is dead," said margaret with afrown. "why worry on about it?" "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 theold 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 bya 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 miserablyunkind to me, simply because you hate henry?""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 englishlife--no, put it out of your head at once. imagine a visit from me at ducie street! it's unthinkable."margaret could not contradict her.
it was appalling to see her quietly movingforward with her plans, not bitter or excitable, neither asserting innocence norconfessing guilt, merely desiring freedom and the company of those who would notblame her. she had been through--how much?margaret did not know. but it was enough to part her from oldhabits as well as old friends. "tell me about yourself," said helen, whohad 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 potentas a spirit. they could find no meeting-place. both suffered acutely, and were notcomforted by the knowledge that affection survived."look here, meg, is the coast clear?" "you mean that you want to go away fromme?"
"i suppose so--dear old lady! it isn't anyuse. i knew we should have nothing to say. give my love to aunt juley and tibby, andtake more yourself than i can say. promise to come and see me in munichlater." "certainly, dearest." "for that is all we can do."it seemed so. most ghastly of all was helen's commonsense: monica had been extraordinarily good for her. "i am glad to have seen you and thethings."
she looked at the bookcase lovingly, as ifshe was saying farewell to the past. margaret unbolted the door. she remarked: "the car has gone, and here'syour cab." she led the way to it, glancing at theleaves 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 throughthe 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 indomestic french. when she and her sister had talked she wasto 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 greatlyuntil she remembered that the charles' had only one spare room, and so could notinvite a third guest. "henry would have done what he could," sheinterpreted. helen had not followed her into the garden.the door once open, she lost her inclination to fly.
she remained in the hall, going frombookcase 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 now." "miss avery was extraordinary," saidmargaret, her own spirits lightening a little.again she was invaded by a slight feeling of disloyalty. but it brought her relief, and she yieldedto it.
"she loved mrs. wilcox, and would ratherfurnish her house with our things than think of it empty. in consequence here are all the librarybooks." "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 here.""the sword looks well, though." "magnificent.""yes, doesn't it?" "where's the piano, meg?" "i warehoused that in london.why?"
"nothing.""curious, too, that the carpet fits." "the carpet's a mistake," announced helen. "i know that we had it in london, but thisfloor ought to be bare. it is far too beautiful.""you still have a mania for under- furnishing. would you care to come into the dining-roombefore you start? there's no carpet there.they went in, and each minute their talk became more natural. "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?" "north-west.""anyhow, it is thirty years since any of those chairs have felt the sun.feel. their little backs are quite warm." "but why has miss avery made them set topartners? i shall just--""over here, meg. put it so that any one sitting will see thelawn." 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 somethings! 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--""and never will." "i don't agree.in two thousand years they'll know."
"but the chairs show up wonderfully. look where tibby spilt the soup.""coffee. it was coffee surely."helen shook her head. "impossible. tibby was far too young to be given coffeeat that time." "was father alive?""yes." "then you're right and it must have beensoup. i was thinking of much later--thatunsuccessful visit of aunt juley's, when she didn't realize that tibby had grown up.
it was coffee then, for he threw it down onpurpose. 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 have put up withit." "ah, that greengage tree," cried helen, asif the garden was also part of their childhood. "why do i connect it with dumbbells?and there come the chickens.
the grass wants cutting.i love yellow-hammers--" margaret interrupted her. "i have got it," she announced.'tea, tea, coffee, tea,br or chocolaritee.'"that every morning for three weeks. no wonder tibby was wild." "tibby is moderately a dear now," saidhelen. "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 arebeginning the siege." "what nonsense--listen!" and the triviality faded from their faces,though it left something behind--the knowledge that they never could be partedbecause their love was rooted in common things. explanations and appeals had failed; theyhad tried for a common meeting-ground, and had only made each other unhappy. and all the time their salvation was lyinground 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 voicesof children. helen, still smiling, came up to hersister. she said, "it is always meg." they looked into each other's eyes.the inner life had paid. solemnly the clapper tolled.no one was in the front. margaret went to the kitchen, and struggledbetween packing-cases to the window. their visitor was only a little boy with atin can. and triviality returned. "little boy, what do you want?""please, i am the milk."
"did miss avery send you?" said margaret,rather sharply. "yes, please." "then take it back and say we require nomilk." while she called to helen, "no, it's notthe 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 hewants the can." "please, i'm to call in the morning for thecan," 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? mine's helen.""tom." that was helen all over. the wilcoxes, too, would ask a child itsname, but they never told their names in return."tom, this one here is margaret.
and at home we've another called tibby." "mine are lop-eared," replied tom,supposing tibby to be a rabbit. "you're a very good and rather a cleverlittle 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 whatis beautiful live."
"i do agree," said helen, as she sipped themilk. "but you said that the house was dead nothalf 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, ican'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." margaret obeyed.
"no, i won't tell you yet," said helen,"because you may laugh or be angry. let's go upstairs first and give the roomsan airing." they opened window after window, till theinside, too, was rustling to the spring. curtains blew, picture-frames tappedcheerfully. helen uttered cries of excitement as shefound 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 thememorable letters four years ago.
as they leant out, looking westward, shesaid: "about my idea. couldn't you and i camp out in this housefor the night?" "i don't think we could well do that," saidmargaret. "here are beds, tables, towels--""i know; but the house isn't supposed to be slept in, and henry's suggestion was--" "i require no suggestions.i shall not alter anything in my plans. but it would give me so much pleasure tohave 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 saidyourself that you couldn't visit at ducie street now, and this is equally intimate.""ducie street is his house. this is ours. our furniture, our sort of people coming tothe door. do let us camp out, just one night, and tomshall feed us on eggs and milk. why not? it's a moon."margaret hesitated. "i feel charles wouldn't like it," she saidat last.
"even our furniture annoyed him, and i wasgoing to clear it out when aunt juley's illness prevented me.i sympathize 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 longrun 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, andso 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 feelsours. oh, they may take the title-deeds and thedoorkeys, but for this one night we are at home." "it would be lovely to have you once morealone," 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 tome." "then let us.""it is no good hesitating. shall i drive down to hilton now and getleave?" "oh, we don't want leave."but margaret was a loyal wife. in spite of imagination and poetry--perhapson account of them--she could sympathize
with the technical attitude that henrywould adopt. if possible, she would be technical, too. a night's lodging--and they demanded nomore--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 stoppedwithout leave." it was the touch of selfishness, which wasnot enough to mar helen's character, and even added to its beauty. she would have stopped without leave, andescaped 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 abeautiful thing." "not a thing, only an ending," said helenrather sadly; and the sense of tragedy closed in on margaret again as soon as sheleft the house. she was afraid of miss avery. it is disquieting to fulfil a prophecy,however superficially. she was glad to see no watching figure asshe drove past the farm, but only little tom, turning somersaults in the straw.
howards end by e. m. forsterchapter 38 the tragedy began quietly enough, and likemany 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 wayto some chairs on the lawn. dolly, who had not been "told," ran outwith offers of tea. he refused them, and ordered her to wheelbaby's perambulator away, as they desired to be alone. "but the diddums can't listen; he isn'tnine months old," she pleaded.
"that's not what i was saying," retortedher father-in-law. baby was wheeled out of earshot, and didnot hear about the crisis till later years. it was now the turn of margaret."is it what we feared?" he asked. "it is." "dear girl," he began, "there is atroublesome business ahead of us, and nothing but the most absolute honesty andplain speech will see us through." margaret bent her head. "i am obliged to question you on subjectswe'd both prefer to leave untouched. as you know, i am not one of your bernardshaws who consider nothing sacred.
to speak as i must will pain me, but thereare 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--mypoor 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 seducer."she rose to her feet and held the chair 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 methan for you." she swayed; he feared she was going tofaint. then speech came, and she said slowly:"seducer?
no; i do not know her seducer's name.""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 youshouldn't ask. but until his name is known, nothing can bedone. 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 youdon'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 havegathered anything. i have often noticed your insight, dear.i only wish my own was as good. you may have guessed something, even thoughyour 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 charlesdisproportionate pain." "he has at once gone to call on yourbrother." "that too was unnecessary.""let me explain, dear, how the matter stands. you don't think that i and my son are otherthan gentlemen? it is in helen's interests that we areacting. it is still not too late to save her name." 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 bemarried already? one has heard of such cases." "in that case he must pay heavily for hismisconduct, 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 oftheir lives? henry's obtuseness had saved her as well ashimself. 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.""tomorrow helen goes to munich--" "well, possibly she is right.""henry, let a lady finish. tomorrow she goes; tonight, with yourpermission, she would like to sleep at howards end."it was the crisis of his life. again she would have recalled the words assoon as they were uttered. she had not led up to them with sufficientcare. she longed to warn him that they were farmore important than he supposed. she saw him weighing them, as if they werea business proposition.
"why howards end?" he said at last. "would she not be more comfortable, as isuggested, 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 hergood. i think she's right. being one of those imaginative girls, thepresence 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 beautifulending.'" "she values the old furniture forsentimental reasons, in fact." "exactly. you have quite understood.it is her last hope of being with it." "i don't agree there, my dear! helen will have her share of the goodswherever she goes--possibly more than her share, for you are so fond of her thatyou'd give her anything of yours that she fancies, wouldn't you? and i'd raise noobjection.
i could understand it if it was her oldhome, because a home, or a house"--he changed the word, designedly; he hadthought of a telling point--"because a house in which one has once lived becomesin 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 thenight there. she will only catch cold.""leave it that you don't see," cried "call it fancy.but realize 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 precipicein sight. "and suppose we don't get her out of thehouse? 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 thisone night. i take her to london tomorrow--""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 charles." "i have already told you that your messageto charles was unnecessary, and i have no desire to meet him.""margaret--my margaret--" "what has this business to do with charles? if it concerns me little, it concerns youless, and charles not at all."
"as the future owner of howards end," saidmr. 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 plainspeaking." 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 herthat i can, and i have no doubt that she will prove more sinned against thansinning.
but i cannot treat her as if nothing hashappened. i should be false to my position in societyif 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 anunhappy girl. tomorrow she will go to germany, andtrouble society no longer. tonight she asks to sleep in your emptyhouse--a house which you do not care about, and which you have not occupied for over ayear. may she?
will you give my sister leave?will you forgive her--as you hope to be forgiven, and as you have actually beenforgiven? forgive her for one night only. that will be enough.""as i have actually been forgiven--?" "never mind for the moment what i mean bythat," said margaret. "answer my question." perhaps some hint of her meaning did dawnon him. if so, he blotted it out. straight from his fortress he answered: "iseem rather unaccommodating, but i have
some experience of life, and know how onething leads to another. i am afraid that your sister had bettersleep at the hotel. i have my children and the memory of mydear wife to consider. i am sorry, but see that she leaves myhouse at once." "you 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 faceunmoved. margaret rushed at him and seized both hishands.
she was transfigured."not any more of this!" she cried. "you shall see the connection if it killsyou, 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'salive 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 thensays he is not responsible. these, man, are you.you can't recognize them, because you cannot connect. i've had enough of your unweeded 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, sodon't repent. only say to yourself, 'what helen has done,i've done.'" "the two cases are different," henrystammered.
his real retort was not quite ready. his brain was still in a whirl, and hewanted 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 ofdifferences, henry?" oh, the uselessness of it! henry's retort came."i perceive you are attempting blackmail. it is scarcely a pretty weapon for a wifeto use against her husband.
my rule through life has been never to paythe least attention to threats, and i can only repeat what i said before: i do notgive you and your sister leave to sleep at 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 sixhills, tombs of warriors, breasts of the spring.then she passed out into what was now the evening.