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Howards End

by E. M. Forster

One may as well begin with Helen's letters to her sister.

Howards End,
Tuesday.
Dearest Meg,

It isn't going to be what we expected. It is old and littleand
altogether delightful--red brick. We can scarcely pack in as it
isand the dear knows what will happen when Paul (younger son)
arrives to-morrow. From hall you go right or left into
dining-room or drawing-room. Hall itself is practically a room.
You open another door in itand there are the stairs going up in
a sort of tunnel to the first-floor. Three bed-rooms in a row
thereand three attics in a row above. That isn't all the house
reallybut it's all that one notices--nine windows as you look
up from the front garden.

Then there's a very big wych-elm--to the left as you look
up--leaning a little over the house, and standing on the boundary
between the garden and meadow. I quite love that tree already.
Also ordinary elms, oaks--no nastier than ordinary oaks-pear-
trees, apple-trees, and a vine. No silver birches, though.
However, I must get on to my host and hostess. I only wanted to
show that it isn't the least what we expected. Why did we settle
that their house would be all gables and wiggles, and their
garden all gamboge-coloured paths? I believe simply because we
associate them with expensive hotels--Mrs. Wilcox trailing in
beautiful dresses down long corridors, Mr. Wilcox bullying
porters, etc. We females are that unjust.

I shall be back Saturday; will let you know train later. They
are as angry as I am that you did not come too; really Tibby is
too tiresomehe starts a new mortal disease every month. How
could he have got hay fever in London? and even if he couldit
seems hard that you should give up a visit to hear a schoolboy
sneeze. Tell him that Charles Wilcox (the son who is here) has
hay fever toobut he's braveand gets quite cross when we
inquire after it. Men like the Wilcoxes would do Tibby a power of
good. But you won't agreeand I'd better change the subject.

This long letter is because I'm writing before breakfast. Oh,
the beautiful vine leaves! The house is covered with a vine. I
looked out earlier, and Mrs. Wilcox was already in the garden.
She evidently loves it. No wonder she sometimes looks tired. She
was watching the large red poppies come out. Then she walked off
the lawn to the meadow, whose corner to the right I can just see.
Trail, trail, went her long dress over the sopping grass, and she
came back with her hands full of the hay that was cut yesterday-I
suppose for rabbits or something, as she kept on smelling it.
The air here is delicious. Later on I heard the noise of croquet


balls, and looked out again, and it was Charles Wilcox
practising; they are keen on all games. Presently he started
sneezing and had to stop. Then I hear more clicketing, and it
is Mr. Wilcox practising, and then, 'a-tissue, a-tissue': he
has to stop too. Then Evie comes out, and does some calisthenic
exercises on a machine that is tacked on to a green-gage-tree-they
put everything to use--and then she says 'a-tissue,' and in
she goes. And finally Mrs. Wilcox reappears, trail, trail, still
smelling hay and looking at the flowers. I inflict all this on
you because once you said that life is sometimes life and
sometimes only a drama, and one must learn to distinguish
tother from which, and up to now I have always put that down as
'Meg's clever nonsense.' But this morning, it really does seem
not life but a play, and it did amuse me enormously to watch the
W's. Now Mrs. Wilcox has come in.

I am going to wear [omission]. Last night Mrs. Wilcox wore an
[omission]and Evie [omission]. So it isn't exactly a
go-as-you-please placeand if you shut your eyes it still seems
the wiggly hotel that we expected. Not if you open them. The
dog-roses are too sweet. There is a great hedge of them over the
lawn--magnificently tallso that they fall down in garlandsand
nice and thin at the bottomso that you can see ducks through it
and a cow. These belong to the farmwhich is the only house near
us. There goes the breakfast gong. Much love. Modified love to
Tibby. Love to Aunt Juley; how good of her to come and keep you
companybut what a bore. Burn this. Will write again Thursday.

HELEN.

Howards End
Friday

Dearest Meg,

I am having a glorious time. I like them all. Mrs. Wilcoxif
quieter than in Germanyis sweeter than everand I never saw
anything like her steady unselfishnessand the best of it is
that the others do not take advantage of her. They are the very
happiestjolliest family that you can imagine. I do really feel
that we are making friends. The fun of it is that they think me a
noodleand say so--at leastMr. Wilcox does--and when that
happensand one doesn't mindit's a pretty sure testisn't
it? He says the most horrid things about woman's suffrage so
nicelyand when I said I believed in equality he just folded his
arms and gave me such a setting down as I've never had. Meg
shall we ever learn to talk less? I never felt so ashamed of
myself in my life. I couldn't point to a time when men had been
equalnor even to a time when the wish to be equal had made them
happier in other ways. I couldn't say a word. I had just picked
up the notion that equality is good from some book--probably from
poetryor you. Anyhowit's been knocked into piecesandlike
all people who are really strongMr. Wilcox did it without
hurting me. On the other handI laugh at them for catching hay
fever. We live like fighting-cocksand Charles takes us out
every day in the motor--a tomb with trees in ita hermit's
housea wonderful road that was made by the Kings of Mercia-tennis--
a cricket match--bridge and at night we squeeze up in
this lovely house. The whole clan's here now--it's like a rabbit
warren. Evie is a dear. They want me to stop over Sunday--I
suppose it won't matter if I do. Marvellous weather and the views
marvellous--views westward to the high ground. Thank you for your
letter. Burn this.


Your affectionate
HELEN."

Howards End,
Sunday.

Dearest, dearest Meg,--I do not know what you will say: Paul and
I are in love--the younger son who only came here Wednesday.

CHAPTER II

Margaret glanced at her sister's note and pushed it over the
breakfast-table to her aunt. There was a moment's hushand then
the flood-gates opened.

I can tell you nothing, Aunt Juley. I know no more than you do.
We met--we only met the father and mother abroad last spring. I
know so little that I didn't even know their son's name. It's all
so--She waved her hand and laughed a little.

In that case it is far too sudden.

Who knows, Aunt Juley, who knows?

But, Margaret, dear, I mean, we mustn't be unpractical now that
we've come to facts. It is too sudden, surely.

Who knows!

But, Margaret, dear--

I'll go for her other letters,said Margaret. "NoI won't
I'll finish my breakfast. In factI haven't them. We met the
Wilcoxes on an awful expedition that we made from Heidelberg to
Speyer. Helen and I had got it into our heads that there was a
grand old cathedral at Speyer--the Archbishop of Speyer was one
of the seven electors--you know--'SpeyerMaintzand
Koln.' Those three sees once commanded the Rhine Valley and got
it the name of Priest Street."

I still feel quite uneasy about this business, Margaret.

The train crossed by a bridge of boats, and at first sight it
looked quite fine. But oh, in five minutes we had seen the whole
thing. The cathedral had been ruined, absolutely ruined, by
restoration; not an inch left of the original structure. We
wasted a whole day, and came across the Wilcoxes as we were
eating our sandwiches in the public gardens. They too, poor
things, had been taken in--they were actually stopping at
Speyer--and they rather liked Helen's insisting that they must
fly with us to Heidelberg. As a matter of fact, they did come on
next day. We all took some drives together. They knew us well
enough to ask Helen to come and see them--at least, I was asked
too, but Tibby's illness prevented me, so last Monday she went
alone. That's all. You know as much as I do now. It's a young man
out of the unknown. She was to have come back Saturday, but put
off till Monday, perhaps on account of--I don't know.

She broke offand listened to the sounds of a London morning.
Their house was in Wickham Placeand fairly quietfor a lofty
promontory of buildings separated it from the main thoroughfare.


One had the sense of a backwateror rather of an estuarywhose
waters flowed in from the invisible seaand ebbed into a
profound silence while the waves without were still beating.
Though the promontory consisted of flats--expensivewith
cavernous entrance hallsfull of concierges and palms--it
fulfilled its purposeand gained for the older houses opposite a
certain measure of peace.

Thesetoowould be swept away in timeand another
promontory would arise upon their siteas humanity piled itself
higher and higher on the precious soil of London.

Mrs. Munt had her own method of interpreting her nieces. She
decided that Margaret was a little hystericaland was trying to
gain time by a torrent of talk. Feeling very diplomaticshe
lamented the fate of Speyerand declared that nevernever
should she be so misguided as to visit itand added of her own
accord that the principles of restoration were ill understood in
Germany. "The Germans she said, are too thoroughand this is
all very well sometimesbut at other times it does not do."

Exactly,said Margaret; "Germans are too thorough." And her
eyes began to shine.

Of course I regard you Schlegels as English,said Mrs. Munt
hastily--"English to the backbone."

Margaret leaned forward and stroked her hand.

And that reminds me--Helen's letter.

Oh yes, Aunt Juley, I am thinking all right about Helen's
letter. I know--I must go down and see her. I am thinking about
her all right. I am meaning to go down.

But go with some plan,said Mrs. Muntadmitting into her
kindly voice a note of exasperation. "Margaretif I may
interferedon't be taken by surprise. What do you think of the
Wilcoxes? Are they our sort? Are they likely people? Could they
appreciate Helenwho is to my mind a very special sort of
person? Do they care about Literature and Art? That is most
important when you come to think of it. Literature and Art. Most
important. How old would the son be? She says 'younger son.'
Would he be in a position to marry? Is he likely to make Helen
happy? Did you gather--"

I gathered nothing.

They began to talk at once.

Then in that case--

In that case I can make no plans, don't you see.

On the contrary--

I hate plans. I hate lines of action. Helen isn't a baby.

Then in that case, my dear, why go down?

Margaret was silent. If her aunt could not see why she must go
downshe was not going to tell her. She was not going to sayI
love my dear sister; I must be near her at this crisis of her
life.The affections are more reticent than the passionsand


their expression more subtle. If she herself should ever fall in
love with a manshelike Helenwould proclaim it from the
housetopsbut as she loved only a sister she used the voiceless
language of sympathy.

I consider you odd girls,continued Mrs. Muntand very
wonderful girls, and in many ways far older than your years.
But--you won't be offended? frankly, I feel you are not up to
this business. It requires an older person. Dear, I have nothing
to
call me back to Swanage.She spread out her plump arms. "I am
all at your disposal. Let me go down to this house whose name I
forget instead of you."

Aunt Juley--she jumped up and kissed her--"I mustmust go
to Howards End myself. You don't exactly understandthough
I can never thank you properly for offering."

I do understand,retorted Mrs. Muntwith immense confidence.
I go down in no spirit of interference, but to make inquiries.
Inquiries are necessary. Now, I am going to be rude. You would
say the wrong thing; to a certainty you would. In your anxiety
for Helen's happiness you would offend the whole of these
Wilcoxes by asking one of your impetuous questions--not that one
minds offending them.

I shall ask no questions. I have it in Helen's writing that she
and a man are in love. There is no question to ask as long as she
keeps to that. All the rest isn't worth a straw. A long
engagement if you like, but inquiries, questions, plans, lines of
action--no, Aunt Juley, no.

Away she hurriednot beautifulnot supremely brilliantbut
filled with something that took the place of both qualities-something
best described as a profound vivacitya continual and
sincere response to all that she encountered in her path through
life.

If Helen had written the same to me about a shop assistant or a
penniless clerk--

Dear Margaret, do come into the library and shut the door. Your
good maids are dusting the banisters.

--or if she had wanted to marry the man who calls for Carter
Paterson, I should have said the same.Thenwith one of those
turns that convinced her aunt that she was not mad reallyand
convinced observers of another type that she was not a barren
theoristshe added: "Though in the case of Carter Paterson I
should want it to be a very long engagement indeedI must say."

I should think so,said Mrs. Munt; "andindeedI can scarcely
follow you. Nowjust imagine if you said anything of that sort
to the Wilcoxes. I understand itbut most good people would
think you mad. Imagine how disconcerting for Helen! What is
wanted is a person who will go slowlyslowly in this business
and see how things are and where they are likely to lead to."

Margaret was down on this.

But you implied just now that the engagement must be broken
off.

I think probably it must; but slowly.


Can you break an engagement off slowly?Her eyes lit up.
What's an engagement made of, do you suppose? I think it's made
of some hard stuff that may snap, but can't break. It is
different
to the other ties of life. They stretch or bend. They admit of
degree. They're different.

Exactly so. But won't you let me just run down to Howards House,
and save you all the discomfort? I will really not interfere, but
I do so thoroughly understand the kind of thing you Schlegels
want that one quiet look round will be enough for me.

Margaret again thanked heragain kissed herand then ran
upstairs to see her brother.

He was not so well.

The hay fever had worried him a good deal all night. His head
achedhis eyes were wethis mucous membranehe informed her
in a most unsatisfactory condition. The only thing that made life
worth living was the thought of Walter Savage Landorfrom whose
Imaginary Conversations she had promised to read at frequent
intervals during the day.

It was rather difficult. Something must be done about Helen. She
must be assured that it is not a criminal offence to love at
first sight. A telegram to this effect would be cold and cryptic
a personal visit seemed each moment more impossible. Now the
doctor arrivedand said that Tibby was quite bad. Might it
really be best to accept Aunt Juley's kind offerand to send her
down to Howards End with a note?

Certainly Margaret was impulsive. She did swing rapidly from one
decision to another. Running downstairs into the libraryshe
cried: "YesI have changed my mind; I do wish that you would
go."

There was a train from King's Cross at eleven. At half-past ten
Tibbywith rare self-effacementfell asleepand Margaret was
able to drive her aunt to the station.

You will remember, Aunt Juley, not to be drawn into discussing
the engagement. Give my letter to Helen, and say whatever you
feel yourself, but do keep clear of the relatives. We have
scarcely got their names straight yet, and, besides, that sort of
thing is so uncivilised and wrong.

So uncivilised?queried Mrs. Muntfearing that she was losing
the point of some brilliant remark.

Oh, I used an affected word. I only meant would you please talk
the thing over only with Helen.

Only with Helen.

Because--But it was no moment to expound the personal nature
of love. Even Margaret shrank from itand contented herself with
stroking her good aunt's handand with meditatinghalf sensibly
and half poeticallyon the journey that was about to begin from
King's Cross.

Like many others who have lived long in a great capitalshe had
strong feelings about the various railway termini. They are our


gates to the glorious and the unknown. Through them we pass out
into adventure and sunshineto themalas! we return. In
Paddington all Cornwall is latent and the remoter west; down the
inclines of Liverpool Street lie fenlands and the illimitable
Broads; Scotland is through the pylons of Euston; Wessex behind
the poised chaos of Waterloo. Italians realise thisas is
natural; those of them who are so unfortunate as to serve as
waiters in Berlin call the Anhalt Bahnhof the Stazione d'Italia
because by it they must return to their homes. And he is a chilly
Londoner who does not endow his stations with some personality
and extend to themhowever shylythe emotions of fear and love.

To Margaret--I hope that it will not set the reader against her-the
station of King's Cross had always suggested Infinity. Its
very situation--withdrawn a little behind the facile splendours
of St. Pancras--implied a comment on the materialism of life.
Those two great archescolourlessindifferentshouldering
between them an unlovely clockwere fit portals for some eternal
adventurewhose issue might be prosperousbut would certainly
not be expressed in the ordinary language of prosperity. If you
think this ridiculousremember that it is not Margaret who is
telling you about it; and let me hasten to add that they were in
plenty of time for the train; that Mrs. Muntthough she took a
second-class ticketwas put by the guard into a first (only two
secondson the trainone smoking and the other babies--one
cannot be expected to travel with babies); and that Margareton
her return to Wickham Placewas confronted with the following
telegram:

All over. Wish I had never written. Tell no one--, HELEN.

But Aunt Juley was gone--gone irrevocablyand no power on earth
could stop her.

CHAPTER III

Most complacently did Mrs. Munt rehearse her mission. Her nieces
were independent young womenand it was not often that she was
able to help them. Emily's daughters had never been quite like
other girls. They had been left motherless when Tibby was born
when Helen was five and Margaret herself but thirteen. It was
before the passing of the Deceased Wife's Sister Billso Mrs.
Munt could without impropriety offer to go and keep house at
Wickham Place. But her brother-in-lawwho was peculiar and a
Germanhad referred the question to Margaretwho with the
crudity of youth had answeredNo, they could manage much better
alone.Five years later Mr. Schlegel had died tooand Mrs. Munt
had repeated her offer. Margaretcrude no longerhad been
grateful and extremely nicebut the substance of her answer had
been the same. "I must not interfere a third time thought Mrs.
Munt. However, of course she did. She learnt, to her horror, that
Margaret, now of age, was taking her money out of the old safe
investments and putting it into Foreign Things, which always
smash. Silence would have been criminal. Her own fortune was
invested in Home Rails, and most ardently did she beg her niece
to imitate her. Then we should be togetherdear." Margaretout
of politenessinvested a few hundreds in the Nottingham and
Derby Railwayand though the Foreign Things did admirably and
the Nottingham and Derby declined with the steady dignity of
which only Home Rails are capableMrs. Munt never ceased to
rejoiceand to sayI did manage that, at all events. When the
smash comes poor Margaret will have a nest-egg to fall back


upon.This year Helen came of ageand exactly the same thing
happened in Helen's case; she also would shift her money out of
Consolsbut shetooalmost without being pressedconsecrated
a fraction of it to the Nottingham and Derby Railway. So far so
goodbut in social matters their aunt had accomplished nothing.
Sooner or later the girls would enter on the process known as
throwing themselves awayand if they had delayed hithertoit
was only that they might throw themselves more vehemently in the
future. They saw too many people at Wickham Place--unshaven
musiciansan actress evenGerman cousins (one knows what
foreigners are)acquaintances picked up at Continental hotels
(one knows what they are too). It was interestingand down at
Swanage no one appreciated culture more than Mrs. Munt; but it
was dangerousand disaster was bound to come. How right she was
and how lucky to be on the spot when the disaster came!

The train sped northwardunder innumerable tunnels. It was only
an hour's journeybut Mrs. Munt had to raise and lower the
window again and again. She passed through the South Welwyn
Tunnelsaw light for a momentand entered the North Welwyn
Tunnelof tragic fame. She traversed the immense viaductwhose
arches span untroubled meadows and the dreamy flow of Tewin
Water. She skirted the parks of politicians. At times the Great
North Road accompanied hermore suggestive of infinity than any
railwayawakeningafter a nap of a hundred yearsto such life
as is conferred by the stench of motor-carsand to such culture
as is implied by the advertisements of antibilious pills. To
historyto tragedyto the pastto the futureMrs. Munt
remained equally indifferent; hers but to concentrate on the end
of her journeyand to rescue poor Helen from this dreadful mess.

The station for Howards End was at Hiltonone of the large
villages that are strung so frequently along the North Roadand
that owe their size to the traffic of coaching and pre-coaching
days. Being near Londonit had not shared in the rural decay
and its long High Street had budded out right and left into
residential estates. For about a mile a series of tiled and
slated houses passed before Mrs. Munt's inattentive eyesa
series broken at one point by six Danish tumuli that stood
shoulder to shoulder along the highroadtombs of soldiers.
Beyond these tumulihabitations thickenedand the train came to
a standstill in a tangle that was almost a town.

The stationlike the scenerylike Helen's lettersstruck an
indeterminate note. Into which country will it leadEngland or
Suburbia? It was newit had island platforms and a subwayand
the superficial comfort exacted by business men. But it held
hints of local lifepersonal intercourseas even Mrs. Munt was
to discover.

I want a house,she confided to the ticket boy. "Its name is
Howards Lodge. Do you know where it is?"

Mr. Wilcox!the boy called.

A young man in front of them turned around.

She's wanting Howards End.

There was nothing for it but to go forwardthough Mrs. Munt was
too much agitated even to stare at the stranger. But remembering
that there were two brothersshe had the sense to say to him
Excuse me asking, but are you the younger Mr. Wilcox or the
elder?


The younger. Can I do anything for you?

Oh, well--she controlled herself with difficulty. "Really. Are
you? I--" She moved; away from the ticket boy and lowered her
voice. "I am Miss Schlegel's aunt. I ought to introduce myself
oughtn't I? My name is Mrs. Munt."

She was conscious that he raised his cap and said quite coolly
Oh, rather; Miss Schlegel is stopping with us. Did you want to
see her?

Possibly.

I'll call you a cab. No; wait a mo--He thought. "Our motor's
here. I'll run you up in it."

That is very kind.

Not at all, if you'll just wait till they bring out a parcel
from the office. This way.

My niece is not with you by any chance?

No; I came over with my father. He has gone on north in your
train. You'll see Miss Schlegel at lunch. You're coming up to
lunch, I hope?

I should like to come UP,said Mrs. Muntnot committing
herself to nourishment until she had studied Helen's lover a
little more. He seemed a gentlemanbut had so rattled her round
that her powers of observation were numbed. She glanced at him
stealthily.

To a feminine eye there was nothing amiss in the sharp
depressions at the corners of his mouthor in the rather
box-like construction of his forehead. He was darkclean-shaven
and seemed accustomed to command.

In front or behind? Which do you prefer? It may be windy in
front.

In front if I may; then we can talk.

But excuse me one moment--I can't think what they're doing with
that parcel.He strode into the booking-officeand called with
a new voice: "Hi! hiyou there! Are you going to keep me waiting
all day? Parcel for WilcoxHowards End. Just look sharp!"

Emerginghe said in quieter tones: "This station's abominably
organised; if I had my waythe whole lot of 'em should get the
sack. May I help you in?"

This is very good of you,said Mrs. Muntas she settled
herself into a luxurious cavern of red leatherand suffered her
person to be padded with rugs and shawls. She was more civil than
she had intendedbut really this young man was very kind.
Moreovershe was a little afraid of him; his self-possession was
extraordinary. "Very good indeed she repeated, adding: It is
just what I should have wished."

Very good of you to say so,he repliedwith a slight look of
surprisewhichlike most slight looksescaped Mrs. Munt's
attention. "I was just tooling my father over to catch the down


train."

You see, we heard from Helen this morning.

Young Wilcox was pouring in petrolstarting his engineand
performing other actions with which this story has no concern.
The great car began to rockand the form of Mrs. Munttrying to
explain thingssprang agreeably up and down among the red
cushions. "The mater will be very glad to see you he mumbled.
Hi! I say. Parcel. Parcel for Howards End. Bring it out. Hi!"

A bearded porter emerged with the parcel in one hand and an entry
book in the other. With the gathering whir of the motor these
ejaculations mingled: "Signmust I? Why the--should I sign after
all this bother? Not even got a pencil on you? Remember next time
I report you to the station-master. My time's of valuethough
yours mayn't be. Here"--here being a tip.

Extremely sorry, Mrs. Munt.

Not at all, Mr. Wilcox.

And do you object to going through the village? It is rather a
longer spin, but I have one or two commissions.

I should love going through the village. Naturally I am very
anxious to talk things over with you.

As she said this she felt ashamedfor she was disobeying
Margaret's instructions. Only disobeying them in the letter
surely. Margaret had only warned her against discussing the
incident with outsiders. Surely it was not "uncivilised or wrong"
to discuss it with the young man himselfsince chance had thrown
them together.

A reticent fellowhe made no reply. Mounting by her sidehe put
on gloves and spectaclesand off they drovethe bearded porter
--life is a mysterious business--looking after them with
admiration.

The wind was in their faces down the station roadblowing the
dust into Mrs. Munt's eyes. But as soon as they turned into the
Great North Road she opened fire. "You can well imagine she
said, that the news was a great shock to us."

What news?

Mr. Wilcox,she said franklyMargaret has told me everything
--everything. I have seen Helen's letter.

He could not look her in the faceas his eyes were fixed on his
work; he was travelling as quickly as he dared down the High
Street. But he inclined his head in her directionand said: "I
beg your pardon; I didn't catch."

About Helen. Helen, of course. Helen is a very exceptional
person--I am sure you will let me say this, feeling towards her
as you do--indeed, all the Schlegels are exceptional. I come in
no spirit of interference, but it was a great shock.

They drew up opposite a draper's. Without replyinghe turned
round in his seatand contemplated the cloud of dust that they
had raised in their passage through the village. It was settling
againbut not all into the road from which he had taken it. Some


of it had percolated through the open windowssome had whitened
the roses and gooseberries of the wayside gardenswhile a
certain proportion had entered the lungs of the villagers. "I
wonder when they'll learn wisdom and tar the roads was his
comment. Then a man ran out of the draper's with a roll of
oilcloth, and off they went again.

Margaret could not come herselfon account of poor Tibbyso I
am here to represent her and to have a good talk."

I'm sorry to be so dense,said the young managain drawing up
outside a shop. "But I still haven't quite understood."

Helen, Mr. Wilcox--my niece and you.

He pushed up his goggles and gazed at herabsolutely
bewildered. Horror smote her to the heartfor even she began to
suspect that they were at cross-purposesand that she had
commenced her mission by some hideous blunder.

Miss Schlegel and myself?he askedcompressing his lips.

I trust there has been no misunderstanding,quavered Mrs. Munt.
Her letter certainly read that way.

What way?

That you and she--She pausedthen drooped her eyelids.

I think I catch your meaning,he said stickily. "What an
extraordinary mistake!"

Then you didn't the least--she stammeredgetting blood-red in
the faceand wishing she had never been born.

Scarcely, as I am already engaged to another lady.There was a
moment's silenceand then he caught his breath and exploded
withOh, good God! Don't tell me it 's some silliness of
Paul's.

But you are Paul.

I'm not.

Then why did you say so at the station?

I said nothing of the sort.

I beg your pardon, you did.

I beg your pardon, I did not. My name is Charles.

Youngermay mean son as opposed to fatheror second brother as
opposed to first. There is much to be said for either viewand
later on they said it. But they had other questions before them
now.

Do you mean to tell me that Paul--

But she did not like his voice. He sounded as if he was talking
to a porterandcertain that he had deceived her at the
stationshe too grew angry.

Do you mean to tell me that Paul and your niece--


Mrs. Munt--such is human nature--determined that she would
champion the lovers. She was not going to be bullied by a severe
young man. "Yesthey care for one another very much indeed she
said. I dare say they will tell you about it by-and-by. We
heard this morning."

And Charles clenched his fist and criedThe idiot, the idiot,
the little fool!

Mrs. Munt tried to divest herself of her rugs. "If that is your
attitudeMr. WilcoxI prefer to walk."

I beg you will do no such thing. I take you up this moment to
the house. Let me tell you the thing's impossible, and must be
stopped.

Mrs. Munt did not often lose her temperand when she did it was
only to protect those whom she loved. On this occasion she blazed
out. "I quite agreesir. The thing is impossibleand I will
come up and stop it. My niece is a very exceptional personand I
am not inclined to sit still while she throws herself away on
those who will not appreciate her."

Charles worked his jaws.

Considering she has only known your brother since Wednesday, and
only met your father and mother at a stray hotel--

Could you possibly lower your voice? The shopman will overhear.

Esprit de classe--if one may coin the phrase--was strong in Mrs.
Munt. She sat quivering while a member of the lower orders
deposited a metal funnela saucepanand a garden squirt beside
the roll of oilcloth.

Right behind?

Yes, sir.And the lower orders vanished in a cloud of dust.

I warn you: Paul hasn't a penny; it's useless.

No need to warn us, Mr. Wilcox, I assure you. The warning is all
the other way. My niece has been very foolish, and I shall give
her a good scolding and take her back to London with me.

He has to make his way out in Nigeria. He couldn't think of
marrying for years, and when he does it must be a woman who can
stand the climate, and is in other ways-- Why hasn't he told us?
Of course he's ashamed. He knows he's been a fool. And so he has
--a downright fool.

She grew furious.

Whereas Miss Schlegel has lost no time in publishing the news.

If I were a man, Mr. Wilcox, for that last remark I'd box your
ears. You're not fit to clean my niece's boots, to sit in the
same room with her, and you dare--you actually dare-- I decline
to argue with such a person.

All I know is, she's spread the thing and he hasn't, and my
father's away and I--


And all that I know is--

Might I finish my sentence, please?

No.

Charles clenched his teeth and sent the motor swerving all over
the lane.

She screamed.

So they played the game of Capping Familiesa round of which is
always played when love would unite two members of our race. But
they played it with unusual vigourstating in so many words that
Schlegels were better than WilcoxesWilcoxes better than
Schlegels. They flung decency aside. The man was youngthe woman
deeply stirred; in both a vein of coarseness was latent. Their
quarrel was no more surprising than are most quarrels--inevitable
at the timeincredible afterwards. But it was more than usually
futile. A few minutesand they were enlightened. The motor drew
up at Howards Endand Helenlooking very paleran out to meet
her aunt.

Aunt Juley, I have just had a telegram from Margaret; I--I meant
to stop your coming. It isn't--it's over.

The climax was too much for Mrs. Munt. She burst into tears.

Aunt Juley dear, don't. Don't let them know I've been so silly.
It wasn't anything. Do bear up for my sake.

Paul,cried Charles Wilcoxpulling his gloves off.

Don't let them know. They are never to know.

Oh, my darling Helen--

Paul! Paul!

A very young man came out of the house.

Paul, is there any truth in this?

I didn't--I don't--

Yes or no, man; plain question, plain answer. Did or didn't
Miss Schlegel--

Charles, dear,said a voice from the garden. "Charlesdear
Charlesone doesn't ask plain questions. There aren't such
things."

They were all silent. It was Mrs. Wilcox.

She approached just as Helen's letter had described hertrailing
noiselessly over the lawnand there was actually a wisp of hay
in her hands. She seemed to belong not to the young people and
their motorbut to the houseand to the tree that overshadowed
it. One knew that she worshipped the pastand that the
instinctive wisdom the past can alone bestow had descended upon
her--that wisdom to which we give the clumsy name of aristocracy.
High born she might not be. But assuredly she cared about her
ancestorsand let them help her. When she saw Charles angry
Paul frightenedand Mrs. Munt in tearsshe heard her ancestors


saySeparate those human beings who will hurt each other most.
The rest can wait.So she did not ask questions. Still less did
she pretend that nothing had happenedas a competent society
hostess would have done. She said: "Miss Schlegelwould you take
your aunt up to your room or to my roomwhichever you think
best. Pauldo find Evieand tell her lunch for sixbut I'm not
sure whether we shall all be downstairs for it." And when they
had obeyed hershe turned to her elder sonwho still stood in
the throbbingstinking carand smiled at him with tenderness
and without saying a wordturned away from him towards her
flowers.

Mother,he calledare you aware that Paul has been playing
the fool again?

It is all right, dear. They have broken off the engagement.

Engagement--!

They do not love any longer, if you prefer it put that way,
said Mrs. Wilcoxstooping down to smell a rose.

CHAPTER IV

Helen and her aunt returned to Wickham Place in a state of
collapseand for a little time Margaret had three invalids on
her hands. Mrs. Munt soon recovered. She possessed to a
remarkable degree the power of distorting the pastand before
many days were over she had forgotten the part played by her own
imprudence in the catastrophe. Even at the crisis she had cried
Thank goodness, poor Margaret is saved this!which during the
journey to London evolved intoIt had to be gone through by
some one,which in its turn ripened into the permanent form of
The one time I really did help Emily's girls was over the Wilcox
business.But Helen was a more serious patient. New ideas had
burst upon her like a thunderclapand by them and by their
reverberations she had been stunned.

The truth was that she had fallen in lovenot with an
individualbut with a family.

Before Paul arrived she hadas it werebeen tuned up into his
key. The energy of the Wilcoxes had fascinated herhad created
new images of beauty in her responsive mind. To be all day with
them in the open airto sleep at night under their roofhad
seemed the supreme joy of lifeand had led to that abandonment
of personality that is a possible prelude to love. She had liked
giving in to Mr. Wilcoxor Evieor Charles; she had liked being
told that her notions of life were sheltered or academic; that
Equality was nonsenseVotes for Women nonsenseSocialism
nonsenseArt and Literatureexcept when conducive to
strengthening the characternonsense. One by one the Schlegel
fetiches had been overthrownandthough professing to defend
themshe had rejoiced. When Mr. Wilcox said that one sound man
of business did more good to the world than a dozen of your
social reformersshe had swallowed the curious assertion without
a gaspand had leant back luxuriously among the cushions of his
motorcar. When Charles saidWhy be so polite to servants? they
don't understand it,she had not given the Schlegel retort of
If they don't understand it, I do.No; she had vowed to be
less polite to servants in the future. "I am swathed in cant
she thought, and it is good for me to be stripped of it." And


all that she thought or did or breathed was a quiet preparation
for Paul. Paul was inevitable. Charles was taken up with another
girlMr. Wilcox was so oldEvie so youngMrs. Wilcox so
different. Round the absent brother she began to throw the halo
of Romanceto irradiate him with all the splendour of those
happy daysto feel that in him she should draw nearest to the
robust ideal. He and she were about the same ageEvie said. Most
people thought Paul handsomer than his brother. He was certainly
a better shotthough not so good at golf. And when Paul
appearedflushed with the triumph of getting through an
examinationand ready to flirt with any pretty girlHelen met
him halfwayor more than halfwayand turned towards him on the
Sunday evening.

He had been talking of his approaching exile in Nigeriaand he
should have continued to talk of itand allowed their guest to
recover. But the heave of her bosom flattered him. Passion was
possibleand he became passionate. Deep down in him something
whisperedThis girl would let you kiss her; you might not have
such a chance again.

That was "how it happened or, rather, how Helen described it to
her sister, using words even more unsympathetic than my own. But
the poetry of that kiss, the wonder of it, the magic that there
was in life for hours after it--who can describe that? It is so
easy for an Englishman to sneer at these chance collisions of
human beings. To the insular cynic and the insular moralist they
offer an equal opportunity. It is so easy to talk of passing
emotion and to forget how vivid the emotion was ere it passed.
Our impulse to sneer, to forget, is at root a good one. We
recognise that emotion is not enough, and that men and women are
personalities capable of sustained relations, not mere
opportunities for an electrical discharge. Yet we rate the
impulse too highly. We do not admit that by collisions of this
trivial sort the doors of heaven may be shaken open. To Helen, at
all events, her life was to bring nothing more intense than the
embrace of this boy who played no part in it. He had drawn her
out of the house, where there was danger of surprise and light;
he had led her by a path he knew, until they stood under the
column of the vast wych-elm. A man in the darkness, he had
whispered I love you" when she was desiring love. In time his
slender personality fadedthe scene that he had evoked endured.
In all the variable years that followed she never saw the like of
it again.

I understand,said Margaret--s"at leastI understand as much
as ever is understood of these things. Tell me now what happened
on the Monday morning."

It was over at once.

How, Helen?

I was still happy while I dressed, but as I came downstairs I
got nervous, and when I went into the dining-room I knew it was
no good. There was Evie--I can't explain--managing the tea-urn,
and Mr. Wilcox reading the Times.

Was Paul there?

Yes; and Charles was talking to him about stocks and shares, and
he looked frightened.

By slight indications the sisters could convey much to each


other. Margaret saw horror latent in the sceneand Helen's next
remark did not surprise her.

Somehow, when that kind of man looks frightened it is too awful.
It is all right for us to be frightened, or for men of another
sort--father, for instance; but for men like that! When I saw all
the others so placid, and Paul mad with terror in case I said the
wrong thing, I felt for a moment that the whole Wilcox family was
a fraud, just a wall of newspapers and motor-cars and golf-clubs,
and that if it fell I should find nothing behind it but panic
and emptiness.

I don't think that. The Wilcoxes struck me as being genuine
people, particularly the wife.

No, I don't really think that. But Paul was so broad-shouldered;
all kinds of extraordinary things made it worse, and I knew that
it would never do--never. I said to him after breakfast, when the
others were practising strokes, 'We rather lost our heads,' and
he looked better at once, though frightfully ashamed. He began a
speech about having no money to marry on, but it hurt him to make
it, and I stopped him. Then he said, 'I must beg your pardon over
this, Miss Schlegel; I can't think what came over me last night.'
And I said, 'Nor what over me; never mind.' And then we parted-at
least, until I remembered that I had written straight off to
tell you the night before, and that frightened him again. I asked
him to send a telegram for me, for he knew you would be coming or
something; and he tried to get hold of the motor, but Charles and
Mr. Wilcox wanted it to go to the station; and Charles offered to
send the telegram for me, and then I had to say that the telegram
was of no consequence, for Paul said Charles might read it, and
though I wrote it out several times, he always said people would
suspect something. He took it himself at last, pretending that he
must walk down to get cartridges, and, what with one thing and
the other, it was not handed in at the post-office until too
late. It was the most terrible morning. Paul disliked me more and
more, and Evie talked cricket averages till I nearly screamed. I
cannot think how I stood her all the other days. At last Charles
and his father started for the station, and then came your
telegram warning me that Aunt Juley was coming by that train, and
Paul--oh, rather horrible--said that I had muddled it. But Mrs.
Wilcox knew.

Knew what?

Everything; though we neither of us told her a word, and she had
known all along, I think.

Oh, she must have overheard you.

I suppose so, but it seemed wonderful. When Charles and Aunt
Juley drove up, calling each other names, Mrs. Wilcox stepped in
from the garden and made everything less terrible. Ugh! but it
has been a disgusting business. To think that--She sighed.

To think that because you and a young man meet for a moment,
there must be all these telegrams and anger,supplied Margaret.

Helen nodded.

I've often thought about it, Helen. It's one of the most
interesting things in the world. The truth is that there is a
great outer life that you and I have never touched--a life in
which telegrams and anger count. Personal relations, that we


think supreme, are not supreme there. There love means marriage
settlements, death, death duties. So far I'm clear. But here my
difficulty. This outer life, though obviously horrid; often seems
the real one--there's grit in it. It does breed character. Do
personal relations lead to sloppiness in the end?

Oh, Meg--, that's what I felt, only not so clearly, when the
Wilcoxes were so competent, and seemed to have their hands on all
the ropes.

Don't you feel it now?

I remember Paul at breakfast,said Helen quietly. "I shall
never forget him. He had nothing to fall back upon. I know that
personal relations are the real lifefor ever and ever."

Amen!

So the Wilcox episode fell into the backgroundleaving behind it
memories of sweetness and horror that mingledand the sisters
pursued the life that Helen had commended. They talked to each
other and to other peoplethey filled the tall thin house at
Wickham Place with those whom they liked or could befriend. They
even attended public meetings. In their own fashion they cared
deeply about politicsthough not as politicians would have us
care; they desired that public life should mirror whatever is
good in the life within. Temperancetoleranceand sexual
equality were intelligible cries to them; whereas they did not
follow our Forward Policy in Tibet with the keen attention that
it meritsand would at times dismiss the whole British Empire
with a puzzledif reverentsigh. Not out of them are the shows
of history erected: the world would be a greybloodless place
were it composed entirely of Miss Schlegels. But the world being
what it isperhaps they shine out in it like stars.

A word on their origin. They were not "English to the back-bone
as their aunt had piously asserted. But, on the other hand, they
were not Germans of the dreadful sort." Their father had
belonged to a type that was more prominent in Germany fifty years
ago than now. He was not the aggressive Germanso dear to the
English journalistnor the domestic Germanso dear to the
English wit. If one classed him at all it would be as the
countryman of Hegel and Kantas the idealistinclined to be
dreamywhose Imperialism was the Imperialism of the air. Not
that his life had been inactive. He had fought like blazes
against DenmarkAustriaFrance. But he had fought without
visualising the results of victory. A hint of the truth broke on
him after Sedanwhen he saw the dyed moustaches of Napoleon
going grey; another when he entered Parisand saw the smashed
windows of the Tuileries. Peace came--it was all very immense
one had turned into an Empire--but he knew that some quality had
vanished for which not all Alsace-Lorraine could compensate him.
Germany a commercial PowerGermany a naval PowerGermany with
colonies here and a Forward Policy thereand legitimate
aspirations in the other placemight appeal to othersand be
fitly served by them; for his own parthe abstained from the
fruits of victoryand naturalised himself in England. The more
earnest members of his family never forgave himand knew that
his childrenthough scarcely English of the dreadful sortwould
never be German to the back-bone. He had obtained work in one of
our provincial universitiesand there married Poor Emily (or
Die Englanderinas the case may be)and as she had money
they proceeded to Londonand came to know a good many people.
But his gaze was always fixed beyond the sea. It was his hope


that the clouds of materialism obscuring the Fatherland would
part in timeand the mild intellectual light re-emerge. "Do you
imply that we Germans are stupidUncle Ernst?" exclaimed a
haughty and magnificent nephew. Uncle Ernst repliedTo my mind.
You use the intellect, but you no longer care about it. That I
call stupidity.As the haughty nephew did not followhe
continuedYou only care about the things that you can use, and
therefore arrange them in the following order: Money, supremely
useful; intellect, rather useful; imagination, of no use at all.
No--for the other had protested--"your Pan-Germanism is no more
imaginative than is our Imperialism over here. It is the vice of
a vulgar mind to be thrilled by bignessto think that a thousand
square miles are a thousand times more wonderful than one square
mileand that a million square miles are almost the same as
heaven. That is not imagination. Noit kills it. When their
poets over here try to celebrate bigness they are dead at once
and naturally. Your poets too are dyingyour philosophersyour
musiciansto whom Europe has listened for two hundred years.
Gone. Gone with the little courts that nurtured them--gone with
Esterhazy and Weimar. What? What's that? Your universities? Oh
yesyou have learned menwho collect more facts than do the
learned men of England. They collect factsand factsand
empires of facts. But which of them will rekindle the light
within?"

To all this Margaret listenedsitting on the haughty nephew's
knee.

It was a unique education for the little girls. The haughty
nephew would be at Wickham Place one daybringing with him an
even haughtier wifeboth convinced that Germany was appointed by
God to govern the world. Aunt Juley would come the next day
convinced that Great Britain had been appointed to the same post
by the same authority. Were both these loud-voiced parties right?
On one occasion they had met and Margaret with clasped hands had
implored them to argue the subject out in her presence. Whereat
they blushedand began to talk about the weather. "Papa she
cried--she was a most offensive child--why will they not discuss
this most clear question?" Her fathersurveying the parties
grimlyreplied that he did not know. Putting her head on one
sideMargaret then remarkedTo me one of two things is very
clear; either God does not know his own mind about England and
Germany, or else these do not know the mind of God.A hateful
little girlbut at thirteen she had grasped a dilemma that most
people travel through life without perceiving. Her brain darted
up and down; it grew pliant and strong. Her conclusion wasthat
any human being lies nearer to the unseen than any organisation
and from this she never varied.

Helen advanced along the same linesthough with a more
irresponsible tread. In character she resembled her sisterbut
she was prettyand so apt to have a more amusing time. People
gathered round her more readilyespecially when they were new
acquaintancesand she did enjoy a little homage very much. When
their father died and they ruled alone at Wickham Placeshe
often absorbed the whole of the companywhile Margaret--both
were tremendous talkers--fell flat. Neither sister bothered about
this. Helen never apologised afterwardsMargaret did not feel
the slightest rancour. But looks have their influence upon
character. The sisters were alike as little girlsbut at the
time of the Wilcox episode their methods were beginning to
diverge; the younger was rather apt to entice peopleandin
enticing themto be herself enticed; the elder went straight
aheadand accepted an occasional failure as part of the game.


Little need be premised about Tibby. He was now an intelligent
man of sixteenbut dyspeptic and difficile.

CHAPTER V

It will be generally admitted that Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is
the most sublime noise that has ever penetrated into the ear of
man. All sorts and conditions are satisfied by it. Whether you
are like Mrs. Muntand tap surreptitiously when the tunes come-of
coursenot so as to disturb the others--or like Helenwho
can see heroes and shipwrecks in the music's flood; or like
Margaretwho can only see the music; or like Tibbywho is
profoundly versed in counterpointand holds the full score open
on his knee; or like their cousinFraulein Mosebachwho
remembers all the time that Beethoven is echt Deutsch; or like
Fraulein Mosebach's young manwho can remember nothing but
Fraulein Mosebach: in any casethe passion of your life becomes
more vividand you are bound to admit that such a noise is cheap
at two shillings. It is cheapeven if you hear it in the Queen's
Halldreariest music-room in Londonthough not as dreary as the
Free Trade HallManchester; and even if you sit on the extreme
left of that hallso that the brass bumps at you before the
rest of the orchestra arrivesit is still cheap.

Whom is Margaret talking to?said Mrs. Muntat the conclusion
of the first movement. She was again in London on a visit to
Wickham Place.

Helen looked down the long line of their partyand said that she
did not know.

Would it be some young man or other whom she takes an interest
in?

I expect so,Helen replied. Music enwrapped herand she could
not enter into the distinction that divides young men whom one
takes an interest in from young men whom one knows.

You girls are so wonderful in always having--Oh dear! one
mustn't talk.

For the Andante had begun--very beautifulbut bearing a family
likeness to all the other beautiful Andantes that Beethoven had
writtenandto Helen's mindrather disconnecting the heroes
and shipwrecks of the first movement from the heroes and goblins
of the third. She heard the tune through onceand then her
attention wanderedand she gazed at the audienceor the organ
or the architecture. Much did she censure the attenuated Cupids
who encircle the ceiling of the Queen's Hallinclining each to
each with vapid gestureand clad in sallow pantaloonson which
the October sunlight struck. "How awful to marry a man like those
Cupids!" thought Helen. Here Beethoven started decorating his
tuneso she heard him through once moreand then she smiled at
her Cousin Frieda. But Friedalistening to Classical Music
could not respond. Herr Liesecketoolooked as if wild horses
could not make him inattentive; there were lines across his
foreheadhis lips were partedhis pince-nez at right angles to
his noseand he had laid a thickwhite hand on either knee. And
next to her was Aunt Juleyso Britishand wanting to tap. How
interesting that row of people was! What diverse influences had
gone to the making! Here Beethovenafter humming and hawing with


great sweetnesssaid "Heigho and the Andante came to an end.
Applause, and a round of wunderschoning" and pracht volleying
from the German contingent. Margaret started talking to her new
young man; Helen said to her aunt: "Now comes the wonderful
movement: first of all the goblinsand then a trio of elephants
dancing"; and Tibby implored the company generally to look out
for the transitional passage on the drum.

On the what, dear?

On the drum, Aunt Juley.

No; look out for the part where you think you have done with the
goblins and they come back,breathed Helenas the music started
with a goblin walking quietly over the universefrom end to end.
Others followed him. They were not aggressive creatures; it was
that that made them so terrible to Helen. They merely observed in
passing that there was no such thing as splendour or heroism in
the world. After the interlude of elephants dancingthey
returned and made the observation for the second time. Helen
could not contradict themforonce at all eventsshe had felt
the sameand had seen the reliable walls of youth collapse.
Panic and emptiness! Panic and emptiness! The goblins were right.
Her brother raised his finger; it was the transitional passage on
the drum.

Foras if things were going too farBeethoven took hold of the
goblins and made them do what he wanted. He appeared in person.
He gave them a little pushand they began to walk in a major key
instead of in a minorand then--he blew with his mouth and they
were scattered! Gusts of splendourgods and demigods contending
with vast swordscolour and fragrance broadcast on the field of
battlemagnificent victorymagnificent death! Ohit all burst
before the girland she even stretched out her gloved hands as
if it was tangible. Any fate was titanic; any contest desirable;
conqueror and conquered would alike be applauded by the angels of
the utmost stars.

And the goblins--they had not really been there at all? They were
only the phantoms of cowardice and unbelief? One healthy human
impulse would dispel them? Men like the Wilcoxesor ex-President
Rooseveltwould say yes. Beethoven knew better. The goblins
really had been there. They might return--and they did. It was as
if the splendour of life might boil over and waste to steam and
froth. In its dissolution one heard the terribleominous note
and a goblinwith increased malignitywalked quietly over the
universe from end to end. Panic and emptiness! Panic and
emptiness! Even the flaming ramparts of the world might fall.
Beethoven chose to make all right in the end. He built the
ramparts up. He blew with his mouth for the second timeand
again the goblins were scattered. He brought back the gusts of
splendourthe heroismthe youththe magnificence of life and
of deathandamid vast roarings of a superhuman joyhe led his
Fifth Symphony to its conclusion. But the goblins were there.
They could return. He had said so bravelyand that is why one
can trust Beethoven when he says other things.

Helen pushed her way out during the applause. She desired to be
alone. The music had summed up to her all that had happened or
could happen in her career.

She read it as a tangible statementwhich could never be
superseded. The notes meant this and that to herand they could
have no other meaningand life could have no other meaning. She


pushed right out of the building and walked slowly down the
outside staircasebreathing the autumnal airand then she
strolled home.

Margaret,called Mrs. Muntis Helen all right?

Oh yes.

She is always going away in the middle of a programme,said
Tibby.

The music has evidently moved her deeply,said Fraulein
Mosebach.

Excuse me,said Margaret's young manwho had for some time
been preparing a sentencebut that lady has, quite
inadvertently, taken my umbrella.

Oh, good gracious me!--I am so sorry. Tibby, run after Helen.

I shall miss the Four Serious Songs if I do.

Tibby, love, you must go.

It isn't of any consequence,said the young manin truth a
little uneasy about his umbrella.

But of course it is. Tibby! Tibby!

Tibby rose to his feetand wilfully caught his person on the
backs of the chairs. By the time he had tipped up the seat and
had found his hatand had deposited his full score in safetyit
was "too late" to go after Helen. The Four Serious Songs had
begunand one could not move during their performance.

My sister is so careless,whispered Margaret.

Not at all,replied the young man; but his voice was dead and
cold.

If you would give me your address--

Oh, not at all, not at all;and he wrapped his greatcoat over
his knees.

Then the Four Serious Songs rang shallow in Margaret's ears.
Brahmsfor all his grumbling and grizzlinghad never guessed
what it felt like to be suspected of stealing an umbrella. For
this fool of a young man thought that she and Helen and Tibby had
been playing the confidence trick on himand that if he gave his
address they would break into his rooms some midnight or other
and steal his walking-stick too. Most ladies would have laughed
but Margaret really mindedfor it gave her a glimpse into
squalor. To trust people is a luxury in which only the wealthy
can indulge; the poor cannot afford it. As soon as Brahms had
grunted himself outshe gave him her card and saidThat is
where we live; if you preferred, you could call for the umbrella
after the concert, but I didn't like to trouble you when it has
all been our fault.

His face brightened a little when he saw that Wickham Place was

W. It was sad to see him corroded with suspicionand yet not
daring to be impolitein case these well-dressed people were
honest after all. She took it as a good sign that he said to her

It's a fine programme this afternoon, is it not?for this was
the remark with which he had originally openedbefore the
umbrella intervened.

The Beethoven's fine,said Margaretwho was not a female of
the encouraging type. "I don't like the Brahmsthoughnor the
Mendelssohn that came first and ugh! I don't like this Elgar
that's coming."

What, what?called Herr Lieseckeoverhearing. "The 'Pomp and
Circumstance' will not be fine?"

Oh, Margaret, you tiresome girl!cried her aunt.

Here have I been persuading Herr Liesecke to stop for 'Pomp and
Circumstance,' and you are undoing all my work. I am so anxious
for him to hear what WE are doing in music. Oh,--you musn't run
down our English composers, Margaret.

For my part, I have heard the composition at Stettin,said
Fraulein Mosebachon two occasions. It is dramatic, a little.

Frieda, you despise English music. You know you do. And English
art. And English literature, except Shakespeare, and he's a
German. Very well, Frieda, you may go.

The lovers laughed and glanced at each other. Moved by a common
impulsethey rose to their feet and fled from "Pomp and
Circumstance."

We have this call to pay in Finsbury Circus, it is true,said
Herr Lieseckeas he edged past her and reached the gangway just
as the music started.

Margaret--loudly whispered by Aunt Juley.

Margaret, Margaret! Fraulein Mosebach has left her beautiful
little bag behind her on the seat.

Sure enoughthere was Frieda's reticulecontaining her address
bookher pocket dictionaryher map of Londonand her money.

Oh, what a bother--what a family we are! Fr--frieda!

Hush!said all those who thought the music fine.

But it's the number they want in Finsbury Circus.

Might I--couldn't I--said the suspicious young manand got
very red.

Oh, I would be so grateful.

He took the bag--money clinking inside it--and slipped up the
gangway with it. He was just in time to catch them at the
swing-doorand he received a pretty smile from the German girl
and a fine bow from her cavalier. He returned to his seat
upsides with the world. The trust that they had reposed in him
was trivialbut he felt that it cancelled his mistrust for them
and that probably he would not be "had" over his umbrella. This
young man had been "had" in the past badlyperhaps
overwhelmingly--and now most of his energies went in defending
himself against the unknown. But this afternoon--perhaps on
account of music--he perceived that one must slack off


occasionally or what is the good of being alive? Wickham Place
W.though a riskwas as safe as most thingsand he would risk
it.

So when the concert was over and Margaret saidWe live quite
near; I am going there now. Could you walk round with me, and
we'll find your umbrella?he saidThank you,peaceablyand
followed her out of the Queen's Hall. She wished that he was not
so anxious to hand a lady downstairsor to carry a lady's
programme for her--his class was near enough her own for its
manners to vex her. But she found him interesting on the whole-every
one interested the Schlegels on the whole at that time--and
while her lips talked cultureher heart was planning to invite
him to tea.

How tired one gets after music!she began.

Do you find the atmosphere of Queen's Hall oppressive?

Yes, horribly.

But surely the atmosphere of Covent Garden is even more
oppressive.

Do you go there much?

When my work permits, I attend the gallery for the Royal Opera.

Helen would have exclaimedSo do I. I love the gallery,and
thus have endeared herself to the young man. Helen could do these
things. But Margaret had an almost morbid horror of "drawing
people out of making things go." She had been to the gallery
at Covent Gardenbut she did not "attend" itpreferring the
more expensive seats; still less did she love it. So she made no
reply.

This year I have been three times--to 'Faust,' 'Tosca,' and--
Was it "Tannhouser" or "Tannhoyser"? Better not risk the word.

Margaret disliked "Tosca" and "Faust." And sofor one reason and
anotherthey walked on in silencechaperoned by the voice of
Mrs. Muntwho was getting into difficulties with her nephew.

I do in a WAY remember the passage, Tibby, but when every
instrument is so beautiful, it is difficult to pick out one thing
rather than another. I am sure that you and Helen take me to the
very nicest concerts. Not a dull note from beginning to end. I
only wish that our German friends had stayed till it finished.

But surely you haven't forgotten the drum steadily beating on
the low C, Aunt Juley?came Tibby's voice. "No one could. It's
unmistakable."

A specially loud part?hazarded Mrs. Munt. "Of course I do not
go in for being musical she added, the shot failing. I only
care for music--a very different thing. But still I will say this
for myself--I do know when I like a thing and when I don't. Some
people are the same about pictures. They can go into a picture
gallery--Miss Conder can--and say straight off what they feel
all round the wall. I never could do that. But music is so
different from picturesto my mind. When it comes to music I am
as safe as housesand I assure youTibbyI am by no means
pleased by everything. There was a thing--something about a faun
in French--which Helen went into ecstasies overbut I thought it


most tinkling and superficialand said soand I held to my
opinion too."

Do you agree?asked Margaret. "Do you think music is so
different from pictures?"

I--I should have thought so, kind of,he said.

So should I. Now, my sister declares they're just the same. We
have great arguments over it. She says I'm dense; I say she's
sloppy.Getting under wayshe cried: "Nowdoesn't it seem
absurd to you? What is the good of the Arts if they 're
interchangeable? What is the good of the ear if it tells you the
same as the eye? Helen's one aim is to translate tunes into the
language of paintingand pictures into the language of music.
It's very ingeniousand she says several pretty things in the
processbut what's gainedI'd like to know? Ohit's all
rubbishradically false. If Monet's really Debussyand
Debussy's really Monetneither gentleman is worth his salt-that's
my opinion."

Evidently these sisters quarrelled.

Now, this very symphony that we've just been having--she won't
let it alone. She labels it with meanings from start to finish;
turns it into literature. I wonder if the day will ever return
when music will be treated as music. Yet I don't know. There's my
brother--behind us. He treats music as music, and oh, my
goodness!
He makes me angrier than any one, simply furious. With him I
daren't even argue.

An unhappy familyif talented.

But, of course, the real villain is Wagner. He has done more
than any man in the nineteenth century towards the muddling of
the arts. I do feel that music is in a very serious state just
now, though extraordinarily interesting. Every now and then in
history there do come these terrible geniuses, like Wagner, who
stir up all the wells of thought at once. For a moment it's
splendid. Such a splash as never was. But afterwards--such a lot
of mud; and the wells--as it were, they communicate with each
other too easily now, and not one of them will run quite clear.
That's what Wagner's done.

Her speeches fluttered away from the young man like birds. If
only he could talk like thishe would have caught the world. Oh
to acquire culture! Ohto pronounce foreign names correctly! Oh
to be well informeddiscoursing at ease on every subject that a
lady started! But it would take one years. With an hour at lunch
and a few shattered hours in the eveninghow was it possible to
catch up with leisured womenwho had been reading steadily from
childhood? His brain might be full of nameshe might have even
heard of Monet and Debussy; the trouble was that he could not
string them together into a sentencehe could not make them
tell,he could not quite forget about his stolen umbrella. Yes
the umbrella was the real trouble. Behind Monet and Debussy the
umbrella persistedwith the steady beat of a drum. "I suppose my
umbrella will be all right he was thinking. I don't really
mind about it. I will think about music instead. I suppose my
umbrella will be all right." Earlier in the afternoon he had
worried about seats. Ought he to have paid as much as two
shillings? Earlier still he had wonderedShall I try to do
without a programme?There had always been something to worry


him ever since he could rememberalways something that
distracted him in the pursuit of beauty. For he did pursue
beautyandthereforeMargaret's speeches did flutter away from
him like birds.

Margaret talked aheadoccasionally sayingDon't you think so?
don't you feel the same?And once she stoppedand saidOh, do
interrupt me!which terrified him. She did not attract him
though she filled him with awe. Her figure was meagreher face
seemed all teeth and eyesher references to her sister and her
brother were uncharitable. For all her cleverness and culture
she was probably one of those soullessatheistical women who
have been so shown up by Miss Corelli. It was surprising (and
alarming) that she should suddenly sayI do hope that you'll
come in and have some tea. We should be so glad. I have dragged
you so far out of your way.

They had arrived at Wickham Place. The sun had setand the
backwaterin deep shadowwas filling with a gentle haze. To the
right the fantastic sky-line of the flats towered black against
the hues of evening; to the left the older houses raised a
square-cutirregular parapet against the grey. Margaret fumbled
for her latch-key. Of course she had forgotten it. Sograsping
her umbrella by its ferruleshe leant over the area and tapped
at the dining-room window.

Helen! Let us in!

All right,said a voice.

You've been taking this gentleman's umbrella.

Taken a what?said Helenopening the door. "Ohwhat's that?
Do come in! How do you do?"

Helen, you must not be so ramshackly. You took this gentleman's
umbrella away from Queen's Hall, and he has had the trouble of
coming round for it.

Oh, I am so sorry!cried Helenall her hair flying. She had
pulled off her hat as soon as she returnedand had flung herself
into the big dining-room chair. "I do nothing but steal
umbrellas. I am so very sorry! Do come in and choose one. Is yours
a hooky or a nobbly? Mine's a nobbly--at leastI THINK it is."

The light was turned onand they began to search the hall
Helenwho had abruptly parted with the Fifth Symphony
commenting with shrill little cries.

Don't you talk, Meg,! You stole an old gentleman's silk top-hat.
Yes, she did, Aunt Juley. It is a positive fact. She thought it
was a muff. Oh, heavens! I've knocked the In-and-Out card down.
Where's Frieda? Tibby, why don't you ever-- No, I can't remember
what I was going to say. That wasn't it, but do tell the maids to
hurry tea up. What about this umbrella? She opened it. "No
it's all gone along the seams. It's an appalling umbrella. It
must be mine."

But it was not.

He took it from hermurmured a few words of thanksand then
fledwith the lilting step of the clerk.

But if you will stop--cried Margaret. "NowHelenhow stupid


you've been!"

Whatever have I done?

Don't you see that you've frightened him away? I meant him to
stop to tea. You oughtn't to talk about stealing or holes in an
umbrella. I saw his nice eyes getting so miserable. No, it's not
a bit of good now.For Helen had darted out into the street
shoutingOh, do stop!

I dare say it is all for the best,opined Mrs. Munt. "We know
nothing about the young manMargaretand your drawing-room is
full of very tempting little things."

But Helen cried: "Aunt Juleyhow can you! You make me more and
more ashamed. I'd rather he had been a thief and taken all the
apostle spoons than that I-- WellI must shut the front-doorI
suppose. One more failure for Helen."

Yes, I think the apostle spoons could have gone as rent,said
Margaret. Seeing that her aunt did not understandshe added:
You remember 'rent'? It was one of father's words-- Rent to the
ideal, to his own faith in human nature. You remember how he
would trust strangers, and if they fooled him he would say,
'It's better to be fooled than to be suspicious'--that the
confidence trick is the work of man, but the want-of-confidence
trick is the work of the devil.

I remember something of the sort now,said Mrs. Muntrather
tartlyfor she longed to addIt was lucky that your father
married a wife with money.But this was unkindand she
contented herself withWhy, he might have stolen the little
Ricketts picture as well.

Better that he had,said Helen stoutly.

No, I agree with Aunt Juley,said Margaret. "I'd rather
mistrust people than lose my little Ricketts. There are limits."

Their brotherfinding the incident commonplacehad stolen
upstairs to see whether there were scones for tea. He warmed the
teapot--almost too deftly--rejected the orange pekoe that the
parlour-maid had providedpoured in five spoonfuls of a superior
blendfilled up with really boiling waterand now called to the
ladies to be quick or they would lose the aroma.

All right, Auntie Tibby,called Heienwhile Margaret
thoughtful againsaid: "In a wayI wish we had a real boy in
the house--the kind of boy who cares for men. It would make
entertaining so much easier."

So do I,said her sister. "Tibby only cares for cultured
females singing Brahms." And when they joined him she said rather
sharply: "Why didn't you make that young man welcomeTibby? You
must do the host a littleyou know. You ought to have taken his
hat and coaxed him into stoppinginstead of letting him be
swamped by screaming women."

Tibby sighedand drew a long strand of hair over his forehead.

Oh, it's no good looking superior. I mean what I say.

Leave Tibby alone!said Margaretwho could not bear her
brother to be scolded.


Here's the house a regular hen-coop!grumbled Helen.

Oh, my dear!protested Mrs. Munt. "How can you say such
dreadful things! The number of men you get here has always
astonished me. If there is any danger it's the other way round."

Yes, but it's the wrong sort of men, Helen means.

No, I don't,corrected Helen. "We get the right sort of man
but the wrong side of himand I say that's Tibby's fault. There
ought to be a something about the house--an--I don't know what."

A touch of the W's, perhaps?

Helen put out her tongue.

Who are the W's?asked Tibby.

The W's are things I and Meg and Aunt Juley know about and you
don't, so there!

I suppose that ours is a female house,said Margaretand one
must just accept it. No, Aunt Juley, I don't mean that this house
is full of women. I am trying to say something much more clever.
I mean that it was irrevocably feminine, even in father's time.
Now I'm sure you understand! Well, I'll give you another example.
It'll shock you, but I don't care. Suppose Queen Victoria gave a
dinner-party, and that the guests had been Leighton, Millais,
Swinburne, Rossetti, Meredith, Fitzgerald, etc. Do you suppose
that the atmosphere of that dinner would have been artistic?
Heavens, no! The very chairs on which they sat would have seen to
that. So with out house--it must be feminine, and all we can do
is to see that it isn't effeminate. Just as another house that I
can mention, but won't, sounded irrevocably masculine, and all
its inmates can do is to see that it isn't brutal.

That house being the W's house, I presume,said Tibby.

You're not going to be told about the W's, my child,Helen
criedso don't you think it. And on the other hand, I don't the
least mind if you find out, so don't you think you've done
anything clever, in either case. Give me a cigarette.

You do what you can for the house,said Margaret. "The
drawing-room reeks of smoke."

If you smoked too, the house might suddenly turn masculine.
Atmosphere is probably a question of touch and go. Even at Queen
Victoria's dinner-party--if something had been just a little
Different--perhaps if she'd worn a clinging Liberty tea-gown
instead of a magenta satin.

With an India shawl over her shoulders--

Fastened at the bosom with a Cairngorm-pin.

Bursts of disloyal laughter--you must remember that they are half
German--greeted these suggestionsand Margaret said pensively
How inconceivable it would be if the Royal Family cared about
Art.And the conversation drifted away and awayand Helen's
cigarette turned to a spot in the darknessand the great flats
opposite were sown with lighted windows which vanished and were
refit againand vanished incessantly. Beyond them the


thoroughfare roared gently--a tide that could never be quiet
while in the eastinvisible behind the smokes of Wappingthe
moon was rising.

That reminds me, Margaret. We might have taken that young man
into the dining-room, at all events. Only the majolica plate--and
that is so firmly set in the wall. I am really distressed that he
had no tea.

For that little incident had impressed the three women more than
might be supposed. It remained as a goblin footfallas a hint
that all is not for the best in the best of all possible worlds
and that beneath these superstructures of wealth and art there
wanders an ill-fed boywho has recovered his umbrella indeed
but who has left no address behind himand no name.

CHAPTER VI

WE are not concerned with the very poor. They are unthinkable and
only to be approached by the statistician or the poet. This story
deals with gentlefolkor with those who are obliged to pretend
that they are gentlefolk.

The boyLeonard Baststood at the extreme verge of gentility.
He was not in the abyssbut he could see itand at times people
whom he knew had dropped inand counted no more. He knew that he
was poorand would admit it; he would have died sooner than
confess any inferiority to the rich. This may be splendid of him.
But he was inferior to most rich peoplethere is not the least
doubt of it. He was not as courteous as the average rich mannor
as intelligentnor as healthynor as lovable. His mind and his
body had been alike underfedbecause he was poorand because he
was modern they were always craving better food. Had he lived
some centuries agoin the brightly coloured civilisations of the
pasthe would have had a definite statushis rank and his
income would have corresponded. But in his day the angel of
Democracy had arisenenshadowing the classes with leathern
wingsand proclaimingAll men are equal--all men, that is to
say, who possess umbrellas,and so he was obliged to assert
gentilitylest he slip into the abyss where nothing countsand
the statements of Democracy are inaudible.

As he walked away from Wickham Placehis first care was to prove
that he was as good as the Miss Schlegels. Obscurely wounded in
his pridehe tried to wound them in return. They were probably
not ladies. Would real ladies have asked him to tea? They were
certainly ill-natured and cold. At each step his feeling of
superiority increased. Would a real lady have talked about
stealing an umbrella? Perhaps they were thieves after alland if
he had gone into the house they would have clapped a chloroformed
handkerchief over his face. He walked on complacently as far as
the Houses of Parliament. There an empty stomach asserted itself
and told him that he was a fool.

Evening, Mr. Bast.

Evening, Mr. Dealtry.

Nice evening.

Evening.


Mr. Dealtrya fellow clerkpassed onand Leonard stood
wondering whether he would take the tram as far as a penny would
take himor whether he would walk. He decided to walk--it is no
good giving inand he had spent money enough at Queen's Hall-and
he walked over Westminster Bridgein front of St. Thomas's
Hospitaland through the immense tunnel that passes under the
South-Western main line at Vauxhall. In the tunnel he paused and
listened to the roar of the trains. A sharp pain darted through
his headand he was conscious of the exact form of his eye
sockets. He pushed on for another mileand did not slacken speed
until he stood at the entrance of a road called Camelia Road
which was at present his home.

Here he stopped againand glanced suspiciously to right and
leftlike a rabbit that is going to bolt into its hole. A block
of flatsconstructed with extreme cheapnesstowered on either
hand. Farther down the road two more blocks were being builtand
beyond these an old house was being demolished to accommodate
another pair. It was the kind of scene that may be observed all
over Londonwhatever the locality--bricks and mortar rising and
falling with the restlessness of the water in a fountain as the
city receives more and more men upon her soil. Camelia Road would
soon stand out like a fortressand commandfor a littlean
extensive view. Only for a little. Plans were out for the
erection of flats in Magnolia Road also. And again a few years
and all the flats in either road might be pulled downand new
buildingsof a vastness at present unimaginablemight arise
where they had fallen.

Evening, Mr. Bast.

Evening, Mr. Cunningham.

Very serious thing this decline of the birth-rate in
Manchester.

I beg your pardon?

Very serious thing this decline of the birth-rate in
Manchester,repeated Mr. Cunninghamtapping the Sunday paper
in which the calamity in question had just been announced to him.

Ah, yes,said Leonardwho was not going to let on that he had
not bought a Sunday paper.

If this kind of thing goes on the population of England will be
stationary in 1960.

You don't say so.

I call it a very serious thing, eh?

Good-evening, Mr. Cunningham.

Good-evening, Mr. Bast.

Then Leonard entered Block B of the flatsand turnednot
upstairsbut downinto what is known to house agents as a
semi-basementand to other men as a cellar. He opened the door
and criedHullo!with the pseudo geniality of the Cockney.
There was no reply. "Hullo!" he repeated. The sitting-room was
emptythough the electric light had been left burning. A look of
relief came over his faceand he flung himself into the
armchair.


The sitting-room containedbesides the armchairtwo other
chairsa pianoa three-legged tableand a cosy corner. Of the
wallsone was occupied by the windowthe other by a draped
mantelshelf bristling with Cupids. Opposite the window was the
doorand beside the door a bookcasewhile over the piano there
extended one of the masterpieces of Maud Goodman. It was an
amorous and not unpleasant little hole when the curtains were
drawnand the lights turned onand the gas-stove unlit. But it
struck that shallow makeshift note that is so often heard in the
dwelling-place. It had been too easily gainedand could be
relinquished too easily.

As Leonard was kicking off his boots he jarred the three-legged
tableand a photograph framehonourably poised upon itslid
sidewaysfell off into the fireplaceand smashed. He swore in a
colourless sort of wayand picked the photograph up. It
represented a young lady called Jackyand had been taken at the
time when young ladies called Jacky were often photographed with
their mouths open. Teeth of dazzling whiteness extended along
either of Jacky's jaw'sand positively weighed her head
sidewaysso large were they and so numerous. Take my word for
itthat smile was simply stunningand it is only you and I who
will be fastidiousand complain that true joy begins in the
eyesand that the eyes of Jacky did not accord with her smile
but were anxious and hungry.

Leonard tried to pull out the fragments of glassand cut his
fingers and swore again. A drop of blood fell on the frame
another followedspilling over on to the exposed photograph. He
swore more vigorouslyand dashed into the kitchenwhere he
bathed his hands. The kitchen was the same size as the
sitting-room; beyond it was a bedroom. This completed his home.
He was renting the flat furnished; of all the objects that
encumbered it none were his own except the photograph framethe
Cupidsand the books.

Damn, damn, damnation!he murmuredtogether with such other
words as he had learnt from older men. Then he raised his hand to
his forehead and saidOh, damn it all--which meant something
different. He pulled himself together. He drank a little tea
black and silentthat still survived upon an upper shelf. He
swallowed some dusty crumbs of a cake. Then he went back to the
sitting-roomsettled himself anewand began to read a volume of
Ruskin.

Seven miles to the north of Venice--

How perfectly the famous chapter opens! How supreme its command
of admonition and of poetry! The rich man is speaking to us from
his gondola.

Seven miles to the north of Venice the banks of sand which
nearer the city rise little above low-water mark attain by
degrees a higher level, and knit themselves at last into fields
of salt morass, raised here and there into shapeless mounds, and
intercepted by narrow creeks of sea.

Leonard was trying to form his style on Ruskin; he understood him
to be the greatest master of English Prose. He read forward
steadilyoccasionally making a few notes.

Let us consider a little each of these characters in succession,
and first (for of the shafts enough has been said already), what


is very peculiar to this church--its luminousness.

Was there anything to be learnt from this fine sentence? Could he
adapt it to the needs of daily life? Could he introduce itwith
modificationswhen he next wrote a letter to his brotherthe
lay-reader? For example:

Let us consider a little each of these characters in succession,
and first (for of the absence of ventilation enough has been said
already), what is very peculiar to this flat--its obscurity.

Something told him that the modifications would not do; and that
somethinghad he known itwas the spirit of English Prose. "My
flat is dark as well as stuffy." Those were the words for him.

And the voice in the gondola rolled onpiping melodiously of
Effort and Self-Sacrificefull of high purposefull of beauty
full even of sympathy and the love of menyet somehow eluding
all that was actual and insistent in Leonard's life. For it was
the voice of one who had never been dirty or hungryand had not
guessed successfully what dirt and hunger are.

Leonard listened to it with reverence. He felt that he was being
done good toand that if he kept on with Ruskinand the Queen's
Hall Concertsand some pictures by Wattshe would one day push
his head out of the grey waters and see the universe. He believed
in sudden conversiona belief which may be rightbut which is
peculiarly attractive to a half-baked mind. It is the basis of
much popular religion; in the domain of business it dominates the
Stock Exchangeand becomes that "bit of luck" by which all
successes and failures are explained. "If only I had a bit of
luckthe whole thing would come straight... He's got a most
magnificent place down at Streatham and a 20 h.p. Fiatbut
thenmind youhe's had luck... I 'm sorry the wife's so late
but she never has any luck over catching trains." Leonard was
superior to these people; he did believe in effort and in a
steady preparation for the change that he desired. But of a
heritage that may expand graduallyhe had no conception; he
hoped to come to Culture suddenlymuch as the Revivalist hopes
to come to Jesus. Those Miss Schlegels had come to it; they had
done the trick; their hands were upon the ropesonce and for
all. And meanwhilehis flat was darkas well as stuffy.

Presently there was a noise on the staircase. He shut up
Margaret's card in the pages of Ruskinand opened the door. A
woman enteredof whom it is simplest to say that she was not
respectable. Her appearance was awesome. She seemed all strings
and bell-pulls--ribbonschainsbead necklaces that clinked and
caught and a boa of azure feathers hung round her neckwith the
ends uneven. Her throat was barewound with a double row of
pearlsher arms were bare to the elbowsand might again be
detected at the shoulderthrough cheap lace. Her hatwhich was
floweryresembled those punnetscovered with flannelwhich we
sowed with mustard and cress in our childhoodand which
germinated here yesand there no. She wore it on the back of her
head. As for her hairor rather hairsthey are too complicated
to describebut one system went down her backlying in a thick
pad therewhile anothercreated for a lighter destinyrippled
around her forehead. The face--the face does not signify. It was
the face of the photographbut olderand the teeth were not so
numerous as the photographer had suggestedand certainly not so
white. YesJacky was past her primewhatever that prime may
have been. She was descending quicker than most women into the
colourless yearsand the look in her eyes confessed it."


What ho!said Leonardgreeting the apparition with much
spiritand helping it off with its boa.

Jackyin husky tonesrepliedWhat ho!

Been out?he asked. The question sounds superfluousbut it
cannot have been reallyfor the lady answeredNo,adding
Oh, I am so tired.

You tired?

Eh?

I'm tired,said hehanging the boa up.

Oh, Len, I am so tired.

I've been to that classical concert I told you about,said
Leonard.

What's that?

I came back as soon as it was over.

Any one been round to our place?asked Jacky.

Not that I've seen. I met Mr. Cunningham outside, and we passed
a few remarks.

What, not Mr. Cunningham?

Yes.

Oh, you mean Mr. Cunningham.

Yes. Mr. Cunningham.

I've been out to tea at a lady friend's.

Her secret being at last given--to the worldand the name of the
lady friend being even adumbratedJacky made no further
experiments in the difficult and tiring art of conversation. She
never had been a great talker. Even in her photographic days she
had relied upon her smile and her figure to attractand now
that she was

On the shelf,

On the shelf,

Boys, boys, I'm on the shelf,

she was not likely to find her tongue. Occasional bursts of song
(of which the above is an example) still issued from her lips
but the spoken word was rare.

She sat down on Leonard's kneeand began to fondle him. She was
now a massive woman of thirty-threeand her weight hurt himbut
he could not very well say anything. Then she saidIs that a
book you're reading?and he saidThat's a book,and drew it
from her unreluctant grasp. Margaret's card fell out of it. It
fell face downwardsand he murmuredBookmarker.

Len--


What is it?he askeda little wearilyfor she only had one
topic of conversation when she sat upon his knee.

You do love me?

Jacky, you know that I do. How can you ask such questions!

But you do love me, Len, don't you?

Of course I do.

A pause. The other remark was still due.

Len--

Well? What is it?

Len, you will make it all right?

I can't have you ask me that again,said the boyflaring up
into a sudden passion. "I've promised to marry you when I'm of
ageand that's enough. My word's my word. I've promised to marry
you as soon as ever I'm twenty-oneand I can't keep on being
worried. I've worries enough. It isn't likely I'd throw you over
let alone my wordwhen I've spent all this money. BesidesI'm
an Englishmanand I never go back on my word. Jackydo be
reasonable. Of course I'll marry you. Only do stop badgering me."

When's your birthday, Len?

I've told you again and again, the eleventh of November next.
Now get off my knee a bit; some one must get supper, I suppose.

Jacky went through to the bedroomand began to see to her hat.
This meant blowing at it with short sharp puffs. Leonard tidied
up the sitting-roomand began to prepare their evening meal. He
put a penny into the slot of the gas-meterand soon the flat was
reeking with metallic fumes. Somehow he could not recover his
temperand all the time he was cooking he continued to complain
bitterly.

It really is too bad when a fellow isn't trusted. It makes one
feel so wild, when I've pretended to the people here that you're
my wife--all right, all right, you SHALL be my wife--and I've
bought you the ring to wear, and I've taken this flat furnished,
and it's far more than I can afford, and yet you aren't content,
and I've also not told the truth when I've written home. He
lowered his voice. He'd stop it." In a tone of horrorthat was
a little luxurioushe repeated: "My brother'd stop it. I'm going
against the whole worldJacky.

That's what I am, Jacky. I don't take any heed of what any one
says. I just go straight forward, I do. That's always been my
way. I'm not one of your weak knock-kneed chaps. If a woman's in
trouble, I don't leave her in the lurch. That's not my street.
No, thank you.

I'll tell you another thing too. I care a good deal about
improving myself by means of Literature and Artand so getting a
wider outlook. For instancewhen you came in I was reading
Ruskin's Stones of Venice. I don't say this to boastbut just to
show you the kind of man I am. I can tell youI enjoyed that
classical concert this afternoon."


To all his moods Jacky remained equally indifferent. When supper
was ready--and not before--she emerged from the bedroomsaying:
But you do love me, don't you?

They began with a soup squarewhich Leonard had just dissolved
in some hot water. It was followed by the tongue--a freckled
cylinder of meatwith a little jelly at the topand a great
deal of yellow fat at the bottom--ending with another square
dissolved in water (jelly: pineapple)which Leonard had prepared
earlier in the day. Jacky ate contentedly enoughoccasionally
looking at her man with those anxious eyesto which nothing else
in her appearance correspondedand which yet seemed to mirror
her soul. And Leonard managed to convince his stomach that it was
having a nourishing meal.

After supper they smoked cigarettes and exchanged a few
statements. She observed that her "likeness" had been broken. He
found occasion to remarkfor the second timethat he had come
straight back home after the concert at Queen's Hall. Presently
she sat upon his knee. The inhabitants of Camelia Road tramped to
and fro outside the windowjust on a level with their headsand
the family in the flat on the ground-floor began to singHark,
my soul, it is the Lord.

That tune fairly gives me the hump,said Leonard.

Jacky followed thisand said thatfor her partshe thought it
a lovely tune.

No; I'll play you something lovely. Get up, dear, for a minute.

He went to the piano and jingled out a little Grieg. He played
badly and vulgarlybut the performance was not without its
effectfor Jacky said she thought she'd be going to bed. As she
recededa new set of interests possessed the boyand he began
to think of what had been said about music by that odd Miss
Schlegel--the one that twisted her face about so when she spoke.
Then the thoughts grew sad and envious. There was the girl named
Helenwho had pinched his umbrellaand the German girl who had
smiled at him pleasantlyand Herr some oneand Aunt some one
and the brother--allall with their hands on the ropes. They had
all passed up that narrowrich staircase at Wickham Place to
some ample roomwhither he could never follow themnot if he
read for ten hours a day. Ohit was no goodthis continual
aspiration. Some are born cultured; the rest had better go in for
whatever comes easy. To see life steadily and to see it whole was
not for the likes of him.

From the darkness beyond the kitchen a voice calledLen?"

You in bed?he askedhis forehead twitching.

All right.

Presently she called him again.

I must clean my boots ready for the morning,he answered.

Presently she called him again.

I rather want to get this chapter done.

What?


He closed his ears against her.

What's that?

All right, Jacky, nothing; I'm reading a book.

What?

What?he answeredcatching her degraded deafness.

Presently she called him again.

Ruskin had visited Torcello by this timeand was ordering his
gondoliers to take him to Murano. It occurred to himas he
glided over the whispering lagoonsthat the power of Nature
could not be shortened by the follynor her beauty altogether
saddened by the misery of such as Leonard.

CHAPTER VII

Oh, Margaret,cried her aunt next morningsuch a most
unfortunate thing has happened. I could not get you alone.

The most unfortunate thing was not very serious. One of the flats
in the ornate block opposite had been taken furnished by the
Wilcox familycoming up, no doubt, in the hope of getting into
London society.That Mrs. Munt should be the first to discover
the misfortune was not remarkablefor she was so interested in
the flatsthat she watched their every mutation with unwearying
care. In theory she despised them--they took away that old-world
look--they cut off the sun--flats house a flashy type of person.
But if the truth had been knownshe found her visits to Wickham
Place twice as amusing since Wickham Mansions had arisenand
would in a couple of days learn more about them than her nieces
in a couple of monthsor her nephew in a couple of years. She
would stroll across and make friends with the portersand
inquire what the rents wereexclaiming for example: "What! a
hundred and twenty for a basement? You'll never get it!" And they
would answer: "One can but trymadam." The passenger liftsthe
arrangement for coals (a great temptation for a dishonest
porter)were all familiar matters to herand perhaps a relief
from the politico-economical-esthetic atmosphere that reigned at
the Schlegels.

Margaret received the information calmlyand did not agree that
it would throw a cloud over poor Helen's life.

Oh, but Helen isn't a girl with no interests,she explained.
She has plenty of other things and other people to think about.
She made a false start with the Wilcoxes, and she'll be as
willing as we are to have nothing more to do with them.

For a clever girl, dear, how very oddly you do talk. Helen'll
HAVE to have something more to do with them, now that they 're
all opposite. She may meet that Paul in the street. She cannot
very well not bow.

Of course she must bow. But look here; let's do the flowers. I
was going to say, the will to be interested in him has died, and
what else matters? I look on that disastrous episode (over which
you were so kind) as the killing of a nerve in Helen. It's dead,
and she'll never be troubled with it again. The only things that


matter are the things that interest one. Bowing, even calling and
leaving cards, even a dinner-party--we can do all those things to
the Wilcoxes, if they find it agreeable; but the other thing, the
one important thing--never again. Don't you see?

Mrs. Munt did not seeand indeed Margaret was making a most
questionable statement--that any emotionany interest once
vividly arousedcan wholly die.

I also have the honour to inform you that the Wilcoxes are bored
with us. I didn't tell you at the time--it might have made you
angry, and you had enough to worry you--but I wrote a letter to
Mrs. W, and apologised for the trouble that Helen had given them.
She didn't answer it.

How very rude!

I wonder. Or was it sensible?

No, Margaret, most rude.

In either case one can class it as reassuring.

Mrs. Munt sighed. She was going back to Swanage on the morrow
just as her nieces were wanting her most. Other regrets crowded
upon her: for instancehow magnificently she would have cut
Charles if she had met him face to face. She had already seen
himgiving an order to the porter--and very common he looked in
a tall hat. But unfortunately his back was turned to herand
though she had cut his backshe could not regard this as a
telling snub.

But you will be careful, won't you?she exhorted.

Oh, certainly. Fiendishly careful.

And Helen must be careful, too.

Careful over what?cried Helenat that moment coming into the
room with her cousin.

Nothingsaid Margaretseized with a momentary awkwardness.

Careful over what, Aunt Juley?

Mrs. Munt assumed a cryptic air. "It is only that a certain
familywhom we know by name but do not mentionas you said
yourself last night after the concerthave taken the flat
opposite from the Mathesons--where the plants are in the
balcony."

Helen began some laughing replyand then disconcerted them all
by blushing. Mrs. Munt was so disconcerted that she exclaimed
What, Helen, you don't mind them coming, do you?and deepened
the blush to crimson.

Of course I don't mind,said Helen a little crossly. "It is
that you and Meg are both so absurdly grave about itwhen
there's nothing to be grave about at all."

I'm not grave,protested Margareta little cross in her turn.

Well, you look grave; doesn't she, Frieda?


I don't feel grave, that's all I can say; you're going quite on
the wrong tack.

No, she does not feel grave,echoed Mrs. Munt. "I can bear
witness to that. She disagrees--"

Hark!interrupted Fraulein Mosebach. "I hear Bruno entering the
hall."

For Herr Liesecke was due at Wickham Place to call for the two
younger girls. He was not entering the hall--in facthe did not
enter it for quite five minutes. But Frieda detected a delicate
situationand said that she and Helen had much better wait for
Bruno down belowand leave Margaret and Mrs. Munt to finish
arranging the flowers. Helen acquiesced. Butas if to prove that
the situation was not delicate reallyshe stopped in the doorway
and said:

Did you say the Mathesons' flat, Aunt Juley? How wonderful you
are! I never knew that the name of the woman who laced too
tightly was Matheson.

Come, Helen,said her cousin.

Go, Helen,said her aunt; and continued to Margaret almost in
the same breath: "Helen cannot deceive me. She does mind."

Oh, hush!breathed Margaret. "Frieda'll hear youand she can
be so tiresome."

She minds,persisted Mrs. Muntmoving thoughtfully about the
roomand pulling the dead chrysanthemums out of the vases. "I
knew she'd mind--and I'm sure a girl ought to! Such an
experience! Such awful coarse-grained people! I know more about
them than you dowhich you forgetand if Charles had taken you
that motor drive--wellyou'd have reached the house a perfect
wreck. OhMargaretyou don't know what you are in for! They're
all bottled up against the drawing-room window. There's Mrs.
Wilcox--I've seen her. There's Paul. There's Eviewho is a minx.
There's Charles--I saw him to start with. And who would an
elderly man with a moustache and a copper-coloured face be?"

Mr. Wilcox, possibly.

I knew it. And there's Mr. Wilcox.

It's a shame to call his face copper colour,complained
Margaret. "He has a remarkably good complexion for a man of his
age."

Mrs. Munttriumphant elsewherecould afford to concede Mr.
Wilcox his complexion. She passed on from it to the plan of
campaign that her nieces should pursue in the future. Margaret
tried to stop her.

Helen did not take the news quite as I expected, but the Wilcox
nerve is dead in her really, so there's no need for plans.

It's as well to be prepared.

No--it's as well not to be prepared.

Why?


Because--

Her thought drew being from the obscure borderland. She could not
explain in so many wordsbut she felt that those who prepare for
all the emergencies of life beforehand may equip themselves at
the expense of joy. It is necessary to prepare for an
examinationor a dinner-partyor a possible fall in the price
of stock: those who attempt human relations must adopt another
methodor fail. "Because I'd sooner risk it was her lame
conclusion.

But imagine the evenings exclaimed her aunt, pointing to the
Mansions with the spout of the watering can. Turn the electric
light on here or thereand it's almost the same room. One
evening they may forget to draw their blinds downand you'll see
them; and the nextyou yoursand they'll see you. Impossible to
sit out on the balconies. Impossible to water the plantsor even
speak. Imagine going out of the front-doorand they come out
opposite at the same moment. And yet you tell me that plans are
unnecessaryand you'd rather risk it."

I hope to risk things all my life.

Oh, Margaret, most dangerous.

But after all,she continued with a smilethere's never any
great risk as long as you have money.

Oh, shame! What a shocking speech!

Money pads the edges of things,said Miss Schlegel. "God help
those who have none."

But this is something quite new!said Mrs. Muntwho collected
new ideas as a squirrel collects nutsand was especially
attracted by those that are portable.

New for me; sensible people have acknowledged it for years. You
and I and the Wilcoxes stand upon money as upon islands. It is so
firm beneath our feet that we forget its very existence. It's
only when we see some one near us tottering that we realise all
that an independent income means. Last night, when we were
talking up here round the fire, I began to think that the very
soul of the world is economic, and that the lowest abyss is not
the absence of love, but the absence of coin.

I call that rather cynical.

So do I. But Helen and I, we ought to remember, when we are
tempted to criticise others, that we are standing on these
islands, and that most of the others are down below the surface
of the sea. The poor cannot always reach those whom they want to
love, and they can hardly ever escape from those whom they love
no longer. We rich can. Imagine the tragedy last June, if Helen
and Paul Wilcox had been poor people, and couldn't invoke
railways and motor-cars to part them.

That's more like Socialism,said Mrs. Munt suspiciously.

Call it what you like. I call it going through life with one's
hand spread open on the table. I'm tired of these rich people who
pretend to be poor, and think it shows a nice mind to ignore the
piles of money that keep their feet above the waves. I stand each
year upon six hundred pounds, and Helen upon the same, and Tibby


will stand upon eight, and as fast as our pounds crumble away
into the sea they are renewed--from the sea, yes, from the sea.
And all our thoughts are the thoughts of six-hundred-pounders,
and all our speeches; and because we don't want to steal
umbrellas ourselves, we forget that below the sea people do want
to steal them and do steal them sometimes, and that what's a joke
up here is down there reality.

There they go--there goes Fraulein Mosebach. Really, for a
German she does dress charmingly. Oh!--

What is it?

Helen was looking up at the Wilcoxes' flat.

Why shouldn't she?

I beg your pardon, I interrupted you. What was it you were
saying about reality?

I had worked round to myself, as usual,answered Margaret in
tones that were suddenly preoccupied.

Do tell me this, at all events. Are you for the rich or for the
poor?

Too difficult. Ask me another. Am I for poverty or for riches?
For riches. Hurrah for riches!

For riches!echoed Mrs. Munthavingas it wereat last
secured her nut.

Yes. For riches. Money for ever!

So am I, and so, I am afraid, are most of my acquaintances at
Swanage, but I am surprised that you agree with us.

Thank you so much, Aunt Juley. While I have talked theories, you
have done the flowers.

Not at all, dear. I wish you would let me help you in more
important things.

Well, would you be very kind? Would you come round with me to
the registry office? There's a housemaid who won't say yes but
doesn't say no.

On their way thither they too looked up at the Wilcoxes' flat.
Evie was in the balconystaring most rudely,according to Mrs.
Munt. Oh yesit was a nuisancethere was no doubt of it. Helen
was proof against a passing encounterbut--Margaret began to
lose confidence. Might it reawake the dying nerve if the family
were living close against her eyes? And Frieda Mosebach was
stopping with them for another fortnightand Frieda was sharp
abominably sharpand quite capable of remarkingYou love one
of the young gentlemen opposite, yes?The remark would be
untruebut of the kind whichif stated often enoughmay become
true; just as the remarkEngland and Germany are bound to
fight,renders war a little more likely each time that it is
madeand is therefore made the more readily by the gutter press
of either nation. Have the private emotions also their gutter
press? Margaret thought soand feared that good Aunt Juley and
Frieda were typical specimens of it. They mightby continual
chatterlead Helen into a repetition of the desires of June.


Into a repetition--they could not do more; they could not lead
her into lasting love. They were--she saw it clearly--Journalism;
her fatherwith all his defects and wrong-headednesshad been
Literatureand had he livedhe would have persuaded his
daughter rightly.

The registry office was holding its morning reception. A string
of carriages filled the street. Miss Schlegel waited her turn
and finally had to be content with an insidious "temporary
being rejected by genuine housemaids on the ground of her
numerous stairs. Her failure depressed her, and though she forgot
the failure, the depression remained. On her way home she again
glanced up at the Wilcoxes' flat, and took the rather matronly
step of speaking about the matter to Helen.

Helenyou must tell me whether this thing worries you."

If what?said Helenwho was washing her hands for lunch.

The Ws' coming.

No, of course not.

Really?

Really.Then she admitted that she was a little worried on Mrs.
Wilcox's account; she implied that Mrs. Wilcox might reach
backward into deep feelingsand be pained by things that never
touched the other members of that clan. "I shan't mind if Paul
points at our house and says'There lives the girl who tried to
catch me.' But she might."

If even that worries you, we could arrange something. There's no
reason we should be near people who displease us or whom we
displease, thanks to our money. We might even go away for a
little.

Well, I am going away. Frieda's just asked me to Stettin, and I
shan't be back till after the New Year. Will that do? Or must I
fly the country altogether? Really, Meg, what has come over you
to make such a fuss?

Oh, I'm getting an old maid, I suppose. I thought I minded
nothing, but really I--I should be bored if you fell in love with
the same man twice and--she cleared her throat--"you did go
redyou knowwhen Aunt Juley attacked you this morning. I
shouldn't have referred to it otherwise."

But Helen's laugh rang trueas she raised a soapy hand to heaven
and swore that nevernowhere and nohowwould she again fall in
love with any of the Wilcox familydown to its remotest
collaterals.

CHAPTER VIII

The friendship between Margaret and Mrs. Wilcoxwhich was to
develop so quickly and with such strange resultsmay perhaps
have had its beginnings at Speyerin the spring. Perhaps the
elder ladyas she gazed at the vulgarruddy cathedraland
listened to the talk of her husband and Helenmay have detected
in the other and less charming of the sisters a deeper sympathy
a sounder judgment. She was capable of detecting such things.


Perhaps it was she who had desired the Miss Schlegels to be
invited to Howards Endand Margaret whose presence she had
particularly desired. All this is speculation; Mrs. Wilcox has
left few clear indications behind her. It is certain that she
came to call at Wickham Place a fortnight laterthe very day
that Helen was going with her cousin to Stettin.

Helen!cried Fraulein Mosebach in awestruck tones (she was now
in her cousin's confidence)--"his mother has forgiven you!" And
thenremembering that in England the new-comer ought not to call
before she is called uponshe changed her tone from awe to
disapprovaland opined that Mrs. Wilcox was keine Dame.

Bother the whole family!snapped Margaret. "Helenstop
giggling and pirouettingand go and finish your packing. Why
can't the woman leave us alone?"

I don't know what I shall do with Meg,Helen retorted
collapsing upon the stairs. She's got Wilcox and Box upon the
brain. MegMegI don't love the young gentleman; I don't love
the young gentlemanMegMeg. Can a body speak plainer?"

Most certainly her love has died,asserted Fraulein Mosebach.

Most certainly it has, Frieda, but that will not prevent me from
being bored with the Wilcoxes if I return the call.

Then Helen simulated tearsand Fraulein Mosebachwho thought
her extremely amusingdid the same. "Ohboo hoo! boo hoo hoo!
Meg's going to return the calland I can't. 'Cos why? 'Cos I'm
going to German-eye."

If you are going to Germany, go and pack; if you aren't, go and
call on the Wilcoxes instead of me.

But, Meg, Meg, I don't love the young gentleman; I don't love
the young--O lud, who's that coming down the stairs? I vow 'tis
my brother. O crimini!

A male--even such a male as Tibby--was enough to stop the
foolery. The barrier of sexthough decreasing among the
civilisedis still highand higher on the side of women. Helen
could tell her sister alland her cousin much about Paul; she
told her brother nothing. It was not prudishnessfor she now
spoke of "the Wilcox ideal" with laughterand even with a
growing brutality. Nor was it precautionfor Tibby seldom
repeated any news that did not concern himself. It was rather the
feeling that she betrayed a secret into the camp of menand
thathowever trivial it was on this side of the barrierit
would become important on that. So she stoppedor rather began
to fool on other subjectsuntil her long-suffering relatives
drove her upstairs. Fraulein Mosebach followed herbut lingered
to say heavily over the banisters to MargaretIt is all right-she
does not love the young man--he has not been worthy of her.

Yes, I know; thanks very much.

I thought I did right to tell you.

Ever so many thanks.

What's that?asked Tibby. No one told himand he proceeded
into the dining-roomto eat plums.


That evening Margaret took decisive action. The house was very
quietand the fog--we are in November now--pressed against the
windows like an excluded ghost. Frieda and Helen and all their
luggages had gone. Tibbywho was not feeling welllay stretched
on a sofa by the fire. Margaret sat by himthinking. Her mind
darted from impulse to impulseand finally marshalled them all
in review. The practical personwho knows what he wants at once
and generally knows nothing elsewill accuse her of indecision.
But this was the way her mind worked. And when she did actno
one could accuse her of indecision then. She hit out as lustily
as if she had not considered the matter at all. The letter that
she wrote Mrs. Wilcox glowed with the native hue of resolution.
The pale cast of thought was with her a breath rather than a
tarnisha breath that leaves the colours all the more vivid when
it has been wiped away.

DEAR MRS. WILCOX,

I have to write something discourteous. It would be better if we
did not meet. Both my sister and my aunt have given displeasure
to your familyandin my sister's casethe grounds for
displeasure might recur. So far as I know she no longer occupies
her thoughts with your son. But it would not be faireither to
her or to youif they metand it is therefore right that our
acquaintancewhich began so pleasantlyshould end.

I fear that you will not agree with this; indeed, I know that
you will not, since you have been good enough to call on us. It
is only an instinct on my part, and no doubt the instinct is
wrong. My sister would, undoubtedly, say that it is wrong. I
write without her knowledge, and I hope that you will not
associate her with my discourtesy.

Believe me
Yours truly,
M. J. SCHLEGEL."

Margaret sent this letter round by the post. Next morning she
received the following reply by hand:

DEAR MISS SCHLEGEL,

You should not have written me such a letter. I called to tell
you that Paul has gone abroad.

RUTH WILCOX.

Margaret's cheeks burnt. She could not finish her breakfast. She
was on fire with shame. Helen had told her that the youth was
leaving Englandbut other things had seemed more importantand
she had forgotten. All her absurd anxieties fell to the ground
and in their place arose the certainty that she had been rude to
Mrs. Wilcox. Rudeness affected Margaret like a bitter taste in
the mouth. It poisoned life. At times it is necessarybut woe to
those who employ it without due need. She flung on a hat and
shawljust like a poor womanand plunged into the fogwhich
still continued. Her lips were compressedthe letter remained in
her handand in this state she crossed the streetentered the
marble vestibule of the flatseluded the conciergesand ran up
the stairs till she reached the second floor. She sent in her
name
and to her surprise was shown straight into Mrs. Wilcox's
bedroom.


Oh, Mrs. Wilcox, I have made the baddest blunder. I am more,
more ashamed and sorry than I can say.

Mrs. Wilcox bowed gravely. She was offendedand did not pretend
to the contrary. She was sitting up in bedwriting letters on an
invalid table that spanned her knees. A breakfast tray was on
another table beside her. The light of the firethe light from
the windowand the light of a candle-lampwhich threw a
quivering halo round her hands combined to create a strange
atmosphere of dissolution.

I knew he was going to India in November, but I forgot.

He sailed on the 17th for Nigeria, in Africa.

I knew--I know. I have been too absurd all through. I am very
much ashamed.

Mrs. Wilcox did not answer.

I am more sorry than I can say, and I hope that you will forgive
me.

It doesn't matter, Miss Schlegel. It is good of you to have come
round so promptly.

It does matter,cried Margaret. "I have been rude to you; and
my sister is not even at homeso there was not even that
excuse."

Indeed?

She has just gone to Germany.

She gone as well,murmured the other. "Yescertainlyit is
quite safe--safeabsolutelynow."

You've been worrying too!exclaimed Margaretgetting more and
more excitedand taking a chair without invitation. "How
perfectly extraordinary! I can see that you have. You felt as I
do; Helen mustn't meet him again."

I did think it best.

Now why?

That's a most difficult question,said Mrs. Wilcoxsmiling
and a little losing her expression of annoyance. "I think you put
it best in your letter--it was an instinctwhich may be wrong."

It wasn't that your son still--

Oh no; he often--my Paul is very young, you see.

Then what was it?

She repeated: "An instinct which may be wrong."

In other words, they belong to types that can fall in love, but
couldn't live together. That's dreadfully probable. I'm afraid
that in nine cases out of ten Nature pulls one way and human
nature another.


These are indeed 'other words,'said Mrs. Wilcox. "I had
nothing so coherent in my head. I was merely alarmed when I knew
that my boy cared for your sister."

Ah, I have always been wanting to ask you. How DID you know?
Helen was so surprised when our aunt drove up, and you stepped
forward and arranged things. Did Paul tell you?

There is nothing to be gained by discussing that,said Mrs.
Wilcox after a moment's pause.

Mrs. Wilcox, were you very angry with us last June? I wrote you
a letter and you didn't answer it.

I was certainly against taking Mrs. Matheson's flat. I knew it
was opposite your house.

But it's all right now?

I think so.

You only think? You aren't sure? I do love these little muddles
tidied up?

Oh yes, I'm sure,said Mrs. Wilcoxmoving with uneasiness
beneath the clothes. "I always sound uncertain over things. It is
my way of speaking."

That's all right, and I'm sure, too.

Here the maid came in to remove the breakfast-tray. They were
interruptedand when they resumed conversation it was on more
normal lines.

I must say good-bye now--you will be getting up.

No--please stop a little longer--I am taking a day in bed. Now
and then I do.

I thought of you as one of the early risers.

At Howards End--yes; there is nothing to get up for in London.

Nothing to get up for?cried the scandalised Margaret. "When
there are all the autumn exhibitionsand Ysaye playing in the
afternoon! Not to mention people."

The truth is, I am a little tired. First came the wedding, and
then Paul went off, and, instead of resting yesterday, I paid a
round of calls.

A wedding?

Yes; Charles, my elder son, is married.

Indeed!

We took the flat chiefly on that account, and also that Paul
could get his African outfit. The flat belongs to a cousin of my
husband's, and she most kindly offered it to us. So before the
day came we were able to make the acquaintance of Dolly's people,
which we had not yet done.

Margaret asked who Dolly's people were.


Fussell. The father is in the Indian army--retired; the brother
is in the army. The mother is dead.

So perhaps these were the "chinless sunburnt men" whom Helen had
espied one afternoon through the window. Margaret felt mildly
interested in the fortunes of the Wilcox family. She had acquired
the habit on Helen's accountand it still clung to her. She
asked for more information about Miss Dolly Fussell that wasand
was given it in evenunemotional tones. Mrs. Wilcox's voice
though sweet and compellinghad little range of expression. It
suggested that picturesconcertsand people are all of small
and equal value. Only once had it quickened--when speaking of
Howards End.

Charles and Albert Fussell have known one another some time.
They belong to the same club, and are both devoted to golf. Dolly
plays golf too, though I believe not so well; and they first met
in a mixed foursome. We all like her, and are very much pleased.
They were married on the 11th, a few days before Paul sailed.
Charles was very anxious to have his brother as best man, so he
made a great point of having it on the 11th. The Fussells would
have preferred it after Christmas, but they were very nice about
it. There is Dolly's photograph--in that double frame.

Are you quite certain that I'm not interrupting, Mrs. Wilcox?

Yes, quite.

Then I will stay. I'm enjoying this.

Dolly's photograph was now examined. It was signed "For dear
Mims which Mrs. Wilcox interpreted as the name she and Charles
had settled that she should call me." Dolly looked sillyand had
one of those triangular faces that so often prove attractive to a
robust man. She was very pretty. From her Margaret passed to
Charleswhose features prevailed opposite. She speculated on the
forces that had drawn the two together till God parted them. She
found time to hope that they would be happy.

They have gone to Naples for their honeymoon.

Lucky people!

I can hardly imagine Charles in Italy.

Doesn't he care for travelling?

He likes travel, but he does see through foreigners so. What he
enjoys most is a motor tour in England, and I think that would
have carried the day if the weather had not been so abominable.
His father gave him a car for a wedding present, which for the
present is being stored at Howards End.

I suppose you have a garage there?

Yes. My husband built a little one only last month, to the west
of the house, not far from the wych-elm, in what used to be the
paddock for the pony.

The last words had an indescribable ring about them.

Where's the pony gone?asked Margaret after a pause.


The pony? Oh, dead, ever so long ago.

The wych-elm I remember. Helen spoke of it as a very splendid
tree.

It is the finest wych-elm in Hertfordshire. Did your sister tell
you about the teeth?

No.

Oh, it might interest you. There are pigs' teeth stuck into the
trunk, about four feet from the ground. The country people put
them in long ago, and they think that if they chew a piece of the
bark, it will cure the toothache. The teeth are almost grown over
now, and no one comes to the tree.

I should. I love folklore and all festering superstitions.

Do you think that the tree really did cure toothache, if one
believed in it?

Of course it did. It would cure anything--once.

Certainly I remember cases--you see I lived at Howards End long,
long before Mr. Wilcox knew it. I was born there.

The conversation again shifted. At the time it seemed little more
than aimless chatter. She was interested when her hostess
explained that Howards End was her own property. She was bored
when too minute an account was given of the Fussell familyof
the anxieties of Charles concerning Naplesof the movements of
Mr. Wilcox and Eviewho were motoring in Yorkshire. Margaret
could not bear being bored. She grew inattentiveplayed with the
photograph framedropped itsmashed Dolly's glassapologised
was pardonedcut her finger thereonwas pitiedand finally
said she must be going--there was all the housekeeping to doand
she had to interview Tibby's riding-master.

Then the curious note was struck again.

Good-bye, Miss Schlegel, good-bye. Thank you for coming. You
have cheered me up.

I'm so glad!

I--I wonder whether you ever think about yourself?

I think of nothing else,said Margaretblushingbut letting
her hand remain in that of the invalid.

I wonder. I wondered at Heidelberg.

I'M sure!

I almost think--

Yes?asked Margaretfor there was a long pause--a pause that
was somehow akin to the flicker of the firethe quiver of the
reading-lamp upon their handsthe white blur from the window; a
pause of shifting and eternal shadows.

I almost think you forget you're a girl.

Margaret was startled and a little annoyed. "I'm twenty-nine


she remarked. That's not so wildly girlish."

Mrs. Wilcox smiled.

What makes you say that? Do you mean that I have been gauche and
rude?

A shake of the head. "I only meant that I am fifty-oneand that
to me both of you-- Read it all in some book or other; I cannot
put things clearly."

Oh, I've got it--inexperience. I'm no better than Helen, you
mean, and yet I presume to advise her.

Yes. You have got it. Inexperience is the word.

Inexperience,repeated Margaretin serious yet buoyant tones.

Of course, I have everything to learn--absolutely everything
--just as much as Helen. Life's very difficult and full of
surprises. At all events, I've got as far as that. To be humble
and kind, to go straight ahead, to love people rather than pity
them, to remember the submerged--well, one can't do all these
things at once, worse luck, because they're so contradictory.
It's then that proportion comes in--to live by proportion. Don't
BEGIN with proportion. Only prigs do that. Let proportion come in
as a last resource, when the better things have failed, and a
deadlock-- Gracious me, I've started preaching!

Indeed, you put the difficulties of life splendidly,said Mrs.
Wilcoxwithdrawing her hand into the deeper shadows. "It is just
what I should have liked to say about them myself."

CHAPTER IX

Mrs. Wilcox cannot be accused of giving Margaret much information
about life. And Margareton the other handhas made a fair show
of modestyand has pretended to an inexperience that she
certainly did not feel. She had kept house for over ten years;
she had entertainedalmost with distinction; she had brought up
a charming sisterand was bringing up a brother. Surelyif
experience is attainableshe had attained it. Yet the little
luncheon-party that she gave in Mrs. Wilcox's honour was not a
success. The new friend did not blend with the "one or two
delightful people" who had been asked to meet herand the
atmosphere was one of polite bewilderment. Her tastes were
simpleher knowledge of culture slightand she was not
interested in the New English Art Clubnor in the dividing-line
between Journalism and Literaturewhich was started as a
conversational hare. The delightful people darted after it with
cries of joyMargaret leading themand not till the meal was
half over did they realise that the principal guest had taken no
part in the chase. There was no common topic. Mrs. Wilcoxwhose
life had been spent in the service of husband and sonshad
little to say to strangers who had never shared itand whose age
was half her own. Clever talk alarmed herand withered her
delicate imaginings; it was the social counterpart of a motorcar
all jerksand she was a wisp of haya flower. Twice she
deplored the weathertwice criticised the train service on the
Great Northern Railway. They vigorously assentedand rushed on
and when she inquired whether there was any news of Helenher
hostess was toomuch occupied in placing Rothenstein to answer.


The question was repeated: "I hope that your sister is safe in
Germany by now." Margaret checked herself and saidYes, thank
you; I heard on Tuesday.But the demon of vociferation was in
herand the nextmoment she was off again.

Only on Tuesday, for they live right away at Stettin. Did you
ever know any one living at Stettin?

Never,said Mrs. Wilcox gravelywhile her neighboura young
man low down in the Education Officebegan to discuss what
people who lived at Stettin ought to look like. Was there such a
thing as Stettininity? Margaret swept on.

People at Stettin drop things into boats out of overhanging
warehouses. At least, our cousins do, but aren't particularly
rich. The town isn't interesting, except for a clock that rolls
its eyes, and the view of the Oder, which truly is something
special. Oh, Mrs. Wilcox, you would love the Oder! The river, or
rather rivers--there seem to be dozens of them--are intense blue,
and the plain they run through an intensest green.

Indeed! That sounds like a most beautiful view, Miss Schlegel.

So I say, but Helen, who will muddle things, says no, it's like
music. The course of the Oder is to be like music. It's obliged
to remind her of a symphonic poem. The part by the landing-stage
is in B minor, if I remember rightly, but lower down things get
extremely mixed. There is a slodgy theme in several keys at once,
meaning mud-banks, and another for the navigable canal, and the
exit into the Baltic is in C sharp major, pianissimo.

What do the overhanging warehouses make of that?asked the man
laughing.

They make a great deal of it,replied Margaretunexpectedly
rushing off on a new track. "I think it's affectation to compare
the Oder to musicand so do youbut the overhanging warehouses
of Stettin take beauty seriouslywhich we don'tand the average
Englishman doesn'tand despises all who do. Now don't say
'Germans have no taste' or I shall scream. They haven't. But-but--
such a tremendous but!--they take poetry seriously. They do
take poetry seriously."

Is anything gained by that?

Yes, yes. The German is always on the lookout for beauty. He may
miss it through stupidity, or misinterpret it, but he is always
asking beauty to enter his life, and I believe that in the end it
will come. At Heidelberg I met a fat veterinary surgeon whose
voice broke with sobs as he repeated some mawkish poetry. So easy
for me to laugh--I, who never repeat poetry, good or bad, and
cannot remember one fragment of verse to thrill myself with. My
blood boils--well, I 'm half German, so put it down to
patriotism--when I listen to the tasteful contempt of the average
islander for things Teutonic, whether they're Bocklin or my
veterinary surgeon. 'Oh, Bocklin,' they say; 'he strains after
beauty, he peoples Nature with gods too consciously.' Of course
Bocklin strains, because he wants something--beauty and all the
other intangible gifts that are floating about the world. So his
landscapes don't come off, and Leader's do.

I am not sure that I agree. Do you?said heturning to Mrs.
Wilcox.


She replied: "I think Miss Schlegel puts everything splendidly;"
and a chill fell on the conversation.

Oh, Mrs. Wilcox, say something nicer than that. It's such a snub
to be told you put things splendidly.

I do not mean it as a snub. Your last speech interested me so
much. Generally people do not seem quite to like Germany. I have
long wanted to hear what is said on the other side.

The other side? Then you do disagree. Oh, good! Give us your
side.

I have no side. But my husband--her voice softenedthe chill
increased--"has very little faith in the Continentand our
children have all taken after him."

On what grounds? Do they feel that the Continent is in bad
form?

Mrs. Wilcox had no idea; she paid little attention to grounds.
She was not intellectualnor even alertand it was odd that
all the sameshe should give the idea of greatness. Margaret
zigzagging with her friends over Thought and Artwas conscious
of a personality that transcended their own and dwarfed their
activities. There was no bitterness in Mrs. Wilcox; there was not
even criticism; she was lovableand no ungracious or
uncharitable word had passed her lips. Yet she and daily life
were out of focus; one or the other must show blurred. And at
lunch she seemed more out of focus than usualand nearer the
line that divides daily life from a life that may be of greater
importance.

You will admit, though, that the Continent--it seems silly to
speak of 'the Continent,' but really it is all more like itself
than any part of it is like England. England is unique. Do have
another jelly first. I was going to say that the Continent, for
good or for evil, is interested in ideas. Its Literature and Art
have what one might call the kink of the unseen about them, and
this persists even through decadence and affectation. There is
more liberty of action in England, but for liberty of thought go
to bureaucratic Prussia. People will there discuss with humilit y
vital questions that we here think ourselves too good to touch
with tongs.

I do not want to go to Prussia,said Mrs. Wilcox "not even to
see that interesting view that you were describing. And for
discussing with humility I am too old. We never discuss anything
at Howards End."

Then you ought to!said Margaret. "Discussion keeps a house
alive. It cannot stand by bricks and mortar alone."

It cannot stand without them,said Mrs. Wilcoxunexpectedly
catching on to the thoughtand rousingfor the first and last
timea faint hope in the breasts of the delightful people. "It
cannot stand without themand I sometimes think--But I cannot
expect your generation to agreefor even my daughter disagrees
with me here."

Never mind us or her. Do say!

I sometimes think that it is wiser to leave action and
discussion to men.


There was a little silence.

One admits that the arguments against the suffrage ARE
extraordinarily strong,said a girl oppositeleaning forward
and crumbling her bread.

Are they? I never follow any arguments. I am only too thankful
not to have a vote myself.

We didn't mean the vote, though, did we?supplied Margaret.
Aren't we differing on something much widerMrs. Wilcox?
Whether women are to remain what they have been since the dawn of
history; or whethersince men have moved forward so farthey
too may move forward a little now. I say they may. I would even
admit a biological change."

I don't know, I don't know.

I must be getting back to my overhanging warehouse,said the
man. "They've turned disgracefully strict."

Mrs. Wilcox also rose.

Oh, but come upstairs for a little. Miss Quested plays. Do you
like MacDowell? Do you mind his only having two noises? If you
must really go, I'll see you out. Won't you even have coffee?

They left the dining-room closing the door behind themand as
Mrs. Wilcox buttoned up her jacketshe said: "What an
interesting life you all lead in London!"

No, we don't,said Margaretwith a sudden revulsion. "We lead
the lives of gibbering monkeys. Mrs. Wilcox--really-- We have
something quiet and stable at the bottom. We really have. All my
friends have. Don't pretend you enjoyed lunchfor you loathed
itbut forgive me by coming againaloneor by asking me to
you."

I am used to young people,said Mrs. Wilcoxand with each word
she spoke the outlines of known things grew dim. "I hear a great
deal of chatter at homefor welike youentertain a great
deal. With us it is more sport and politicsbut-- I enjoyed my
lunch very muchMiss Schlegeldearand am not pretendingand
only wish I could have joined in more. For one thingI'm not
particularly well just to-day. For anotheryou younger people
move so quickly that it dazes me. Charles is the sameDolly the
same. But we are all in the same boatold and young. I never
forget that."

They were silent for a moment. Thenwith a newborn emotionthey
shook hands. The conversation ceased suddenly when Margaret
re-entered the dining-room; her friends had been talking over her
new friendand had dismissed her as uninteresting.

CHAPTER X

Several days passed.

Was Mrs. Wilcox one of the unsatisfactory people--there are many
of them--who dangle intimacy and then withdraw it? They evoke our
interests and affectionsand keep the life of the spirit


dawdling round them. Then they withdraw. When physical passion is
involvedthere is a definite name for such behaviour--flirting-and
if carried far enough it is punishable by law. But no law-not
public opinion even--punishes those who coquette with
friendshipthough the dull ache that they inflictthe sense of
misdirected effort and exhaustionmay be as intolerable. Was she
one of these?

Margaret feared so at firstforwith a Londoner's impatience
she wanted everything to be settled up immediately. She
mistrusted the periods of quiet that are essential to true
growth. Desiring to book Mrs. Wilcox as a friendshe pressed on
the ceremonypencilas it werein handpressing the more
because the rest of the family were awayand the opportunity
seemed favourable. But the elder woman would not be hurried. She
refused to fit in with the Wickham Place setor to reopen
discussion of Helen and Paulwhom Margaret would have utilised
as a short-cut. She took her timeor perhaps let time take her
and when the crisis did come all was ready.

The crisis opened with a message: Would Miss Schlegel come
shopping? Christmas was nearingand Mrs. Wilcox felt behindhand
with the presents. She had taken some more days in bedand must
make up for lost time. Margaret acceptedand at eleven o'clock
one cheerless morning they started out in a brougham.

First of all,began Margaretwe must make a list and tick off
the people's names. My aunt always does, and this fog may thicken
up any moment. Have you any ideas?

I thought we would go to Harrods or the Haymarket Stores,said
Mrs. Wilcox rather hopelessly. "Everything is sure to be there. I
am not a good shopper. The din is so confusingand your aunt is
quite right--one ought to make a list. Take my notebookthen
and write your own name at the top of the page.

Oh, hooray!said Margaretwriting it. "How very kind of you to
start with me!" But she did not want to receive anything
expensive. Their acquaintance was singular rather than intimate
and she divined that the Wilcox clan would resent any expenditure
on outsiders; the more compact families do. She did not want to
be thought a second Helenwho would snatch presents since she
could not snatch young mennor to be exposed like a second Aunt
Juleyto the insults of Charles. A certain austerity of
demeanour was bestand she added: "I don't really want a
Yuletide giftthough. In factI'd rather not."

Why?

Because I've odd ideas about Christmas. Because I have all that
money can buy. I want more people, but no more things.

I should like to give you something worth your acquaintance,
Miss Schlegel, in memory of your kindness to me during my lonely
fortnight. It has so happened that I have been left alone, and
you have stopped me from brooding. I am too apt to brood.

If that is so,said Margaretif I have happened to be of use
to you, which I didn't know, you cannot pay me back with anything
tangible.

I suppose not, but one would like to. Perhaps I shall think of
something as we go about.


Her name remained at the head of the listbut nothing was
written opposite it. They drove from shop to shop. The air was
whiteand when they alighted it tasted like cold pennies. At
times they passed through a clot of grey. Mrs. Wilcox's vitality
was low that morningand it was Margaret who decided on a horse
for this little girla golliwog for thatfor the rector's wife
a copper warming-tray. "We always give the servants money." "Yes
do youyesmuch easier replied Margaret but felt the
grotesque impact of the unseen upon the seen, and saw issuing
from a forgotten manger at Bethlehem this torrent of coins and
toys. Vulgarity reigned. Public-houses, besides their usual
exhortation against temperance reform, invited men to Join our
Christmas goose club"--one bottle of ginetc.or twoaccording
to subscription. A poster of a woman in tights heralded the
Christmas pantomimeand little red devilswho had come in again
that yearwere prevalent upon the Christmas-cards. Margaret was
no morbid idealist. She did not wish this spate of business and
self-advertisement checked. It was only the occasion of it that
struck her with amazement annually. How many of these vacillating
shoppers and tired shop-assistants realised that it was a divine
event that drew them together? She realised itthough standing
outside in the matter. She was not a Christian in the accepted
sense; she did not believe that God had ever worked among us as a
young artisan. These peopleor most of thembelieved itand if
pressedwould affirm it in words. But the visible signs of their
belief were Regent Street or Drury Lanea little mud displaced
a little money spenta little food cookedeatenand forgotten.
Inadequate. But in public who shall express the unseen
adequately? It is private life that holds out the mirror to
infinity; personal intercourseand that alonethat ever hints
at a personality beyond our daily vision.

No, I do like Christmas on the whole,she announced. "In its
clumsy wayit does approach Peace and Goodwill. But ohit is
clumsier every year."

Is it? I am only used to country Christmases.

We are usually in London, and play the game with vigour--carols
at the Abbey, clumsy midday meal, clumsy dinner for the maids,
followed by Christmas-tree and dancing of poor children, with
songs from Helen. The drawing-room does very well for that. We
put the tree in the powder-closet, and draw a curtain when the
candles are lighted, and with the looking-glass behind it looks
quite pretty. I wish we might have a powder-closet in our next
house. Of course, the tree has to be very small, and the presents
don't hang on it. No; the presents reside in a sort of rocky
landscape made of crumpled brown paper.

You spoke of your 'next house,' Miss Schlegel. Then are you
leaving Wickham Place?

Yes, in two or three years, when the lease expires. We must.

Have you been there long?

All our lives.

You will be very sorry to leave it.

I suppose so. We scarcely realise it yet. My father--She broke
offfor they had reached the stationery department of the
Haymarket Storesand Mrs. Wilcox wanted to order some private
greeting cards.


If possible, something distinctive,she sighed. At the counter
she found a friendbent on the same errandand conversed with
her insipidlywasting much time. "My husband and our daughter
are motoring." "Berthatoo? Ohfancywhat a coincidence!"

Margaretthough not practicalcould shine in such company as
this. While they talkedshe went through a volume of specimen
cardsand submitted one for Mrs. Wilcox's inspection. Mrs.
Wilcox was delighted--so originalwords so sweet; she would
order a hundred like thatand could never be sufficiently
grateful. Thenjust as the assistant was booking the ordershe
said: "Do you knowI'll wait. On second thoughtsI'll wait.
There's plenty of time stillisn't thereand I shall be able to
get Evie's opinion."

They returned to the carriage by devious paths; when they were
inshe saidBut couldn't you get it renewed?

I beg your pardon?asked Margaret.

The lease, I mean.

Oh, the lease! Have you been thinking of that all the time? How
very kind of you!

Surely something could be done.

No; values have risen too enormously. They mean to pull down
Wickham Place, and build flats like yours.

But how horrible!

Landlords are horrible.

Then she said vehemently: "It is monstrousMiss Schlegel; it
isn't right. I had no idea that this was hanging over you. I do
pity you from the bottom of my heart. To be parted from your
houseyour father's house--it oughtn't to be allowed. It is
worse than dying. I would rather die than-- Ohpoor girls! Can
what they call civilisation be rightif people mayn't die in the
room where they were born? My dearI am so sorry."

Margaret did not know what to say. Mrs. Wilcox had been overtired
by the shoppingand was inclined to hysteria.

Howards End was nearly pulled down once. It would have killed
me.

I--Howards End must be a very different house to ours. We are
fond of ours, but there is nothing distinctive about it. As you
saw, it is an ordinary London house. We shall easily find
another.

So you think.

Again my lack of experience, I suppose!said Margareteasing
away from the subject. "I can't say anything when you take up
that lineMrs. Wilcox. I wish I could see myself as you see me-foreshortened
into a backfisch. Quite the ingenue. Very charming
--wonderfully well read for my agebut incapable--"

Mrs. Wilcox would not be deterred. "Come down with me to Howards
End now she said, more vehemently than ever. I want you to see


it. You have never seen it. I want to hear what you say about it
for you do put things so wonderfully."

Margaret glanced at the pitiless air and then at the tired face
of her companion. "Later on I should love it she continued,
but it's hardly the weather for such an expeditionand we ought
to start when we're fresh. Isn't the house shut uptoo?"

She received no answer. Mrs. Wilcox appeared to be annoyed.

Might I come some other day?

Mrs. Wilcox bent forward and tapped the glass. "Back to Wickham
Placeplease!" was her order to the coachman. Margaret had been
snubbed.

A thousand thanks, Miss Schlegel, for all your help.

Not at all.

It is such a comfort to get the presents off my mind--the
Christmas-cards especially. I do admire your choice.

It was her turn to receive no answer. In her turn Margaret became
annoyed.

My husband and Evie will be back the day after to-morrow. That
is why I dragged you out shopping to-day. I stayed in town
chiefly to shop, but got through nothing, and now he writes that
they must cut their tour short, the weather is so bad, and the
police-traps have been so bad--nearly as bad as in Surrey. Ours
is such a careful chauffeur, and my husband feels it particularly
hard that they should be treated like road-hogs.

Why?

Well, naturally he--he isn't a road-hog.

He was exceeding the speed-limit, I conclude. He must expect to
suffer with the lower animals.

Mrs. Wilcox was silenced. In growing discomfort they drove
homewards. The city seemed Satanicthe narrower streets
oppressing like the galleries of a mine.

No harm was done by the fog to tradefor it lay highand the
lighted windows of the shops were thronged with customers. It was
rather a darkening of the spirit which fell back upon itselfto
find a more grievous darkness within. Margaret nearly spoke a
dozen timesbut something throttled her. She felt petty and
awkwardand her meditations on Christmas grew more cynical.
Peace? It may bring other giftsbut is there a single Londoner
to whom Christmas is peaceful? The craving for excitement and for
elaboration has ruined that blessing. Goodwill? Had she seen any
example of it in the hordes of purchasers? Or in herself? She had
failed to respond to this invitation merely because it was a
little queer and imaginative--shewhose birthright it was to
nourish imagination! Better to have acceptedto have tired
themselves a little by the journeythan coldly to replyMight
I come some other day?Her cynicism left her. There would be no
other day. This shadowy woman would never ask her again.

They parted at the Mansions. Mrs. Wilcox went in after due
civilitiesand Margaret watched the talllonely figure sweep up


the hall to the lift. As the glass doors closed on it she had the
sense of an imprisonment The beautiful head disappeared first
still buried in the muff; the long trailing skirt followed. A
woman of undefinable rarity was going up heavenwardlike a
specimen in a bottle. And into what a heaven--a vault as of hell
sooty blackfrom which soot descended!

At lunch her brotherseeing her inclined for silence insisted on
talking. Tibby was not ill-naturedbut from babyhood something
drove him to do the unwelcome and the unexpected. Now he gave her
a long account of the day-school that he sometimes patronised.
The account was interestingand she had often pressed him for it
beforebut she could not attend nowfor her mind was focussed
on the invisible. She discerned that Mrs. Wilcoxthough a loving
wife and motherhad only one passion in life--her house--and
that the moment was solemn when she invited a friend to share
this passion with her. To answer "another day" was to answer as a
fool. "Another day" will do for brick and mortarbut not for the
Holy of Holies into which Howards End had been transfigured. Her
own curiosity was slight. She had heard more than enough about it
in the summer. The nine windowsthe vineand the wych-elm had
no pleasant connections for herand she would have preferred to
spend the afternoon at a concert. But imagination triumphed.
While her brother held forth she determined to goat whatever
costand to compel Mrs. Wilcox to gotoo. When lunch was over
she stepped over to the flats.

Mrs. Wilcox had just gone away for the night.

Margaret said that it was of no consequencehurried downstairs
and took a hansom to King's Cross. She was convinced that the
escapade was importantthough it would have puzzled her to say
why. There was question of imprisonment and escapeand though
she did not know the time of the trainshe strained her eyes for
St. Pancras's clock.

Then the clock of King's Cross swung into sighta second moon in
that infernal skyand her cab drew up at the station. There was
a train for Hilton in five minutes. She took a ticketasking in
her agitation for a single. As she did soa grave and happy
voice saluted her and thanked her.

I will come if I still may,said Margaretlaughing nervously.

You are coming to sleep, dear, too. It is in the morning that my
house is most beautiful. You are coming to stop. I cannot show
you my meadow properly except at sunrise. These fogs--she
pointed at the station roof--"never spread far. I dare say they
are sitting in the sun in Hertfordshireand you will never
repent joining them."

I shall never repent joining you.

It is the same.

They began the walk up the long platform. Far at its end stood
the trainbreasting the darkness without. They never reached it.
Before imagination could triumphthere were cries of "Mother!
mother!" and a heavy-browed girl darted out of the cloak-room and
seized Mrs. Wilcox by the arm.

Evie!she gasped--"Eviemy pet--"

The girl calledFather! I say! look who's here.


Evie, dearest girl, why aren't you in Yorkshire?

No--motor smash--changed plans--father's coming.

Why, Ruth!cried Mr. Wilcoxjoining them. "that in the name of
all that's wonderful are you doing hereRuth?"

Mrs. Wilcox had recovered herself.

Oh, Henry dear!--here's a lovely surprise--but let me introduce
--but I think you know Miss Schlegel.

Oh yes,he repliednot greatly interested. "But how's
yourselfRuth?"

Fit as a fiddle,she answered gaily.

So are we, and so was our car, which ran A1 as far as Ripon, but
there a wretched horse and cart which a fool of a driver--

Miss Schlegel, our little outing must be for another day.

I was saying that this fool of a driver, as the policeman
himself admits.

Another day, Mrs. Wilcox. Of course.

--But as we've insured against third party risks, it won't so
much matter--

--Cart and car being practically at right angles--

The voices of the happy family rose high. Margaret was left
alone. No one wanted her. Mrs. Wilcox walked out of King's Cross
between her husband and her daughterlistening to both of them.

CHAPTER XI

The funeral was over. The carriages had rolled away through the
soft mudand only the poor remained. They approached to the
newly-dug shaft and looked their last at the coffinnow almost
hidden beneath the spadefuls of clay. It was their moment. Most
of them were women from the dead woman's districtto whom black
garments had been served out by Mr. Wilcox's orders. Pure
curiosity had brought others. They thrilled with the excitement
of a deathand of a rapid deathand stood in groups or moved
between the graveslike drops of ink. The son of one of thema
wood-cutterwas perched high above their headspollarding one
of the churchyard elms. From where he sat he could see the
village of Hiltonstrung upon the North Roadwith its accreting
suburbs; the sunset beyondscarlet and orangewinking at him
beneath brows of grey; the church; the plantations; and behind
him an unspoilt country of fields and farms. But hetoowas
rolling the event luxuriously in his mouth. He tried to tell his
mother down below all that he had felt when he saw the coffin
approaching: how he could not leave his workand yet did not
like to go on with it; how he had almost slipped out of the tree
he was so upset; the rooks had cawedand no wonder--it was as if
rooks knew too. His mother claimed the prophetic power herself-she
had seen a strange look about Mrs. Wilcox for some time.
London had done the mischiefsaid others. She had been a kind


lady; her grandmother had been kindtoo--a plainer personbut
very kind. Ahthe old sort was dying out! Mr. Wilcoxhe was a
kind gentleman. They advanced to the topic again and again
dullybut with exaltation. The funeral of a rich person was to
them what the funeral of Alcestis or Ophelia is to the educated.
It was Art; though remote from lifeit enhanced life's values
and they witnessed it avidly.

The grave-diggerswho had kept up an undercurrent of disapproval
--they disliked Charles; it was not a moment to speak of such
thingsbut they did not like Charles Wilcox--the grave-diggers
finished their work and piled up the wreaths and crosses above
it. The sun set over Hilton; the grey brows of the evening
flushed a littleand were cleft with one scarlet frown.
Chattering sadly to each otherthe mourners passed through the
lych-gate and traversed the chestnut avenues that led down to the
village. The young wood-cutter stayed a little longerpoised
above the silence and swaying rhythmically. At last the bough
fell beneath his saw. With a grunthe descendedhis thoughts
dwelling no longer on deathbut on lovefor he was mating. He
stopped as he passed the new grave; a sheaf of tawny
chrysanthemums had caught his eye. "They didn't ought to have
coloured flowers at buryings he reflected. Trudging on a few
steps, he stopped again, looked furtively at the dusk, turned
back, wrenched a chrysanthemum from the sheaf, and hid it in his
pocket.

After him came silence absolute. The cottage that abutted on the
churchyard was empty, and no other house stood near. Hour after
hour the scene of the interment remained without an eye to
witness it. Clouds drifted over it from the west; or the church
may have been a ship, high-prowed, steering with all its
company towards infinity. Towards morning the air grew colder,
the sky clearer, the surface of the earth hard and sparkling
above the prostrate dead. The wood-cutter, returning after a
night of joy, reflected: They liliesthey chrysants; it's a
pity I didn't take them all."

Up at Howards End they were attempting breakfast. Charles and
Evie sat in the dining-roomwith Mrs. Charles. Their fatherwho
could not bear to see a facebreakfasted upstairs. He suffered
acutely. Pain came over him in spasmsas if it was physicaland
even while he was about to eathis eyes would fill with tears
and he would lay down the morsel untasted.

He remembered his wife's even goodness during thirty years. Not
anything in detail--not courtship or early raptures--but just the
unvarying virtuethat seemed to him a woman's noblest quality.
So many women are capriciousbreaking into odd flaws of passion
or frivolity. Not so his wife. Year after yearsummer and
winteras bride and mothershe had been the samehe had always
trusted her. Her tenderness! Her innocence! The wonderful
innocence that was hers by the gift of God. Ruth knew no more of
worldly wickedness and wisdom than did the flowers in her garden
or the grass in her field. Her idea of business--" Henrywhy do
people who have enough money try to get more money?" Her idea of
politics--" I am sure that if the mothers of various nations
could meetthere would be no more wars Her idea of religion-ah,
this had been a cloud, but a cloud that passed. She came of
Quaker stock, and he and his family, formerly Dissenters, were
now members of the Church of England. The rector's sermons had at
first repelled her, and she had expressed a desire for a more
inward light adding, not so much for myself as for baby"
(Charles). Inward light must have been grantedfor he heard no


complaints in later years. They brought up their three children
without dispute. They had never disputed.

She lay under the earth now. She had goneand as if to make her
going the more bitterhad gone with a touch of mystery that was
all unlike her. "Why didn't you tell me you knew of it?" he had
moanedand her faint voice had answered: "I didn't want to
Henry--I might have been wrong--and every one hates illnesses."
He had been told of the horror by a strange doctorwhom she had
consulted during his absence from town. Was this altogether just?
Without fully explainingshe had died. It was a fault on her
partand--tears rushed into his eyes--what a little fault! It
was the only time she had deceived him in those thirty years.

He rose to his feet and looked out of the windowfor Evie had
come in with the lettersand he could meet no one's eye. Ah
yes--she had been a good woman--she had been steady. He chose the
word deliberately. To him steadiness included all praise. He
himselfgazing at the wintry gardenis in appearance a steady
man. His face was not as square as his son'sandindeedthe
chinthough firm enough in outlineretreated a littleand the
lipsambiguouswere curtained by a moustache. But there was no
external hint of weakness. The eyesif capable of kindness and
good-fellowshipif ruddy for the moment with tearswere the
eyes of one who could not be driven. The foreheadtoowas like
Charles's. High and straightbrown and polishedmerging
abruptly into temples and skullit had the effect of a bastion
that protected his head from the world. At times it had the
effect of a blank wall. He had dwelt behind itintact and happy
for fifty years. "The post's comefather said Evie awkwardly.

Thanks. Put it down."

Has the breakfast been all right?

Yes, thanks.

The girl glanced at him and at it with constraint. She did not
know what to do.

Charles says do you want the Times?

No, I'll read it later.

Ring if you want anything, father, won't you?

I've all I want.

Having sorted the letters from the circularsshe went back to
the dining-room.

Father's eaten nothing,she announcedsitting down with
wrinkled brows behind the tea-urn.

Charles did not answerbut after a moment he ran quickly
upstairsopened the doorand said "Look here fatheryou must
eatyou know; and having paused for a reply that did not come
stole down again. "He's going to read his letters firstI
think he said evasively; I dare say he will go on with his
breakfast afterwards." Then he took up the Timesand for some
time there was no sound except the clink of cup against saucer
and of knife on plate.

Poor Mrs. Charles sat between her silent companions terrified at


the course of eventsand a little bored. She was a rubbishy
little creatureand she knew it. A telegram had dragged her from
Naples to the death-bed of a woman whom she had scarcely known. A
word from her husband had plunged her into mourning. She desired
to mourn inwardly as wellbut she wished that Mrs. Wilcoxsince
fated to diecould have died before the marriagefor then less
would have been expected of her. Crumbling her toastand too
nervous to ask for the buttershe remained almost motionless
thankful only for thisthat her father-in-law was having his
breakfast upstairs.

At last Charles spoke. "They had no business to be pollarding
those elms yesterday he said to his sister.

Noindeed."

I must make a note of that,he continued. "I am surprised that
the rector allowed it."

Perhaps it may not be the rector's affair.

Whose else could it be?

The lord of the manor.

Impossible.

Butter, Dolly?

Thank you, Evie dear. Charles--

Yes, dear?

I didn't know one could pollard elms. I thought one only
pollarded willows.

Oh no, one can pollard elms.

Then why oughtn't the elms in the churchyard to be pollarded?
Charles frowned a littleand turned again to his sister.

Another point. I must speak to Chalkeley.

Yes, rather; you must complain to Chalkeley.

It's no good his saying he is not responsible for those men. He
is responsible.

Yes, rather.

Brother and sister were not callous. They spoke thuspartly
because they desired to keep Chalkeley up to the mark--a healthy
desire in its way--partly because they avoided the personal note
in life. All Wilcoxes did. It did not seem to them of supreme
importance. Or it may be as Helen supposed: they realised its
importancebut were afraid of it. Panic and emptinesscould one
glance behind. They were not callousand they left the
breakfast-table with aching hearts. Their mother never had come
in to breakfast. It was in the other roomsand especially in the
gardenthat they felt her loss most. As Charles went out to the
garagehe was reminded at every step of the woman who had loved
him and whom he could never replace. What battles he had fought
against her gentle conservatism! How she had disliked
improvementsyet how loyally she had accepted them when made! He


and his father--what trouble they had had to get this very
garage! With what difficulty had they persuaded her to yield them
the paddock for it--the paddock that she loved more dearly than
the garden itself! The vine--she had got her way about the vine.
It still encumbered the south wall with its unproductive
branches. And so with Evieas she stood talking to the cook.
Though she could take up her mother's work inside the housejust
as the man could take it up withoutshe felt that something
unique had fallen out of her life. Their griefthough less
poignant than their father'sgrew from deeper rootsfor a wife
may be replaced; a mother never. Charles would go back to the
office. There was little at Howards End. The contents of his
mother's will had long been known to them. There were no
legaciesno annuitiesnone of the posthumous bustle with which
some of the dead prolong their activities. Trusting her husband
she had left him everything without reserve. She was quite a poor
woman--the house had been all her dowryand the house would come
to Charles in time. Her watercolours Mr. Wilcox intended to
reserve for Paulwhile Evie would take the jewellery and lace.
How easily she slipped out of life! Charles thought the habit
laudablethough he did not intend to adopt it himselfwhereas
Margaret would have seenin it an almost culpable indifference to
earthly fame. Cynicism--not the superficial cynicism that snarls
and sneersbut the cynicism that can go with courtesy and
tenderness--that was the note of Mrs. Wilcox's will. She wanted
not to vex people. That accomplishedthe earth might freeze over
her for ever.

Nothere was nothing for Charles to wait for. He could not go on
with his honeymoonso he would go up to London and work--he felt
too miserable hanging about. He and Dolly would have the
furnished flat while his father rested quietly in the country
with Evie. He could also keep an eye on his own little house
which was being painted and decorated for him in one of the
Surrey suburbsand in which he hoped to install himself soon
after Christmas. Yeshe would go up after lunch in his new
motorand the town servantswho had come down for the funeral
would go up by train.

He found his father's chauffeur in the garagesaid "Morning"
without looking at the man's faceand bending over the car
continued: "Hullo! my new car's been driven!"

Has it, sir?

Yes,said Charlesgetting rather red; "and whoever's driven it
hasn't cleaned it properlyfor there's mud on the axle. Take it
off."

The man went for the cloths without a word. He was a chauffeur as
ugly as sin--not that this did him disservice with Charleswho
thought charm in a man rather rotand had soon got rid of the
little Italian beast with whom they had started.

Charles--His bride was tripping after him over the hoar-frost
a dainty black columnher little face and elaborate mourning hat
forming the capital thereof.

One minute, I'm busy. Well, Crane, who's been driving it, do you
suppose?

Don't know, I'm sure, sir. No one's driven it since I've been
back, but, of course, there's the fortnight I've been away with
the other car in Yorkshire.


The mud came off easily.

Charles, your father's down. Something's happened. He wants you
in the house at once. Oh, Charles!

Wait, dear, wait a minute. Who had the key of the garage while
you were away, Crane?

The gardener, sir.

Do you mean to tell me that old Penny can drive a motor?

No, sir; no one's had the motor out, sir.

Then how do you account for the mud on the axle?

I can't, of course, say for the time I've been in Yorkshire. No
more mud now, sir.

Charles was vexed. The man was treating him as a fooland if his
heart had not been so heavy he would have reported him to his
father. But it was not a morning for complaints. Ordering the
motor to be round after lunchhe joined his wifewho had all
the while been pouring out some incoherent story about a letter
and a Miss Schlegel.

Now, Dolly, I can attend to you. Miss Schlegel? What does she
want?

When people wrote a letter Charles always asked what they wanted.
Want was to him the only cause of action. And the question in
this case was correctfor his wife repliedShe wants Howards
End.

Howards End? Now, Crane, just don't forget to put on the Stepney
wheel.

No, sir.

Now, mind you don't forget, for I-- Come, little woman.When
they were out of the chauffeur's sight he put his arm round her
waist and pressed her against him. All his affection and half his
attention--it was what he granted her throughout their happy
married life.

But you haven't listened, Charles.

What's wrong?

I keep on telling you--Howards End. Miss Schlegel's got it.

Got what?said Charlesunclasping her. "What the dickens are
you talking about?"

Now, Charles, you promised not so say those naughty--

Look here, I'm in no mood for foolery. It's no morning for it
either.

I tell you--I keep on telling you--Miss Schlegel--she's got
it--your mother's left it to her--and you've all got to move
out!


HOWARDS END?

HOWARDS END!she screamedmimicking himand as she did so
Evie came dashing out of the shubbery.

Dolly, go back at once! My father's much annoyed with you.
Charles--she hit herself wildly--"come in at once to father.
He's had a letter that's too awful."

Charles began to runbut checked himselfand stepped heavily
across the gravel path. There the house was with the nine
windowsthe unprolific vine. He exclaimedSchlegels again!
and as if to complete chaosDolly saidOh no, the matron of
the nursing home has written instead of her.

Come in, all three of you!cried his fatherno longer inert.

Dolly, why have you disobeyed me?

Oh, Mr. Wilcox--

I told you not to go out to the garage. I've heard you all
shouting in the garden. I won't have it. Come in.

He stood in the porchtransformedletters in his hand.

Into the dining-room, every one of you. We can't discuss private
matters in the middle of all the servants. Here, Charles, here;
read these. See what you make.

Charles took two lettersand read them as he followed the
procession. The first was a covering note from the matron. Mrs.
Wilcox had desired herwhen the funeral should be overto
forward the enclosed. The enclosed--it was from his mother
herself. She had written: "To my husband: I should like Miss
Schlegel (Margaret) to have Howards End."

I suppose we're going to have a talk about this?he remarked
ominously calm.

Certainly. I was coming out to you when Dolly--

Well, let's sit down.

Come, Evie, don't waste time, sit--down.

In silence they drew up to the breakfast-table. The events of
yesterday--indeedof this morning suddenly receded into a past
so remote that they seemed scarcely to have lived in it. Heavy
breathings were heard. They were calming themselves. Charlesto
steady them furtherread the enclosure out loud: "A note in my
mother's handwritingin an envelope addressed to my father
sealed. Inside: 'I should like Miss Schlegel (Margaret) to have
Howards End.' No dateno signature. Forwarded through the matron
of that nursing home. Nowthe question is--"

Dolly interrupted him. "But I say that note isn't legal. Houses
ought to be done by a lawyerCharlessurely."

Her husband worked his jaw severely. Little lumps appeared in
front of either ear--a symptom that she had not yet learnt to
respectand she asked whether she might see the note. Charles
looked at his father for permissionwho said abstractedlyGive
it her.She seized itand at once exclaimed: "Whyit's only in


pencil! I said so. Pencil never counts."

We know that it is not legally binding, Dolly,said Mr. Wilcox
speaking from out of his fortress. "We are aware of that.
LegallyI should be justified in tearing it up and throwing it
into the fire. Of coursemy dearwe consider you as one of the
familybut it will be better if you do not interfere with what
you do not understand."

Charlesvexed both with his father and his wifethen repeated:
The question is--He had cleared a space of the breakfast-table
from plates and knivesso that he could draw patterns on the
tablecloth. "The question is whether Miss Schlegelduring the
fortnight we were all awaywhether she unduly--" He stopped.

I don't think that,said his fatherwhose nature was nobler
than his son's.

Don't think what?

That she would have--that it is a case of undue influence. No,
to my mind the question is the--the invalid's condition at the
time she wrote.

My dear father, consult an expert if you like, but I don't admit
it is my mother's writing.

Why, you just said it was!cried Dolly.

Never mind if I did,he blazed out; "and hold your tongue."

The poor little wife coloured at thisanddrawing her
handkerchief from her pocketshed a few tears. No one noticed
her. Evie was scowling like an angry boy. The two men were
gradually assuming the manner of the committee-room. They were
both at their best when serving on committees. They did not make
the mistake of handling human affairs in the bulkbut disposed
of them item by itemsharply. Caligraphy was the item before
them nowand on it they turned their well-trained brains.
Charlesafter a little demuraccepted the writing as genuine
and they passed on to the next point. It is the best--perhaps the
only--way of dodging emotion. They were the average human
articleand had they considered the note as a whole it would
have driven them miserable or mad. Considered item by itemthe
emotional content was minimisedand all went forward smoothly.
The clock tickedthe coals blazed higherand contended with the
white radiance that poured in through the windows. Unnoticedthe
sun occupied his skyand the shadows of the tree stems
extraordinarily solidfell like trenches of purple across the
frosted lawn. It was a glorious winter morning. Evie's fox
terrierwho had passed for whitewas only a dirty grey dog now
so intense was the purity that surrounded him. He was
discreditedbut the blackbirds that he was chasing glowed with
Arabian darknessfor all the conventional colouring of life had
been altered. Insidethe clock struck ten with a rich and
confident note. Other clocks confirmed itand the discussion
moved towards its close.

To follow it is unnecessary. It is rather a moment when the
commentator should step forward. Ought the Wilcoxes to have
offered their home to Margaret? I think not. The appeal was too
flimsy. It was not legal; it had been written in illnessand
under the spell of a sudden friendship; it was contrary to the
dead woman's intentions in the pastcontrary to her very nature


so far as that nature was understood by them. To them Howards End
was a house: they could not know that to her it had been a
spiritfor which she sought a spiritual heir. And--pushing one
step farther in these mists--may they not have decided even
better than they supposed? Is it credible that the possessions of
the spirit can be bequeathed at all? Has the soul offspring? A
wych-elm treea vinea wisp of hay with dew on it--can passion
for such things be transmitted where there is no bond of blood?
No; the Wilcoxes are not to be blamed. The problem is too
terrificand they could not even perceive a problem. No; it is
natural and fitting that after due debate they should tear the
note up and throw it on to their dining-room fire. The practical
moralist may acquit them absolutely. He who strives to look
deeper may acquit them--almost. For one hard fact remains. They
did neglect a personal appeal. The woman who had died did say to
themDo this,and they answeredWe will not.

The incident made a most painful impression on them. Grief
mounted into the brain and worked there disquietingly. Yesterday
they had lamented: "She was a dear mothera true wife; in our
absence she neglected her health and died." To-day they
thought: "She was not as trueas dearas we supposed." The
desire for a more inward light had found expression at lastthe
unseen had impacted on the seenand all that they could say was
Treachery.Mrs. Wilcox had been treacherous to the familyto
the laws of propertyto her own written word. How did she expect
Howards End to be conveyed to Miss Schlegel? Was her husband
to whom it legally belongedto make it over to her as a free
gift? Was the said Miss Schlegel to have a life interest in it
or to own it absolutely? Was there to be no compensation for the
garage and other improvements that they had made under the
assumption that all would be theirs some day? Treacherous!
treacherous and absurd! When we think the dead both treacherous
and absurdwe have gone far towards reconciling ourselves to
their departure. That notescribbled in pencilsent through the
matronwas unbusinesslike as well as crueland decreased at
once the value of the woman who had written it.

Ah, well!said Mr. Wilcoxrising from the table. "I shouldn't
have thought it possible."

Mother couldn't have meant it,said Eviestill frowning.

No, my girl, of course not.

Mother believed so in ancestors too--it isn't like her to leave
anything to an outsider, who'd never appreciate.

The whole thing is unlike her,he announced. "If Miss Schlegel
had been poorif she had wanted a houseI could understand it a
little. But she has a house of her own. Why should she want
another? She wouldn't have any use for Howards End."

That time may prove,murmured Charles.

How?asked his sister.

Presumably she knows--mother will have told her. She got twice
or three times into the nursing home. Presumably she is awaiting
developments.

What a horrid woman!And Dollywho had recoveredcried
Why, she may be coming down to turn us out now!


Charles put her right. "I wish she would he said ominously. I
could then deal with her."

So could I,echoed his fatherwho was feeling rather in the
cold. Charles had been kind in undertaking the funeral
arrangements and in telling him to eat his breakfastbut the boy
as he grew up was a little dictatorialand assumed the post of
chairman too readily. "I could deal with herif she comesbut
she won't come. You're all a bit hard on Miss Schlegel."

That Paul business was pretty scandalous, though.

I want no more of the Paul business, Charles, as I said at the
time, and besides, it is quite apart from this business. Margaret
Schlegel has been officious and tiresome during this terrible
week, and we have all suffered under her, but upon my soul she's
honest. She's NOT in collusion with the matron. I'm absolutely
certain of it. Nor was she with the doctor, I'm equally certain
of that. She did not hide anything from us, for up to that very
afternoon she was as ignorant as we are. She, like ourselves, was
a dupe--He stopped for a moment. "You seeCharlesin her
terrible pain your mother put us all in false positions. Paul
would not have left Englandyou would not have gone to Italy
nor Evie and I into Yorkshireif only we had known. WellMiss
Schlegel's position has been equally false. Take all in allshe
has not come out of it badly."

Evie said: "But those chrysanthemums--"

Or coming down to the funeral at all--echoed Dolly.

Why shouldn't she come down? She had the right to, and she stood
far back among the Hilton women. The flowers--certainly we should
not have sent such flowers, but they may have seemed the right
thing to her, Evie, and for all you know they may be the custom
in Germany.

Oh, I forget she isn't really English,cried Evie. "That would
explain a lot."

She's a cosmopolitan,said Charleslooking at his watch. "I
admit I'm rather down on cosmopolitans. My faultdoubtless. I
cannot stand themand a German cosmopolitan is the limit. I
think that's about allisn't it? I want to run down and see
Chalkeley. A bicycle will do. Andby the wayI wish you'd speak
to Crane some time. I'm certain he's had my new car out."

Has he done it any harm?

No.

In that case I shall let it pass. It's not worth while having a
row.

Charles and his father sometimes disagreed. But they always
parted with an increased regard for one anotherand each desired
no doughtier comrade when it was necessary to voyage for a little
past the emotions. So the sailors of Ulysses voyaged past the
Sirenshaving first stopped one another's ears with wool.

CHAPTER XII


Charles need not have been anxious. Miss Schlegel had never
heard of his mother's strange request. She was to hear of it in
after yearswhen she had built up her life differentlyand it
was to fit into position as the headstone of the corner. Her mind
was bent on other questions nowand by her also it would have
been rejected as the fantasy of an invalid.

She was parting from these Wilcoxes for the second time. Paul and
his motherripple and great wavehad flowed into her life and
ebbed out of it for ever. The ripple had left no traces behind;
the wave had strewn at her feet fragments torn from the unknown.
A curious seekershe stood for a while at the verge of the sea
that tells so littlebut tells a littleand watched the
outgoing of this last tremendous tide. Her friend had vanished in
agonybut notshe believedin degradation. Her withdrawal had
hinted at other things besides disease and pain. Some leave our
life with tearsothers with an insane frigidity; Mrs. Wilcox had
taken the middle coursewhich only rarer natures can pursue. She
had kept proportion. She had told a little of her grim secret to
her friendsbut not too much; she had shut up her heart--almost
but not entirely. It is thusif there is any rulethat we ought
to die--neither as victim nor as fanaticbut as the seafarer who
can greet with an equal eye the deep that he is enteringand the
shore that he must leave.

The last word--whatever it would be--had certainly not been said
in Hilton churchyard. She had not died there. A funeral is not
deathany more than baptism is birth or marriage union. All
three are the clumsy devicescoming now too latenow too early
by which Society would register the quick motions of man. In
Margaret's eyes Mrs. Wilcox had escaped registration. She had
gone out of life vividlyher own wayand no dust was so truly
dust as the contents of that heavy coffinlowered with
ceremonial until it rested on the dust of the earthno flowers
so utterly wasted as the chrysanthemums that the frost must have
withered before morning. Margaret had once said she "loved
superstition." It was not true. Few women had tried more
earnestly to pierce the accretions in which body and soul are
enwrapped. The death of Mrs. Wilcox had helped her in her work.
She saw a little more clearly than hitherto what a human being
isand to what he may aspire. Truer relationships gleamed.
Perhaps the last word would be hope--hope even on this side of
the grave.

Meanwhileshe could take an interest in the survivors. In spite
of her Christmas dutiesin spite of her brotherthe Wilcoxes
continued to play a considerable part in her thoughts. She had
seen so much of them in the final week. They were not "her sort
they were often suspicious and stupid, and deficient where she
excelled; but collision with them stimulated her, and she felt an
interest that verged into liking, even for Charles. She desired
to protect them, and often felt that they could protect her,
excelling where she was deficient. Once past the rocks of
emotion, they knew so well what to do, whom to send for; their
hands were on all the ropes, they had grit as well as grittiness
and she valued grit enormously. They led a life that she could
not attain to--the outer life of telegrams and anger which had
detonated when Helen and Paul had touched in June, and had
detonated again the other week. To Margaret this life was to
remain a real force. She could not despise it, as Helen and Tibby
affected to do. It fostered such virtues as neatness, decision,
and obedience, virtues of the second rank, no doubt, but they
have formed our civilisation. They form character, too; Margaret
could not doubt it; they keep the soul from becoming sloppy. How


dare Schlegels despise Wilcoxes, when it takes all sorts to make
a world?

Don't brood too much she wrote to Helen, on the superiority
of the unseen to the seen. It's truebut to brood on it is
medieval. Our business is not to contrast the twobut to
reconcile them."

Helen replied that she had no intention of brooding on such a
dull subject. What did her sister take her for? The weather was
magnificent. She and the Mosebachs had gone tobogganing on the
only hill that Pomerania boasted. It was funbut over-crowded
for the rest of Pomerania had gone there too. Helen loved the
countryand her letter glowed with physical exercise and poetry.
She spoke of the sceneryquietyet august; of the snow-clad
fieldswith their scampering herds of deer; of the river and its
quaint entrance into the Baltic Sea; of the Oderbergeonly three
hundred feet highfrom which one slid all too quickly back into
the Pomeranian plainsand yet these Oderberge were real
mountainswith pine-forestsstreamsand views complete. "It
isn't size that counts so much as the way things are arranged."
In another paragraph she referred to Mrs. Wilcox sympathetically
but the news had not bitten into her. She had not realised the
accessories of deathwhich are in a sense more memorable than
death itself. The atmosphere of precautions and recriminations
and in the midst a human body growing more vivid because it was
in pain; the end of that body in Hilton churchyard; the survival
of something that suggested hopevivid in its turn against
life's workaday cheerfulness;-- all these were lost to Helenwho
only felt that a pleasant lady could now be pleasant no longer.
She returned to Wickham Place full of her own affairs--she had
had another proposal--and Margaretafter a moment's hesitation
was content that this should be so.

The proposal had not been a serious matter. It was the work of
Fraulein Mosebachwho had conceived the large and patriotic
notion of winning back her cousins to the Fatherland by
matrimony. England had played Paul Wilcoxand lost; Germany
played Herr Forstmeister some one--Helen could not remember his
name. Herr Forstmeister lived in a woodandstanding on the
summit of the Oderbergehe had pointed out his house to Helen
or ratherhad pointed out the wedge of pines in which it lay.
She had exclaimedOh, how lovely! That's the place for me!and
in the evening Frieda appeared in her bedroom. "I have a message
dear Helen etc., and so she had, but had been very nice when
Helen laughed; quite understood--a forest too solitary and damp-quite
agreed, but Herr Forstmeister believed he had assurance to
the contrary. Germany had lost, but with good-humour; holding the
manhood of the world, she felt bound to win. And there will even
be some one for Tibby concluded Helen. There nowTibbythink
of that; Frieda is saving up a little girl for youin pig-tails
and white worsted stockings but the feet of the stockings are
pink as if the little girl had trodden in strawberries. I've
talked too much. My head aches. Now you talk."

Tibby consented to talk. He too was full of his own affairsfor
he had just been up to try for a scholarship at Oxford. The men
were downand the candidates had been housed in various
collegesand had dined in hall. Tibby was sensitive to beauty
the experience was newand he gave a description of his visit
that was almost glowing. The august and mellow University
soaked with the richness of the western counties that it has
served for a thousand yearsappealed at once to the boy's taste;
it was the kind of thing he could understandand he understood


it all the better because it was empty. Oxford is--Oxford; not a
mere receptacle for youthlike Cambridge. Perhaps it wants its
inmates to love it rather than to love one another; such at all
events was to be its effect on Tibby. His sisters sent him there
that he might make friendsfor they knew that his education had
been crankyand had severed him from other boys and men. He made
no friends. His Oxford remained Oxford emptyand he took into
life with himnot the memory of a radiancebut the memory of a
colour scheme.

It pleased Margaret to hear her brother and sister talking. They
did not get on overwell as a rule. For a few moments she listened
to themfeeling elderly and benign.

Then something occurred to herand she interrupted.

Helen, I told you about poor Mrs. Wilcox; that sad business?

Yes.

I have had a correspondence with her son. He was winding up the
estate, and wrote to ask me whether his mother had wanted me to
have anything. I thought it good of him, considering I knew her
so little. I said that she had once spoken of giving me a
Christmas present, but we both forgot about it afterwards.

I hope Charles took the hint.

Yes--that is to say, her husband wrote later on, and thanked me
for being a little kind to her, and actually gave me her silver
vinaigrette. Don't you think that is extraordinarily generous? It
has made me like him very much. He hopes that this will not be
the end of our acquaintance, but that you and I will go and stop
with Evie some time in the future. I like Mr. Wilcox. He is
taking up his work--rubber--it is a big business. I gather he is
launching out rather. Charles is in it, too. Charles is married-a
pretty little creature, but she doesn't seem wise. They took on
the flat, but now they have gone off to a house of their own.

Helenafter a decent pausecontinued her account of Stettin.
How quickly a situation changes! In June she had been in a
crisis; even in November she could blush and be unnatural; now it
was January and the whole affair lay forgotten. Looking back on
the past six monthsMargaret realised the chaotic nature of our
daily lifeand its difference from the orderly sequence that has
been fabricated by historians. Actual life is full of false clues
and sign-posts that lead nowhere. With infinite effort we nerve
ourselves for a crisis that never comes. The most successful
career must show a waste of strength that might have removed
mountainsand the most unsuccessful is not that of the man who
is taken unpreparedbut of him who has prepared and is never
taken. On a tragedy of that kind our national morality is duly
silent. It assumes that preparation against danger is in itself
a goodand that menlike nationsare the better for staggering
through life fully armed. The tragedy of preparedness has
scarcely been handledsave by the Greeks. Life is indeed
dangerousbut not in the way morality would have us believe. It
is indeed unmanageablebut the essence of it is not a battle. It
is unmanageable because it is a romanceand its essence is
romantic beauty. Margaret hoped that for the future she would be
less cautiousnot more cautiousthan she had been in the past.


CHAPTER XIII

Over two years passedand the Schlegel household continued to
lead its life of culturedbut not ignobleeasestill swimming
gracefully on the grey tides of London. Concerts and plays swept
past themmoney had been spent and renewedreputations won and
lostand the city herselfemblematic of their livesrose and
fell in a continual fluxwhile her shallows washed more widely
against the hills of Surrey and over the fields of Hertfordshire.
This famous building had arisenthat was doomed. To-day
Whitehall had been transformed; it would be the turn of Regent
Street to-morrow. And month by month the roads smelt more
strongly of petroland were more difficult to crossand human
beings heard each other speak with greater difficultybreathed
less of the airand saw less of the sky. Nature withdrew; the
leaves were falling by midsummer; the sun shone through dirt with
an admired obscurity.

To speak against London is no longer fashionable. The Earth as an
artistic cult has had its dayand the literature of the near
future will probably ignore the country and seek inspiration from
the town. One can understand the reaction. Of Pan and the
elemental forcesthe public has heard a 'little too much--they
seem Victorianwhile London is Georgian--and those who care for
the earth with sincerity may wait long ere the pendulum swings
back to her again. Certainly London fascinates. One visualises it
as a tract of quivering greyintelligent without purposeand
excitable without love; as a spirit that has altered before it
can be chronicled; as a heart that certainly beatsbut with no
pulsation of humanity. It lies beyond everything; Naturewith
all her crueltycomes nearer to us than do these crowds of men.
A friend explains himself; the earth is explicable--from her we
cameand we must return to her. But who can explain Westminster
Bridge Road or Liverpool Street in the morning--the city
inhaling--or the same thoroughfares in the evening--the city
exhaling her exhausted air? We reach in desperation beyond the
fogbeyond the very starsthe voids of the universe are
ransacked to justify the monsterand stamped with a human face.
London is religion's opportunity--not the decorous religion of
theologiansbut anthropomorphiccrude. Yesthe continuous flow
would be tolerable if a man of our own sort--not any one pompous
or tearful--were caring for us up in the sky.

The Londoner seldom understands his city until it sweeps him
tooaway from his mooringsand Margaret's eyes were not opened
until the lease of Wickham Place expired. She had always known
that it must expirebut the knowledge only became vivid about
nine months before the event. Then the house was suddenly ringed
with pathos. It had seen so much happiness. Why had it to be
swept away? In the streets of the city she noted for the first
time the architecture of hurry and heard the language of hurry on
the mouths of its inhabitants--clipped wordsformless sentences
potted expressions of approval or disgust. Month by month things
were stepping livelierbut to what goal? The population still
rosebut what was the quality of the men born? The particular
millionaire who owned the freehold of Wickham Placeand desired
to erect Babylonian flats upon it--what right had he to stir so
large a portion of the quivering jelly? He was not a fool--she
had heard him expose Socialism--but true insight began just where
his intelligence endedand one gathered that this was the case
with most millionaires. What right had such men-- But Margaret
checked herself. That way lies madness. Thank goodnessshetoo
had some moneyand could purchase a new home.


Tibbynow in his second year at Oxfordwas down for the Easter
vacationand Margaret took the opportunity of having a serious
talk with him. Did he at all know where he wanted to live? Tibby
didn't know that he did know. Did he at all know what he wanted
to do? He was equally uncertainbut when pressed remarked that
he should prefer to be quite free of any profession. Margaret was
not shockedbut went on sewing for a few minutes before she
replied:

I was thinking of Mr. Vyse. He never strikes me as particularly
happy.

Ye--es." said Tibbyand then held his mouth open in a curious
quiveras if hetoohad thought of Mr. Vysehad seen round
throughoverand beyond Mr. Vysehad weighed Mr. Vysegrouped
himand finally dismissed him as having no possible bearing on
the Subject under discussion. That bleat of Tibby's infuriated
Helen. But Helen was now down in the dining room preparing a
speech about political economy. At times her voice could be heard
declaiming through the floor.

But Mr. Vyse is rather a wretched, weedy man, don't you think?
Then there's Guy. That was a pitiful business. Besides--shifting
to the general--"every one is the better for some regular work."

Groans.

I shall stick to it,she continuedsmiling. "I am not saying
it to educate you; it is what I really think. I believe that in
the last century men have developed the desire for workand they
must not starve it. It's a new desire. It goes with a great deal
that's badbut in itself it's goodand I hope that for women
too'not to work' will soon become as shocking as 'not to be
married' was a hundred years ago."

I have no experience of this profound desire to which you
allude,enunciated Tibby.

Then we'll leave the subject till you do. I'm not going to
rattle you round. Take your time. Only do think over the lives of
the men you like most, and see how they've arranged them.

I like Guy and Mr. Vyse most,said Tibby faintlyand leant so
far back in his chair that he extended in a horizontal line from
knees to throat.

And don't think I'm not serious because I don't use the
traditional arguments--making money, a sphere awaiting you, and
so on--all of which are, for various reasons, cant.She sewed
on. "I'm only your sister. I haven't any authority over youand
I don't want to have any. Just to put before you what I think the
Truth. You see"--she shook off the pince-nez to which she had
recently taken--" in a few years we shall be the same age
practicallyand I shall want you to help me. Men are so much
nicer than women."

Labouring under such a delusion, why do you not marry?

I sometimes jolly well think I would if I got the chance.

Has nobody arst you?

Only ninnies.


Do people ask Helen?

Plentifully.

Tell me about them.

No.

Tell me about your ninnies, then.

They were men who had nothing better to do,said his sister
feeling that she was entitled to score this point. "So take
warning; you must workor else you must pretend to workwhich
is what I do. Workworkwork if you'd save your soul and your
body. It is honestly a necessitydear boy. Look at the Wilcoxes
look at Mr. Pembroke. With all their defects of temper and
understandingsuch men give me more pleasure than many who are
better equippedand I think it is because they have worked
regularly and honestly."

Spare me the Wilcoxes,he moaned.

I shall not. They are the right sort.

Oh, goodness me, Meg--!he protestedsuddenly sitting up
alert and angry. Tibbyfor all his defectshad a genuine
personality.

Well, they're as near the right sort as you can imagine.

No, no--oh, no!

I was thinking of the younger son, whom I once classed as a
ninny, but who came back so ill from Nigeria. He's gone out
there again, Evie Wilcox tells me--out to his duty.

Dutyalways elicited a groan.

He doesn't want the money, it is work he wants, though it is
beastly work--dull country, dishonest natives, an eternal fidget
over fresh water and food... A nation that can produce men of
that sort may well be proud. No wonder England has become an
Empire.

EMPIRE!"

I can't bother over results,said Margareta little sadly.
They are too difficult for me. I can only look at the men. An
Empire bores me, so far, but I can appreciate the heroism that
builds it up. London bores me, but what thousands of splendid
people are labouring to make London--

What it is,he sneered.

What it is, worse luck. I want activity without civilisation.
How paradoxical! Yet I expect that is what we shall find in
heaven.

And Isaid Tibbywant civilisation without activity, which, I
expect, is what we shall find in the other place.

You needn't go as far as the other place, Tibbikins, if you
want that. You can find it at Oxford.


Stupid--

If I'm stupid, get me back to the house-hunting. I'll even
live in Oxford if you like--North Oxford. I'll live anywhere
except Bournemouth, Torquay, and Cheltenham. Oh yes, or
Ilfracombe and Swanage and Tunbridge Wells and Surbiton and
Bedford. There on no account.

London, then.

I agree, but Helen rather wants to get away from London.
However, there's no reason we shouldn't have a house in the
country and also a flat in town, provided we all stick together
and contribute. Though of course-- Oh, how one does maunder on
and tothink, to think of the people who are really poor. How do
they live? Not to move about the world would kill me.

As she spokethe door was flung openand Helen burst in in a
state of extreme excitement.

Oh, my dears, what do you think? You'll never guess. A woman's
been here asking me for her husband. Her WHAT?(Helen was fond
of supplying her own surprise.) "Yesfor her husbandand it
really is so."

Not anything to do with Bracknell?cried Margaretwho had
lately taken on an unemployed of that name to clean the knives
and boots.

I offered Bracknell, and he was rejected. So was Tibby. (Cheer
up, Tibby!) It's no one we know. I said, 'Hunt, my good woman;
have a good look round, hunt under the tables, poke up the
chimney, shake out the antimacassars. Husband? husband?' Oh, and
she so magnificently dressed and tinkling like a chandelier.

Now, Helen, what did really happen?

What I say. I was, as it were, orating my speech. Annie opens
the door like a fool, and shows a female straight in on me, with
my mouth open. Then we began--very civilly. 'I want my husband,
what I have reason to believe is here.' No--how unjust one is.
She said 'whom,' not 'what.' She got it perfectly. So I said,
'Name, please?' and she said, 'Lan, Miss,' and there we were.

Lan?"

Lan or Len. We were not nice about our vowels. Lanoline.

But what an extraordinary--

I said, 'My good Mrs. Lanoline, we have some grave
misunderstanding here. Beautiful as I am, my modesty is even more
remarkable than my beauty, and never, never has Mr. Lanoline
rested his eyes on mine.'

I hope you were pleased,said Tibby.

Of course,Helen squeaked. "A perfectly delightful experience.
OhMrs. Lanoline's a dear--she asked for a husband as if he were
an umbrella. She mislaid him Saturday afternoon--and for a long
time suffered no inconvenience. But all nightand all this
morning her apprehensions grew. Breakfast didn't seem the
same--nono more did lunchand so she strolled up to 2 Wickham
Place as being the most likely place for the missing article."


But how on earth--

Don't begin how on earthing. 'I know what I know,' she kept
repeating, not uncivilly, but with extreme gloom. In vain I asked
her what she did know. Some knew what others knew, and others
didn't, and then others again had better be careful. Oh dear, she
was incompetent! She had a face like a silkworm, and the
dining-room reeks of orris-root. We chatted pleasantly a little
about husbands, and I wondered where hers was too, and advised
her to go to the police. She thanked me. We agreed that Mr.
Lanoline's a notty, notty man, and hasn't no business
to go on the lardy-da. But I think she suspected me up to the
last. Bags I writing to Aunt Juley about this. Now, Meg,
remember--bags I.

Bag it by all means,murmured Margaretputting down her work.
I'm not sure that this is so funnyHelen. It means some horrible
volcano smoking somewheredoesn't it?"

I don't think so--she doesn't really mind. The admirable
creature isn't capable of tragedy.

Her husband may be, though,said Margaretmoving to the
window.

Oh no, not likely. No one capable of tragedy could have married
Mrs. Lanoline.

Was she pretty?

Her figure may have been good once.

The flatstheir only outlookhung like an ornate curtain
between Margaret and the welter of London. Her thoughts turned
sadly to house-hunting. Wickham Place had been so safe. She
fearedfantasticallythat her own little flock might be moving
into turmoil and squalorinto nearer contact with such episodes
as these.

Tibby and I have again been wondering where we'll live next
September,she said at last.

Tibby had better first wonder what he'll do,retorted Helen;
and that topic was resumedbut with acrimony. Then tea cameand
after tea Helen went on preparing her speechand Margaret
prepared onetoofor they were going out to a discussion
society on the morrow. But her thoughts were poisoned. Mrs.
Lanoline had risen out of the abysslike a faint smella
goblin footballtelling of a life where love and hatred had both
decayed.

CHAPTER XIV

The mysterylike so many mysterieswas explained. Next day
just as they were dressed to go out to dinnera Mr. Bast called.
He was a clerk in the employment of the Porphyrion Fire Insurance
Company. Thus much from his card. He had come "about the lady
yesterday." Thus much from Anniewho had shown him into the
dining-room.

Cheers, children!cried Helen. "It's Mrs. Lanoline."


Tibby was interested. The three hurried downstairsto findnot
the gay dog they expectedbut a young mancolourlesstoneless
who had already the mournful eyes above a drooping moustache that
are so common in Londonand that haunt some streets of the city
like accusing presences. One guessed him as the third generation
grandson to the shepherd or ploughboy whom civilisation had
sucked into the town; as one of the thousands who have lost the
life of the body and failed to reach the life of the spirit.
Hints of robustness survived in himmore than a hint of
primitive good looksand Margaretnoting the spine that might
have been straightand the chest that might have broadened
wondered whether it paid to give up the glory of the animal for a
tail coat and a couple of ideas. Culture had worked in her own
casebut during the last few weeks she had doubted whether it
humanised the majorityso wide and so widening is the gulf that
stretches between the natural and the philosophic manso many
the good chaps who are wrecked in trying to cross it. She knew
this type very well--the vague aspirationsthe mental
dishonestythe familiarity with the outsides of books. She knew
the very tones in which he would address her. She was only
unprepared for an example of her own visiting-card.

You wouldn't remember giving me this, Miss Schlegel?said he
uneasily familiar.

No; I can't say I do.

Well, that was how it happened, you see.

Where did we meet, Mr. Bast? For the minute I don't remember.

It was a concert at the Queen's Hall. I think you will
recollect,he added pretentiouslywhen I tell you that it
included a performance of the Fifth Symphony of Beethoven.

We hear the Fifth practically every time it's done, so I'm not
sure--do you remember, Helen?

Was it the time the sandy cat walked round the balustrade?

He thought not.

Then I don't remember. That's the only Beethoven I ever remember
specially.

And you, if I may say so, took away my umbrella, inadvertently
of course.

Likely enough,Helen laughedfor I steal umbrellas even
oftener than I hear Beethoven. Did you get it back?

Yes, thank you, Miss Schlegel.

The mistake arose out of my card, did it?interposed Margaret.

Yes, the mistake arose--it was a mistake.

The lady who called here yesterday thought that you were calling
too, and that she could find you?she continuedpushing him
forwardforthough he had promised an explanationhe seemed
unable to give one.

That's so, calling too--a mistake.


Then why--?began Helenbut Margaret laid a hand on her arm.

I said to my wife,he continued more rapidly "I said to Mrs.
BastI have to pay a call on some friends,' and Mrs. Bast said
to me, 'Do go.' While I was gone, however, she wanted me on
important business, and thought I had come here, owing to the
card, and so came after me, and I beg to tender my apologies, and
hers as well, for any inconvenience we may have inadvertently
caused you.

No inconvenience,said Helen; "but I still don't understand."

An air of evasion characterised Mr. Bast. He explained againbut
was obviously lyingand Helen didn't see why he should get off.
She had the cruelty of youth. Neglecting her sister's pressure
she saidI still don't understand. When did you say you paid
this call?

Call? What call?said hestaring as if her question had been a
foolish onea favourite device of those in mid-stream.

This afternoon call.

In the afternoon, of course!he repliedand looked at Tibby to
see how the repartee went. But Tibby was unsympatheticand said
Saturday afternoon or Sunday afternoon?

S--Saturday.

Really!said Helen; "and you were still calling on Sundaywhen
your wife came here. A long visit."

I don't call that fair,said Mr. Bastgoing scarlet and
handsome. There was fight in his eyes. "I know what you mean
and it isn't so."

Oh, don't let us mind,said Margaretdistressed again by
odours from the abyss.

It was something else,he assertedhis elaborate manner
breaking down. "I was somewhere else to what you thinkso
there!"

It was good of you to come and explain,she said. "The rest is
naturally no concern of ours."

Yes, but I want--I wanted--have you ever read The Ordeal of
Richard Feverel?

Margaret nodded.

It's a beautiful book. I wanted to get back to the earth, don't
you see, like Richard does in the end. Or have you ever read
Stevenson's Prince Otto?

Helen and Tibby groaned gently.

That's another beautiful book. You get back to the earth in
that. I wanted--He mouthed affectedly. Then through the mists
of his culture came a hard facthard as a pebble. "I walked all
the Saturday night said Leonard. I walked." A thrill of
approval ran through the sisters. But culture closed in again. He
asked whether they had ever read E. V. Lucas's Open Road."


Said HelenNo doubt it's another beautiful book, but I'd rather
hear about your road.

Oh, I walked.

How far?

I don't know, nor for how long. It got too dark to see my
watch.

Were you walking alone, may I ask?

Yes,he saidstraightening himself; "but we'd been talking it
over at the office. There's been a lot of talk at the office
lately about these things. The fellows there said one steers by
the Pole Starand I looked it up in the celestial atlasbut
once out of doors everything gets so mixed."

Don't talk to me about the Pole Star,interrupted Helenwho
was becoming interested. "I know its little ways. It goes round
and roundand you go round after it."

Well, I lost it entirely. First of all the street lamps, then
the trees, and towards morning it got cloudy.

Tibbywho preferred his comedy undilutedslipped from the room.
He knew that this fellow would never attain to poetryand did
not want to hear him trying.

Margaret and Helen remained. Their brother influenced them more
than they knew; in his absence they were stirred to enthusiasm
more easily.

Where did you start from?cried Margaret. "Do tell us more."

I took the Underground to Wimbledon. As I came out of the
office I said to myself, 'I must have a walk once in a way. If I
don't take this walk now, I shall never take it.' I had a bit of
dinner at Wimbledon, and then--

But not good country there, is it?

It was gas-lamps for hours. Still, I had all the night, and
being out was the great thing. I did get into woods, too,
presently.

Yes, go on,said Helen.

You've no idea how difficult uneven ground is when it's
dark.

Did you actually go off the roads?

Oh yes. I always meant to go off the roads, but the worst of it
is that it's more difficult to find one's way.

Mr. Bastyou're a born adventurer laughed Margaret. No
professional athlete would have attempted what you've done. It's
a wonder your walk didn't end in a broken neck. Whatever did your
wife say?"

Professional athletes never move without lanterns and
compasses,said Helen. "Besidesthey can't walk. It tires them.


Go on."

I felt like R. L. S. You probably remember how in Virginibus.

Yes, but the wood. This 'ere wood. How did you get out of it?

I managed one wood, and found a road the other side which went a
good bit uphill. I rather fancy it was those North Downs, for the
road went off into grass, and I got into another wood. That was
awful, with gorse bushes. I did wish I'd never come, but suddenly
it got light--just while I seemed going under one tree. Then I
found a road down to a station, and took the first train I
could back to London.

But was the dawn wonderful?asked Helen.

With unforgettable sincerity he repliedNo.The word flew
again like a pebble from the sling. Down toppled all that had
seemed ignoble or literary in his talkdown toppled tiresome R.

L. S. and the "love of the earth" and his silk top-hat. In the
presence of these women Leonard had arrivedand he spoke with a
flowan exultationthat he had seldom known.
The dawn was only grey, it was nothing to mention.

Just a grey evening turned upside down. I know.

--and I was too tired to lift up my head to look at it, and so
cold too. I'm glad I did it, and yet at the time it bored me more
than I can say. And besides--you can believe me or not as you
choose--I was very hungry. That dinner at Wimbledon--I meant it
to last me all night like other dinners. I never thought
that walking would make such a difference. Why, when you're
walking you want, as it were, a breakfast and luncheon and tea
during the night as well, and I'd nothing but a packet of
Woodbines. Lord, I did feel bad! Looking back, it wasn't what you
may call enjoyment. It was more a case of sticking to it. I did
stick. I--I was determined. Oh, hang it all! what's the good--I
mean, the good of living in a room for ever? There one goes on
day after day, same old game, same up and down to town, until you
forget there is any other game. You ought to see once in a way
what's going on outside, if it's only nothing particular after
all.

I should just think you ought,said Helensitting--on the
edge of the table.

The sound of a lady's voice recalled him from sincerityand he
said: "Curious it should all come about from reading something of
Richard Jefferies."

Excuse me, Mr. Bast, but you're wrong there. It didn't. It came
from something far greater.

But she could not stop him. Borrow was imminent after Jefferies--
BorrowThoreauand sorrow. R. L. S. brought up the rearand
the outburst ended in a swamp of books. No disrespect to these
great names. The fault is oursnot theirs. They mean us to use
them for sign-posts we mistake the sign-post for the destination.
And Leonard had reached the destination. He had visited the
county of Surrey when darkness covered its amenitiesand its
cosy villas had re-entered ancient night. Every twelve hours this
miracle happensbut he had troubled to go and see for himself.
Within his cramped little mind dwelt something that was greater


than Jefferies' books--the spirit that led Jefferies to write
them; and his dawnthough revealing nothing but monotoneswas
part of the eternal sunrise that shows George Borrow Stonehenge.

Then you don't think I was foolish?he asked becoming again the
naive and sweet-tempered boy for whom Nature intended him.

Heavens, no!replied Margaret.

Heaven help us if we do!replied Helen.

I'm very glad you say that. Now, my wife would never understand
--not if I explained for days.

No, it wasn't foolish!cried Helenher eyes aflame. "You've
pushed back the boundaries; I think it splendid of you."

You've not been content to dream as we have--

Though we have walked, too--

I must show you a picture upstairs--

Here the door-bell rang. The hansom had come to take them to
their evening party.

Oh, bother, not to say dash--I had forgotten we were dining out;
but do, do, come round again and have a talk.Yes, you must-do,
echoed Margaret.

Leonardwith extreme sentimentreplied: "NoI shall not. It's
better like this."

Why better?asked Margaret.

No, it is better not to risk a second interview. I shall always
look back on this talk with you as one of the finest things in my
life. Really. I mean this. We can never repeat. It has done me
real good, and there we had better leave it.

That's rather a sad view of life, surely.

Things so often get spoiled.

I know,flashed Helenbut people don't.

He could not understand this. He continued in a vein which
mingled true imagination and false. What he said wasn't wrong
but it wasn't rightand a false note jarred. One little twist
they feltand the instrument might be in tune. One little
strainand it might be silent for ever. He thanked the ladies
very muchbut he would not call again. There was a moment's
awkwardnessand then Helen said: "Gothen; perhaps you know
best; but never forget you're better than Jefferies." And he
went. Their hansom caught him up at the cornerpassed with a
waving of handsand vanished with its accomplished load into the
evening.

London was beginning to illuminate herself against the night.
Electric lights sizzled and jagged in the main thoroughfares
gas-lamps in the side streets glimmered a canary gold or green.
The sky was a crimson battlefield of springbut London was not
afraid. Her smoke mitigated the splendourand the clouds down
Oxford Street were a delicately painted ceilingwhich adorned


while it did not distract. She had never known the clear-cut
armies of the purer air. Leonard hurried through her tinted
wondersvery much part of the picture. His was a grey lifeand
to brighten it he had ruled off few corners for romance. The
Miss Schlegels--orto speak more accuratelyhis interview
with them--were to fill such a cornernor was it by any means
the first time that he had talked intimately to strangers. The
habit was analogous to a debauchan outletthough the worst of
outletsfor instincts that would not be denied. Terrifying him
it would beat down his suspicions and prudence until he was
confiding secrets to people whom he had scarcely seen. It brought
him many fears and some pleasant memories. Perhaps the keenest
happiness he had ever known was during a railway journey to
Cambridgewhere a decent-mannered undergraduate had spoken
to him. They had got into conversationand gradually Leonard
flung reticence asidetold some of his domestic troubles and
hinted at the rest. The undergraduatesupposing they could start
a friendshipasked him to "coffee after hall which he
accepted, but afterwards grew shy, and took care not to
stir from the commercial hotel where he lodged. He did not want
Romance to collide with the Porphyrion, still less with Jacky,
and people with fuller, happier lives are slow to understand
this. To the Schlegels, as to the undergraduate, he was an
interesting creature, of whom they wanted to see more. But they
to him were denizens of Romance, who must keep to the corner he
had assigned them, pictures that must not walk out of
their frames.

His behaviour over Margaret's visiting-card had been typical. His
had scarcely been a tragic marriage. Where there is no money
and no inclination to violence tragedy cannot be generated. He
could not leave his wife, and he did not want to hit her.
Petulance and squalor were enough. Here that card" had come in.
Leonardthough furtivewas untidyand left it lying about.
Jacky found itand then beganWhat's that card, eh?Yes,
don't you wish you knew what that card was?Len, who's Miss
Schlegel?etc. Months passedand the cardnow as a jokenow
as a grievancewas handed aboutgetting dirtier and dirtier. It
followed them when they moved from Camelia Road to Tulse Hill. It
was submitted to third parties. A few inches of pasteboardit
became the battlefield on which the souls of Leonard and his
wife contended. Why did he not sayA lady took my umbrella,
another gave me this that I might call for my umbrella? Because
Jacky would have disbelieved him? Partlybut chiefly because he
was sentimental. No affection gathered round the cardbut it
symbolised the life of culturethat Jacky should never spoil.
At night he would say to himselfWell, at all events, she
doesn't know about that card. Yah! done her there!

Poor Jacky! she was not a bad sortand had a great deal to bear.
She drew her own conclusion--she was only capable of drawing one
conclusion--and in the fulness of time she acted upon it. All the
Friday Leonard had refused to speak to herand had spent the
evening observing the stars. On the Saturday he went upas
usualto townbut he came not back Saturday nightnor Sunday
morningnor Sunday afternoon. The inconvenience grew
intolerableand though she was now of a retiring habitand shy
of womenshe went up to Wickham Place. Leonard returned in her
absence. The cardthe fatal cardwas gone from the pages of
Ruskinand he guessed what had happened.

Well?he had exclaimedgreeting her with peals of laughter.
I know where you've been, but you don't know where I've been.


Jacky sighedsaidLen, I do think you might explain,and
resumed domesticity.

Explanations were difficult at this stageand Leonard was too
silly--or it is tempting to writetoo sound a chap to attempt
them. His reticence was not entirely the shoddy article that a
business life promotesthe reticence that pretends that nothing
is somethingand hides behind the Daily Telegraph. The
adventureralsois reticentand it is an adventure for a clerk
to walk for a few hours in darkness. You may laugh at himyou
who have slept nights out on the veldtwith your rifle beside
you and all the atmosphere of adventure pat. And you also may
laugh who think adventures silly. But do not be surprised if
Leonard is shy whenever he meets youand if the Schlegels rather
than Jacky hear about the dawn.

That the Schlegels had not thought him foolish became a permanent
joy. He was at his best when he thought of them. It buoyed him as
he journeyed home beneath fading heavens. Somehow the barriers of
wealth had fallenand there had been--he could not phrase it--a
general assertion of the wonder of the world. "My conviction
says the mystic, gains infinitely the moment another soul will
believe in it and they had agreed that there was something
beyond life's daily grey. He took off his top-hat and smoothed it
thoughtfully. He had hitherto supposed the unknown to be books,
literature, clever conversation, culture. One raised oneself by
study, and got upsides with the world. But in that quick
interchange a new light dawned. Was that something" walking in
the dark among the suburban hills?

He discovered that he was going bareheaded down Regent Street.
London came back with a rush. Few were about at this hourbut
all whom he passed looked at him with a hostility that was the
more impressive because it was unconscious. He put his hat on. It
was too big; his head disappeared like a pudding into a basin
the ears bending outwards at the touch of the curly brim. He wore
it a little backwardsand its effect was greatly to elongate the
face and to bring out the distance between the eyes and the
moustache. Thus equippedhe escaped criticism. No one felt
uneasy as he titupped along the pavementsthe heart of a man
ticking fast in his chest.

CHAPTER XV

The sisters went out to dinner full of their adventureand when
they were both full of the same subjectthere were few
dinner-parties that could stand up against them. This particular
onewhich was all ladieshad more kick in it than mostbut
succumbed after a struggle. Helen at one part of the table
Margaret at the otherwould talk of Mr. Bast and of no one else
and somewhere about the entree their monologues collidedfell
ruiningand became common property. Nor was this all. The
dinner-party was really an informal discussion club; there was a
paper after itread amid coffee-cups and laughter in the
drawing-roombut dealing more or less thoughtfully with some
topic of general interest. After the paper came a debateand in
this debate Mr. Bast also figuredappearing now as a bright spot
in civilisationnow as a dark spotaccording to the temperament
of the speaker. The subject of the paper had beenHow ought I
to dispose of my money?the reader professing to be a
millionaire on the point of deathinclined to bequeath her
fortune for the foundation of local art galleriesbut open to


conviction from other sources. The various parts had been
assigned beforehandand some of the speeches were amusing. The
hostess assumed the ungrateful role of "the millionaire's eldest
son and implored her expiring parent not to dislocate Society
by allowing such vast sums to pass out of the family. Money was
the fruit of self-denial, and the second generation had a right
to profit by the self-denial of the first. What right had Mr.
Bast" to profit? The National Gallery was good enough for the
likes of him. After property had had its say--a saying that is
necessarily ungracious--the various philanthropists stepped
forward. Something must be done for "Mr. Bast"; his conditions
must be improved without impairing his independence; he must have
a free libraryor free tennis-courts; his rent must be paid in
such a way that he did not know it was being paid; it must be
made worth his while to join the Territorials; he must be
forcibly parted from his uninspiring wifethe money going to her
as compensation; he must be assigned a Twin Starsome member of
the leisured classes who would watch over him ceaselessly (groans
from Helen); he must be given food but no clothesclothes but no
fooda third-return ticket to Venicewithout either food or
clothes when he arrived there. In shorthe might be given
anything and everything so long as it was not the money itself.

And here Margaret interrupted.

Order, order, Miss Schlegel!said the reader of the paper. "You
are hereI understandto advise me in the interests of the
Society for the Preservation of Places of Historic Interest or
Natural Beauty. I cannot have you speaking out of your role. It
makes my poor head go roundand I think you forget that I am
very ill."

Your head won't go round if only you'll listen to my argument,
said Margaret. "Why not give him the money itself? You're
supposed to have about thirty thousand a year."

Have I? I thought I had a million.

Wasn't a million your capital? Dear me! we ought to have settled
that. Still, it doesn't matter. Whatever you've got, I order you
to give as many poor men as you can three hundred a year each.

But that would be pauperising them,said an earnest girlwho
liked the Schlegelsbut thought them a little unspiritual at
times.

Not if you gave them so much. A big windfall would not pauperise
a man. It is these little driblets, distributed among too many,
that do the harm. Money's educational. It's far more educational
than the things it buys.There was a protest. "In a sense
added Margaret, but the protest continued. Wellisn't the most
civilized thing goingthe man who has learnt to wear his income
properly?"

Exactly what your Mr. Basts won't do.

Give them a chance. Give them money. Don't dole them out
poetry-books and railway-tickets like babies. Give them the
wherewithal to buy these things. When your Socialism comes it may
be different, and we may think in terms of commodities instead of
cash. Till it comes give people cash, for it is the warp of
civilisation, whatever the woof may be. The imagination ought to
play upon money and realise it vividly, for it's the--the second
most important thing in the world. It is so slurred over and


hushed up, there is so little clear thinking--oh, political
economy, of course, but so few of us think clearly about our own
private incomes, and admit that independent thoughts are in nine
cases out of ten the result of independent means. Money: give Mr.
Bast money, and don't bother about his ideals. He'll pick up
those for himself.

She leant back while the more earnest members of the club began
to misconstrue her. The female mind, though cruelly practical in
daily life, cannot bear to hear ideals belittled in conversation,
and Miss Schlegel was asked however she could say such dreadful
things, and what it would profit Mr. Bast if he gained the whole
world and lost his own soul. She answered, Nothingbut he would
not gain his soul until he had gained a little of the world."
Then they saidNo, we do not believe it,and she admitted that
an overworked clerk may save his soul in the superterrestrial
sensewhere the effort will be taken for the deedbut she
denied that he will ever explore the spiritual resources of this
worldwill ever know the rarer joys of the bodyor attain to
clear and passionate intercourse with his fellows. Others had
attacked the fabric of Society--PropertyInterestetc.; she
only fixed her eyes on a few human beingsto see howunder
present conditionsthey could be made happier. Doing good to
humanity was useless: the many-coloured efforts thereto spreading
over the vast area like films and resulting in an universal grey.
To do good to oneoras in this caseto a fewwas the utmost
she dare hope for.

Between the idealistsand the political economistsMargaret had
a bad time. Disagreeing elsewherethey agreed in disowning her
and in keeping the administration of the millionaire's money in
their own hands. The earnest girl brought forward a scheme of
personal supervision and mutual help,the effect of which was
to alter poor people until they became exactly like people who
were not so poor. The hostess pertinently remarked that sheas
eldest sonmight surely rank among the millionaire's legatees.
Margaret weakly admitted the claimand another claim was at once
set up by Helenwho declared that she had been the millionaire's
housemaid for over forty yearsoverfed and underpaid; was
nothing to be done for herso corpulent and poor? The
millionaire then read out her last will and testamentin which
she left the whole of her fortune to the Chancellor of the
Exchequer. Then she died. The serious parts of the discussion had
been of higher merit than the playful--in a men's debate is the
reverse more general?--but the meeting broke up hilariously
enoughand a dozen happy ladies dispersed to their homes.

Helen and Margaret walked with the earnest girl as far as
Battersea Bridge Stationarguing copiously all the way. When she
had gone they were conscious of an alleviationand of the great
beauty of the evening. They turned back towards Oakley Street.
The lamps and the plane-treesfollowing the line of the
embankmentstruck a note of dignity that is rare in English
cities. The seatsalmost desertedwere here and there occupied
by gentlefolk in evening dresswho had strolled out from the
houses behind to enjoy fresh air and the whisper of the rising
tide. There is something continental about Chelsea Embankment. It
is an open space used rightlya blessing more frequent in
Germany than here. As Margaret and Helen sat downthe city
behind them seemed to be a vast theatrean opera-house in which
some endless trilogy was performingand they themselves a pair
of satisfied subscriberswho did not mind losing a little of the
second act.


Cold?
No.
Tired?
Doesn't matter.
The earnest girl's train rumbled away over the bridgeI say,


Helen--
Well?
Are we really going to follow up Mr. Bast?
I don't know.
I think we won't.
As you like.
It's no good, I think, unless you really mean to know people.


The discussion brought that home to me. We got on well enough


with him in a spirit of excitement, but think of rational


intercourse. We mustn't play at friendship. No, it's no good.

There's Mrs. Lanoline, too,Helen yawned. "So dull."

Just so, and possibly worse than dull.

I should like to know how he got hold of your card.

But he said--something about a concert and an umbrella.

Then did the card see the wife--

Helen, come to bed.

No, just a little longer, it is so beautiful. Tell me; oh yes;


did you say money is the warp of the world?
Yes.
Then what's the woof?
Very much what one chooses,said Margaret. "It's something that


isn't money--one can't say more."
Walking at night?
Probably.
For Tibby, Oxford?
It seems so.
For you?
Now that we have to leave Wickham Place, I begin to think it's


that. For Mrs. Wilcox it was certainly Howards End.
One's own name will carry immense distances. Mr. Wilcoxwho was
sitting with friends many seats awayheard thisrose to his
feetand strolled along towards the speakers.



It is sad to suppose that places may ever be more important than
people,continued Margaret.

Why, Meg? They're so much nicer generally. I'd rather think of
that forester's house in Pomerania than of the fat Herr
Forstmeister who lived in it.

I believe we shall come to care about people less and less,
Helen. The more people one knows the easier it becomes to replace
them. It's one of the curses of London. I quite expect to end my
life caring most for a place.

Here Mr. Wilcox reached them. It was several weeks since they had
met.

How do you do?he cried. "I thought I recognised your voices.
Whatever are you both doing down here?"

His tones were protective. He implied that one ought not to sit
out on Chelsea Embankment without a male escort. Helen resented
thisbut Margaret accepted it as part of the good man's
equipment.

What an age it is since I've seen you, Mr. Wilcox. I met Evie in
the Tube, though, lately. I hope you have good news of your son.

Paul?said Mr. Wilcoxextinguishing his cigaretteand sitting
down between them. "OhPaul's all right. We had a line from Madeira.
He'll be at work again by now."

Ugh--said Helenshuddering from complex causes.

I beg your pardon?

Isn't the climate of Nigeria too horrible?

Some one's got to go,he said simply. England will never keep
her trade overseas unless she is prepared to make sacrifices.
Unless we get firm in West AfricaGer--untold complications may
follow. Now tell me all your news."

Oh, we've had a splendid evening,cried Helenwho always woke
up at the advent of a visitor. "We belong to a kind of club that
reads papersMargaret and I--all womenbut there is a
discussion after. This evening it was on how one ought to leave
one's money--whether to one's familyor to the poorand if so
how--ohmost interesting."

The man of business smiled. Since his wife's death he had almost
doubled his income. He was an important figure at lasta
reassuring name on company prospectusesand life had treated him
very well. The world seemed in his grasp as he listened to the
River Thameswhich still flowed inland from the sea. So
wonderful to the girlsit held no mysteries for him. He had
helped to shorten its long tidal trough by taking shares in the
lock at Teddingtonand if he and other capitalists thought good
some day it could be shortened again. With a good dinner inside
him and an amiable but academic woman on either flankhe felt
that his hands were on all the ropes of lifeand that what he
did not know could not be worth knowing.

Sounds a most original entertainment!he exclaimedand laughed
in his pleasant way. "I wish Evie would go to that sort of thing.


But she hasn't the time. She's taken to breeding Aberdeen
terriers--jolly little dogs."

I expect we'd better be doing the same, really.

We pretend we're improving ourselves, you see,said Helen a
little sharplyfor the Wilcox glamour is not of the kind that
returnsand she had bitter memories of the days when a speech
such as he had just made would have impressed her favourably. "We
suppose it a good thing to waste an evening once a fortnight over
a debatebutas my sister saysit may be better to breed
dogs."

Not at all. I don't agree with your sister. There's nothing like
a debate to teach one quickness. I often wish I had gone in for
them when I was a youngster. It would have helped me no end.

Quickness--?

Yes. Quickness in argument. Time after time I've missed scoring
a point because the other man has had the gift of the gab and I
haven't. Oh, I believe in these discussions.

The patronising tonethought Margaretcame well enough from a
man who was old enough to be their father. She had always
maintained that Mr. Wilcox had a charm. In times of sorrow or
emotion his inadequacy had pained herbut it was pleasant to
listen to him nowand to watch his thick brown moustache and
high forehead confronting the stars. But Helen was nettled. The
aim of their debates she implied was Truth.

Oh yes, it doesn't much matter what subject you take,said he.

Margaret laughed and saidBut this is going to be far better
than the debate itself.Helen recovered herself and laughed too.
No, I won't go on,she declared. "I'll just put our special
case to Mr. Wilcox."

About Mr. Bast? Yes, do. He'll be more lenient to a special
case.

But, Mr. Wilcox, do first light another cigarette. It's this.
We've just come across a young fellow, who's evidently very poor,
and who seems interest--

What's his profession?

Clerk.

What in?

Do you remember, Margaret?

Porphyrion Fire Insurance Company.

Oh yes; the nice people who gave Aunt Juley a new hearth rug. He
seems interesting, in some ways very, and one wishes one could
help him. He is married to a wife whom he doesn't seem to care
for much. He likes books, and what one may roughly call
adventure, and if he had a chance-- But he is so poor. He lives a
life where all the money is apt to go on nonsense and clothes.
One is so afraid that circumstances will be too strong for him
and that he will sink. Well, he got mixed up in our debate. He
wasn't the subject of it, but it seemed to bear on his point.


Suppose a millionaire died, and desired to leave money to help
such a man. How should he be helped? Should he be given three
hundred pounds a year direct, which was Margaret's plan? Most of
them thought this would pauperise him. Should he and those like
him be given free libraries? I said 'No!' He doesn't want more
books to read, but to read books rightly. My suggestion was he
should be given something every year towards a summer holiday,
but then there is his wife, and they said she would have to go
too. Nothing seemed quite right! Now what do you think? Imagine
that you were a millionaire, and wanted to help the poor. What
would you do?

Mr. Wilcoxwhose fortune was not so very far below the standard
indicatedlaughed exuberantly. "My dear Miss SchlegelI will
not rush in where your sex has been unable to tread. I will not
add another plan to the numerous excellent ones that have been
already suggested. My only contribution is this: let your young
friend clear out of the Porphyrion Fire Insurance Company with
all possible speed."

Why?said Margaret.

He lowered his voice. "This is between friends. It'll be in the
Receiver's hands before Christmas. It'll smash he added,
thinking that she had not understood.

Dear meHelenlisten to that. And he'll have to get another
place!"

WILL have? Let him leave the ship before it sinks. Let him get
one now.

Rather than wait, to make sure?

Decidedly.

Why's that?

Again the Olympian laughand the lowered voice. "Naturally the
man who's in a situation when he applies stands a better chance
is in a stronger positionthat the man who isn't. It looks as if
he's worth something. I know by myself--(this is letting you into
the State secrets)--it affects an employer greatly. Human nature
I'm afraid."

I hadn't thought of that,murmured Margaretwhile Helen said
Our human nature appears to be the other way round. We employ
people because they're unemployed. The boot man, for instance.

And how does he clean the boots?

Not well,confessed Margaret.

There you are!

Then do you really advise us to tell this youth--?

I advise nothing,he interruptedglancing up and down the
Embankmentin case his indiscretion had been overheard. "I
oughtn't to have spoken--but I happen to knowbeing more or less
behind the scenes. The Porphyrion's a badbad concern-- Now
don't say I said so. It's outside the Tariff Ring."

Certainly I won't say. In fact, I don't know what that means.


I thought an insurance company never smashed,was Helen's
contribution. "Don't the others always run in and save them?"

You're thinking of reinsurance,said Mr. Wilcox mildly. "It is
exactly there that the Porphyrion is weak. It has tried to
undercuthas been badly hit by a long series of small firesand
it hasn't been able to reinsure. I'm afraid that public
companies don't save one another for love."

'Human nature,' I suppose,quoted Helenand he laughed and
agreed that it was. When Margaret said that she supposed that
clerkslike every one elsefound it extremely difficult to get
situations in these dayshe repliedYes, extremely,and rose
to rejoin his friends. He knew by his own office--seldom a vacant
postand hundreds of applicants for it; at present no vacant
post.

And how's Howards End looking?said Margaretwishing to change
the subject before they parted. Mr. Wilcox was a little apt to
think one wanted to get something out of him.

It's let.

Really. And you wandering homeless in longhaired Chelsea? How
strange are the ways of Fate!

No; it's let unfurnished. We've moved.

Why, I thought of you both as anchored there for ever. Evie
never told me.

I dare say when you met Evie the thing wasn't settled. We only
moved a week ago. Paul has rather a feeling for the old place,
and we held on for him to have his holiday there; but, really, it
is impossibly small. Endless drawbacks. I forget whether you've
been up to it?

As far as the house, never.

Well, Howards End is one of those converted farms. They don't
really do, spend what you will on them. We messed away with a
garage all among the wych-elm roots, and last year we enclosed a
bit of the meadow and attempted a rockery. Evie got rather keen
on Alpine plants. But it didn't do--no, it didn't do. You
remember, your sister will remember, the farm with those
abominable guinea-fowls, and the hedge that the old woman never
would cut properly, so that it all went thin at the bottom. And,
inside the house, the beams--and the staircase through a door-picturesque
enough, but not a place to live in.He glanced over
the parapet cheerfully. "Full tide. And the position wasn't
right either. The neighbourhood's getting suburban. Either be in
London or out of itI say; so we've taken a house in Ducie
Streetclose to Sloane Streetand a place right down in
Shropshire--Oniton Grange. Ever heard of Oniton? Do come and see
us--right away from everywhereup towards Wales."

What a change!said Margaret. But the change was in her own
voicewhich had become most sad. "I can't imagine Howards End or
Hilton without you."

Hilton isn't without us,he replied. "Charles is there still."

Still?said Margaretwho had not kept up with the Charles's.


But I thought he was still at Epsom. They were furnishing that
Christmas--one Christmas. How everything alters! I used to admire
Mrs. Charles from our windows very often. Wasn't it Epsom?

Yes, but they moved eighteen months ago. Charles, the good chap
--his voice dropped--"thought I should be lonely. I didn't want
him to movebut he wouldand took a house at the other end of
Hiltondown by the Six Hills. He had a motortoo. There they
all area very jolly party--he and she and the two
grandchildren."

I manage other people's affairs so much better than they manage
them themselves,said Margaret as they shook hands. "When you
moved out of Howards EndI should have moved Mr. Charles Wilcox
into it. I should have kept so remarkable a place in the family."

So it is,he replied. "I haven't sold itand don't mean to."

No; but none of you are there,

Oh, we've got a splendid tenant--Hamar Bryce, an invalid. If
Charles ever wanted it--but he won't. Dolly is so dependent on
modern conveniences. No, we have all decided against Howards End.
We like it in a way, but now we feel that it is neither one thing
nor the other. One must have one thing or the other.

And some people are lucky enough to have both. You're doing
yourself proud, Mr. Wilcox. My congratulations.

And mine,said Helen.

Do remind Evie to come and see us--2 Wickham Place. We shan't be
there very long, either.

You, too, on the move?

Next September,Margaret sighed.

Every one moving! Good-bye.

The tide had begun to ebb. Margaret leant over the parapet and
watched it sadly. Mr. Wilcox had forgotten his wifeHelen her
lover; she herself was probably forgetting. Every one moving. Is
it worth while attempting the past when there is this continual
flux even in the hearts of men?

Helen roused her by saying: "What a prosperous vulgarian Mr.
Wilcox has grown! I have very little use for him in these days.
Howeverhe did tell us about the Porphyrion. Let us write to Mr.
Bast as soon as ever we get homeand tell him to clear out of it
at once."

Do; yes, that's worth doing. Let us.

CHAPTER XVI

Leonard accepted the invitation to tea next Saturday. But he was
right; the visit proved a conspicuous failure.

Sugar?said Margaret.

Cake?said Helen. "The big cake or the little deadlies? I'm


afraid you thought my letter rather oddbut we'll explain--we
aren't oddreally--nor affectedreally. We're over-expressive-that's
all."

As a lady's lap-dog Leonard did not excel. He was not an Italian
still less a Frenchmanin whose blood there runs the very spirit
of persiflage and of gracious repartee. His wit was the
Cockney's; it opened no doors into imaginationand Helen was
drawn up short by "The more a lady has to saythe better
administered waggishly.

Oh yes she said.

Ladies brighten--"

Yes, I know. The darlings are regular sunbeams. Let me give you
a plate.

How do you like your work?interposed Margaret.

Hetoowas drawn up short. He would not have these women prying
into his work. They were Romanceand so was the room to which he
had at last penetratedwith the queer sketches of people bathing
upon its wallsand so were the very tea-cupswith their
delicate borders of wild strawberries. But he would not let
romance interfere with his life. There is the devil to pay then.

Oh, well enough,he answered.

Your company is the Porphyrion, isn't it?

Yes, that's so.--becoming rather offended. "It's funny how
things get round."

Why funny?asked Helenwho did not follow the workings of his
mind. "It was written as large as life on your cardand
considering we wrote to you thereand that you replied on the
stamped paper--"

Would you call the Porphyrion one of the big Insurance
Companies?pursued Margaret.

It depends on what you call big.

I mean by big, a solid, well-established concern, that offers a
reasonably good career to its employes.

I couldn't say--some would tell you one thing and others
another,said the employe uneasily. "For my own part"--he shook
his head--" I only believe half I hear. Not that even; it's
safer. Those clever ones come to the worse griefI've often
noticed. Ahyou can't be too careful."

He drankand wiped his moustachewhich was going to be one of
those moustaches that always droop into tea-cups--more bother
than they're worthsurelyand not fashionable either.

I quite agree, and that's why I was curious to know; is it a
solid, well-established concern?

Leonard had no idea. He understood his own corner of the machine
but nothing beyond it. He desired to confess neither knowledge
nor ignoranceand under these circumstancesanother motion of
the head seemed safest. To himas to the British publicthe


Porphyrion was the Porphyrion of the advertisement--a giantin
the classical stylebut draped sufficientlywho held in one
hand a burning torchand pointed with the other to St. Paul's
and Windsor Castle. A large sum of money was inscribed belowand
you drew your own conclusions. This giant caused Leonard to do
arithmetic and write lettersto explain the regulations to new
clientsand re-explain them to old ones. A giant was of an
impulsive morality--one knew that much. He would pay for Mrs.
Munt's hearthrug with ostentatious hastea large claim he would
repudiate quietlyand fight court by court. But his true
fighting weighthis antecedentshis amours with other members
of the commercial Pantheon--all these were as uncertain to
ordinary mortals as were the escapades of Zeus. While the gods
are powerfulwe learn little about them. It is only in the days
of their decadence that a strong light beats into heaven.

We were told the Porphyrion's no go,blurted Helen. "We wanted
to tell you; that's why we wrote."

A friend of ours did think that it is insufficiently reinsured,
said Margaret.

Now Leonard had his clue.

He must praise the Porphyrion. "You can tell your friend he
said, that he's quite wrong."

Oh, good!

The young man coloured a little. In his circle to be wrong was
fatal. The Miss Schlegels did not mind being wrong. They were
genuinely glad that they had been misinformed. To them nothing
was fatal but evil.

Wrong, so to speak,he added.

How 'so to speak'?

I mean I wouldn't say he's right altogether.

But this was a blunder. "Then he is right partly said the elder
woman, quick as lightning.

Leonard replied that every one was right partly, if it came to
that.

Mr. BastI don't understand businessand I dare say my
questions are stupidbut can you tell me what makes a concern
'right' or 'wrong'?"

Leonard sat back with a sigh.

Our friend, who is also a business man, was so positive. He said
before Christmas--

And advised you to clear out of it,concluded Helen. "But I
don't see why he should know better than you do. "

Leonard rubbed his hands. He was tempted to say that he knew
nothing about the thing at all. But a commercial training was too
strong for him. Nor could he say it was a bad thingfor this
would be giving it away; nor yet that it was goodfor this would
be giving it away equally. He attempted to suggest that it was
something between the twowith vast possibilities in either


directionbut broke down under the gaze of four sincere eyes.
And yet he scarcely distinguished between the two sisters. One
was more beautiful and more livelybut "the Miss Schlegels"
still remained a composite Indian godwhose waving arms and
contradictory speeches were the product of a single mind.

One can but see,he remarkedaddingas Ibsen says, 'things
happen.'He was itching to talk about books and make the most of
his romantic hour. Minute after minute slipped awaywhile the
ladieswith imperfect skilldiscussed the subject of
reinsurance or praised their anonymous friend. Leonard grew
annoyed--perhaps rightly. He made vague remarks about not being
one of those who minded their affairs being talked over by
othersbut they did not take the hint. Men might have shown more
tact. Womenhowever tactful elsewhereare heavy-handed here.
They cannot see why we should shroud our incomes and our
prospects in a veil. "How much exactly have youand how much do
you expect to have next June?" And these were women with a
theorywho held that reticence about money matters is absurd
and that life would be truer if each would state the exact size
of the golden island upon which he standsthe exact stretch of
warp over which he throws the woof that is not money. How can we
do justice to the pattern otherwise?

And the precious minutes slipped awayand Jacky and squalor came
nearer. At last he could bear it no longerand broke in
reciting the names of books feverishly. There was a moment of
piercing joy when Margaret saidSo YOU like Carlyleand then
the door openedand "Mr. WilcoxMiss Wilcox" enteredpreceded
by two prancing puppies.

Oh, the dears! Oh, Evie, how too impossibly sweet!screamed
Helenfalling on her hands and knees.

We brought the little fellows round,said Mr. Wilcox.

I bred 'em myself.

Oh, really! Mr. Bast, come and play with puppies.

I've got to be going now,said Leonard sourly.

But play with puppies a little first.

This is Ahab, that's Jezebel,said Eviewho was one of those
who name animals after the less successful characters of Old
Testament history.

I've got to be going.

Helen was too much occupied with puppies to notice him.

Mr. Wilcox, Mr. Ba-- Must you be really?

Good-bye!"

Come again,said Helen from the floor.

Then Leonard's gorge arose. Why should he come again? What was
the good of it? He said roundly: "NoI shan't; I knew it would
be a failure."

Most people would have let him go. "A little mistake. We tried
knowing another class--impossible."


But the Schlegels had never played with life. They had attempted
friendshipand they would take the consequences. Helen retorted
I call that a very rude remark. What do you want to turn on me
like that for?and suddenly the drawing-room re-echoed to a
vulgar row.

You ask me why I turn on you?

Yes.

What do you want to have me here for?'

To help youyou silly boy!" cried Helen. "And don't shout."

I don't want your patronage. I don't want your tea. I was quite
happy. What do you want to unsettle me for?He turned to Mr.
Wilcox. "I put it to this gentleman. I ask yousiram I to have
my brain picked?"

Mr. Wilcox turned to Margaret with the air of humorous strength
that he could so well command. "Are we intrudingMiss Schlegel?
Can we be of any useor shall we go?"

But Margaret ignored him.

I'm connected with a leading insurance company, sir. I receive
what I take to be an invitation from these--ladies(he drawled
the word). "I comeand it's to have my brain picked. I ask you
is it fair?"

Highly unfair,said Mr. Wilcoxdrawing a gasp from Eviewho
knew that her father was becoming dangerous.

There, you hear that? Most unfair, the gentleman says. There!
Not content with--pointing at Margaret--"you can't deny it." His
voice rose; he was falling into the rhythm of a scene with Jacky.
But as soon as I'm useful it's a very different thing. 'Oh yes,
send for him. Cross-question him. Pick his brains.' Oh yes. Now,
take me on the whole, I'm a quiet fellow: I'm law-abiding, I
don't wish any unpleasantness; but I--I--

You,said Margaret--"you--you--"

Laughter from Evie as at a repartee.

You are the man who tried to walk by the Pole Star.

More laughter.

You saw the sunrise.

Laughter.

You tried to get away from the fogs that are stifling us all-away
past books and houses to the truth. You were looking for a
real home.

I fail to see the connection,said Leonardhot with stupid
anger.

So do I.There was a pause. "You were that last Sunday--you are
this to-day. Mr. Bast! I and my sister have talked you over. We
wanted to help you; we also supposed you might help us. We did


not have you here out of charity--which bores us--but because we
hoped there would be a connection between last Sunday and other
days. What is the good of your stars and treesyour sunrise and
the windif they do not enter into our daily lives? They have
never entered into minebut into yourswe thought-- Haven't we
all to struggle against life's daily greynessagainst pettiness
against mechanical cheerfulnessagainst suspicion? I struggle by
remembering my friends; others I have known by remembering some
place--some beloved place or tree--we thought you one of these."

Of course, if there's been any misunderstanding,mumbled
Leonardall I can do is to go. But I beg to state--He paused.
Ahab and Jezebel danced at his boots and made him look
ridiculous. "You were picking my brain for official information-I
can prove it--I--" He blew his nose and left them.

Can I help you now?said Mr. Wilcoxturning to Margaret. "May
I have one quiet word with him in the hall?"

Helen, go after him--do anything--anything--to make the noodle
understand.

Helen hesitated.

But really--said their visitor. "Ought she to?"

At once she went.

He resumed. "I would have chimed inbut I felt that you could
polish him off for yourselves--I didn't interfere. You were
splendidMiss Schlegel--absolutely splendid. You can take my
word for itbut there are very few women who could have managed
him."

Oh yes,said Margaret distractedly.

Bowling him over with those long sentences was what fetched me,
cried Evie.

Yes, indeed,chuckled her father; "all that part about
'mechanical cheerfulness'--ohfine!"

I'm very sorry,said Margaretcollecting herself. "He's a nice
creature really. I cannot think what set him off. It has been
most unpleasant for you."

Oh, I didn't mind.Then he changed his mood. He asked if he
might speak as an old friendandpermission givensaid:
Oughtn't you really to be more careful?

Margaret laughedthough her thoughts still strayed after Helen.
Do you realise that it's all your fault?she said. "You're
responsible."

I?

This is the young man whom we were to warn against the
Porphyrion. We warn him, and--look!

Mr. Wilcox was annoyed. "I hardly consider that a fair
deduction he said.

Obviously unfair said Margaret. I was only thinking how
tangled things are. It's our fault mostly--neither yours nor


his."

Not his?

No.

Miss Schlegel, you are too kind.

Yes, indeed,nodded Eviea little contemptuously.

You behave much too well to people, and then they impose on you.
I know the world and that type of man, and as soon as I entered
the room I saw you had not been treating him properly. You must
keep that type at a distance. Otherwise they forget themselves.
Sad, but true. They aren't our sort, and one must face the fact.

Ye--es.

Do admit that we should never have had the outburst if he was a
gentleman.

I admit it willingly,said Margaretwho was pacing up and down
the room. "A gentleman would have kept his suspicions to
himself."

Mr. Wilcox watched her with a vague uneasiness.

What did he suspect you of?

Of wanting to make money out of him.

Intolerable brute! But how were you to benefit?

Exactly. How indeed! Just horrible, corroding suspicion. One
touch of thought or of goodwill would have brushed it away. Just
the senseless fear that does make men intolerable brutes.

I come back to my original point. You ought to be more careful,
Miss Schlegel. Your servants ought to have orders not to let such
people in.

She turned to him frankly. "Let me explain exactly why we like
this manand want to see him again."

That's your clever way of talking. I shall never believe you
like him.

I do. Firstly, because he cares for physical adventure, just as
you do. Yes, you go motoring and shooting; he would like to go
camping out. Secondly, he cares for something special IN
adventure. It is quickest to call that special something
poetry--

Oh, he's one of that writer sort.

No--oh no! I mean he may be, but it would be loathsome stuff.
His brain is filled with the husks of books, culture--horrible;
we want him to wash out his brain and go to the real thing. We
want to show him how he may get upsides with life. As I said,
either friends or the country, some--she hesitated--"either some
very dear person or some very dear place seems necessary to
relieve life's daily greyand to show that it is grey. If
possibleone should have both."


Some of her words ran past Mr. Wilcox. He let them run past.
Others he caught and criticised with admirable lucidity.

Your mistake is this, and it is a very common mistake. This
young bounder has a life of his own. What right have you to
conclude it is an unsuccessful life, or, as you call it, 'grey'?

Because--

One minute. You know nothing about him. He probably has his own
joys and interests--wife, children, snug little home. That's
where we practical fellowshe smiled--"are more tolerant than
you intellectuals. We live and let liveand assume that things
are jogging on fairly well elsewhereand that the ordinary plain
man may be trusted to look after his own affairs. I quite grant-I
look at the faces of the clerks in my own officeand observe
them to be dullbut I don't know what's going on beneath. Soby
the waywith London. I have heard you rail against LondonMiss
Schlegeland it seems a funny thing to say but I was very angry
with you. What do you know about London? You only see
civilisation from the outside. I don't say in your casebut in
too many cases that attitude leads to morbiditydiscontentand
Socialism."

She admitted the strength of his positionthough it undermined
imagination. As he spokesome outposts of poetry and perhaps of
sympathy fell ruiningand she retreated to what she called her
second line--to the special facts of the case.

His wife is an old bore,she said simply. "He never came home
last Saturday night because he wanted to be aloneand she
thought he was with us."

With YOU?

Yes.Evie tittered. "He hasn't got the cosy home that you
assumed. He needs outside interests."

Naughty young man!cried the girl.

Naughty?said Margaretwho hated naughtiness more than sin.
When you're married Miss Wilcox, won't you want outside
interests?

He has apparently got them,put in Mr. Wilcox slyly.

Yes, indeed, father.

He was tramping in Surrey, if you mean that,said Margaret
pacing away rather crossly.

Oh, I dare say!

Miss Wilcox, he was!

M--m--m--m!from Mr. Wilcoxwho thought the episode amusing
if risque. With most ladies he would not have discussed itbut
he was trading on Margaret's reputation as an emancipated woman.

He said so, and about such a thing he wouldn't lie.

They both began to laugh.

That's where I differ from you. Men lie about their positions


and prospects, but not about a thing of that sort.

He shook his head. "Miss Schlegelexcuse mebut I know the
type."

I said before--he isn't a type. He cares about adventures
rightly. He 's certain that our smug existence isn't all. He's
vulgar and hysterical and bookish, but don't think that sums him
up. There's manhood in him as well. Yes, that's what I'm trying
to say. He's a real man.

As she spoke their eyes metand it was as if Mr. Wilcox's
defences fell. She saw back to the real man in him. Unwittingly
she had touched his emotions.

A woman and two men--they had formed the magic triangle of sex
and the male was thrilled to jealousyin case the female was
attracted by another male. Lovesay the asceticsreveals our
shameful kinship with the beasts. Be it so: one can bear that;
jealousy is the real shame. It is jealousynot lovethat
connects us with the farmyard intolerablyand calls up visions
of two angry cocks and a complacent hen. Margaret crushed
complacency down because she was civilised. Mr. Wilcox
uncivilisedcontinued to feel anger long after he had rebuilt
his defencesand was again presenting a bastion to the world.

Miss Schlegel, you're a pair of dear creatures, but you really
MUST be careful in this uncharitable world. What does your
brother say?

I forget.

Surely he has some opinion?

He laughs, if I remember correctly.

He's very clever, isn't he?said Eviewho had met and
detested Tibby at Oxford.

Yes, pretty well--but I wonder what Helen's doing.

She is very young to undertake this sort of thing,said Mr.
Wilcox.

Margaret went out to the landing. She heard no soundand Mr.
Bast's topper was missing from the hall.

Helen!she called.

Yes!replied a voice from the library.

You in there?

Yes--he's gone some time.

Margaret went to her. "Whyyou're all alone she said.

Yes--it's all rightMeg. Poorpoor creature--"

Come back to the Wilcoxes and tell me later--Mr. W much
concerned, and slightly titillated.

0h, I've no patience with him. I hate him. Poor dear Mr. Bast!
he wanted to talk literature, and we would talk business. Such a


muddle of a man, and yet so worth pulling through. I like him
extraordinarily.

Well done,said Margaretkissing herbut come into the
drawing-room now, and don't talk about him to the Wilcoxes. Make
light of the whole thing.

Helen came and behaved with a cheerfulness that reassured their
visitor--this hen at all events was fancy-free.

He's gone with my blessing,she criedand now for puppies.

As they drove awayMr. Wilcox said to his daughter:

I am really concerned at the way those girls go on. They are as
clever as you make 'em, but unpractical--God bless me! One of
these days they'll go too far. Girls like that oughtn't to live
alone in London. Until they marry, they ought to have some one
to look after them. We must look in more often--we're better than
no one. You like them, don't you, Evie?

Evie replied: "Helen's right enoughbut I can't stand the toothy
one. And I shouldn't have called either of them girls."

Evie had grown up handsome. Dark-eyedwith the glow of youth
under sunburnbuilt firmly and firm-lippedshe was the best the
Wilcoxes could do in the way of feminine beauty. For the present
puppies and her father were the only things she lovedbut the
net of matrimony was being prepared for herand a few days later
she was attracted to a Mr. Percy Cahillan uncle of Mrs.
Charles'sand he was attracted to her.

CHAPTER XVII

The Age of Property holds bitter moments even for a proprietor.
When a move is imminentfurniture becomes ridiculousand
Margaret now lay awake at nights wondering wherewhere on earth
they and all their belongings would be deposited in September
next. Chairstablespicturesbooksthat had rumbled down to
them through the generationsmust rumble forward again like a
slide of rubbish to which she longed to give the final pushand
send toppling into the sea. But there were all their father's
books--they never read thembut they were their father'sand
must be kept. There was the marble-topped chiffonier--their
mother had set store by itthey could not remember why. Round
every knob and cushion in the house gathered a sentiment that was
at times personalbut more often a faint piety to the deada
prolongation of rites that might have ended at the grave.

It was absurdif you came to think of it; Helen and Tibby came
to think of it; Margaret was too busy with the house-agents. The
feudal ownership of land did bring dignitywhereas the modern
ownership of movables is reducing us again to a nomadic horde.
We are reverting to the civilisation of luggageand historians
of the future will note how the middle classes accreted
possessions without taking root in the earthand may find in this
the secret of their imaginative poverty. The Schlegels were
certainly the poorer for the loss of Wickham Place. It had helped
to balance their livesand almost to counsel them. Nor is their
ground-landlord spiritually the richer. He has built flats on its
sitehis motor-cars grow swifterhis exposures of Socialism
more trenchant. But he has spilt the precious distillation of the


yearsand no chemistry of his can give it back to society again.

Margaret grew depressed; she was anxious to settle on a house
before they left town to pay their annual visit to Mrs. Munt. She
enjoyed this visitand wanted to have her mind at ease for it.
Swanagethough dullwas stableand this year she longed more
than usual for its fresh air and for the magnificent downs that
guard it on the north. But London thwarted her; in its atmosphere
she could not concentrate. London only stimulatesit cannot
sustain; and Margarethurrying over its surface for a house
without knowing what sort of a house she wantedwas paying for
many a thrilling sensation in the past. She could not even break
loose from cultureand her time was wasted by concerts which it
would be a sin to missand invitations which it would never do
to refuse. At last she grew desperate; she resolved that she
would go nowhere and be at home to no one until she found a
houseand broke the resolution in half an hour.

Once she had humorously lamented that she had never been to
Simpson's restaurant in the Strand. Now a note arrived from Miss
Wilcoxasking her to lunch there. Mr Cahill was coming
and the three would have such a jolly chatand perhaps end up at
the Hippodrome. Margaret had no strong regard for Evieand no
desire to meet her fianceand she was surprised that Helenwho
had been far funnier about Simpson'shad not been asked instead.
But the invitation touched her by its intimate tone. She must
know Evie Wilcox better than she supposedand declaring that she
simply must,she accepted.

But when she saw Evie at the entrance of the restaurantstaring
fiercely at nothing after the fashion of athletic womenher
heart failed her anew. Miss Wilcox had changed perceptibly since
her engagement. Her voice was grufferher manner more downright
and she was inclined to patronise the more foolish virgin.
Margaret was silly enough to be pained at this. Depressed at her
isolationshe saw not only houses and furniturebut the vessel
of life itself slipping past herwith people like Evie and Mr.
Cahill on board.

There are moments when virtue and wisdom fail usand one of them
came to her at Simpson's in the Strand. As she trod the
staircasenarrowbut carpeted thicklyas she entered the
eating-roomwhere saddles of mutton were being trundled up to
expectant clergymenshe had a strongif erroneouscoviction of
her own futilityand wished she had never come out of her
backwaterwhere nothing happened except art and literatureand
where no one ever got married or succeeded in remaining engaged.
Then came a little surprise. "Father might be of the party--yes
father was." With a smile of pleasure she moved forward to greet
himand her feeling of loneliness vanished.

I thought I'd get round if I could,said he. "Evie told me of
her little planso I just slipped in and secured a table. Always
secure a table first. Eviedon't pretend you want to sit by your
old fatherbecause you don't. Miss Schlegelcome in my side
out of pity. My goodnessbut you look tired! Been worrying round
after your young clerks?"

No, after houses,said Margaretedging past him into the box.
I'm hungry, not tired; I want to eat heaps.

That's good. What'll you have?

Fish pie,said shewith a glance at the menu.


Fish pie! Fancy coming for fish pie to Simpson's. It's not a bit
the thing to go for here.

Go for something for me, then,said Margaretpulling off her
gloves. Her spirits were risingand his reference to Leonard
Bast had warmed her curiously.

Saddle of mutton,said he after profound reflection; "and
cider to drink. That's the type of thing. I like this placefor
a jokeonce in a way. It is so thoroughly Old English. Don't you
agree?"

Yes,said Margaretwho didn't. The order was giventhe joint
rolled upand the carverunder Mr. Wilcox's directioncut the
meat where it was succulentand piled their plates high. Mr.
Cahill insisted on sirloinbut admitted that he had made a
mistake later on. He and Evie soon fell into a conversation of
the "NoI didn't; yesyou did" type--conversation whichthough
fascinating to those who are engaged in itneither desires nor
deserves the attention of others.

It's a golden rule to tip the carver. Tip everywhere's my
motto.

Perhaps it does make life more human.

Then the fellows know one again. Especially in the East, if you
tip, they remember you from year's end to year's end.

Have you been in the East?

Oh, Greece and the Levant. I used to go out for sport and
business to Cyprus; some military society of a sort there. A few
piastres, properly distributed, help to keep one's memory green.
But you, of course, think this shockingly cynical. How's your
discussion society getting on? Any new Utopias lately?

No, I'm house-hunting, Mr. Wilcox, as I've already told you
once. Do you know of any houses?

Afraid I don't.

Well, what's the point of being practical if you can't find two
distressed females a house? We merely want a small house with
large rooms, and plenty of them.

Evie, I like that! Miss Schlegel expects me to turn house-agent
for her!

What's that, father?

I want a new home in September, and some one must find it. I
can't.

Percy, do you know of anything?

I can't say I do,said Mr. Cahill.

How like you! You're never any good.

Never any good. Just listen to her! Never any good. Oh, come!

Well, you aren't. Miss Schlegel, is he?


The torrent of their lovehaving splashed these drops at
Margaretswept away on its habitual course. She sympathised with
it nowfor a little comfort had restored her geniality. Speech
and silence pleased her equallyand while Mr. Wilcox made some
preliminary inquiries about cheeseher eyes surveyed the
restaurantand aired its well-calculated tributes to the
solidity of our past. Though no more Old English than the works
of Kiplingit had selected its reminiscences so adroitly that
her criticism was lulledand the guests whom it was nourishing
for imperial purposes bore the outer semblance of Parson Adams or
Tom Jones. Scraps of their talk jarred oddly on the ear. "Right
you are! I'll cable out to Uganda this evening came from the
table behind. Their Emperor wants war; welllet him have it
was the opinion of a clergyman. She smiled at such incongruities.
Next time she said to Mr. Wilcox, you shall come to lunch
with me at Mr. Eustace Miles's."

With pleasure.

No, you'd hate it,she saidpushing her glass towards him for
some more cider. "It's all proteids and body buildingsand
people come up to you and beg your pardonbut you have such a
beautiful aura."

A what?

Never heard of an aura? Oh, happy, happy man! I scrub at mine
for hours. Nor of an astral plane?

He had heard of astral planesand censured them.

Just so. Luckily it was Helen's aura, not mine, and she had to
chaperone it and do the politenesses. I just sat with my
handkerchief in my mouth till the man went.

Funny experiences seem to come to you two girls. No one's ever
asked me about my--what d'ye call it? Perhaps I've not got one.

You're bound to have one, but it may be such a terrible colour
that no one dares mention it.

Tell me, though, Miss Schlegel, do you really believe in the
supernatural and all that?

Too difficult a question.

Why's that? Gruyere or Stilton?

Gruyere, please.

Better have Stilton.

Stilton. Becausethough I don't believe in aurasand think
Theosophy's only a halfway-house--"

--Yet there may be something in it all the same,he concluded
with a frown.

Not even that. It may be halfway in the wrong direction. I can't
explain. I don't believe in all these fads, and yet I don't like
saying that I don't believe in them.

He seemed unsatisfiedand said: "So you wouldn't give me your


word that you DON'T hold with astral bodies and all the rest of
it?"

I could,said Margaretsurprised that the point was of any
importance to him. "IndeedI will. When I talked about scrubbing
my auraI was only trying to be funny. But why do you want this
settled?"

I don't know.

Now, Mr. Wilcox, you do know.

Yes, I am,No, you're not,burst from the lovers opposite.
Margaret was silent for a momentand then changed the subject.

How's your house?

Much the same as when you honoured it last week.

I don't mean Ducie Street. Howards End, of course.

Why 'of course'?

Can't you turn out your tenant and let it to us? We're nearly
demented.

Let me think. I wish I could help you. But I thought you wanted
to be in town. One bit of advice: fix your district, then fix
your price, and then don't budge. That's how I got both Ducie
Street and Oniton. I said to myself, 'I mean to be exactly here,'
and I was, and Oniton's a place in a thousand.

But I do budge. Gentlemen seem to mesmerise houses--cow them
with an eye, and up they come, trembling. Ladies can't. It's the
houses that are mesmerising me. I've no control over the saucy
things. Houses are alive. No?

I'm out of my depth,he saidand added: "Didn't you talk
rather like that to your office boy?"

Did I?--I mean I did, more or less. I talk the same way to every
one--or try to.

Yes, I know. And how much of it do you suppose he understood?

That's his lookout. I don't believe in suiting my conversation
to my company. One can doubtless hit upon some medium of exchange
that seems to do well enough, but it's no more like the real
thing than money is like food. There's no nourishment in it. You
pass it to the lower classes, and they pass it back to you, and
this you call 'social intercourse' or 'mutual endeavour,' when
it's mutual priggishness if it's anything. Our friends at Chelsea
don't see this. They say one ought to be at all costs
intelligible, and sacrifice--

Lower classes,interrupted Mr. Wilcoxas it were thrusting his
hand into her speech. "Wellyou do admit that there are rich
and poor. That's something."

Margaret could not reply. Was he incredibly stupidor did he
understand her better than she understood herself?

You do admit that, if wealth was divided up equally, in a few
years there would be rich and poor again just the same. The


hard-working man would come to the top, the wastrel sink to the
bottom.

Every one admits that.

Your Socialists don't.

My Socialists do. Yours mayn't; but I strongly suspect yours of
being not Socialists, but ninepins, which you have constructed
for your own amusement. I can't imagine any living creature who
would bowl over quite so easily.

He would have resented this had she not been a woman. But women
may say anything--it was one of his holiest beliefs--and he only
retortedwith a gay smile: "I don't care. You've made two
damaging admissionsand I'm heartily with you in both."

In time they finished lunchand Margaretwho had excused
herself from the Hippodrometook her leave. Evie had scarcely
addressed herand she suspected that the entertainment had been
planned by the father. He and she were advancing out of their
respective families towards a more intimate acquaintance. It had
begun long ago. She had been his wife's friend andas suchhe
had given her that silver vinaigrette as a memento. It was pretty
of him to have given that vinaigretteand he had always
preferred her to Helen--unlike most men. But the advance had been
astonishing lately. They had done more in a week than in two
yearsand were really beginning to know each other.

She did not forget his promise to sample Eustace Milesand asked
him as soon as she could secure Tibby as his chaperon. He came
and partook of body-building dishes with humility.

Next morning the Schlegels left for Swanage. They had not
succeeded in finding a new home.

CHAPTER XVIII

As they were seated at Aunt Juley's breakfast-table at The Bays
parrying her excessive hospitality and enjoying the view of the
baya letter came for Margaret and threw her into perturbation.
It was from Mr. Wilcox. It announced an "important change" in his
plans. Owing to Evie's marriagehe had decided to give up his
house in Ducie Streetand was willing to let it on a yearly
tenancy. It was a businesslike letterand stated frankly what he
would do for them and what he would not do. Also the rent. If
they approvedMargaret was to come up AT ONCE--the words were
underlinedas is necessary when dealing with women--and to go
over the house with him. If they disapproveda wire would
obligeas he should put it into the hands of an agent.

The letter perturbedbecause she was not sure what it meant. If
he liked herif he had manoeuvred to get her to Simpson'smight
this be a manoeuvre to get her to Londonand result in an offer
of marriage? She put it to herself as indelicately as possible
in the hope that her brain would cryRubbish, you're a
self-conscious fool!But her brain only tingled a little and was
silentand for a time she sat gazing at the mincing wavesand
wondering whether the news would seem strange to the others.

As soon as she began speakingthe sound of her own voice
reassured her. There could be nothing in it. The replies also


were typicaland in the burr of conversation her fears vanished.

You needn't go though--began her hostess.

I needn't, but hadn't I better? It's really getting rather
serious. We let chance after chance slip, and the end of it is we
shall be bundled out bag and baggage into the street. We don't
know what we WANT, that's the mischief with us--

No, we have no real ties,said Helenhelping herself to toast.

Shan't I go up to town to-day, take the house if it's the least
possible, and then come down by the afternoon train to-morrow,
and start enjoying myself. I shall be no fun to myself or to
others until this business is off my mind.

But you won't do anything rashMargaret?"

There's nothing rash to do.

Who ARE the Wilcoxes?said Tibbya question that sounds silly
but was really extremely subtle as his aunt found to her cost
when she tried to answer it. "I don't MANAGE the Wilcoxes; I
don't see where they come IN."

No more do I,agreed Helen. "It's funny that we just don't lose
sight of them. Out of all our hotel acquaintancesMr. Wilcox is
the only one who has stuck. It is now over three yearsand we
have drifted away from far more interesting people in that time."

Interesting people don't get one houses.

Meg, if you start in your honest-English vein, I shall throw the
treacle at you.

It's a better vein than the cosmopolitan,said Margaret
getting up. "Nowchildrenwhich is it to be? You know the Ducie
Street house. Shall I say yes or shall I say no? Tibby love-which?
I'm specially anxious to pin you both."

It all depends on what meaning you attach to the word
'possible'

It depends on nothing of the sort. Say 'yes.'

Say 'no.'

Then Margaret spoke rather seriously. "I think she said, that
our race is degenerating. We cannot settle even this little
thing; what will it be like when we have to settle a big one?"

It will be as easy as eating,returned Helen.

I was thinking of father. How could he settle to leave Germany
as he did, when he had fought for it as a young man, and all his
feelings and friends were Prussian? How could he break loose with
Patriotism and begin aiming at something else? It would have
killed me. When he was nearly forty he could change countries and
ideals--and we, at our age, can't change houses. It's
humiliating.

Your father may have been able to change countries,said Mrs.
Munt with asperityand that may or may not be a good thing. But
he could change houses no better than you can, in fact, much


worse. Never shall I forget what poor Emily suffered in the move
from Manchester.

I knew it,cried Helen. "I told you so. It is the little things
one bungles at. The bigreal ones are nothing when they come."

Bungle, my dear! You are too little to recollect--in fact, you
weren't there. But the furniture was actually in the vans and on
the move before the lease for Wickham Place was signed, and Emily
took train with baby--who was Margaret then--and the smaller
luggage for London, without so much as knowing where her new home
would be. Getting away from that house may be hard, but it is
nothing to the misery that we all went through getting you into
it.

Helenwith her mouth fullcried:

And that's the man who beat the Austrians, and the Danes, and
the French, and who beat the Germans that were inside himself.
And we're like him.

Speak for yourself,said Tibby. "Remember that I am
cosmopolitanplease."

Helen may be right.

Of course she's right,said Helen.

Helen might be rightbut she did not go up to London. Margaret
did that. An interrupted holiday is the worst of the minor
worriesand one may be pardoned for feeling morbid when a
business letter snatches one away from the sea and friends. She
could not believe that her father had ever felt the same. Her
eyes had been troubling her latelyso that she could not read in
the train and it bored her to look at the landscapewhich she
had seen but yesterday. At Southampton she "waved" to Frieda;
Frieda was on her way down to join them at Swanageand Mrs. Munt
had calculated that their trains would cross. But Frieda was
looking the other wayand Margaret travelled on to town feeling
solitary and old-maidish. How like an old maid to fancy that Mr.
Wilcox was courting her! She had once visited a spinster--poor
sillyand unattractive--whose mania it was that every man who
approached her fell in love. How Margaret's heart had bled for
the deluded thing! How she had lecturedreasonedand in despair
acquiesced! "I may have been deceived by the curatemy dearbut
the young fellow who brings the midday post really is fond of me
and hasas a matter of fact--" It had always seemed to her the
most hideous corner of old ageyet she might be driven into it
herself by the mere pressure of virginity.

Mr. Wilcox met her at Waterloo himself. She felt certain that he
was not the same as usual; for one thinghe took offence at
everything she said.

This is awfully kind of you,she beganbut I'm afraid it's
not going to do. The house has not been built that suits the
Schlegel family.

What! Have you come up determined not to deal?

Not exactly.

Not exactly? In that case let's be starting.


She lingered to admire the motorwhich was newand a fairer
creature than the vermilion giant that had borne Aunt Juley to
her doom three years before.

Presumably it's very beautiful,she said. "How do you like it
Crane?"

Come, let's be starting,repeated her host. "How on earth did
you know that my chauffeur was called Crane?"

Why, I know Crane; I've been for a drive with Evie once. I know
that you've got a parlourmaid called Milton. I know all sorts of
things.

Evie!he echoed in injured tones. "You won't see her. She's
gone out with Cahill. It's no funI can tell youbeing left so
much alone. I've got my work all day--indeeda great deal too
much of it--but when I come home in the eveningI tell youI
can't stand the house."

In my absurd way, I'm lonely too,Margaret replied. "It's
heart-breaking to leave one's old home. I scarcely remember
anything before Wickham Placeand Helen and Tibby were born
there. Helen says--"

You, too, feel lonely?

Horribly. Hullo, Parliament's back!

Mr. Wilcox glanced at Parliament contemptuously. The more
important ropes of life lay elsewhere. "Yesthey are talking
again said he. But you were going to say--"

Only some rubbish about furniture. Helen says it alone endures
while men and houses perish, and that in the end the world will
be a desert of chairs and sofas--just imagine it!--rolling through
infinity with no one to sit upon them.

Your sister always likes her little joke.

She says 'Yes,' my brother says `No,' to Ducie Street. It's no
fun helping us, Mr. Wilcox, I assure you.

You are not as unpractical as you pretend. I shall never believe
it.

Margaret laughed. But she was--quite as unpractical. She could
not concentrate on details. Parliamentthe Thamesthe
irresponsive chauffeurwould flash into the field of
house-huntingand all demand some comment or response. It is
impossible to see modern life steadily and see it wholeand she
had chosen to see it whole. Mr. Wilcox saw steadily. He never
bothered over the mysterious or the private. The Thames might run
inland from the seathe chauffeur might conceal all passion and
philosophy beneath his unhealthy skin. They knew their own
businessand he knew his.

Yet she liked being with him. He was not a rebukebut a
stimulusand banished morbidity. Some twenty years her senior
he preserved a gift that she supposed herself to have already
lost--not youth's creative powerbut its self-confidence and
optimism. He was so sure that it was a very pleasant world. His
complexion was robusthis hair had receded but not thinnedthe
thick moustache and the eyes that Helen had compared to


brandy-balls had an agreeable menace in themwhether they were
turned towards the slums or towards the stars. Some day--in the
millennium--there may be no need for his type. At presenthomage
is due to it from those who think themselves superiorand who
possibly are.

At all events you responded to my telegram promptly,he
remarked.

Oh, even I know a good thing when I see it.

I'm glad you don't despise the goods of this world.

Heavens, no! Only idiots and prigs do that.

I am glad, very glad,he repeatedsuddenly softening and
turning to heras if the remark had pleased him. "There is so
much cant talked in would-be intellectual circles. I am glad you
don't share it. Self-denial is all very well as a means of
strengthening the character. But I can't stand those people who
run down comforts. They have usually some axe to grind. Can you?"

Comforts are of two kinds,said Margaretwho was keeping
herself in hand--"those we can share with otherslike fire
weatheror music; and those we can't--foodfoodfor instance.
It depends."

I mean reasonable comforts, of course. I shouldn't like to think
that you--He bent nearer; the sentence died unfinished.
Margaret's head turned very stupidand the inside of it seemed
to revolve like the beacon in a lighthouse. He did not kiss her
for the hour was half-past twelveand the car was passing by the
stables of Buckingham Palace. But the atmosphere was so charged
with emotion that people only seemed to exist on her accountand
she was surprised that Crane did not realise thisand turn
round. Idiot though she might besurely Mr. Wilcox was more--how
should one put it?--more psychological than usual. Always a good
judge of character for business purposeshe seemed this
afternoon to enlarge his fieldand to note qualities outside
neatnessobedienceand decision.

I want to go over the whole house,she announced when they
arrived. "As soon as I get back to Swanagewhich will be
to-morrow afternoonI'll talk it over once more with Helen and
Tibbyand wire you 'yes' or 'no.'"

Right. The dining-room.And they began their survey.

The dining-room was bigbut over-furnished. Chelsea would have
moaned aloud. Mr. Wilcox had eschewed those decorative schemes
that winceand relentand refrainand achieve beauty by
sacrificing comfort and pluck. After so much self-colour and
self-denialMargaret viewed with relief the sumptuous dadothe
friezethe gilded wall-paperamid whose foliage parrots sang.
It would never do with her own furniturebut those heavy chairs
that immense sideboard loaded with presentation platestood up
against its pressure like men. The room suggested menand
Margaretkeen to derive the modern capitalist from the warriors
and hunters of the pastsaw it as an ancient guest-hallwhere
the lord sat at meat among his thanes. Even the Bible--the Dutch
Bible that Charles had brought back from the Boer War--fell into
position. Such a room admitted loot.

Now the entrance-hall.


The entrance-hall was paved.

Here we fellows smoke.

We fellows smoked in chairs of maroon leather. It was as if a
motor-car had spawned. "Ohjolly!" said Margaretsinking into
one of them.

You do like it?he saidfixing his eyes on her upturned face
and surely betraying an almost intimate note. "It's all rubbish
not making oneself comfortable. Isn't it?"

Ye--es. Semi-rubbish. Are those Cruikshanks?

Gillrays. Shall we go on upstairs?

Does all this furniture come from Howards End?

The Howards End furniture has all gone to Oniton.

Does-- However, I'm concerned with the house, not the furniture.
How big is this smoking-room?

Thirty by fifteen. No, wait a minute. Fifteen and a half.

Ah, well. Mr. Wilcox, aren't you ever amused at the solemnity
with which we middle classes approach the subject of houses?

They proceeded to the drawing-room. Chelsea managed better here.
It was sallow and ineffective. One could visualise the ladies
withdrawing to itwhile their lords discussed life's realities
belowto the accompaniment of cigars. Had Mrs. Wilcox's
drawing-room at Howards End looked thus? Just as this thought
entered Margaret's brainMr. Wilcox did ask her to be his wife
and the knowledge that she had been right so overcame her that
she nearly fainted.

But the proposal was not to rank among the world's great love
scenes.

Miss Schlegel--his voice was firm--"I have had you up on false
pretences. I want to speak about a much more serious matter than
a house."

Margaret almost answered: "I know--"

Could you be induced to share my--is it probable--

Oh, Mr. Wilcox!she interruptedtaking hold of the piano and
averting her eyes. "I seeI see. I will write to you afterwards
if I may."

He began to stammer. "Miss Schlegel--Margaret you don't
understand."

Oh yes! Indeed, yes!said Margaret.

I am asking you to be my wife.

So deep already was her sympathythat when he saidI am asking
you to be my wife,she made herself give a little start. She
must show surprise if he expected it. An immense joy came over
her. It was indescribable. It had nothing to do with humanity


and most resembled the all-pervading happiness of fine weather.
Fine weather is due to the sunbut Margaret could think of no
central radiance here. She stood in his drawing-room happyand
longing to give happiness. On leaving him she realised that the
central radiance had been love.

You aren't offended, Miss Schlegel?

How could I be offended?

There was a moment's pause. He was anxious to get rid of herand
she knew it. She had too much intuition to look at him as he
struggled for possessions that money cannot buy. He desired
comradeship and affectionbut he feared themand shewho had
taught herself only to desireand could have clothed the
struggle with beautyheld backand hesitated with him.

Good-bye,she continued. "You will have a letter from me--I am
going back to Swanage to-morrow."

Thank you.

Good-bye, and it's you I thank.

I may order the motor round, mayn't I?

That would be most kind.

I wish I had written. Ought I to have written?

Not at all.

There's just one question--

She shook her head. He looked a little bewildered as they parted.

They parted without shaking hands; she had kept the interview
for his sakein tints of the quietest grey. she thrilled with
happiness ere she reached her house. Others had loved her in the
pastif one apply to their brief desires so grave a wordbut
the others had been "ninnies"--young men who had nothing to do
old men who could find nobody better. And she had often 'loved'
toobut only so far as the facts of sex demanded: mere yearnings
for the masculine sex to be dismissed for what they were worth
with a sigh. Never before had her personality been touched. She
was not young or very richand it amazed her that a man of any
standing should take her seriously as she sattrying to do
accounts in her empty houseamidst beautiful pictures and noble
bookswaves of emotion brokeas if a tide of passion was
flowing through the night air. She shook her headtried to
concentrate her attentionand failed. In vain did she repeat:
But I've been through this sort of thing before.She had
never been through it; the big machineryas opposed to the
littlehad been set in motionand the idea that Mr. Wilcox
lovedobsessed her before she came to love him in return.

She would come to no decision yet. "ohsirthis is so sudden"-that
prudish phrase exactly expressed her when her time came.
Premonitions are not preparation. She must examine more closely
her own nature and his; she must talk it over judicially with
Helen. It had been a strange love-scene--the central radiance
unacknowledged from first to last. Shein his placewould have
said Ich liebe dichbut perhaps it was not his habit to open the
heart. He might have done it if she had pressed him--as a matter


of dutyperhaps; England expects every man to open his heart
once; but the effort would have jarred himand neverif she
could avoid itshould he lose those defences that he had chosen
to raise against the world. He must never be bothered with
emotional talkor with a display of sympathy. He was an elderly
man nowand it would be futile and impudent to correct him.

Mrs. Wilcox strayed in and outever a welcome ghost; surveying
the scenethought Margaretwithout one hint of bitterness.

CHAPTER XIX

If one wanted to show a foreigner Englandperhaps the wisest
course would be to take him to the final section of the Purbeck
Hillsand stand him on their summita few miles to the east of
Corfe. Then system after system of our island would roll together
under his feet. Beneath him is the valley of the Fromeand all
the wild lands that come tossing down from Dorchesterblack and
goldto mirror their gorse in the expanses of Poole. The valley
of the Stour is beyondunaccountable streamdirty at Blandford
pure at Wimborne--the Stoursliding out of fat fieldsto marry
the Avon beneath the tower of Christ church. The valley of the
Avon--invisiblebut far to the north the trained eye may see
Clearbury Ring that guards itand the imagination may leap
beyond that on to Salisbury Plain itselfand beyond the Plain to
all the glorious downs of Central England. Nor is Suburbia
absent. Bournemouth's ignoble coast cowers to the right
heralding the pine-trees that meanfor all their beautyred
housesand the Stock Exchangeand extend to the gates of London
itself. So tremendous is the City's trail! But the cliffs of
Freshwater it shall never touchand the island will guard the
Island's purity till the end of time. Seen from the west the
Wight is beautiful beyond all laws of beauty. It is as if a
fragment of England floated forward to greet the foreigner--chalk
of our chalkturf of our turfepitome of what will follow. And
behind the fragment lies Southamptonhostess to the nationsand
Portsmoutha latent fireand all around itwith double and
treble collision of tidesswirls the sea. How many villages
appear in this view! How many castles! How many churches
vanished or triumphant! How many shipsrailwaysand roads! What
incredible variety of men working beneath that lucent sky to what
final end! The reason failslike a wave on the Swanage beach;
the imagination swellsspreadsand deepensuntil it becomes
geographic and encircles England.

So Frieda Mosebachnow Frau Architect Lieseckeand mother to
her husband's babywas brought up to these heights to be
impressedandafter a prolonged gazeshe said that the hills
were more swelling here than in Pomeraniawhich was truebut
did not seem to Mrs. Munt apposite. Poole Harbour was drywhich
led her to praise the absence of muddy foreshore at Friedrich
Wilhelms BadRugenwhere beech-trees hang over the tideless
Balticand cows may contemplate the brine. Rather unhealthy Mrs.
Munt thought this would bewater being safer when it moved
about.

And your English lakes--Vindermere, Grasmere they, then,
unhealthy?

No, Frau Liesecke; but that is because they are fresh water, and
different. Salt water ought to have tides, and go up and down a
great deal, or else it smells. Look, for instance, at an


aquarium.

An aquarium! Oh, MEESIS Munt, you mean to tell me that fresh
aquariums stink less than salt? Why, then Victor, my
brother-in-law, collected many tadpoles--You are not to say
'stink,'interrupted Helen; "at leastyou may say itbut you
must pretend you are being funny while you say it."

Then 'smell.' And the mud of your Pool down there--does it not
smell, or may I say 'stink,' ha, ha?

There always has been mud in Poole Harbour,said Mrs. Munt
with a slight frown. "The rivers bring it downand a most
valuable oyster-fishery depends upon it."

Yes, that is so,conceded Frieda; and another international
incident was closed.

'Bournemouth is,'resumed their hostessquoting a local rhyme
to which she was much attached--"'Bournemouth isPoole wasand
Swanage is to be the hmst important town of all and biggest of
the three.' NowFrau LieseckeI have shown you Bournemouthand
I have shown you Pooleso let us walk backward a littleand
look down again at Swanage."

Aunt Juley, wouldn't that be Meg's train?

A tiny puff of smoke had been circling the harbourand now was
bearing southwards towards them over the black and the gold.

Oh, dearest Margaret, I do hope she won't be overtired.

Oh, I do wonder--I do wonder whether she's taken the house.

I hope she hasn't been hasty.

So do I--oh, SO do I.

Will it be as beautiful as Wickham Place?Frieda asked.

I should think it would. Trust Mr. Wilcox for doing himself
proud. All those Ducie Street houses are beautiful in their
modern way, and I can't think why he doesn't keep on with it. But
it's really for Evie that he went there, and now that Evie's
going to be married--

Ah!

You've never seen Miss Wilcox, Frieda. How absurdly matrimonial
you are!

But sister to that Paul?

Yes.

And to that Charles,said Mrs. Munt with feeling. "OhHelen
Helenwhat a time that was!"

Helen laughed. "Meg and I haven't got such tender hearts. If
there's a chance of a cheap housewe go for it."

Now look, Frau Liesecke, at my niece's train. You see, it is
coming towards us--coming, coming; and, when it gets to Corfe, it
will actually go THROUGH the downs, on which we are standing, so


that, if we walk over, as I suggested, and look down on Swanage,
we shall see it coming on the other side. Shall we?

Frieda assentedand in a few minutes they had crossed the ridge
and exchanged the greater view for the lesser. Rather a dull
valley lay belowbacked by the slope of the coastward downs.
They were looking across the Isle of Purbeck and on to Swanage
soon to be the most important town of alland ugliest of the
three. Margaret's train reappeared as promisedand was greeted
with approval by her aunt. It came to a standstill in the middle
distanceand there it had been planned that Tibby should meet
herand drive herand a tea-basketup to join them.

You see,continued Helen to her cousinthe Wilcoxes collect
houses as your Victor collects tadpoles. They have, one, Ducie
Street; two, Howards End, where my great rumpus was; three, a
country seat in Shropshire; four, Charles has a house in Hilton;
and five, another near Epsom; and six, Evie will have a house
when she marries, and probably a pied-a-terre in the country-which
makes seven. Oh yes, and Paul a hut in Africa makes eight.
I wish we could get Howards End. That was something like a dear
little house! Didn't you think so, Aunt Juley?

I had too much to do, dear, to look at it,said Mrs. Muntwith
a gracious dignity. "I had everything to settle and explainand
Charles Wilcox to keep in his place besides. It isn't likely I
should remember much. I just remember having lunch in your
bedroom."

Yes, so do I. But, oh dear, dear, how dreadful it all seems! And
in the autumn there began that anti-Pauline movement--you, and
Frieda, and Meg, and Mrs. Wilcox, all obsessed with the idea that
I might yet marry Paul.

You yet may,said Frieda despondently.

Helen shook her head. "The Great Wilcox Peril will never return.
If I'm certain of anything it's of that."

One is certain of nothing but the truth of one's own emotions.

The remark fell damply on the conversation. But Helen slipped her
arm round her cousinsomehow liking her the better for making
it. It was not an original remarknor had Frieda appropriated it
passionatelyfor she had a patriotic rather than a philosophic
mind. Yet it betrayed that interest in the universal which the
average Teuton possesses and the average Englishman does not. It
washowever illogicallythe goodthe beautifulthe trueas
opposed to the respectablethe prettythe adequate. It was a
landscape of Bocklin's beside a landscape of Leader'sstrident
and ill-consideredbut quivering into supernatural life. It
sharpened idealismstirred the soul. It may have been a bad
preparation for what followed.

Look!cried Aunt Juleyhurrying away from generalities over
the narrow summit of the down. "Stand where I standand you will
see the pony-cart coming. I see the pony-cart coming."

They stood and saw the pony-cart coming. Margaret and Tibby were
presently seen coming in it. Leaving the outskirts of Swanageit
drove for a little through the budding lanesand then began the
ascent.

Have you got the house?they shoutedlong before she could


possibly hear.

Helen ran down to meet her. The highroad passed over a saddle
and a track went thence at right angles alone the ridge of the
down.

Have you got the house?

Margaret shook her head.

Oh, what a nuisance! So we're as we were?

Not exactly.

She got outlooking tired.

Some mystery,said Tibby. "We are to be enlightened presently."

Margaret came close up to her and whispered that she had had a
proposal of marriage from Mr. Wilcox.

Helen was amused. She opened the gate on to the downs so that her
brother might lead the pony through. "It's just like a widower
she remarked. They've cheek enough for anythingand invariably
select one of their first wife's friends."

Margaret's face flashed despair.

That type--She broke off with a cry. "Megnot anything wrong
with you?"

Wait one minute,said Margaretwhispering always.

But you've never conceivably--you've never--She pulled herself
together. "Tibbyhurry up through; I can't hold this gate
indefinitely. Aunt Juley! I sayAunt Juleymake the teawill
youand Frieda; we've got to talk housesand will come on
afterwards." And thenturning her face to her sister'sshe
burst into tears.

Margaret was stupefied. She heard herself sayingOh, really--
She felt herself touched with a hand that trembled.

Don't,sobbed Helendon't, don't, Meg, don't!She seemed
incapable of saying any other word. Margarettrembling herself
led her forward up the roadtill they strayed through another
gate on to the down.

Don't, don't do such a thing! I tell you not to--don't! I know-don't!


What do you know?

Panic and emptiness,sobbed Helen. "Don't!"

Then Margaret thoughtHelen is a little selfish. I have never
behaved like this when there has seemed a chance of her
marrying.She said: "But we would still see each other very-often
and you--"

It's not a thing like that,sobbed Helen. And she broke right
away and wandered distractedly upwardsstretching her hands
towards the view and crying.


What's happened to you?called Margaretfollowing through the
wind that gathers at sundown on the northern slopes of hills.
But it's stupid!And suddenly stupidity seized herand the
immense landscape was blurred. But Helen turned back.

I don't know what's happened to either of us,said Margaret
wiping her eyes. "We must both have done mad." Then Helen wiped
hersand they even laughed a little.

Look here, sit down.

All right; I'll sit down if you'll sit down.

There. (One kiss.) Now, whatever, whatever is the matter?

I do mean what I said. Don't; it wouldn't do.

Oh, Helen, stop saying 'don't'! It's ignorant. It's as if your
head wasn't out of the slime. 'Don't' is probably what Mrs. Bast
says all the day to Mr. Bast.

Helen was silent.

Well?

Tell me about it first, and meanwhile perhaps I'll have got my
head out of the slime.

That's better. Well, where shall I begin? When I arrived at
Waterloo--no, I'll go back before that, because I'm anxious you
should know everything from the first. The 'first' was about ten
days ago. It was the day Mr. Bast came to tea and lost his
temper. I was defending him, and Mr. Wilcox became jealous about
me, however slightly. I thought it was the involuntary thing,
which men can't help any more than we can. You know--at least, I
know in my own case--when a man has said to me, 'So-and-so's a
pretty girl,' I am seized with a momentary sourness against Soand-
so, and long to tweak her ear. It's a tiresome feeling, but
not an important one, and one easily manages it. But it wasn't
only this in Mr. Wilcox's case, I gather now.

Then you love him?'

Margaret considered. It is wonderful knowing that a real man
cares for you she said. The mere fact of that grows more
tremendous. RememberI've known and liked him steadily for
nearly three years."

But loved him?

Margaret peered into her past. It is pleasant to analyse feelings
while they are still only feelingsand unembodied in the social
fabric. With her arm round Helenand her eyes shifting over the
viewas if this country or that could reveal the secret of her
own heartshe meditated honestlyand saidNo.

But you will?

Yes,said Margaretof that I'm pretty sure. Indeed, I began
the moment he spoke to me.

And have settled to marry him?

I had, but am wanting a long talk about it now. What is it


against him, Helen? You must try and say.

Helenin her turnlooked outwards. "It is ever since Paul she
said finally.

But what has Mr. Wilcox to do with Paul?"

But he was there, they were all there that morning when I came
down to breakfast, and saw that Paul was frightened--the man who
loved me frightened and all his paraphernalia fallen, so that I
knew it was impossible, because personal relations are the
important thing for ever and ever, and not this outer life of
telegrams and anger.

She poured the sentence forth in one breathbut her sister
understood itbecause it touched on thoughts that were familiar
between them.

That's foolish. In the first place, I disagree about the outer
life. Well, we've often argued that. The real point is that there
is the widest gulf between my love-making and yours. Yours was
romance; mine will be prose. I'm not running it down--a very good
kind of prose, but well considered, well thought out. For
instance, I know all Mr. Wilcox's faults. He's afraid of emotion.
He cares too much about success, too little about the past. His
sympathy lacks poetry, and so isn't sympathy really. I'd even say
--she looked at the shining lagoons--"thatspirituallyhe's
not as honest as I am. Doesn't that satisfy you?"

No, it doesn't,said Helen. "It makes me feel worse and worse.
You must be mad."

Margaret made a movement of irritation.

I don't intend him, or any man or any woman, to be all my life-good
heavens, no! There are heaps of things in me that he
doesn't, and shall never, understand.

Thus she spoke before the wedding ceremony and the physical
unionbefore the astonishing glass shade had fallen that
interposes between married couples and the world. She was to keep
her independence more than do most women as yet. Marriage was to
alter her fortunes rather than her characterand she was not far
wrong in boasting that she understood her future husband. Yet he
did alter her character--a little. There was an unforeseen
surprisea cessation of the winds and odours of lifea social
pressure that would have her think conjugally.

So with him,she continued. "There are heaps of things in him-more
especially things that he does that will always be hidden
from me. He has all those public qualities which you so despise
and which enable all this--" She waved her hand at the landscape
which confirmed anything. "If Wilcoxes hadn't worked and died in
England for thousands of yearsyou and I couldn't sit here
without having our throats cut. There would be no trainsno
ships to carry us literary people about inno fields even. Just
savagery. No--perhaps not even that. Without their spirit life
might never have moved out of protoplasm. More and more do I
refuse to draw my income and sneer at those who guarantee it.
There are times when it seems to me--"

And to me, and to all women. So one kissed Paul.

That's brutal.said 'Margaret. "Mine is an absolutely different


case. I've thought things out."

It makes no difference thinking things out. They come to the
same.

Rubbish!

There was a long silenceduring which the tide returned into
Poole Harbour. "One would lose something murmured Helen,
apparently to herself. The water crept over the mud-flats towards
the gorse and the blackened heather. Branksea Island lost its
immense foreshores, and became a sombre episode of trees. Frome
was forced inward towards Dorchester, Stour against Wimborne,
Avon towards Salisbury, and over the immense displacement the sun
presided, leading it to triumph ere he sank to rest. England was
alive, throbbing through all her estuaries, crying for joy
through the mouths of all her gulls, and the north wind, with
contrary motion, blew stronger against her rising seas. What did
it mean? For what end are her fair complexities, her changes of
soil, her sinuous coast? Does she belong to those who have
moulded her and made her feared by other lands, or to those who
have added nothing to her power, but have somehow seen her, seen
the whole island at once, lying as a jewel in a silver sea,
sailing as a ship of souls, with all the brave world's fleet
accompanying her towards eternity?

CHAPTER XX

Margaret had often wondered at the disturbance that takes place
in the world's waters, when Love, who seems so tiny a pebble,
slips in. Whom does Love concern beyond the beloved and the
lover? Yet his impact deluges a hundred shores. No doubt the
disturbance is really the spirit of the generations, welcoming
the new generation, and chafing against the ultimate Fate, who
holds all the seas in the palm of her hand. But Love cannot
understand this. He cannot comprehend another's infinity; he is
conscious only of his own--flying sunbeam, falling rose, pebble
that asks for one quiet plunge below the fretting interplay of
space and time. He knows that he will survive at the end of
things, and be gathered by Fate as a jewel from the slime, and be
handed with admiration round the assembly of the gods. Men did
produce this" they will sayandsayingthey will give men
immortality. But meanwhile--what agitations meanwhile! The
foundations of Property and Propriety are laid baretwin rocks;
Family Pride flounders to the surfacepuffing and blowing and
refusing to be comforted; Theologyvaguely asceticgets up a
nasty ground swell. Then the lawyers are aroused--cold brood--and
creep out of their holes. They do what they can; they tidy up
Property and Proprietyreassure Theology and Family Pride.
Half-guineas are poured on the troubled watersthe lawyers creep
backandif all has gone wellLove joins one man and woman
together in Matrimony.

Margaret had expected the disturbanceand was not irritated by
it. For a sensitive woman she had steady nervesand could bear
with the incongruous and the grotesque; andbesidesthere was
nothing excessive about her love-affair. Good-humour was the
dominant note of her relations with Mr. Wilcoxoras I must now
call himHenry. Henry did not encourage romanceand she was no
girl to fidget for it. An acquaintance had become a lovermight
become a husbandbut would retain all that she had noted in the
acquaintance; and love must confirm an old relation rather than


reveal a new one.

In this spirit she promised to marry him.

He was in Swanage on the morrow bearing the engagement ring.

They greeted one another with a hearty cordiality that impressed
Aunt Juley. Henry dined at The Baysbut had engaged a bedroom in
the principal hotel; he was one of those men who know the
principal hotel by instinct. After dinner he asked Margaret if
she wouldn't care for a turn on the Parade. She acceptedand
could not repress a little tremor; it would be her first real
love scene. But as she put on her hat she burst out laughing.
Love was so unlike the article served up in books; the joy
though genuine was different; the mystery an unexpected mystery.
For one thingMr. Wilcox still seemed a stranger.

For a time they talked about the ring; then she said: "Do you
remember the Embankment at Chelsea? It can't be ten days ago."

Yes,he saidlaughing. "And you and your sister were head and
ears deep in some Quixotic scheme. Ah well!"

I little thought then, certainly. Did you?

I don't know about that; I shouldn't like to say.

Why, was it earlier?she cried. "Did you think of me this way
earlier! How extraordinarily interestingHenry! Tell me."

But Henry had no intention of telling. Perhaps he could not have
toldfor his mental states became obscure as soon as he had
passed through them. He misliked the very word "interesting
connoting it with wasted energy and even with morbidity. Hard
facts were enough for him.

I didn't think of it she pursued. No; when you spoke to me in
the drawing-roomthat was practically the first. It was all so
different from what it's supposed to be. On the stageor in
booksa proposal is--how shall I put it?--a full-blown affaira
hind of bouquet; it loses its literal meaning. But in life a
proposal really is a proposal--"

By the way--

Oh, very well.

I am so glad,she answereda little surprised. "What did you
talk about? Mepresumably."

About Greece too.

Greece was a very good card, Henry. Tibby's only a boy still,
and one has to pick and choose subjects a little. Well done.

I was telling him I have shares in a currant-farm near
Calamata.

What a delightful thing to have shares in! Can't we go there for
our honeymoon?

What to do?

To eat the currants. And isn't there marvellous scenery?


Moderately, but it's not the kind of place one could possibly go
to with a lady.

Why not?

No hotels.

Some ladies do without hotels. Are you aware that Helen and I
have walked alone over the Apennines, with our luggage on our
backs?

I wasn't aware, and, if I can manage it, you will never do such
a thing again.

She said more gravely: "You haven't found time for a talk with
Helen yetI suppose?"

No.

Do, before you go. I am so anxious you two should be friends.

Your sister and I have always hit it off,he said negligently.
But we're drifting away from our business. Let me begin at the
beginning. You know that Evie is going to marry Percy Cahill.

Dolly's uncle.

Exactly. The girl's madly in love with him. A very good sort of
fellow, but he demands--and rightly--a suitable provision with
her. And in the second place you will naturally understand, there
is Charles. Before leaving town, I wrote Charles a very careful
letter. You see, he has an increasing family and increasing
expenses, and the I. and W. A. is nothing particular just now,
though capable of development.

Poor fellow!murmured Margaretlooking out to seaand not
understanding.

Charles being the elder son, some day Charles will have Howards
End; but I am anxious, in my own happiness, not to be unjust to
others.

Of course not,she beganand then gave a little cry. "you mean
money. How stupid I am! Of course not!"

Oddly enoughhe winced a little at the word. "YesMoneysince
you put it so frankly. I am determined to be just to all--just to
youjust to them. I am determined that my children shall have
me."

Be generous to them,she said sharply. "Bother justice!"

I am determined--and have already written to Charles to that
effect--

But how much have you got?

What?

How much have you a year? I've six hundred.

My income?


Yes. We must begin with how much you have, before we can settle
how much you can give Charles. Justice, and even generosity,
depend on that.

I must say you're a downright young woman,he observedpatting
her arm and laughing a little. "What a question to spring on a
fellow!"

Don't you know your income? Or don't you want to tell it me?

I--

That's all right--now she patted him--"don't tell me. I don't
want to know. I can do the sum just as well by proportion. Divide
your income into ten parts. How many parts would you give to
Eviehow many to Charleshow many to Paul?"

The fact is, my dear, I hadn't any intention of bothering you
with details. I only wanted to let you know that--well, that
something must be done for the others, and you've understood me
perfectly, so let's pass on to the next point.

Yes, we've settled that,said Margaretundisturbed by his
strategic blunderings. "Go ahead; give away all you canbearing
in mind that I've a clear six hundred. What a mercy it is to have
all this money about one."

We've none too much, I assure you; you're marrying a poor man.

Helen wouldn't agree with me here,she continued. "Helen
daren't slang the richbeing rich herselfbut she would like
to. There's an odd notionthat I haven't yet got hold of
running about at the back of her brainthat poverty is somehow
'real.' She dislikes all organisationand probably confuses
wealth with the technique of wealth. Sovereigns in a stocking
wouldn't bother her; cheques do. Helen is too relentless. One
can't deal in her high-handed manner with the world."

There's this other point, and then I must go back to
my hotel and write some letters. What's to be done now about the
house in Ducie Street?

Keep it on--at least, it depends. When do you want to marry me?

She raised her voiceas too oftenand some youthswho were
also taking the evening airoverheard her. "Getting a bit hot
eh?" said one. Mr. Wilcox turned on themand said sharplyI
say!There was silence. "Take care I don't report you to the
police." They moved away quietly enoughbut were only biding
their timeand the rest of the conversation was punctuated by
peals of ungovernable laughter.

Lowering his voice and infusing a hint of reproof into ithe
said: "Evie will probably be married in September. We could
scarcely think of anything before then."

The earlier the nicer, Henry. Females are not supposed to say
such things, but the earlier the nicer.

How about September for us too?he askedrather dryly.

Right. Shall we go into Ducie Street ourselves in September? Or
shall we try to bounce Helen and Tibby into it? That's rather an
idea. They are so unbusinesslike, we could make them do anything


by judicious management. Look here--yes. We'll do that. And we
ourselves could live at Howards End or Shropshire.

He blew out his cheeks. "Heavens! how you women do fly round! My
head's in a whirl. Point by pointMargaret. Howards End's
impossible. I let it to Hamar Bryce on a three years' agreement
last March. Don't you remember? Oniton. Wellthat is muchmuch
too far away to rely on entirely. You will be able to be down
there entertaining a certain amountbut we must have a house
within easy reach of Town. Only Ducie Street has huge drawbacks.
There's a mews behind."

Margaret could not help laughing. It was the first she had heard
of the mews behind Ducie Street. When she was a possible tenant
it had suppressed itselfnot consciouslybut automatically. The
breezy Wilcox mannerthough genuinelacked the clearness of
vision that is imperative for truth. When Henry lived in Ducie
Street he remembered the mews; when he tried to let he forgot it;
and if any one had remarked that the mews must be either there or
nothe would have felt annoyedand afterwards have found some
opportunity of stigmatising the speaker as academic. So does my
grocer stigmatise me when I complain of the quality of his
sultanasand he answers in one breath that they are the best
sultanasand how can I expect the best sultanas at that price?
It is a flaw inherent in the business mindand Margaret may do
well to be tender to itconsidering all that the business mind
has done for England.

Yes, in summer especially, the mews is a serious nuisance. The
smoking-room, too, is an abominable little den. The house
opposite has been taken by operatic people. Ducie Street's going
down, it's my private opinion.

How sad! It's only a few years since they built those pretty
houses.

Shows things are moving. Good for trade.

I hate this continual flux of London. It is an epitome of us at
our worst--eternal formlessness; all the qualities, good, bad,
and indifferent, streaming away--streaming, streaming for ever.
That's why I dread it so. I mistrust rivers, even in scenery.
Now, the sea--

High tide, yes.

Hoy toid--from the promenading youths.

And these are the men to whom we give the vote,observed Mr.
Wilcoxomitting to add that they were also the men to whom he
gave work as clerks--work that scarcely encouraged them to grow
into other men. "Howeverthey have their own lives and
interests. Let's get on."

He turned as he spokeand prepared to see her back to The Bays.
The business was over. His hotel was in the opposite direction
and if he accompanied her his letters would be late for the post.
She implored him not to comebut he was obdurate.

A nice beginning, if your aunt saw you slip in alone!

But I always do go about alone. Considering I've walked over the
Apennines, it's common sense. You will make me so angry. I don't
the least take it as a compliment.


He laughedand lit a cigar. "It isn't meant as a complimentmy
dear. I just won't have you going about in the dark. Such people
about too! It's dangerous."

Can't I look after myself? I do wish--

Come along, Margaret; no wheedling.

A younger woman might have resented his masterly waysbut
Margaret had too firm a grip of life to make a fuss. She wasin
her own wayas masterly. If he was a fortress she was a mountain
peakwhom all might treadbut whom the snows made nightly
virginal. Disdaining the heroic outfitexcitable in her methods
garrulousepisodicalshrillshe misled her lover much as she
had misled her aunt. He mistook her fertility for Weakness. He
supposed her "as clever as they make them but no more, not
realising that she was penetrating to the depths of his soul, and
approving of what she found there.

And if insight were sufficient, if the inner life were the whole
of life, their happiness had been assured.

They walked ahead briskly. The parade and the road after it were
well lighted, but it was darker in Aunt Juley's garden. As they
were going up by the side-paths, through some rhododendrons, Mr.
Wilcox, who was in front, said Margaret" rather huskilyturned
dropped his cigarand took her in his arms.

She was startledand nearly screamedbut recovered herself at
onceand kissed with genuine love the lips that were pressed
against her own. It was their first kissand when it was over he
saw her safely to the door and rang the bell for her but
disappeared into the night before the maid answered it. On
looking backthe incident displeased her. It was so isolated.
Nothing in their previous conversation had heralded itand
worse stillno tenderness had ensued. If a man cannot lead up to
passion he can at all events lead down from itand she had
hopedafter her complaisancefor some interchange of gentle
words. But he had hurried away as if ashamedand for an instant
she was reminded of Helen and Paul.

CHAPTER XXI

Charles had just been scolding his Dolly. She deserved the
scoldingand had bent before itbut her headthough bloody was
unsubdued and her began to mingle with his retreating thunder.

You've waked the baby. I knew you would. (Rum-ti-foo, Racketytackety-
Tompkin!) I'm not responsible for what Uncle Percy does,
nor for anybody else or anything, so there!

Who asked him while I was away? Who asked my sister down to meet
him? Who sent them out in the motor day after day?

Charles, that reminds me of some poem.

Does it indeed? We shall all be dancing to a very different
music presently. Miss Schlegel has fairly got us on toast.

I could simply scratch that woman's eyes out, and to say it's my
fault is most unfair.


It's your fault, and five months ago you admitted it.

I didn't.

You did.

Tootle, tootle, playing on the pootle!exclaimed Dolly
suddenly devoting herself to the child.

It's all very well to turn the conversation, but father would
never have dreamt of marrying as long as Evie was there to make
him comfortable. But you must needs start match-making. Besides,
Cahill's too old.

Of course, if you're going to be rude to Uncle Percy.

Miss Schlegel always meant to get hold of Howards End, and,
thanks to you, she's got it.

I call the way you twist things round and make them hang
together most unfair. You couldn't have been nastier if you'd
caught me flirting. Could he, diddums?

We're in a bad hole, and must make the best of it. I shall
answer the pater's letter civilly. He's evidently anxious to do
the decent thing. But I do not intend to forget these Schlegcls
in a hurry. As long as they're on their best behaviour--Do11y,
are you listening?--we'll behave, too. But if I find them giving
themselves airs or monopolising my father, or at all ill-treating
him, or worrying him with their artistic beastliness, I intend to
put my foot down, yes, firmly. Taking my mother's place! Heaven
knows what poor old Paul will say when the news reaches him.

The interlude closes. It has taken place in Charles's garden at
Hilton. He and Dolly are sitting in deckchairsand their motor
is regarding them placidly from its garage across the lawn. A
short-frocked edition of Charles also regards them placidly; a
perambulator edition is squeaking; a third edition is expected
shortly. Nature is turning out Wilcoxes in this peaceful abode
so that they may inherit the earth.

CHAPTER XXII

Margaret greeted her lord with peculiar tenderness on the morrow.
Mature as he wasshe might yet be able to help him to the
building of the rainbow bridge that should connect the prose in
us with the passion. Without it we are meaningless fragments
half monkshalf beastsunconnected arches that have never
joined into a man. With it love is bornand alights on the
highest curveglowing against the greysober against the fire.
Happy the man who sees from either aspect the glory of these
outspread wings. The roads of his soul lie clearand he and his
friends shall find easy-going.

It was hard-going in the roads of Mr. Wilcox's soul. From boyhood
he had neglected them. "I am not a fellow who bothers about my
own inside." Outwardly he was cheerfulreliableand brave; but
withinall had reverted to chaosruledso far as it was ruled
at allby an incomplete asceticism. Whether as boyhusbandor
widowerhe had always the sneaking belief that bodily passion is
bada belief that is desirable only when held passionately.


Religion had confirmed him. The words that were read aloud on
Sunday to him and to other respectable men were the words that
had once kindled the souls of St. Catherine and St. Francis into
a white-hot hatred of the carnal. He could not be as the saints
and love the Infinite with a seraphic ardourbut he could be a
little ashamed of loving a wife. Amabatamare timebat. And it
was here that Margaret hoped to help him.

It did not seem so difficult. She need trouble him with no gift of
her own. She would only point out the salvation that was latent
in his own souland in the soul of every man. Only connect! That
was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the
passionand both will be exaltedand human love will be seen at
its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect and the
beast and the monkrobbed of the isolation that is life to
eitherwill die.

Nor was the message difficult to give. It need not take the form
of a good "talking." By quiet indications the bridge would be
built and span their lives with beauty.

But she failed. For there was one quality in Henry for which she
was never preparedhowever much she reminded herself of it: his
obtuseness. He simply did not notice thingsand there was no
more to be said. He never noticed that Helen and Frieda were
hostileor that Tibby was not interested in currant plantations;
he never noticed the lights and shades that exist in the greyest
conversationthe finger-poststhe milestonesthe collisions
the illimitable views. Once--on another occasion--she scolded him
about it. He was puzzledbut replied with a laugh: "My motto is
Concentrate. I've no intention of frittering away my strength on
that sort of thing." "It isn't frittering away the strength she
protested. It's enlarging the space in which you may be
strong." He answered: "You're a clever little womanbut my
motto's Concentrate." And this morning he concentrated with a
vengeance.

They met in the rhododendrons of yesterday. In the daylight the
bushes were inconsiderable and the path was bright in the morning
sun. She was with Helenwho had been ominously quiet since the
affair was settled. "Here we all are!" she criedand took him by
one handretaining her sister's in the other.

Here we are. Good-morning, Helen.

Helen repliedGood-morning, Mr. Wilcox.

Henry, she has had such a nice letter from the queer, cross boy.
Do you remember him? He had a sad moustache, but the back of his
head was young.

I have had a letter too. Not a nice one--I want to talk it over
with you; for Leonard Bast was nothing to him now that she had
given him her word; the triangle of sex was broken for ever.

Thanks to your hint, he's clearing out of the Porphyrion.

Not a bad business that Porphyrion,he said absentlyas he
took his own letter out of his pocket.

Not a BAD--she exclaimeddropping his hand. "Surelyon
Chelsea Embankment--"

Here's our hostess. Good-morning, Mrs. Munt. Fine rhododendrons.


Good-morning, Frau Liesecke; we manage to grow flowers in
England, don't we?

Not a BAD business?

No. My letter's about Howards End. Bryce has been ordered
abroad, and wants to sublet it--I am far from sure that I shall
give him permission. There was no clause in the agreement. In my
opinion, subletting is a mistake. If he can find me another
tenant, whom I consider suitable, I may cancel the agreement.
Morning, Schlegel. Don't you think that's better than
subletting?

Helen had dropped her hand nowand he had steered her past the
whole party to the seaward side of the house. Beneath them was
the bourgeois little baywhich must have yearned all through the
centuries for just such a watering-place as Swanage to be built
on its margin.

The waves were colourlessand the Bournemouth steamer gave a
further touch of insipiditydrawn up against the pier and
hooting wildly for excursionists.

When there is a sublet I find that damage--

Do excuse me, but about the Porphyrion. I don't feel easy--might
I just bother you, Henry?

Her manner was so serious that he stoppedand asked her a little
sharply what she wanted.

You said on Chelsea Embankment, surely, that it was a bad
concern, so we advised this clerk to clear out. He writes this
morning that he's taken our advice, and now you say it's not a
bad concern.

A clerk who clears out of any concern, good or bad, without
securing a berth somewhere else first, is a fool, and I've no
pity for him.

He has not done that. He's going into a bank in Camden Town, he
says. The salary's much lower, but he hopes to manage--a branch
of Dempster's Bank. Is that all right?

Dempster! Why goodness me, yes.

More right than the Porphyrion?

Yes, yes, yes; safe as houses--safer.

Very many thanks. I'm sorry--if you sublet--?

If he sublets, I shan't have the same control. In theory there
should be no more damage done at Howards End; in practice there
will be. Things may be done for which no money can compensate.
For instance, I shouldn't want that fine wych-elm spoilt. It
hangs--Margaret, we must go and see the old place some time.
It's pretty in its way. We'll motor down and have lunch with
Charles.

I should enjoy that,said Margaret bravely.

What about next Wednesday?


Wednesday? No, I couldn't well do that. Aunt Juley expects us to
stop here another week at least.

But you can give that up now.

Er--no,said Margaretafter a moment's thought.

Oh, that'll be all right. I'll speak to her.

This visit is a high solemnity. My aunt counts on it year after
year. She turns the house upside down for us; she invites our
special friends--she scarcely knows Frieda, and we can't leave
her on her hands. I missed one day, and she would be so hurt if I
didn't stay the full ten.

But I'll say a word to her. Don't you bother.

Henry, I won't go. Don't bully me.

You want to see the house, though?

Very much--I've heard so much about it, one way or the other.
Aren't there pigs' teeth in the wych-elm?

PIGS TEETH?

And you chew the bark for toothache.

What a rum notion! Of course not!

Perhaps I have confused it with some other tree. There are still
a great number of sacred trees in England, it seems.

But he left her to intercept Mrs. Muntwhose voice could be
heard in the distance; to be intercepted himself by Helen.

Oh. Mr. Wilcox, about the Porphyrion--she began and went
scarlet all over her face.

It's all right,called Margaretcatching them up. "Dempster's
Bank's better."

But I think you told us the Porphyrion was bad, and would smash
before Christmas.

Did I? It was still outside the Tariff Ring, and had to take
rotten policies. Lately it came in--safe as houses now.

In other words, Mr. Bast need never have left it.

No, the fellow needn't.

--and needn't have started life elsewhere at a greatly reduced
salary.

He only says 'reduced,'corrected Margaretseeing trouble
ahead.

With a man so poor, every reduction must be great. I consider it
a deplorable misfortune.

Mr. Wilcoxintent on his business with Mrs. Muntwas going
steadily onbut the last remark made him say: "What? What's
that? Do you mean that I'm responsible?"


You're ridiculous, Helen.

You seem to think--He looked at his watch. "Let me explain the
point to you. It is like this. You seem to assumewhen a
business concern is conducting a delicate negotiationit ought
to keep the public informed stage by stage. The Porphyrion
according to youwas bound to say'I am trying all I can to get
into the Tariff Ring. I am not sure that I shall succeedbut it
is the only thing that will save me from insolvencyand I am
trying.' My dear Helen--"

Is that your point? A man who had little money has less--that's
mine.

I am grieved for your clerk. But it is all in the days work.
It's part of the battle of life.

A man who had little money--, she repeatedhas less, owing to
us. Under these circumstances I consider 'the battle of life' a
happy expression.

Oh comecome!" he protested pleasantly. 'you're not to blame.
No one's to blame."

Is no one to blame for anything?

I wouldn't say that, but you're taking it far too seriously.
Who is this fellow?

We have told you about the fellow twice already,said Helen.
You have even met the fellow. He is very poor and his wife is an
extravagant imbecile. He is capable of better things. We--we, the
upper classes--thought we would help him from the height of our
superior knowledge--and here's the result!

He raised his finger. "Nowa word of advice."

I require no more advice.

A word of advice. Don't take up that sentimental attitude over
the poor. See that she doesn't, Margaret. The poor are poor, and
one's sorry for them, but there it is. As civilisation moves
forward, the shoe is bound to pinch in places, and it's absurd
to pretend that any one is responsible personally. Neither you,
nor I, nor my informant, nor the man who informed him, nor the
directors of the Porphyrion, are to blame for this clerk's loss
of salary. It's just the shoe pinching--no one can help it; and
it might easily have been worse.

Helen quivered with indignation.

By all means subscribe to charities--subscribe to them largely-but
don't get carried away by absurd schemes of Social Reform. I
see a good deal behind the scenes, and you can take it from me
that there is no Social Question--except for a few journalists
who try to get a living out of the phrase. There are just rich
and poor, as there always have been and always will be. Point me
out a time when men have been equal--

I didn't say--

Point me out a time when desire for equality has made them
happier. No, no. You can't. There always have been rich and poor.


I'm no fatalist. Heaven forbid! But our civilisation is moulded
by great impersonal forces(his voice grew complacent; it
always did when he eliminated the personal)and there always
will be rich and poor. You can't deny it(and now it was a
respectful voice)--"and you can't deny thatin spite of allthe
tendency of civilisation has on the whole been upward."

Owing to God, I suppose,flashed Helen.

He stared at her.

You grab the dollars. God does the rest.

It was no good instructing the girl if she was going to talk
about God in that neurotic modern way. Fraternal to the lasthe
left her for the quieter company of Mrs. Munt. He thoughtShe
rather reminds me of Dolly.

Helen looked out at the sea.

Don't ever discuss political economy with Henry,advised her
sister. "It'll only end in a cry."

But he must be one of those men who have reconciled science with
religion,said Helen slowly. "I don't like those men. They are
scientific themselvesand talk of the survival of the fittest
and cut down the salaries of their clerksand stunt the
independence of all who may menace their comfortbut yet they
believe that somehow good--it is always that sloppy 'somehow'
will be the outcomeand that in some mystical way the Mr. Basts
of the future will benefit because the Mr. Brits of today are in
pain."

He is such a man in theory. But oh, Helen, in theory!

But oh, Meg, what a theory!

Why should you put things so bitterly, dearie?

Because I'm an old maid,said Helenbiting her lip. "I can't
think why I go on like this myself." She shook off her sister's
hand and went into the house. Margaretdistressed at the day's
beginningfollowed the Bournemouth steamer with her eyes. She
saw that Helen's nerves were exasperated by the unlucky Bast
business beyond the bounds of politeness. There might at any
minute be a real explosionwhich even Henry would notice. Henry
must be removed.

Margaret!her aunt called. "Magsy! It isn't truesurely
what Mr. Wilcox saysthat you want to go away early next week?"

Not 'want,'was Margaret's prompt reply; "but there is so much
to be settledand I do want to see the Charles's."

But going away without taking the Weymouth trip, or even the
Lulworth?said Mrs. Muntcoming nearer. "Without going once
more up Nine Barrows Down?"

I'm afraid so.

Mr. Wilcox rejoined her withGood! I did the breaking of the
ice.

A wave of tenderness came over her. She put a hand on either


shoulderand looked deeply into the blackbright eyes. What was
behind their competent stare? She knewbut was not disquieted.

CHAPTER XXIII

Margaret had no intention of letting things slideand the
evening before she left Swanage she gave her sister a thorough
scolding. She censured hernot for disapproving of the
engagementbut for throwing over her disapproval a veil of
mystery. Helen was equally frank. "Yes she said, with the air
of one looking inwards, there is a mystery. I can't help it.
It's not my fault. It's the way life has been made." Helen in
those days was over-interested in the subconscious self. She
exaggerated the Punch and Judy aspect of lifeand spoke of
mankind as puppetswhom an invisible showman twitches into love
and war. Margaret pointed out that if she dwelt on this shetoo
would eliminate the personal. Helen was silent for a minuteand
then burst into a queer speechwhich cleared the air. "Go on
and marry him. I think you're splendid; and if any one can pull
it offyou will." Margaret denied that there was anything to
pull off,but she continued: "Yesthere isand I wasn't up
to it with Paul. I can do only what's easy. I can only entice
and be enticed. I can'tand won'tattempt difficult relations.
If I marryit will either be a man who's strong enough to boss
me or whom I'm strong enough to boss. So I shan't ever marryfor
there aren't such men. And Heaven help any one whom I do marry
for I shall certainly run away from him before you can say 'Jack
Robinson.' There! Because I'm uneducated. But youyou're
different; you're a heroine."

Oh, Helen! Am I? Will it be as dreadful for poor Henry as all
that?

You mean to keep proportion, and that's heroic, it's Greek, and
I don't see why it shouldn't succeed with you. Go on and fight
with him and help him. Don't ask me for help, or even for
sympathy. Henceforward I'm going my own way. I mean to be
thorough, because thoroughness is easy. I mean to dislike your
husband, and to tell him so. I mean to make no concessions to
Tibby. If Tibby wants to live with me, he must lump me. I mean to
love you more than ever. Yes, I do. You and I have built up
something real, because it is purely spiritual. There's no veil
of mystery over us. Unreality and mystery begin as soon as one
touches the body. The popular view is, as usual, exactly the
wrong one. Our bothers are over tangible things--money, husbands,
house-hunting. But Heaven will work of itself.

Margaret was grateful for this expression of affectionand
answeredPerhaps.All vistas close in the unseen--no one
doubts it--but Helen closed them rather too quickly for her
taste. At every turn of speech one was confronted with reality
and the absolute. Perhaps Margaret grew too old for metaphysics
perhaps Henry was weaning her from thembut she felt that there
was something a little unbalanced in the mind that so readily
shreds the visible. The business man who assumes that this life
is everythingand the mystic who asserts that it is nothing
failon this side and on thatto hit the truth. "YesI see
dear; it's about half-way between Aunt Juicy had hazarded in
earlier years. No; truth, being alive, was not half-way between
anything. It was only to be found by continuous excursions into
either realm, and though proportion is the final secret, to
espouse it at the outset is to insure sterility.


Helen, agreeing here, disagreeing there, would have talked till
midnight, but Margaret, with her packing to do, focussed the
conversation on Henry. She might abuse Henry behind his back, but
please would she always be civil to him in company? I definitely
dislike himbut I'll do what I can promised Helen. Do what
you can with my friends in return."

This conversation made Margaret easier. Their inner life was so
safe that they could bargain over externals in a way that would
have been incredible to Aunt Juleyand impossible for Tibby or
Charles. There are moments when the inner life actually "pays
when years of self-scrutiny, conducted for no ulterior motive,
are suddenly of practical use. Such moments are still rare in the
West; that they come at all promises a fairer future. Margaret,
though unable to understand her sister, was assured against
estrangement, and returned to London with a more peaceful mind.

The following morning, at eleven o'clock, she presented herself
at the offices of the Imperial and West African Rubber Company.
She was glad to go there, for Henry had implied his business
rather than described it, and the formlessness and vagueness that
one associates with Africa itself had hitherto brooded over the
main sources of his wealth. Not that a visit to the office cleared
things up. There was just the ordinary surface scum of ledgers
and polished counters and brass bars that began and stopped for
no possible reason, of electric-light globes blossoming in
triplets, of little rabbit-hutches faced with glass or wire, of
little rabbits. And even when she penetrated to the inner depths,
she found only the ordinary table and Turkey carpet, and though
the map over the fireplace did depict a helping of West Africa,
it was a very ordinary map. Another map hung opposite, on which
the whole continent appeared, looking like a whale marked out
for a blubber, and by its side was a door, shut, but Henry's
voice came through it, dictating a strong" letter. She might
have been at the Porphyrionor Dempster's Bankor her own
wine-merchant's. Everything seems just alike in these days. But
perhaps she was seeing the Imperial side of the company rather
than its West Africanand Imperialism always had been one of
her difficulties.

One minute!called Mr. Wilcox on receiving her name. He touched
a bellthe effect of which was to produce Charles.

Charles had written his father an adequate letter--more adequate
than Evie'sthrough which a girlish indignation throbbed. And he
greeted his future stepmother with propriety.

I hope that my wife--how do you do?--will give you a decent
lunch,was his opening. "I left instructionsbut we live in a
rough-and-ready way. She expects you back to teatooafter you
have had a look at Howards End. I wonder what you'll think of the
place. I wouldn't touch it with tongs myself. Do sit down! It's a
measly little place."

I shall enjoy seeing it,said Margaretfeelingfor the first
timeshy.

You'll see it at its worst, for Bryce decamped abroad last
Monday without even arranging for a charwoman to clear up after
him. I never saw such a disgraceful mess. It's unbelievable. He
wasn't in the house a month.

I've more than a little bone to pick with Bryce,called Henry


from the inner chamber.

Why did he go so suddenly?

Invalid type; couldn't sleep.

Poor fellow!

Poor fiddlesticks!said Mr. Wilcoxjoining them. "He had the
impudence to put up notice-boards without as much as saying with
your leave or by your leave. Charles flung them down."

Yes, I flung them down,said Charles modestly.

I've sent a telegram after him, and a pretty sharp one, too.
He, and he in person, is responsible for the upkeep of that house
for the next three years.

The keys are at the farm; we wouldn't have the keys.

Quite right.

Dolly would have taken them, but I was in, fortunately.

What's Mr. Bryce like?asked Margaret.

But nobody cared. Mr. Bryce was the tenantwho had no right to
sublet; to have defined him further was a waste of time. On his
misdeeds they descanted profuselyuntil the girl who had been
typing the strong letter game out with it. Mr. Wilcox added his
signature. "Now we'll be off said he.

A motor-drive, a form of felicity detested by Margaret,
awaited her. Charles saw them in, civil to the last, and in a
moment the offices of the Imperial and West African Rubber
Company faded away. But it was not an impressive drive. Perhaps
the weather was to blame, being grey and banked high with weary
clouds. Perhaps Hertfordshire is scarcely intended for motorists.
Did not a gentleman once motor so quickly through Westmoreland
that he missed it? and if Westmoreland can be missed, it will
fare ill with a county whose delicate structure particularly
needs the attentive eye. Hertfordshire is England at its
quietest, with little emphasis of river and hill; it is England
meditative. If Drayton were with us again to write a new edition
of his incomparable poem, he would sing the nymphs of
Hertfordshire as indeterminate of feature, with hair obfuscated
by the London smoke. Their eyes would be sad, and averted from
their fate towards the Northern flats, their leader not Isis or
Sabrina, but the slowly flowing Lea. No glory of raiment would be
theirs, no urgency of dance; but they would be real nymphs.

The chauffeur could not travel as quickly as he had hoped, for
the Great North Road was full of Easter traffic. But he went
quite quick enough for Margaret, a poor-spirited creature, who
had chickens and children on the brain.

They're all right said Mr. Wilcox. They'll learn--like the
swallows and the telegraph-wires."

Yes, but, while they're learning--

The motor's come to stay,he answered. "One must get about.
There's a pretty church--ohyou aren't sharp enough. Welllook
outif the road worries you--right outward at the scenery."


She looked at the scenery. It heaved and merged like porridge.
Presently it congealed. They had arrived.

Charles's house on the left; on the right the swelling forms of
the Six Hills. Their appearance in such a neighbourhood surprised
her. They interrupted the stream of residences that was
thickening up towards Hilton. Beyond them she saw meadows and a
woodand beneath them she settled that soldiers of the best kind
lay buried. She hated war and liked soldiers--it was one of her
amiable inconsistencies.

But here was Dollydressed up to the ninesstanding at the door
to greet themand here were the first drops of the rain. They
ran in gailyand after a long wait in the drawing-roomsat down
to the rough-and-ready lunchevery dish of which concealed or
exuded cream. Mr. Bryce was the chief topic of conversation.
Dolly described his visit with the keywhile her father-in-law
gave satisfaction by chaffing her and contradicting all she said.
It was evidently the custom to laugh at Dolly. He chaffed
Margaret tooand Margaret roused from a grave meditation was
pleased and chaffed him back. Dolly seemed surprised and eyed her
curiously. After lunch the two children came down. Margaret
disliked babiesbut hit it off better with the two-year-oldand
sent Dolly into fits of laughter by talking sense to him. "Kiss
them nowand come away said Mr. Wilcox. She came, but refused
to kiss them; it was such hard luck on the little things, she
said, and though Dolly proffered Chorly-worly and Porgly-woggles
in turn, she was obdurate.

By this time it was raining steadily. The car came round with the
hood up, and again she lost all sense of space. In a few minutes
they stopped, and Crane opened the door of the car.

What's happened?" asked Margaret.

What do you suppose?said Henry.

A little porch was close up against her face.

Are we there already?

We are.

Well, I never! In years ago it seemed so far away.

Smilingbut somehow disillusionedshe jumped outand her
impetus carried her to the front-door. She was about to open it
when Henry said: "That's no good; it's locked. Who's got the
key?"

As he had himself forgotten to call for the key at the farmno
one replied. He also wanted to know who had left the front gate
opensince a cow had strayed in from the roadand was spoiling
the croquet lawn. Then he said rather crossly: "Margaretyou
wait in the dry. I'll go down for the key. It isn't a hundred
yards."

Mayn't I come too?

No; I shall be back before I'm gone.

Then the car turned awayand it was as if a curtain had risen.
For the second time that day she saw the appearance of the earth.


There were the greengage-trees that Helen had once described
there the tennis lawnthere the hedge that would be glorious
with dog-roses in Junebut the vision now was of black and
palest green. Down by the dell-hole more vivid colours were
awakeningand Lent lilies stood sentinel on its marginor
advanced in battalions over the grass. Tulips were a tray of
jewels. She could not see the wych-elm treebut a branch of the
celebrated vinestudded with velvet knobs had covered the perch.
She was struck by the fertility of the soil; she had seldom been
in a garden where the flowers looked so welland even the weeds
she was idly plucking out of the porch were intensely green. Why
had poor Mr. Bryce fled from all this beauty? For she had already
decided that the place was beautiful.

Naughty cow! Go away!cried Margaret to the cowbut without
indignation.

Harder came the rainpouring out of a windless skyand
spattering up from the notice-boards of the house-agentswhich
lay in a row on the lawn where Charles had hurled them. She must
have interviewed Charles in another world--where one did have
interviews. How Helen would revel in such a notion! Charles dead
all people deadnothing alive but houses and gardens. The
obvious deadthe intangible aliveand no connection at all
between them! Margaret smiled. Would that her own fancies were as
clear-cut! Would that she could deal as high-handedly with the
world! Smiling and sighingshe laid her hand upon the door. It
opened. The house was not locked up at all.

She hesitated. Ought she to wait for Henry? He felt strongly
about propertyand might prefer to show her over himself. On the
other handhe had told her to keep in the dryand the porch was
beginning to drip. So she went inand the draught from inside
slammed the door behind.

Desolation greeted her. Dirty finger-prints were on the
hall-windowsflue and rubbish on its unwashed boards. The
civilisation of luggage had been here for a monthand then
decamped. Dining-room and drawing-room--right and left--were
guessed only by their wallpapers. They were just rooms where one
could shelter from the rain. Across the ceiling of each ran a
great beam. The dining-room and hall revealed theirs openlybut
the drawing-room's was match-boarded--because the facts of life
must be concealed from ladies? Drawing-roomdining-roomand
hall--how petty the names sounded! Here were simply three rooms
where children could play and friends shelter from the rain. Yes
and they were beautiful.

Then she opened one of the doors opposite--there were two--and
exchanged wall-papers for whitewash. It was the servants' part
though she scarcely realised that: just rooms againwhere
friends might shelter. The garden at the back was full of
flowering cherries and plums. Farther on were hints of the meadow
and a black cliff of pines. Yesthe meadow was beautiful.

Penned in by the desolate weathershe recaptured the sense of
space which the motor had tried to rob from her. She remembered
again that ten square miles are not ten times as wonderful as one
square milethat a thousand square miles are not practically the
same as heaven. The phantom of bignesswhich London encourages
was laid for ever when she paced from the hall at Howards End to
its kitchen and heard the rain run this way and that where the
watershed of the roof divided it.


Now Helen came to her mindscrutinising half Wessex from the
ridge of the Purbeck Downsand saying: "You will have to lose
something." She was not so sure. For instance she would double
her kingdom by opening the door that concealed the stairs.

Now she thought of the map of Africa; of empires; of her father;
of the two supreme nationsstreams of whose life warmed her
bloodbutminglinghad cooled her brain. She paced back into
the halland as she did so the house reverberated.

Is that you, Henry?she called.

There was no answerbut the house reverberated again.

Henry, have you got in?

But it was the heart of the house beatingfaintly at firstthen
loudlymartially. It dominated the rain.

It is the starved imaginationnot the well-nourishedthat is
afraid. Margaret flung open the door to the stairs. A noise as of
drums seemed to deafen her. A womanan old womanwas
descendingwith figure erectwith face impassivewith lips
that parted and said dryly:

Oh! Well, I took you for Ruth Wilcox.

Margaret stammered: "I--Mrs. Wilcox--I?"

In fancy, of course--in fancy. You had her way of walking.
Good-day.And the old woman passed out into the rain.

CHAPTER XXIV

It gave her quite a turn,said Mr. Wilcoxwhen retailing the
incident to Dolly at tea-time. "None of you girls have any
nervesreally. Of coursea word from me put it all rightbut
silly old Miss Avery--she frightened youdidn't sheMargaret?
There you stood clutching a bunch of weeds. She might have said
somethinginstead of coming down the stairs with that alarming
bonnet on. I passed her as I came in. Enough to make the car shy.
I believe Miss Avery goes in for being a character; some old
maids do." He lit a cigarette. "It is their last resource. Heaven
knows what she was doing in the place; but that's Bryce's
businessnot mine."

I wasn't as foolish as you suggest,said Margaret "She only
startled mefor the house had been silent so long."

Did you take her for a spook?asked Dollyfor whom "spooks"'
and "going to church" summarised the unseen.

Not exactly.

She really did frighten you,said Henrywho was far from
discouraging timidity in females. "Poor Margaret! And very
naturally. Uneducated classes are so stupid."

Is Miss Avery uneducated classes?Margaret askedand found
herself looking at the decoration scheme of Dolly's drawing-room.


She's just one of the crew at the farm. People like that always
assume things. She assumed you'd know who she was. She left all
the Howards End keys in the front lobby, and assumed that you'd
seen them as you came in, that you'd lock up the house when you'd
done, and would bring them on down to her. And there was her
niece hunting for them down at the farm. Lack of education makes
people very casual. Hilton was full of women like Miss Avery
once.

I shouldn't have disliked it, perhaps.

Or Miss Avery giving me a wedding present,said Dolly.

Which was illogical but interesting. Through DollyMargaret was
destined to learn a good deal.

But Charles said I must try not to mind, because she had known
his grandmother.

As usual, you've got the story wrong, my good Dorothea.

I meant great-grandmother--the one who left Mrs. Wilcox the
house. Weren't both of them and Miss Avery friends when Howards
End, too, was a farm?

Her father-in-law blew out a shaft of smoke. His attitude to his
dead wife was curious. He would allude to herand hear her
discussedbut never mentioned her by name. Nor was he interested
in the dimbucolic past. Dolly was--for the following reason.

Then hadn't Mrs. Wilcox a brother--or was it an uncle? Anyhow,
he popped the question, and Miss Avery, she said `No.' Just
imagine, if she'd said 'Yes,' she would have been Charles's aunt.
(Oh, I say, that's rather good! 'Charlie's Aunt'! I must chaff
him about that this evening.) And the man went out and was
killed. Yes, I 'm certain I've got it right now. Tom Howard--he
was the last of them.

I believe so,said Mr. Wilcox negligently.

I say! Howards End--Howards Ended!Dolly. "I'm rather on the
spot this eveningeh?"

I wish you'd ask whether Crane's ended.

Oh, Mr. Wilcox, how can you?

Because, if he has had enough tea, we ought to go--Dolly's a
good little woman,he continuedbut a little of her goes a
long way. I couldn't live near her if you paid me.

Margaret smiled. Though presenting a firm front to outsidersno
Wilcox could live nearor near the possessions ofany other
Wilcox. They had the colonial spiritand were always making for
some spot where the white man might carry his burden unobserved.
Of courseHowards End was impossibleso long as the younger
couple were established in Hilton. His objections to the house
were plain as daylight now.

Crane had had enough teaand was sent to the garagewhere their
car had been trickling muddy water over Charles's. The downpour
had surely penetrated the Six Hills by nowbringing news of our
restless civilisation. "Curious mounds said Henry, but in with
you now; another time." He had to be up in London by seven--if


possibleby six-thirty. Once more she lost the sense of space;
once more treeshousespeopleanimalshillsmerged and
heaved into one dirtinessand she was at Wickham Place.

Her evening was pleasant. The sense of flux which had haunted her
all the year disappeared for a time. She forgot the luggage and
the motor-carsand the hurrying men who know so much and connect
so little. She recaptured the sense of spacewhich is the basis
of all earthly beautyandstarting from Howards Endshe
attempted to realise England. She failed--visions do not come
when we trythough they may come through trying. But an
unexpected love of the island awoke in herconnecting on this
side with the joys of the fleshon that with the inconceivable.
Helen and her father had known this lovepoor Leonard Bast was
groping after itbut it had been hidden from Margaret till this
afternoon. It had certainly come through the house and old Miss
Avery. Through them: the notion of "through" persisted; her mind
trembled towards a conclusion which only the unwise have put into
words. Thenveering back into warmthit dwelt on ruddy bricks
flowering plum-treesand all the tangible joys of spring.

Henryafter allaying her agitationhad taken her over his
propertyand had explained to her the use and dimensions of the
various rooms. He had sketched the history of the little estate.
It is so unlucky,ran the monologuethat money wasn't put
into it about fifty years ago. Then it had four--five--times the
land--thirty acres at least. One could have made something out of
it then--a small park, or at all events shrubberies, and rebuilt
the house farther away from the road. What's the good of taking
it in hand now? Nothing but the meadow left, and even that was
heavily mortgaged when I first had to do with things--yes, and
the house too. Oh, it was no joke.She saw two women as he
spokeone oldthe other youngwatching their inheritance melt
away. She saw them greet him as a deliverer. "Mismanagement did
it--besidesthe days for small farms are over. It doesn't pay-except
with intensive cultivation. Small holdingsback to the
land--ah! philanthropic bunkum. Take it as a rule that nothing
pays on a small scale. Most of the land you see (they were
standing at an upper windowthe only one which faced west)
belongs to the people at the Park--they made their pile over
copper--good chaps. Avery's FarmSishe's--what they call the
Commonwhere you see that ruined oak--one after the other fell
inand so did thisas near as is no matter." But Henry had
saved it; without fine feelings or deep insightbut he had saved
itand she loved him for the deed. "When I had more control I
did what I could--sold off the two and a half animalsand the
mangy ponyand the superannuated tools; pulled down the
outhouses; drained; thinned out I don't know how many
guelder-roses and elder-trees; and inside the house I turned the
old kitchen into a halland made a kitchen behind where the
dairy was. Garage and so on came later. But one could still tell
it's been an old farm. And yet it isn't the place that would
fetch one of your artistic crew." Noit wasn't; and if he did
not quite understand itthe artistic crew would still less; it
was Englishand the wych-elm that she saw from the window was an
English tree. No report had prepared her for its peculiar glory.
It was neither warriornor lovernor god; in none of these
roles do the English excel. It was a comrade bending over the
housestrength and adventure in its rootsbut in its utmost
fingers tendernessand the girththat a dozen men could not
have spannedbecame in the end evanescenttill pale bud
clusters seemed to float in the air. It was a comrade. House and
tree transcended any similes of sex. Margaret thought of them
nowand was to think of them through many a windy night and


London daybut to compare either to manto womanalways
dwarfed the vision. Yet they kept within limits of the human.
Their message was not of eternitybut of hope on this side of
the grave. As she stood in the onegazing at the othertruer
relationship had gleamed.

Another touchand the account of her day is finished. They
entered the garden for a minuteand to Mr. Wilcox's surprise she
was right. Teethpigs' teethcould be seen in the bark of the
wych-elm tree--just the white tips of them showing. "Extraordinary!"
he cried. "Who told you?"

I heard of it one winter in London,was her answerfor she
tooavoided mentioning Mrs. Wilcox by name.

CHAPTER XXV

Evie heard of her father's engagement when she was in for a
tennis tournamentand her play went simply to pot. That she
should marry and leave him had seemed natural enough; that he
left aloneshould do the same was deceitful; and now Charles and
Dolly said that it was all her fault. "But I never dreamt of such
a thing she grumbled. Dad took me to call now and thenand
made me ask her to Simpson's. WellI'm altogether off dad." It
was also an insult to their mother's memory; there they were
agreedand Evie had the idea of returning Mrs. Wilcox's lace and
jewellery "as a protest." Against what it would protest she was
not clear; but being only eighteenthe idea of renunciation
appealed to herthe more as she did not care for jewellery or
lace. Dolly then suggested that she and Uncle Percy should
pretend to break off their engagementand then perhaps Mr.
Wilcox would quarrel with Miss Schlegeland break off his; or
Paul might be cabled for. But at this point Charles told them not
to talk nonsense. So Evie settled to marry as soon as possible;
it was no good hanging about with these Schlegels eyeing her. The
date of her wedding was consequently put forward from September
to Augustand in the intoxication of presents she recovered much
of her good-humour.

Margaret found that she was expected to figure at this function
and to figure largely; it would be such an opportunitysaid
Henryfor her to get to know his set. Sir James Bidder would be
thereand all the Cahills and the Fussellsand his
sister-in-lawMrs. Warrington Wilcoxhad fortunately got back
from her tour round the world. Henry she lovedbut his set
promised to be another matter. He had not the knack of
surrounding himself with nice people--indeedfor a man of
ability and virtue his choice had been singularly unfortunate; he
had no guiding principle beyond a certain preference for
mediocrity; he was content to settle one of the greatest things
in life haphazardand sowhile his investments went righthis
friends generally went wrong. She would be toldOh, So-and-so's
a good sort--a thundering good sort,and findon meeting him
that he was a brute or a bore. If Henry had shown real affection
she would have understoodfor affection explains everything. But
he seemed without sentiment. The "thundering good sort" might at
any moment become "a fellow for whom I never did have much use
and have less now and be shaken off cheerily into oblivion.
Margaret had done the same as a schoolgirl. Now she never forgot
any one for whom she had once cared; she connected, though the
connection might be bitter, and she hoped that some day Henry
would do the same.


Evie was not to be married from Ducie Street. She had a fancy for
something rural, and, besides, no one would be in London then, so
she left her boxes for a few weeks at Oniton Grange, and her
banns were duly published in the parish church, and for a couple
of days the little town, dreaming between the ruddy hills, was
roused by the clang of our civilisation, and drew up by the
roadside to let the motors pass. Oniton had been a discovery of
Mr. Wilcox's--a discovery of which he was not altogether proud.
It was up towards the Welsh border, and so difficult of access
that he had concluded it must be something special. A ruined
castle stood in the grounds. But having got there, what was one
to do? The shooting was bad, the fishing indifferent, and
womenfolk reported the scenery as nothing much. The place turned
out to be in the wrong part of Shropshire, and though he never
ran down his own property to others, he was only waiting to get
it off his hands, and then to let fly. Evie's marriage was its
last appearance in public. As soon as a tenant was found, it
became a house for which he never had had much use, and had less
now, and, like Howards End, faded into Limbo.

But on Margaret Oniton was destined to make a lasting impression.
She regarded it as her future home, and was anxious to start
straight with the clergy, etc., and, if possible, to see
something of the local life. It was a market-town--as tiny a one
as England possesses--and had for ages served that lonely valley,
and guarded our marches against the Celt. In spite of the
occasion, in spite of the numbing hilarity that greeted her as
soon as she got into the reserved saloon at Paddington, her
senses were awake and watching, and though Oniton was to prove
one of her innumerable false starts, she never forgot it, or the
things that happened there.

The London party only numbered eight--the Fussells, father and
son, two Anglo-Indian ladies named Mrs. Plynlimmon and Lady
Edser, Mrs. Warrington Wilcox and her daughter, and, lastly, the
little girl, very smart and quiet, who figures at so many
weddings, and who kept a watchful eye on Margaret, the
bride-elect. Dolly was absent--a domestic event detained her at
Hilton; Paul had cabled a humorous message; Charles was to meet
them with a trio of motors at Shrewsbury; Helen had refused her
invitation; Tibby had never answered his. The management was
excellent, as was to be expected with anything that Henry
undertook; one was conscious of his sensible and generous brain
in the background. They were his guests as soon as they reached
the train; a special label for their luggage; a courier; a
special lunch; they had only to look pleasant and, where
possible, pretty. Margaret thought with dismay of her own
nuptials--presumably under the management of Tibby. Mr. Theobald
Schlegel and Miss Helen Schlegel request the pleasure of Mrs.
Plynlimmon's company on the occasion of the marriage of their
sister Margaret." The formula was incrediblebut it must soon be
printed and sentand though Wickham Place need not compete with
Onitonit must feed its guests properlyand provide them with
sufficient chairs. Her wedding would either be ramshackly or
bourgeois--she hoped the latter. Such an affair as the present
staged with a deftness that was almost beautifullay beyond her
powers and those of her friends.

The low rich purr of a Great Western express is not the worst
background for conversationand the journey passed pleasantly
enough. Nothing could have exceeded the kindness of the two men.
They raised windows for some ladiesand lowered them for others
they rang the bell for the servantthey identified the colleges


as the train slipped past Oxfordthey caught books or bag-purses
in the act of tumbling on to the floor. Yet there was nothing
finicking about their politeness--it had the public-school touch
andthough sedulouswas virile. More battles than Waterloo have
been won on our playing-fieldsand Margaret bowed to a charm of
which she did not wholly approveand said nothing when the
Oxford colleges were identified wrongly. "Male and female created
He them"; the journey to Shrewsbury confirmed this questionable
statementand the long glass saloonthat moved so easily and
felt so comfortablebecame a forcing-house for the idea of sex.

At Shrewsbury came fresh air. Margaret was all for sight-seeing
and while the others were finishing their tea at the Ravenshe
annexed a motor and hurried over the astonishing city. Her
chauffeur was not the faithful Cranebut an Italianwho dearly
loved making her late. Charleswatch in handthough with a
level browwas standing in front of the hotel when they
returned. It was perfectly all righthe told her; she was by no
means the last. And then he dived into the coffee-roomand she
heard him sayFor God's sake, hurry the women up; we shall
never be off,and Albert Fussell replyNot I; I've done my
share,and Colonel Fussell opine that the ladies were getting
themselves up to kill. Presently Myra (Mrs. Warrington's
daughter) appearedand as she was his cousinCharles blew her
up a little; she had been changing her smart travelling hat for a
smart motor hat. Then Mrs. Warrington herselfleading the quiet
child; the two Anglo-Indian ladies were always last. Maids
courierheavy luggagehad already gone on by a branch-line to a
station nearer Onitonbut there were five hat-boxes and four
dressing-bags to be packedand five dust-cloaks to be put on
and to be put off at the last momentbecause Charles declared
them not necessary. The men presided over everything with
unfailing good-humour. By half-past five the party was readyand
went out of Shrewsbury by the Welsh Bridge.

Shropshire had not the reticence of Hertfordshire. Though robbed
of half its magic by swift movementit still conveyed the sense
of hills. They were nearing the buttresses that force the Severn
eastward and make it an English streamand the sunsinking over
the Sentinels of Waleswas straight in their eyes. Having picked
up another guestthey turned southwardavoiding the greater
mountainsbut conscious of an occasional summitrounded and
mildwhose colouring differed in quality from that of the lower
earthand whose contours altered more slowly. Quiet mysteries
were in progress behind those tossing horizons: the Westas
everwas retreating with some secret which may not be worth the
discoverybut which no practical man will ever discover.

They spoke of Tariff Reform.

Mrs. Warrington was just back from the Colonies. Like many other
critics of Empireher mouth had been stopped with foodand she
could only exclaim at the hospitality with which she had been
receivedand warn the Mother Country against trifling with young
Titans. "They threaten to cut the painter she cried, and where
shall we be then? Miss Schlegelyou'll undertake to keep Henry
sound about Tariff Reform? It is our last hope."

Margaret playfully confessed herself on the other sideand they
began to quote from their respective handbooks while the motor
carried them deep into the hills. Curious these were rather than
impressivefor their outlines lacked beautyand the pink fields
on their summits suggested the handkerchiefs of a giant spread
out to dry. An occasional outcrop of rockan occasional woodan


occasional "forest treeless and brown, all hinted at wildness
to follow, but the main colour was an agricultural green. The air
grew cooler; they had surmounted the last gradient, and Oniton
lay below them with its church, its radiating houses, its castle,
its river-girt peninsula. Close to the castle was a grey mansion
unintellectual but kindly, stretching with its grounds across the
peninsula's neck--the sort of mansion that was built all over
England in the beginning of the last century, while architecture
was still an expression of the national character. That was the
Grange, remarked Albert, over his shoulder, and then he jammed
the brake on, and the motor slowed down and stopped. I'm sorry
said he, turning round. Do you mind getting out--by the door on
the right. Steady on."

What's happened?asked Mrs. Warrington.

Then the car behind them drew upand the voice of Charles was
heard saying: "Get the women out at once." There was a concourse
of malesand Margaret and her companions were hustled out and
received into the second car. What had happened? As it started
off againthe door of a cottage openedand a girl screamed
wildly at them.

What is it?the ladies cried.

Charles drove them a hundred yards without speaking. Then he
said: "It's all right. Your car just touched a dog."

But stop!cried Margarethorrified.

It didn't hurt him.

Didn't really hurt him?asked Myra.

No.

Do PLEASE stop!said Margaretleaning forward. She was
standing up in the carthe other occupants holding her knees to
steady her. "I want to go backplease."

Charles took no notice.

We've left Mr. Fussell behind,said another; "and Angeloand
Crane."

Yes, but no woman.

I expect a little of --Mrs. Warrington scratched her palm-"
will be more to the point than one of us!"

The insurance company see to that,remarked Charlesand
Albert will do the talking.

I want to go back, though, I say!repeated Margaretgetting
angry.

Charles took no notice. The motorloaded with refugees
continued to travel very slowly down the hill. "The men are
there chorused the others. They will see to it."

The men CAN'T see to it. Oh, this is ridiculous! Charles, I ask
you to stop.

Stopping's no good,drawled Charles.


Isn't it?said Margaretand jumped straight out of the car.
She fell on her kneescut her glovesshook her hat over her
ear. Cries of alarm followed her. "You've hurt yourself
exclaimed Charles, jumping after her.

Of course I've hurt myself!" she retorted.

May I ask what--

There's nothing to ask,said Margaret.

Your hand's bleeding.

I know.

I'm in for a frightful row from the pater.

You should have thought of that sooner, Charles.

Charles had never been in such a position before. It was a woman
in revolt who was hobbling away from him--and the sight was too
strange to leave any room for anger. He recovered himself when
the others caught them up: their sort he understood. He commanded
them to go back.

Albert Fussell was seen walking towards them.

It's all right!he called. "It was a cat."

There!exclaimed Charles triumphantly. "It's only a rotten
cat."

Got room in your car for a little un? I cut as soon as I saw it
wasn't a dog; the chauffeurs are tackling the girl.But Margaret
walked forward steadily. Why should the chauffeurs tackle the
girl? Ladies sheltering behind menmen sheltering behind
servants--the whole system's wrongand she must challenge it.

Miss Schlegel! 'Pon my word, you've hurt your hand.

I'm just going to see,said Margaret. "Don't you waitMr.
Fussell."

The second motor came round the corner. "It is all rightmadam
said Crane in his turn. He had taken to calling her madam.

What's all right? The cat?"

Yes, madam. The girl will receive compensation for it.

She was a very ruda girla,said Angelo from the third motor
thoughtfully.

Wouldn't you have been rude?

The Italian spread out his handsimplying that he had not
thought of rudenessbut would produce it if it pleased her. The
situation became absurd. The gentlemen were again buzzing round
Miss Schlegel with offers of assistanceand Lady Edser began to
bind up her hand. She yieldedapologising slightlyand was led
back to the carand soon the landscape resumed its motionthe
lonely cottage disappearedthe castle swelled on its cushion of
turfand they had arrived. No doubt she had disgraced herself.


But she felt their whole journey from London had been unreal.
They had no part with the earth and its emotions. They were dust
and a stinkand cosmopolitan chatterand the girl whose cat had
been killed had lived more deeply than they.

Oh, Henry,she exclaimedI have been so naughty,for she had
decided to take up this line. "We ran over a cat. Charles told me
not to jump outbut I wouldand look!" She held out her
bandaged hand. "Your poor Meg went such a flop."

Mr. Wilcox looked bewildered. In evening dresshe was standing
to welcome his guests in the hall.

Thinking it was a dog.added Mrs. Warrington.

Ah, a dog's a companion!said Colonel Fussell "A dog'll
remember you."

Have you hurt yourself, Margaret?

Not to speak about; and it's my left hand.

Well, hurry up and change.

She obeyedas did the others. Mr. Wilcox then turned to his son.

Now, Charles, what's happened?'

Charles was absolutely honest. He described what he believed to
have happened. Albert had flattened out a cat, and Miss Schlegel
had lost her nerve, as any woman might. She had been got safely
into the other car, but when it was in motion had leapt out
again, in spite of all that they could say. After walking a
little on the road, she had calmed down and had said that she was
sorry. His father accepted this explanation, and neither knew
that Margaret had artfully prepared the way for it. It fitted in
too well with their view of feminine nature. In the smoking-room,
after dinner, the Colonel put forward the view that Miss Schlegel
had jumped it out of devilry. Well he remembered as a young man,
in the harbour of Gibraltar once, how a girl--a handsome girl,
too--had jumped overboard for a bet. He could see her now, and
all the lads overboard after her. But Charles and Mr. Wilcox
agreed it was much more probably nerves in Miss Schlegel's case.
Charles was depressed. That woman had a tongue. She would bring
worse disgrace on his father before she had done with them. He
strolled out on to the castle mound to think the matter over. The
evening was exquisite. On three sides of him a little river
whispered, full of messages from the West; above his head the
ruins made patterns against the sky. He carefully reviewed their
dealings with this family, until he fitted Helen, and Margaret,
and Aunt Juley into an orderly conspiracy. Paternity had made him
suspicious. He had two children to look after, and more coming,
and day by day they seemed less likely to grow up rich men. It
is all very well he reflected, the pater's saying that he will
be just to allbut one can't be just indefinitely. Money isn't
elastic. What's to happen if Evie has a family? Andcome to
thatso may the pater. There'll not be enough to go roundfor
there's none coming ineither through Dolly or Percy. It's
damnable!" He looked enviously at the Grangewhose windows
poured light and laughter. First and lastthis wedding would
cost a pretty penny. Two ladies were strolling up and down the
garden terraceand as the syllables "Imperialism" were wafted to
his earshe guessed that one of them was his aunt. She might
have helped himif she too had not had a family to provide for.


Every one for himself,he repeated--a maxim which had cheered
him in the pastbut which rang grimly enough among the ruins of
Oniton. He lacked his father's ability in businessand so had an
ever higher regard for money; unless he could inherit plentyhe
feared to leave his children poor.

As he sat thinkingone of the ladies left the terrace and walked
into the meadow; he recognised her as Margaret by the white
bandage that gleamed on her armand put out his cigarlest the
gleam should betray him. She climbed up the mound in zigzagsand
at times stooped downas if she was stroking the turf. It sounds
absolutely incrediblebut for a moment Charles thought that she
was in love with himand had come out to tempt him. Charles
believed in temptresseswho are indeed the strong man's
necessary complementand having no sense of humourhe could not
purge himself of the thought by a smile. Margaretwho was
engaged to his fatherand his sister's wedding-guestkept on
her way without noticing himand he admitted that he had wronged
her on this point. But what was she doing? Why was she stumbling
about amongst the rubble and catching her dress in brambles and
burrs? As she edged round the keepshe must have got to windward
and smelt his cigar-smokefor she exclaimedHullo! Who's
that?

Charles made no answer.

Saxon or Celt?she continuedlaughing in the darkness. "But it
doesn't matter. Whichever you areyou will have to listen to me.
I love this place. I love Shropshire. I hate London. I am glad
that this will be my home. Ahdear"--she was now moving back
towards the house--"what a comfort to have arrived!"

That woman means mischief,thought Charlesand compressed his
lips. In a few minutes he followed her indoorsas the ground was
getting damp. Mists were rising from the riverand presently it
became invisiblethough it whispered more loudly. There had been
a heavy downpour in the Welsh hills.

CHAPTER XXVI

Next morning a fine mist covered the peninsula. The weather
promised welland the outline of the castle mound grew clearer
each moment that Margaret watched it. Presently she saw the keep
and the sun painted the rubble goldand charged the white sky
with blue. The shadow of the house gathered itself togetherand
fell over the garden. A cat looked up at her window and mewed.
Lastly the river appearedstill holding the mists between its
banks and its overhanging aldersand only visible as far as a
hillwhich cut off its upper reaches.

Margaret was fascinated by Oniton. She had said that she loved
itbut it was rather its romantic tension that held her. The
rounded Druids of whom she had caught glimpses in her drivethe
rivers hurrying down from them to Englandthe carelessly
modelled masses of the lower hillsthrilled her with poetry. The
house was insignificantbut the prospect from it would be an
eternal joyand she thought of all the friends she would have to
stop in itand of the conversion of Henry himself to a rural
life. Societytoopromised favourably. The rector of the parish
had dined with them last nightand she found that he was a
friend of her father'sand so knew what to find in her. She
liked him. He would introduce her to the town. Whileon her


other sideSir James Bidder satrepeating that she only had to
give the wordand he would whip up the county families for
twenty miles round. Whether Sir Jameswho was Garden Seedshad
promised what he could performshe doubtedbut so long as Henry
mistook them for the county families when they did callshe was
content.

Charles Wilcox and Albert Fussell now crossed the lawn. They were
going for a morning dipand a servant followed them with their
bathing-suits. She had meant to take a stroll herself before
breakfastbut saw that the day was still sacred to menand
amused herself by watching their contretemps. In the first place
the key of the bathing-shed could not be found. Charles stood by
the riverside with folded handstragicalwhile the servant
shoutedand was misunderstood by another servant in the garden.
Then came a difficulty about a springboardand soon three people
were running backwards and forwards over the meadowwith orders
and counter orders and recriminations and apologies. If Margaret
wanted to jump from a motor-carshe jumped; if Tibby thought
paddling would benefit his ankleshe paddled; if a clerk desired
adventurehe took a walk in the dark. But these athletes seemed
paralysed. They could not bathe without their appliancesthough
the morning sun was calling and the last mists were rising from
the dimpling stream. Had they found the life of the body after
all? Could not the men whom they despised as milksops beat them
even on their own ground?

She thought of the bathing arrangements as they should be in her
day--no worrying of servantsno appliancesbeyond good sense.
Her reflections were disturbed by the quiet childwho had come
out to speak to the catbut was now watching her watch the men.
She calledGood-morning, dear,a little sharply. Her voice
spread consternation. Charles looked roundand though completely
attired in indigo bluevanished into the shedand was seen no
more.

Miss Wilcox is up--the child whisperedand then became
unintelligible.

What is that?it sounded like--cut-yoke--sack-back--

I can't hear.

--On the bed--tissue-paper--

Gathering that the wedding-dress was on viewand that a visit
would be seemlyshe went to Evie's room. All was hilarity here.
Eviein a petticoatwas dancing with one of the Anglo-Indian
ladieswhile the other was adoring yards of white satin. They
screamedthey laughedthey sangand the dog barked.

Margaret screamed a little toobut without conviction. She could
not feel that a wedding was so funny. Perhaps something was
missing in her equipment.

Evie gasped: "Dolly is a rotter not to be here! Ohwe would rag
just then!" Then Margaret went down to breakfast.

Henry was already installed; he ate slowly and spoke littleand
wasin Margaret's eyesthe only member of their party who
dodged emotion successfully. She could not suppose him
indifferent either to the loss of his daughter or to the presence
of his future wife. Yet he dwelt intactonly issuing orders
occasionally--orders that promoted the comfort of his guests. He


inquired after her hand; he set her to pour out the coffee and
Mrs. Warrington to pour out the tea. When Evie came down there
was a moment's awkwardnessand both ladies rose to vacate their
places. "Burton called Henry, serve tea and coffee from the
sideboard!" It wasn't genuine tactbut it was tactof a sort-the
sort that is as useful as the genuineand saves even more
situations at Board meetings. Henry treated a marriage like a
funeralitem by itemnever raising his eyes to the wholeand
Death, where is thy sting? Love, where is thy victory?one
would exclaim at the close.

After breakfast Margaret claimed a few words with him. It was
always best to approach him formally. She asked for the
interviewbecause he was going on to shoot grouse to-morrowand
she was returning to Helen in town.

Certainly, dear,said he. "Of courseI have the time. What do
you want?"

Nothing.

I was afraid something had gone wrong.

No; I have nothing to say, but you may talk.

Glancing at his watchhe talked of the nasty curve at the
lych-gate. She heard him with interest. Her surface could always
respond to his without contemptthough all her deeper being
might be yearning to help him. She had abandoned any plan of
action. Love is the bestand the more she let herself love him
the more chance was there that he would set his soul in order.
Such a moment as thiswhen they sat under fair weather by the
walks of their future homewas so sweet to her that its
sweetness would surely pierce to him. Each lift of his eyeseach
parting of the thatched lip from the clean-shavenmust prelude
the tenderness that kills the Monk and the Beast at a single
blow. Disappointed a hundred timesshe still hoped. She loved
him with too clear a vision to fear his cloudiness. Whether he
droned trivialitiesas to-dayor sprang kisses on her in the
twilightshe could pardon himshe could respond.

If there is this nasty curve,she suggestedcouldn't we walk
to the church? Not, of course, you and Evie; but the rest of us
might very well go on first, and that would mean fewer
carriages.

One can't have ladies walking through the Market Square. The
Fussells wouldn't like it; they were awfully particular at
Charles's wedding. My--she--our party was anxious to walk, and
certainly the church was just round the corner, and I shouldn't
have minded; but the Colonel made a great point of it.

You men shouldn't be so chivalrous,said Margaret thoughtfully.

Why not?

She knew why notbut said that she did not know. He then
announced thatunless she had anything special to sayhe must
visit the wine-cellarand they went off together in search of
Burton. Though clumsy and a little inconvenientOniton was a
genuine country-house. They clattered down flagged passages
looking into room after roomand scaring unknown maids from the
performance of obscure duties. The wedding-breakfast must be in
readiness when they come back from churchand tea would be


served in the garden. The sight of so many agitated and serious
people made Margaret smilebut she reflected that they were paid
to be seriousand enjoyed being agitated. Here were the lower
wheels of the machine that was tossing Evie up into nuptial
glory. A little boy blocked their way with pig-pails. His mind
could not grasp their greatnessand he said: "By your leave; let
me passplease." Henry asked him where Burton was. But the
servants were so new that they did not know one another's names.
In the still-room sat the bandwho had stipulated for champagne
as part of their feeand who were already drinking beer. Scents
of Araby came from the kitchenmingled with cries. Margaret knew
what had happened therefor it happened at Wickham Place. One of
the wedding dishes had boiled overand the cook was throwing
cedar-shavings to hide the smell. At last they came upon the
butler. Henry gave him the keysand handed Margaret down the
cellar-stairs. Two doors were unlocked. Shewho kept all her
wine at the bottom of the linen-cupboardwas astonished at the
sight. "We shall never get through it!" she criedand the two
men were suddenly drawn into brotherhoodand exchanged smiles.
She felt as if she had again jumped out of the car while it was
moving.

Certainly Oniton would take some digesting. It would be no small
business to remain herselfand yet to assimilate such an
establishment. She must remain herselffor his sake as well as
her ownsince a shadowy wife degrades the husband whom she
accompanies; and she must assimilate for reasons of common
honestysince she had no right to marry a man and make him
uncomfortable. Her only ally was the power of Home. The loss of
Wickham Place had taught her more than its possession. Howards
End had repeated the lesson. She was determined to create new
sanctities among these hills.

After visiting the wine-cellarshe dressedand then came the
weddingwhich seemed a small affair when compared with the
preparations for it. Everything went like one o'clock. Mr. Cahill
materialised out of spaceand was waiting for his bride at the
church door. No one dropped the ring or mispronounced the
responsesor trod on Evie's trainor cried. In a few minutes
the clergymen performed their dutythe register was signedand
they were back in their carriagesnegotiating the dangerous
curve by the lych-gate. Margaret was convinced that they had not
been married at alland that the Norman church had been intent
all the time on other business.

There were more documents to sign at the houseand the breakfast
to eatand then a few more people dropped in for the garden
party. There had been a great many refusalsand after all it was
not a very big affair--not as big as Margaret's would be. She
noted the dishes and the strips of red carpetthat outwardly she
might give Henry what was proper. But inwardly she hoped for
something better than this blend of Sunday church and
fox-hunting. If only some one had been upset! But this wedding
had gone off so particularly well--"quite like a durbar" in the
opinion of Lady Edserand she thoroughly agreed with her.

So the wasted day lumbered forwardthe bride and bridegroom
drove offyelling with laughterand for the second time the sun
retreated towards the hills of Wales. Henrywho was more tired
than he ownedcame up to her in the castle meadowandin tones
of unusual softnesssaid that he was pleased. Everything had
gone off so well. She felt that he was praising hertooand
blushed; certainly she had done all she could with his
intractable friendsand had made a special point of kotowing to


the men. They were breaking camp this evening; only the
Warringtons and quiet child would stay the nightand the others
were already moving towards the house to finish their packing. "I
think it did go off well she agreed. Since I had to jump out
of the motorI'm thankful I lighted on my left hand. I am so
very glad about itHenry dear; I only hope that the guests at
ours may be half as comfortable. You must all remember that we
have no practical person among usexcept my auntand she is not
used to entertainments on a large scale."

I know,he said gravely. "Under the circumstancesit would be
better to put everything into the hands of Harrods or Whiteley's
or even to go to some hotel."

You desire a hotel?

Yes, because--well, I mustn't interfere with you. No doubt you
want to be married from your old home.

My old home's falling into pieces, Henry. I only want my new.
Isn't it a perfect evening--

The Alexandrina isn't bad--

The Alexandrina,she echoedmore occupied with the threads of
smoke that were issuing from their chimneysand ruling the
sunlit slopes with parallels of grey.

It's off Curzon Street.

Is it? Let's be married from off Curzon Street.

Then she turned westwardto gaze at the swirling gold. Just
where the river rounded the hill the sun caught it. Fairyland
must lie above the bendand its precious liquid was pouring
towards them past Charles's bathing-shed. She gazed so long that
her eyes were dazzledand when they moved back to the houseshe
could not recognise the faces of people who were coming out of
it. A parlour-maid was preceding them.

Who are those people?she asked.

They're callers!exclaimed Henry. "It's too late for callers."

Perhaps they're town people who want to see the wedding
presents.

I'm not at home yet to townees.

Well, hide among the ruins, and if I can stop them, I will.

He thanked her.

Margaret went forwardsmiling socially. She supposed that these
were unpunctual guestswho would have to be content with
vicarious civilitysince Evie and Charles were goneHenry
tiredand the others in their rooms. She assumed the airs of a
hostess; not for long. For one of the group was Helen--Helen in
her oldest clothesand dominated by that tensewounding
excitement that had made her a terror in their nursery days.

What is it?she called. "Ohwhat's wrong? Is Tibby ill?"

Helen spoke to her two companionswho fell back. Then she bore


forward furiously.

They're starving!she shouted. "I found them starving!"

Who? Why have you come?

The Basts.

Oh, Helen!moaned Margaret. "Whatever have you done now?"

He has lost his place. He has been turned out of his bank. Yes,
he's done for. We upper classes have ruined him, and I suppose
you'll tell me it's the battle of life. Starving. His wife is
ill. Starving. She fainted in the train.

Helen, are you mad?

Perhaps. Yes. If you like, I'm mad. But I've brought them. I'll
stand injustice no longer. I'll show up the wretchedness that
lies under this luxury, this talk of impersonal forces, this cant
about God doing what we're too slack to do ourselves.

Have you actually brought two starving people from London to
Shropshire, Helen?

Helen was checked. She had not thought of thisand her hysteria
abated. "There was a restaurant car on the train she said.

Don't be absurd. They aren't starvingand you know it. Now
begin from the beginning. I won't have such theatrical nonsense.
How dare you! Yeshow dare you!" she repeatedas anger filled
herbursting in to Evie's wedding in this heartless way. My
goodness! but you've a perverted notion of philanthropy. Look-she
indicated the house--"servantspeople out of the windows.
They think it's some vulgar scandaland I must explain'Oh no
it's only my sister screamingand only two hangers-on of ours
whom she has brought here for no conceivable reason.'"

Kindly take back that word 'hangers-on,'said Helenominously
calm.

Very well,conceded Margaretwho for all her wrath was
determined to avoid a real quarrel. "Itooam sorry about them
but it beats me why you've brought them hereor why you're here
yourself."

It's our last chance of seeing Mr. Wilcox.

Margaret moved towards the house at this. She was determined not
to worry Henry.

He's going to Scotland. I know he is. I insist on seeing him.

Yes, to-morrow.

I knew it was our last chance.

How do you do, Mr. Bast?said Margarettrying to control her
voice. "This is an odd business. What view do you take of it?"

There is Mrs. Bast, too,prompted Helen.

Jacky also shook hands. Shelike her husbandwas shyand
furthermoreilland furthermoreso bestially stupid that she


could not grasp what was happening. She only knew that the lady
had swept down like a whirlwind last nighthad paid the rent
redeemed the furnitureprovided them with a dinner and a
breakfastand ordered them to meet her at Paddington next
morning. Leonard had feebly protestedand when the morning came
had suggested that they shouldn't go. But shehalf mesmerised
had obeyed. The lady had told them toand they mustand their
bed-sitting-room had accordingly changed into Paddingtonand
Paddington into a railway carriagethat shookand grew hotand
grew coldand vanished entirelyand reappeared amid torrents of
expensive scent. "You have fainted said the lady in an
awe-struck voice. Perhaps the air will do you good." And perhaps
it hadfor here she wasfeeling rather better among a lot of
flowers.

I'm sure I don't want to intrude,began Leonardin answer to
Margaret's question. "But you have been so kind to me in the past
in warning me about the Porphyrion that I wondered--whyI
wondered whether--"

Whether we could get him back into the Porphyrion again,
supplied Helen. "Megthis has been a cheerful business. A
bright evening's work that was on Chelsea Embankment."

Margaret shook her head and returned to Mr. Bast.

I don't understand. You left the Porphyrion because we suggested
it was a bad concern, didn't you?

That's right.

And went into a bank instead?

I told you all that,said Helen; "and they reduced their staff
after he had been in a monthand now he's pennilessand I
consider that we and our informant are directly to blame."

I hate all this,Leonard muttered.

I hope you do, Mr. Bast. But it's no good mincing matters. You
have done yourself no good by coming here. If you intend to
confront Mr. Wilcox, and to call him to account for a chance
remark, you will make a very great mistake.

I brought them. I did it all,cried Helen.

I can only advise you to go at once. My sister has put you in a
false position, and it is kindest to tell you so. It's too late
to get to town, but you'll find a comfortable hotel in Oniton,
where Mrs. Bast can rest, and I hope you'll be my guests there.

That isn't what I want, Miss Schlegel,said Leonard. "You're
very kindand no doubt it's a false positionbut you make me
miserable. I seem no good at all."

It's work he wants,interpreted Helen. "Can't you see?"

Then he said: "Jackylet's go. We're more bother than we're
worth. We're costing these ladies pounds and pounds already to
get work for usand they never will. There's nothing we're good
enough to do."

We would like to find you work,said Margaret rather
conventionally. "We want to--Ilike my sister. You're only down


in your luck. Go to the hotelhave a good night's restand some
day you shall pay me back the billif you prefer it."

But Leonard was near the abyssand at such moments men see
clearly. "You don't know what you're talking about he said. I
shall never get work now. If rich people fail at one profession
they can try another. Not I. I had my grooveand I've got out of
it. I could do one particular branch of insurance in one
particular office well enough to command a salarybut that's
all. Poetry's nothingMiss Schlegel. One's thoughts about this
and that are nothing. Your moneytoois nothingif you'll
understand me. I mean if a man over twenty once loses his own
particular jobit's all over with him. I have seen it happen to
others. Their friends gave them money for a littlebut in the
end they fall over the edge. It's no good. It's the whole world
pulling. There always will be rich and poor."

He ceased. "Won't you have something to eat?" said Margaret. "I
don't know what to do. It isn't my houseand though Mr. Wilcox
would have been glad to see you at any other time--as I sayI
don't know what to dobut I undertake to do what I can for you.
Helenoffer them something. Do try a sandwichMrs. Bast."

They moved to a long table behind which a servant was still
standing. Iced cakessandwiches innumerablecoffeeclaret-cup
champagneremained almost intact; their overfed guests could do
no more. Leonard refused. Jacky thought she could manage a
little. Margaret left them whispering togetherand had a few
more words with Helen.

She said: "HelenI like Mr. Bast. I agree that he's worth
helping. I agree that we are directly responsible."

No, indirectly. Via Mr. Wilcox.

Let me tell you once for all that if you take up that attitude,
I'll do nothing. No doubt you're right logically, and are
entitled to say a great many scathing things about Henry. Only, I
won't have it. So choose.

Helen looked at the sunset.

If you promise to take them quietly to the George I will speak
to Henry about them--in my own way, mind; there is to be none of
this absurd screaming about justice. I have no use for justice.
If it was only a question of money, we could do it ourselves. But
he wants work, and that we can't give him, but possibly Henry
can.

It's his duty to,grumbled Helen.

Nor am I concerned with duty. I'm concerned with the characters
of various people whom we know, and how, things being as they
are, things may be made a little better. Mr. Wilcox hates being
asked favours; all business men do. But I am going to ask him, at
the risk of a rebuff, because I want to make things a little
better.

Very well. I promise. You take it very calmly.

Take them off to the George, then, and I'll try. Poor creatures!
but they look tired.As they partedshe added: "I haven't
nearly done with youthoughHelen. You have been most
self-indulgent. I can't get over it. You have less restraint


rather than more as you grow older. Think it over and alter
yourselfor we shan't have happy lives."

She rejoined Henry. Fortunately he had been sitting down: these
physical matters were important. "Was it townees?" he asked
greeting her with a pleasant smile.

You'll never believe me,said Margaretsitting down beside
him. "It's all right nowbut it was my sister."

Helen here?he criedpreparing to rise. "But she refused the
invitation. I thought hated weddings."

Don't get up. She has not come to the wedding. I've bundled her
off to the George.

Inherently hospitablehe protested.

No; she has two of her proteges with her and must keep with
them.

Let 'em all come.

My dear Henry, did you see them?

I did catch sight of a brown bunch of a woman, certainly.

The brown bunch was Helen, but did you catch sight of a
sea-green and salmon bunch?

What! are they out bean-feasting?

No; business. They wanted to see me, and later on I want to talk
to you about them.

She was ashamed of her own diplomacy. In dealing with a Wilcox
how tempting it was to lapse from comradeshipand to give him
the kind of woman that he desired! Henry took the hint at once
and said: "Why later on? Tell me now. No time like the present."

Shall I?

If it isn't a long story.

Oh, not five minutes; but there's a sting at the end of it, for
I want you to find the man some work in your office.

What are his qualifications?

I don't know. He's a clerk.

How old?

Twenty-five, perhaps.

What's his name?

Bast,said Margaretand was about to remind him that they had
met at Wickham Placebut stopped herself. It had not been a
successful meeting.

Where was he before?

Dempster's Bank.


Why did he leave?he askedstill remembering nothing.

They reduced their staff.

All right; I'll see him.

It was the reward of her tact and devotion through the day. Now
she understood why some women prefer influence to rights. Mrs.
Plynlimmonwhen condemning suffragetteshad said: "The woman
who can't influence her husband to vote the way she wants ought
to be ashamed of herself." Margaret had wincedbut she was
influencing Henry nowand though pleased at her little victory
she knew that she had won it by the methods of the harem.

I should be glad if you took him,she saidbut I don't know
whether he's qualified.

I'll do what I can. But, Margaret, this mustn't be taken as a
precedent.

No, of course--of course--

I can't fit in your proteges every day. Business would suffer.

I can promise you he's the last. He--he's rather a special
case.

Proteges always are.

She let it stand at that. He rose with a little extra touch of
complacencyand held out his hand to help her up. How wide the
gulf between Henry as he was and Henry as Helen thought he ought
to be! And she herself--hovering as usual between the twonow
accepting men as they arenow yearning with her sister for
Truth. Love and Truth--their warfare seems eternal perhaps the
whole visible world rests on itand if they were onelife
itselflike the spirits when Prospero was reconciled to his
brothermight vanish into airinto thin air.

Your protege has made us late,said he. "The Fussells--will
just be starting."

On the whole she sided with men as they are. Henry would save the
Basts as he had saved Howards Endwhile Helen and her friends
were discussing the ethics of salvation. His was a slap-dash
methodbut the world has been built slap-dashand the beauty of
mountain and river and sunset may be but the varnish with which
the unskilled artificer hides his joins. Onitonlike herself
was imperfect. Its apple-trees were stuntedits castle ruinous.
Ittoohad suffered in the border warfare between the
Anglo-Saxon and the Celtbetween things as they are and as they
ought to be. Once more the west was retreatingonce again the
orderly stars were dotting the eastern sky. There is certainly no
rest for us on the earth. But there is happinessand as Margaret
descended the mound on her lover's armshe felt that she was
having her share.

To her annoyanceMrs. Bast was still in the garden; the husband
and Helen had left her there to finish her meal while they went
to engage rooms. Margaret found this woman repellent. She had
feltwhen shaking her handan overpowering shame. She
remembered the motive of her call at Wickham Placeand smelt
again odours from the abyss--odours the more disturbing because


they were involuntary. For there was no malice in Jacky. There
she sata piece of cake in one handan empty champagne glass in
the otherdoing no harm to anybody.

She's overtired,Margaret whispered.

She's something else,said Henry. "This won't do. I can't have
her in my garden in this state."

Is she--Margaret hesitated to add "drunk." Now that she was
going to marry himhe had grown particular. He discountenanced
risque conversations now.

Henry went up to the woman. She raised her facewhich gleamed in
the twilight like a puff-ball.

Madam, you will be more comfortable at the hotel,he said
sharply.

Jacky replied: "If it isn't Hen!"

Ne crois pas que le mari lui ressemble,apologised Margaret.
Il est tout a fait different.

Henry!she repeatedquite distinctly.

Mr. Wilcox was much annoyed. "I congratulate you on your
proteges he remarked.

Hendon't go. You do love medeardon't you?"

Bless us, what a person!sighed Margaretgathering up her
skirts.

Jacky pointed with her cake. "You're a nice boyyou are." She
yawned. "There nowI love you."

Henry, I am awfully sorry.

And pray why?he askedand looked at her so sternly that she
feared he was ill. He seemed more scandalised than the facts
demanded.

To have brought this down on you.

Pray don't apologise.

The voice continued.

Why does she call you 'Hen'?said Margaret innocently. "Has she
ever seen you before?"

Seen Hen before!said Jacky. "Who hasn't seen Hen? He's serving
you like memy boys! You wait-- Still we love 'em."

Are you now satisfied?Henry asked.

Margaret began to grow frightened. "I don't know what it is all
about she said. Let's come in."

But he thought she was acting. He thought he was trapped. He saw
his whole life crumbling. "Don't you indeed?" he said bitingly.
I do. Allow me to congratulate you on the success of your plan.


This is Helen's plan, not mine.

I now understand your interest in the Basts. Very well thought
out. I am amused at your caution, Margaret. You are quite right-it
was necessary. I am a man, and have lived a man's past. I have
the honour to release you from your engagement.

Still she could not understand. She knew of life's seamy side as
a theory; she could not grasp it as a fact. More words from Jacky
were necessary--words unequivocalundenied.

So that--burst from herand she went indoors. She stopped
herself from saying more.

So what?asked Colonel Fussellwho was getting ready to start
in the hall.

We were saying--Henry and I were just having the fiercest
argument, my point being--Seizing his fur coat from a footman
she offered to help him on. He protestedand there was a playful
little scene.

No, let me do that,said Henryfollowing.

Thanks so much! You see--he has forgiven me!

The Colonel said gallantly: "I don't expect there's much to
forgive."

He got into the car. The ladies followed him after an interval.
Maidscourierand heavier luggage had been sent on earlier by
the branch-line. Still chatteringstill thanking their host and
patronising their future hostessthe guests were borne away.

Then Margaret continued: "So that woman has been your mistress?"

You put it with your usual delicacy,he replied.

When, please?

Why?

When, please?

Ten years ago.

She left him without a word. For it was not her tragedy; it was
Mrs. Wilcox's.

CHAPTER XXVII

Helen began to wonder why she had spent a matter of eight pounds
in making some people ill and others angry. Now that the wave of
excitement was ebbingand had left herMr. Bastand Mrs. Bast
stranded for the night in a Shropshire hotelshe asked herself
what forces had made the wave flow. At all eventsno harm was
done. Margaret would play the game properly nowand though Helen
disapproved of her sister's methodsshe knew that the Basts
would benefit by them in the long-run.

Mr. Wilcox is so illogical,she explained to Leonardwho had


put his wife to bedand was sitting with her in the empty
coffee-room. "If we told him it was his duty to take you onhe
might refuse to do it. The fact ishe isn't properly educated. I
don't want to set you against himbut you'll find him a trial."

I can never thank you sufficiently, Miss Schlegel,was all that
Leonard felt equal to.

I believe in personal responsibility. Don't you? And in personal
everything. I hate--I suppose I oughtn't to say that--but the
Wilcoxes are on the wrong tack surely. Or perhaps it isn't their
fault. Perhaps the little thing that says 'I' is missing out of
the middle of their heads, and then it's a waste of time to
blame them. There's a nightmare of a theory that says a special
race is being born which will rule the rest of us in the future
just because it lacks the little thing that says 'I.' Had you
heard that?

I get no time for reading.

Had you thought it, then? That there are two kinds of people--our
kind, who live straight from the middle of their heads, and the
other kind who can't, because their heads have no middle? They
can't say 'I.' They AREN'T in fact, and so they're supermen.
Pierpont Morgan has never said 'I' in his life.

Leonard roused himself. If his benefactress wanted intellectual
conversationshe must have it. She was more important than his
ruined past. "I never got on to Nietzsche he said. But I
always understood that those supermen were rather what you may
call egoists."

Oh no, that's wrong,replied Helen. "No superman ever said 'I
want' because 'I want' must lead to the question'Who am I?'
and so to Pity and to Justice. He only says 'want.' 'Want
Europe' if he's Napoleon; 'want wives' if he's Bluebeard;
'want Botticelli' if he's Pierpont Morgan. Never the 'I'; and
if you could pierce through the supermanyou'd find panic and
emptiness in the middle."

Leonard was silent for a moment. Then he said: "May I take it
Miss Schlegelthat you and I are both the sort that say 'I'?"

Of course.

And your sister, too?

Of course,repeated Helena little sharply. She was annoyed
with Margaretbut did not want her discussed. "All presentable
people say 'I.'"

But Mr. Wilcox--he is not perhaps--

I don't know that it's any good discussing Mr. Wilcox either.

Quite so, quite so,he agreed. Helen asked herself why she had
snubbed him. Once or twice during the day she had encouraged him
to criticiseand then had pulled him up short. Was she afraid of
him presuming? If soit was disgusting of her.

But he was thinking the snub quite natural. Everything she did
was naturaland incapable of causing offence. While the Miss
Schlegels were together he had felt them scarcely human--a sort of
admonitory whirligig. But a Miss Schlegel alone was different.


She was in Helen's case unmarriedin Margaret's about to be
marriedin neither case an echo of her sister. A light had
fallen at last into this rich upper worldand he saw that it was
full of men and womensome of whom were more friendly to him
than others. Helen had become "his" Miss Schlegelwho scolded
him and corresponded with himand had swept down yesterday with
grateful vehemence. Margaretthough not unkindwas severe and
remote. He would not presume to help herfor instance. He had
never liked herand began to think that his original impression
was trueand that her sister did not like her either. Helen was
certainly lonely. Shewho gave away so muchwas receiving too
little. Leonard was pleased to think that he could spare her
vexation by holding his tongue and concealing what he knew about
Mr. Wilcox. Jacky had announced her discovery when he fetched her
from the lawn. After the first shockhe did not mind for
himself. By now he had no illusions about his wifeand this was
only one new stain on the face of a love that had never been
pure. To keep perfection perfectthat should be his idealif
the future gave him time to have ideals. Helenand Margaret for
Helen's sakemust not know.

Helen disconcerted him by turning the conversation to his wife.
Mrs. Bast--does she ever say 'I'?she askedhalf
mischievouslyand thenIs she very tired?

It's better she stops in her room,said Leonard.

Shall I sit up with her?

No, thank you; she does not need company.

Mr. Bast, what kind of woman is your wife?

Leonard blushed up to his eyes.

You ought to know my ways by now. Does that question offend
you?

No, oh no, Miss Schlegel, no.

Because I love honesty. Don't pretend your marriage has been a
happy one. You and she can have nothing in common.

He did not deny itbut said shyly: "I suppose that's pretty
obvious; but Jacky never meant to do anybody any harm. When
things went wrongor I heard thingsI used to think it was her
faultbutlooking backit's more mine. I needn't have married
herbut as I have I must stick to her and keep her."

How long have you been married?

Nearly three years.

What did your people say?

They will not have anything to do with us. They had a sort of
family council when they heard I was married, and cut us off
altogether.

Helen began to pace up and down the room. "My good boywhat a
mess!" she said gently. "Who are your people?"

He could answer this. His parentswho were deadhad been in
trade; his sisters had married commercial travellers; his brother


was a lay-reader.

And your grandparents?

Leonard told her a secret that he had held shameful up to now.
They were just nothing at all,he said "agricultural labourers
and that sort."

So! From which part?

Lincolnshire mostly, but my mother's father--he, oddly enough,
came from these parts round here.

From this very Shropshire. Yes, that is odd. My mother's people
were Lancashire. But why do your brother and your sisters object
to Mrs. Bast?

Oh, I don't know.

Excuse me, you do know. I am not a baby. I can bear anything you
tell me, and the more you tell the more I shall be able to help.
Have they heard anything against her?

He was silent.

I think I have guessed now,said Helen very gravely.

I don't think so, Miss Schlegel; I hope not.

We must be honest, even over these things. I have guessed. I am
frightfully, dreadfully sorry, but it does not make the least
difference to me. I shall feel just the same to both of you. I
blame, not your wife for these things, but men.

Leonard left it at that--so long as she did not guess the man.
She stood at the window and slowly pulled up the blinds. The
hotel looked over a dark square. The mists had begun. When she
turned back to him her eyes were shining. "Don't you worry he
pleaded. I can't bear that. We shall be all right if I get work.
If I could only get work--something regular to do. Then it
wouldn't be so bad again. I don't trouble after books as I used.
I can imagine that with regular work we should settle down again.
It stops one thinking."

Settle down to what?

Oh, just settle down.

And that's to be life!said Helenwith a catch in her throat.
How can you, with all the beautiful things to see and do--with
music--with walking at night--

Walking is well enough when a man's in work,he answered. "Oh
I did talk a lot of nonsense oncebut there's nothing like a
bailiff in the house to drive it out of you. When I saw him
fingering my Ruskins and StevensonsI seemed to see life
straight and realand it isn't a pretty sight. My books are back
againthanks to youbut they'll never be the same to me again
and I shan't ever again think night in the woods is wonderful."

Why not?asked Helenthrowing up the window. "Because I see
one must have money."

Well, you're wrong.


I wish I was wrong, but--the clergyman--he has money of his own,
or else he's paid; the poet or the musician--just the same; the
tramp--he's no different. The tramp goes to the workhouse in the
end, and is paid for with other people's money. Miss Schlegel the
real thing's money, and all the rest is a dream.

You're still wrong. You've forgotten Death.

Leonard could not understand.

If we lived forever, what you say would be true. But we have to
die, we have to leave life presently. Injustice and greed would
be the real thing if we lived for ever. As it is, we must hold to
other things, because Death is coming. I love Death--not
morbidly, but because He explains. He shows me the emptiness of
Money. Death and Money are the eternal foes. Not Death and Life.
Never mind what lies behind Death, Mr. Bast, but be sure that the
poet and the musician and the tramp will be happier in it than
the man who has never learnt to say, 'I am I.'

I wonder.

We are all in a mist--I know, but I can help you this far--men
like the Wilcoxes are deeper in the mist than any. Sane, sound
Englishmen! building up empires, levelling all the world into
what they call common sense. But mention Death to them and
they're offended, because Death's really Imperial, and He cries
out against them for ever.

I am as afraid of Death as any one.

But not of the idea of Death.

But what is the difference?

Infinite difference,said Helenmore gravely than before.

Leonard looked at her wonderingand had the sense of great
things sweeping out of the shrouded night. But he could not
receive thembecause his heart was still full of little things.
As the lost umbrella had spoilt the concert at Queen's Hallso
the lost situation was obscuring the diviner harmonies now.
DeathLifeand Materialism were fine wordsbut would Mr.
Wilcox take him on as a clerk? Talk as one wouldMr. Wilcox was
king of this worldthe supermanwith his own moralitywhose
head remained in the clouds.

I must be stupid,he said apologetically.

While to Helen the paradox became clearer and clearer. "Death
destroys a man: the idea of Death saves him." Behind the coffins
and the skeletons that stay the vulgar mind lies something so
immense that all that is great in us responds to it. Men of the
world may recoil from the charnel-house that they will one day
enterbut Love knows better. Death is his foebut his peerand
in their age-long struggle the thews of Love have been
strengthenedand his vision cleareduntil there is no one who
can stand against him.

So never give in,continued the girland restated again and
again the vague yet convincing plea that the Invisible lodges
against the Visible. Her excitement grew as she tried to cut the
rope that fastened Leonard to the earth. Woven of bitter


experienceit resisted her. Presently the waitress entered and
gave her a letter from Margaret. Another noteaddressed to
Leonardwas inside. They read themlistening to the murmurings
of the river.

CHAPTER XXVIII

For many hours Margaret did nothing; then she controlled herself
and wrote some letters. She was too bruised to speak to Henry;
she could pity himand even determine to marry himbut as yet
all lay too deep in her heart for speech. On the surface the
sense of his degradation was too strong. She could not command
voice or lookand the gentle words that she forced out through
her pen seemed to proceed from some other person.

My dearest boy,she beganthis is not to part us. It is
everything or nothing, and I mean it to be nothing. It happened
long before we ever met, and even if it had happened since, I
should be writing the same, I hope. I do understand.

But she crossed out "I do understand"; it struck a false note.
Henry could not bear to be understood. She also crossed outIt
is everything or nothing.Henry would resent so strong a grasp
of the situation. She must not comment; comment is unfeminine.

I think that'll about do,she thought.

Then the sense of his degradation choked her. Was he worth all
this bother? To have yielded to a woman of that sort was
everythingyesit wasand she could not be his wife. She tried
to translate his temptation into her own languageand her brain
reeled. Men must be different even to want to yield to such a
temptation. Her belief in comradeship was stifledand she saw
life as from that glass saloon on the Great Western which
sheltered male and female alike from the fresh air. Are the sexes
really raceseach with its own code of moralityand their
mutual love a mere device of Nature to keep things going? Strip
human intercourse of the proprietiesand is it reduced to this?
Her judgment told her no. She knew that out of Nature's device we
have built a magic that will win us immortality. Far more
mysterious than the call of sex to sex is the tenderness that we
throw into that call; far wider is the gulf between us and the
farmyard than between the farmyard and the garbage that nourishes
it. We are evolvingin ways that Science cannot measureto ends
that Theology dares not contemplate. "Men did produce one jewel
the gods will say, and, saying, will give us immortality.
Margaret knew all this, but for the moment she could not feel it,
and transformed the marriage of Evie and Mr. Cahill into a
carnival of fools, and her own marriage--too miserable to think
of that, she tore up the letter, and then wrote another:

DEAR MR. BAST,

I have spoken to Mr. Wilcox about youas I promisedand
am sorry to say that he has no vacancy for you.

Yours truly

M. J. SCHLEGEL.

She enclosed this in a note to Helenover which she took less
trouble than she might have done; but her head was achingand


she could not stop to pick her words:

DEAR HELEN,

Give him this. The Basts are no good. Henry found the
woman drunk on the lawn. I am having a room got ready for
you hereand will you please come round at once on getting
this? The Basts are not at all the type we should trouble
about. I may go round to them myself in the morningand do
anything that is fair.

M.

In writing thisMargaret felt that she was being practical.
Something might be arranged for the Basts later onbut they must
be silenced for the moment. She hoped to avoid a conversation
between the woman and Helen. She rang the bell for a servantbut
no one answered it; Mr. Wilcox and the Warringtons were gone to
bedand the kitchen was abandoned to Saturnalia. Consequently
she went over to the George herself. She did not enter the hotel
for discussion would have been perilousandsaying that the
letter was importantshe gave it to the waitress. As she
recrossed the square she saw Helen and Mr. Bast looking out of
the window of the coffee-roomand feared she was already too
late. Her task was not yet over; she ought to tell Henry what she
had done.

This came easilyfor she saw him in the hall. The night wind had
been rattling the pictures against the walland the noise had
disturbed him.

Who's there?he calledquite the householder.

Margaret walked in and past him.

I have asked Helen to sleep,she said. "She is best here; so
don't lock the front-door."

I thought some one had got in,said Henry.

At the same time I told the man that we could do nothing for
him. I don't know about later, but now the Basts must clearly
go.

Did you say that your sister is sleeping here, after all?

Probably.

Is she to be shown up to your room?

I have naturally nothing to say to her; I am going to bed. Will
you tell the servants about Helen? Could some one go to carry her
bag?

He tapped a little gongwhich had been bought to summon the
servants.

You must make more noise than that if you want them to hear.

Henry opened a doorand down the corridor came shouts of
laughter. "Far too much screaming there he said, and strode
towards it. Margaret went upstairs, uncertain whether to be glad
that they had met, or sorry. They had behaved as if nothing had
happened, and her deepest instincts told her that this was wrong.


For his own sake, some explanation was due.

And yet--what could an explanation tell her? A date, a place, a
few details, which she could imagine all too clearly. Now that
the first shock was over, she saw that there was every reason to
premise a Mrs. Bast. Henry's inner life had long laid open to
her--his intellectual confusion, his obtuseness to personal
influence, his strong but furtive passions. Should she refuse him
because his outer life corresponded? Perhaps. Perhaps, if the
dishonour had been done to her, but it was done long before her
day. She struggled against the feeling. She told herself that
Mrs. Wilcox's wrong was her own. But she was not a barren
theorist. As she undressed, her anger, her regard for the dead,
her desire for a scene, all grew weak. Henry must have it as he
liked, for she loved him, and some day she would use her love to
make him a better man.

Pity was at the bottom of her actions all through this crisis.
Pity, if one may generalise, is at the bottom of woman. When men
like us, it is for our better qualities, and however tender their
liking, we dare not be unworthy of it, or they will quietly let
us go. But unworthiness stimulates woman. It brings out her
deeper nature, for good or for evil.

Here was the core of the question. Henry must be forgiven, and
made better by love; nothing else mattered. Mrs. Wilcox, that
unquiet yet kindly ghost, must be left to her own wrong. To her
everything was in proportion now, and she, too, would pity the
man who was blundering up and down their lives. Had Mrs. Wilcox
known of his trespass? An interesting question, but Margaret
fell asleep, tethered by affection, and lulled by the murmurs of
the river that descended all the night from Wales. She felt
herself at one with her future home, colouring it and coloured by
it, and awoke to see, for the second time, Oniton Castle
conquering the morning mists.

CHAPTER XXIX

Henry dear--" was her greeting.

He had finished his breakfastand was beginning the Times. His
sister-in-law was packing. Margaret knelt by him and took the
paper from himfeeling that it was unusually heavy and thick.
Thenputting her face where it had beenshe looked up in his
eyes.

Henry dear, look at me. No, I won't have you shirking. Look at
me. There. That's all.

You're referring to last evening,he said huskily. "I have
released you from your engagement. I could find excusesbut I
won't. NoI won't. A thousand times no. I'm a bad lotand must
be left at that."

Expelled from his old fortressMr. Wilcox was building a new
one. He could no longer appear respectable to herso he defended
himself instead in a lurid past. It was not true repentance.

Leave it where you will, boy. It's not going to trouble us; I
know what I'm talking about, and it will make no difference.

No difference?he inquired. "No differencewhen you find that


I am not the fellow you thought?" He was annoyed with Miss
Schlegel here. He would have preferred her to be prostrated by
the blowor even to rage. Against the tide of his sin flowed the
feeling that she was not altogether womanly. Her eyes gazed too
straight; they had read books that are suitable for men only. And
though he had dreaded a sceneand though she had determined
against onethere was a sceneall the same. It was somehow
imperative.

I am unworthy of you,he began. "Had I been worthyI should
not have released you from your engagement. I know what I am
talking about. I can't bear to talk of such things. We had better
leave it."

She kissed his hand. He jerked it from herandrising to his
feetwent on: "Youwith your sheltered lifeand refined
pursuitsand friendsand booksyou and your sisterand women
like you--I sayhow can you guess the temptations that lie round
a man?"

It is difficult for us,said Margaret; "but if we are worth
marryingwe do guess."

Cut off from decent society and family ties, what do you suppose
happens to thousands of young fellows overseas? Isolated. No one
near. I know by bitter experience, and yet you say it makes 'no
difference.'

Not to me.

He laughed bitterly. Margaret went to the sideboard and helped
herself to one of the breakfast dishes. Being the last downshe
turned out the spirit-lamp that kept them warm. She was tender
but grave. She knew that Henry was not so much confessing his
soul as pointing out the gulf between the male soul and the
femaleand she did not desire to hear him on this point.

Did Helen come?she asked.

He shook his head.

But that won't do at all, at all! We don't want her gossiping
with Mrs. Bast.

Good God! no!he exclaimedsuddenly natural. Then he caught
himself up. "Let them gossipmy game's upthough I thank you
for your unselfishness--little as my thanks are worth."

Didn't she send me a message or anything?

I heard of none.

Would you ring the bell, please?

What to do?

Why, to inquire.

He swaggered up to it tragicallyand sounded a peal. Margaret
poured herself out some coffee. The butler cameand said that
Miss Schlegel had slept at the Georgeso far as he had heard.
Should he go round to the George?

I'll go, thank you,said Margaretand dismissed him.


It is no good,said Henry. "Those things leak out; you cannot
stop a story once it has started. I have known cases of other
men--I despised them onceI thought that I'm differentI shall
never be tempted. OhMargaret--" He came and sat down near her
improvising emotion. She could not bear to listen to him. "We
fellows all come to grief once in our time. Will you believe
that? There are moments when the strongest man-- 'Let him who
standethtake heed lest he fall.' That's trueisn't it? If you
knew allyou would excuse me. I was far from good influences-far
even from England. I was veryvery lonelyand longed for a
woman's voice. That's enough. I have told you too much already
for you to forgive me now."

Yes, that's enough, dear.

I have--he lowered his voice--"I have been through hell."

Gravely she considered this claim. Had he? Had he suffered
tortures of remorseor had it beenThere! that's over. Now for
respectable life again? The latterif she read him rightly. A
man who has been through hell does not boast of his virility. He
is humble and hides itifindeedit still exists. Only in
legend does the sinner come forth penitentbut terribleto
conquer pure woman by his resistless power. Henry was anxious to
be terriblebut had not got it in him. He was a good average
Englishmanwho had slipped. The really culpable point--his
faithlessness to Mrs. Wilcox--never seemed to strike him. She
longed to mention Mrs. Wilcox.

And bit by bit the story was told her. It was a very simple
story. Ten years ago was the timea garrison town in Cyprus the
place. Now and then he asked her whether she could possibly
forgive himand she answeredI have already forgiven you,
Henry.She chose her words carefullyand so saved him from
panic. She played the girluntil he could rebuild his fortress
and hide his soul from the world. When the butler came to clear
awayHenry was in a very different mood--asked the fellow what
he was in such a hurry forcomplained of the noise last night in
the servants' hall. Margaret looked intently at the butler. He
as a handsome young manwas faintly attractive to her as a
woman--an attraction so faint as scarcely to be perceptibleyet
the skies would have fallen if she had mentioned it to Henry.

On her return from the George the building operations were
completeand the old Henry fronted hercompetentcynicaland
kind. He had made a clean breasthad been forgivenand the
great thing now was to forget his failureand to send it the way
of other unsuccessful investments. Jacky rejoined Howards End and
Dude Streetand the vermilion motor-carand the Argentine Hard
Dollarsand all the things and people for whom he had never had
much use and had less now. Their memory hampered him. He could
scarcely attend to Margaretwho brought back disquieting news
from the George. Helen and her clients had gone.

Well, let them go--the man and his wife, I mean, for the more we
see of your sister the better.

But they have gone separately--Helen very early, the Basts just
before I arrived. They have left no message. They have answered
neither of my notes. I don't like to think what it all means.

What did you say in the notes?


I told you last night.

Oh--ah--yes! Dear, would you like one turn in the garden?

Margaret took his arm. The beautiful weather soothed her. But the
wheels of Evie's wedding were still at worktossing the guests
outwards as deftly as they had drawn them inand she could not
be with him long. It had been arranged that they should motor to
Shrewsburywhence he would go northand she back to London with
the Warringtons. For a fraction of time she was happy. Then her
brain recommenced.

I am afraid there has been gossiping of some kind at the George.
Helen would not have left unless she had heard something. I
mismanaged that. It is wretched. I ought to have parted her from
that woman at once.

Margaret!he exclaimedloosing her arm impressively.

Yes--yes, Henry?

I am far from a saint--in fact, the reverse--but you have taken
me, for better or worse. Bygones must be bygones. You have
promised to forgive me. Margaret, a promise is a promise. Never
mention that woman again.

Except for some practical reason--never.

Practical! You practical!

Yes, I'm practical,she murmuredstooping over the
mowing-machine and playing with the grass which trickled through
her fingers like sand.

He had silenced herbut her fears made him uneasy. Not for the
first timehe was threatened with blackmail. He was rich and
supposed to be moral; the Basts knew that he was notand might
find it profitable to hint as much.

At all events, you mustn't worry,he said. "This is a man's
business." He thought intently. "On no account mention it to
anybody."

Margaret flushed at advice so elementarybut he was really
paving the way for a lie. If necessary he would deny that he had
ever known Mrs. Bastand prosecute her for libel. Perhaps he
never had known her. Here was Margaretwho behaved as if he had
not. There the house. Round them were half a dozen gardeners
clearing up after his daughter's wedding. All was so solid and
sprucethat the past flew up out of sight like a spring-blind
leaving only the last five minutes unrolled.

Glancing at thesehe saw that the car would be round during the
next fiveand plunged into action. Gongs were tappedorders
issuedMargaret was sent to dressand the housemaid to sweep up
the long trickle of grass that she had left across the hall. As
is Man to the Universeso was the mind of Mr. Wilcox to the
minds of some men--a concentrated light upon a tiny spota
little Ten Minutes moving self-contained through its appointed
years. No Pagan hewho lives for the Nowand may be wiser than
all philosophers. He lived for the five minutes that have past
and the five to come; he had the business mind.

How did he stand nowas his motor slipped out of Oniton and


breasted the great round hills? Margaret had heard a certain
rumourbut was all right. She had forgiven himGod bless her
and he felt the manlier for it. Charles and Evie had not heard
itand never must hear. No more must Paul. Over his children he
felt great tendernesswhich he did not try to track to a cause;
Mrs. Wilcox was too far back in his life. He did not connect her
with the sudden aching love that he felt for Evie. Poor little
Evie! he trusted that Cahill would make her a decent husband.

And Margaret? How did she stand?

She had several minor worries. Clearly her sister had heard
something. She dreaded meeting her in town. And she was anxious
about Leonardfor whom they certainly were responsible. Nor
ought Mrs. Bast to starve. But the main situation had not
altered. She still loved Henry. His actionsnot his disposition
had disappointed herand she could bear that. And she loved her
future home. Standing up in the carjust where she had leapt
from it two days beforeshe gazed back with deep emotion upon
Oniton. Besides the Grange and the Castle keepshe could now
pick out the church and the black-and-white gables of the George.
There was the bridgeand the river nibbling its green peninsula.
She could even see the bathing-shedbut while she was looking
for Charles's new spring-boardthe forehead of the hill rose and
hid the whole scene.

She never saw it again. Day and night the river flows down into
Englandday after day the sun retreats into the Welsh mountains
and the tower chimesSee the Conquering Hero. But the Wilcoxes
have no part in the placenor in any place. It is not their
names that recur in the parish register. It is not their ghosts
that sigh among the alders at evening. They have swept into the
valley and swept out of itleaving a little dust and a little
money behind.

CHAPTER XXX

Tibby was now approaching his last year at Oxford. He had moved
out of collegeand was contemplating the Universeor such
portions of it as concerned himfrom his comfortable lodgings in
Long Wall. He was not concerned with much. When a young man is
untroubled by passions and sincerely indifferent to public
opinion his outlook is necessarily limited. Tibby wished neither
to strengthen the position of the rich nor to improve that of the
poorand so was well content to watch the elms nodding behind
the mildly embattled parapets of Magdalen. There are worse lives.
Though selfishhe was never cruel; though affected in mannerhe
never posed. Like Margarethe disdained the heroic equipment
and it was only after many visits that men discovered Schlegel to
possess a character and a brain. He had done well in Modsmuch
to the surprise of those who attended lectures and took proper
exerciseand was now glancing disdainfully at Chinese in case he
should some day consent to qualify as a Student Interpreter. To
him thus employed Helen entered. A telegram had preceded her.

He noticedin a distant waythat his sister had altered.

As a rule he found her too pronouncedand had never come across
this look of appealpathetic yet dignified--the look of a
sailor who has lost everything at sea.

I have come from Oniton,she began. "There has been a great


deal of trouble there."

Who's for lunch?said Tibbypicking up the claretwhich 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 get away.

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 face her, 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 his Chinese Grammar and helped them. Oxford--the Oxford
of the vacation--dreamed and rustled outsideand indoors the
little fire was coated with grey where the sunshine touched it.
Helen continued her odd story.

Give Meg my love and say that I want to be alone. 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 of the 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 itthough?" She sat down
again. "My head is rather wretched. I hope that none of your
friends are likely to come in."

Tibby locked the door. His friends often found it in this
condition. Then he asked whether anything had gone wrong at
Evie's wedding.

Not there,said Helenand burst into tears.

He had known her hysterical--it was one of her aspects with which
he had no concern--and yet these tears touched him as something
unusual. They were nearer the things that did concern himsuch
as music. He laid down his knife and looked at her curiously.
Thenas she continued to sobhe went on with his lunch.

The time came for the second courseand she was still crying.
Apple Charlotte was to followwhich spoils by waiting. "Do you
mind Mrs. Martlett coming in?" he askedor shall I take it from
her at the door?

Could I bathe my eyes, Tibby?

He took her to his bedroomand introduced the pudding in her
absence. Having helped himselfhe put it down to warm in the
hearth. His hand stretched towards the Grammarand soon he was
turning over the pagesraising his eyebrows scornfullyperhaps
at human natureperhaps at Chinese. To him thus employed Helen
returned. She had pulled herself togetherbut the grave 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 indeedand ruined two people's lives. It all came on me
very suddenly last night; I am very much upsetand 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 go abroad. you must do exactly what
you like--treat it as part of the furniture. Meg cannot have
heard it yet, I think. But I cannot face her and tell her that
the man 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, she will 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,said Tibby.

Helen flushed with shame and anger. "And ruined two people's
lives. And goes about saying that personal actions count for
nothingand there always will be rich and poor. He met her when
he was trying to get rich out in Cyprus--I don't wish to make him
worse than he isand no doubt she was ready 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 such women?"

He conceded that it was a bad business.

They end in two ways: Either they sink till the lunatic asylums
and the workhouses are full of them, and cause Mr. Wilcox to
write letters to the papers complaining of our national
degeneracy, or else they entrap a boy into marriage before it is
too late. She--I can't blame her.

But this isn't all,she continued after a long pauseduring
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 advicethe man throws up a secure situation and takes
an insecure onefrom which he is dismissed. There are certain
excusesbut in the main Mr. Wilcox is to blameas Meg herself
admitted. It is only common justice that he should employ the man
himself. But he meets the womanandlike the cur that he ishe
refusesand tries to get rid of them. He makes Meg write. Two
notes came from her late that evening--one for meone for
Leonarddismissing him with barely a reason. I couldn't
understand. Then it comes out that Mrs. Bast had spoken to Mr.
Wilcox on the lawn while we left her to get roomsand was still
speaking about him when Leonard came back to her. This Leonard
knew all along. He thought it natural he should be ruined twice.
Natural! Could you have contained yourself?"

It is certainly a very bad business,said Tibby.

His reply seemed to calm his sister. "I was afraid that I saw it
out of proportion. But you are right outside itand you must
know. In a day or two--or perhaps a week--take whatever steps you
think fit. I leave it in your hands."

She concluded her charge.


The facts as they touch Meg are all before you,she added; and
Tibby sighed and felt it rather hard thatbecause of his open
mindhe should be empanelled to serve as a juror. He had never
been interested in human beingsfor which one must blame him
but he had had rather too much of them at Wickham Place. Just as
some people cease to attend when books are mentionedso Tibby's
attention wandered when "personal relations" came under
discussion. Ought Margaret to know what Helen knew the Basts to
know? Similar questions had vexed him from infancyand at Oxford
he had learned to say that the importance of human beings has
been vastly overrated by specialists. The epigramwith its faint
whiff of the eightiesmeant nothing. But he might have let it
off now if his sister had not been ceaselessly beautiful.

You see, Helen--have a cigarette--I don't see 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 of compensation.

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 Megand do not mention it to her. The compensation--I do
not see who is to pay it if I don'tand I have already decided
on the minimum sum. As soon as possible I am placing it to your
accountand when I am in Germany you will pay it over for me. I
shall never forget your kindnessTibbikinsif you do this."

What is the sum?

Five thousand.

Good God alive!said Tibbyand went crimson.

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 and blankets--making the grey more
grey. No doubt people will think me extraordinary.

I don't care an iota what people think!cried heheated to
unusual manliness of diction. "But it's half what you have."

Not nearly half.She spread out her hands over her soiled
skirt. "I have far too muchand we settled at Chelsea 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 shockedand he
saw that Helen would still have plenty to live on. But it amazed
him to think what haycocks people can make of their lives. His
delicate intonations would not workand he could only blurt out
that the five thousand pounds would mean a great deal of bother
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 are to use your discretion. The second concerns
the money, and is to be mentioned to no one, and carried out
literally. You will send a hundred pounds on account to-morrow.

He walked with her to the stationpassing through those streets
whose serried beauty never bewildered him and never fatigued. The
lovely creature raised domes and spires into the cloudless blue
and only the ganglion of vulgarity round Carfax showed how
evanescent was the phantomhow faint its claim to represent
England. Helenrehearsing her commissionnoticed nothing; the
Basts were in her brainand she retold the crisis in a
meditative waywhich might have made other men curious. She was
seeing whether it would hold. He asked her once why she had taken
the Basts right into the heart of Evie's wedding. She stopped
like a frightened animal and saidDoes that seem to you so
odd?Her eyesthe hand laid on the mouthquite haunted him
until they were absorbed into the figure of St. Mary the Virgin
before whom he paused for a moment on the walk home.

It is convenient to follow him in the discharge of his duties.
Margaret summoned him the next day. She was terrified at Helen's
flightand he had to say that she had called in at Oxford. Then
she said: "Did she seem worried at any rumour about Henry?" He
answeredYes.I knew it was that!she exclaimed. "I'll
write to her." Tibbv was relieved.

He then sent the cheque to the address that Helen gave himand
stated that he was instructed to forward later on five thousand
pounds. An answer came back very civil and quiet in tone--such an
answer as Tibby himself would have given. The cheque was
returnedthe legacy refusedthe writer being in no need of
money. Tibby forwarded this to Helenadding in the fulness of
his heart that Leonard Bast seemed somewhat a monumental person
after all. 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 ornaments awaited him. The
Basts had just been evicted for not paying their rentand had
wandered no one knew whither. Helen had begun bungling with her
money by this timeand had even sold out her shares in the
Nottingham and Derby Railway. For some weeks she did nothing.
Then she reinvestedandowing to the good advice of her
stockbrokersbecame rather richer than she had been before.

CHAPTER XXXI

Houses have their own ways of dyingfalling as variously as the
generations of mensome with a tragic roarsome quietlybut to
an after-life in the city of ghostswhile from others--and thus
was the death of Wickham Place--the spirit slips before the body
perishes. It had decayed in the springdisintegrating the girls
more than they knewand causing either to accost unfamiliar
regions. By September it was a corpsevoid of emotionand
scarcely hallowed by the memories of thirty years of happiness.
Through its round-topped doorway passed furnitureand pictures
and booksuntil the last room was gutted and the last van had
rumbled away. It stood for a week or two longeropen-eyedas if
astonished at its own emptiness. Then it fell. Navvies cameand
spilt it back into the grey. With their muscles and their beery
good temperthey were not the worst of undertakers for a house
which had always been humanand had not mistaken culture for an
end.


The furniturewith a few exceptionswent down into
HertfordshireMr. Wilcox having most kindly offered Howards End
as a warehouse. Mr. Bryce had died abroad--an unsatisfactory
affair--and as there seemed little guarantee that the rent would
be paid regularlyhe cancelled the agreementand resumed
possession himself. Until he relet the housethe Schlegels were
welcome to stack their furniture in the garage and lower rooms.
Margaret demurredbut Tibby accepted the offer gladly; it saved
him from coming to any decision about the future. The plate and
the more valuable pictures found a safer home in Londonbut the
bulk of the things went country-waysand were entrusted to the
guardianship of Miss Avery.

Shortly before the moveour hero and heroine were married. They
have weathered the stormand may reasonably expect peace. To
have no illusions and yet to love--what stronger surety can a
woman find? She had seen her husband's past as well as his heart.
She knew her own heart with a thoroughness that commonplace
people believe impossible. The heart of Mrs. Wilcox was alone
hiddenand perhaps it is superstitious to speculate on the
feelings of the dead. They were warned quietly--really quietly
for as the day approached she refused to go through another
Oniton. Her brother gave her awayher auntwho was out of
healthpresided over a few colourless refreshments. The Wilcoxes
were represented by Charleswho witnessed the marriage
settlementand by Mr. Cahill. Paul did send a cablegram. In a few
minutesand without the aid of musicthe clergyman made them
man and wifeand soon the glass shade had fallen that cuts off
married couples from the world. Shea monogamistregretted the
cessation of some of life's innocent odours; hewhose instincts
were polygamousfelt morally braced by the change and less
liable to the temptations that had assailed him in the past.

They spent their honeymoon near Innsbruck. Henry knew of a
reliable hotel thereand Margaret hoped for a meeting with her
sister. In this she was disappointed. As they came southHelen
retreated over the Brennerand wrote an unsatisfactory post-card
from the shores of the Lake of Gardasaying that her plans were
uncertain and had better be ignored. Evidently she disliked
meeting Henry. Two months are surely enough to accustom an
outsider to a situation which a wife has accepted in two days
and Margaret had again to regret her sister's lack of
self-control. In a long letter she pointed out the need of
charity in sexual matters; so little is known about them; it is
hard enough for those who are personally touched to judge; then
how futile must be the verdict of Society. "I don't say there is
no standardfor that would destroy morality; only that there can
be no standard until our impulses are classified and better
understood." Helen thanked her for her kind letter--rather a
curious reply. She moved south againand spoke of wintering in
Naples.

Mr. Wilcox was not sorry that the meeting failed. Helen left him
time to grow skin over his wound. There were still moments when
it pained him. Had he only known that Margaret was awaiting him--
Margaretso lively and intelligentand yet so submissive--he
would have kept himself worthier of her. Incapable of grouping
the pasthe confused the episode of Jacky with another episode
that had taken place in the days of his bachelorhood. The two
made one crop of wild oatsfor which he was heartily sorryand
he could not see that those oats are of a darker stock which are
rooted in another's dishonour. Unchastity and infidelity were
as confused to him as to the Middle Ageshis only moral teacher.


Ruth (poor old Ruth!) did not enter into his 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 troubleandindeedhe liked to see her reading
poetry or something about social questions; it distinguished her
from the wives of other men. He had only to calland she clapped
the book up and was ready to do what he wished. Then they would
argue so jollilyand once or twice she had him in quite a tight
cornerbut as soon as he grew really seriousshe gave in. Man
is for warwoman for the recreation of the warriorbut he does
not dislike it if she makes a show of fight. She cannot win in a
real battlehaving no musclesonly nerves. Nerves make her jump
out of a moving motor-caror refuse to be married fashionably.
The warrior may well allow her to triumph on such occasions; they
move not the imperishable plinth of things that touch his peace.

Margaret had a bad attack of these nerves during the honeymoon.
He told her--casuallyas was his habit--that Oniton Grange was
let. She showed her annoyanceand asked rather crossly why she
had not been consulted.

I didn't want to bother you,he replied. "BesidesI have only
heard for certain this morning."

Where are we to live?said Margarettrying to laugh. "I loved
the place extraordinarily. Don't you believe in having a
permanent homeHenry?"

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 Oniton was
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 a situation? In
the first placethe Grange is on clayand built where the
castle moat must have been; then there's that detestable little
riversteaming all night like a kettle. Feel the cellar walls;
look up under the eaves. Ask Sir James or any one. Those
Shropshire valleys are notorious. The only possible place for a
house in Shropshire is on a hill; butfor my partI think the
country is too far from Londonand the scenery nothing special."

Margaret could not resist sayingWhy did you go there, then?

I--because--He drew his head back and grew rather angry. "Why
have we come to the Tyrolif it comes to that? One might go on
asking such questions indefinitely."

One might; but he was only gaining time for a plausible answer.
Out it cameand he believed it as soon as it was spoken.

The truth is, I took Oniton on account of Evie. Don't let this
go any further.

Certainly not.

I shouldn't like her to know that she nearly let me in for a
very bad bargain. No sooner did I sign the agreement than she got
engaged. Poor little girl! She was so keen on it all, and
wouldn't even 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 goose to some fellows who are starting 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 sense of
flux. London was but a foretaste of this nomadic civilisation
which is altering human nature so profoundlyand throws upon
personal relations a stress greater than they have ever borne
before. Under cosmopolitanismif it comeswe shall receive no
help from the earth. Trees and meadows and mountains will only be
a spectacleand the binding force that they once exercised on
character must be entrusted 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 Streetand look out for something in the
spring."

If possible, something permanent. I can't be as young as I was,
for these alterations don't suit me.

But, my dear, which would you rather have--alterations or
rheumatism?

I see your point,said Margaretgetting up. "If Oniton is
really dampit is impossibleand must be inhabited by little
boys. Onlyin the springlet us look before we leap. I will
take warning by Evieand not hurry you. Remember that you have a
free hand this time. These endless moves must be bad for the
furnitureand 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
housebeing only a little larger than Wickham Placetrained her
for the immense establishment that was promised in the spring.
They were frequently awaybut at home life ran fairly regularly.
In the morning Henry went to businessand his sandwich--a relic
this of some prehistoric craving--was always cut by her own hand.
He did not rely upon the sandwich for lunchbut liked to have it
by him in case he grew hungry at eleven. When he had gonethere
was the house to look afterand the servants to humaniseand
several kettles of Helen's to keep on the boil. Her conscience
pricked her a little about the Basts; she was not sorry to have
lost sight of them. No doubt Leonard was worth helpingbut being
Henry's wifeshe preferred to help some one else. As for
theatres and discussion societiesthey attracted her less and
less. She began to "miss" new movementsand to spend her spare
time re-reading or thinkingrather to the concern of her Chelsea
friends. They attributed the change to her marriageand perhaps
some deep instinct did warn her not to travel further from her
husband than was inevitable. Yet the main cause lay deeper still;
she had outgrown stimulantsand was passing from words to
things. It was doubtless a pity not to keep up with Wedekind or
Johnbut some closing of the gates is inevitable after thirty


if the mind itself is to become a creative power.

CHAPTER XXXII

She was looking at plans one day in the following spring--they
had finally decided to go down into Sussex and build--when Mrs.
Charles Wilcox was announced.

Have you heard the news?Dolly criedas soon as she entered
the room. Charles is so ang--I mean he is sure you know about it
orratherthat you don't know."

Why, Dolly!said Margaretplacidly kissing her. "Here's a
surprise! How are the boys and the baby?"

Boys and the baby were welland in describing a great row that
there had been at the Hilton Tennis ClubDolly forgot her news.
The wrong people had tried to get in. The rectoras representing
the older inhabitantshad said--Charles had said--the
tax-collector had said--Charles had regretted not saying--and she
closed the description withBut lucky you, with four courts of
your own at Midhurst.

It will be very jolly,replied Margaret.

Are those the plans? Does it matter my 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 Dollyafter a moment's
inspection. She was incapable of understanding plans or maps.

I suppose the paper.

And WHICH way up is it?

Just the ordinary way up. That's the sky-line and the part that
smells 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 she doesn't.

So it is,said Margarettrying to conceal her vexation. She
was getting rather sore on this point. "Helen is oddawfully.
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 sighedand stared enviously round the drawing-room. She
was beginning to lose her brightness and good looks. The
Charles's were not well offfor Mr. Wilcoxhaving brought up
his children with expensive tastesbelieved in letting them
shift for themselves. After allhe had not treated them
generously. Yet another baby was expectedshe told Margaretand
they would have to give up the motor. Margaret sympathisedbut
in a formal fashionand Dolly little imagined that the
stepmother was urging Mr. Wilcox to make them a more liberal
allowance. She sighed againand at last the particular grievance
was remembered. "Ohyes she cried, that is it: Miss Avery 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
donefor he feels certain you don't know."

Books!cried Margaretmoved by the holy word. "Dollyare 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 of it.

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 are quite valuable. She had no right to
open any of the cases.

I say she's dotty. She was the one that never got married, you
know. Oh, I say, perhaps, she thinks your books are
wedding-presents to herself. Old maids are taken that way
sometimes. Miss Avery hates us all like poison ever since 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 present last 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--I didn'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 any one to the
wedding who gave you a pendant like that. Uncle Percy and Albert
and father and Charles all said it was quite impossible, and when
four men agree, what is a girl to do? Evie didn't want to upset
the old thing, so thought a sort of joking letter best, and
returned the pendant straight to the shop to 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 again from the shop and threw it into the
duck-pond."

Did she give any reasons?

We think she meant to be invited to Oniton, and so climb into
society.

She's rather old for that,said Margaret pensively.

May she not have given the present to Evie in 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 with mournful humourDolly moved from the room.

Margaret followed her to ask whether Henry knew 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 Dollyand her explanation
proved correct. Henry only censured the lower classes when it
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 his job he would say, really having patience with the
job, and not the man. Paradoxical as it may sound, he had
something of the artist about him; he would pass over an insult
to his daughter sooner than lose a good charwoman for his wife.

Margaret judged it better to settle the little trouble herself.
Parties were evidently ruffled. With Henry's permission, she
wrote a pleasant 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 in the local warehouse; the plan had been
amateurish and a failure. Tibby promised to accompany her, but at
the last moment begged to be excused. So, for the second time in
her life, she entered the house alone.


CHAPTER XXXIII

The day of her visit was exquisite, and the last of unclouded
happiness that she was to have for many months. Her anxiety about
Helen's extraordinary absence was still dormant, and as for a
possible brush with Miss Avery-that only gave zest to the
expedition. She had also eluded Dolly's invitation to luncheon.
Walking straight up from the station, she crossed the village
green and entered the long chestnut avenue that connects it with
the church. The church itself stood in the village once. But it
there attracted so many worshippers that the devil, in a pet,
snatched it from its foundations, and poised it on an
inconvenient knoll, three quarters of a mile away. If this story
is true, the chestnut avenue must have been planted by the
angels. No more tempting approach could be imagined for the
lukewarm Christian, and if he still finds the walk too long, the
devil is defeated all the same, Science having built Holy
Trinity, a Chapel of Ease, near the Charles's and roofed it with
tin.

Up the avenue Margaret strolled slowly, stopping to watch the sky
that gleamed through the upper branches of the chestnuts, 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 about our country-side have
all issued through the pipes of Greece. Deep and true as the
native imagination can be, it seems to have failed here. It has
stopped with the witches and the fairies. It cannot vivify one
fraction of a summer field, or give names to half a dozen stars.
England still waits for the supreme moment of her literature--for
the great poet who shall voice her, or, better still for the
thousand 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 the untouched
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 no trouble about the gradients, or about the
view, which nevertheless expanded. The great estates that
throttle the south of Hertfordshire were less obtrusive here, and
the appearance of the land was neither aristocratic nor suburban.
To define it was difficult, but Margaret knew what it was not: it
was not snobbish. Though its contours were slight, there was a
touch of freedom in their sweep to which Surrey will never
attain, and the distant brow of the Chilterns towered like a
mountain. Left to itself was Margaret's opinion, this county
would vote Liberal." The comradeshipnot passionatethat is our
highest gift as a nationwas promised by itas by the low brick
farm where she called for the key.

But the inside of the farm was disappointing. A most finished
young person received her. "YesMrs. Wilcox; noMrs. Wilcox; oh
yesMrs. Wilcoxauntie 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 courseauntie
does not generally look after your place; she only does 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 sometimesWhere's auntie?' I say, 'Need you
ask? She's at Howards End.' Yes, Mrs. Wilcox. Mrs. Wilcox, could


I prevail upon you to accept a piece of cake? Not if I cut it for
you?

Margaret refused the cakebut unfortunately this gave 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. Wilcoxdon't you move while I'm gone."

StunnedMargaret did not move from the best parlourover which
the touch of art nouveau had fallen. But the other rooms looked
in keepingthough they conveyed the peculiar sadness of a rural
interior. Here had lived an elder raceto which we look back
with disquietude. The country which we visit at week-ends was
really a home to itand the graver sides of lifethe deaths
the partingsthe yearnings for lovehave 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 the
budding guelder-rose. Some children were playing uproariously in
heaps of golden straw. It was the presence of sadness at all that
surprised Margaretand ended by giving her a feeling of
completeness. In these English farmsif anywhereone might see
life steadily and see it wholegroup in one vision its
transitoriness and its eternal youthconnect--connect without
bitterness until all men are brothers. But her thoughts were
interrupted by the return of Miss Avery's nieceand were so
tranquillising that she suffered the interruption gladly.

It was quicker to go out by the back doorandafter due
explanationsthey went out by it. The niece was now mortified by
innumerable chickenswho rushed up to her feet for foodand by
a shameless and maternal sow. She did not know what animals were
coming to. But her gentility withered at the touch of the sweet
air. The wind was risingscattering the straw and ruffling the
tails of the ducks as they floated in families over Evie's
pendant. One of those delicious gales of springin which leaves
still in bud seem to rustleswept over the land and then fell
silent. "Georgie sang the thrush. Cuckoo came furtively from
the cliff of pine-trees. Georgiepretty Georgie and the other
birds joined in with nonsense. The hedge was a half-painted
picture which would be finished in a few days. Celandines grew on
its banks, lords and ladies and primroses in the defended
hollows; the wild rose-bushes, still bearing 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 of Tuscany with the graces before
her and the zephyr behind.

The two women walked up the lane full of outward civility. But
Margaret was thinking how difficult it was 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 replyand 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 the dining-room windowbut the
curtain inside was drawn tightly. So with the drawing-room and
the hall. The appearance of these curtains was familiaryet she
did not remember their being there on her other visit; her


impression was that Mr. Bryce had taken everything away. They
tried the back. Here again they received no answerand could see
nothing; the kitchen-window was fitted with a blindwhile the
pantry and scullery had pieces of wood propped up against them
which looked ominously like the lids of packing-cases. Margaret
thought of her booksand she lifted up her voice also. At the
first cry she succeeded.

Well, well!replied some one inside the house. "If it isn't
Mrs. Wilcox come at last!"

Have you got the key, auntie?

Madge, go away,said Miss Averystill invisible.

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 voiceof 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 Madgeperhaps I ought to be
leaving you now. The servants need seeing to at the farm. Auntie
is so odd at times.Gathering up her eleganciesshe retired
defeatedandas if her departure had loosed a springthe front
door opened at once.

Miss Avery saidWell, come right in, Mrs. Wilcox!quite
pleasantly and calmly.

Thank you so much,began Margaretbut broke off at the sight
of an umbrella-stand. It was her own.

Come right into the hall first,said Miss Avery. She drew the
curtainand 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 laidthe big
work-table drawn up near the window; the bookcases filled the
wall opposite the fireplaceand her father's sword--this is what
bewildered her particularly--had been drawn from its scabbard and
hung naked amongst 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 cases to be touched. For instancethese
books are my brother's. We are storing them for him and for my
sisterwho is abroad. When you kindly undertook to look after
thingswe 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 mistakeand very likely our
mistake."

Mrs. Wilcox, it has been mistake upon mistake for fifty years.
The house is Mrs. Wilcox's, and she would not desire it to stand
empty any longer.

To help the poor decaying brainMargaret said:

Yes, Mrs. Wilcox's house, the mother of Mr. Charles.

Mistake upon mistake,said Miss Avery. "Mistake upon mistake."

Well, I don't know,said Margaretsitting 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: "Yesit should be a merry house 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 drew a curtain. Light flooded the drawing-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 continued passing and reprising through the hall. Her
voice was lostbut Margaret heard her pulling up the kitchen
blind. "I've not finished here yet she announced, returning.
There's still a deal to do. The farm lads will carry your great
wardrobes upstairsfor there is no need to go into expense at
Hilton."

It is all a mistake,repeated Margaretfeeling 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 for ourselves in Sussex, and
part of this furniture--my part--will go down there presently.
She looked at Miss Avery intentlytrying to 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 also of high but
unostentatious nobility. "You think that you won't come back to
live hereMrs. Wilcoxbut you will."

That remains to be seen,said Margaretsmiling. "We have no
intention of doing so for the present. We happen to need a much
larger house. Circumstances oblige us to give big parties. Of
coursesome day--one never knowsdoes one?"

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 the last ten minutes, if
you ask me.

It was a senseless remarkbut with a queer feeling of disloyalty
Margaret rose from her chair. She felt that Henry had been


obscurely censured. They went into the dining-roomwhere the
sunlight poured in upon her mother's chiffonierand upstairs
where many an old god peeped from a new niche. The furniture
fitted extraordinarily well. In the central room--over the hall
the room that Helen had slept in four years ago--Miss Avery had
placed Tibby's old bassinette.

The nursery,she said.

Margaret turned away without speaking.

At last everything was seen. The kitchen and lobby were still
stacked with furniture and strawbutas far as she could make
outnothing had been broken or scratched. A pathetic display of
ingenuity! Then they took a friendly stroll in the garden. It had
gone wild since her last visit. The gravel sweep was weedyand
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 lay
deeperand 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-rooms that have been formedhundreds of years
agoout of the smaller fields. So the boundary hedge zigzagged
down the hill at right anglesand at the bottom there was a
little green annex--a sort of powder-closet for the cows.

Yes, the maidy's well enough,said Miss Averyfor those, that
is, who don't suffer from sneezing.And she cackled maliciously.
I've seen Charlie Wilcox go out to my lads in hay time--oh, they
ought to do this--they mustn't do that--he'd learn them to be
lads. And just then the tickling took him. He has it from his
father, with other things. There's not one Wilcox that can stand
up against a field in June--I laughed fit to burst while he was
courting Ruth.

My brother gets hay fever too,said Margaret.

This house lies too much on the land for them. Naturally, they
were glad enough to slip in at first. But Wilcoxes are better
than nothing, as I see you've found.

Margaret laughed.

They keep a place going, don't they? Yes, it is just that.

They keep England going, it is my opinion.

But Miss Avery upset her by replying: "Aythey breed like
rabbits. Wellwellit's a funny world. But He who made it knows
what He wants in itI suppose. If Mrs. Charlie is expecting her
fourthit isn't for us to repine."

They breed and they also work,said Margaretconscious of some
invitation to disloyaltywhich was echoed by the very breeze and
by the songs of the birds. "It certainly is a funny worldbut so
long as men like my husband and his sons govern itI think it'll
never be a bad one--never really bad."

No, better'n nothing,said Miss Averyand turned to the
wych-elm.

On their way back to the farm she spoke of her old friend much


more clearly than before. In the house Margaret had wondered
whether she quite distinguished the first wife from the second.
Now she said: "I never saw much of Ruth after her grandmother
diedbut we stayed civil. It was a very civil family. Old Mrs.
Howard never spoke against anybodynor let any one be turned
away without food. Then it was never 'Trespassers will be
prosecuted' in their landbut 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 until there were no men."

Until Mr. Wilcox came along,corrected Margaretanxious that
her husband should receive his dues.

I suppose so; but Ruth should have married a--no disrespect to
you to say this, for I take it you were intended to get Wilcox
any way, 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've kept me long enough waiting. In a couple of weeks
I'll see your light shining 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 humour her. "No. Not coming. Never coming. It
has all been a mistake. The furniture must be repacked at once
and I am very sorrybut I am making other arrangementsand must
ask you to give me the keys."

Certainly, Mrs. Wilcox,said Miss Averyand resigned her
duties with a smile.

Relieved at this conclusionand having sent her compliments to
MadgeMargaret walked back to the station. She had intended to
go to the furniture warehouse and give directions for removal
but the muddle had turned out more extensive 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 recommendedand advised her to store in London after
all.

But before this could be done an unexpected trouble fell upon
her.

CHAPTER XXXIV

It was not unexpected entirely. Aunt Juley's health had been bad
all winter. She had had a long series of colds and coughsand
had been too busy to get rid of them. She had scarcely promised
her niece "to really take my tiresome chest in hand when she
caught a chill and developed acute pneumonia. Margaret and Tibby
went down to Swanage. Helen was telegraphed for, and that spring
party that after all gathered in that hospitable house had all


the pathos of fair memories. On a perfect day, when the sky
seemed blue porcelain, and the waves of the discreet little bay
beat gentlest of tattoos upon the sand, Margaret hurried up
through the rhododendrons, confronted again by the senselessness
of Death. One death may explain itself, but it throws no light
upon another; the groping inquiry must begin anew. Preachers or
scientists may generalise, but we know that no generality is
possible about those whom we love; not one heaven awaits them,
not even one oblivion. Aunt Juley, incapable of tragedy, slipped
out of life with odd little laughs and apologies for having
stopped in it so long. She was very weak; she could not rise to
the occasion, or realise the great mystery which all agree must
await her; it only seemed to her that she was quite done up--more
done up than ever before; that she saw and heard and felt less
every moment; and that, 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
Tibby liked them? She worried herself about Helen's absence, and
also that she should be the cause of Helen's return. The nurses
seemed to think such interests quite natural, and perhaps hers
was an average approach to the Great Gate. But Margaret saw Death
stripped of any false romance; whatever the idea of Death may
contain, the process can be trivial and hideous.

Important--Margaret deartake the Lulworth 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 you are well.

How very odd of Helen! Mr. Wilcox--

Yes, dear?

Can he spare you?

Henry wished her to comeand had been very kind. Yet again
Margaret said so.

Mrs. Munt did not die. Quite outside her willa more dignified
power took hold of her and checked her on the downward slope. She
returnedwithout emotionas 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 to take walks with. Do try Miss Conder."

I have been for a little walk with Miss Conder.

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 does she want to go back
there at once?

No doubt she will change her mind when she sees us. She has not
the least balance.


That was the stock criticism about Helenbut 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 stay away eight months argues that the heart is awry as
well as the head. A sick-bed could recall Helenbut she was deaf
to more human calls; after a glimpse at her auntshe would
retire into her nebulous life behind some poste restante. She
scarcely existed; her letters had become dull and infrequent; she
had no wants and no curiosity. And it was all put down to poor
Henry's account! Henrylong pardoned by his wifewas still too
infamous to be greeted by his sister-in-law. It was morbidand
to her alarmMargaret fancied that she could trace the growth of
morbidity back in Helen's life for nearly four years. The flight
from Oniton; the unbalanced patronage of the Basts; the explosion
of grief up on the Downs--all connected with Paulan
insignificant boy whose lips had kissed hers for a fraction of
time. Margaret and Mrs. Wilcox had feared that they 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 subject awaybut it was too big
to be slighted now. There was almost a taint of madness. Were all
Helen's actions to be governed by a tiny mishapsuch as may
happen to any young man or woman? Can human nature be constructed
on lines so insignificant? The blundering little encounter at
Howards End was vital. It propagated itself where graver
intercourse lay barren; it was stronger than sisterly intimacy
stronger than reason or books. In one of her moods Helen had
confessed that she still "enjoyed" it in a certain sense. Paul
had fadedbut the magic of his caress endured. And where there
is enjoyment of the past there may also be reaction--propagation
at both ends.

Wellit is odd and sad that our minds should be such seed-beds
and we without power to choose the seed. But man is an oddsad
creature as yetintent on pilfering the earthand heedless of
the growths within himself. He cannot be bored about psychology.
He leaves it to the specialistwhich is as if 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
patientand it is suggested that Margaret has succeeded--so far
as success is yet possible. She does understand herselfshe has
some rudimentary 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 Munichand would be in London herself on the
morrow. It was a disquieting letterthough the opening was
affectionate and sane.

DEAREST MEG,

Give Helen's love to Aunt Juley. Tell her that I loveand 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 write or wire to me there and give me detailed
news. If Aunt Juley is much better, or if, for a terrible reason,
it would be no good my coming down to Swanage, you must not think
it odd if I do not come. I have all sorts of plans in my head. I


am living abroad at present, and want to get back as quickly as
possible. Will you please tell me where our furniture is? I
should like to take out one or two books; the rest are for you.

Forgive medearest Meg. This must read like rather a tiresome
letterbut all letters are from your loving

HELEN.

It was a tiresome letterfor it tempted Margaret to tell a lie.
If she wrote that Aunt Juley was still in danger her sister would
come. Unhealthiness is contagious. We cannot be in contact with
those who are in a morbid state without ourselves deteriorating.
To "act for the best" might do Helen goodbut would do herself
harmandat the risk of disastershe kept her colours flying a
little longer. She replied that their aunt was much betterand
awaited developments.

Tibby approved of her reply. Mellowing rapidlyhe was a
pleasanter companion than before. Oxford had done much for him.
He had lost his peevishnessand could hide his indifference to
people and his interest in food. But he had not grown more human.
The years between eighteen and twenty-twoso magical for most
were leading him gently from boyhood to middle age. He had never
known young-manlinessthat quality which warms the heart till
deathand gives Mr. Wilcox an imperishable charm. He was frigid
through no fault of his ownand without cruelty. He thought
Helen wrong and Margaret rightbut the family trouble was for
him what a scene behind footlights is for most people. He had
only one suggestion to makeand that was characteristic.

Why don't you tell Mr. Wilcox?

About Helen?

Perhaps he has come across that sort of thing.

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 address of the furnitureas she would
now return at once. Margaret repliedCertainly 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
leftand never had he seemed more unsubstantial.

Tibby love, what next?

He replied: "It is extraordinary."

Dear, your judgment's often clearer than mine. 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 utteredand in a few minutes she took it up herself.
Nothing else explained. And London agreed with Tibby. The mask


fell off the cityand she saw it for what it really is--a
caricature of infinity. The familiar barriersthe streets along
which she movedthe houses between which she had made her little
journeys for so many yearsbecame negligible suddenly. Helen
seemed one with grimy trees and the traffic 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 mergedif it be
merged at allwith the stars and the sea. Yet she felt that her
sister had been going amiss for many years. It was symbolic the
catastrophe should come nowon a London afternoonwhile rain
fell slowly.

Henry was the only hope. Henry was definite. He might know of
some paths in the chaos that were hidden from themand she
determined to take Tibby's advice and lay the 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'swhose dome
stands out of the welter so bravelyas if preaching the gospel
of form. But withinSt. Paul's is as its surroundings--echoes
and whispersinaudible songsinvisible mosaicswet footmarks
crossing and recrossing the floor. Si monumentum requiris
circumspice; it points 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 from Swanageand slow to admit the
growth of a new trouble. When they told him of their searchhe
only chaffed Tibby and the Schlegels generallyand declared that
it was "just like Helen" to lead her relatives a dance.

That is what we all say,replied Margaret. "But why should it
be just like Helen? Why should she be allowed to be so queerand
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 again under 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 go straight to Ducie Street. I can't have my girl
looking as old as her husband."

All the same, you have not quite seen our point,said Tibby.

Mr. Wilcoxwho was in good spiritsretortedI don't suppose I
ever shall.He leant backlaughing at the gifted but ridiculous
familywhile the fire flickered over the map of Africa. Margaret
motioned to her brother to go on. Rather diffidenthe obeyed
her.

Margaret's point is this,he said. "Our sister may be mad."

Charleswho was working in the inner roomlooked 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, in these days.

The facts are as follows,replied Tibbywho had at times a
pedantic lucidity. "The facts are that she has been in England
for three days and will not see us. She has forbidden the bankers


to give us her address. She refuses to answer questions. Margaret
finds her letters colourless. There are other factsbut these
are the most striking."

She has never behaved like this before, then?asked Henry.

Of course not!said his wifewith a frown.

Well, my dear, how am I to know?

A senseless spasm of annoyance came over her. "You know quite
well that Helen never sins against affection she said. You
must have noticed that much in hersurely."

Oh yes; she and I have always hit it off together.

No, Henry--can't you see?--I don't mean that.

She recovered herselfbut not before Charles had observed her.
Stupid and attentivehe was watching the scene.

I was meaning that when she was eccentric in the past, one could
trace it back to the heart in the long-run. She behaved oddly
because she cared for some one, 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 about her, I mean.

Henry began to grow serious. Ill-health was to him something
perfectly definite. Generally well himselfhe could not realise
that we sink to it by slow gradations. The sick had no rights;
they were outside the pale; one could lie to them remorselessly.
When his first wife was seizedhe had promised to take her down
into Hertfordshirebut meanwhile arranged with a nursing-home
instead. Helentoowas ill. And the plan that he sketched out
for her captureclever and well-meaning as it wasdrew 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 genialtentative host disappearedand they saw
instead the man who had carved money out of Greece and Africa
and bought forests 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 to see 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 the better. But there'll be the motor round the
corner, and we can run her 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 at her husband sadly.
It's not the particular language that Helen 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 languageand on that
account you think she's ill."

No, Henry; it's sweet of you, but I couldn'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, when
there 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. "Paterwe may as well
keep Howards End out of it he said.

WhyCharles?"

Charles could give no reason; but Margaret felt as ifover
tremendous distancea 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 boypray 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 a satisfactory conclusionand Helen faded as he
talked. Her fairflying hair and eager eyes counted for nothing
for she was illwithout rightsand any of her friends might


hunt her. Sick at heartMargaret joined in the chase. She wrote
her sister a lying letterat her husband's dictation; she said
the furniture was all at Howards Endbut could be seen on Monday
next at 3 P.M.when a charwoman would be in attendance. It was a
cold letterand the more plausible for that. Helen would think
she was offended. And on Monday next she and Henry were to lunch
with Dollyand then ambush themselves in the garden.

After they had goneMr. Wilcox said to his son: "I can't have
this sort of behaviourmy boy. Margaret's too sweet-natured to
mindbut 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.

CHAPTER XXXV

One speaks of the moods of springbut the days that are her true
children have only one mood; they are all full of the rising and
dropping of windsand the whistling of birds. New flowers may
come outthe green embroidery of the hedges increasebut the
same heaven broods overheadsoftthickand bluethe same
figuresseen and unseenare wandering by coppice and meadow.
The morning that Margaret had spent with Miss Averyand the
afternoon she set out to entrap Helenwere the scales of a
single balance. Time might never have movedrain never have
fallenand man alonewith his schemes and ailmentswas
troubling Nature until he saw her through a veil of tears.

She protested no more. Whether Henry was right or wronghe was
most kindand she knew of no other standard by which to judge
him. She must trust him absolutely. As soon as he had taken up a
businesshis obtuseness vanished. He profited by the slightest
indicationsand the capture of Helen promised to be staged as
deftly as the marriage of Evie.

They went down in the morning as arrangedand he discovered that
their victim was actually in Hilton. On his arrival he called at
all the livery-stables in the villageand had a few minutes'
serious conversation with the proprietors. What he saidMargaret
did not know--perhaps not the truth; but news arrived after lunch
that a lady had come by the London trainand 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 for the hundredth time.

Finish your coffee, dear. We must be off.

Yes, Margaret, you know you must take plenty,said Dolly.

Margaret triedbut suddenly lifted her hand to her eyes. Dolly
stole glances at her father-in-law which he did not answer. In


the silence the motor came round to the door.

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 Margaretuncovering her face. "Only
most frightfully worried. I cannot feel that Helen is really
alive. Her letters and telegrams seem to have come from some one
else. Her voice isn't in them. I don't believe your driver really
saw her at the station. I wish I'd never mentioned it. I know
that Charles is vexed. Yeshe is--" She seized Dolly's hand and
kissed it. "ThereDolly 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?he asked.

Have I time?

Yes, plenty.

She went to the lavatory by the front doorand as soon as the
bolt slippedMr. Wilcox said quietly:

Dolly, I'm going without her.

Dolly's eyes lit up with vulgar excitement. She followed him on
tiptoe out to the car.

Tell her I thought it best.

Yes, Mr. Wilcox, I see.

Say anything you like. All right.

The car started welland with ordinary luck would have got away.
But Porgly-woggleswho was playing in the gardenchose this
moment to sit down in the middle of the path. Cranein trying to
pass himran one wheel over a bed of wallflowers. Dolly
screamed. Margarethearing the noiserushed out hatlessand
was in time to jump on the footboard. She said not a single word;
he was only treating her as she had treated Helenand her rage
at his dishonesty only helped to indicate what Helen would feel
against them. She thoughtI deserve it; I am punished for
lowering my colours.And she accepted his apologies with a
calmness 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 at Howards End. (We're a little late, but no
matter.) Our first move will be to send it down to wait at the
farm, as, if possible, one doesn't want a scene before servants.
A certain gentleman--he pointed at Crane's back--"won't drive
inbut will wait a little short of the front gatebehind the
laurels. 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 can stroll 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, so it should seem quite natural for us to be there. The
trouble is evidently nervous--wouldn't you say so, Margaret?

The doctora very young manbegan to ask questions about Helen.
Was she normal? Was there anything congenital or hereditary? Had
anything occurred that was likely to alienate her from her
family?

Nothing,answered Margaretwondering what would have happened
if she had added: "Though she did resent my husband's
immorality."

She always was highly strung,pursued Henryleaning back in
the car as it shot past the church. "A tendency to spiritualism
and those thingsthough nothing serious. Musicalliterary
artisticbut I should say normal--a very charming girl."

Margaret's anger and terror increased every moment. How dare
these men label her sister! What horrors lay ahead! What
impertinences that shelter under the name of science! The pack
was turning on Helento deny her human rightsand it seemed to
Margaret that all Schlegels were threatened with her. "Were they
normal?" What a question to ask! And it is always those who know
nothing about human naturewho are bored by psychology--and
shocked by physiologywho ask it. However piteous her sister's
stateshe knew that she must be on her side. They would be mad
together if the world chose to consider them so.

It was now five minutes past three. The car slowed down by the
farmin the yard of which Miss Avery was standing. Henry asked
her whether a cab had gone past. She noddedand the next moment
they caught sight of itat the end of the lane. The car ran
silently like a beast of prey. So unsuspicious was Helen that she
was sitting in the porchwith her back to the road. She had
come. Only her head and shoulders were visible. She sat framed in
the vineand one of her hands played with the buds. The wind
ruffled her hairthe sun glorified it; she was as she had always
been.

Margaret was seated next to the door. Before her husband could
prevent hershe slipped out. She ran to the garden gatewhich
was shutpassed through itand deliberately pushed it in his
face. The noise alarmed Helen. Margaret saw her rise with an
unfamiliar movementandrushing into the porchlearnt the


simple explanation of all their fears--her sister was with child.

Is the truant all right?called Henry.

She had time to whisper: "Ohmy darling--" The keys of the house
were in her hand. She unlocked Howards End and thrust Helen into
it. "Yesall right she said, and stood with her back to the
door.

CHAPTER XXXVI

Margaretyou look upset!" said Henry.

Mansbridge had followed. Crane was at the gateand the flyman
had stood up on the box. Margaret shook her head at them; she
could not speak any more. She remained clutching the keysas if
all their future depended on them. Henry was asking more
questions. She shook her head again. His words had no sense. She
heard him wonder why she had let Helen in. "You might have given
me a knock with the gate was another of his remarks. Presently
she heard herself speaking. She, or someone for her, said, Go
away." Henry came nearer. He repeatedMargaret, you look upset
again. My dear, give me the keys. What are you doing with Helen?

Oh, dearest, do go away, and I will manage it all.

Manage what?

He stretched out his hand for the keys. She might have obeyed if
it had not been for the doctor.

Stop that at least,she said piteously; the doctor had turned
backand was questioning the driver of Helen's cab. A new
feeling came over her; she was fighting for women against men.
She did not care about rightsbut if men came into Howards End
it should be over her body.

Come, this is an odd beginning,said her husband.

The doctor came forward nowand whispered two words to Mr.
Wilcox--the scandal was out. Sincerely horrifiedHenry stood
gazing at the earth.

I cannot help it,said Margaret. "Do wait. It's not my fault.
Please all four of you go away now."

Now the flyman was whispering to Crane.

We are relying on you to help us, Mrs. Wilcox,said the young
doctor. "Could you go in and persuade your sister to come out?"

On what grounds?said Margaretsuddenly looking him straight
in the eyes.

Thinking it professional to prevaricatehe murmured something
about a nervous breakdown.

I beg your pardon, but it is nothing of the sort. You are not
qualified to attend my sister, Mr. Mansbridge. If we require your
services, we will let you know.

I can diagnose the case more bluntly if you wish,he retorted.


You could, but you have not. You are, therefore, not qualified
to attend my sister.

Come, come, Margaret!said Henrynever raising his eyes. "This
is a terrible businessan appalling business. It's doctor's
orders. Open the door."

Forgive me, but I will not.

I don't agree.

Margaret was silent.

This business is as broad as it's long,contributed the
doctor. "We had better all work together. You need usMrs.
Wilcoxand we need you."

Quite so,said Henry.

I do not need you in the least,said Margaret.

The two men looked at each other anxiously.

No more does my sister, who is still many weeks from her
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 stand firm and support the doctor. He himself might
need supportfor there was trouble ahead.

It all turns on affection now,said Margaret. "Affection. Don't
you see?" Resuming her usual methodsshe wrote the word on the
house with her finger. "Surely you see. I like Helen very much
you not so much. Mr. Mansbridge doesn't know her. That's all.
And affectionwhen reciprocatedgives rights. Put that down in
your note-bookMr. Mansbridge. It's a useful formula."

Henry told her to be calm.

You don't know what you want yourselves,said Margaretfolding
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 voiceperhaps not now.

The pack was breaking up. At a sign from his masterCrane also
went back into the car.

Now, Henry, you,she said gently. None of her bitterness had
been directed at him. "Go away nowdear. I shall want your
advice laterno doubt. Forgive me if I have been cross. But
seriouslyyou 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 calledas the gate
at last clanged between them. The fly moved out of the waythe


motor backedturned a littlebacked againand turned in the
narrow road. A string of farm carts came up in the middle; but
she waited through allfor there was no hurry. When all was over
and the car had startedshe opened the door. "Ohmy darling!"
she said. "My darlingforgive me." Helen was standing in the
hall.

CHAPTER XXXVII

Margaret bolted the door on the inside. Then she would have
kissed her sisterbut Helenin a dignified voicethat came
strangely from hersaid:

Convenient! You did not tell me that the books were unpacked. I
have found nearly everything that I want.

I told you nothing that was true.

It has been a great surprise, certainly. Has Aunt Juley been
ill?

Helen, you wouldn't think I'd invent that?

I suppose not,said Helenturning awayand crying a very
little. "But one loses faith in everything after this."

We thought it was illness, but even then--I haven't behaved
worthily.

Helen selected another book.

I ought not to have consulted any one. What would our father
have thought of me?

She did not think of questioning her sisteror of rebuking her.
Both might be necessary in the futurebut she had first to purge
a greater crime than any that Helen could have committed--that
want of confidence that is the work of the devil.

Yes, I am annoyed,replied Helen. "My wishes should have been
respected. I would have gone through this meeting if it was
necessarybut after Aunt Juley recoveredit was not necessary.
Planning my lifeas I now have to do."

Come away from those books,called Margaret. "Helendo talk
to me."

I was just saying that I have stopped living haphazard. One
can't go through a great deal of--she left out the noun-"
without planning one's actions in advance. I am going to have a
child in Juneand in the first place conversationsdiscussions
excitementare not good for me. I will go through them if
necessarybut only then. In the second place I have no right to
trouble people. I cannot fit in with England as I know it. I have
done something that the English never pardon. It would not be
right for them to pardon it. So I must live where I am not
known."

But why didn't you tell me, dearest?

Yes,replied Helen judicially. "I might havebut 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 the window.

By 'we' I mean myself and Monica. But for her, I am and have
been and always wish to be alone.

I have not heard of Monica.

You wouldn't have. She's an Italian--by birth at least. She
makes her living by journalism. I met her originally on Garda.
Monica is much the best person to see me through.

You are very fond of her, then.

She has been extraordinarily sensible with me.

Margaret guessed at Monica's type--"Italiano Inglesiato"
they had named it--the crude feminist of the Southwhom one
respects but avoids. And Helen had turned to it in her need!

You must not think that we shall never meet,said Helenwith a
measured kindness. "I shall always have a room for you when you
can be sparedand the longer you can be with me the better. But
you haven't understood yetMegand of course it is very
difficult for you. This is a shock to you. It isn't to mewho
have been thinking over our futures for many monthsand they
won't be changed by a slight contretempssuch 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. Thenrecovering herselfshe said: "Tell mehow
is it that all the books are down here?"

Series of mistakes.

And a great deal of furniture has been unpacked.

All.

Who lives here, then?

No one.

I suppose you are letting it, though.

The house is dead,said Margaretwith a frown. "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 the old days,
when it held the Wilcoxes' own things.

Interested, are you? Very well, I must tell you, I suppose. My
husband lent it on condition we--but by a mistake all our things
were unpacked, and Miss Avery, instead of--She stopped. "Look
hereI can't go on like this. I warn you I won't. Helenwhy


should you be so miserably unkind to mesimply because you hate
Henry?"

I don't hate him now,said Helen. "I have stopped being a
schoolgirlandMegonce againI'm not being unkind. But as
for fitting in with your English life--noput 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 moving forward with her plansnot bitter or excitable
neither asserting innocence nor confessing guiltmerely desiring
freedom and the company of those who would not blame her. She had
been through--how much? Margaret did not know. But it was enough
to part her from old habits as well as old friends.

Tell me about yourself,said Helenwho had chosen her books
and was lingering over the furniture.

There's nothing to tell.

But your marriage has been happy, Meg?

Yes, but I don't feel inclined to talk.

You feel as I do.

Not that, but I can't.

No more can I. It is a nuisance, but no good trying.

Something had come between them. Perhaps it was Societywhich
henceforward would exclude Helen. Perhaps it was a third life
already potent as a spirit. They could find no meeting-place.
Both suffered acutelyand were not comforted by the knowledge
that affection survived.

Look here, Meg, is the coast clear?

You mean that you want to go away from me?

I suppose so--dear old lady! it isn't any use. I knew we should
have nothing to say. Give my love to Aunt Juley and Tibby, and
take more yourself than I can say. Promise to come and see me in
Munich later.

Certainly, dearest.

For that is all we can do.

It seemed so. Most ghastly of all was Helen's common sense;
Monica had been extraordinarily good for her.

I am glad to have seen you and the things.She looked at the
bookcase lovinglyas if she was saying farewell to the past.

Margaret unbolted the door. She remarked: "The car has goneand
here's your cab."

She led the way to itglancing at the leaves and the sky. The
spring had never seemed more beautiful. The driverwho was
leaning on the gatecalled outPlease, lady, a message,and
handed her Henry's visiting-card through the bars.


How did this come?she asked.

Crane had returned with it almost at once.

She read the card with annoyance. It was covered with
instructions in domestic French. When she and her sister had
talked she was to come back for the night to Dolly's. Il faut
dormir sur ce sujet." while Helen was to be found une comfortable
chambre a l'hotel. The final sentence displeased her greatly
until she remembered that the Charles's had only one spare room
and so could not invite a third guest.

Henry would have done what he could,she interpreted.

Helen had not followed her into the garden. The door once open
she lost her inclination to fly. She remained in the hallgoing
from bookcase to table. She grew more like the old Helen
irresponsible and charming.

This IS Mr. Wilcox's house?she inquired.

Surely you remember Howards End?

Remember? I who remember everything! But it looks to be ours
now.

Miss Avery was extraordinary,said Margarether own spirits
lightening a little. Again she was invaded by a slight feeling of
disloyalty. But it brought her reliefand she yielded to it.
She loved Mrs. Wilcox, and would rather furnish her home with
our things than think of it empty. In consequence here are all
the library books.

Not all the books. She hasn't unpacked the Art books, in which
she may show her sense. And we never used to have the sword
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 Londonbut this floor 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-room before you start? There's no carpet
there. They went in, and each minute their talk became more
natural.

OhWHAT 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 dear little backs are quite warm.

But why has Miss Avery made them set to partners? I shall just--

Over here, Meg. Put it so that any one sitting will see the
lawn.

Margaret moved a chair. Helen sat down in it.

Ye--es. The window's too high.

Try a drawing-room chair.

No, I don't like the drawing-room so much. The beam has been
match-boarded. It would have been so beautiful otherwise.

Helen, what a memory you have for some things! You're perfectly
right. It's a room that men have spoilt through trying to make it
nice for women. Men don't know what we want--,I

And never will."

I don't agree. In two thousand years they'll know. Look where
Tibby spilt the soup.

Coffee. It was coffee surely.

Helen shook her head. "Impossible. Tibby was far too young to be
given coffee at that time."

Was father alive?

Yes.

Then you're right and it must have been soup. I thinking of much
later--that unsuccessful visit of Aunt Juley's, when she didn't
realise that Tibby had grown up. It was coffee then, for he threw
it down on purpose. There was some rhyme, 'Tea, coffee--coffee
tea,' that she said to him every morning at breakfast. Wait a
minute--how did it go?

I know--no, I don't. What a detestable boy Tibby was!

But the rhyme was simply awful. No decent person could put up
with it.

Ah, that greengage-tree,cried Helenas if the garden was also
part of their childhood. Why do I connect it with dumb-bells? And
there come the chickens. The grass wants cutting. I love
yellowhammers."

Margaret interrupted her. "I have got it she announced.

'Teateacoffeetea
Or chocolaritee.'


That every morning for three weeks. No wonder Tibby was wild.

Tibby is moderately a dear now,said Helen.


There! I knew you'd say that in the end. Of course he's a dear.

A bell rang.

Listen! what's that?

Helen saidPerhaps the Wilcoxes are beginning the siege.

What nonsense--listen!

And the triviality faded from their facesthough it left
something behind--the knowledge that they never could be parted
because their love was rooted in common things. Explanations and
appeals had failed; they had tried for a common meeting-ground
and had only made each other unhappy. And all the time their
salvation was lying round them--the past sanctifying the present;
the presentwith wild heart-throbdeclaring that there would
after all be a future with laughter and the voices of children.
Helenstill smilingcame up to her sister. She saidIt 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 kitchenand struggled between packing-cases to the
window. Their visitor was only a little boy with a tin can. And
triviality returned.

Little boy, what do you want?

Please, I am the milk.

Did Miss Avery send you?said Margaretrather sharply.

Yes, please.

Then take it back and say we require no milk.While she called
to HelenNo, it's not the siege, but possibly an attempt to
provision us against one.

But I like milk,cried Helen. "Why send it away?"

Do you? Oh, very well. But we've nothing to put it in, and he
wants the can.

Please, I'm to call in the morning for the can,said the boy.

The house will be locked up then.

In the morning would I bring eggs too?

Are you the boy whom I saw playing in the stacks last week?

The child hung his head.

Well, run away and do it again.

Nice little boy,whispered Helen. "I saywhat's your name?
Mine's Helen."

Tom.

That was Helen all over. The Wilcoxestoowould ask a child its
namebut they never told their names in return.


Tom, this one here is Margaret. And at home we've another called
Tibby.

Mine are lop-eareds,replied Tomsupposing Tibby to be a
rabbit.

You're a very good and rather a clever little boy. Mind you come
again.--Isn't he charming?

Undoubtedly,said Margaret. "He is probably the son of Madge
and Madge is dreadful. But this place has wonderful powers."

What do you mean?

I don't know.

Because I probably agree with you.

It kills what is dreadful and makes what is beautiful live.

I do agree,said Helenas she sipped the milk. "But you said
that the house was dead not half an hour ago."

Meaning that I was dead. I felt it.

Yes, the house has a surer life than we, even if it was empty,
and, as it is, I can't get over that for thirty years the sun has
never shone full on our furniture. After all, Wickham Place was a
grave. Meg, I've a startling idea.

What is it?

Drink some milk to steady you.

Margaret obeyed.

No, I won't tell you yet,said Helenbecause you may laugh or
be angry. Let's go upstairs first and give the rooms an airing.

They opened window after windowtill the insidetoowas
rustling to the spring. Curtains blewpicture frames tapped
cheerfully. Helen uttered cries of excitement as she found this
bed obviously in its right placethat in its wrong one. She was
angry with Miss Avery for not having moved the wardrobes up.
Then one would see really.She admired the view. She was the
Helen who had written the memorable letters four years ago. As
they leant outlooking westwardshe said: "About my idea.
Couldn't you and I camp out in this house for the night?"

I don't think we could well do that,said Margaret.

Here are beds, tables, towels--

I know; but the house isn't supposed to be slept in, and Henry's
suggestion was--

I require no suggestions. I shall not alter anything in my
plans. But it would give me so much pleasure to have one night
here with you. It will be something to look back on. Oh, Meg
lovey, do let's!

But, Helen, my pet,said Margaretwe can't without getting
Henry's leave. Of course, he would give it, but you said yourself


that you couldn't visit at Ducie Street now, and this is equally
intimate.

Ducie Street is his house. This is ours. Our furniture, our sort
of people coming to the door. Do let us camp out, just one night,
and Tom shall feed us on eggs and milk. Why not? It's a moon.

Margaret hesitated. "I feel Charles wouldn't like it she said
at last. Even our furniture annoyed himand I was going to
clear it out when Aunt Juley's illness prevented me. I sympathise
with Charles. He feels it's his mother's house. He loves it in
rather an untaking way. Henry I could answer for--not Charles."

I know he won't like it,said Helen. "But I am going to pass
out of their lives. What difference will it make in the long run
if they say'And she even spent the night at Howards End'?"

How do you know you'll pass out of their lives? We have thought
that twice before.

Because my plans--

--which you change in a moment.

Then because my life is great and theirs are little,said
Helentaking fire. "I know of things they can't know ofand so
do you. We know that there's poetry. We know that there's death.
They can only take them on hearsay. We know this is our house
because it feels ours. Ohthey may take the title-deeds and the
door-keysbut for this one night we are at home."

It would be lovely to have you once more alone,said Margaret.
It may be a chance in a thousand.

Yes, and we could talk.She dropped her voice. "It won't be a
very glorious story. But under that wych-elm--honestlyI see
little happiness ahead. Cannot I have this one night with you?"

I needn't say how much it would mean to me.

Then let us.

It is no good hesitating. Shall I drive down to Hilton now and
get leave?

Oh, we don't want leave.

But Margaret was a loyal wife. In spite of imagination and
poetry--perhaps on account of them--she could sympathise with the
technical attitude that Henry would adopt. If possibleshe would
be technicaltoo. A night's lodging--and they demanded no more-need
not involve the discussion of general principles.

Charles may say no,grumbled Helen.

We shan't consult him.

Go if you like; I should have stopped without leave.

It was the touch of selfishnesswhich was not enough to mar
Helen's characterand even added to its beauty. She would have
stopped without leave and escaped to Germany the next morning.
Margaret kissed her.


Expect me back before dark. I am looking forward to it so much.
It is like you to have thought of such a beautiful thing.

Not a thing, only an ending,said Helen rather sadly; and the
sense of tragedy closed in on Margaret again as soon as she left
the house.

She was afraid of Miss Avery. It is disquieting to fulfil a
prophecyhowever superficially. She was glad to see no watching
figure as she drove past the farmbut only little Tomturning
somersaults in the straw.

CHAPTER XXXVIII

The tragedy began quietly enoughandlike many another talkby
the man's deft assertion of his superiority. Henry heard her
arguing with the driverstepped out and settled the fellowwho
was inclined to be rudeand then led the way to some chairs on
the lawn. Dollywho had not been "told ran out with offers of
tea. He refused them, and ordered them to wheel baby's
perambulator away, as they desired to be alone.

But the diddums can't listen; he isn't nine months old she
pleaded.

That's not what I was saying retorted her father-in-law.

Baby was wheeled out of earshot, and did not hear about the
crisis till later years. It was now the turn of Margaret.

Is it what we feared?" he asked.

It is.

Dear girl,he beganthere is a troublesome business ahead of
us, and nothing but the most absolute honesty and plain speech
will see us through.Margaret bent her head. "I am obliged to
question you on subjects we'd both prefer to leave untouched. As
you knowI am not one of your Bernard Shaws who consider nothing
sacred. To speak as I must will pain mebut there are occasions
-- We are husband and wifenot children. I am a man of the
worldand you are a most exceptional woman."

All Margaret's senses forsook her. She blushedand looked past
him at the Six Hillscovered with spring herbage. Noting her
colourhe grew still more kind.

I see that you feel as I felt when-- My poor little wife! Oh, be
brave! Just one or two questions, and I have done with you. Was
your sister wearing a wedding-ring?

Margaret stammered a "No."

There was an appalling silence.

Henry, I really came to ask a favour about Howards End.

One point at a time. I am now obliged to ask for the name of her
seducer.

She rose to her feet and held the chair between them. Her colour
had ebbedand she was grey. It did not displease him that she


should receive his question thus.

Take your time,he counselled her. "Remember that this is far
worse for me than for you."

She swayed; he feared she was going to faint. Then speech came
and she said slowly: "Seducer? No; I do not know her seducer's
name."

Would she not tell you?

I never even asked her who seduced her,said Margaretdwelling
on the hateful word thoughtfully.

That is singular.Then he changed his mind. "Natural perhaps
dear girlthat you shouldn't ask. But until his name is known
nothing can be done. Sit down. How terrible it is to see you so
upset! I knew you weren't fit for it. I wish I hadn't taken you."

Margaret answeredI like to stand, if you don't mind, for it
gives me a pleasant view of the Six Hills.

As you like.

Have you anything else to ask me, Henry?

Next you must tell me whether you have gathered anything. I have
often noticed your insight, dear. I only wish my own was as good.
You may have guessed something, even though your sister said
nothing. The slightest hint would help us.

Who is 'we'?

I thought it best to ring up Charles.

That was unnecessary,said Margaretgrowing warmer. "This news
will give Charles disproportionate pain."

He has at once gone to call on your brother.

That too was unnecessary.

Let me explain, dear, how the matter stands. You don't think
that I and my son are other than gentlemen? It is in Helen's
interests that we are acting. It is still not too late to save
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 be married already? One has
heard of such cases.

In that case he must pay heavily for his misconduct, and be
thrashed within an inch of his life.

So her first blow missed. She was thankful of it. What had
tempted her to imperil both of their lives. Henry's obtuseness
had saved her as well as himself. Exhausted with angershe sat
down againblinking at him as he told her as much as he thought
fit. At last she said: "May I ask you my question now?"


Certainly, my dear.

To-morrow Helen goes to Munich--

Well, possibly she is right.

Henry, let a lady finish. To-morrow she goes; to-night, with
your permission, she would like to sleep at Howards End.

It was the crisis of his life. Again she would have recalled the
words as soon as they were uttered. She had not led up to them
with sufficient care. She longed to warn him that they were far
more important than he supposed. She saw him weighing themas if
they were a business proposition.

Why Howards End?he said at last. "Would she not be more
comfortableas I suggestedat the hotel?"

Margaret hastened to give him reasons. "It is an odd requestbut
you know what Helen is and what women in her state are." He
frownedand moved irritably. "She has the idea that one night in
your house would give her pleasure and do her good. I think
she's right. Being one of those imaginative girlsthe presence
of all our books and furniture soothes her. This is a fact. It is
the end of her girlhood. Her last words to me were'A beautiful
ending.'"

She values the old furniture for sentimental 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
goods wherever she goes--possibly more than her share, for you
are so fond of her that you'd give her anything of yours that she
fancies, wouldn't you? and I'd raise no objection. I could
understand it if it was her old home, because a home, or a
house,he changed the worddesignedly; he had thought of a
telling point--"because a house in which one has once lived
becomes in a sort of way sacredI don't know why. Associations
and so on. Now Helen has no associations with Howards Endthough
I and Charles and Evie have. I do not see why she wants to stay
the night there. She will only catch cold."

Leave it that you don't see,cried Margaret. "Call it fancy.
But realise that fancy is a scientific fact. Helen is fanciful
and wants to."

Then he surprised her--a rare occurrence. He shot an unexpected
bolt. "If she wants to sleep one night she may want to sleep two.
We shall never get her out of the houseperhaps."

Well?said Margaretwith the precipice in sight. "And suppose
we don't get her out of the house? Would it matter? She would do
no one any harm."

Again the irritated gesture.

No, Henry,she pantedreceding. "I didn't mean that. We will
only trouble Howards End for this one night. I take her to
London to-morrow--"

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 message to 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 you less, and Charles not at all.

As the future owner of Howards End,said Mr. Wilcox arching his
fingersI should say that it did concern Charles.

In what way? Will Helen's condition depreciate the property?

My dear, you are forgetting yourself.

I think you yourself recommended plain speaking.

They looked at each other in amazement. The precipice was at
their feet now.

Helen commands my sympathy,said Henry. "As your husbandI
shall do all for her that I canand I have no doubt that she
will prove more sinned against than sinning. But I cannot treat
her as if nothing has happened. I should be false to my position
in society if I did."

She controlled herself for the last time. "Nolet us go back to
Helen's request she said. It is unreasonablebut the request
of an unhappy girl. Tomorrow she will go to Germanyand trouble
society no longer. To-night she asks to sleep in your empty
house--a house which you do not care aboutand which you have
not occupied for over a year. May she? Will you give my sister
leave? Will you forgive her as you hope to be forgivenand as
you have actually been forgiven? Forgive her for one night only.
That will be enough."

As I have actually been forgiven--?

Never mind for the moment what I mean by that,said Margaret.
Answer my question.

Perhaps some hint of her meaning did dawn on him. If sohe
blotted it out. Straight from his fortress he answered: "I seem
rather unaccommodatingbut I have some experience of lifeand
know how one thing leads to another. I am afraid that your sister
had better sleep at the hotel. I have my children and the memory
of my dear wife to consider. I am sorrybut see that she leaves
my house at once."

You have mentioned Mrs. Wilcox.

I beg your pardon?

A rare occurrence. In reply, may I mention Mrs. Bast?

You have not been yourself all day,said Henryand rose from
his seat with face unmoved. Margaret rushed at him and seized
both his hands. She was transfigured.


Not any more of this!she cried. "You shall see the connection
if it kills youHenry! You have had a mistress--I forgave you.
My sister has a lover--you drive her from the house. Do you see
the connection? Stupidhypocriticalcruel--ohcontemptible!--a
man who insults his wife when she's alive and cants with her
memory when she's dead. A man who ruins a woman for his pleasure
and casts her off to ruin other men. And gives bad financial
adviceand then says he is not responsible. These men are you.
You can't recognise thembecause you cannot connect. I've had
enough of your unneeded kindness. I've spoilt you long enough.
All your life you have been spoiled. Mrs. Wilcox spoiled you. No
one has ever told what you are--muddledcriminally muddled. Men
like you use repentance as a blindso don't repent. Only say to
yourself'What Helen has doneI've done.'"

The two cases are different,Henry stammered. His real retort
was not quite ready. His brain was still in a whirland he
wanted a little longer.

In what way different? You have betrayed Mrs. Wilcox, Helen only
herself. You remain in society, Helen can't. You have had only
pleasure, she may die. You have the insolence to talk to me of
differences, Henry?

Ohthe uselessness of it! Henry's retort came.

I perceive you are attempting blackmail. It is scarcely a pretty
weapon for a wife to use against her husband. My rule through
life has been never to pay the least attention to threats, and I
can only repeat what I said before: I do not give you and your
sister leave to sleep at Howards End.

Margaret loosed his hands. He went into the housewiping first
one and then the other on his handkerchief. For a little she
stood looking at the Six Hillstombs of warriorsbreasts of the
spring. Then she passed out into what was now the evening.

CHAPTER XXXIX

Charles and Tibby met at Ducie Streetwhere the latter was
staying. Their interview was short and absurd. They had nothing
in common but the English languageand tried by its help to
express what neither of them understood. Charles saw in Helen the
family foe. He had singled her out as the most dangerous of the
Schlegelsandangry as he waslooked forward to telling his
wife how right he had been. His mind was made up at once; the
girl must be got out of the way before she disgraced them
farther. If occasion offered she might be married to a villain
orpossiblyto a fool. But this was a concession to morality
it formed no part of his main scheme. Honest and hearty was
Charles's dislikeand the past spread itself out very clearly
before him; hatred is a skilful compositor. As if they were heads
in a note-bookhe ran through all the incidents of the
Schlegels' campaign: the attempt to compromise his brotherhis
mother's legacyhis father's marriagethe introduction of the
furniturethe unpacking of the same. He had not yet heard of the
request to sleep at Howards End; that was to be their
master-stroke and the opportunity for his. But he already felt
that Howards End was the objectiveandthough he disliked the
housewas determined to defend it.

Tibbyon the other handhad no opinions. He stood above the


conventions: his sister had a right to do what she thought right.
It is not difficult to stand above the conventions when we leave
no hostages among them; men can always be more unconventional
than womenand a bachelor of independent means need encounter no
difficulties at all. Unlike CharlesTibby had money enough; his
ancestors had earned it for himand if he shocked the people in
one set of lodgings he had only to move into another. His was the
leisure without sympathy--an attitude as fatal as the strenuous;
a little cold culture may be raised on itbut no art. His
sisters had seen the family dangerand had never forgotten to
discount the gold islets that raised them from the sea. Tibby
gave all the praise to himselfand so despised the struggling
and the submerged.

Hence the absurdity of the interview; the gulf between them was
economic as well as spiritual. But several facts passed; Charles
pressed for them with an impertinence that the undergraduate
could not withstand. On what date had Helen gone abroad? To whom?
(Charles was anxious to fasten the scandal on Germany.) Then
changing his tacticshe said roughly: "I suppose you realise
that you are your sister's protector?"

In what sense?

If a man played about with my sister, I'd send a bullet through
him, but perhaps you don't mind.

I mind very much,protested Tibby.

Who d'ye suspect, then? Speak out man. One always suspects some
one.

No one. I don't think so.Involuntarily he blushed. He had
remembered the scene in his Oxford rooms.

You are hiding something,said Charles. As interviews gohe
got the best of this one. "When you saw her lastdid she mention
any one's name? Yes or no!" he thunderedso that Tibby started.

In my rooms she mentioned some friends, called the Basts.

Who are the Basts?

People--friends of hers at Evie's wedding.

I don't remember. But, by great Scott, I do! My aunt told me
about some rag-tsag. Was she full of them when you saw her? Is
there a man? Did she speak of the man? Or--look here--have you
had any dealings with him?

Tibby was silent. Without intending ithe had betrayed his
sister's confidence; he was not enough interested in human life
to see where things will lead to. He had a strong regard for
honestyand his wordonce givenhad always been kept up to
now. He was deeply vexednot only for the harm he had done
Helenbut for the flaw he had discovered in his own equipment.

I see--you are in his confidence. They met at your rooms. Oh,
what a family, what a family! God help the poor pater--s

And Tibby found himself alone.


CHAPTER XL

Leonard--he would figure at length in a newspaper reportbut
that evening he did not count for much. The foot of the tree was
in shadowsince the moon was still hidden behind the house. But
aboveto rightto leftdown the long meadow the moonlight was
streaming. Leonard seemed not a manbut a cause.

Perhaps it was Helen's way of falling in love--a curious way to
Margaretwhose agony and whose contempt of Henry were yet
imprinted with his image. Helen forgot people. They were husks
that had enclosed her emotion. She could pityor sacrifice
herselfor have instinctsbut had she ever loved in the noblest
waywhere man and womanhaving lost themselves in sexdesire
to lose sex itself in comradeship?

Margaret wonderedbut said no word of blame. This was Helen's
evening. Troubles enough lay ahead of her--the loss of friends
and of social advantagesthe agonythe supreme agonyof
motherhoodwhich is not even yet a matter of common knowledge.
For the present let the moon shine brightly and the breezes of
the spring blow gentlydying away from the gale of the dayand
let the earththat brings increasebring peace. Not even to
herself dare she blame Helen.

She could not assess her trespass by any moral code; it was
everything or nothing. Morality can tell us that murder is worse
than stealingand group most sins in an order all must approve
but it cannot group Helen. The surer its pronouncements on this
pointthe surer may we be that morality is not speaking. Christ
was evasive when they questioned Him. It is those that cannot
connect who hasten to cast the first stone.

This was Helen's evening--won at what costand not to be marred
by the sorrows of others. Of her own tragedy Margaret never
uttered a word.

One isolates,said Helen slowly. "I isolated Mr. Wilcox from
the other forces that were pulling Leonard downhill.
ConsequentlyI was full of pityand almost of revenge. For
weeks I had blamed Mr. Wilcox onlyand sowhen your letters
came-- "

I need never have written them,sighed Margaret. "They never
shielded Henry. How hopeless it is to tidy away the pasteven
for others!"

I did not know that it was your own idea to dismiss the Basts.

Looking back, that was wrong of me.

Looking back, darling, I know that it was right. It is right to
save the man whom one loves. I am less enthusiastic about justice
now. But we both thought you wrote at his dictation. It seemed
the last touch of his callousness. Being very much wrought up by
this time--and Mrs. Bast was upstairs. I had not seen her, and
had talked for a long time to Leonard--I had snubbed him for no
reason, and that should have warned me I was in danger. So when
the notes came I wanted us to go to you for an explanation. He
said that he guessed the explanation--he knew of it, and you
mustn't know. I pressed him to tell me. He said no one must know;
it was something to do with his wife. Right up to the end we were
Mr. Bast and Miss Schlegel. I was going to tell him that he must
be frank with me when I saw his eyes, and guessed that Mr.


Wilcox had ruined him in two ways, not one. I drew him to me.
I made him tell me. I felt very lonely myself. He is not to
blame. He would have gone on worshipping me. I want never to
see him again, though it sounds appalling. I wanted to give
him money and feel finished. Oh, Meg, the little that is known
about these things!

She laid her face against the tree.

The little, too, that is known about growth! Both times it was
loneliness, and the night, and panic afterwards. Did Leonard grow
out of Paul?

Margaret did not speak for a moment. So tired was she that her
attention had actually wandered to the teeth--the teeth that had
been thrust into the tree's bark to medicate it. From where she
sat she could see them gleam. She had been trying to count them.
Leonard is a better growth than madness,she said. "I was
afraid that you would react against Paul until you went over the
verge."

I did react until I found poor Leonard. I am steady now. I
shan't ever like your Henry, dearest Meg, or even speak kindly
about him, but all that blinding hate is over. I shall never rave
against Wilcoxes any more. I understand how you married him, and
you will now be very happy.

Margaret did not reply.

Yes,repeated Helenher voice growing more tenderI do at
last understand.

Except Mrs. Wilcox, dearest, no one understands our little
movements.

Because in death--I agree.

Not quite. I feel that you and I and Henry are only fragments of
that woman's mind. She knows everything. She is everything. She
is the house, and the tree that leans over it. People have their
own deaths as well as their own lives, and even if there is
nothing beyond death, we shall differ in our nothingness. I
cannot believe that knowledge such as hers will perish with
knowledge such as mine. She knew about realities. She knew when
people were in love, though she was not in the room. I don't
doubt that she knew when Henry deceived her.

Good-night, Mrs. Wilcox,called a voice.

Oh, good-night, Miss Avery.

Why should Miss Avery work for us?Helen murmured.

Why, indeed?

Miss Avery crossed the lawn and merged into the hedge that
divided it from the farm. An old gapwhich Mr. Wilcox had filled
uphad reappearedand her track through the dew followed the
path that he had turfed overwhen he improved the garden and
made it possible for games.

This is not quite our house yet,said Helen. "When Miss Avery
calledI felt we are only a couple of tourists."


We shall be that everywhere, and for ever.

But affectionate tourists.

But tourists who pretend each hotel is their home.

I can't pretend very long,said Helen. "Sitting under this tree
one forgetsbut I know that to-morrow I shall see the moon rise
out of Germany. Not all your goodness can alter the facts of the
case. Unless you will come with me."

Margaret thought for a moment. In the past year she had grown so
fond of England that to leave it was a real grief. Yet what
detained her? No doubt Henry would pardon her outburstand go on
blustering and muddling into a ripe old age. But what was the
good? She had just as soon vanish from his mind.

Are you serious in asking me, Helen? Should I get on with your
Monica?

You would not, but I am serious in asking you.

Still, no more plans now. And no more reminiscences.

They were silent for a little. It was Helen's evening.

The present flowed by them like a stream. The tree rustled. It
had made music before they were bornand would continue after
their deathsbut its song was of the moment. The moment had
passed. The tree rustled again. Their senses were sharpenedand
they seemed to apprehend life. Life passed. The tree rustled
again.

Sleep now,said Margaret.

The peace of the country was entering into her. It has no
commerce with memoryand little with hope. Least of all is it
concerned with the hopes of the next five minutes. It is the
peace of the presentwhich passes understanding. Its murmur came
now,and "now" once more as they trod the graveland "now as
the moonlight fell upon their father's sword. They passed
upstairs, kissed, and amidst the endless iterations fell
asleep. The house had enshadowed the tree at first, but as the
moon rose higher the two disentangled, and were clear fur a few
moments at midnight. Margaret awoke and looked into the garden.
How incomprehensible that Leonard Bast should have won her this
night of peace! Was he also part of Mrs. Wilcox's mind?

CHAPTER XLI

Far different was Leonard's development. The months after Oniton,
whatever minor troubles they might bring him, were all
overshadowed by Remorse. When Helen looked back she could
philosophise, or she could look into the future and plan for her
child. But the father saw nothing beyond his own sin. Weeks
afterwards, in the midst of other occupations, he would suddenly
cry out, Brute--you bruteI couldn't have--" and be rent into
two people who held dialogues. Or brown rain would descend
blotting out faces and the sky. Even Jacky noticed the change in
him. Most terrible were his sufferings when he awoke from sleep.
Sometimes he was happy at firstbut grew conscious of a burden
hanging to him and weighing down his thoughts when they would


move. Or little irons scorched his body. Or a sword stabbed him.
He would sit at the edge of his bedholding his heart and
moaningOh what SHALL I do, whatever SHALL I do?Nothing
brought ease. He could put distance between him and the trespass
but it grew in his soul.

Remorse is not among the eternal verities. The Greeks were right
to dethrone her. Her action is too capriciousas though the
Erinyes selected for punishment only certain men and certain
sins. And of all means to regeneration Remorse is surely the most
wasteful. It cuts away healthy tissues with the poisoned. It is a
knife that probes far deeper than the evil. Leonard was driven
straight through its torments and emerged purebut enfeebled--a
better manwho would never lose control of himself againbut
also a smaller manwho had less to control. Nor did purity mean
peace. The use of the knife can become a habit as hard to shake
off as passion itselfand Leonard continued to start with a cry
out of dreams.

He built up a situation that was far enough from the truth. It
never occurred to him that Helen was to blame. He forgot the
intensity of their talkthe charm that had been lent him by
sinceritythe magic of Oniton under darkness and of the
whispering river. Helen loved the absolute. Leonard had been
ruined absolutelyand had appeared to her as a man apart
isolated from the world. A real manwho cared for adventure and
beautywho desired to live decently and pay his waywho could
have travelled more gloriously through life than the juggernaut
car that was crushing him. Memories of Evie's wedding had warped
herthe starched servantsthe yards of uneaten foodthe rustle
of overdressed womenmotor-cars oozing grease on the gravela
pretentious band. She had tasted the lees of this on her arrival;
in the darknessafter failurethey intoxicated her. She and the
victim seemed alone in a world of unrealityand she loved him
absolutelyperhaps for half an hour.

In the morning she was gone. The note that she lefttender and
hysterical in toneand intended to be most kindhurt her lover
terribly. It was as if some work of art had been broken by him
some picture in the National Gallery slashed out of its frame.
When he recalled her talents and her social positionhe felt
that the first passer-by had a right to shoot him down. He was
afraid of the waitress and the porters at the railway-station. He
was afraid at first of his wifethough later he was to regard
her with a strange new tendernessand to thinkThere is
nothing to choose between us, after all.

The expedition to Shropshire crippled the Basts permanently.
Helen in her flight forgot to settle the hotel billand took
their return tickets away with her; they had to pawn Jacky's
bangles to get homeand the smash came a few days afterwards. It
is true that Helen offered him five thousand poundsbut such a
sum meant nothing to him. He could not see that the girl was
desperately righting herselfand trying to save something out of
the disasterif it was only five thousand pounds. But he had to
live somehow. He turned to his familyand degraded himself to a
professional beggar. There was nothing else for him to do.

A letter from Leonard,thought Blanchehis sister; "and after
all this time." She hid itso that her husband should not see
and when he had gone to his work read it with some emotionand
sent the prodigal a little money out of her dress allowance.

A letter from Leonard!said the other sisterLauraa few days


later. She showed it to her husband. He wrote a cruelinsolent
replybut sent more money than Blancheso Leonard soon wrote to
him again.

And during the winter the system was developed.

Leonard realised that they need never starvebecause it would be
too painful for his relatives. Society is based on the family
and the clever wastrel can exploit this indefinitely. Without a
generous thought on either sidepounds and pounds passed. The
donors disliked Leonardand he grew to hate them intensely. When
Laura censured his immoral marriagehe thought bitterlyShe
minds that! What would she say if she knew the truth?When
Blanche's husband offered him workhe found some pretext for
avoiding it. He had wanted work keenly at Onitonbut too much
anxiety had shattered himhe was joining the unemployable. When
his brotherthe lay-readerdid not reply to a letterhe wrote
againsaying that he and Jacky would come down to his village on
foot. He did not intend this as blackmail. Still the brother sent
a postal orderand it became part of the system. And so passed
his winter and his spring.

In the horror there are two bright spots. He never confused the
past. He remained aliveand blessed are those who liveif it is
only to a sense of sinfulness. The anodyne of muddledomby which
most men blur and blend their mistakesnever passed Leonard's
lips-


And if I drink oblivion of a day,
So shorten I the stature of my soul.


It is a hard sayingand a hard man wrote itbut it lies at the
root of all character.

And the other bright spot was his tenderness for Jacky. He pitied
her with nobility now--not the contemptuous pity of a man who
sticks to a woman through thick and thin. He tried to be less
irritable. He wondered what her hungry eyes desired--nothing that
she could expressor that he or any man could give her. Would
she ever receive the justice that is mercy--the justice for
by-products that the world is too busy to bestow? She was fond of
flowersgenerous with moneyand not revengeful. If she had
borne him a child he might have cared for her. UnmarriedLeonard
would never have begged; he would have flickered out and died.
But the whole of life is mixed. He had to provide for Jackyand
went down dirty paths that she might have a few feathers and the
dishes of food that suited her.

One day he caught sight of Margaret and her brother. He was in
St. Paul's. He had entered the cathedral partly to avoid the rain
and partly to see a picture that had educated him in former
years. But the light was badthe picture ill placedand Time
and judgment were inside him now. Death alone still charmed him
with her lap of poppieson which all men shall sleep. He took
one glanceand turned aimlessly away towards a chair. Then down
the nave he saw Miss Schlegel and her brother. They stood in the
fairway of passengersand their faces were extremely grave. He
was perfectly certain that they were in trouble about their
sister.

Once outside--and he fled immediately--he wished that he had
spoken to them. What was his life? What were a few angry words
or even imprisonment? He had done wrong--that was the true
terror. Whatever they might knowhe would tell them everything


he knew. He re-entered St. Paul's. But they had moved in his
absenceand had gone to lay their difficulties before Mr. Wilcox
and Charles.

The sight of Margaret turned remorse into new channels. He
desired to confessand though the desire is proof of a weakened
naturewhich is about to lose the essence of human intercourse
it did not take an ignoble form. He did not suppose that
confession would bring him happiness. It was rather that he
yearned to get clear of the tangle. So does the suicide yearn.
The impulses are akinand the crime of suicide lies rather in
its disregard for the feelings of those whom we leave behind.
Confession need harm no one--it can satisfy that test--and
though it was un-Englishand ignored by our Anglican cathedral
Leonard had a right to decide upon it.

Moreoverhe trusted Margaret. He wanted her hardness now. That
coldintellectual nature of hers would be justif unkind. He
would do whatever she told himeven if he had to see Helen. That
was the supreme punishment she would exact. And perhaps she would
tell him how Helen was. That was the supreme reward.

He knew nothing about Margaretnot even whether she was married
to Mr. Wilcoxand tracking her out took several days. That
evening he toiled through the wet to Wickham Placewhere the new
flats were now appearing. Was he also the cause of their move?
Were they expelled from society on his account? Thence to a
public librarybut could find no satisfactory Schlegel in the
directory. On the morrow he searched again. He hung about outside
Mr. Wilcox's office at lunch timeandas the clerks came out
saidExcuse me, sir, but is your boss married?Most of them
staredsome saidWhat's that to you?but onewho had not yet
acquired reticencetold him what he wished. Leonard could not
learn the private address. That necessitated more trouble with
directories and tubes. Ducie Street was not discovered till the
Mondaythe day that Margaret and her husband went down on their
hunting expedition to Howards End.

He called at about four o'clock. The weather had changedand the
sun shone gaily on the ornamental steps--black and white marble
in triangles. Leonard lowered his eyes to them after ringing the
bell. He felt in curious health; doors seemed to be opening and
shutting inside his bodyand he had been obliged to sleep
sitting up in bedwith his back propped against the wall. When
the parlourmaid came he could not see her face; the brown rain
had descended suddenly.

Does Mrs. Wilcox live here?he asked.

She's out,was the answer.

When will she be back?

I'll ask,said the parlourmaid.

Margaret had given instructions that no one who mentioned her
name should ever be rebuffed. Putting the door on the chain--for
Leonard's appearance demanded this--she went through to the
smoking-roomwhich was occupied by Tibby. Tibby was asleep. He
had had a good lunch. Charles Wilcox had not yet rung him up for
the distracting interview. He said drowsily: "I don't know.
Hilton. Howards End. Who is it?"

I'll ask, sir.


No, don't bother.

They have taken the car to Howards End,said the parlourmaid to
Leonard.

He thanked herand asked whereabouts that place was.

You appear to want to know a good deal,she remarked. But
Margaret had forbidden her to be mysterious. She told him against
her better judgment that Howards End was in Hertfordshire.

Is it a village, please?

Village! It's Mr. Wilcox's private house--at least, it's one of
them. Mrs. Wilcox keeps her furniture there. Hilton is the
village.

Yes. And when will they be back?

Mr. Schlegel doesn't know. We can't know everything, can we?
She shut him outand went to attend to the telephonewhich was
ringing furiously.

He loitered away another night of agony. Confession grew more
difficult. As soon as possible he went to bed. He watched a patch
of moonlight cross the floor of their lodgingandas sometimes
happens when the mind is overtaxedhe fell asleep for the rest
of the roombut kept awake for the patch of moonlight. Horrible!
Then began one of those disintegrating dialogues. Part of him
said: "Why horrible? It's ordinary light from the moon." "But
it moves." "So does the moon." "But it is a clenched fist."
Why not?But it is going to touch me.Let it.Andseeming
to gather motionthe patch ran up his blanket. Presently a blue
snake appeared; then another parallel to it. "Is there life in
the moon?" "Of course." "But I thought it was uninhabited."
Not by Time, Death, Judgment, and the smaller snakes.Smaller
snakes!said Leonard indignantly and aloud. "What a notion!" By
a rending effort of the will he woke the rest of the room up.
Jackythe bedtheir foodtheir clothes on the chairgradually
entered his consciousnessand the horror vanished outwardslike
a ring that is spreading through water.

I say, Jacky, I'm going out for a bit.

She was breathing regularly. The patch of light fell clear of the
striped blanketand began to cover the shawl that lay over her
feet. Why had he been afraid? He went to the windowand saw that
the moon was descending through a clear sky. He saw her volcanoes
and the bright expanses that a gracious error has named seas.
They paledfor the sunwho had lit them upwas coming to light
the earth. Sea of SerenitySea of TranquillityOcean of the
Lunar Stormsmerged into one lucent dropitself to slip into
the sempiternal dawn. And he had been afraid of the moon!

He dressed among the contending lightsand went through his
money. It was running low againbut enough for a return ticket
to Hilton. As it clinkedJacky opened her eyes.

Hullo, Len! What ho, Len!

What ho, Jacky! see you again later.

She turned over and slept.


The house was unlockedtheir landlord being a salesman at Covent
Garden. Leonard passed out and made his way down to the station.
The trainthough it did not start for an hourwas already drawn
up at the end of the platformand he lay down in it and slept.
With the first jolt he was in daylight; they had left the
gateways of King's Crossand were under blue sky. Tunnels
followedand after each the sky grew bluerand from the
embankment at Finsbury Park he had his first sight of the sun. It
rolled along behind the eastern smokes--a wheelwhose fellow was
the descending moon--and as yet it seemed the servant of the blue
skynot its lord. He dozed again. Over Tewin Water it was day.
To the left fell the shadow of the embankment and its arches; to
the right Leonard saw up into the Tewin Woods and towards the
churchwith its wild legend of immortality. Six forest trees-that
is a fact--grow out of one of the graves in Tewin
churchyard. The grave's occupant--that is the legend--is an
atheistwho declared that if God existedsix forest trees would
grow out of her grave. These things in Hertfordshire; and farther
afield lay the house of a hermit--Mrs. Wilcox had known him--who
barred himself upand wrote propheciesand gave all he had to
the poor. Whilepowdered in betweenwere the villas of business
menwho saw life more steadilythough with the steadiness of
the half-closed eye. Over all the sun was streamingto all the
birds were singingto all the primroses were yellowand the
speedwell blueand the countryhowever they interpreted her
was uttering her cry of "now." She did not free Leonard yetand
the knife plunged deeper into his heart as the train drew up at
Hilton. But remorse had become beautiful.

Hilton was asleepor at the earliestbreakfasting. Leonard
noticed the contrast when he stepped out of it into the country.
Here men had been up since dawn. Their hours were rulednot by a
London officebut by the movements of the crops and the sun.
That they were men of the finest type only the sentimentalists
can declare. But they kept to the life of daylight. They are
England's hope. Clumsily they carry forward the torch of the sun
until such time as the nation sees fit to take it up. Half
clodhopperhalf board-school prigthey can still throw back to
a nobler stockand breed yeomen.

At the chalk pit a motor passed him. In it was another typewhom
Nature favours--the Imperial. Healthyever in motionit hopes
to inherit the earth. It breeds as quickly as the yeomanand as
soundly; strong is the temptation to acclaim it as a super-yeoman
who carries his country's virtue overseas. But the Imperialist is
not what he thinks or seems. He is a destroyer. He prepares the
way for cosmopolitanismand though his ambitions may be fulfilled
the earth that he inherits will be grey.

To Leonardintent on his private sinthere came the conviction
of innate goodness elsewhere. It was not the optimism which he
had been taught at school. Again and again must the drums tap
and the goblins stalk over the universe before joy can be purged
of the superficial. It was rather paradoxicaland arose from his
sorrow. Death destroys a manbut the idea of death saves him-that
is the best account of it that has yet been given. Squalor
and tragedy can beckon to all that is great in usand strengthen
the wings of love. They can beckon; it is not certain that they
willfor they are not love's servants. But they can beckonand
the knowledge of this incredible truth comforted him.

As he approached the house all thought stopped. Contradictory
notions stood side by side in his mind. He was terrified but


happyashamedbut had done no sin. He knew the confession:
Mrs. Wilcox, I have done wrong,but sunrise had robbed its
meaningand he felt rather on a supreme adventure.

He entered a gardensteadied himself against a motor-car that he
found in itfound a door open and entered a house. Yesit would
be very easy. From a room to the left he heard voicesMargaret's
amongst them. His own name was called aloudand a man whom he
had never seen saidOh, is he there? I am not surprised. I now
thrash him within an inch of his life.

Mrs. Wilcox,said LeonardI have done wrong.

The man took him by the collar and criedBring me a stick.
Women were screaming. A stickvery brightdescended. It hurt
himnot where it descendedbut in the heart. Books fell over
him in a shower. Nothing had sense.

Get some water,commanded Charleswho had all through kept
very calm. "He's shamming. Of course I only used the blade. Here
carry him out into the air."

Thinking that he understood these thingsMargaret obeyed him.
They laid Leonardwho was deadon the gravel; Helen poured
water over him.

That's enough,said Charles.

Yes, murder's enough,said Miss Averycoming out of the house
with the sword.

CHAPTER XLII

When Charles left Ducie Street he had caught the first train
homebut had no inkling of the newest development until late at
night. Then his fatherwho had dined alonesent for himand in
very grave tones inquired for Margaret.

I don't know where she is, patersaid Charles. Dolly kept back
dinner nearly an hour for her."

Tell me when she comes in.

Another hour passed. The servants went to bedand Charles
visited his father againto receive further instructions. Mrs.
Wilcox had still not returned.

I'll sit up for her as late as you like, but she can hardly be
coming. Isn't she stopping with her sister at the hotel?

Perhaps,said Mr. Wilcox thoughtfully--"perhaps."

Can I do anything for you, sir?

Not to-night, my boy.

Mr. Wilcox liked being called sir. He raised his eyesand gave
his son more open a look of tenderness than he usually ventured.
He saw Charles as little boy and strong man in one. Though his
wife had proved unstable his children were left to him.

After midnight he tapped on Charles's door. "I can't sleep he


said. I had better have a talk with you and get it over."

He complained of the heat. Charles took him out into the garden
and they paced up and down in their dressing-gowns. Charles
became very quiet as the story unrolled; he had known all along
that Margaret was as bad as her sister.

She will feel differently in the morning,said Mr. Wilcoxwho
had of course said nothing about Mrs. Bast. "But I cannot let
this kind of thing continue without comment. I am morally certain
that she is with her sister at Howards End. The house is mine-and
Charlesit will be yours--and when I say that no one is to
live thereI mean that no one is to live there. I won't have
it." He looked angrily at the moon. "To my mind this question is
connected with something far greaterthe rights of property
itself."

Undoubtedly,said Charles.

Mr. Wilcox linked his arm in his son'sbut somehow liked him
less as he told him more. "I don't want you to conclude that my
wife and I had anything of the nature of a quarrel. She was only
overwroughtas who would not be? I shall do what I can for
Helenbut on the understanding that they clear out of the house
at once. Do you see? That is a sine qua non."

Then at eight to-morrow I may go up in the car?

Eight or earlier. Say that you are acting as my representative,
and, of course, use no violence, Charles.

On the morrowas Charles returnedleaving Leonard dead upon the
gravelit did not seem to him that he had used violence. Death
was due to heart disease. His stepmother herself had said soand
even Miss Avery had acknowledged that he only used the flat of
the sword. On his way through the village he informed the police
who thanked himand said there must be an inquest. He found his
father in the garden shading his eyes from the sun.

It has been pretty horrible,said Charles gravely. "They were
thereand they had the man up there with them too."

What--what man?

I told you last night. His name was Bast.

My God! is it possible?said Mr. Wilcox. "In your mother's
house! Charlesin your mother's house!"

I know, pater. That was what I felt. As a matter of fact, there
is no need to trouble about the man. He was in the last stages of
heart disease, and just before I could show him what I thought of
him he went off. The police are seeing about it at this moment.

Mr. Wilcox listened attentively.

I got up there--oh, it couldn't have been more than half-past
seven. The Avery woman was lighting a fire for them. They were
still upstairs. I waited in the drawing-room. We were all
moderately civil and collected, though I had my suspicions. I
gave them your message, and Mrs. Wilcox said, 'Oh yes, I see;
yes,' in that way of hers.

Nothing else?


I promised to tell you, 'with her love,' that she was going to
Germany with her sister this evening. That was all we had time
for.

Mr. Wilcox seemed relieved.

Because by then I suppose the man got tired of hiding, for
suddenly Mrs. Wilcox screamed out his name. I recognised it,
and I went for him in the hall. Was I right, pater? I thought
things were going a little too far.

Right, my dear boy? I don't know. But you would have been no son
of mine if you hadn't. Then did he just--just--crumple up as you
said?He shrunk from the simple word.

He caught hold of the bookcase, which came down over him. So I
merely put the sword down and carried him into the garden. We all
thought he was shamming. However, he's dead right enough. Awful
business!

Sword?cried his fatherwith anxiety in his voice. "What
sword? Whose sword?"

A sword of theirs.

What were you doing with it?

Well, didn't you see, pater, I had to snatch up the first thing
handy. I hadn't a riding-whip or stick. I caught him once or twice
over the shoulders with the flat of their old German sword.

Then what?

He pulled over the bookcase, as I said, and fell,aid Charles
with a sigh. It was no fun doing errands for his fatherwho was
never quite satisfied.

But the real cause was heart disease? Of that you're sure?

That or a fit. However, we shall hear more than enough at the
inquest on such unsavoury topics.

They went in to breakfast. Charles had a racking headache
consequent on motoring before food. He was also anxious about the
futurereflecting that the police must detain Helen and Margaret
for the inquest and ferret the whole thing out. He saw himself
obliged to leave Hilton. One could not afford to live near the
scene of a scandal--it was not fair on one's wife. His comfort was
that the pater's eyes were opened at last. There would be a
horrible smash-upand probably a separation from Margaret; then
they would all start againmore as they had been in his mother's
time.

I think I'll go round to the police-station,said his father
when breakfast was over.

What for?cried Dollywho had still not been "told."

Very well, sir. Which car will you have?

I think I'll walk.

It's a good half-mile,said Charlesstepping into the


garden. "The sun's very hot for April. Shan't I take you upand
thenperhapsa little spin round by Tewin?"

You go on as if I didn't know my own mind said Mr. Wilcox
fretfully. Charles hardened his mouth. "You young fellows' one
idea is to get into a motor. I tell youI want to walk; I'm
very fond of walking."

Oh, all right; I'm about the house if you want me for anything.
I thought of not going up to the office to-day, if that is your
wish.

It is, indeed, my boy,said Mr. Wilcoxand laid a hand on his
sleeve.

Charles did not like it; he was uneasy about his fatherwho did
not seem himself this morning. There was a petulant touch about
him--more like a woman. Could it be that he was growing old? The
Wilcoxes were not lacking in affection; they had it royallybut
they did not know how to use it. It was the talent in the napkin
andfor a warm-hearted manCharles had conveyed very little
joy. As he watched his father shuffling up the roadhe had a
vague regret--a wish that something had been different somewhere-a
wish (though he did not express it thus) that he had been
taught to say "I" in his youth. He meant to make up for Margaret's
defectionbut knew that his father had been very happy with her
until yesterday. How had she done it? By some dishonest trick
no doubt--but how?

Mr. Wilcox reappeared at elevenlooking very tired. There was to
be an inquest on Leonard's body to-morrowand the police
required his son to attend.

I expected that,said Charles. "I shall naturally be the most
important witness there."

CHAPTER XLIII

Out of the turmoil and horror that had begun with Aunt Juley's
illness and was not even to end with Leonard's deathit seemed
impossible to Margaret that healthy life should re-emerge. Events
succeeded in a logicalyet senselesstrain. People lost their
humanityand took values as arbitrary as those in a pack of
playing-cards. It was natural that Henry should do this and cause
Helen to do thatand then think her wrong for doing it; natural
that she herself should think him wrong; natural that Leonard
should want to know how Helen wasand comeand Charles be angry
with him for coming--naturalbut unreal. In this jangle of
causes and effects what had become of their true selves? Here
Leonard lay dead in the gardenfrom natural causes; yet life was
a deepdeep riverdeath a blue skylife was a housedeath a
wisp of haya flowera towerlife and death were anything and
everythingexcept this ordered insanitywhere the king takes
the queenand the ace the king. Ahno; there was beauty and
adventure behindsuch as the man at her feet had yearned for;
there was hope this side of the grave; there were truer
relationships beyond the limits that fetter us now. As a prisoner
looks up and sees stars beckoningso shefrom the turmoil and
horror of those dayscaught glimpses of the diviner wheels.

And Helendumb with frightbut trying to keep calm for the
child's sakeand Miss Averycalmbut murmuring tenderlyNo


one ever told the lad he'll have a child--they also reminded her
that horror is not the end. To what ultimate harmony we tend she
did not knowbut there seemed great chance that a child would be
born into the worldto take the great chances of beauty and
adventure that the world offers. She moved through the sunlit
gardengathering narcissicrimson-eyed and white. There was
nothing else to be done; the time for telegrams and anger was
over and it seemed wisest that the hands of Leonard should be
folded on his breast and be filled with flowers. Here was the
father; leave it at that. Let Squalor be turned into Tragedy
whose eyes are the starsand whose hands hold the sunset and the
dawn.

And even the influx of officialseven the return of the doctor
vulgar and acutecould not shake her belief in the eternity of
beauty. Science explained peoplebut could not understand them.
After long centuries among the bones and muscles it might be
advancing to knowledge of the nervesbut this would never give
understanding. One could open the heart to Mr. Mansbridge and his
sort without discovering its secrets to themfor they wanted
everything down in black and whiteand black and white was
exactly what they were left with.

They questioned her closely about Charles. She never suspected
why. Death had comeand the doctor agreed that it was due to
heart disease. They asked to see her father's sword. She
explained that Charles's anger was naturalbut mistaken.
Miserable questions about Leonard followedall of which she
answered unfalteringly. Then back to Charles again. "No doubt Mr.
Wilcox may have induced death she said; but if it wasn't one
thing it would have been another as you know." At last they
thanked her and took the sword and the body down to Hilton. She
began to pick up the books from the floor.

Helen had gone to the farm. It was the best place for hersince
she had to wait for the inquest. Thoughas if things were not
hard enoughMadge and her husband had raised trouble; they did
not see why they should receive the offscourings of Howards End.
Andof coursethey were right. The whole world was going to be
rightand amply avenge any brave talk against the conventions.
Nothing matters,the Schlegels had said in the pastexcept
one's self-respect and that of one's friends.When the time
cameother things mattered terribly. HoweverMadge had yielded
and Helen was assured of peace for one day and nightand
to-morrow she would return to Germany.

As for herselfshe determined to go too. No message came from
Henry; perhaps he expected her to apologise. Now that she had
time to think over her own tragedyshe was unrepentant. She
neither forgave him for his behaviour nor wished to forgive him.
Her speech to him seemed perfect. She would not have altered a
word. It had to be uttered once in a lifeto adjust the
lopsidedness of the world. It was spoken not only to her husband
but to thousands of men like him--a protest against the inner
darkness in high places that comes with a commercial age. Though
he would build up his life without hersshe could not apologise.
He had refused to connecton the clearest issue that can be laid
before a manand their love must take the consequences.

Nothere was nothing more to be done. They had tried not to go
over the precipicebut perhaps the fall was inevitable. And it
comforted her to think that the future was certainly inevitable;
cause and effect would go jangling forward to some goal doubtless
but to none that she could imagine. At such moments the soul


retires withinto float upon the bosom of a deeper streamand
has communion with the deadand sees the world's glory not
diminishedbut different in kind to what she has supposed. She
alters her focus until trivial things are blurred. Margaret had
been tending this way all the winter. Leonard's death brought her
to the goal. Alas! that Henry should fade away as reality emerged
and only her love for him should remain clearstamped with his
image like the cameos we rescue out of dreams.

With unfaltering eye she traced his future. He would soon present
a healthy mind to the world againand what did he or the world
care if he was rotten at the core? He would grow into a rich
jolly old manat times a little sentimental about womenbut
emptying his glass with anyone. Tenacious of powerhe would keep
Charles and the rest dependentand retire from business
reluctantly and at an advanced age. He would settle down--though
she could not realise this. In her eyes Henry was always moving
and causing others to moveuntil the ends of the earth met. But
in time he must get too tired to moveand settle down. What next?
The inevitable word. The release of the soul to its appropriate
Heaven.

Would they meet in it? Margaret believed in immortality for
herself. An eternal future had always seemed natural to her. And
Henry believed in it for himself. Yetwould they meet again? Are
there not rather endless levels beyond the graveas the theory
that he had censured teaches? And his levelwhether higher or
lowercould it possibly be the same as hers?

Thus gravely meditatingshe was summoned by him. He sent up
Crane in the motor. Other servants passed like waterbut the
chauffeur remainedthough impertinent and disloyal. Margaret
disliked Craneand he knew it.

Is it the keys that Mr. Wilcox wants?she asked

He didn't say, madam.

You haven't any note for me?

He didn't say, madam.

After a moment's thought she locked up Howards End. It was
pitiable to see in it the stirrings of warmth that would be
quenched for ever. She raked out the fire that was blazing in the
kitchenand spread the coals in the gravelled yard. She closed
the windows and drew the curtains. Henry would probably sell the
place now.

She was determined not to spare himfor nothing new had happened
as far as they were concerned. Her mood might never have altered
from yesterday evening. He was standing a little outside
Charles's gateand motioned the car to stop. When his wife got
out he said hoarsely: "I prefer to discuss things with you
outside."

It will be more appropriate in the road, I am afraid,said
Margaret. "Did you get my message?"

What about?

I am going to Germany with my sister. I must tell you now that I
shall make it my permanent home. Our talk last night was more
important than you have realised. I am unable to forgive you and


am leaving you.

I am extremely tired,said Henryin injured tones. "I have
been walking about all the morningand wish to sit down."

Certainly, if you will consent to sit on the grass.

The Great North Road should have been bordered all its length
with glebe. Henry's kind had filched most of it. She moved to the
scrap oppositewherein were the Six Hills. They sat down on the
farther sideso that they could not be seen by Charles or Dolly.

Here are your keys,said Margaret. She tossed them towards
him. They fell on the sunlit slope of grassand he did not pick
them up.

I have something to tell you,he said gently.

She knew this superficial gentlenessthis confession of
hastinessthat was only intended to enhance her admiration of
the male.

I don't want to hear it,she replied. "My sister is going to be
ill. My life is going to be with her now. We must manage to build
up somethingshe and I and her child."

Where are you going?

Munich. We start after the inquest, if she is not too ill.

After the inquest?

Yes.

Have you realised what the verdict at the inquest will be?

Yes, heart disease.

No, my dear; manslaughter.

Margaret drove her fingers through the grass. The hill beneath
her moved as if it were alive.

Manslaughter,repeated Mr. Wilcox. "Charles may go to prison. I
dare not tell him. I don't know what to do--what to do. I'm
broken--I'm ended."

No sudden warmth arose in her. She did not see that to break him
was her only hope. She did not enfold the sufferer in her arms.
But all through that day and the next a new life began to move.
The verdict was brought in. Charles was committed for trial. It
was against all reason that he should be punishedbut the law
notwithstandingsentenced him to three years' imprisonment. Then
Henry's fortress gave way. He could bear no one but his wife; he
shambled up to Margaret afterwards and asked her to do what she
could with him. She did what seemed easiest--she took him down to
recruit at Howards End.

CHAPTER XLIV

Tom's father was cutting the big meadow. He passed again and
again amid whirring blades and sweet odours of grass


encompassing with narrowing circles the sacred centre of the
field. Tom was negotiating with Helen. "I haven't any idea she
replied. Do you suppose baby mayMeg?"

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

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

I haven't the least notion,answered Margaretand took up her
work again.

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

Tom held out his arms.

That child is a wonderful nursemaid,remarked Margaret.

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

Starting at the ages of six and one?

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

It may be a greater thing for baby.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dreadfully. That is why I wish Dolly had not come, too, to-day.


Still, be wanted them all to come. It has to be.

Why does he want them?

Margaret did not answer.

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

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

I usen't to.

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

I like Henry because he does worry.

And he likes you because you don't.

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

Margaret never stopped working.

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

I do not agree. I do not.

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

Yes, please?

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

Margaret silenced her. She said: "It is only that people are far
more different than is pretended. All over the world men and
women are worrying because they cannot develop as they are
supposed to develop. Here and there they have the matter outand
it comforts them. Don't fret yourselfHelen. Develop what you
have; love your child. I do not love children. I am thankful to
have none. I can play with their beauty and charmbut that is


all--nothing realnot one scrap of what there ought to be. And
others--others go farther stilland move outside humanity
altogether. A placeas well as a personmay catch the glow.
Don't you see that all this leads to comfort in the end? It is
part of the battle against sameness. Differenceseternal
differencesplanted by God in a single familyso that there may
always be colour; sorrow perhapsbut colour in the daily grey.
Then I can't have you worrying about Leonard. Don't drag in the
personal when it will not come. Forget him."

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

Perhaps an adventure.

Is that enough?

Not for us. But for him.

Helen took up a bunch of grass. She looked at the sorreland the
red and white and yellow cloverand the quaker grassand the
daisiesand the bents that composed it. She raised it to her
face.

Is it sweetening yet?asked Margaret.

No, only withered.

It will sweeten to-morrow.

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

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

Yes, but who settled us down?

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

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

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

I hope it will be permanent,said Helendrifting away to other
thoughts.

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


All the same, London's creeping.

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

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

Margaret knew that her sister spoke truly. Howards EndOniton
the Purbeck Downsthe Oderbergewere all survivalsand the
melting-pot was being prepared for them. Logicallythey had no
right to be alive. One's hope was in the weakness of logic. Were
they possibly the earth beating time?

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

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

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

It was Paul.

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

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

She took her work and followed him.

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

Yes, I did.

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

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

Is this going to suit everyone?said Henry in a weary voice. He
used the old phrasesbut their effect was unexpected and


shadowy. "Because I don't want you all coming here later on and
complaining that I have been unfair."

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

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

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

Very well. Does my arrangement suit you, Evie?

Of course, father.

And you, Dolly?

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

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

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

Margaret did not answer. There was something uncanny in her
triumph. Shewho had never expected to conquer anyonehad
charged straight through these Wilcoxes and broken up their
lives.

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

Paul rose to his feet. He was accustomed to nativesand a very
little shook him out of the Englishman. Feeling manly and
cynicalhe said: "Down in the field? Ohcome! I think we might
have had the whole establishmentpiccaninnies included."

Mrs. Cahill whispered: "Don'tPaul. You promised you'd take
care." Feeling a woman of the worldshe rose and prepared to
take her leave.

Her father kissed her. "Good-byeold girlhe said; don't you
worry about me."

Good-bye, dad.

Then it was Dolly's turn. Anxious to contributeshe laughed


nervouslyand said: "Good-byeMr. Wilcox. It does seem curious
that Mrs. Wilcox should have left Margaret Howards Endand yet
she get itafter all."

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

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

Good-bye."

Good-bye, Dolly.

So long, father.

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

Good-bye, Mrs. Wilcox.

Good-bye.

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

Tranquilly he replied: "Yesshe did. But that is a very old
story. When she was ill and you were so kind to her she wanted to
make you some returnandnot being herself at the time
scribbled 'Howards End' on a piece of paper. I went into it
thoroughlyandas it was clearly fancifulI set it aside
little knowing what my Margaret would be to me in the future."

Margaret was silent. Something shook her life in its inmost
recessesand she shivered.

I didn't do wrong, did I?he askedbending down.

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

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

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

WEYBRIDGE1908-191O.