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´╗┐Title: Howards End
Author: Forster, E. M. (Edward Morgan)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Howards End" ***

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Howards End

by E. M. Forster



Chapter 1

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
little, and altogether delightful--red brick.  We can
scarcely pack in as it is, and the dear knows what will
happen when Paul (younger son) arrives tomorrow.  From hall
you go right or left into dining-room or drawing-room.  Hall
itself is practically a room.  You open another door in it,
and there are the stairs going up in a sort of tunnel to the
first-floor.  Three bedrooms in a row there, and three
attics in a row above.  That isn't all the house really, but
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 tiresome, he starts a new mortal disease
every month.  How could he have got hay fever in London?
and even if he could, it 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 too, but he's
brave, and gets quite cross when we inquire after it.  Men
like the Wilcoxes would do Tibby a power of good.  But you
won't agree, and 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 greengage-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
t'other 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 place, and 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 tall, so
that they fall down in garlands, and nice and thin at the
bottom, so that you can see ducks through it and a cow.
These belong to the farm, which 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 company, but 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.
Wilcox, if quieter than in Germany, is sweeter than ever,
and I never saw anything like her steady unselfishness, and
the best of it is that the others do not take advantage of
her.  They are the very happiest, jolliest family that you
can imagine.  I do really feel that we are making friends.
The fun of it is that they think me a noodle, and say so--at
least Mr. Wilcox does--and when that happens, and one
doesn't mind, it's a pretty sure test, isn't it?  He says
the most horrid things about women's suffrage so nicely, and
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 equal, nor 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 poetry, or you.  Anyhow, it's
been knocked into pieces, and, like all people who are
really strong, Mr. Wilcox did it without hurting me.  On the
other hand, I laugh at them for catching hay fever.  We live
like fighting-cocks, and Charles takes us out every day in
the motor--a tomb with trees in it, a hermit's house, a
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 view's 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 2

Margaret glanced at her sister's note and pushed it over the
breakfast-table to her aunt.  There was a moment's hush, and
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.  "No, I
won't, I'll finish my breakfast.  In fact, I 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--'Speyer, Maintz, and 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 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
the unknown.  She was to have come back Saturday, but put
off till Monday, perhaps on account of--I don't know.

She broke off, and listened to the sounds of a London
morning.  Their house was in Wickham Place, and fairly
quiet, for a lofty promontory of buildings separated it from
the main thoroughfare.  One had the sense of a backwater, or
rather of an estuary, whose waters flowed in from the
invisible sea, and ebbed into a profound silence while the
waves without were still beating.  Though the promontory
consisted of flats--expensive, with cavernous entrance
halls, full of concierges and palms--it fulfilled its
purpose, and gained for the older houses opposite a certain
measure of peace.  These, too, would be swept away in time,
and another promontory would rise upon their site, as
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 hysterical,
and was trying to gain time by a torrent of talk.  Feeling
very diplomatic, she lamented the fate of Speyer, and
declared that never, never should she be so misguided as to
visit it, and added of her own accord that the principles of
restoration were ill understood in Germany.  "The Germans,"
she said, "are too thorough, and this is all very well
sometimes, but 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. Munt, admitting into
her kindly voice a note of exasperation.  "Margaret, if I
may interfere, don't be taken by surprise.  What do you
think of the Wilcoxes?  Are they our sort?  Are they likely
people?  Could they appreciate Helen, who 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 down, she was not going to tell her.  She was not
going to say "I love my dear sister; I must be near her at
this crisis of her life."  The affections are more reticent
than the passions, and their expression more subtle.  If she
herself should ever fall in love with a man, she, like
Helen, would proclaim it from the house-tops, but as she
only loved a sister she used the voiceless language of sympathy.

"I consider you odd girls," continued Mrs. Munt, "and
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 must,
must go to Howards End myself.  You don't exactly
understand, though I can never thank you properly for offering."

"I do understand," retorted Mrs. Munt, with 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 hurried, not beautiful, not supremely
brilliant, but filled with something that took the place of
both qualities--something best described as a profound
vivacity, a 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." Then, with
one of those turns that convinced her aunt that she was not
mad really and convinced observers of another type that she
was not a barren theorist, she added: "Though in the case of
Carter Paterson I should want it to be a very long
engagement indeed, I must say."

"I should think so," said Mrs. Munt; "and, indeed, I can
scarcely follow you.  Now, just imagine if you said anything
of that sort to the Wilcoxes.  I understand it, but most
good people would think you mad.  Imagine how disconcerting
for Helen!  What is wanted is a person who will go slowly,
slowly 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 her, again kissed her, and 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 ached, his eyes were wet, his mucous membrane, he
informed her, was in a most unsatisfactory condition.  The
only thing that made life worth living was the thought of
Walter Savage Landor, from 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 arrived, and said
that Tibby was quite bad.  Might it really be best to accept
Aunt Juley's kind offer, and 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
library, she cried--"Yes, I 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 Tibby, with rare self-effacement, fell asleep,
and 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 uncivilized and wrong.

"So uncivilized?" queried Mrs. Munt, fearing that she
was losing the point of some brilliant remark.

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

"Only with Helen."

"Because--" But it was no moment to expound the personal
nature of love.  Even Margaret shrank from it, and contented
herself with stroking her good aunt's hand, and with
meditating, half sensibly and half poetically, on the
journey that was about to begin from King's Cross.

Like many others who have lived long in a great capital,
she 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 sunshine, to them alas!
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 realize this, as 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 them, however shyly, the 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 arches,
colourless, indifferent, shouldering between them an
unlovely clock, were fit portals for some eternal adventure,
whose issue might be prosperous, but would certainly not be
expressed in the ordinary language of prosperity.  If you
think this ridiculous, remember 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. Munt, though
she took a second-class ticket, was put by the guard into a
first (only two seconds on the train, one smoking and the
other babies--one cannot be expected to travel with babies);
and that Margaret, on her return to Wickham Place, was
confronted with the following telegram:

ALL OVER.  WISH I HAD NEVER WRITTEN.  TELL NO ONE.
                            --HELEN

But Aunt Juley was gone--gone irrevocably, and no power
on earth could stop her.


Chapter 3

Most complacently did Mrs. Munt rehearse her mission.  Her
nieces were independent young women, and 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 Bill, so Mrs. Munt could without
impropriety offer to go and keep house at Wickham Place.
But her brother-in-law, who was peculiar and a German, had
referred the question to Margaret, who with the crudity of
youth had answered, "No, they could manage much better
alone." Five years later Mr. Schlegel had died too, and Mrs.
Munt had repeated her offer.  Margaret, crude no longer, had
been grateful and extremely nice, but 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 together, dear." Margaret, out of
politeness, invested a few hundreds in the Nottingham and
Derby Railway, and though the Foreign Things did admirably
and the Nottingham and Derby declined with the steady
dignity of which only Home Rails are capable, Mrs. Munt
never ceased to rejoice, and to say, "I 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 age,
and exactly the same thing happened in Helen's case; she
also would shift her money out of Consols, but she, too,
almost without being pressed, consecrated a fraction of it
to the Nottingham and Derby Railway.  So far so good, but in
social matters their aunt had accomplished nothing.  Sooner
or later the girls would enter on the process known as
throwing themselves away, and if they had delayed hitherto,
it was only that they might throw themselves more vehemently
in the future.  They saw too many people at Wickham
Place--unshaven musicians, an actress even, German cousins
(one knows what foreigners are), acquaintances picked up at
Continental hotels (one knows what they are too).  It was
interesting, and down at Swanage no one appreciated culture
more than Mrs. Munt; but it was dangerous, and disaster was
bound to come.  How right she was, and how lucky to be on
the spot when the disaster came!

The train sped northward, under innumerable tunnels.  It
was only an hour's journey, but Mrs. Munt had to raise and
lower the window again and again.  She passed through the
South Welwyn Tunnel, saw light for a moment, and entered the
North Welwyn Tunnel, of tragic fame.  She traversed the
immense viaduct, whose arches span untroubled meadows and
the dreamy flow of Tewin Water.  She skirted the parks of
politicians.  At times the Great North Road accompanied her,
more suggestive of infinity than any railway, awakening,
after a nap of a hundred years, to such life as is conferred
by the stench of motor-cars, and to such culture as is
implied by the advertisements of antibilious pills.  To
history, to tragedy, to the past, to the future, Mrs. Munt
remained equally indifferent; hers but to concentrate on the
end of her journey, and to rescue poor Helen from this
dreadful mess.

The station for Howards End was at Hilton, one of the
large villages that are strung so frequently along the North
Road, and that owe their size to the traffic of coaching and
pre-coaching days.  Being near London, it 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 eyes, a series broken at one point by six Danish
tumuli that stood shoulder to shoulder along the highroad,
tombs of soldiers.  Beyond these tumuli habitations
thickened, and the train came to a standstill in a tangle
that was almost a town.

The station, like the scenery, like Helen's letters,
struck an indeterminate note.  Into which country will it
lead, England or Suburbia?  It was new, it had island
platforms and a subway, and the superficial comfort exacted
by business men.  But it held hints of local life, personal
intercourse, as 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 round.

"She's wanting Howards End."

There was nothing for it but to go forward, though Mrs.
Munt was too much agitated even to stare at the stranger.
But remembering that there were two brothers, she 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 Schlegels 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. Munt, not
committing herself to nourishment until she had studied
Helen's lover a little more.  He seemed a gentleman, but 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 mouth, nor in the rather box-like
construction of his forehead.  He was dark, clean-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-office
and called with a new voice: "Hi!  hi, you there!  Are you
going to keep me waiting all day?  Parcel for Wilcox,
Howards End.  Just look sharp!"  Emerging, he said in
quieter tones: "This station's abominably organized; if I
had my way, the whole lot of 'em should get the sack.  May I
help you in?"

"This is very good of you," said Mrs. Munt, as she
settled herself into a luxurious cavern of red leather, and
suffered her person to be padded with rugs and shawls.  She
was more civil than she had intended, but really this young
man was very kind.  Moreover, she 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 replied, with a slight
look of surprise, which, like most slight looks, escaped
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 petrol, starting his engine,
and performing other actions with which this story has no
concern.  The great car began to rock, and the form of Mrs.
Munt, trying to explain things, sprang agreeably up and down
among the red cushions.  "The mater will be very glad to see
you," he mumbled.  "Hi!  I say.  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: "Sign, must 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 value, though 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 ashamed, for 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
"uncivilized or wrong" to discuss it with the young man
himself, since chance had thrown them together.

A reticent fellow, he made no reply.  Mounting by her
side, he put on gloves and spectacles, and off they drove,
the bearded porter--life is a mysterious business--looking
after them with admiration.

The wind was in their faces down the station road,
blowing 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 frankly.  "Margaret has told me
everything--everything.  I have seen Helen's letter."

He could not look her in the face, as 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
direction, and 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 replying, he
turned round in his seat, and contemplated the cloud of dust
that they had raised in their passage through the village.
It was settling again, but not all into the road from which
he had taken it.  Some of it had percolated through the open
windows, some had whitened the roses and gooseberries of the
wayside gardens, while 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 herself, on account of poor
Tibby, so I am here to represent her and to have a good talk."

"I'm sorry to be so dense," said the young man, again
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 her, absolutely
bewildered.  Horror smote her to the heart, for even she
began to suspect that they were at cross-purposes, and that
she had commenced her mission by some hideous blunder.

"Miss Schlegel and myself." he asked, compressing 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 paused, then drooped her eyelids.

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

"Then you didn't the least--" she stammered, getting
blood-red in the face, and wishing she had never been born.

"Scarcely, as I am already engaged to another lady."
There was a moment's silence, and then he caught his breath
and exploded with, "Oh, 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."

"Younger" may mean son as opposed to father, or second
brother as opposed to first.  There is much to be said for
either view, and 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 porter, and, certain that he had deceived her
at the station, she 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.  "Yes, they 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 cried, "The idiot, the
idiot, the little fool!"

Mrs. Munt tried to divest herself of her rugs.  "If that
is your attitude, Mr. Wilcox, I prefer to walk."

"I beg you will do no such thing.  I'll 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 temper, and when she
did it was only to protect those whom she loved.  On this
occasion she blazed out.  "I quite agree, sir.  The thing is
impossible, and I will come up and stop it.  My niece is a
very exceptional person, and 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 funnel, a saucepan, and 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 damned 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 Families, a round of
which is always played when love would unite two members of
our race.  But they played it with unusual vigour, stating
in so many words that Schlegels were better than Wilcoxes,
Wilcoxes better than Schlegels.  They flung decency aside.
The man was young, the woman deeply stirred; in both a vein
of coarseness was latent.  Their quarrel was no more
surprising than are most quarrels--inevitable at the time,
incredible afterwards.  But it was more than usually
futile.  A few minutes, and they were enlightened.  The
motor drew up at Howards End, and Helen, looking very pale,
ran 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 Wilcox, pulling 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.  "Charles,
dear Charles, one 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 her,
trailing noiselessly over the lawn, and there was actually a
wisp of hay in her hands.  She seemed to belong not to the
young people and their motor, but to the house, and to the
tree that overshadowed it.  One knew that she worshipped the
past, and 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 ancestors, and let
them help her.  When she saw Charles angry, Paul frightened,
and Mrs. Munt in tears, she heard her ancestors say,
"Separate 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 happened, as a
competent society hostess would have done.  She said, "Miss
Schlegel, would you take your aunt up to your room or to my
room, whichever you think best.  Paul, do find Evie, and
tell her lunch for six, but I'm not sure whether we shall
all be downstairs for it." And when they had obeyed her, she
turned to her elder son, who still stood in the throbbing
stinking car, and smiled at him with tenderness, and without
a word, turned away from him towards her flowers.

"Mother," he called, "are you aware that Paul has been
playing the fool again?"

"It's 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. Wilcox, stooping down to smell a rose.


Chapter 4

Helen and her aunt returned to Wickham Place in a state of
collapse, and 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 past, and
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
into, "It had to be gone through by someone," 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 thunder clap, and by them and by
her reverberations she had been stunned.

The truth was that she had fallen in love, not with an
individual, but with a family.

Before Paul arrived she had, as it were, been tuned up
into his key.  The energy of the Wilcoxes had fascinated
her, had created new images of beauty in her responsive
mind.  To be all day with them in the open air, to sleep at
night under their roof, had seemed the supreme joy of life,
and had led to that abandonment of personality that is a
possible prelude to love.  She had liked giving in to Mr.
Wilcox, or Evie, or Charles; she had liked being told that
her notions of life were sheltered or academic; that
Equality was nonsense, Votes for Women nonsense, Socialism
nonsense, Art and Literature, except when conducive to
strengthening the character, nonsense.  One by one the
Schlegel fetiches had been overthrown, and, though
professing to defend them, she had rejoiced.  When Mr.
Wilcox said that one sound man of business did more good to
the world than a dozen of your social reformers, she had
swallowed the curious assertion without a gasp, and had
leant back luxuriously among the cushions of his motor-car.
When Charles said, "Why 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 girl, Mr. Wilcox was so old, Evie
so young, Mrs. Wilcox so different.  Round the absent
brother she began to throw the halo of Romance, to irradiate
him with all the splendour of those happy days, to feel that
in him she should draw nearest to the robust ideal.  He and
she were about the same age, Evie said.  Most people thought
Paul handsomer than his brother.  He was certainly a better
shot, though not so good at golf.  And when Paul appeared,
flushed with the triumph of getting through an examination,
and ready to flirt with any pretty girl, Helen met him
halfway, or more than halfway, and turned towards him on the
Sunday evening.

He had been talking of his approaching exile in Nigeria,
and he should have continued to talk of it, and allowed
their guest to recover.  But the heave of her bosom
flattered him.  Passion was possible, and he became
passionate.  Deep down in him something whispered, "This
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 how to forget how vivid the emotion
was ere it passed.  Our impulse to sneer, to forget, is at
root a good one.  We recognize 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 faded, the
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--"at least, I 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 scene, and
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 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 life, for ever
and ever.

"Amen!"

So the Wilcox episode fell into the background, leaving
behind it memories of sweetness and horror that mingled, and
the sisters pursued the life that Helen had commended.  They
talked to each other and to other people, they 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 politics, though
not as politicians would have us care; they desired that
public life should mirror whatever is good in the life
within.  Temperance, tolerance, and sexual equality were
intelligible cries to them; whereas they did not follow our
Forward Policy in Thibet with the keen attention that it
merits, and would at times dismiss the whole British Empire
with a puzzled, if reverent, sigh.  Not out of them are the
shows of history erected: the world would be a grey,
bloodless place were it entirely composed of Miss
Schlegels.  But the world being what it is, perhaps they
shine out in it like stars.

A word on their origin.  They were not "English to the
backbone," as their aunt had piously asserted.  But, on the
other band, 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 German, so dear to the English journalist, nor
the domestic German, so dear to the English wit.  If one
classed him at all it would be as the countryman of Hegel
and Kant, as the idealist, inclined to be dreamy, whose
Imperialism was the Imperialism of the air.  Not that his
life had been inactive.  He had fought like blazes against
Denmark, Austria, France.  But he had fought without
visualizing the results of victory.  A hint of the truth
broke on him after Sedan, when he saw the dyed moustaches of
Napoleon going grey; another when he entered Paris, and 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
Power, Germany a naval Power, Germany with colonies here and
a Forward Policy there, and legitimate aspirations in the
other place, might appeal to others, and be fitly served by
them; for his own part, he abstained from the fruits of
victory, and naturalized himself in England.  The more
earnest members of his family never forgave him, and knew
that his children, though scarcely English of the dreadful
sort, would never be German to the backbone.  He had
obtained work in one of our provincial Universities, and
there married Poor Emily (or Die Englanderin as the case may
be), and as she had money, they proceeded to London, and
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 time, and
the mild intellectual light re-emerge.  "Do you imply that
we Germans are stupid, Uncle Ernst?" exclaimed a haughty and
magnificent nephew.  Uncle Ernst replied, "To my mind.  You
use the intellect, but you no longer care about it.  That I
call stupidity."  As the haughty nephew did not follow, he
continued, "You 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 bigness, to think that a thousand
square miles are a thousand times more wonderful than one
square mile, and that a million square miles are almost the
same as heaven.  That is not imagination.  No, it kills it.
When their poets over here try to celebrate bigness they are
dead at once, and naturally.  Your poets too are dying, your
philosophers, your musicians, to whom Europe has listened
for two hundred years.  Gone.  Gone with the little courts
that nurtured them--gone with Esterhaz and Weimar.  What?
What's that?  Your Universities?  Oh, yes, you have learned
men, who collect more facts than do the learned men of
England.  They collect facts, and facts, and empires of
facts.  But which of them will rekindle the light within?"

To all this Margaret listened, sitting on the haughty
nephew's knee.

It was a unique education for the little girls.  The
haughty nephew would be at Wickham Place one day, bringing
with him an even haughtier wife, both 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
blushed, and 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 father, surveying
the parties grimly, replied that he did not know.  Putting
her head on one side, Margaret then remarked, "To 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 girl, but 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 was, that any human being
lies nearer to the unseen than any organization, and from
this she never varied.

Helen advanced along the same lines, though with a more
irresponsible tread.  In character she resembled her sister,
but she was pretty, and so apt to have a more amusing time.
People gathered round her more readily, especially when they
were new acquaintances, and she did enjoy a little homage
very much.  When their father died and they ruled alone at
Wickham Place, she often absorbed the whole of the company,
while Margaret--both were tremendous talkers--fell flat.
Neither sister bothered about this.  Helen never apologized
afterwards, Margaret did not feel the slightest rancour.
But looks have their influence upon character.  The sisters
were alike as little girls, but at the time of the Wilcox
episode their methods were beginning to diverge; the younger
was rather apt to entice people, and, in enticing them, to
be herself enticed; the elder went straight ahead, and
accepted an occasional failure as part of the game.

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


Chapter 5

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. Munt, and tap
surreptitiously when the tunes come--of course, not so as to
disturb the others--; or like Helen, who can see heroes and
shipwrecks in the music's flood; or like Margaret, who can
only see the music; or like Tibby, who is profoundly versed
in counterpoint, and holds the full score open on his knee;
or like their cousin, Fraulein Mosebach, who remembers all
the time that Beethoven is "echt Deutsch"; or like Fraulein
Mosebach's young man, who can remember nothing but Fraulein
Mosebach: in any case, the passion of your life becomes more
vivid, and you are bound to admit that such a noise is cheap
at two shillings.  It is cheap, even if you hear it in the
Queen's Hall, dreariest music-room in London, though not as
dreary as the Free Trade Hall, Manchester; and even if you
sit on the extreme left of that hall, so that the brass
bumps at you before the rest of the orchestra arrives, it is
still cheap.

"Who is Margaret talking to?" said Mrs. Munt, at 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 party, and 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 her, and
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 beautiful, but bearing a
family likeness to all the other beautiful Andantes that
Beethoven had written, and, to Helen's mind, rather
disconnecting the heroes and shipwrecks of the first
movement from the heroes and goblins of the third.  She
heard the tune through once, and then her attention
wandered, and she gazed at the audience, or the organ, or
the architecture.  Much did she censure the attenuated
Cupids who encircle the ceiling of the Queen's Hall,
inclining each to each with vapid gesture, and clad in
sallow pantaloons, on which the October sunlight struck.
"How awful to marry a man like those Cupids!" thought
Helen.  Here Beethoven started decorating his tune, so she
heard him through once more, and then she smiled at her
cousin Frieda.  But Frieda, listening to Classical Music,
could not respond.  Herr Liesecke, too, looked as if wild
horses could not make him inattentive; there were lines
across his forehead, his lips were parted, his pince-nez at
right angles to his nose, and he had laid a thick, white
hand on either knee.  And next to her was Aunt Juley, so
British, and wanting to tap.  How interesting that row of
people was!  What diverse influences had gone to the
making!  Here Beethoven, after humming and hawing with great
sweetness, said "Heigho," and the Andante came to an end.
Applause, and a round of "wunderschoning" and
"prachtvolleying" 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
goblins, and 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 Helen, as the
music started with a goblin walking quietly over the
universe, from 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 dancing, they
returned and made the observation for the second time.
Helen could not contradict them, for, once at all events,
she had felt the same, and 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.

For, as if things were going too far, Beethoven took
hold of the goblins and made them do what he wanted.  He
appeared in person.  He gave them a little push, and they
began to walk in major key instead of in a minor, and
then--he blew with his mouth and they were scattered!  Gusts
of splendour, gods and demigods contending with vast swords,
colour and fragrance broadcast on the field of battle,
magnificent victory, magnificent death!  Oh, it all burst
before the girl, and 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
Wilcoxes, or President Roosevelt, would 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 terrible, ominous note, and a
goblin, with increased malignity, walked 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 time,
and again the goblins were scattered.  He brought back the
gusts of splendour, the heroism, the youth, the magnificence
of life and of death, and, amid vast roarings of a
superhuman joy, he led his Fifth Symphony to its
conclusion.  But the goblins were there.  They could
return.  He had said so bravely, and 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 summed up to her all that
had happened or could happen in her career.  She read it as
a tangible statement, which could never be superseded.  The
notes meant this and that to her, and they could have no
other meaning, and life could have no other meaning.  She
pushed right out of the building, and walked slowly down the
outside staircase, breathing the autumnal air, and then she
strolled home.

"Margaret," called Mrs. Munt, "is 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 man, who had for some
time been preparing a sentence, "but 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 man, in
truth a little uneasy about his umbrella.

"But of course it is.  Tibby!  Tibby!"

Tibby rose to his feet, and wilfully caught his person
on the backs of the chairs.  By the time he had tipped up
the seat and had found his hat, and had deposited his full
score in safety, it was "too late" to go after Helen.  The
Four Serious Songs had begun, and 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.  Brahms, for all his grumbling and grizzling, had
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
him, and that if he gave his address they would break into
his rooms some midnight or other and steal his walkingstick
too.  Most ladies would have laughed, but Margaret really
minded, for 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 out, she gave him her card and said, "That 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 suspicion,
and yet not daring to be impolite, in 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 opened, before the umbrella intervened.

"The Beethoven's fine," said Margaret, who was not a
female of the encouraging type.  "I don't like the Brahms,
though, nor the Mendelssohn that came first--and ugh!  I
don't like this Elgar that's coming."

"What, what?" called Herr Liesecke, overhearing.  "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
mustn't run down our English composers, Margaret."

"For my part, I have heard the composition at Stettin,"
said Fraulein Mosebach.  "On 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 impulse, they rose to their feet and fled from POMP
AND CIRCUMSTANCE.

"We have this call to play in Finsbury Circus, it is
true," said Herr Liesecke, as 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 enough, there was Frieda's reticule, containing her
address book, her pocket dictionary, her map of London, and
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 man,
and 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-door, and he received a pretty smile from the
German girl and a fine bow from her cavalier.  He returned
to his seat up-sides with the world.  The trust that they
had reposed in him was trivial, but 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--badly, perhaps 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 risk, was as safe as most things, and he would risk it.

So when the concert was over and Margaret said, "We live
quite near; I am going there now.  Could you walk around
with me, and we'll find your umbrella?" he said, "Thank
you," peaceably, and followed her out of the Queen's Hall.
She wished that he was not so anxious to hand a lady
downstairs, or 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 culture, her 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 exclaimed, "So 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 Garden, but she
did not "attend" it, preferring 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 so, for one
reason and another, they walked on in silence, chaperoned by
the voice of Mrs. Munt, who 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
would have 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 to
pictures, to my mind.  When it comes to music I am as safe
as houses, and I assure you, Tibby, I am by no means pleased
by everything.  There was a thing--something about a faun in
French--which Helen went into ecstasies over, but I thought
it most tinkling and superficial, and said so, and I held to
my opinion too."

"Do you agree?" asked Margaret.  "Do you think music is
so different to 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 way, she cried: "Now,
doesn't it seem absurd to you?  What is the good of the Arts
if they are 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 painting, and pictures
into the language of music.  It's very ingenious, and she
says several pretty things in the process, but what's
gained, I'd like to know?  Oh, it's all rubbish, radically
false.  If Monet's really Debussy, and Debussy's really
Monet, neither 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 anyone, simply furious.  With him I daren't
even argue."

An unhappy family, if talented.

"But, of course, the real villain is Wagner.  He has
done more than any man in the nineteenth century towards the
muddling of 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 this, he would have
caught the world.  Oh to acquire culture!  Oh, to pronounce
foreign names correctly!  Oh, to be well informed,
discoursing 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 evening, how was it possible to
catch up with leisured women, who had been reading steadily
from childhood?  His brain might be full of names, he might
have even heard of Monet and Debussy; the trouble was that
he could not string them together into a sentence, he 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 persisted, with 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 wondered, "Shall I try to do without a
programme?"  There had always been something to worry him
ever since he could remember, always something that
distracted him in the pursuit of beauty.  For he did pursue
beauty, and therefore, Margaret's speeches did flutter away
from him like birds.

Margaret talked ahead, occasionally saying, "Don't you
think so?  don't you feel the same?"  And once she stopped,
and said "Oh, do interrupt me!" which terrified him.  She
did not attract him, though she filled him with awe.  Her
figure was meagre, her face seemed all teeth and eyes, her
references to her sister and brother were uncharitable.  For
all her cleverness and culture, she was probably one of
those soulless, atheistical women who have been so shown up
by Miss Corelli.  It was surprising (and alarming) that she
should suddenly say, "I do hope that you'll come in and have
some tea."

"I 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 set, and
the backwater, in deep shadow, was filling with a gentle
haze.  To the right of the fantastic skyline of the flats
towered black against the hues of evening; to the left the
older houses raised a square-cut, irregular parapet against
the grey.  Margaret fumbled for her latchkey.  Of course she
had forgotten it.  So, grasping her umbrella by its ferrule,
she 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 Helen, opening the door.  "Oh,
what'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 for it."

"Oh, I am so sorry!" cried Helen, all her hair flying.
She had pulled off her hat as soon as she returned, and 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 least, I THINK it is."

The light was turned on, and they began to search the
hall, Helen, who 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 her, murmured a few words of thanks, and
then fled, with the lilting step of the clerk.

"But if you will stop--" cried Margaret.  "Now, Helen,
how 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, shouting, "Oh, do stop!"

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

But Helen cried: "Aunt Juley, how 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--Well, I must shut
the front-door, I 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
understand, she 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. Munt,
rather tartly, for she longed to add, "It was lucky that
your father married a wife with money." But this was unkind,
and she contented herself with, "Why, 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 brother, finding the incident commonplace, had
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 provided, poured in five
spoonfuls of a superior blend, filled up with really boiling
water, and now called to the ladies to be quick or they
would lose the aroma.

"All right, Auntie Tibby," called Helen, while Margaret,
thoughtful again, said: "In a way, I 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
welcome, Tibby?  You must do the host a little, you know.
You ought to have taken his hat and coaxed him into
stopping, instead of letting him be swamped by screaming women."

Tibby sighed, and 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 Margaret, who 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 him, and 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 Margaret,
"and 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 our 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 I
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 cried, "so 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 Indian 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 suggestions, and Margaret
said pensively, "How inconceivable it would be if the Royal
Family cared about Art."  And the conversation drifted away
and away, and Helen's cigarette turned to a spot in the
darkness, and the great flats opposite were sown with
lighted windows, which vanished and were relit again, and
vanished incessantly.  Beyond them the thoroughfare roared
gently--a tide that could never be quiet, while in the east,
invisible behind the smokes of Wapping, the 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
football, as 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
boy, who has recovered his umbrella indeed, but who has left
no address behind him, and no name.


Chapter 6

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 gentlefolk, or with
those who are obliged to pretend that they are gentlefolk.

The boy, Leonard Bast, stood at the extreme verge of
gentility.  He was not in the abyss, but he could see it,
and at times people whom he knew had dropped in, and counted
no more.  He knew that he was poor, and 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 people, there is not the least doubt of it.  He
was not as courteous as the average rich man, nor as
intelligent, nor as healthy, nor as lovable.  His mind and
his body had been alike underfed, because he was poor, and
because he was modern they were always craving better food.
Had he lived some centuries ago, in the brightly coloured
civilizations of the past, he would have had a definite
status, his rank and his income would have corresponded.
But in his day the angel of Democracy had arisen,
enshadowing the classes with leathern wings, and
proclaiming, "All men are equal--all men, that is to say,
who possess umbrellas," and so he was obliged to assert
gentility, lest he slipped into the abyss where nothing
counts, and the statements of Democracy are inaudible.

As he walked away from Wickham Place, his first care was
to prove that he was as good as the Miss Schlegels.
Obscurely wounded in his pride, he 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 all, and if he had gone into
the house they could 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 he was a fool.

"Evening, Mr. Bast."

"Evening, Mr. Dealtry."

"Nice evening."

"Evening."

Mr. Dealtry, a fellow clerk, passed on, and Leonard
stood wondering whether he would take the tram as far as a
penny would take him, or whether he would walk.  He decided
to walk--it is no good giving in, and he had spent money
enough at Queen's Hall--and he walked over Westminster
Bridge, in front of St. Thomas's Hospital, and 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 head,
and he was conscious of the exact form of his eye sockets.
He pushed on for another mile, and 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 again, and glanced suspiciously to right
and left, like a rabbit that is going to bolt into its
hole.  A block of flats, constructed with extreme cheapness,
towered on either hand.  Farther down the road two more
blocks were being built, and beyond these an old house was
being demolished to accommodate another pair.  It was the
kind of scene that may be observed all over London, whatever
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 fortress, and command, for a
little, an 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 down, and new buildings, of a vastness at present
unimaginable, might 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. Cunningham, tapping the Sunday
paper, in which the calamity in question had just been
announced to him.

"Ah, yes," said Leonard, who 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 flats, and turned,
not upstairs, but down, into what is known to house agents
as a semi-basement, and to other men as a cellar.  He opened
the door, and cried "Hullo!" with the pseudo-geniality of
the Cockney.  There was no reply.  "Hullo!" he repeated.
The sitting-room was empty, though the electric light had
been left burning.  A look of relief came over his face, and
he flung himself into the armchair.

The sitting-room contained, besides the armchair, two
other chairs, a piano, a three-legged table, and a cosy
corner.  Of the walls, one was occupied by the window, the
other by a draped mantelshelf bristling with Cupids.
Opposite the window was the door, and beside the door a
bookcase, while 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 drawn, and the
lights turned on, and the gas-stove unlit.  But it struck
that shallow makeshift note that is so often heard in the
modem dwelling-place.  It had been too easily gained, and
could be relinquished too easily.

As Leonard was kicking off his boots he jarred the
three-legged table, and a photograph frame, honourably
poised upon it, slid sideways, fell off into the fireplace,
and smashed.  He swore in a colourless sort of way, and
picked the photograph up.  It represented a young lady
called Jacky, and 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 jaws, and positively weighted her head
sideways, so large were they and so numerous.  Take my word
for it, that smile was simply stunning, and it is only you
and I who will be fastidious, and complain that true joy
begins in the eyes, and that the eyes of Jacky did not
accord with her smile, but were anxious and hungry.

Leonard tried to pull out the fragments of glass, and
cut his fingers and swore again.  A drop of blood fell on
the frame, another followed, spilling over on to the exposed
photograph.  He swore more vigorously, and dashed to the
kitchen, where he bathed his hands.  The kitchen was the
same size as the sitting room; through 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 frame, the Cupids, and the books.

"Damn, damn, damnation!" he murmured, together with such
other words as he had learnt from older men.  Then he raised
his hand to his forehead and said, "Oh, damn it all--" which
meant something different.  He pulled himself together.  He
drank a little tea, black and silent, that still survived
upon an upper shelf.  He swallowed some dusty crumbs of
cake.  Then he went back to the sitting-room, settled
himself anew, and 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 steadily, occasionally 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 it, with modifications, when he next
wrote a letter to his brother, the 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 something, had he known it, was 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 on, piping
melodiously of Effort and Self-Sacrifice, full of high
purpose, full of beauty, full even of sympathy and the love
of men, yet 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 hungry, and had not guessed
successfully what dirt and hunger are.

Leonard listened to it with reverence.  He felt that he
was being done good to, and that if he kept on with Ruskin,
and the Queen's Hall Concerts, and some pictures by Watts,
he would one day push his head out of the grey waters and
see the universe.  He believed in sudden conversion, a
belief which may be right, but which is peculiarly
attractive to a half-baked mind.  It is the bias of much
popular religion: in the domain of business it dominates the
Stock Exchange, and becomes that "bit of luck" by which all
successes and failures are explained.  "If only I had a bit
of luck, the whole thing would come straight. . . .  He's
got a most magnificent place down at Streatham and a 20
h.-p.  Fiat, but then, mind you, he'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
gradually, he had no conception: he hoped to come to Culture
suddenly, much 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 ropes, once and for all.
And meanwhile, his flat was dark, as well as stuffy.

Presently there was a noise on the staircase.  He shut
up Margaret's card in the pages of Ruskin, and opened the
door.  A woman entered, of whom it is simplest to say that
she was not respectable.  Her appearance was awesome.  She
seemed all strings and bell-pulls--ribbons, chains, bead
necklaces that clinked and caught--and a boa of azure
feathers hung round her neck, with the ends uneven.  Her
throat was bare, wound with a double row of pearls, her arms
were bare to the elbows, and might again be detected at the
shoulder, through cheap lace.  Her hat, which was flowery,
resembled those punnets, covered with flannel, which we
sowed with mustard and cress in our childhood, and which
germinated here yes, and there no.  She wore it on the back
of her head.  As for her hair, or rather hairs, they are too
complicated to describe, but one system went down her back,
lying in a thick pad there, while another, created for a
lighter destiny, rippled around her forehead.  The face--the
face does not signify.  It was the face of the photograph,
but older, and the teeth were not so numerous as the
photographer had suggested, and certainly not so white.
Yes, Jacky was past her prime, whatever that prime may have
been.  She was descending quicker than most women into the
colourless years, and the look in her eyes confessed it.

"What ho!" said Leonard, greeting that apparition with
much spirit, and helping it off with its boa.

Jacky, in husky tones, replied, "What ho!"

"Been out?" he asked.  The question sounds superfluous,
but it cannot have been really, for the lady answered, "No,"
adding, "Oh, I am so tired."

"You tired?"

"Eh?"

"I'm tired," said he, hanging 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. Cunnginham?"

"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 world, and the
name of the lady-friend being even adumbrated, Jacky 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 attract, and 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 knee, and began to fondle
him.  She was now a massive woman of thirty-three, and her
weight hurt him, but he could not very well say anything.
Then she said, "Is that a book you're reading?" and he said,
"That's a book," and drew it from her unreluctant grasp.
Margaret's card fell out of it.  It fell face downwards, and
he murmured, "Bookmarker."

"Len--"

"What is it?" he asked, a little wearily, for 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 boy,
flaring up into a sudden passion.  "I've promised to marry
you when I'm of age, and that's enough.  My word's my word.
I've promised to marry you as soon as ever I'm twenty-one,
and I can't keep on being worried.  I've worries enough.  It
isn't likely I'd throw you over, let alone my word, when
I've spent all this money.  Besides, I'm an Englishman, and
I never go back on my word.  Jacky, do 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; someone must get supper, I
suppose."

Jacky went through to the bedroom, and began to see to
her hat.  This meant blowing at it with short sharp puffs.
Leonard tidied up the sitting-room, and began to prepare
their evening meal.  He put a penny into the slot of the
gas-meter, and soon the flat was reeking with metallic
fumes.  Somehow he could not recover his temper, and 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, 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 horror, that was a little luxurious, he
repeated: "My brother'd stop it.  I'm going against the
whole world, Jacky.

"That's what I am, Jacky.  I don't take any heed of what
anyone 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 Art, and
so getting a wider outlook.  For instance, when you came in
I was reading Ruskin's STONES OF VENICE. I don't say this to
boast, but just to show you the kind of man I am.  I can
tell you, I 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
bedroom, saying: "But you do love me, don't you?"

They began with a soup square, which Leonard had just
dissolved in some hot water.  It was followed by the
tongue--a freckled cylinder of meat, with a little jelly at
the top, and 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 enough, occasionally looking
at her man with those anxious eyes, to which nothing else in
her appearance corresponded, and 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 remark, for the second time,
that 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
window, just on a level with their heads, and the family in
the flat on the ground-floor began to sing, "Hark, my soul,
it is the Lord."

"That tune fairly gives me the hump," said Leonard.

Jacky followed this, and said that, for her part, she
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 vulgarly, but the performance was not
without its effect, for Jacky said she thought she'd be
going to bed.  As she receded, a new set of interests
possessed the boy, and 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 Helen, who
had pinched his umbrella, and the German girl who had smiled
at him pleasantly, and Herr someone, and Aunt someone, and
the brother--all, all with their hands on the ropes.  They
had all passed up that narrow, rich staircase at Wickham
Place, to some ample room, whither he could never follow
them, not if he read for ten hours a day.  Oh, it was not
good, this 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 called, "Len?"

"You in bed?" he asked, his forehead twitching.

"M'm."

"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 answered, catching her degraded deafness.

Presently she called him again.

Ruskin had visited Torcello by this time, and was
ordering his gondoliers to take him to Murano.  It occurred
to him, as he glided over the whispering lagoons, that the
power of Nature could not be shortened by the folly, nor her
beauty altogether saddened by the misery, of such as
Leonard.


Chapter 7

"Oh, Margaret," cried her aunt next morning, "such 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 family, "coming up, no doubt, in the
hope of getting into London society." That Mrs. Munt should
be the first to discover the misfortune was not remarkable,
for she was so interested in the flats, that 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 known, she found her visits to Wickham
Place twice as amusing since Wickham Mansions had arisen,
and would in a couple of days learn more about them than her
nieces in a couple of months, or her nephew in a couple of
years.  She would stroll across and make friends with the
porters, and inquire what the rents were, exclaiming for
example: "What!  a hundred and twenty for a basement?
You'll never get it!"  And they would answer: "One can but
try, madam." The passenger lifts, the provision lifts, the
arrangement for coals (a great temptation for a dishonest
porter), were all familiar matters to her, and perhaps a
relief from the politico-economical-aesthetic atmosphere that
reigned at the Schlegels'.

Margaret received the information calmly, and 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 see, and indeed Margaret was making a
most questionable statement--that any emotion, any interest
once vividly aroused, can 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 apologized 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 instance, how magnificently
she would have cut Charles if she had met him face to face.
She had already seen him, giving an order to the porter--and
very common he looked in a tall hat.  But unfortunately his
back was turned to her, and though she had cut his back, she
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 Helen, at that moment coming
into the room with her cousin.

"Nothing," said Margaret, seized with a momentary awkwardness.

"Careful over what, Aunt Juley?"

Mrs. Munt assumed a cryptic air.  "It is only that a
certain family, whom we know by name but do not mention, as
you said yourself last night after the concert, have taken
the flat opposite from the Mathesons--where the plants are
in the balcony."

Helen began some laughing reply, and 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 it,
when there's nothing to be grave about at all."

"I'm not grave," protested Margaret, a 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
fact, he did not enter it for quite five minutes.  But
Frieda detected a delicate situation, and said that she and
Helen had much better wait for Bruno down below, and leave
Margaret and Mrs. Munt to finish arranging the flowers.
Helen acquiesced.  But, as if to prove that the situation
was not delicate really, she stopped in the doorway and said:

"Did you say the Mathesons' flat, Aunt Juley?  How
wonderful you are!  I never knew that the woman who laced
too tightly's name 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 you, and
she can be so tiresome."

"She minds," persisted Mrs. Munt, moving thoughtfully
about the room, and 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 do, which you forget, and if
Charles had taken you that motor drive--well, you'd have
reached the house a perfect wreck.  Oh, Margaret, you 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 Evie, who 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. Munt, triumphant elsewhere, could 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."

"Because--'

Her thought drew being from the obscure borderland.  She
could not explain in so many words, but 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 examination, or a dinner-party, or a possible
fall in the price of stock: those who attempt human
relations must adopt another method, or 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 her or there, and it's almost the same
room.  One evening they may forget to draw their blinds
down, and you'll see them; and the next, you yours, and
they'll see you.  Impossible to sit out on the balconies.
Impossible to water the plants, or even speak.  Imagine
going out of the front-door, and they come out opposite at
the same moment.  And yet you tell me that plans are
unnecessary, and you'd rather risk it."

"I hope to risk things all my life."

"Oh, Margaret, most dangerous."

"But after all," she continued with a smile, "there'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. Munt, who
collected new ideas as a squirrel collects nuts, and 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 someone near us
tottering that we realize 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 criticize 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. Munt, having, as it were, at
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 balcony, "staring most rudely,"
according to Mrs. Munt.  Oh yes, it was a nuisance, there
was no doubt of it.  Helen was proof against a passing
encounter but--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 fortnight, and Frieda was sharp, abominably
sharp, and quite capable of remarking, "You love one of the
young gentlemen opposite, yes?"  The remark would be untrue,
but of the kind which, if stated often enough, may become
true; just as the remark, "England and Germany are bound to
fight," renders war a little more likely each time that it
is made, and is therefore made the more readily by the
gutter press of either nation.  Have the private emotions
also their gutter press?  Margaret thought so, and feared
that good Aunt Juley and Frieda were typical specimens of
it.  They might, by continual chatter, lead 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
father, with all his defects and wrong-headedness, had been
Literature, and had he lived, he 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.

"Helen, you must tell me whether this thing worries you."

"If what?" said Helen, who was washing her hands for lunch.

"The W.'s 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 feelings, and 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 red, you know, when Aunt Juley attacked
you this morning.  I shouldn't have referred to it otherwise."

But Helen's laugh rang true, as she raised a soapy hand
to heaven and swore that never, nowhere and nohow, would she
again fall in love with any of the Wilcox family, down to
its remotest collaterals.


Chapter 8

The friendship between Margaret and Mrs. Wilcox, which was
to develop so--quickly and with such strange results, may
perhaps have had its beginnings at Speyer, in the spring.
Perhaps the elder lady, as she gazed at the vulgar, ruddy
cathedral, and listened to the talk of Helen and her
husband, may 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 End,
and 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 later, the 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 then, remembering that in England the
new-comer ought not to call before she is called upon, she
changed her tone from awe to disapproval, and opined that
Mrs. Wilcox was "keine Dame."

"Bother the whole family!" snapped Margaret.  "Helen,
stop giggling and pirouetting, and 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.  Meg, Meg, I don't love the young gentleman; I
don't love the young gentleman, Meg, Meg.  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 tears, and Fraulein Mosebach, who
thought her extremely amusing, did the same.  "Oh, boo hoo!
boo hoo hoo!  Meg's going to return the call, and 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--0 lud, who's that coming down the
stairs?  I vow 'tis my brother. 0 crimini!"

A male--even such a male as Tibby--was enough to stop
the foolery.  The barrier of sex, though decreasing among
the civilized, is still high, and higher on the side of
women.  Helen could tell her sister all, and her cousin much
about Paul; she told her brother nothing.  It was not
prudishness, for she now spoke of "the Wilcox ideal" with
laughter, and even with a growing brutality.  Nor was it
precaution, for Tibby seldom repeated any news that did not
concern himself.  It was rather the feeling that she
betrayed a secret into the camp of men, and that, however
trivial it was on this side of the barrier, it would become
important on that.  So she stopped, or rather began to fool
on other subjects, until her long-suffering relatives drove
her upstairs.  Fraulein Mosebach followed her, but lingered
to say heavily over the banisters to Margaret, "It 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 him, and he
proceeded into the dining-room, to eat Elvas plums.

That evening Margaret took decisive action.  The house
was very quiet, and the fog--we are in November now--pressed
against the windows like an excluded ghost.  Frieda and
Helen and all their luggage had gone.  Tibby, who was not
feeling well, lay stretched on a sofa by the fire.  Margaret
sat by him, thinking.  Her mind darted from impulse to
impulse, and finally marshalled them all in review.  The
practical person, who knows what he wants at once, and
generally knows nothing else, will excuse her of
indecision.  But this was the way her mind worked.  And when
she did act, no 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 tarnish, a 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 family, and, in my
sister's case, the grounds for displeasure might recur.
As far as I know, she no longer occupies her thoughts
with your son.  But it would not be fair, either to her
or to you, if they met, and it is therefore right that
our acquaintance which began so pleasantly, should 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 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 England, but other things had
seemed more important, and 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 necessary, but woe
to those who employ it without due need.  She flung on a hat
and shawl, just like a poor woman, and plunged into the fog,
which still continued.  Her lips were compressed, the letter
remained in her hand, and in this state she crossed the
street, entered the marble vestibule of the flats, eluded
the concierges, and 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 offended, and did
not pretend to the contrary.  She was sitting up in bed,
writing letters on an invalid table that spanned her knees.
A breakfast tray was on another table beside her.  The light
of the fire, the light from the window, and the light of a
candle-lamp, which 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 home, so there was not
even that excuse.

"Indeed?"

"She has just gone to Germany."

"She gone as well," murmured the other.  "Yes,
certainly, it is quite safe--safe, absolutely, now."

"You've been worrying too!" exclaimed Margaret, getting
more and more excited, and 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. Wilcox,
smiling, and a little losing her expression of annoyance.
"I think you put it best in your letter--it was an instinct,
which 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. Wilcox, moving 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 interrupted, and 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 scandalized
Margaret.  "When there are all the autumn exhibitions, and
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 account, and
it still clung to her.  She asked for more information about
Miss Dolly Fussell that was, and was given it in even,
unemotional tones.  Mrs. Wilcox's voice, though sweet and
compelling, had little range of expression.  It suggested
that pictures, concerts, and 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 silly, and had one of those triangular faces that so
often prove attractive to a robust man.  She was very
pretty.  From her Margaret passed to Charles, whose 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 of his own
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 family, of the anxieties of Charles
concerning Naples, of the movements of Mr. Wilcox and Evie,
who were motoring in Yorkshire.  Margaret could not bear
being bored.  She grew inattentive, played with the
photograph frame, dropped it, smashed Dolly's glass,
apologized, was pardoned, cut her finger thereon, was
pitied, and finally said she must be going--there was all
the housekeeping to do, and 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 Margaret, blushing, but
letting her hand remain in that of the invalid.

"I wonder.  I wondered at Heidelberg."

"I'M sure!"

"I almost think--"

"Yes?" asked Margaret, for there was a long pause--a
pause that was somehow akin to the flicker of the fire, the
quiver of the reading-lamp upon their hands, the 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 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-one,
and 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 Margaret, in 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. Wilcox, withdrawing her hand into the deeper
shadows.  "It is just what I should have liked to say about
them myself."


Chapter 9

Mrs. Wilcox cannot be accused of giving Margaret much
information about life.  And Margaret, on the other hand,
has made a fair show of modesty, and has pretended to an
inexperience that she certainly did not feel.  She had kept
house for over ten years; she had entertained, almost with
distinction; she had brought up a charming sister, and was
bringing up a brother.  Surely, if experience is attainable,
she 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 her, and the atmosphere was one of polite
bewilderment.  Her tastes were simple, her knowledge of
culture slight, and she was not interested in the New
English Art Club, nor in the dividing-line between
Journalism and Literature, which was started as a
conversational hare.  The delightful people darted after it
with cries of joy, Margaret leading them, and not till the
meal was half over did they realize that the principal guest
had taken no part in the chase.  There was no common topic.
Mrs. Wilcox, whose life had been spent in the service of
husband and sons, had little to say to strangers who had
never shared it, and whose age was half her own.  Clever
talk alarmed her, and withered her delicate imaginings; it
was the social; counterpart of a motorcar, all jerks, and
she was a wisp of hay, a flower.  Twice she deplored the
weather, twice criticized the train service on the Great
Northern Railway.  They vigorously assented, and rushed on,
and when she inquired whether there was any news of Helen,
her hostess was too much 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
said, "Yes, thank you; I heard on Tuesday." But the demon of
vociferation was in her, and the next moment 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 gravely, while her neighbour,
a young man low down in the Education Office, began 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 Margaret,
unexpectedly rushing off on a new track.  "I think it's
affectation to compare the Oder to music, and so do you, but
the overhanging warehouses of Stettin take beauty seriously,
which we don't, and the average Englishman doesn't, and
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 he, turning
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 softened,
the chill increased--"has very little faith in the
Continent, and 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 intellectual, nor even alert, and it
was odd that, all the same, she should give the idea of
greatness.  Margaret, zigzagging with her friends over
Thought and Art, was 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 lovable, and 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 usual, and
nearer the line that divides 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
humility vital questions that we here think ourselves too
good to touch with tongs."

"I do not want to go to Prussian" 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. Wilcox,
unexpectedly catching on to the thought, and rousing, for
the first and last time, a faint hope in the breasts of the
delightful people.  "It cannot stand without them, and I
sometimes think--But I cannot expect your generation to
agree, for 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 opposite, leaning
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 wider,
Mrs. Wilcox?  Whether women are to remain what they have
been since the dawn of history; or whether, since men have
moved forward so far, they 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 him 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 them,
and as Mrs. Wilcox buttoned up her jacket, she said: "What
an interesting life you all lead in London!"

"No, we don't," said Margaret, with 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 lunch, for you loathed it, but forgive
me by coming again, alone, or by asking me to you."

"I am used to young people," said Mrs. Wilcox, and with
each word she spoke the outlines of known things grew dim.
"I hear a great deal of chatter at home, for we, like you,
entertain a great deal.  With us it is more sport and
politics, but--I enjoyed my lunch very much, Miss Schlegel,
dear, and am not pretending, and only wish I could have
joined in more.  For one thing, I'm not particularly well
just today.  For another, you younger people move so quickly
that it dazes me.  Charles is the same, Dolly the same.  But
we are all in the same boat, old and young.  I never forget that."

They were silent for a moment.  Then, with a newborn
emotion, they shook hands.  The conversation ceased suddenly
when Margaret re-entered the dining-room: her friends had
been talking over her new friend, and had dismissed her as
uninteresting.


Chapter 10

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 affections, and keep the life
of the spirit dawdling round them.  Then they withdraw.
When physical passion is involved, there 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 friendship, though
the dull ache that they inflict, the sense of misdirected
effort and exhaustion, may be as intolerable.  Was she one
of these?

Margaret feared so at first, for, with 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
friend, she pressed on the ceremony, pencil, as it were, in
hand, pressing the more because the rest of the family were
away, and the opportunity seemed favourable.  But the elder
woman would not be hurried.  She refused to fit in with the
Wickham Place set, or to reopen discussion of Helen and
Paul, whom Margaret would have utilized as a short-cut.  She
took her time, or 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 nearing, and Mrs. Wilcox felt
behind-hand with the presents.  She had taken some more days
in bed, and must make up for lost time.  Margaret accepted,
and at eleven o'clock one cheerless morning they started out
in a brougham.

"First of all," began Margaret, "we 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 Harrod's 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
confusing, and your aunt is quite right--one ought to make a
list.  Take my notebook, then, and write your own name at
the top of the page."

"Oh, hooray!" said Margaret, writing 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 Helen,
who would snatch presents since she could not snatch young
men, nor to be exposed, like a second Aunt Juley, to the
insults of Charles.  A certain austerity of demeanour was
best, and she added: "I don't really want a Yuletide gift,
though.  In fact, I'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 Margaret, "if 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 list, but nothing
was written opposite it.  They drove from shop to shop.  The
air was white, and when they alighted it tasted like cold
pennies.  At times they passed through a clot of grey.  Mrs.
Wilcox's vitality was low that morning, and it was Margaret
who decided on a horse for this little girl, a golliwog for
that, for the rector's wife a copper warming-tray.  "We
always give the servants money." "Yes, do you, yes, much
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 gin, etc., or two,
according to subscription.  A poster of a woman in tights
heralded the Christmas pantomime, and little red devils, who
had come in again that year, were 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 realized that it was a
divine event that drew them together?  She realized it,
though 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
people, or most of them, believed it, and if pressed, would
affirm it in words.  But the visible signs of their belief
were Regent Street or Drury Lane, a little mud displaced, a
little money spent, a little food cooked, eaten, and
forgotten.  Inadequate.  But in public who shall express the
unseen adequately?  It is private life that holds out the
mirror to infinity; personal intercourse, and that alone,
that ever hints at a personality beyond our daily vision.

"No, I do like Christmas on the whole," she announced.
"In its clumsy way, it does approach Peace and Goodwill.
But oh, it 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 realize it yet.  My
father--" She broke off, for they had reached the stationery
department of the Haymarket Stores, and Mrs. Wilcox wanted
to order some private greeting cards.

"If possible, something distinctive," she sighed.  At
the counter she found a friend, bent on the same errand, and
conversed with her insipidly, wasting much time.  "My
husband and our daughter are motoring."

"Bertha too?  Oh, fancy, what a coincidence!"  Margaret,
though not practical, could shine in such company as this.
While they talked, she went through a volume of specimen
cards, and submitted one for Mrs. Wilcox's inspection.  Mrs.
Wilcox was delighted--so original, words so sweet; she would
order a hundred like that, and could never be sufficiently
grateful.  Then, just as the assistant was booking the
order, she said: "Do you know, I'll wait.  On second
thoughts, I'll wait.  There's plenty of time still, isn't
there, and I shall be able to get Evie's opinion."

They returned to the carriage by devious paths; when
they were in, she said, "But 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 monstrous, Miss
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 house, your father's
house--it oughtn't to be allowed.  It is worse than dying.
I would rather die than--Oh, poor girls!  Can what they call
civilization be right, if people mayn't die in the room
where they were born?  My dear, I am so sorry--"

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

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

"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 Margaret,
easing away from the subject.  "I can't say anything when
you take up that line, Mrs. 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
age, but 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
expedition, and we ought to start when we're fresh.  Isn't
the house shut up, too?"

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 Place, please!" 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
tomorrow.  That is why I dragged you out shopping today.  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 roadhogs."

"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 Satanic, the narrower
streets oppressing like the galleries of a mine.  No harm
was done by the fog to trade, for it lay high, and the
lighted windows of the shops were thronged with customers.
It was rather a darkening of the spirit which fell back upon
itself, to find a more grievous darkness within.  Margaret
nearly spoke a dozen times, but something throttled her.
She felt petty and awkward, and her meditations on Christmas
grew more cynical.  Peace?  It may bring other gifts, but 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--she, whose birthright it was to
nourish imagination!  Better to have accepted, to have tired
themselves a little by the journey, than coldly to reply,
"Might 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 civilities, and Margaret watched the tall, lonely 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 heaven-ward, like a specimen in a bottle.  And into
what a heaven--a vault as of hell, sooty black, from which
soots descended!

At lunch her brother, seeing her inclined for silence,
insisted on talking.  Tibby was not ill-natured, but 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 patronized.  The account was
interesting, and she had often pressed him for it before,
but she could not attend now, for her mind was focussed on
the invisible.  She discerned that Mrs. Wilcox, though a
loving wife and mother, had 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 mortar, but 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 windows, the vine, and the wych-elm had no
pleasant connections for her, and she would have preferred
to spend the afternoon at a concert.  But imagination
triumphed.  While her brother held forth she determined to
go, at whatever cost, and to compel Mrs. Wilcox to go, too.
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 consequence, hurried
downstairs, and took a hansom to King's Cross.  She was
convinced that the escapade was important, though it would
have puzzled her to say why.  There was a question of
imprisonment and escape, and though she did not know the
time of the train, she strained her eyes for the St.
Pancras' clock.

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

"I will come if I still may," said Margaret, laughing 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 Hertfordshire, and 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 train, breasting the darkness without.  They
never reached it.  Before imagination could triumph, there
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.  "Evie, my pet--"

The girl called, "Father!  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. Wilcox, joining them.  "What in
the name of all that's wonderful are you doing here, Ruth?"

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 replied, not greatly interested.  "But
how's yourself, Ruth?"

"Fit as a fiddle," she answered gaily.

"So are we and so was our car, which ran A-1 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 daughter, listening
to both of them.


Chapter 11

The funeral was over.  The carriages rolled away through the
soft mud, and only the poor remained.  They approached to
the newly-dug shaft and looked their last at the coffin, now
almost hidden beneath the spadefuls of clay.  It was their
moment.  Most of them were women from the dead woman's
district, to whom black garments had been served out by Mr.
Wilcox's orders.  Pure curiosity had brought others.  They
thrilled with the excitement of a death, and of a rapid
death, and stood in groups or moved between the graves, like
drops of ink.  The son of one of them, a wood-cutter, was
perched high above their heads, pollarding one of the
churchyard elms.  From where he sat he could see the village
of Hilton, strung upon the North Road, with its accreting
suburbs; the sunset beyond, scarlet and orange, winking at
him beneath brows of grey; the church; the plantations; and
behind him an unspoilt country of fields and farms.  But he,
too, was 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 work, and 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 cawed, and 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 mischief, said others.  She had been a kind lady;
her grandmother had been kind, too--a plainer person, but
very kind.  Ah, the old sort was dying out!  Mr. Wilcox, he
was a kind gentleman.  They advanced to the topic again and
again, dully, but 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 life, it
enhanced life's values, and they witnessed it avidly.

The grave-diggers, who had kept up an undercurrent of
disapproval--they disliked Charles; it was not a moment to
speak of such things, but 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 little, and were
cleft with one scarlet frown.  Chattering sadly to each
other, the mourners passed through the lych-gate and
traversed the chestnut avenues that led down to the
village.  The young wood-cutter stayed a little longer,
poised above the silence and swaying rhythmically.  At last
the bough fell beneath his saw.  With a grunt, he descended,
his thoughts dwelling no longer on death, but on love, for
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 lilies, they 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-room, with Mrs. Charles.
Their father, who could not bear to see a face, breakfasted
upstairs.  He suffered acutely.  Pain came over him in
spasms, as if it was physical, and even while he was about
to eat, his 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 virtue, that seemed to him
a woman's noblest quality.  So many women are capricious,
breaking into odd flaws of passion or frivolity.  Not so his
wife.  Year after year, summer and winter, as bride and
mother, she had been the same, he 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--"Henry, why 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 meet, there 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 granted, for 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 gone, and as if to
make her going the more bitter, had gone with a touch of
mystery that was all unlike her.  "Why didn't you tell me
you knew of it?" he had moaned, and 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 doctor, whom she had consulted
during his absence from town.  Was this altogether just?
Without fully explaining, she had died.  It was a fault on
her part, and--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 window, for
Evie had come in with the letters, and 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 himself, gazing at the wintry garden, is in
appearance a steady man.  His face was not as square as his
son's, and, indeed, the chin, though firm enough in outline,
retreated a little, and the lips, ambiguous, were curtained
by a moustache.  But there was no external hint of
weakness.  The eyes, if capable of kindness and
goodfellowship, if ruddy for the moment with tears, were the
eyes of one who could not be driven.  The forehead, too, was
like Charles's.  High and straight, brown and polished,
merging abruptly into temples and skull, it has 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 it, intact and happy, for fifty years.

"The post's come, Father," 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 circulars, she went
back to the dining-room.

"Father's eaten nothing," she announced, sitting down
with wrinkled brows behind the tea-urn--

Charles did not answer, but after a moment he ran
quickly upstairs, opened the door, and said: "Look here,
Father, you must eat, you know"; and having paused for a
reply that did not come, stole down again.  "He's going to
read his letters first, I think," he said evasively; "I dare
say he will go on with his breakfast afterwards." Then he
took up the TIMES, and 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 events, and a little bored.  She
was a rubbishy little creature, and 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 well,
but she wished that Mrs. Wilcox, since fated to die, could
have died before the marriage, for then less would have been
expected of her.  Crumbling her toast, and too nervous to
ask for the butter, she remained almost motionless, thankful
only for this, that 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.

"No indeed."

"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 little, and turned again to his
sister.  "Another point.  I must speak to Chalkeley."

"Yes, rather; you must complain to Chalkeley.

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

"Yes, rather."

Brother and sister were not callous.  They spoke thus,
partly 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 realized its importance, but were
afraid of it. Panic and emptiness, could one glance behind.
They were not callous, and they left the breakfast-table
with aching hearts.  Their mother never had come in to
breakfast.  It was in the other rooms, and especially in the
garden, that they felt her loss most.  As Charles went out
to the garage, he 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 improvements, yet 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 to 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 Evie, as she stood talking to the
cook.  Though she could take up her mother's work inside the
house, just as the man could take it up without, she felt
that something unique had fallen out of her life.  Their
grief, though less poignant than their father's, grew from
deeper roots, for a wife may be replaced; a mother never.

Charles would go back to the office.  There was little
to do at Howards End.  The contents of his mother's will had
been long known to them.  There were no legacies, no
annuities, none 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 dowry, and the
house would come to Charles in time.  Her water-colours Mr.
Wilcox intended to reserve for Paul, while Evie would take
the jewellery and lace.  How easily she slipped out of
life!  Charles thought the habit laudable, though he did not
intend to adopt it himself, whereas Margaret would have seen
in it an almost culpable indifference to earthly fame.
Cynicism--not the superficial cynicism that snarls and
sneers, but 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 accomplished, the earth
might freeze over her for ever.

No, there was nothing for Charles to wait for.  He could
not go on with his honeymoon, so 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 suburbs, and in which
he hoped to install himself soon after Christmas.  Yes, he
would go up after lunch in his new motor, and the town
servants, who had come down for the funeral, would go up by train.

He found his father's chauffeur in the garage, said,
"Morning" without looking at the man's face, and, bending
over the car, continued: "Hullo!  my new car's been driven!"

"Has it, sir?"

"Yes," said Charles, getting rather red; "and whoever's
driven it hasn't cleaned it properly, for 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 Charles, who thought charm in a man rather rot, and 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 column, her 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 to 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 fool,
and 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 lunch, he
joined his wife, who 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 correct, for his wife replied,
"She 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
around 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 Schlegels got
it."

"Got what?" asked Charles, unclasping her.  "What the
dickens are you talking about?"

"Now, Charles, you promised not to 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 screamed, mimicking him, and as she
did so Evie came dashing out of the shrubbery.

"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 run, but checked himself, and stepped
heavily across the gravel path.  There the house was--the
nine windows, the unprolific vine.  He exclaimed, "Schlegels
again!" and as if to complete chaos, Dolly said, "Oh no, the
matron of the nursing home has written instead of her."

"Come in, all three of you!" cried his father, no 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 porch, transformed, letters 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 letters, and read them as he followed
the procession.  The first was a covering note from the
matron.  Mrs. Wilcox had desired her, when the funeral
should be over, to 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--indeed, of 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.  Charles, to steady them further, read
the enclosure out loud: "A note in my mother's handwriting,
in an envelope addressed to my father, sealed.  Inside: 'I
should like Miss Schlegel (Margaret) to have Howards End.'
No date, no signature.  Forwarded through the matron of that
nursing home.  Now, the question is--"

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

Her husband worked his jaw severely.  Little lumps
appeared in front of either ear--a symptom that she had not
yet learnt to respect, and she asked whether she might see
the note.  Charles looked at his father for permission, who
said abstractedly, "Give it her." She seized it, and at once
exclaimed: "Why, it'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.  Legally, I should be justified in tearing it
up and throwing it into the fire.  Of course, my dear, we
consider you as one of the family, but it will be better if
you do not interfere with what you do not understand."

Charles, vexed both with his father and his wife, then
repeated: "The question is--" He had cleared a space of the
breakfast-table from plates and knives, so that he could
draw patterns on the tablecloth.  "The question is whether
Miss Schlegel, during the fortnight we were all away,
whether she unduly--" He stopped.

"I don't think that," said his father, whose 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 this, and, drawing her
handkerchief from her pocket, shed 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 bulk, but disposed of them item by
item, sharply.  Calligraphy was the item before them now,
and on it they turned their well-trained brains.  Charles,
after a little demur, accepted 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 article, and had they considered the note as a whole
it would have driven them miserable or mad.  Considered item
by item, the emotional content was minimized, and all went
forward smoothly.  The clock ticked, the coals blazed
higher, and contended with the white radiance that poured in
through the windows.  Unnoticed, the sun occupied his sky,
and the shadows of the tree stems, extraordinarily solid,
fell like trenches of purple across the frosted lawn.  It
was a glorious winter morning.  Evie's fox terrier, who had
passed for white, was only a dirty grey dog now, so intense
was the purity that surrounded him.  He was discredited, but
the blackbirds that he was chasing glowed with Arabian
darkness, for all the conventional colouring of life had
been altered.  Inside, the clock struck ten with a rich and
confident note.  Other clocks confirmed it, and 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 illness, and under the spell of a sudden
friendship; it was contrary to the dead woman's intentions
in the past, contrary 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 spirit,
for 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 tree, a vine, a 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 terrific, and 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 them, "Do this," and they answered, "We 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
mother, a true wife: in our absence she neglected her health
and died." Today they thought: "She was not as true, as
dear, as we supposed."  The desire for a more inward light
had found expression at last, the unseen had impacted on the
seen, and all that they could say was "Treachery." Mrs.
Wilcox had been treacherous to the family, to the laws of
property, to her own written word.  How did she expect
Howards End to be conveyed to Miss Schlegel?  Was her
husband, to whom it legally belonged, to 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 absurd, we have gone far
towards reconciling ourselves to their departure.  That
note, scribbled in pencil, sent through the matron, was
unbusinesslike as well as cruel, and decreased at once the
value of the woman who had written it.

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

"Mother couldn't have meant it," said Evie, still 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 poor, if she had wanted a house, I could
understand it a little.  But she has a house of her own.
Why should she want another?  She wouldn't have any use of
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 Dolly, who had recovered,
cried, "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 father, who was feeling rather
in the cold.  Charles had been kind in undertaking the
funeral arrangements and in telling him to eat his
breakfast, but the boy as he grew up was a little
dictatorial, and assumed the post of chairman too readily.
"I could deal with her, if she comes, but 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 see, Charles, in her terrible
pain your poor mother put us all in false positions.  Paul
would not have left England, you would not have gone to
Italy, nor Evie and I into Yorkshire, if only we had known.
Well, Miss Schlegel's position has been equally false.  Take
all in all, she 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 Charles, looking at his
watch.  "I admit I'm rather down on cosmopolitans.  My
fault, doubtless.  I cannot stand them, and a German
cosmopolitan is the limit.  I think that's about all, isn't
it?  I want to run down and see Chalkeley.  A bicycle will
do.  And, by the way, I 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 another, and
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 Sirens, having first stopped one
another's ears with wool.


Chapter 12

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 years, when she had built up her life
differently, and it was to fit into position as the
headstone of the corner.  Her mind was bent on other
questions now, and 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 mother, ripple and great wave, had
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 seeker, she
stood for a while at the verge of the sea that tells so
little, but tells a little, and watched the outgoing of this
last tremendous tide.  Her friend had vanished in agony, but
not, she believed, in degradation.  Her withdrawal had
hinted at other things besides disease and pain.  Some leave
our life with tears, others with an insane frigidity; Mrs.
Wilcox had taken the middle course, which only rarer natures
can pursue.  She had kept proportion.  She had told a little
of her grim secret to her friends, but not too much; she had
shut up her heart--almost, but not entirely.  It is thus, if
there is any rule, that we ought to die--neither as victim
nor as fanatic, but as the seafarer who can greet with an
equal eye the deep that he is entering, and 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 death, any more than baptism is birth or
marriage union.  All three are the clumsy devices, coming
now too late, now 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 vividly,
her own way, and no dust was so truly dust as the contents
of that heavy coffin, lowered with ceremonial until it
rested on the dust of the earth, no 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 is, and to what he may aspire.  Truer
relationships gleamed.  Perhaps the last word would be
hope--hope even on this side of the grave.

Meanwhile, she could take an interest in the survivors.
In spite of her Christmas duties, in spite of her brother,
the 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 civilization.  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 true, but to
brood on it is mediaeval.  Our business is not to contrast
the two, but 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
fun, but overcrowded, for the rest of Pomerania had gone
there too.  Helen loved the country, and her letter glowed
with physical exercise and poetry.  She spoke of the
scenery, quiet, yet august; of the snow-clad fields, with
their scampering herds of deer; of the river and its quaint
entrance into the Baltic Sea; of the Oderberge, only three
hundred feet high, from which one slid all too quickly back
into the Pomeranian plains, and yet these Oderberge were
real mountains, with pine-forests, streams, and 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 realized the accessories of death,
which 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 hope, vivid in its turn
against life's workaday cheerfulness;--all these were lost
to Helen, who 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 Margaret,
after 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 Mosebach, who had conceived the large and
patriotic notion of winning back her cousins to the
Fatherland by matrimony.  England had played Paul Wilcox,
and lost; Germany played Herr Forstmeister someone--Helen
could not remember his name.

Herr Forstmeister lived in a wood, and standing on the
summit of the Oderberge, he had pointed out his house to
Helen, or rather, had pointed out the wedge of pines in
which it lay.  She had exclaimed, "Oh, 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 someone for Tibby," concluded Helen.  "There
now, Tibby, think of that; Frieda is saving up a little girl
for you, in 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
affairs, for he had just been up to try for a scholarship at
Oxford.  The men were down, and the candidates had been
housed in various colleges, and had dined in hall.  Tibby
was sensitive to beauty, the experience was new, and 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
years, appealed at once to the boy's taste: it was the kind
of thing he could understand, and he understood it all the
better because it was empty.  Oxford is--Oxford: not a mere
receptacle for youth, like 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 friends, for they knew that his
education had been cranky, and had severed him from other
boys and men.  He made no friends.  His Oxford remained
Oxford empty, and he took into life with him, not the memory
of a radiance, but 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 them, feeling elderly and benign.
Then something occurred to her, and 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."

Helen, after a decent pause, continued 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 months, Margaret
realized the chaotic nature of our daily life, and 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 mountains, and the most unsuccessful
is not that of the man who is taken unprepared, but 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 good, and that
men, like nations, are the better for staggering through
life fully armed.  The tragedy of preparedness has scarcely
been handled, save by the Greeks.  Life is indeed dangerous,
but not in the way morality would have us believe.  It is
indeed unmanageable, but the essence of it is not a battle.
It is unmanageable because it is a romance, and its essence
is romantic beauty.

Margaret hoped that for the future she would be less
cautious, not more cautious, than she had been in the past.


Chapter 13

Over two years passed, and the Schlegel household continued
to lead its life of cultured but not ignoble ease, still
swimming gracefully on the grey tides of London.  Concerts
and plays swept past them, money had been spent and renewed,
reputations won and lost, and the city herself, emblematic
of their lives, rose and fell in a continual flux, while her
shallows washed more widely against the hills of Surrey and
over the fields of Hertfordshire.  This famous building had
arisen, that was doomed.  Today Whitehall had been
transformed: it would be the turn of Regent Street
tomorrow.  And month by month the roads smelt more strongly
of petrol, and were more difficult to cross, and human
beings heard each other speak with greater difficulty,
breathed less of the air, and 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 day, and 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 forces,
the public has heard a little too much--they seem Victorian,
while 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 visualizes it
as a tract of quivering grey, intelligent without purpose,
and excitable without love; as a spirit that has altered
before it can be chronicled; as a heart that certainly
beats, but with no pulsation of humanity.  It lies beyond
everything: Nature, with all her cruelty, comes nearer to us
than do these crowds of men.  A friend explains himself: the
earth is explicable--from her we came, and 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 fog,
beyond the very stars, the voids of the universe are
ransacked to justify the monster, and stamped with a human
face.  London is religion's opportunity--not the decorous
religion of theologians, but anthropomorphic, crude.  Yes,
the continuous flow would be tolerable if a man of our own
sort--not anyone pompous or tearful--were caring for us up
in the sky.

The Londoner seldom understands his city until it sweeps
him, too, away from his moorings, and Margaret's eyes were
not opened until the lease of Wickham Place expired.  She
had always known that it must expire, but 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 words, formless sentences, potted
expressions of approval or disgust.  Month by month things
were stepping livelier, but to what goal?  The population
still rose, but what was the quality of the men born?  The
particular millionaire who owned the freehold of Wickham
Place, and 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 ended, and one gathered that this was the case
with most millionaires.  What right had such men--But
Margaret checked herself.  That way lies madness.  Thank
goodness she, too, had some money, and could purchase a new home.

Tibby, now in his second year at Oxford, was down for
the Easter vacation, and 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 uncertain,
but when pressed remarked that he should prefer to be quite
free of any profession.  Margaret was not shocked, but 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 Tibby, and then held his mouth open in a
curious quiver, as if he, too, had thoughts of Mr. Vyse, had
seen round, through, over, and beyond Mr. Vyse, had weighed
Mr. Vyse, grouped him, and 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 continued, smiling.  "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 work, and they must not starve it.  It's a new
desire.  It goes with a great deal that's bad, but in itself
it's good, and 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 faintly, and
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 you, and 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 practically, and 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 work, or else you must pretend to
work, which is what I do.  Work, work, work if you'd save
your soul and your body.  It is honestly a necessity, dear
boy.  Look at the Wilcoxes, look at Mr. Pembroke.  With all
their defects of temper and understanding, such men give me
more pleasure than many who are better equipped and 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 protested, suddenly sitting
up, alert and angry.  Tibby, for all his defects, had 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."

"Duty" always 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 who 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 Margaret, a 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
civilization.  How paradoxical!  Yet I expect that is what
we shall find in heaven."

"And I," said Tibby, "want civilization without
activity, which, I expect, is what we shall find in the
other place."

"You needn't go as far as the other place, Tibbi-kins,
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 to think, to think of the
people who are really poor.  How do they live?  Not to move
about the world would kill me."

As she spoke, the door was flung open, and 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.)  "Yes, for
her husband, and it really is so."

"Not anything to do with Bracknell?" cried Margaret, who
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 happen really?"

"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.  Oh, Mrs. Lanoline's a dear--she asked for a
husband as if he was an umbrella.  She mislaid him Saturday
afternoon--and for a long time suffered no inconvenience.
But all night, and all this morning her apprehensions grew.
Breakfast didn't seem the same--no, no more did lunch, and
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 if they didn't, 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 Margaret, putting down
her work.  "I'm not sure that this is so funny, Helen.  It
means some horrible volcano smoking somewhere, doesn'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 Margaret, moving 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 flats, their only outlook, hung 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 feared, fantastically, that her own
little flock might be moving into turmoil and squalor, into
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 resumed, but with acrimony.  Then
tea came, and after tea Helen went on preparing her speech,
and Margaret prepared one, too, for they were going out to a
discussion society on the morrow.  But her thoughts were
poisoned.  Mrs. Lanoline had risen out of the abyss, like a
faint smell, a goblin football, telling of a life where love
and hatred had both decayed.


Chapter 14

The mystery, like so many mysteries, was explained.  Next
day, just as they were dressed to go out to dinner, a 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 Annie, who had shown him into the dining-room.

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

Tibby was interested.  The three hurried downstairs, to
find, not the gay dog they expected, but a young man,
colourless, toneless, who had already the mournful eyes
above a drooping moustache that are so common in London, and
that haunt some streets of the city like accusing
presences.  One guessed him as the third generation,
grandson to the shepherd or ploughboy whom civilization 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 him, more than a
hint of primitive good looks, and Margaret, noting the spine
that might have been straight, and 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 case, but during the last few weeks
she had doubted whether it humanized the majority, so wide
and so widening is the gulf that stretches between the
natural and the philosophic man, so many the good chaps who
are wrecked in trying to cross it.  She knew this type very
well--the vague aspirations, the mental dishonesty, the
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 pretentiously, "when 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 laughed, "for 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
continued, pushing him forward, for, though he had promised
an explanation, he seemed unable to give one.

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

"Then why--?" began Helen, but Margaret laid a hand on
her arm.

"I said to my wife," he continued more rapidly--"I said
to Mrs. Bast, 'I 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 characterized Mr. Bast.  He explained
again, but was obviously lying, and Helen didn't see why he
should get off.  She had the cruelty of youth.  Neglecting
her sister's pressure, she said, "I still don't understand.
When did you say you paid this call?"

"Call?  What call?" said he, staring as if her question
had been a foolish one, a favourite device of those in mid-stream.

"This afternoon call."

"In the afternoon, of course!" he replied, and looked at
Tibby to see how the repartee went.  But Tibby, himself a
repartee, was unsympathetic, and said, "Saturday afternoon
or Sunday afternoon?"

"S-Saturday."

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

"I don't call that fair," said Mr. Bast, going 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 Margaret, distressed again
by odours from the abyss.

"It was something else," he asserted, his elaborate
manner breaking down.  "I was somewhere else to what you
think, so 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 fact, hard 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 Helen, "No 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 said, straightening 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 Star, and I looked it up in the
celestial atlas, but once out of doors everything gets so mixed--"

"Don't talk to me about the Pole Star," interrupted
Helen, who was becoming interested.  "I know its little
ways.  It goes round and round, and 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."

Tibby, who preferred his comedy undiluted, slipped from
the room.  He knew that this fellow would never attain to
poetry, and 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. Bast, you'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.  "Besides, they 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 replied, "No." The word
flew again like a pebble from the sling.  Down toppled all
that had seemed ignoble or literary in his talk, down
toppled tiresome R. L. S. and the "love of the earth" and
his silk top-hat.  In the presence of these women Leonard
had arrived, and he spoke with a flow, an exultation, that
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 Helen, sitting on
the edge of the table.

The sound of a lady's voice recalled him from sincerity,
and 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--Borrow, Thoreau, and sorrow.  R. L. S. brought up
the rear, and the outburst ended in a swamp of books.  No
disrespect to these great names.  The fault is ours, not
theirs.  They mean us to use them for sign-posts, and are
not to blame if, in our weakness, 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 amenities, and its cosy villas had
re-entered ancient night.  Every twelve hours this miracle
happens, but 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 dawn, though revealing nothing but
monotones, was 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 had
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 Helen, her 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.

Leonard, with extreme sentiment, replied: "No, I 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 Helen, "but 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 right, and a false note jarred.
One little twist, they felt, and the instrument might be in
tune.  One little strain, and it might be silent for ever.
He thanked the ladies very much, but he would not call
again.  There was a moment's awkwardness, and then Helen
said: "Go, then; perhaps you know best; but never forget
you're better than Jefferies." And he went.  Their hansom
caught him up at the corner, passed with a waving of hands,
and 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
spring, but London was not afraid.  Her smoke mitigated the
splendour, and the clouds down Oxford Street were a
delicately painted ceiling, which adorned while it did not
distract.  She has never known the clear-cut armies of the
purer air.  Leonard hurried through her tinted wonders, very
much part of the picture.  His was a grey life, and to
brighten it he had ruled off a few corners for romance.  The
Miss Schlegels--or, to speak more accurately, his interview
with them--were to fill such a corner, nor was it by any
means the first time that he had talked intimately to
strangers.  The habit was analogous to a debauch, an outlet,
though the worst of outlets, for 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 Cambridge, where
a decent-mannered undergraduate had spoken to him.  They had
got into conversation, and gradually Leonard flung reticence
aside, told some of his domestic troubles, and hinted at the
rest.  The undergraduate, supposing they could start a
friendship, asked 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.  Leonard, though
furtive, was untidy, and left it lying about.  Jacky found
it, and then began, "What's that card, eh?"  "Yes, don't you
wish you knew what that card was?"  "Len, who's Miss
Schlegel?" etc.  Months passed, and the card, now as a joke,
now as a grievance, was handed about, getting dirtier and
dirtier.  It followed them when they moved from Cornelia
Road to Tulse Hill.  It was submitted to third parties.  A
few inches of pasteboard, it became the battlefield on which
the souls of Leonard and his wife contended.  Why did he not
say, "A lady took my umbrella, another gave me this that I
might call for my umbrella"?  Because Jacky would have
disbelieved him?  Partly, but chiefly because he was
sentimental.  No affection gathered round the card, but it
symbolized the life of culture, that Jacky should never
spoil.  At night he would say to himself, "Well, at all
events, she doesn't know about that card.  Yah!  done her there!"

Poor Jacky!  she was not a bad sort, and 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 her, and had spent the evening observing the
stars.  On the Saturday he went up, as usual, to town, but
he came not back Saturday night nor Sunday morning, nor
Sunday afternoon.  The inconvenience grew intolerable, and
though she was now of a retiring habit, and shy of women,
she went up to Wickham Place.  Leonard returned in her
absence.  The card, the fatal card, was gone from the pages
of Ruskin, and he guessed what had happened.

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

Jacky sighed, said, "Len, I do think you might explain,"
and resumed domesticity.

Explanations were difficult at this stage, and Leonard
was too silly--or it is tempting to write, too sound a chap
to attempt them.  His reticence was not entirely the shoddy
article that a business life promotes, the reticence that
pretends that nothing is something, and hides behind the
DAILY TELEGRAPH.  The adventurer, also, is reticent, and it
is an adventure for a clerk to walk for a few hours in
darkness.  You may laugh at him, you who have slept nights
on the veldt, with your rifle beside you and all the
atmosphere of adventure past.  And you also may laugh who
think adventures silly.  But do not be surprised if Leonard
is shy whenever he meets you, and 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 fallen, and 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 surburban hills?

He discovered that he was going bareheaded down Regent
Street.  London came back with a rush.  Few were about at
this hour, but 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 backwards, and its effect was greatly to elongate the
face and to bring out the distance between the eyes and the
moustache.  Thus equipped, he escaped criticism.  No one
felt uneasy as he titupped along the pavements, the heart of
a man ticking fast in his chest.


Chapter 15

The sisters went out to dinner full of their adventure, and
when they were both full of the same subject, there were few
dinner-parties that could stand up against them.  This
particular one, which was all ladies, had more kick in it
than most, but succumbed after a struggle.  Helen at one
part of the table, Margaret at the other, would talk of Mr.
Bast and of no one else, and somewhere about the entree
their monologues collided, fell ruining, and became common
property.  Nor was this all.  The dinner-party was really an
informal discussion club; there was a paper after it, read
amid coffee-cups and laughter in the drawing-room, but
dealing more or less thoughtfully with some topic of general
interest.  After the paper came a debate, and in this debate
Mr. Bast also figured, appearing now as a bright spot in
civilization, now as a dark spot, according to the
temperament of the speaker.  The subject of the paper had
been, "How ought I to dispose of my money?" the reader
professing to be a millionaire on the point of death,
inclined to bequeath her fortune for the foundation of local
art galleries, but open to conviction from other sources.
The various parts had been assigned beforehand, and 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 library, or
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 wife, the money going to her as
compensation; he must be assigned a Twin Star, some member
of the leisured classes who would watch over him ceaselessly
(groans from Helen); he must be given food but no clothes,
clothes but no food, a third-return ticket to Venice,
without either food or clothes when he arrived there.  In
short, he 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 here, I understand, to 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 round,
and 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 pauperizing them," said an earnest
girl, who liked the Schlegels, but thought them a little
unspiritual at times.

"Not if you gave them so much.  A big windfall would not
pauperize 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.  "Well, isn't the most civilized thing
going, the 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 civilization, whatever the woof
may be.  The imagination ought to play upon money and
realize it vividly, for it's the--the second most important
thing in the world.  It is so sluffed 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, "Nothing, but he would not gain
his soul until he had gained a little of the world." Then
they said, "No they did not believe it," and she admitted
that an overworked clerk may save his soul in the
superterrestrial sense, where the effort will be taken for
the deed, but she denied that he will ever explore the
spiritual resources of this world, will ever know the rarer
joys of the body, or attain to clear and passionate
intercourse with his fellows.  Others had attacked the
fabric of Society-Property, Interest, etc.; she only fixed
her eyes on a few human beings, to see how, under present
conditions, they 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 one, or, as in this case, to
a few, was the utmost she dare hope for.

Between the idealists, and the political economists,
Margaret had a bad time.  Disagreeing elsewhere, they 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 she, as eldest son, might
surely rank among the millionaire's legatees.  Margaret
weakly admitted the claim, and another claim was at once set
up by Helen, who declared that she had been the
millionaire's housemaid for over forty years, overfed and
underpaid; was nothing to be done for her, so corpulent and
poor?  The millionaire then read out her last will and
testament, in 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 enough, and
a dozen happy ladies dispersed to their homes.

Helen and Margaret walked the earnest girl as far as
Battersea Bridge Station, arguing copiously all the way.
When she had gone they were conscious of an alleviation, and
of the great beauty of the evening.  They turned back
towards Oakley Street.  The lamps and the plane-trees,
following the line of the embankment, struck a note of
dignity that is rare in English cities.  The seats, almost
deserted, were here and there occupied by gentlefolk in
evening dress, who 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 rightly, a blessing more frequent in
Germany than here.  As Margaret and Helen sat down, the city
behind them seemed to be a vast theatre, an opera-house in
which some endless trilogy was performing, and they
themselves a pair of satisfied subscribers, who 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 bridge.

"I 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.
Wilcox, who was sitting with friends many seats away, heard
his, rose to his feet, and 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 recognized 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 this, but 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. Wilcox, extinguishing his cigarette,
and sitting down between them.  "Oh, Paul's all right.  We
had a line from Madeira.  He'll be at work again by now."

"Ugh--" said Helen, shuddering from complex causes.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Isn't the climate of Nigeria too horrible?"

"Someone'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 Africa, Ger--untold
complications may follow.  Now tell me all your news."

"Oh, we've had a splendid evening," cried Helen, who
always woke up at the advent of a visitor.  "We belong to a
kind of club that reads papers, Margaret and I--all women,
but there is a discussion after.  This evening it was on how
one ought to leave one's money--whether to one's family, or
to the poor, and if so how--oh, most interesting."

The man of business smiled.  Since his wife's death he
had almost doubled his income.  He was an important figure
at last, a reassuring name on company prospectuses, and life
had treated him very well.  The world seemed in his grasp as
he listened to the River Thames, which still flowed inland
from the sea.  So wonderful to the girls, it held no
mysteries for him.  He had helped to shorten its long tidal
trough by taking shares in the lock at Teddington, and 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 flank, he felt that his
hands were on all the ropes of life, and that what he did
not know could not be worth knowing.

"Sounds a most original entertainment!" he exclaimed,
and 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 breed 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 sharply, for the Wilcox glamour is not of the
kind that returns, and she had bitter memories of the days
when a speech such as he had just made would have impressed
her favourably.  "We suppose it is a good thing to waste an
evening once a fortnight over a debate, but, as my sister
says, it 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 patronizing tone thought Margaret, came 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 her, but it was
pleasant to listen to him now, and 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 said, "But 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 pauperize 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. Wilcox, whose fortune was not so very far below the
standard indicated, laughed exuberantly.  "My dear Miss
Schlegel, I 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 me, Helen, listen 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 laugh, and the lowered voice.
"Naturally the man who's in a situation when he applies
stands a better chance, is in a stronger position, than 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 Margaret, while
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 interrupted, glancing up and down
the Embankment, in case his indiscretion had been
overheard.  "I oughtn't to have spoken--but I happen to
know, being more or less behind the scenes.  The
Porphyrion's a bad, bad 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 undercut, has been badly hit by a long
series of small fires, and 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 Helen, and he
laughed and agreed that it was.  When Margaret said that she
supposed that clerks, like every one else, found it
extremely difficult to get situations in these days, he
replied, "Yes, extremely," and rose to rejoin his friends.
He knew by his own office--seldom a vacant post, and
hundreds of applicants for it; at present no vacant post.

"And how's Howards End looking?" said Margaret, wishing
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 long-haired
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
mockery.  Evie got rather keen on Alpine plants.  But it
didn't do--no, it didn't do.  You remember, or 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 it, I say; so we've
taken a house in Ducie Street, close to Sloane Street, and a
place right down in Shropshire--Oniton Grange.  Ever heard
of Oniton?  Do come and see us--right away from everywhere,
up towards Wales. "

"What a change!" said Margaret.  But the change was in
her own voice, which 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 Margaret, who had not kept up with the
Charles'.  "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 move, but he would, and took a house at
the other end of Hilton, down by the Six Hills.  He had a
motor, too.  There they all are, a 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 End, I 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 it, and 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--two, 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
wife, Helen 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.  However, he did tell us about the Porphyrion.
Let us write to Mr. Bast as soon as ever we get home, and
tell him to clear out of it at once."

"Do; yes, that's worth doing.  Let us."

"Let's ask him to tea."


Chapter 16

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 odd, but
we'll explain--we aren't odd, really--not affected, really.
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 Frenchman, in whose blood there
runs the very spirit of persiflage and of gracious
repartee.  His wit was the Cockney's; it opened no doors
into imagination, and Helen was drawn up short by "The more
a lady has to say, the 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.

He, too, was drawn up short.  He would not have these
women prying into his work.  They were Romance, and so was
the room to which he had at last penetrated, with the queer
sketches of people bathing upon its walls, and so were the
very tea-cups, with 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 Helen, who did not follow the
workings of his mind.  "It was written as large as life on
your card, and considering we wrote to you there, and that
you replied on the stamped paper--"

"Would you call the Porphyrion one of the big Insurance
Companies?" pursued Margaret.

"It depends 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
grief, I've often noticed.  Ah, you can't be too careful."

He drank, and wiped his moustache, which was going to be
one of those moustaches that always droop into
tea-cups--more bother than they're worth, surely, and 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 ignorance, and under these
circumstances, another motion of the head seemed safest.  To
him, as to the British public, the Porphyrion was the
Porphyrion of the advertisement--a giant, in the classical
style, but draped sufficiently, who held in one hand a
burning torch, and pointed with the other to St. Paul's and
Windsor Castle.  A large sum of money was inscribed below,
and you drew your own conclusions.  This giant caused
Leonard to do arithmetic and write letters, to explain the
regulations to new clients, and re-explain them to old
ones.  A giant was of an impulsive morality--one knew that
much.  He would pay for Mrs. Munt's hearth-rug with
ostentatious haste, a large claim he would repudiate
quietly, and fight court by court.  But his true fighting
weight, his antecedents, his 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 powerful, we 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 unsufficiently
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. Bast, I don't understand business, and I dare say
my questions are stupid, but 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 thing, for this would be giving it away; nor yet that it
was good, for this would be giving it away equally.  He
attempted to suggest that it was something between the two,
with vast possibilities in either direction, but broke down
under the gaze of four sincere eyes.  As yet he scarcely
distinguished between the two sisters.  One was more
beautiful and more lively, but "the Miss Schlegels" still
remained a composite Indian god, whose waving arms and
contradictory speeches were the product of a single mind.

"One can but see," he remarked, adding, "as Ibsen says,
'things happen.'" He was itching to talk about books and
make the most of his romantic hour.  Minute after minute
slipped away, while the ladies, with imperfect skill,
discussed 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 others, but they
did not take the hint.  Men might have shown more tact.
Women, however tactful elsewhere, are heavy-handed here.
They cannot see why we should shroud our incomes and our
prospects in a veil.  "How much exactly have you, and how
much do you expect to have next June?"  And these were women
with a theory, who 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 stands,
the 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 away, and Jacky and
squalor came nearer.  At last he could bear it no longer,
and broke in, reciting the names of books feverishly.  There
was a moment of piercing joy when Margaret said, "So YOU
like Carlyle," and then the door opened, and "Mr. Wilcox,
Miss Wilcox" entered, preceded by two prancing puppies.

"Oh, the dears!  Oh, Evie, how too impossibly sweet!"
screamed Helen, falling 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 Evie, who 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: "No, I 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
friendship, and 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 you, you 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
you, sir, am to have my brain picked?"

Mr. Wilcox turned to Margaret with the air of humorous
strength that he could so well command.  "Are we intruding,
Miss Schlegel?  Can we be of any use or 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 come, and it's to have my brain
picked.  I ask you, is it fair?"

"Highly unfair," said Mr. Wilcox, drawing a gasp from
Evie, who 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 Leonard, hot with
stupid anger.

"So do I."  There was a pause.  "You were that last
Sunday--you are this today.  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 trees, your sunrise and the wind,
if they do not enter into our daily lives?  They have never
entered into mine, but into yours, we thought--Haven't we
all to struggle against life's daily greyness, against
pettiness, against mechanical cheerfulness, against
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 Leonard, "all 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. Wilcox, turning 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 in, but I felt that
you could polish him off for yourselves--I didn't
interfere.  You were splendid, Miss Schlegel--absolutely
splendid.  You can take my word for it, but 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'--oh, fine!"

"I'm very sorry," said Margaret, collecting 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 friend, and, permission
given, said: "Oughtn't you really to be more careful?"

Margaret laughed, though her thoughts still strayed
after Helen.  "Do you realize 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 Evie, a 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 Margaret, who 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 man, and want to see him again."

"That's your clever way of thinking.  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
stiff.  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 grey, and to show that it is grey.  If possible, one
should have both."

Some of her words ran past Mr. Wilcox.  He let them run
past.  Others he caught and criticized 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 fellows"--he smiled--"are
more tolerant than you intellectuals.  We live and let live,
and assume that things are jogging on fairly well elsewhere,
and 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 office, and observe them to be dull, but I
don't know what's going on beneath.  So, by the way, with
London.  I have heard you rail against London, Miss
Schlegel, and it seems a funny thing to say but I was very
angry with you.  What do you know about London?  You only
see civilization from the outside.  I don't say in your
case, but in too many cases that attitude leads to
morbidity, discontent, and Socialism."

She admitted the strength of his position, though it
undermined imagination.  As he spoke, some outposts of
poetry and perhaps of sympathy fell ruining, and 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 alone,
and 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 Margaret, who 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. Wilcox, who thought the episode
amusing, if risque.  With most ladies he would not have
discussed it, but he was trading on Margaret's reputation as
an emanicipated 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 Schlegel, excuse me, but 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 I
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 met, and 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 jealousy, in case the female was
attracted by another male.  Love, say the ascetics, reveals
our shameful kinship with the beasts.  Be it so: one can
bear that; jealousy is the real shame.  It is jealousy, not
love, that connects us with the farmyard intolerably, and
calls up visions of two angry cocks and a complacent hen.
Margaret crushed complacency down because she was
civilized.  Mr. Wilcox, uncivilized, continued to feel anger
long after he had rebuilt his defences, and 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 Evie, who 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 into the landing.  She heard no sound,
and 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.  "Why, you're all alone," she said.

"Yes--it's all right, Meg--Poor, poor creature--"

"Come back to the Wilcoxes and tell me later--Mr. W.
much concerned, and slightly titillated."

"Oh, 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 Margaret, kissing her, "but 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 cried, "and now for puppies."

As they drove away, Mr. 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 someone 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 enough, but I can't stand
the toothy one.  And I shouldn't have called either of them girls."

Evie had grown up handsome.  Dark-eyed, with the glow of
youth under sunburn, built firmly and firm-lipped, she 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 loved, but the net of matrimony was being
prepared for her, and a few days later she was attracted to
a Mr. Percy Cahill, an uncle of Mrs. Charles, and he was
attracted to her.


Chapter 17

The Age of Property holds bitter moments even for a
proprietor.  When a move is imminent, furniture becomes
ridiculous, and Margaret now lay awake at nights wondering
where, where on earth they and all their belongings would be
deposited in September next.  Chairs, tables, pictures,
books, that had rumbled down to them through the
generations, must rumble forward again like a slide of
rubbish to which she longed to give the final push, and send
toppling into the sea.  But there were all their father's
books--they never read them, but they were their father's,
and must be kept.  There was the marble-topped
chiffonier--their mother had set store by it, they could not
remember why.  Round every knob and cushion in the house
sentiment gathered, a sentiment that was at times personal,
but more often a faint piety to the dead, a prolongation of
rites that might have ended at the grave.

It was absurd, if 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
dignity, whereas the modern ownership of movables is
reducing us again to a nomadic horde.  We are reverting to
the civilization of luggage, and historians of the future
will note how the middle classes accreted possessions
without taking root in the earth, and 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 lives, and almost to counsel them.
Nor is their ground-landlord spiritually the richer.  He has
built flats on its site, his motor-cars grow swifter, his
exposures of Socialism more trenchant.  But he has spilt the
precious distillation of the years, and 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 visit, and wanted to have her
mind at ease for it.  Swanage, though dull, was stable, and
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 stimulates, it cannot sustain; and
Margaret, hurrying over its surface for a house without
knowing what sort of a house she wanted, was paying for many
a thrilling sensation in the past.  She could not even break
loose from culture, and her time was wasted by concerts
which it would be a sin to miss, and 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 house, and 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 Wilcox, asking her to lunch there.  Mr. Cahill was
coming, and the three would have such a jolly chat, and
perhaps end up at the Hippodrome.  Margaret had no strong
regard for Evie, and no desire to meet her fiance, and she
was surprised that Helen, who had been far funnier about
Simpson's, had not been asked instead.  But the invitation
touched her by its intimate tone.  She must know Evie Wilcox
better than she supposed, and declaring that she "simply
must," she accepted.

But when she saw Evie at the entrance of the restaurant,
staring fiercely at nothing after the fashion of athletic
women, her heart failed her anew.  Miss Wilcox had changed
perceptibly since her engagement.  Her voice was gruffer,
her manner more downright, and she was inclined to patronize
the more foolish virgin.  Margaret was silly enough to be
pained at this.  Depressed at her isolation, she saw not
only houses and furniture, but the vessel of life itself
slipping past her, with people like Evie and Mr. Cahill on board.

There are moments when virtue and wisdom fail us, and
one of them came to her at Simpson's in the Strand.  As she
trod the staircase, narrow, but carpeted thickly, as she
entered the eating-room, where saddles of mutton were being
trundled up to expectant clergymen, she had a strong, if
erroneous, conviction of her own futility, and wished she
had never come out of her backwater, where nothing happened
except art and literature, and 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 him, and
her feeling of loneliness vanished.

"I thought I'd get round if I could," said he.  "Evie
told me of her little plan, so I just slipped in and secured
a table.  Always secure a table first.  Evie, don't pretend
you want to sit by your old father, because you don't.  Miss
Schlegel, come in my side, out of pity.  My goodness, but
you look tired!  Been worrying round after your young clerks?"

"No, after houses," said Margaret, edging 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 she, with 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 Margaret, pulling
off her gloves.  Her spirits were rising, and 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
place, for a joke, once in a way.  It is so thoroughly Old
English.  Don't you agree?"

"Yes," said Margaret, who didn't.  The order was given,
the joint rolled up, and the carver, under Mr. Wilcox's
direction, cut the meat where it was succulent, and piled
their plates high.  Mr. Cahill insisted on sirloin, but
admitted that he had made a mistake later on.  He and Evie
soon fell into a conversation of the "No, I didn't; yes, you
did" type--conversation which, though fascinating to those
who are engaged in it, neither 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 someone 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 love, having splashed these drops
at Margaret, swept away on its habitual course.  She
sympathized with it now, for a little comfort had restored
her geniality.  Speech and silence pleased her equally, and
while Mr. Wilcox made some preliminary inquiries about
cheese, her eyes surveyed the restaurant, and admired its
well-calculated tributes to the solidity of our past.
Though no more Old English than the works of Kipling, it had
selected its reminiscences so adroitly that her criticism
was lulled, and 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; well, let 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 said, pushing her glass towards
him for some more cider.  "It's all proteids and
body-buildings, and people come up to you and beg your
pardon, but 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 planes, and 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.  Because, though I don't believe in auras, and
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 unsatisfied, and 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 Margaret, surprised that the point was
of any importance to him.  "Indeed, I will.  When I talked
about scrubbing my aura, I 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 moment, and 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 mesmerize
houses--cow them with an eye, and up they come, trembling.
Ladies can't.  It's the houses that are mesmerizing me.
I've no control over the saucy things.  Houses are alive.  No?"

"I'm out of my depth," he said, and 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 do you suppose that he
understood of it?"

"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. Wilcox, as it were
thrusting his hand into her speech.  "Well, you do admit
that there are rich and poor.  That's something."

Margaret could not reply.  Was he incredibly stupid, or
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 retorted, with a gay smile: "I don't
care.  You've made two damaging admissions, and I'm heartily
with you in both."

In time they finished lunch, and Margaret, who had
excused herself from the Hippodrome, took her leave.  Evie
had scarcely addressed her, and 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, and, as such, he had given her that
silver vinaigrette as a memento.  It was pretty of him to
have given that vinaigrette, and 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 years, and were really beginning to know each other.

She did not forget his promise to sample Eustace Miles,
and 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 18

As they were seated at Aunt Juley's breakfast-table at The
Bays, parrying her excessive hospitality and enjoying the
view of the bay, a 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 marriage,
he had decided to give up his house in Ducie Street, and was
willing to let it on a yearly tenancy.  It was a
businesslike letter, and stated frankly what he would do for
them and what he would not do.  Also the rent.  If they
approved, Margaret was to come up AT ONCE--the words were
underlined, as is necessary when dealing with women--and to
go over the house with him.  If they disapproved, a wire
would oblige, as he should put it into the hands of an agent.

The letter perturbed, because she was not sure what it
meant.  If he liked her, if he had manoeuvred to get her to
Simpson's, might this be a manoeuvre to get her to London,
and result in an offer of marriage?  She put it to herself
as indelicately as possible, in the hope that her brain
would cry, "Rubbish, you're a self-conscious fool!"  But her
brain only tingled a little and was silent, and for a time
she sat gazing at the mincing waves, and wondering whether
the news would seem strange to the others.

As soon as she began speaking, the sound of her own
voice reassured her.  There could be nothing in it.  The
replies also were typical, and in the buff 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 Helen, helping herself
to toast.

"Shan't I go up to town today, take the house if it's
the least possible, and then come down by the afternoon
train tomorrow, 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 rash, Margaret?"

"There's nothing rash to do."

"Who ARE the Wilcoxes?" said Tibby, a 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
acquaintances, Mr. Wilcox is the only one who has stuck.  It
is now over three years, and 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. "Now, children, which 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 what meaning you attach to the word 'possi--'"

"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 asperity, "and 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 big, real 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."

Helen, with her mouth full, cried: "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
cosmopolitan, please."

"Helen may be right."

"Of course she's right," said Helen.

Helen might be right, but she did not go up to London.
Margaret did that.  An interrupted holiday is the worst of
the minor worries, and 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 lately, so
that she could not read in the train, and it bored her to
look at the landscape, which she had seen but yesterday.  At
Southampton she "waved" to Frieda: Frieda was on her way
down to join them at Swanage, and Mrs. Munt had calculated
that their trains would cross.  But Frieda was looking the
other way, and 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, silly, and 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 lectured, reasoned, and in despair acquiesced!  "I may
have been deceived by the curate, my dear, but the young
fellow who brings the midday post really is fond of me, and
has, as a matter fact--" It had always seemed to her the
most hideous corner of old age, yet 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 thing, he
took offence at everything she said.

"This is awfully kind of you," she began, "but 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 motor, which was new and 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 fun, I can tell
you, being left so much alone.  I've got my work all
day--indeed, a great deal too much of it--but when I come
home in the evening, I tell you, I 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 Place, and 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.  "Yes, they 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.  Parliament, the
Thames, the irresponsive chauffeur, would flash into the
field of house-hunting, and all demand some comment or
response.  It is impossible to see modern life steadily and
see it whole, and 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 sea,
the chauffeur might conceal all passion and philosophy
beneath his unhealthy skin.  They knew their own business,
and he knew his.

Yet she liked being with him.  He was not a rebuke, but
a stimulus, and banished morbidity.  Some twenty years her
senior, he preserved a gift that she supposed herself to
have already lost--not youth's creative power, but its
self-confidence and optimism.  He was so sure that it was a
very pleasant world.  His complexion was robust, his hair
had receded but not thinned, the thick moustache and the
eyes that Helen had compared to brandy-balls had an
agreeable menace in them, whether they were turned towards
the slums or towards the stars.  Some day--in the
millennium--there may be no need for his type.  At present,
homage is due to it from those who think themselves
superior, and 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 repeated, suddenly softening
and turning to her, as 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 Margaret, who was
keeping herself in hand--"those we can share with others,
like fire, weather, or music; and those we can't--food, for
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 stupid, and the
inside of it seemed to revolve like the beacon in a
lighthouse.  He did not kiss her, for the hour was half-past
twelve, and 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 account, and she was
surprised that Crane did not realize this, and turn round.
Idiot though she might be, surely Mr. Wilcox was more--how
should one put it? --more psychological than usual.  Always
a good judge of character for business purposes, he seemed
this afternoon to enlarge his field, and to note qualities
outside neatness, obedience, and decision.

"I want to go over the whole house," she announced when
they arrived.  "As soon as I get back to Swanage, which will
be tomorrow afternoon, I'll talk it over once more with
Helen and Tibby, and wire you 'yes' or 'no.'"

"Right.  The dining-room." And they began their survey.

The dining-room was big, but over-furnished.  Chelsea
would have moaned aloud.  Mr. Wilcox had eschewed those
decorative schemes that wince, and relent, and refrain, and
achieve beauty by sacrificing comfort and pluck.  After so
much self-colour and self-denial, Margaret viewed with
relief the sumptuous dado, the frieze, the gilded
wall-paper, amid whose foliage parrots sang.  It would never
do with her own furniture, but those heavy chairs, that
immense side-board loaded with presentation plate, stood up
against its pressure like men.  The room suggested men, and
Margaret, keen to derive the modern capitalist from the
warriors and hunters of the past, saw it as an ancient
guest-hall, where 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.  "Oh, jolly!" said Margaret,
sinking into one of them.

"You do like it?" he said, fixing 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
visualize the ladies withdrawing to it, while their lords
discussed life's realities below, to the accompaniment of
cigars.  Had Mrs. Wilcox's drawing-room looked thus at
Howards End?  Just as this thought entered Margaret's brain,
Mr. 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 interrupted, holding the piano and
averting her eyes.  "I see, I 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 sympathy, that when he said, "I
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 sun, but Margaret could think of no central
radiance here.  She stood in his drawing-room happy, and
longing to give happiness.  On leaving him she realized 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 her, and 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 affection, but he feared
them, and she, who had taught herself only to desire, and
could have clothed the struggle with beauty, held back, and
hesitated with him.

"Good-bye," she continued.  "You will have a letter from
me--I am going back to Swanage tomorrow.

"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 instead.  Ought I to have written?"

"Not at all."

"There's just one question--"

She shook her head.  He looked a little bewildered, and
they parted.

They parted without shaking hands: she had kept the
interview, for his sake, in tints of the quietest grey.  Yet
she thrilled with happiness ere she reached her own house.
Others had loved her in the past, if one may apply to their
brief desires so grave a word, but those others had been
"ninnies"--young men who had nothing to do, old men who
could find nobody better.  And she had often "loved," too,
but only so far as the facts of sex demanded: mere yearnings
for the masculine, to be dismissed for what they were worth,
with a smile.  Never before had her personality been
touched.  She was not young or very rich, and it amazed her
that a man of any standing should take her seriously.  As
she sat trying to do accounts in her empty house, amidst
beautiful pictures and noble books, waves of emotion broke,
as if a tide of passion was flowing through the night air.
She shook her head, tried to concentrate her attention, and
failed.  In vain did she repeat: "But I've been through this
sort of thing before." She had never been through it; the
big machinery, as opposed to the little, had been set in
motion, and the idea that Mr. Wilcox loved, obsessed her
before she came to love him in return.

She would come to no decision yet.  "Oh, sir, this 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.  She, in his place, would have said "Ich liebe
dich," but perhaps it was not his habit to open the heart.
He might have done it if she had pressed him--as a matter of
duty, perhaps; England expects every man to open his heart
once; but the effort would have jarred him, and never, if
she could avoid it, should he lose those defences that he
had chosen to raise against the world.  He must never be
bothered with emotional talk, or with a display of
sympathy.  He was an elderly man now, and it would be futile
and impudent to correct him.

Mrs. Wilcox strayed in and out, ever a welcome ghost;
surveying the scene, thought Margaret, without one hint of
bitterness.


Chapter 19

If one wanted to show a foreigner England, perhaps the
wisest course would be to take him to the final section of
the Purbeck Hills, and stand him on their summit, a 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 Frome, and all the wild lands that come
tossing down from Dorchester, black and gold, to mirror
their gorse in the expanses of Poole.  The valley of the
Stour is beyond, unaccountable stream, dirty at Blandford,
pure at Wimborne--the Stour, sliding out of fat fields, to
marry the Avon beneath the tower of Christchurch.  The
valley of the Avon--invisible, but far to the north the
trained eye may see Clearbury Ring that guards it, and the
imagination may leap beyond that on to Salisbury Plain
itself, and 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 mean, for all their beauty, red houses, and the Stock
Exchange, and extend to the gates of London itself.  So
tremendous is the City's trail!  But the cliffs of
Freshwater it shall never touch, and 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 chalk, turf of our turf, epitome of
what will follow.  And behind the fragment lies Southampton,
hostess to the nations, and Portsmouth, a latent fire, and
all around it, with double and treble collision of tides,
swirls the sea.  How many villages appear in this view!  How
many castles!  How many churches, vanished or triumphant!
How many ships, railways, and roads!  What incredible
variety of men working beneath that lucent sky to what final
end!  The reason fails, like a wave on the Swanage beach;
the imagination swells, spreads, and deepens, until it
becomes geographic and encircles England.

So Frieda Mosebach, now Frau Architect Liesecke, and
mother to her husband's baby, was brought up to these
heights to be impressed, and, after a prolonged gaze, she
said that the hills were more swelling here than in
Pomerania, which was true, but did not seem to Mrs. Munt
apposite.  Poole Harbour was dry, which led her to praise
the absence of muddy foreshore at Friedrich Wilhelms Bad,
Rugen, where beech-trees hang over the tideless Baltic, and
cows may contemplate the brine.  Rather unhealthy Mrs. Munt
thought this would be, water being safer when it moved about.

"And your English lakes--Vindermere, Grasmere--are 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, when Victor, my
brother-in-law, collected many tadpoles--"

"You are not to say 'stink,'" interrupted Helen; "at
least, you may say it, but 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 down, and a
most valuable oyster-fishery depends upon it."

"Yes, that is so," conceded Frieda; and another
international incident was closed.

"'Bournemouth is,'" resumed their hostess, quoting a
local rhyme to which she was much attached--" 'Bournemouth
is, Poole was, and Swanage is to be the most important town
of all and biggest of the three.' Now, Frau Liesecke, I have
shown you Bournemouth, and I have shown you Poole, so let us
walk backward a little, and look down again at Swanage."

"Aunt Juley, wouldn't that be Meg's train?"

A tiny puff of smoke had been circling the harbour, and
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.
"Oh, Helen, Helen, what a time that was!"

Helen laughed.  "Meg and I haven't got such tender
hearts.  If there's a chance of a cheap house, we 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 assented, and in a few minutes they had crossed
the ridge and exchanged the greater view for the lesser.
Rather a dull valley lay below, backed 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 all, and ugliest of the three.  Margaret's train
reappeared as promised, and was greeted with approval by her
aunt.  It came to a standstill in the middle distance, and
there it had been planned that Tibby should meet her, and
drive her, and a tea-basket, up to join them.

"You see," continued Helen to her cousin, "the 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.
Munt, with a gracious dignity.  "I had everything to settle
and explain, and 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 dead it all
seems!  And in the autumn there began this 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 cousin, somehow liking her the
better for making it.  It was not an original remark, nor
had Frieda appropriated it passionately, for 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 was,
however illogically, the good, the beautiful, the true, as
opposed to the respectable, the pretty, the adequate.  It
was a landscape of Bocklin's beside a landscape of Leader's,
strident and ill-considered, but quivering into supernatural
life.  It sharpened idealism, stirred the soul.  It may have
been a bad preparation for what followed.

"Look!" cried Aunt Juley, hurrying away from
generalities over the narrow summit of the down.  "Stand
where I stand, and 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 Swanage, it drove for a little through the
budding lanes, and then began the ascent.

"Have you got the house?" they shouted, long 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 along 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 out, looking 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
anything, and invariably select one of their first wife's friends."

Margaret's face flashed despair.

"That type--" She broke off with a cry.  "Meg, not
anything wrong with you?"

"Wait one minute," said Margaret, whispering always.

"But you've never conceivably--you've never--" She
pulled herself together.  "Tibby, hurry up through; I can't
hold this gate indefinitely.  Aunt Juley!  I say, Aunt
Juley, make the tea, will you, and Frieda; we've got to talk
houses, and I'll come on afterwards." And then, turning her
face to her sister's, she burst into tears.

Margaret was stupefied.  She heard herself saying, "Oh,
really--"  She felt herself touched with a hand that trembled.

"Don't," sobbed Helen, "don't, don't, Meg, don't!"  She
seemed incapable of saying any other word.  Margaret,
trembling herself, led her forward up the road, till 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 thought, "Helen 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--"

"It's not a thing like that," sobbed Helen.  And she
broke right away and wandered distractedly upwards,
stretching her hands towards the view and crying.

"What's happened to you?" called Margaret, following
through the wind that gathers at sundown on the northern
slopes of hills.  "But it's stupid!"  And suddenly stupidity
seized her, and the immense landscape was blurred.  But
Helen turned back.

" Meg--"

"I don't know what's happened to either of us," said
Margaret, wiping her eyes.  "We must both have gone mad."
Then Helen wiped hers, and 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
So-and-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.  Remember, I've known and liked him
steadily for nearly three years.

"But loved him?"

Margaret peered into her past.  It is pleasant to
analyze feelings while they are still only feelings, and
unembodied in the social fabric.  With her arm round Helen,
and her eyes shifting over the view, as if this county or
that could reveal the secret of her own heart, she meditated
honestly, and said, "No."

"But you will?"

"Yes," said Margaret, "of 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."

Helen, in her turn, looked 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 breath, but her
sister understood it, because 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--"that,
spiritually, he'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 union, before 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 character, and 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 surprise,
a cessation of the winds and odours of life, a 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 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 years, you and I couldn't sit here without having our
throats cut.  There would be no trains, no ships to carry us
literary people about in, no 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 silence, during 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 20

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 say, and, saying,
they will give men immortality.  But meanwhile--what
agitations meanwhile!  The foundations of Property and
Propriety are laid bare, twin rocks; Family Pride flounders
to the surface, puffing and blowing, and refusing to be
comforted; Theology, vaguely ascetic, gets 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 Propriety, reassure Theology and Family Pride.
Half-guineas are poured on the troubled waters, the lawyers
creep back, and, if all has gone well, Love joins one man
and woman together in Matrimony.

Margaret had expected the disturbance, and was not
irritated by it.  For a sensitive woman she had steady
nerves, and could bear with the incongruous and the
grotesque; and, besides, there was nothing excessive about
her love-affair.  Good-humour was the dominant note of her
relations with Mr. Wilcox, or, as I must now call him,
Henry.  Henry did not encourage romance, and she was no girl
to fidget for it.  An acquaintance had become a lover, might
become a husband, but 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
Bays, but he had engaged a bedroom in the principal hotel:
he was one of those men who knew the principal hotel by
instinct.  After dinner he asked Margaret if she wouldn't
care for a turn on the Parade.  She accepted, and 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 thing, Mr. 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 said, laughing.  "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 interesting, Henry!
Tell me."

But Henry had no intention of telling.  Perhaps he could
not have told, for 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-room, that was practically the
first.  It was all so different from what it's supposed to
be.  On the stage, or in books, a proposal is--how shall I
put it? --a full-blown affair, a kind of bouquet; it loses
its literal meaning.  But in life a proposal really is a proposal--"

"By the way--"

"--a suggestion, a seed," she concluded; and the thought
flew away into darkness.

"I was thinking, if you didn't mind, that we ought to
spend this evening in a business talk; there will be so much
to settle."

"I think so too.  Tell me, in the first place, how did
you get on with Tibby?"

"With your brother?"

"Yes, during cigarettes."

"Oh, very well."

"I am so glad," she answered, a little surprised.  "What
did you talk about?  Me, presumably."

"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 yet, I 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 Margaret, looking out to sea,
and 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 began, and then gave a little cry.
"You mean money.  How stupid I am!  Of course not!"

Oddly enough, he winced a little at the word.  "Yes.
Money, since you put it so frankly.  I am determined to be
just to all--just to you, just to them.  I am determined
that my children shall have no case against 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
observed, patting 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 Evie, how many to Charles, how 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 Margaret, undisturbed by
his strategic blunderings.  "Go ahead; give away all you
can, bearing in mind 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 rich, being rich herself, but she
would like to.  There's an odd notion, that I haven't yet
got hold of, running about at the back of her brain, that
poverty is somehow 'real.' She dislikes all organization,
and 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 voice, as too often, and some youths, who
were also taking the evening air, overheard her.  "Getting a
bit hot, eh?" said one.  Mr. Wilcox turned on them, and said
sharply, "I say!"  There was silence.  "Take care I don't
report you to the police." They moved away quietly enough,
but were only biding their time, and the rest of the
conversation was punctuated by peals of ungovernable laughter.

Lowering his voice and infusing a hint of reproof into
it, he 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 asked, rather 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 point, Margaret.
Howards End's impossible.  I let it to Hamar Bryce on a
three years' agreement last March.  Don't you remember?
Oniton.  Well, that is much, much too far away to rely on
entirely.  You will be able to be down there entertaining a
certain amount, but 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 itself, not consciously,
but automatically.  The breezy Wilcox manner, though
genuine, lacked 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 anyone
had remarked that the mews must be either there or not, he
would have felt annoyed, and afterwards have found some
opportunity of stigmatizing the speaker as academic.  So
does my grocer stigmatize me when I complain of the quality
of his sultanas, and he answers in one breath that they are
the best sultanas, and how can I expect the best sultanas at
that price?  It is a flaw inherent in the business mind, and
Margaret may do well to be tender to it, considering 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. Wilcox, omitting 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.  "However, they have
their own lives and interests.  Let's get on."

He turned as he spoke, and 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 come,
but 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 laughed, and lit a cigar.  "It isn't meant as a
compliment, my 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 ways,
but Margaret had too firm a grip of life to make a fuss.
She was, in her own way, as masterly.  If he was a fortress
she was a mountain peak, whom all might tread, but whom the
snows made nightly virginal.  Disdaining the heroic outfit,
excitable in her methods, garrulous, episodical, shrill, she
misled her lover much as she had misled her aunt.  He
mistook her fertility for weakness.  He supposed her "as
clever as they make 'em," but no more, not realizing 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 has 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 huskily, turned, dropped his cigar,
and took her in his arms.

She was startled, and nearly screamed, but recovered
herself at once, and kissed with genuine love the lips that
were pressed against her own.  It was their first kiss, and
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 back, the incident displeased her.
It was so isolated.  Nothing in their previous conversation
had heralded it, and, worse still, no tenderness had
ensued.  If a man cannot lead up to passion he can at all
events lead down from it, and she had hoped, after her
complaisance, for some interchange of gentle words.  But he
had hurried away as if ashamed, and for an instant she was
reminded of Helen and Paul.


Chapter 21

Charles had just been scolding his Dolly.  She deserved the
scolding, and had bent before it, but her head, though
bloody, was unsubdued, and her chirrupings began to mingle
with his retreating thunder.

"You've woken the baby.  I knew you would. (Rum-ti-foo,
Rackety-tackety 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 Schlegels in a hurry.  As long as they're on
their best behaviour--Dolly, are you listening? --we'll
behave, too.  But if I find them giving themselves airs, or
monopolizing 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 deck-chairs,
and 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 22

Margaret greeted her lord with peculiar tenderness on the
morrow.  Mature as he was, she might yet be able to help him
to the building of the rainbow bridge that should connect
the prose in us with the passion.  Without it we are
meaningless fragments, half monks, half beasts, unconnected
arches that have never joined into a man.  With it love is
born, and alights on the highest curve, glowing against the
grey, sober against the fire.  Happy the man who sees from
either aspect the glory of these outspread wings.  The roads
of his soul lie clear, and he and his friends shall find easy-going.

It was hard-going in the roads of Mr. Wilcox's soul.
From boyhood he had neglected them.  "I am not a fellow who
bothers about my own inside."  Outwardly he was cheerful,
reliable, and brave; but within, all had reverted to chaos,
ruled, so far as it was ruled at all, by an incomplete
asceticism.  Whether as boy, husband, or widower, he had
always the sneaking belief that bodily passion is bad, a
belief that is desirable only when held passionately.
Religion had confirmed him.  The words that were read aloud
on Sunday to him and to other respectable men were the words
that had once kindled the souls of St. Catharine and St.
Francis into a white-hot hatred of the carnal.  He could-not
be as the saints and love the Infinite with a seraphic
ardour, but he could be a little ashamed of loving a wife.
"Amabat, amare timebat."  And it was here that Margaret
hoped to help him.

It did not seem so difficult.  She need trouble him with
no gift of her own.  She would only point out the salvation
that was latent in his own soul, and in the soul of every
man.  Only connect!  That was the whole of her sermon.  Only
connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted,
and human love will be seen at its height.  Live in
fragments no longer.  Only connect, and the beast and the
monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.

Nor was the message difficult to give.  It need not take
the form of a good "talking." By quiet indications the
bridge would be built and span their lives with beauty.

But she failed.  For there was one quality in Henry for
which she was never prepared, however much she reminded
herself of it: his obtuseness.  He simply did not notice
things, and there was no more to be said.  He never noticed
that Helen and Frieda were hostile, or that Tibby was not
interested in currant plantations; he never noticed the
lights and shades that exist in the grayest conversation,
the finger-posts, the milestones, the collisions, the
illimitable views.  Once--on another occasion--she scolded
him about it.  He was puzzled, but replied with a laugh: "My
motto is Concentrate.  I've no intention of frittering away
my strength on that sort of thing." "It isn't frittering
away the strength," she protested.  "It's enlarging the
space in which you may be strong." He answered: "You're a
clever little woman, but my motto's Concentrate." And this
morning he concentrated with a vengeance.

They met in the rhododendrons of yesterday.  In the
daylight the bushes were inconsiderable and the path was
bright in the morning sun.  She was with Helen, who had been
ominously quiet since the affair was settled.  "Here we all
are!" she cried, and took him by one hand, retaining her
sister's in the other.

"Here we are.  Good-morning, Helen."

Helen replied, "Good-morning, Mr. Wilcox."

"Henry, she has had such a nice letter from the queer,
cross boy--Do you remember him?  He had a sad moustache, but
the back of his head was young."

"I have had a letter too.  Not a nice one--I want to
talk it over with you:" for Leonard Bast was nothing to him
now that she had given him her word; the triangle of sex was
broken for ever.

"Thanks to your hint, he's clearing out of the Porphyrion."

"Not a bad business that Porphyrion," he said absently,
as he took his own letter out of his pocket.

"Not a BAD--" she exclaimed, dropping his hand.
"Surely, on Chelsea Embankment--"

"Here's our hostess.  Good-morning, Mrs. Munt.  Fine
rhododendrons.  Good morning, Frau Liesecke; we manage to
grow flowers in England, don't we?"

"Not a BAD business?"

"No.  My letter's about Howards End.  Bryce has been
ordered abroad, and wants to sublet it.  I am far from sure
that I shall give him permission.  There was no clause in
the agreement.  In my opinion, subletting is a mistake.  If
he can find me another tenant, whom I consider suitable, I
may cancel the agreement.  Morning, Schlegel.  Don't you
think that's better than subletting?"

Helen had dropped her hand now, and he had steered her
past the whole party to the seaward side of the house.
Beneath them was the bourgeois little bay, which must have
yearned all through the centuries for just such a
watering-place as Swanage to be built on its margin.  The
waves were colourless, and the Bournemouth steamer gave a
further touch of insipidity, drawn up against the pier and
hooting wildly for excursionists.

"When there is a sublet I find that damage--"

"Do excuse me, but about the Porphyrion.  I don't feel
easy--might I just bother you, Henry?"

Her manner was so serious that he stopped, and 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!  My goodness me, yes."

"More right than the Porphyrion?"

"Yes, yes, yes; safe as houses--safer."

"Very many thanks.  I'm sorry--if you sublet--?"

"If he sublets, I shan't have the same 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 Margaret, after a moment's thought.

"Oh, that'll be all right.  I'll speak to her."

"This visit is a high solemnity.  My aunt counts on it
year after year.  She turns the house upside down for us;
she invites our special friends--she scarcely knows Frieda,
and we can't leave her on her 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. Munt, whose voice
could be heard in the distance: to be intercepted himself by
Helen.

"Oh, Mr. Wilcox, about the Porphyrion--" she began, and
went scarlet all over her face.

"It's all right," called Margaret, catching them up.
"Dempster's Bank's better."

"But I think you told us the Porphyrion was bad, and
would smash before Christmas."

"Did I?  It was still outside the Tariff Ring, and had
to take rotten policies.  Lately it came in--safe as houses now."

"In other words, Mr. Bast need never have left it."

"No, the fellow needn't."

"--and needn't have started life elsewhere at a greatly
reduced salary."

"He only says 'reduced,'" corrected Margaret, seeing
trouble ahead.

"With a man so poor, every reduction must be great.  I
consider it a deplorable misfortune."

Mr. Wilcox, intent on his business with Mrs. Munt, was
going steadily on, but the last remark made him say: "What?
What's that?  Do you mean that I'm responsible?"

"You're ridiculous, Helen."

"You seem to think--" He looked at his watch.  "Let me
explain the point to you.  It is like this.  You seem to
assume, when a business concern is conducting a delicate
negotiation, it ought to keep the public informed stage by
stage.  The Porphyrion, according to you, was bound to say,
'I am trying all I can to get into the Tariff Ring.  I am
not sure that I shall succeed, but it is the only thing that
will save me from insolvency, and I am trying.' My dear Helen--"

"Is that your point?  A man who had little money has
less--that's mine."

"I am grieved for your clerk.  But it is all in the
day's work.  It's part of the battle of life."

"A man who had little money," she repeated, "has less,
owing to us.  Under these circumstances I do not consider
'the battle of life' a happy expression."

"Oh come, come!" he protested pleasantly.  "You're not
to blame.  No one's to blame."

"Is no one to blame for anything?"

"I wouldn't say that, but you're taking it far too
seriously.  Who is this fellow?"

"We have told you about the fellow twice already," said
Helen.  "You have even met the fellow.  He is very poor and
his wife is an extravagant imbecile.  He is capable of
better things.  We--we, the upper classes--thought we would
help him from the height of our superior knowledge--and
here's the result!"

He raised his finger.  "Now, a word of advice."

"I require no more advice."

"A word of advice.  Don't take up that sentimental
attitude over the poor.  See that she doesn't, Margaret.
The poor are poor, and one's sorry for them, but there it
is.  As civilization moves forward, the shoe is bound to
pinch in places, and it's absurd to pretend that anyone is
responsible personally.  Neither you, nor I, nor my
informant, nor the man who informed him, nor the directors
of the Porphyrion, are to blame for this clerk's loss of
salary.  It's just the shoe pinching--no one can help it;
and it might easily have been worse."

Helen quivered with indignation.

"By all means subscribe to charities--subscribe to them
largely--but don't get carried away by absurd schemes of
Social Reform.  I see a good deal behind the scenes, and you
can take it from me that there is no Social Question--except
for a few journalists who try to get a living out of the
phrase.  There are just rich and poor, as there always have
been and always will be.  Point me out a time when men have
been equal--"

"I didn't say--"

"Point me out a time when desire for equality has made
them happier.  No, no.  You can't.  There always have been
rich and poor.  I'm no fatalist.  Heaven forbid!  But our
civilization is moulded by great impersonal forces" (his
voice grew complacent; it always did when he eliminated the
personal), "and there always will be rich and poor.  You
can't deny it" (and now it was a respectful voice)--"and you
can't deny that, in spite of all, the tendency of
civilization has on the whole been upward."

"Owing to God, I suppose," flashed Helen.

He stared at her.

"You grab the dollars.  God does the rest."

It was no good instructing the girl if she was going to
talk about God in that neurotic modern way.  Fraternal to
the last, he left her for the quieter company of Mrs. Munt.
He thought, "She rather reminds me of Dolly."

Helen looked out at the sea.

"Don't even discuss political economy with Henry,"
advised her sister.  "It'll only end in a cry."

"But he must be one of those men who have reconciled
science with religion," said Helen slowly.  "I don't like
those men.  They are scientific themselves, and talk of the
survival of the fittest, and cut down the salaries of their
clerks, and stunt the independence of all who may menace
their comfort, but yet they believe that somehow good--and
it is always that sloppy 'somehow'--will be the outcome, and
that in some mystical way the Mr. Basts of the future will
benefit because the Mr. Basts of today are in pain."

"He is such a man in theory.  But oh, Helen, in theory!"

"But oh, Meg, what a theory!"

"Why should you put things so bitterly, dearie?"

"Because I'm an old maid," said Helen, biting her lip.
"I can't think why I go on like this myself." She shook off
her sister's hand and went into the house.  Margaret,
distressed at the day's beginning, followed the Bournemouth
steamer with her eyes.  She saw that Helen's nerves were
exasperated by the unlucky Bast business beyond the bounds
of politeness.  There might at any minute be a real
explosion, which even Henry would notice.  Henry must be removed.

"Margaret!" her aunt called.  "Magsy!  It isn't true,
surely, what Mr. Wilcox says, that you want to go away early
next week?"

"Not 'want,'" was Margaret's prompt reply; "but there is
so much to be settled, and I do want to see the Charles'."

"But going away without taking the Weymouth trip, or
even the Lulworth?" said Mrs. Munt, coming nearer.  "Without
going once more up Nine Barrows Down?"

"I'm afraid so."

Mr. Wilcox rejoined her with, "Good!  I did the breaking
of the ice."

A wave of tenderness came over her.  She put a hand on
either shoulder, and looked deeply into the black, bright
eyes.  What was behind their competent stare?  She knew, but
was not disquieted.


Chapter 23

Margaret had no intention of letting things slide, and the
evening before she left Swanage she gave her sister a
thorough scolding.  She censured her, not for disapproving
of the engagement, but for throwing over her disapproval a
veil of mystery.  Helen was equally frank.  "Yes," she said,
with the air of one looking inwards, "there is a mystery.  I
can't help it.  It's not my fault.  It's the way life has
been made." Helen in those days was over-interested in the
subconscious self.  She exaggerated the Punch and Judy
aspect of life, and spoke of mankind as puppets, whom an
invisible showman twitches into love and war.  Margaret
pointed out that if she dwelt on this she, too, would
eliminate the personal.  Helen was silent for a minute, and
then burst into a queer speech, which cleared the air.  "Go
on and marry him.  I think you're splendid; and if anyone
can pull it off, you will." Margaret denied that there was
anything to "pull off," but she continued: "Yes, there is,
and I wasn't up to it with Paul.  I can only do what's
easy.  I can only entice and be enticed.  I can't, and won't
attempt difficult relations.  If I marry, it will either be
a man who's strong enough to boss me or whom I'm strong
enough to boss.  So I shan't ever marry, for there aren't
such men.  And Heaven help any one whom I do marry, for I
shall certainly run away from him before you can say 'Jack
Robinson.' There!  Because I'm uneducated.  But you, you're
different; you're a heroine."

"Oh, Helen!  Am I?  Will it be as dreadful for poor
Henry as all that?"

"You mean to keep proportion, and that's heroic, it's
Greek, and I don't see why it shouldn't succeed with you.
Go on and fight with him and help him.  Don't ask ME for
help, or even for sympathy.  Henceforward I'm going my own
way.  I mean to be thorough, because thoroughness is easy.
I mean to dislike your husband, and to tell him so.  I mean
to make no concessions to Tibby.  If Tibby wants to live
with me, he must lump me.  I mean to love YOU more than
ever.  Yes, I do.  You and I have built up something real,
because it is purely spiritual.  There's no veil of mystery
over us.  Unreality and mystery begin as soon as one touches
the body.  The popular view is, as usual, exactly the wrong
one.  Our bothers are over tangible things--money, husbands,
house-hunting.  But Heaven will work of itself."

Margaret was grateful for this expression of affection,
and answered, "Perhaps." All vistas close in the unseen--no
one doubts it--but Helen closed them rather too quickly for
her taste.  At every turn of speech one was confronted with
reality and the absolute.  Perhaps Margaret grew too old for
metaphysics, perhaps Henry was weaning her from them, but
she felt that there was something a little unbalanced in the
mind that so readily shreds the visible.  The business man
who assumes that this life is everything, and the mystic who
asserts that it is nothing, fail, on this side and on that,
to hit the truth.  "Yes, I see, dear; it's about halfway
between," Aunt Juley had hazarded in earlier years.  No;
truth, being alive, was not halfway between anything.  It
was only to be found by continuous excursions into either
realm, and though proportion is the final secret, to espouse
it at the outset is to insure sterility.

Helen, agreeing here, disagreeing there, would have
talked till midnight, but Margaret, with her packing to do,
focussed the conversation on Henry.  She might abuse Henry
behind his back, but please would she always, be civil to
him in company?  "I definitely dislike him, but I'll do what
I can," promised Helen.  "Do what you can with my friends in
return."

This conversation made Margaret easier.  Their inner
life was so safe that they could bargain over externals in a
way that would have been incredible to Aunt Juley, and
impossible for Tibby or Charles.  There are moments when the
inner life actually "pays," when years of self-scrutiny,
conducted for no ulterior motive, are suddenly of practical
use.  Such moments are still rare in the West; that they
come at all promises a fairer 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
had hitherto brooded over the main sources of his wealth.
Not that a visit to the office cleared things up.  There was
just the ordinary surface scum of ledgers and polished
counters and brass bars that began and stopped for no
possible reason, of electric-light globes blossoming in
triplets, of little rabbit hutches faced with glass or wire,
of little rabbits.  And even when she penetrated to the
inner depths, she found only the ordinary table and Turkey
carpet, and though the map over the fireplace did depict a
helping of West Africa, it was a very ordinary map.  Another
map hung opposite, on which the whole continent appeared,
looking like a whale marked out for blubber, and by its side
was a door, shut, but Henry's voice came through it,
dictating a "strong" letter.  She might have been at the
Porphyrion, or Dempster's Bank, or her own wine-merchant's.
Everything seems just alike in these days.  But perhaps she
was seeing the Imperial side of the company rather than its
West African, and Imperialism always had been one of her
difficulties.

"One minute!" called Mr. Wilcox on receiving her name.
He touched a bell, the effect of which was to produce Charles.

Charles had written his father an adequate letter--more
adequate than Evie's, through which a girlish indignation
throbbed.  And he greeted his future stepmother with propriety.

"I hope that my wife--how do you do? --will give you a
decent lunch," was his opening.  "I left instructions, but
we live in a rough-and-ready way.  She expects you back to
tea, too, after you have had a look at Howards End.  I
wonder what you'll think of the place.  I wouldn't touch it
with tongs myself.  Do sit down!  It's a measly little place."

"I shall enjoy seeing it," said Margaret, feeling, for
the first time, shy.

"You'll see it at its worst, for Bryce decamped abroad
last Monday without even arranging for a charwoman to clear
up after him.  I never saw such a disgraceful mess.  It's
unbelievable.  He wasn't in the house a month."

"I've more than a little bone to pick with Bryce,"
called Henry from the inner chamber.

"Why did he go so suddenly?"

"Invalid type; couldn't sleep."

"Poor fellow!"

"Poor fiddlesticks!" said Mr. Wilcox, joining them.  "He
had the impudence to put up notice-boards without as much as
saying with your leave or by your leave.  Charles flung them
down."

"Yes, I flung them down," said Charles modestly.

"I've sent a telegram after him, and a pretty sharp one,
too.  He, and he in person is responsible for the upkeep of
that house for the next three years."

"The keys are at the farm; we wouldn't have the keys."

"Quite right."

"Dolly would have taken them, but I was in, fortunately."

"What's Mr. Bryce like?" asked Margaret.

But nobody cared.  Mr. Bryce was the tenant, who had no
right to sublet; to have defined him further was a waste of
time.  On his misdeeds they descanted profusely, until the
girl who had been typing the strong letter came out with
it.  Mr. Wilcox added his signature.  "Now we'll be off,"
said he.

A motor-drive, a form of felicity detested by Margaret,
awaited her.  Charles saw them in, civil to the last, and in
a moment the offices of the Imperial and West African Rubber
Company faded away.  But it was not an impressive drive.
Perhaps the weather was to blame, being grey and banked high
with weary clouds.  Perhaps Hertfordshire is scarcely
intended for motorists.  Did not a gentleman once motor so
quickly through Westmoreland that he missed it?  and if
Westmoreland can be missed, it will fare ill with a county
whose delicate structure particularly needs the attentive
eye.  Hertfordshire is England at its quietest, with little
emphasis of river and hill; it is England meditative.  If
Drayton were with us again to write a new edition of his
incomparable poem, he would sing the nymphs of Hertfordshire
as indeterminate of feature, with hair obfuscated by the
London smoke.  Their eyes would be sad, and averted from
their fate towards the Northern flats, their leader not Isis
or Sabrina, but the slowly flowing Lea.  No glory of raiment
would be theirs, no urgency of dance; but they would be real
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--oh, you aren't sharp
enough.  Well, look out, if the road worries you--right
outward at the scenery. "

She looked at the scenery.  It heaved and merged like
porridge.  Presently it congealed.  They had arrived.

Charles's house on the left; on the right the swelling
forms of the Six Hills.  Their appearance in such a
neighbourhood surprised her.  They interrupted the stream of
residences that was thickening up towards Hilton.  Beyond
them she saw meadows and a wood, and beneath them she
settled that soldiers of the best kind lay buried.  She
hated war and liked soldiers--it was one of her amiable
inconsistencies.

But here was Dolly, dressed up to the nines, standing at
the door to greet them, and here were the first drops of the
rain.  They ran in gaily, and after a long wait in the
drawing-room sat down to the rough-and-ready lunch, every
dish in which concealed or exuded cream.  Mr. Bryce was the
chief topic of conversation.  Dolly described his visit with
the key, while her father-in-law gave satisfaction by
chaffing her and contradicting all she said.  It was
evidently the custom to laugh at Dolly.  He chaffed
Margaret, too, and Margaret, roused from a grave meditation,
was pleased, and chaffed him back.  Dolly seemed surprised,
and eyed her curiously.  After lunch the two children came
down.  Margaret disliked babies, but hit it off better with
the two-year-old, and sent Dolly into fits of laughter by
talking sense to him.  "Kiss them now, and come away," said
Mr. Wilcox.  She came, but refused to kiss them: it was such
hard luck on the little things, she said, and though Dolly
proffered Chorly-worly and Porgly-woggles in turn, she was 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."

Smiling, but somehow disillusioned, she jumped out, and
her impetus carried her to the front-door.  She was about to
open it, when Henry said: "That's no good; it's locked.
Who's got the key?"

As he had himself forgotten to call for the key at the
farm, no one replied.  He also wanted to know who had left
the front gate open, since a cow had strayed in from the
road, and was spoiling the croquet lawn.  Then he said
rather crossly: "Margaret, you wait in the dry.  I'll go
down for the key.  It isn't a hundred yards.

"Mayn't I come too?"

"No; I shall be back before I'm gone."

Then the car turned away, and it was as if a curtain had
risen.  For the second time that day she saw the appearance
of the earth.

There were the greengage-trees that Helen had once
described, there the tennis lawn, there the hedge that would
be glorious with dog-roses in June, but the vision now was
of black and palest green.  Down by the dell-hole more vivid
colours were awakening, and Lent Lilies stood sentinel on
its margin, or advanced in battalions over the grass.
Tulips were a tray of jewels.  She could not see the
wych-elm tree, but a branch of the celebrated vine, studded
with velvet knobs, had covered the porch.  She was struck by
the fertility of the soil; she had seldom been in a garden
where the flowers looked so well, and even the weeds she was
idly plucking out of the porch were intensely green.  Why
had poor Mr. Bryce fled from all this beauty?  For she had
already decided that the place was beautiful.

"Naughty cow!  Go away!" cried Margaret to the cow, but
without indignation.

Harder came the rain, pouring out of a windless sky, and
spattering up from the notice-boards of the house-agents,
which lay in a row on the lawn where Charles had hurled
them.  She must have interviewed Charles in another
world--where one did have interviews.  How Helen would revel
in such a notion!  Charles dead, all people dead, nothing
alive but houses and gardens.  The obvious dead, the
intangible alive, and--no connection at all between them!
Margaret smiled.  Would that her own fancies were as
clear-cut!  Would that she could deal as high-handedly with
the world!  Smiling and sighing, she laid her hand upon the
door.  It opened.  The house was not locked up at all.

She hesitated.  Ought she to wait for Henry?  He felt
strongly about property, and might prefer to show her over
himself.  On the other hand, he had told her to keep in the
dry, and the porch was beginning to drip.  So she went in,
and the drought from inside slammed the door behind.

Desolation greeted her.  Dirty finger-prints were on the
hall-windows, flue and rubbish on its unwashed boards.  The
civilization of luggage had been here for a month, and then
decamped.  Dining-room and drawing room--right and
left--were guessed only by their wall-papers.  They were
just rooms where one could shelter from the rain.  Across
the ceiling of each ran a great beam.  The dining-room and
hall revealed theirs openly, but the drawing-room's was
match-boarded--because the facts of life must be concealed
from ladies?  Drawing-room, dining-room, and hall--how petty
the names sounded!  Here were simply three rooms where
children could play and friends shelter from the 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 realized that: just
rooms again, where friends might shelter.  The garden at the
back was full of flowering cherries and plums.  Farther on
were hints of the meadow and a black cliff of pines.  Yes,
the meadow was beautiful.

Penned in by the desolate weather, she recaptured the
sense of space which the motor had tried to rob from her.
She remembered again that ten square miles are not ten times
as wonderful as one square mile, that a thousand square
miles are not practically the same as heaven.  The phantom
of bigness, which London encourages, was laid for ever when
she paced from the hall at Howards End to its kitchen and
heard the rains run this way and that where the watershed of
the roof divided them.

Now Helen came to her mind, scrutinizing half Wessex
from the ridge of the Purbeck Downs, and saying: "You will
have to lose something." She was not so sure.  For instance,
she would double her kingdom by opening the door that
concealed the stairs.

Now she thought of the map of Africa; of empires; of her
father; of the two supreme nations, streams of whose life
warmed her blood, but, mingling, had cooled her brain.  She
paced back into the hall, and as she did so the house reverberated.

"Is that you, Henry?" she called.

There was no answer, but the house reverberated again.

"Henry, have you got in?"

But it was the heart of the house beating, faintly at
first, then loudly, martially.  It dominated the rain.

It is the starved imagination, not the well-nourished,
that is afraid.  Margaret flung open the door to the
stairs.  A noise as of drums seemed to deafen her.  A woman,
an old woman, was descending, with figure erect, with face
impassive, with lips that parted and said dryly:

"Oh!  Well, I took you for Ruth Wilcox."

Margaret stammered: "I--Mrs. Wilcox--I?"

"In fancy, of course--in fancy.  You had her way of
walking.  Good-day." And the old woman passed out into the
rain.


Chapter 24

"It gave her quite a turn," said Mr. Wilcox, when retailing
the incident to Dolly at tea-time.  "None of you girls have
any nerves, really.  Of course, a word from me put it all
right, but silly old Miss Avery--she frightened you, didn't
she, Margaret?  There you stood clutching a bunch of weeds.
She might have said something, instead of coming down the
stairs with that alarming bonnet on.  I passed her as I came
in.  Enough to make the car shy.  I believe Miss Avery goes
in for being a character; some old maids do." He lit a
cigarette.  "It is their last resource.  Heaven knows what
she was doing in the place; but that's Bryce's business, not
mine."

"I wasn't as foolish as you suggest," said Margaret.
"She only startled me, for the house had been silent so long."

"Did you take her for a spook?" asked Dolly, for whom
"spooks" and "going to church" summarized the unseen.

"Not exactly."

"She really did frighten you," said Henry, who was far
from discouraging timidity in females.  "Poor Margaret!  And
very naturally.  Uneducated classes are so stupid."

"Is Miss Avery uneducated classes?" Margaret asked, and
found herself looking at the decoration scheme of Dolly's
drawing-room.

"She's just one of the crew at the farm.  People like
that always assume things.  She assumed you'd know who she
was.  She left all the Howards End keys in the front lobby,
and assumed that you'd seen them as you came in, that you'd
lock up the house when you'd done, and would bring them on
down to her.  And there was her niece hunting for them down
at the farm.  Lack of education makes people very casual.
Hilton was full of women like Miss Avery once."

"I shouldn't have disliked it, perhaps."

"Or Miss Avery giving me a wedding present," said Dolly.

Which was illogical but interesting.  Through Dolly,
Margaret was destined to learn a good deal.

"But Charles said I must try not to mind, because she
had known his grandmother."

"As usual, you've got the story wrong, my good Dorothea."

"I mean great-grandmother--the one who left Mrs. Wilcox
the house.  Weren't both of them and Miss Avery friends when
Howards End, too, was a farm?"

Her father-in-law blew out a shaft of smoke.  His
attitude to his dead wife was curious.  He would allude to
her, and hear her discussed, but never mentioned her by
name.  Nor was he interested in the dim, bucolic past.
Dolly was--for the following reason.

"Then hadn't Mrs. Wilcox a brother--or was it an uncle?
Anyhow, he popped the question, and Miss Avery, she said
'No.' Just imagine, if she'd said 'Yes,' she would have been
Charles's aunt. (Oh, I say,--that's rather good!  'Charlie's
Aunt'!  I must chaff him about that this evening.) And the
man went out and was killed.  Yes, I'm certain I've got it
right now.  Tom Howard--he was the last of them."

"I believe so," said Mr. Wilcox negligently.

"I say!  Howards End--Howard's Ended!" cried Dolly.
"I'm rather on the spot this evening, eh?"

"I wish you'd ask whether Crane's ended."

"Oh, Mr. Wilcox, how CAN you?"

"Because, if he has had enough tea, we ought to
go.--Dolly's a good little woman," he continued, "but a
little of her goes a long way.  I couldn't live near her if
you paid me."

Margaret smiled.  Though presenting a firm front to
outsiders, no Wilcox could live near, or near the
possessions of, any other Wilcox.  They had the colonial
spirit, and were always making for some spot where the white
man might carry his burden unobserved.  Of course, Howards
End was impossible, so long as the younger couple were
established in Hilton.  His objections to the house were
plain as daylight now.

Crane had had enough tea, and was sent to the garage,
where their car had been trickling muddy water over
Charles's.  The downpour had surely penetrated the Six Hills
by now, bringing news of our restless civilization.
"Curious mounds," said, Henry, "but in with you now; another
time." He had to be up in London by seven--if possible, by
six-thirty.  Once more she lost the sense of space; once
more trees, houses, people, animals, hills, merged and
heaved into one dirtiness, and she was at Wickham Place.

Her evening was pleasant.  The sense of flux which had
haunted her all the year disappeared for a time.  She forgot
the luggage and the motor-cars, and the hurrying men who
know so much and connect so little.  She recaptured the
sense of space, which is the basis of all earthly beauty,
and, starting from Howards End, she attempted to realize
England.  She failed--visions do not come when we try,
though they may come through trying.  But an unexpected love
of the island awoke in her, connecting on this side with the
joys of the flesh, on that with the inconceivable.  Helen
and her father had known this love, poor Leonard Bast was
groping after it, but it had been hidden from Margaret till
this afternoon.  It had certainly come through the house and
old Miss Avery.  Through them: the notion of "through"
persisted; her mind trembled towards a conclusion which only
the unwise have put into words.  Then, veering back into
warmth, it dwelt on ruddy bricks, flowering plum-trees, and
all the tangible joys of, spring.

Henry, after allaying her agitation, had taken her over
his property, and had explained to her the use and
dimensions of the various rooms.  He had sketched the
history of the little estate.  "It is so unlucky," ran the
monologue, "that money wasn't put into it about fifty years
ago.  Then it had four--five-times the land--thirty acres at
least.  One could have made something out of it then--a
small park, or at all events shrubberies, and rebuilt the
house farther away from the road.  What's the good of taking
it in hand now?  Nothing but the meadow left, and even that
was heavily mortgaged when I first had to do with
things--yes, and the house too.  Oh, it was no joke." She
saw two women as he spoke, one old, the other young,
watching their inheritance melt away.  She saw them greet
him as a deliverer.  "Mismanagement did it--besides, the
days for small farms are over.  It doesn't pay--except with
intensive cultivation.  Small holdings, back to the
land--ah!  philanthropic bunkum.  Take it as a rule that
nothing pays on a small scale.  Most of the land you see
(they were standing at an upper window, the only one which
faced west) belongs to the people at the Park--they made
their pile over copper--good chaps.  Avery's Farm,
Sishe's--what they call the Common, where you see that
ruined oak--one after the other fell in, and so did this, as
near as is no matter.  "But Henry had saved it; without fine
feelings or deep insight, but he had saved it, and she loved
him for the deed.  "When I had more control I did what I
could: sold off the two and a half animals, and the mangy
pony, and the superannuated tools; pulled down the
outhouses; drained; thinned out I don't know how many
guelder-roses and elder-trees; and inside the house I turned
the old kitchen into a hall, and made a kitchen behind where
the dairy was.  Garage and so on came later.  But one could
still tell it's been an old farm.  And yet it isn't the
place that would fetch one of your artistic crew." No, it
wasn't; and if he did not quite understand it, the artistic
crew would still less: it was English, and the wych-elm that
she saw from the window was an English tree.  No report had
prepared her for its peculiar glory.  It was neither
warrior, nor lover, nor god; in none of these roles do the
English excel.  It was a comrade, bending over the house,
strength and adventure in its roots, but in its utmost
fingers tenderness, and the girth, that a dozen men could
not have spanned, became in the end evanescent, till pale
bud clusters seemed to float in the air.  It was a comrade.
House and tree transcended any similes of sex.  Margaret
thought of them now, and was to think of them through many a
windy night and London day, but to compare either to man, to
woman, always dwarfed the vision.  Yet they kept within
limits of the human.  Their message was not of eternity, but
of hope on this side of the grave.  As she stood in the one,
gazing at the other, truer relationship had gleamed.

Another touch, and the account of her day is finished.
They entered the garden for a minute, and to Mr. Wilcox's
surprise she was right.  Teeth, pigs' teeth, could be seen
in the bark of the wych-elm tree--just the white tips of
them showing.  "Extraordinary!" he cried.  "Who told you?"

"I heard of it one winter in London," was her answer,
for she, too, avoided mentioning Mrs. Wilcox by name.


Chapter 25

Evie heard of her father's engagement when she was in for a
tennis tournament, and her play went simply to pot.  That
she should marry and leave him had seemed natural enough;
that he, left alone, should do the same was deceitful; and
now Charles and Dolly said that it was all her fault.  "But
I never dreamt of such a thing," she grumbled.  "Dad took me
to call now and then, and made me ask her to Simpson's.
Well, I'm altogether off Dad." It was also an insult to
their mother's memory; there they were agreed, and Evie had
the idea of returning Mrs. Wilcox's lace and jewellery "as a
protest." Against what it would protest she was not clear;
but being only eighteen, the idea of renunciation appealed
to her, the more as she did not care for jewellery or lace.
Dolly then suggested that she and Uncle Percy should pretend
to break off their engagement, and then perhaps Mr. Wilcox
would quarrel with Miss Schlegel, and break off his; or Paul
might be cabled for.  But at this point Charles told them
not to talk nonsense.  So Evie settled to marry as soon as
possible; it was no good hanging about with these Schlegels
eyeing her.  The date of her wedding was consequently put
forward from September to August, and in the intoxication of
presents she recovered much of her good-humour.

Margaret found that she was expected to figure at this
function, and to figure largely; it would be such an
opportunity, said Henry, for her to get to know his set.
Sir James Bidder would be there, and all the Cahills and the
Fussells, and his sister-in-law, Mrs. Warrington Wilcox, had
fortunately got back from her tour round the world.  Henry
she loved, but his set promised to be another matter.  He
had not the knack of surrounding himself with nice
people--indeed, for a man of ability and virtue his choice
had been singularly unfortunate; he had no guiding principle
beyond a certain preference for mediocrity; he was content
to settle one of the greatest things in life haphazard, and
so, while his investments went right, his friends generally
went wrong.  She would be told, "Oh, So-and-so's a good
sort--a thundering good sort," and find, on meeting him,
that he was a brute or a bore.  If Henry had shown real
affection, she would have understood, for affection explains
everything.  But he seemed without sentiment.  The
"thundering good sort" might at any moment become "a fellow
for whom I never did have much use, and have less now," and
be shaken off cheerily into oblivion.  Margaret had done the
same as a schoolgirl.  Now she never forgot anyone for whom
she had once cared; she connected, though the connection
might be bitter, and she hoped that some day Henry would do
the same.

Evie was not to be married from Ducie Street.  She had a
fancy for something rural, and, besides, no one would be in
London then, so she left her boxes for a few weeks at Oniton
Grange, and her banns were duly published in the parish
church, and for a couple of days the little town, dreaming
between the ruddy hills, was roused by the clang of our
civilization, and drew up by the roadside to let the motors
pass.  Oniton had been a discovery of Mr. Wilcox's--a
discovery of which he was not altogether proud.  It was up
towards the Welsh border, and so difficult of access that he
had concluded it must be something special.  A ruined castle
stood in the grounds.  But having got there, what was one to
do?  The shooting was bad, the fishing indifferent, and
women-folk reported the scenery as nothing much.  The place
turned out to be in the wrong part of Shropshire, damn it,
and though he never damned his own property aloud, he was
only waiting to get it off his hands, and then to let fly.
Evie's marriage was its last appearance in public.  As soon
as a tenant was found, it became a house for which he never
had had much use, and had less now, and, like Howards End,
faded into Limbo.

But on Margaret Oniton was destined to make a lasting
impression.  She regarded it as her future home, and was
anxious to start straight with the clergy, etc., and, if
possible, to see something of the local life.  It was a
market-town--as tiny a one as England possesses--and had for
ages served that lonely valley, and guarded our marches
against the Kelt.  In spite of the occasion, in spite of the
numbing hilarity that greeted her as soon as she got into
the reserved saloon at Paddington, her senses were awake and
watching, and though Oniton was to prove one of her
innumerable false starts, she never forgot it, nor the
things that happened there.

The London party only numbered eight--the Fussells,
father and son, two Anglo-Indian ladies named Mrs.
Plynlimmon and Lady Edser, Mrs. Warrington Wilcox and her
daughter, and lastly, the little girl, very smart and quiet,
who figures at so many weddings, and who kept a watchful eye
on Margaret, the bride-elect, Dolly was absent--a domestic
event detained her at Hilton; Paul had cabled a humorous
message; Charles was to meet them with a trio of motors at
Shrewsbury.  Helen had refused her invitation; Tibby had
never answered his.  The management was excellent, as was to
be expected with anything that Henry undertook; one was
conscious of his sensible and generous brain in the
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
incredible, but it must soon be printed and sent, and though
Wickham Place need not compete with Oniton, it must feed its
guests properly, and provide them with sufficient chairs.
Her wedding would either be ramshackly or bourgeois--she
hoped the latter.  Such an affair as the present, staged
with a deftness that was almost beautiful, lay beyond her
powers and those of her friends.

The low rich purr of a Great Western express is not the
worst background for conversation, and the journey passed
pleasantly enough.  Nothing could have exceeded the kindness
of the two men.  They raised windows for some ladies, and
lowered them for others, they rang the bell for the servant,
they identified the colleges as the train slipped past
Oxford, they caught books or bag-purses in the act of
tumbling on to the floor.  Yet there was nothing finicky
about their politeness: it had the Public School touch, and,
though sedulous, was virile.  More battles than Waterloo
have been won on our playing-fields, and Margaret bowed to a
charm of which she did not wholly approve, and said nothing
when the Oxford colleges were identified wrongly.  "Male and
female created He them"; the journey to Shrewsbury confirmed
this questionable statement, and the long glass saloon, that
moved so easily and felt so comfortable, became a
forcing-house for the idea of sex.

At Shrewsbury came fresh air.  Margaret was all for
sight-seeing, and while the others were finishing their tea
at the Raven, she annexed a motor and hurried over the
astonishing city.  Her chauffeur was not the faithful Crane,
but an Italian, who dearly loved making her late.  Charles,
watch in hand, though with a level brow, was standing in
front of the hotel when they returned.  It was perfectly all
right, he told her; she was by no means the last.  And then
he dived into the coffee-room, and she heard him say, "For
God's sake, hurry the women up; we shall never be off," and
Albert Fussell reply, "Not I; I've done my share," and
Colonel Fussell opine that the ladies were getting
themselves up to kill.  Presently Myra (Mrs. Warrington's
daughter) appeared, and as she was his cousin, Charles blew
her up a little: she had been changing her smart traveling
hat for a smart motor hat.  Then Mrs. Warrington herself,
leading the quiet child; the two Anglo-Indian ladies were
always last.  Maids, courier, heavy luggage, had already
gone on by a branch-line to a station nearer Oniton, but
there were five hat-boxes and four dressing-bags to be
packed, and five dust-cloaks to be put on, and to be put off
at the last moment, because Charles declared them not
necessary.  The men presided over everything with unfailing
good-humour.  By half-past five the party was ready, and
went out of Shrewsbury by the Welsh Bridge.

Shropshire had not the reticence of Hertfordshire.
Though robbed of half its magic by swift movement, it still
conveyed the sense of hills.  They were nearing the
buttresses that force the Severn eastern and make it an
English stream, and the sun, sinking over the Sentinels of
Wales, was straight in their eyes.  Having picked up another
guest, they turned southward, avoiding the greater
mountains, but conscious of an occasional summit, rounded
and mild, whose colouring differed in quality from that of
the lower earth, and whose contours altered more slowly.
Quiet mysteries were in progress behind those tossing
horizons: the West, as ever, was retreating with some secret
which may not be worth the discovery, but which no practical
man will ever discover.

They spoke of Tariff Reform.

Mrs. Warrington was just back from the Colonies.  Like
many other critics of Empire, her mouth had been stopped
with food, and she could only exclaim at the hospitality
with which she had been received, and warn the Mother
Country against trifling with young Titans.  "They threaten
to cut the painter," she cried, "and where shall we be
then?  Miss Schlegel, you'll undertake to keep Henry sound
about Tariff Reform?  It is our last hope."

Margaret playfully confessed herself on the other side,
and they began to quote from their respective hand-books
while the motor carried them deep into the hills.  Curious
these were, rather than impressive, for their outlines
lacked beauty, and the pink fields--on their summits
suggested the handkerchiefs of a giant spread out to dry.
An occasional outcrop of rock, an occasional wood, an
occasional "forest," treeless and brown, all hinted at
wildness to follow, but the main colour was an agricultural
green.  The air grew cooler; they had surmounted the last
gradient, and Oniton lay below them with its church, its
radiating houses, its castle, its river-girt peninsula.
Close to the castle was a grey mansion, unintellectual but
kindly, stretching with its grounds across the peninsula's
neck--the sort of mansion that was built all over England in
the beginning of the last century, while architecture was
still an expression of the national character.  That was the
Grange, remarked Albert, over his shoulder, and then he
jammed the brake on, and the motor slowed down and stopped.
"I'm sorry," said he, turning round.  "Do you mind getting
out--by the door on the right?  Steady on!"

"What's happened?" asked Mrs. Warrington.

Then the car behind them drew up, and the voice of
Charles was heard saying: "Get out the women at once." There
was a concourse of males, and Margaret and her companions
were hustled out and received into the second car.  What had
happened?  As it started off again, the door of a cottage
opened, and a girl screamed wildly at them.

"What is it?" the ladies cried.

Charles drove them a hundred yards without speaking.
Then he said: "It's all right.  Your car just touched a dog."

"But stop!" cried Margaret, horrified.

"It didn't hurt him."

"Didn't really hurt him?" asked Myra.

"No."

"Do PLEASE stop!" said Margaret, leaning forward.  She
was standing up in the car, the other occupants holding her
knees to steady her.  "I want to go back, please."

Charles took no notice.

"We've left Mr. Fussell behind," said another; "and
Angelo, and Crane."

"Yes, but no woman."

"I expect a little of"--Mrs. Warrington scratched her
palm--" will be more to the point than one of us!"

"The insurance company sees to that," remarked Charles,
"and Albert will do the talking."

"I want to go back, though, I say!" repeated Margaret,
getting angry.

Charles took no notice.  The motor, loaded with
refugees, continued to travel very slowly down the hill.
"The men are there," chorused the others.  "Men will see to it."

"The men CAN'T see to it.  Oh, this is ridiculous!
Charles, I ask you to stop."

"Stopping's no good," drawled Charles.

"Isn't it?" said Margaret, and jumped straight out of
the car.

She fell on her knees, cut her gloves, shook her hat
over her ear.  Cries of alarm followed her.  "You've hurt
yourself," exclaimed Charles, jumping after her.

"Of course I've hurt myself!" she retorted.

"May I ask what--"

"There's nothing to ask," said Margaret.

"Your hand's bleeding."

"I know."

"I'm in for a frightful row from the pater."

"You should have thought of that sooner, Charles."

Charles had never been in such a position before.  It
was a woman in revolt who was hobbling away from him, and
the sight was too strange to leave any room for anger.  He
recovered himself when the others caught them up: their sort
he understood.  He commanded them to go back.

Albert Fussell was seen walking towards them.

"It's all right!" he called.  "It wasn't a dog, it was a
cat."

"There!" exclaimed Charles triumphantly.  "It's only a
rotten cat.

"Got room in your car for a little un?  I cut as soon as
I saw it wasn't a dog; the chauffeurs are tackling the
girl."  But Margaret walked forward steadily.  Why should
the chauffeurs tackle the girl?  Ladies sheltering behind
men, men sheltering behind servants--the whole system's
wrong, and she must challenge it.

"Miss Schlegel!  'Pon my word, you've hurt your hand."

"I'm just going to see," said Margaret.  "Don't you
wait, Mr. Fussell."

The second motor came round the corner.  "lt is all
right, madam," said Crane in his turn.  He had taken to
calling her madam.

"What's all right?  The cat?"

"Yes, madam.  The girl will receive compensation for it."

"She was a very ruda girla," said Angelo from the third
motor thoughtfully.

"Wouldn't you have been rude?"

The Italian spread out his hands, implying that he had
not thought of rudeness, but would produce it if it pleased
her.  The situation became absurd.  The gentlemen were again
buzzing round Miss Schlegel with offers of assistance, and
Lady Edser began to bind up her hand.  She yielded,
apologizing slightly, and was led back to the car, and soon
the landscape resumed its motion, the lonely cottage
disappeared, the castle swelled on its cushion of turf, and
they had arrived.  No doubt she had disgraced herself.  But
she felt their whole journey from London had been unreal.
They had no part with the earth and its emotions.  They were
dust, and a stink, and cosmopolitan chatter, and the girl
whose cat had been killed had lived more deeply than they.

"Oh, Henry," she exclaimed, "I have been so naughty,"
for she had decided to take up this line.  "We ran over a
cat.  Charles told me not to jump out, but I would, and
look!"  She held out her bandaged hand.  "Your poor Meg went
such a flop."

Mr. Wilcox looked bewildered.  In evening dress, he was
standing to welcome his guests in the hall.

"Thinking it was a dog," added Mrs. Warrington.

"Ah, a dog's a companion!" said Colonel Fussell.  "A
dog'll remember you."

"Have you hurt yourself, Margaret?"

"Not to speak about; and it's my left hand."

"Well, hurry up and change."

She obeyed, as did the others.  Mr. Wilcox then turned
to his son.

"Now, Charles, what's happened?"

Charles was absolutely honest.  He described what he
believed to have happened.  Albert had flattened out a cat,
and Miss Schlegel had lost her nerve, as any woman 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 saying that he will be just
to all, but one can't be just indefinitely.  Money isn't
elastic.  What's to happen if Evie has a family?  And, come
to that, so may the pater.  There'll not be enough to go
round, for there's none coming in, either through Dolly or
Percy.  It's damnable!"  He looked enviously at the Grange,
whose windows poured light and laughter.  First and last,
this wedding would cost a pretty penny.  Two ladies were
strolling up and down the garden terrace, and as the
syllables "Imperialism" were wafted to his ears, he guessed
that one of them was his aunt.  She might have helped him,
if she too had not had a family to provide for.  "Every one
for himself," he repeated--a maxim which had cheered him in
the past, but which rang grimly enough among the ruins of
Oniton.  He lacked his father's ability in business, and so
had an ever higher regard for money; unless he could inherit
plenty, he feared to leave his children poor.

As he sat thinking, one of the ladies left the terrace
and walked into the meadow; he recognized her as Margaret by
the white bandage that gleamed on her arm, and put out his
cigar, lest the gleam should betray him.  She climbed up the
mound in zigzags, and at times stooped down, as if she was
stroking the turf.  It sounds absolutely incredible, but for
a moment Charles thought that she was in love with him, and
had come out to tempt him.  Charles believed in temptresses,
who are indeed the strong man's necessary complement, and
having no sense of humour, he could not purge himself of the
thought by a smile.  Margaret, who was engaged to his
father, and his sister's wedding-guest, kept on her way
without noticing him, and he admitted that he had wronged
her on this point.  But what was she doing?  Why was she
stumbling about amongst the rubble and catching her dress in
brambles and burrs?  As she edged round the keep, she must
have got to leeward and smelt his cigar-smoke, for she
exclaimed, "Hullo!  Who's that?"

Charles made no answer.

"Saxon or Kelt?" she continued, laughing in the
darkness.  "But it doesn't matter.  Whichever you are, you
will have to listen to me.  I love this place.  I love
Shropshire.  I hate London.  I am glad that this will be my
home.  Ah, dear"--she was now moving back towards the
house--"what a comfort to have arrived!"

"That woman means mischief," thought Charles, and
compressed his lips.  In a few minutes he followed her
indoors, as the ground was getting damp.  Mists were rising
from the river, and presently it became invisible, though it
whispered more loudly.  There had been a heavy downpour in
the Welsh hills.


Chapter 26

Next morning a fine mist covered the peninsula.  The weather
promised well, and the outline of the castle mound grew
clearer each moment that Margaret watched it.  Presently she
saw the keep, and the sun painted the rubble gold, and
charged the white sky with blue.  The shadow of the house
gathered itself together and fell over the garden.  A cat
looked up at her window and mewed.  Lastly the river
appeared, still holding the mists between its banks and its
overhanging alders, and only visible as far as a hill, which
cut off its upper reaches.

Margaret was fascinated by Oniton.  She had said that
she loved it, but it was rather its romantic tension that
held her.  The rounded Druids of whom she had caught
glimpses in her drive, the rivers hurrying down from them to
England, the carelessly modelled masses of the lower hills,
thrilled her with poetry.  The house was insignificant, but
the prospect from it would be an eternal joy, and she
thought of all the friends she would have to stop in it, and
of the conversion of Henry himself to a rural life.
Society, too, promised favourably.  The rector of the parish
had dined with them last night, and she found that he was a
friend of her father's, and so knew what to find in her.
She liked him.  He would introduce her to the town.  While,
on her other side, Sir James Bidder sat, repeating that she
only had to give the word, and he would whip up the county
families for twenty miles round.  Whether Sir James, who was
Garden Seeds, had promised what he could perform, she
doubted, but so long as Henry mistook them for the county
families when they did call, she was content.

Charles and Albert Fussell now crossed the lawn.  They
were going for a morning dip, and a servant followed them
with their bathing-dresses.  She had meant to take a stroll
herself before breakfast, but saw that the day was still
sacred to men, and amused herself by watching their
contretemps.  In the first place the key of the bathing-shed
could not be found.  Charles stood by the riverside with
folded hands, tragical, while the servant shouted, and was
misunderstood by another servant in the garden.  Then came a
difficulty about a spring-board, and soon three people were
running backwards and forwards over the meadow, with orders
and counter orders and recriminations and apologies.  If
Margaret wanted to jump from a motor-car, she jumped; if
Tibby thought paddling would benefit his ankles, he paddled;
if a clerk desired adventure, he took a walk in the dark.
But these athletes seemed paralysed.  They could not bathe
without their appliances, though the morning sun was calling
and the last mists were rising from the dimpling stream.
Had they found the life of the body after all?  Could not
the men whom they despised as milksops beat them, even on
their own ground?

She thought of the bathing arrangements as they should
be in her day--no worrying of servants, no appliances,
beyond good sense.  Her reflections were disturbed by the
quiet child, who had come out to speak to the cat, but was
now watching her watch the men.  She called, "Good-morning,
dear," a little sharply.  Her voice spread consternation.
Charles looked round, and though completely attired in
indigo blue, vanished into the shed, and was seen no more.

"Miss Wilcox is up--" the child whispered, and then
became unintelligible.

"What's that?"

It sounded like, "--cut-yoke--sack back--"

"I can't hear."

"--On the bed--tissue-paper--"

Gathering that the wedding-dress was on view, and that a
visit would be seemly, she went to Evie's room.  All was
hilarity here.  Evie, in a petticoat, was dancing with one
of the Anglo-Indian ladies, while the other was adoring
yards of white satin.  They screamed, they laughed, they
sang, and the dog barked.

Margaret screamed a little too, but without conviction.
She could not feel that a wedding was so funny.  Perhaps
something was missing in her equipment.

Evie gasped: "Dolly is a rotter not to be here!  Oh, we
would rag just then!"  Then Margaret went down to breakfast.

Henry was already installed; he ate slowly and spoke
little, and was, in Margaret's eyes, the only member of
their party who dodged emotion successfully.  She could not
suppose him indifferent either to the loss of his daughter
or to the presence of his future wife.  Yet he dwelt intact,
only issuing orders occasionally--orders that promoted the
comfort of his guests.  He inquired after her hand; he set
her to pour out the coffee and Mrs. Warrington to pour out
the tea.  When Evie came down there was a moment's
awkwardness, and both ladies rose to vacate their places.
"Burton," called Henry, "serve tea and coffee from the
side-board!"  It wasn't genuine tact, but it was tact, of a
sort--the sort that is as useful as the genuine, and saves
even more situations at Board meetings.  Henry treated a
marriage like a funeral, item by item, never raising his
eyes to the whole, and "Death, where is thy sting?  Love,
where is thy victory?" one would exclaim at the close.

After breakfast she claimed a few words with him.  It
was always best to approach him formally.  She asked for the
interview, because he was going on to shoot grouse tomorrow,
and she was returning to Helen in town.

"Certainly, dear," said he.  "Of course, I have the
time.  What do you want?"

"Nothing."

"I was afraid something had gone wrong."

"No; I have nothing to say, but you may talk."

Glancing at his watch, he talked of the nasty curve at
the lych-gate.  She heard him with interest.  Her surface
could always respond to his without contempt, though all her
deeper being might be yearning to help him.  She had
abandoned any plan of action.  Love is the best, and the
more she let herself love him, the more chance was there
that he would set his soul in order.  Such a moment as this,
when they sat under fair weather by the walks of their
future home, was so sweet to her that its sweetness would
surely pierce to him.  Each lift of his eyes, each parting
of the thatched lip from the clean-shaven, must prelude the
tenderness that kills the Monk and the Beast at a single
blow.  Disappointed a hundred times, she still hoped.  She
loved him with too clear a vision to fear his cloudiness.
Whether he droned trivialities, as today, or sprang kisses
on her in the twilight, she could pardon him, she could respond.

"If there is this nasty curve," she suggested, "couldn't
we walk to the church?  Not, of course, you and Evie; but
the rest of us might very well go on first, and that would
mean fewer carriages."

"One can't have ladies walking through the Market
Square.  The Fussells wouldn't like it; they were awfully
particular at Charles's wedding.  My--she--one of our party
was anxious to walk, and certainly the church was just round
the corner, and I shouldn't have minded; but the Colonel
made a great point of it."

"You men shouldn't be so chivalrous," said Margaret thoughtfully.

"Why not?"

She knew why not, but said that she did not know.

He then announced that, unless she had anything special
to say, he must visit the wine-cellar, and they went off
together in search of Burton.  Though clumsy and a little
inconvenient, Oniton was a genuine country house.  They
clattered down flagged passages, looking into room after
room, and scaring unknown maids from the performance of
obscure duties.  The wedding-breakfast must be in readiness
when they came back from church, and tea would be served in
the garden.  The sight of so many agitated and serious
people made Margaret smile, but she reflected that they were
paid to be serious, and enjoyed being agitated.  Here were
the lower wheels of the machine that was tossing Evie up
into nuptial glory.  A little boy blocked their way with
pig-tails.  His mind could not grasp their greatness, and he
said: "By your leave; let me pass, please." Henry asked him
where Burton was.  But the servants were so new that they
did not know one another's names.  In the still-room sat the
band, who had stipulated for champagne as part of their fee,
and who were already drinking beer.  Scents of Araby came
from the kitchen, mingled with cries.  Margaret knew what
had happened there, for it happened at Wickham Place.  One
of the wedding dishes had boiled over, and the cook was
throwing cedar-shavings to hide the smell.  At last they
came upon the butler.  Henry gave him the keys, and handed
Margaret down the cellar-stairs.  Two doors were unlocked.
She, who kept all her wine at the bottom of the
linen-cupboard, was astonished at the sight.  "We shall
never get through it!" she cried, and the two men were
suddenly drawn into brotherhood, and exchanged smiles.  She
felt as if she had again jumped out of the car while it was moving.

Certainly Oniton would take some digesting.  It would be
no small business to remain herself, and yet to assimilate
such an establishment.  She must remain herself, for his
sake as well as her own, since a shadowy wife degrades the
husband whom she accompanies; and she must assimilate for
reasons of common honesty, since she had no right to marry a
man and make him uncomfortable.  Her only ally was the power
of Home.  The loss of Wickham Place had taught her more than
its possession.  Howards End had repeated the lesson.  She
was determined to create new sanctities among these hills.

After visiting the wine-cellar, she dressed, and then
came the wedding, which seemed a small affair when compared
with the preparations for it.  Everything went like one
o'clock.  Mr. Cahill materialized out of space, and was
waiting for his bride at the church door.  No one dropped
the ring or mispronounced the responses, or trod on Evie's
train, or cried.  In a few minutes--the clergymen performed
their duty, the register was signed, and they were back in
their carriages, negotiating the dangerous curve by the
lych-gate.  Margaret was convinced that they had not been
married at all, and that the Norman church had been intent
all the time on other business.

There were more documents to sign at the house, and the
breakfast to eat, and then a few more people dropped in for
the garden party.  There had been a great many refusals, and
after all it was not a very big affair--not as big as
Margaret's would be.  She noted the dishes and the strips of
red carpet, that outwardly she might give Henry what was
proper.  But inwardly she hoped for something better than
this blend of Sunday church and fox-hunting.  If only
someone had been upset!  But this wedding had gone off so
particularly well--"quite like a Durbar" in the opinion of
Lady Edser, and she thoroughly agreed with her.

So the wasted day lumbered forward, the bride and
bridegroom drove off, yelling with laughter, and for the
second time the sun retreated towards the hills of Wales.
Henry, who was more tired than he owned, came up to her in
the castle meadow, and, in tones of unusual softness, said
that he was pleased.  Everything had gone off so well.  She
felt that he was praising her, too, and blushed; certainly
she had done all she could with his intractable friends, and
had made a special point of kowtowing to the men.  They were
breaking camp this evening: only the Warringtons and quiet
child would stay the night, and the others were already
moving towards the house to finish their packing.  "I think
it did go off well," she agreed.  "Since I had to jump out
of the motor, I'm thankful I lighted on my left hand.  I am
so very glad about it, Henry dear; I only hope that the
guests at ours may be half as comfortable.  You must all
remember that we have no practical person among us, except
my aunt, and she is not used to entertainments on a large scale."

"I know," he said gravely.  "Under the circumstances, it
would be better to put everything into the hands of Harrod's
or Whiteley's, or even to go to some hotel."

"You desire a hotel?"

"Yes, because--well, I mustn't interfere with you.  No
doubt you want to be married from your old home."

"My old home's falling into pieces, Henry.  I only want
my new.  Isn't it a perfect evening--"

"The Alexandrina isn't bad--"

"The Alexandrina," she echoed, more occupied with the
threads of smoke that were issuing from their chimneys, and
ruling the sunlit slopes with parallels of grey.

"It's off Curzon Street."

"Is it?  Let's be married from off Curzon Street."

Then she turned westward, to gaze at the swirling gold.
Just where the river rounded the hill the sun caught it.
Fairyland must lie above the bend, and its precious liquid
was pouring towards them past Charles's bathing-shed.  She
gazed so long that her eyes were dazzled, and when they
moved back to the house, she could not recognize the faces
of people who were coming out of it.  A parlour-maid was
preceding them.

"Who are those people?" she asked.

"They're callers!" exclaimed Henry.  "It's too late for callers."

"Perhaps they're town people who want to see the wedding
presents."

"I'm not at home yet to townees."

"Well, hide among the ruins, and if I can stop them, I will."

He thanked her.

Margaret went forward, smiling socially.  She supposed
that these were unpunctual guests, who would have to be
content with vicarious civility, since Evie and Charles were
gone, Henry tired, and the others in their rooms.  She
assumed the airs of a hostess; not for long.  For one of the
group was Helen--Helen in her oldest clothes, and dominated
by that tense, wounding excitement that had made her a
terror in their nursery days.

"What is it?" she called.  "Oh, what's wrong?  Is Tibby ill?"

Helen spoke to her two companions, who fell back.  Then
she bore forward furiously.

"They're starving!" she shouted.  "I found them starving!"

"Who?  Why have you come?"

"The Basts."

"Oh, Helen!" moaned Margaret.  "Whatever have you done now?"

"He has lost his place.  He has been turned out of his
bank.  Yes, he's done for.  We upper classes have ruined
him, and I suppose you'll tell me it's the battle of life.
Starving.  His wife is ill.  Starving.  She fainted in the train."

"Helen, are you mad?"

"Perhaps.  Yes.  If you like, I'm mad.  But I've brought
them.  I'll stand injustice no longer.  I'll show up the
wretchedness that lies under this luxury, this talk of
impersonal forces, this cant about God doing what we're too
slack to do ourselves."

"Have you actually brought two starving people from
London to Shropshire, Helen?"

Helen was checked.  She had not thought of this, and her
hysteria abated.  "There was a restaurant car on the train,"
she said.

"Don't be absurd.  They aren't starving, and you know
it.  Now, begin from the beginning.  I won't have such
theatrical nonsense.  How dare you!  Yes, how dare you!" she
repeated, as anger filled her, "bursting in to Evie's
wedding in this heartless way.  My goodness!  but you've a
perverted notion of philanthropy.  Look"--she indicated the
house--"servants, people out of the windows.  They think
it's some vulgar scandal, and I must explain, 'Oh no, it's
only my sister screaming, and only two hangers-on of ours,
whom she has brought here for no conceivable reason.'"

"Kindly take back that word 'hangers-on,'" said Helen,
ominously calm.

"Very well," conceded Margaret, who for all her wrath
was determined to avoid a real quarrel.  "I, too, am sorry
about them, but it beats me why you've brought them here, or
why you're here yourself.

"It's our last chance of seeing Mr. 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, tomorrow."

"I knew it was our last chance."

"How do you do, Mr. Bast?" said Margaret, trying to
control her voice.  "This is an odd business.  What view do
you take of it?"

"There is Mrs. Bast, too," prompted Helen.

Jacky also shook hands.  She, like her husband, was shy,
and, furthermore, ill, and furthermore, so bestially stupid
that she could not grasp what was happening.  She only knew
that the lady had swept down like a whirlwind last night,
had paid the rent, redeemed the furniture, provided them
with a dinner and breakfast, and ordered them to meet her at
Paddington next morning.  Leonard had feebly protested, and
when the morning came, had suggested that they shouldn't
go.  But she, half mesmerized, had obeyed.  The lady had
told them to, and they must, and their bed-sitting-room had
accordingly changed into Paddington, and Paddington into a
railway carriage, that shook, and grew hot, and grew cold,
and vanished entirely, and reappeared amid torrents of
expensive scent.  "You have fainted," said the lady in an
awe-struck voice.  "Perhaps the air will do you good." And
perhaps it had, for here she was, feeling rather better
among a lot of flowers.

"I'm sure I don't want to intrude," began Leonard, in
answer to Margaret's question.  "But you have been so kind
to me in the past in warning me about the Porphyrion that I
wondered--why, I wondered whether--"

"Whether we could get him back into the Porphyrion
again," supplied Helen.  "Meg, this has been a cheerful
business.  A bright evening's work that was on Chelsea Embankment."

Margaret shook her head and returned to Mr. 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 month, and now he's
penniless, and I consider that we and our informant are
directly to blame."

"I hate all this," Leonard muttered.

"I hope you do, Mr. Bast.  But it's no good mincing
matters.  You have done yourself no good by coming 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 kind, and no doubt it's a false position, but
you make me miserable.  I seem no good at all."

"It's work he wants," interpreted Helen.  "Can't you see?"

Then he said: "Jacky, let's go.  We're more bother than
we're worth.  We're costing these ladies pounds and pounds
already to get work for us, and they never will.  There's
nothing we're good enough to do."

"We would like to find you work," said Margaret rather
conventionally.  "We want to--I, like my sister.  You're
only down in your luck.  Go to the hotel, have a good
night's rest, and some day you shall pay me back the bill,
if you prefer it."

But Leonard was near the abyss, and at such moments men
see clearly.  "You don't know what you're talking about," he
said.  "I shall never get work now.  If rich people fail at
one profession, they can try another.  Not I.  I had my
groove, and I've got out of it.  I could do one particular
branch of insurance in one particular office well enough to
command a salary, but that's all.  Poetry's nothing, Miss
Schlegel.  One's thoughts about this and that are nothing.
Your money, too, is nothing, if you'll understand me.  I
mean if a man over twenty once loses his own particular job,
it's all over with him.  I have seen it happen to others.
Their friends gave them money for a little, but in the end
they fall over the edge.  It's no good.  It's the whole
world pulling.  There always will be rich and poor."

He ceased.

"Won't you have something to eat?" said Margaret.  "I
don't know what to do.  It isn't my house, and though Mr.
Wilcox would have been glad to see you at any other time--as
I say, I don't know what to do, but I undertake to do what I
can for you.  Helen, offer them something.  Do try a
sandwich, Mrs. Bast."

They moved to a long table behind which a servant was
still standing.  Iced cakes, sandwiches innumerable, coffee,
claret-cup, champagne, remained almost intact: their overfed
guests could do no more.  Leonard refused.  Jacky thought
she could manage a little.  Margaret left them whispering
together and had a few more words with Helen.

She said: "Helen, I like Mr. Bast.  I agree that he's
worth helping.  I agree that we are directly responsible."

"No, indirectly.  Via Mr. Wilcox."

"Let me tell you once for all that if you take up that
attitude, I'll do nothing.  No doubt you're right logically,
and are entitled to say a great many scathing things about
Henry.  Only, I won't have it.  So choose.

Helen looked at the sunset.

"If you promise to take them quietly to the George, I
will speak to Henry about them--in my own way, mind; there
is to be none of this absurd screaming about justice.  I
have no use for justice.  If it was only a question of
money, we could do it ourselves.  But he wants work, and
that we can't give him, but possibly Henry can."

"It's his duty to," grumbled Helen.

"Nor am I concerned with duty.  I'm concerned with the
characters of various people whom we know, and how, things
being as they are, things may be made a little better.  Mr.
Wilcox hates being asked favours: all business men do.  But
I am going to ask him, at the risk of a rebuff, because I
want to make things a little better."

"Very well.  I promise.  You take it very calmly. "

"Take them off to the George, then, and I'll try.  Poor
creatures!  but they look tried."  As they parted, she
added: "I haven't nearly done with you, though, Helen.  You
have been most self-indulgent.  I can't get over it.  You
have less restraint rather than more as you grow older.
Think it over and alter yourself, or we shan't have happy lives."

She rejoined Henry.  Fortunately he had been sitting
down: these physical matters were important.  "Was it
townees?" he asked, greeting her with a pleasant smile.

"You'll never believe me," said Margaret, sitting down
beside him.  "It's all right now, but it was my sister."

"Helen here?" he cried, preparing to rise.  "But she
refused the invitation.  I thought she despised weddings."

"Don't get up.  She has not come to the wedding.  I've
bundled her off to the George."

Inherently hospitable, he protested.

"No; she has two of her proteges with her, and must keep
with them."

"Let 'em all come."

"My dear Henry, did you see them?"

"I did catch sight of a brown bunch of a woman, certainly.

"The brown bunch was Helen, but did you catch sight of a
sea-green and salmon bunch?"

"What!  are they out beanfeasting?"

"No; business.  They wanted to see me, and later on I
want to talk to you about them."

She was ashamed of her own diplomacy.  In dealing with a
Wilcox, how tempting it was to lapse from comradeship, and
to give him the kind of woman that he desired!  Henry took
the hint at once, and said: "Why later on?  Tell me now.  No
time like the present."

"Shall I?"

"If it isn't a long story."

"Oh, not five minutes; but there's a sting at the end of
it, for I want you to find the man some work in your office."

"What are his qualifications?"

"I don't know.  He's a clerk."

"How old?"

"Twenty-five, perhaps."

"What's his name?"

"Bast," said Margaret, and was about to remind him that
they had met at Wickham Place, but stopped herself.  It had
not been a successful meeting.

"Where was he before?"

"Dempster's Bank."

"Why did he leave?" he asked, still remembering nothing.

"They reduced their staff."

"All right; I'll see him."

It was the reward of her tact and devotion through the
day.  Now she understood why some women prefer influence to
rights.  Mrs. Plynlimmon, when condemning suffragettes, had
said: "The woman who can't influence her husband to vote the
way she wants ought to be ashamed of herself."  Margaret had
winced, but she was influencing Henry now, and though
pleased at her little victory, she knew that she had won it
by the methods of the harem.

"I should be glad if you took him," she said, "but I
don't know whether he's qualified."

"I'll do what I can.  But, Margaret, this mustn't be
taken as a precedent."

"No, of course--of course--"

"I can't fit in your proteges every day.  Business would
suffer."

"I can promise you he's the last.  He--he's rather a
special case."

"Proteges always are."

She let it stand at that.  He rose with a little extra
touch of complacency, and held out his hand to help her up.
How wide the gulf between Henry as he was and Henry as Helen
thought he ought to be!  And she herself--hovering as usual
between the two, now accepting men as they are, now yearning
with her sister for Truth.  Love and Truth--their warfare
seems eternal.  Perhaps the whole visible world rests on it,
and if they were one, life itself, like the spirits when
Prospero was reconciled to his brother, might vanish into
air, into thin air.

"Your protege has made us late," said he.  "The Fussells
will just be starting."

On the whole she sided with men as they are.  Henry
would save the Basts as he had saved Howards End, while
Helen and her friends were discussing the ethics of
salvation.  His was a slap-dash method, but the world has
been built slap-dash, and the beauty of mountain and river
and sunset may be but the varnish with which the unskilled
artificer hides his joins.  Oniton, like herself, was
imperfect.  Its apple-trees were stunted, its castle
ruinous.  It, too, had suffered in the border warfare
between the Anglo Saxon and the Kelt, between things as they
are and as they ought to be.  Once more the west was
retreating, once again the orderly stars were dotting the
eastern sky.  There is certainly no rest for us on the
earth.  But there is happiness, and as Margaret descended
the mound on her lover's arm, she felt that she was having
her share.

To her annoyance, Mrs. Bast was still in the garden; the
husband and Helen had left her there to finish her meal
while they went to engage rooms.  Margaret found this woman
repellent.  She had felt, when shaking her hand, an
overpowering shame.  She remembered the motive of her call
at Wickham Place, and smelt again odours from the
abyss--odours the more disturbing because they were
involuntary.  For there was no malice in Jacky.  There she
sat, a piece of cake in one hand, an empty champagne glass
in the other, doing no harm to anybody.

"She's overtired," Margaret whispered.

"She's something else," said Henry.  "This won't do.  I
can't have her in my garden in this state."

"Is she--" Margaret hesitated to add "drunk." Now that
she was going to marry him, he had grown particular.  He
discountenanced risque conversations now.

Henry went up to the woman.  She raised her face, which
gleamed in the twilight like a puff-ball.

"Madam, you will be more comfortable at the hotel," he
said sharply.

Jacky replied: "If it isn't Hen!"

"Ne crois pas que le mari lui ressemble," apologized
Margaret.  "Il est tout a fait different."

"Henry!" she repeated, quite distinctly.

Mr. Wilcox was much annoyed.  "I can't congratulate you
on your proteges," he remarked.

"Hen, don't go.  You do love me, dear, don't you?"

"Bless us, what a person!" sighed Margaret, gathering up
her skirts.

Jacky pointed with her cake.  "You're a nice boy, you
are." She yawned.  "There now, I love you."

"Henry, I am awfully sorry."

"And pray why?" he asked, and looked at her so sternly
that she feared he was ill.  He seemed more scandalized than
the facts demanded.

"To have brought this down on you."

"Pray don't apologize."

The voice continued.

"Why does she call you 'Hen'?" said Margaret
innocently.  "Has she ever seen you before?"

"Seen Hen before!" said Jacky.  "Who hasn't seen Hen?
He's serving you like me, my dear.  These boys!  You
wait--Still we love 'em."

"Are you now satisfied?" Henry asked.

Margaret began to grow frightened.  "I don't know what
it is all about," she said.  "Let's come in."

But he thought she was acting.  He thought he was
trapped.  He saw his whole life crumbling.  "Don't you
indeed?" he said bitingly.  "I do.  Allow me to congratulate
you on the success of your plan."

"This is Helen's plan, not mine."

"I now understand your interest in the 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 unequivocal, undenied.

"So that--" burst from her, and she went indoors.  She
stopped herself from saying more.

"So what?" asked Colonel Fussell, who was getting ready
to start in the hall.

"We were saying--Henry and I were just having the
fiercest argument, my point being--" Seizing his fur coat
from a footman, she offered to help him on.  He protested,
and there was a playful little scene.

"No, let me do that," said Henry, following.

"Thanks so much!  You see--he has forgiven me!"

The Colonel said gallantly: "I don't expect there's much
to forgive.

He got into the car.  The ladies followed him after an
interval.  Maids, courier, and heavier luggage had been sent
on earlier by the branch--line.  Still chattering, still
thanking their host and patronizing their future hostess,
the guests were home away.

Then Margaret continued: "So that woman has been your mistress?"

"You put it with your usual delicacy," he replied.

"When, please?"

"Why?"

"When, please?"

"Ten years ago."

She left him without a word.  For it was not her
tragedy: it was Mrs. Wilcox's.


Chapter 27

Helen began to wonder why she had spent a matter of eight
pounds in making some people ill and others angry.  Now that
the wave of excitement was ebbing, and had left her, Mr.
Bast, and Mrs. Bast stranded for the night in a Shropshire
hotel, she asked herself what forces had made the wave
flow.  At all events, no harm was done.  Margaret would play
the game properly now, and though Helen disapproved of her
sister's methods, she knew that the Basts would benefit by
them in the long run.

"Mr. Wilcox is so illogical," she explained to Leonard,
who had put his wife to bed, and was sitting with her in the
empty coffee-room.  "If we told him it was his duty to take
you on, he might refuse to do it.  The fact is, he isn't
properly educated.  I don't want to set you against him, but
you'll find him a trial."

"I can never thank you sufficiently, Miss Schlegel," was
all that Leonard felt equal to.

"I believe in personal responsibility.  Don't you?  And
in personal everything.  I hate--I suppose I oughtn't to say
that--but the Wilcoxes are on the wrong tack surely.  Or
perhaps it isn't their fault.  Perhaps the little thing that
says 'I' is missing out of the middle of their heads, and
then it's a waste of time to blame them.  There's a
nightmare of a theory that says a special race is being born
which will rule the rest of us in the future just because it
lacks the little thing that says 'I.' Had you heard that?"

"I get no time for reading."

"Had you thought it, then?  That there are two kinds of
people--our kind, who live straight from the middle of their
heads, and the other kind who can't, because their heads
have no middle?  They can't say 'I.' They AREN'T in fact,
and so they're supermen.  Pierpont Morgan has never said 'I'
in his life."

Leonard roused himself.  If his benefactress wanted
intellectual conversation, she must have it.  She was more
important than his ruined past.  "I never got on to
Nietzsche," he said.  "But I always understood that those
supermen were rather what you may call egoists."

"Oh, no, that's wrong," replied Helen.  "No superman
ever said 'I want,' because 'I want' must lead to the
question, 'Who am I?' and so to Pity and to Justice.  He
only says 'want.' 'Want Europe,' if he's Napoleon; 'want
wives,' if he's Bluebeard; 'want Botticelli,' if he's
Pierpont Morgan.  Never the 'I'; and if you could pierce
through him, you'd find panic and emptiness in the middle."

Leonard was silent for a moment.  Then he said: "May I
take it, Miss Schlegel, that you and I are both the sort
that say 'I'?"

"Of course."

"And your sister too?"

"Of course," repeated Helen, a little sharply.  She was
annoyed with Margaret, but did not want her discussed.  "All
presentable people say 'I.'"

"But Mr. Wilcox--he is not perhaps--"

"I don't know that it's any good discussing Mr. Wilcox either."

"Quite so, quite so," he agreed.  Helen asked herself
why she had snubbed him.  Once or twice during the day she
had encouraged him to criticize, and then had pulled him up
short.  Was she afraid of him presuming?  If so, it was
disgusting of her.

But he was thinking the snub quite natural.  Everything
she did was natural, and incapable of causing offence.
While the Miss Schlegels were together he had felt them
scarcely human--a sort of admonitory whirligig.  But a Miss
Schlegel alone was different.  She was in Helen's case
unmarried, in Margaret's about to be married, in neither
case an echo of her sister.  A light had fallen at last into
this rich upper world, and he saw that it was full of men
and women, some of whom were more friendly to him than
others.  Helen had become "his" Miss Schlegel, who scolded
him and corresponded with him, and had swept down yesterday
with grateful vehemence.  Margaret, though not unkind, was
severe and remote.  He would not presume to help her, for
instance.  He had never liked her, and began to think that
his original impression was true, and that her sister did
not like her either.  Helen was certainly lonely.  She, who
gave away so much, was receiving too little.  Leonard was
pleased to think that he could spare her vexation by holding
his tongue and concealing what he knew about Mr. Wilcox.
Jacky had announced her discovery when he fetched her from
the lawn.  After the first shock, he did not mind for
himself.  By now he had no illusions about his wife, and
this was only one new stain on the face of a love that had
never been pure.  To keep perfection perfect, that should be
his ideal, if the future gave him time to have ideals.
Helen, and Margaret for Helen's sake, must not know.

Helen disconcerted him by fuming the conversation to his
wife.  "Mrs. Bast--does she ever say 'I'?" she asked, half
mischievously, and then, "Is she very tired?"

"It's better she stops in her room," said Leonard.

"Shall I sit up with her?"

"No, thank you; she does not need company."

"Mr. Bast, what kind of woman is your wife?"

Leonard blushed up to his eyes.

"You ought to know my ways by now.  Does that question
offend you?"

"No, oh no, Miss Schlegel, no."

"Because I love honesty.  Don't pretend your marriage
has been a happy one.  You and she can have nothing in common."

He did not deny it, but said shyly: "I suppose that's
pretty obvious; but Jacky never meant to do anybody any
harm.  When things went wrong, or I heard things, I used to
think it was her fault, but, looking back, it's more mine.
I needn't have married her, but as I have I must stick to
her and keep her."

"How long have you been married?"

"Nearly three years."

"What did your people say?"

"They will not have anything to do with us.  They had a
sort of family council when they heard I was married, and
cut us off altogether."

Helen began to pace up and down the room.  "My good boy,
what a mess!" she said gently.  "Who are your people?"

He could answer this.  His parents, who were dead, had
been in trade; his sisters had married commercial
travellers; his brother was a lay-reader.

"And your grandparents?"

Leonard told her a secret that he had held shameful up
to now.  "They were just nothing at all," he said,
"--agricultural labourers and that sort."

"So!  From which part?"

"Lincolnshire mostly, but my mother's father--he, oddly
enough, came from these parts round here."

"From this very Shropshire.  Yes, that is odd.  My
mother's people were Lancashire.  But why do your brother
and your sisters object to Mrs. Bast?"

"Oh, I don't know."

"Excuse me, you do know.  I am not a baby.  I can bear
anything you tell me, and the more you tell the more I shall
be able to help.  Have they heard anything against her?"

He was silent.

"I think I have guessed now," said Helen very gravely.

"I don't think so, Miss Schlegel; I hope 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 Helen, with 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 once, but
there's nothing like a bailiff in the house to drive it out
of you.  When I saw him fingering my Ruskins and Stevensons,
I seemed to see life straight real, and it isn't a pretty
sight.  My books are back again, thanks to you, but they'll
never be the same to me again, and I shan't ever again think
night in the woods is wonderful."

"Why not?" asked Helen, throwing up the window.

"Because I see one must have money."

"Well, you're wrong."

"I wish I was wrong, but--the clergyman--he has money of
his own, or else he's paid; the poet or the musician--just
the same; the tramp--he's no different.  The tramp goes to
the workhouse in the end, and is paid for with other
people's money.  Miss Schlegel, the real thing's money and
all the rest is a dream."

"You're still wrong.  You've forgotten Death."

Leonard could not understand.

"If we lived for ever what you say would be true.  But
we have to die, we have to leave life presently.  Injustice
and greed would be the real thing if we lived for ever.  As
it is, we must hold to other things, because Death is
coming.  I love Death--not morbidly, but because He
explains.  He shows me the emptiness of Money.  Death and
Money are the eternal foes.  Not Death and Life.  Never mind
what lies behind Death, Mr. Bast, but be sure that the poet
and the musician and the tramp will be happier in it than
the man who has never learnt to say, 'I am I.'"

"I wonder."

"We are all in a mist--I know but I can help you this
far--men like the Wilcoxes are deeper in the mist than any.
Sane, sound Englishmen!  building up empires, levelling all
the world into what they call common sense.  But mention
Death to them and they're offended, because Death's really
Imperial, and He cries out against them for ever."

"I am as afraid of Death as any one."

"But not of the idea of Death."

"But what is the difference?"

"Infinite difference," said Helen, more gravely than before.

Leonard looked at her wondering, and had the sense of
great things sweeping out of the shrouded night.  But he
could not receive them, because his heart was still full of
little things.  As the lost umbrella had spoilt the concert
at Queen's Hall, so the lost situation was obscuring the
diviner harmonies now.  Death, Life and Materialism were
fine words, but would Mr. Wilcox take him on as a clerk?
Talk as one would, Mr. Wilcox was king of this world, the
superman, with his own morality, whose head remained in the clouds.

"I must be stupid," he said apologetically.

While to Helen the paradox became clearer and clearer.
"Death destroys a man: the idea of Death saves him." Behind
the coffins and the skeletons that stay the vulgar mind lies
something so immense that all that is great in us responds
to it.  Men of the world may recoil from the charnel-house
that they will one day enter, but Love knows better.  Death
is his foe, but his peer, and in their age-long struggle the
thews of Love have been strengthened, and his vision
cleared, until there is no one who can stand against him.

"So never give in," continued the girl, and restated
again and again the vague yet convincing plea that the
Invisible lodges against the Visible.  Her excitement grew
as she tried to cut the rope that fastened Leonard to the
earth.  Woven of bitter experience, it resisted her.
Presently the waitress entered and gave her a letter from
Margaret.  Another note, addressed to Leonard, was inside.
They read them, listening to the murmurings of the river.


Chapter 28

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 him, and even determine to
marry him, but as yet all lay too deep in her heart for
speech.  On the surface the sense of his degradation was too
strong.  She could not command voice or look, and the gentle
words that she forced out through her pen seemed to proceed
from some other person.

"My dearest boy," she began, "this is not to part us.
It is everything or nothing, and I mean it to be nothing.
It happened long before we ever met, and even if it had
happened since, I should be writing the same, I hope.  I do
understand."

But she crossed out "I do understand"; it struck a false
note.  Henry could not bear to be understood.  She also
crossed out, "It is everything or 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 everything, yes, it was, and she could not be his
wife.  She tried to translate his temptation into her own
language, and her brain reeled.  Men must be different, even
to want to yield to such a temptation.  Her belief in
comradeship was stifled, and she saw life as from that glass
saloon on the Great Western, which sheltered male and female
alike from the fresh air.  Are the sexes really races, each
with its own code of morality, and their mutual love a mere
device of Nature to keep things going?  Strip human
intercourse of the proprieties, and is it reduced to this?
Her judgment told her no.  She knew that out of Nature's
device we have built a magic that will win us 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 farm-yard
and the garbage that nourishes it.  We are evolving, in ways
that Science cannot measure, to ends that Theology dares not
contemplate.  "Men did produce one jewel," the gods will
say, and, saying, will give us immortality.  Margaret knew
all this, but for the moment she could not feel it, and
transformed the marriage of Evie and Mr. Cahill into a
carnival of fools, and her own marriage--too miserable to
think of that, she tore up the letter, and then wrote
another:


Dear Mr. Bast,

I have spoken to Mr. Wilcox about you, as I promised,
and am sorry to say that he has no vacancy for you.

                                          Yours truly,
                                         M. J. Schlegel


She enclosed this in a note to Helen, over which she
took less trouble than she might have done; but her head was
aching, and she could not stop to pick her words:


Dear Helen,

Give him this.  The Basts are no good.  Henry found
the woman drunk on the lawn.  I am having a room got
ready for you here, and will you please come round at
once on getting this?  The Basts are not at all the type
we should trouble about.  I may go round to them myself
in the morning, and do anything that is fair.

                                                    M


In writing this, Margaret felt that she was being
practical.  Something might be arranged for the Basts later
on, but they must be silenced for the moment.  She hoped to
avoid a conversation between the woman and Helen.  She rang
the bell for a servant, but no one answered it; Mr. Wilcox
and the Warringtons were gone to bed, and the kitchen was
abandoned to Saturnalia.  Consequently she went over to the
George herself.  She did not enter the hotel, for discussion
would have been perilous, and, saying that the letter was
important, she gave it to the waitress.  As she recrossed
the square she saw Helen and Mr. Bast looking out of the
window of the coffee-room, and feared she was already too
late.  Her task was not yet over; she ought to tell Henry
what she had done.

This came easily, for she saw him in the hall.  The
night wind had been rattling the pictures against the wall,
and the noise had disturbed him.

"Who's there?" he called, quite the 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 someone had got in," said Henry.

"At the same time I told the man that we could do
nothing for him.  I don't know about later, but now the
Basts must clearly go."

"Did you say that your sister is sleeping here, after all?"

"Probably."

"Is she to be shown up to your room?"

"I have naturally nothing to say to her; I am going to
bed.  Will you tell the servants about Helen?  Could someone
go to carry her bag?"

He tapped a little gong, which had been bought to summon
the servants.

"You must make more noise than that if you want them to hear."

Henry opened a door, and down the corridor came shouts
of laughter.  "Far too much screaming there," he said, and
strode towards it.  Margaret went upstairs, uncertain
whether to be glad that they had met, or sorry.  They had
behaved as if nothing had happened, and her deepest
instincts told her that this was wrong.  For his own sake,
some explanation was due.

And yet--what could an explanation tell her?  A date, a
place, a few details, which she could imagine all too
clearly.  Now that the first shock was over, she saw that
there was every reason to premise a Mrs. Bast.  Henry's
inner life had long laid open to her--his intellectual
confusion, his obtuseness to personal influence, his strong
but furtive passions.  Should she refuse him because his
outer life corresponded?  Perhaps.  Perhaps, if the
dishonour had been done to her, but it was done long before
her day.  She struggled against the feeling.  She told
herself that Mrs. Wilcox's wrong was her own.  But she was
not a bargain theorist.  As she undressed, her anger, her
regard for the dead, her desire for a scene, all grew 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 generalize, is at the bottom of
woman.  When men like us, it is for our better qualities,
and however tender their liking, we dare not be unworthy of
it, or they will quietly let us go.  But unworthiness
stimulates woman.  It brings out her deeper nature, for good
or for evil.

Here was the core of the question.  Henry must be
forgiven, and made better by love; nothing else mattered.
Mrs. Wilcox, that unquiet yet kindly ghost, must be left to
her own wrong.  To her everything was in proportion now, and
she, too, would pity the man who was blundering up and down
their lives.  Had Mrs. Wilcox known of his trespass?  An
interesting question, but Margaret fell asleep, tethered by
affection, and lulled by the murmurs of the river that
descended all the night from Wales.  She felt herself at one
with her future home, colouring it and coloured by it, and
awoke to see, for the second time, Oniton Castle conquering
the morning mists.


Chapter 29

"Henry dear--" was her greeting.

He had finished his breakfast, and was beginning the
TIMES.  His sister-in-law was packing.  She knelt by him and
took the paper from him, feeling that it was unusually heavy
and thick.  Then, putting her face where it had been, she
looked up in his eyes.

"Henry dear, look at me.  No, I won't have you
shirking.  Look at me.  There.  That's all."

"You're referring to last evening," he said huskily.  "I
have released you from your engagement.  I could find
excuses, but I won't.  No, I won't.  A thousand times no.
I'm a bad lot, and must be left at that."

Expelled from his old fortress, Mr. Wilcox was building
a new one.  He could no longer appear respectable to her, so
he defended himself instead in a lurid past.  It was not
true repentance.

"Leave it where you will, boy.  It's not going to
trouble us: I know what I'm talking about, and it will make
no difference."

"No difference?" he inquired.  "No difference, when you
find that I am not the fellow you thought?"  He was annoyed
with Miss Schlegel here.  He would have preferred her to be
prostrated by the blow, or even to rage.  Against the tide
of his sin flowed the feeling that she was not altogether
womanly.  Her eyes gazed too straight; they had read books
that are suitable for men only.  And though he had dreaded a
scene, and though she had determined against one, there was
a scene, all the same.  It was somehow imperative.

"I am unworthy of you," he began.  "Had I been worthy, I
should not have released you from your engagement.  I know
what I am talking about.  I can't bear to talk of such
things.  We had better leave it. "

She kissed his hand.  He jerked it from her, and, rising
to his feet, went on: "You, with your sheltered life, and
refined pursuits, and friends, and books, you and your
sister, and women like you--I say, how can you guess the
temptations that lie round a man?"

"It is difficult for us," said Margaret; "but if we are
worth marrying, we do 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 side-board
and helped herself to one of the breakfast dishes.  Being
the last down, she turned out the spirit-lamp that kept them
warm.  She was tender, but grave.  She knew that Henry was
not so much confessing his soul as pointing out the gulf
between the male soul and the female, and she did not desire
to hear him on this 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 exclaimed, suddenly natural.  Then
he caught himself up.  "Let them gossip.  My game's up,
though I thank you for your unselfishness--little as my
thanks are worth."

"Didn't she send me a message or anything?"

"I heard of none."

"Would you ring the bell, please?"

"What to do?"

"Why, to inquire."

He swaggered up to it tragically, and sounded a peal.
Margaret poured herself out some coffee.  The butler came,
and said that Miss Schlegel had slept at the George, so far
as he had heard.  Should he go round to the George?

"I'll go, thank you," said Margaret, and dismissed him.

"It is no good," said Henry.  "Those things leak out;
you cannot stop a story once it has started.  I have known
cases of other men--I despised them once, I thought that I'M
different, I shall never be tempted.  Oh, Margaret--" He
came and sat down near her, improvising emotion.  She could
not bear to listen to him.  "We fellows all come to grief
once in our time.  Will you believe that?  There are moments
when the strongest man--'Let him who standeth, take heed
lest he fall.' That's true, isn't it?  If you knew all, you
would excuse me.  I was far from good influences--far even
from England.  I was very, very lonely, and longed for a
woman's voice.  That's enough.  I have told you too much
already for you to forgive me now."

"Yes, that's enough, dear."

"I have"--he lowered his voice--"I have been through hell."

Gravely she considered this claim.  Had he?  Had he
suffered tortures of remorse, or had it been, "There!
that's over.  Now for respectable life again"?  The latter,
if she read him rightly.  A man who has been through hell
does not boast of his virility.  He is humble and hides it,
if, indeed, it still exists.  Only in legend does the sinner
come forth penitent, but terrible, to conquer pure woman by
his resistless power.  Henry was anxious to be terrible, but
had not got it in him.  He was a good average Englishman,
who had slipped.  The really culpable point--his
faithlessness to Mrs. Wilcox--never seemed to strike him.
She longed to mention Mrs. Wilcox.

And bit by bit the story was told her.  It was a very
simple story.  Ten years ago was the time, a garrison town
in Cyprus the place.  Now and then he asked her whether she
could possibly forgive him, and she answered, "I have
already forgiven you, Henry." She chose her words carefully,
and so saved him from panic.  She played the girl, until he
could rebuild his fortress and hide his soul from the
world.  When the butler came to clear away, Henry was in a
very different mood--asked the fellow what he was in such a
hurry for, complained of the noise last night in the
servants' hall.  Margaret looked intently at the butler.
He, as a handsome young man, was faintly attractive to her
as a woman--an attraction so faint as scarcely to be
perceptible, yet the skies would have fallen if she had
mentioned it to Henry.

On her return from the George the building operations
were complete, and the old Henry fronted her, competent,
cynical, and kind.  He had made a clean breast, had been
forgiven, and the great thing now was to forget his failure,
and to send it the way of other unsuccessful investments.
Jacky rejoined Howards End and Ducie Street, and the
vermilion motor-car, and the Argentine Hard Dollars, and all
the things and people for whom he had never had much use and
had less now.  Their memory hampered him.  He could scarcely
attend to Margaret who brought back disquieting news from
the George.  Helen and her clients had gone.

"Well, let them go--the man and his wife, I mean, for
the more we see of your sister the better."

"But they have gone separately--Helen very early, the
Basts just before I arrived.  They have left no message.
They have answered neither of my notes.  I don't like to
think what it all means."

"What did you say in the notes?"

"I told you last night."

"Oh--ah--yes!  Dear, would you like one turn in the garden?"

Margaret took his arm.  The beautiful weather soothed
her.  But the wheels of Evie's wedding were still at work,
tossing the guests outwards as deftly as they had drawn them
in, and she could not be with him long.  It had been
arranged that they should motor to Shrewsbury, whence he
would go north, and she back to London with the
Warringtons.  For a fraction of time she was happy.  Then
her brain recommenced.

"I am afraid there has been gossiping of some kind at
the George.  Helen would not have left unless she had heard
something.  I mismanaged that.  It is wretched.  I ought
to--have parted her from that woman at once.

"Margaret!" he exclaimed, loosing her arm impressively.

"Yes--yes, Henry?"

"I am far from a saint--in fact, the reverse--but you
have taken me, for better or worse.  Bygones must be
bygones.  You have promised to forgive me.  Margaret, a
promise is a promise.  Never mention that woman again."

"Except for some practical reason--never."

"Practical!  You practical!"

"Yes, I'm practical," she murmured, stooping over the
mowing-machine and playing with the grass which trickled
through her fingers like sand.

He had silenced her, but her fears made him uneasy.  Not
for the first time, he was threatened with blackmail.  He
was rich and supposed to be moral; the Basts knew that he
was not, and might find it profitable to hint as much.

"At all events, you mustn't worry," he said.  "This is a
man's business." He thought intently.  "On no account
mention it to anybody."

Margaret flushed at advice so elementary, but he was
really paving the way for a lie.  If necessary he would deny
that he had ever known Mrs. Bast, and prosecute her for
libel.  Perhaps he never had known her.  Here was Margaret,
who behaved as if he had not.  There the house.  Round them
were half a dozen gardeners, clearing up after his
daughter's wedding.  All was so solid and spruce, that the
past flew up out of sight like a spring-blind, leaving only
the last five minutes unrolled.

Glancing at these, he saw that the car would be round
during the next five, and plunged into action.  Gongs were
tapped, orders issued, Margaret was sent to dress, and the
housemaid to sweep up the long trickle of grass that she had
left across the hall.  As is Man to the Universe, so was the
mind of Mr. Wilcox to the minds of some men--a concentrated
light upon a tiny spot, a little Ten Minutes moving
self-contained through its appointed years.  No Pagan he,
who lives for the Now, and may be wiser than all
philosophers.  He lived for the five minutes that have past,
and the five to come; he had the business mind.

How did he stand now, as his motor slipped out of Oniton
and breasted the great round hills?  Margaret had heard a
certain rumour, but was all right.  She had forgiven him,
God bless her, and he felt the manlier for it.  Charles and
Evie had not heard it, and never must hear.  No more must
Paul.  Over his children he felt great tenderness, which he
did not try to track to a cause: Mrs. Wilcox was too far
back in his life.  He did not connect her with the sudden
aching love that he felt for Evie.  Poor little Evie!  he
trusted that Cahill would make her a decent husband.

And Margaret?  How did she stand?

She had several minor worries.  Clearly her sister had
heard something.  She dreaded meeting her in town.  And she
was anxious about Leonard, for whom they certainly were
responsible.  Nor ought Mrs. Bast to starve.  But the main
situation had not altered.  She still loved Henry.  His
actions, not his disposition, had disappointed her, and she
could bear that.  And she loved her future home.  Standing
up in the car, just where she had leapt from it two days
before, she gazed back with deep emotion upon Oniton.
Besides the Grange and the Castle keep, she could now pick
out the church and the black-and-white gables of the
George.  There was the bridge, and the river nibbling its
green peninsula.  She could even see the bathing-shed, but
while she was looking for Charles's new springboard, the
forehead of the hill rose up and hid the whole scene.

She never saw it again.  Day and night the river flows
down into England, day after day the sun retreats into the
Welsh mountains, and the tower chimes, "See the Conquering
Hero." But the Wilcoxes have no part in the place, nor in
any place.  It is not their names that recur in the parish
register.  It is not their ghosts that sigh among the alders
at evening.  They have swept into the valley and swept out
of it, leaving a little dust and a little money behind.


Chapter 30

Tibby was now approaching his last year at Oxford.  He had
moved out of college, and was contemplating the Universe, or
such portions of it as concerned him, from 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 neither wished to strengthen the position of
the rich nor to improve that of the poor, and so was well
content to watch the elms nodding behind the mildly
embattled parapets of Magdalen.  There are worse lives.
Though selfish, he was never cruel; though affected in
manner, he never posed.  Like Margaret, he disdained the
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 Mods, much to the surprise of those who
attended lectures and took proper exercise, and 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 noticed, in a distant way, that his sister had
altered.  As a rule he found her too pronounced, and had
never come across this look of appeal, pathetic 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 Tibby, picking up the claret,
which was warming in the hearth.  Helen sat down
submissively at the table.  "Why such an early start?" he asked.

"Sunrise or something--when I could 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 outside, and 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 it, though?"  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 Helen, and 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 him, such as music.  He laid down his knife and
looked at her curiously.  Then, as she continued to sob, he
went on with his lunch.

The time came for the second course, and she was still
crying.  Apple Charlotte was to follow, which spoils by
waiting.  "Do you mind Mrs. Martlett coming in?" he asked,
"or shall I take it from her at the door?"

"Could I bathe my eyes, Tibby?"

He took her to his bedroom, and introduced the pudding
in her absence.  Having helped himself, he put it down to
warm in the hearth.  His hand stretched towards the Grammar,
and soon he was turning over the pages, raising his eyebrows
scornfully, perhaps at human nature, perhaps at Chinese.  To
him thus employed Helen returned.  She had pulled herself
together, but 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 indeed, and ruined two
people's lives.  It all came on me very suddenly last night;
I am very much upset, and I do not know what to do.  Mrs. Bast--"

"Oh, those people!"

Helen seemed silenced.

"Shall I lock the door again?"

"No, thanks, Tibbikins.  You're being very good to me.
I want to tell you the story before I 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 nothing, and 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 is, and 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 pause,
during which the landlady served them with coffee.  "I come
now to the business that took us to Oniton.  We went all
three.  Acting on Mr. Wilcox's advice, the man throws up a
secure situation and takes an insecure one, from which he is
dismissed.  There are certain excuses, but in the main Mr.
Wilcox is to blame, as Meg herself admitted.  It is only
common justice that he should employ the man himself.  But
he meets the woman, and, like the cur that he is, he
refuses, and tries to get rid of them.  He makes Meg write.
Two notes came from her late that evening--one for me, one
for Leonard, dismissing him with barely a reason.  I
couldn't understand.  Then it comes out that Mrs. Bast had
spoken to Mr. Wilcox on the lawn while we left her to get
rooms, and 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 it,
and 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 that,
because of his open mind, he should be empanelled to serve
as a juror.  He had never been interested in human beings,
for 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 mentioned, so 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 infancy, and at Oxford
he had learned to say that the importance of human beings
has been vastly overrated by specialists.  The epigram, with
its faint whiff of the eighties, meant 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 Meg, and do not mention it to her.  The
compensation--I do not see who is to pay it if I don't, and
I have already decided on the minimum sum.  As soon as
possible I am placing it to your account, and when I am in
Germany you will pay it over for me.  I shall never forget
your kindness, Tibbikins, if you do this."

"What is the sum?"

"Five thousand."

"Good God alive!" said Tibby, and 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 a damn what people think!" cried he,
heated to unusual manliness of diction.  "But it's half what
you have."

"Not nearly half." She spread out her hands over her
soiled skirt.  "I have far too much, and 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 shocked,
and 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 work, and
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 tomorrow."

He walked with her to the station, passing 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 phantom, how faint its
claim to represent England.  Helen, rehearsing her
commission, noticed nothing: the Basts were in her brain,
and she retold the crisis in a meditative way, which might
have made other men curious.  She was seeing whether it
would hold.  He asked her once why she had taken the Basts
right into the heart of Evie's wedding.  She stopped like a
frightened animal and said, "Does that seem to you so odd?"
Her eyes, the hand laid on the mouth, quite 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 flight, and he had to say that she had
called in at Oxford.  Then she said: "Did she seem worried
at any rumour about Henry?"  He answered, "Yes." "I knew it
was that!" she exclaimed.  "I'll write to her."  Tibby was relieved.

He then sent the cheque to the address that Helen gave
him, and stated that later on he was instructed to forward
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 returned, the legacy refused, the
writer being in no need of money.  Tibby forwarded this to
Helen, adding 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 them.
The Basts had just been evicted for not paying their rent,
and had wandered no one knew whither.  Helen had begun
bungling with her money by this time, and had even sold out
her shares in the Nottingham and Derby Railway.  For some
weeks she did nothing.  Then she reinvested, and, owing to
the good advice of her stockbrokers, became rather richer
than she had been before.


Chapter 31

Houses have their own ways of dying, falling as variously as
the generations of men, some with a tragic roar, some
quietly, but to an after-life in the city of ghosts, while
from others--and thus was the death of Wickham Place--the
spirit slips before the body perishes.  It had decayed in
the spring, disintegrating the girls more than they knew,
and causing either to accost unfamiliar regions.  By
September it was a corpse, void of emotion, and scarcely
hallowed by the memories of thirty years of happiness.
Through its round-topped doorway passed furniture, and
pictures, and books, until the last room was gutted and the
last van had rumbled away.  It stood for a week or two
longer, open-eyed, as if astonished at its own emptiness.
Then it fell.  Navvies came, and spilt it back into the
grey.  With their muscles and their beery good temper, they
were not the worst of undertakers for a house which had
always been human, and had not mistaken culture for an end.

The furniture, with a few exceptions, went down into
Hertfordshire, Mr. 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 regularly, he cancelled the
agreement, and resumed possession himself.  Until he relet
the house, the Schlegels were welcome to stack their
furniture in the garage and lower rooms.  Margaret demurred,
but 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 London, but the
bulk of the things went country-ways, and were entrusted to
the guardianship of Miss Avery.

Shortly before the move, our hero and heroine were
married.  They have weathered the storm, and 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 hidden, and
perhaps it is superstitious to speculate on the feelings of
the dead.  They were married quietly--really quietly, for as
the day approached she refused to go through another
Oniton.  Her brother gave her away, her aunt, who was out of
health, presided over a few colourless refreshments.  The
Wilcoxes were represented by Charles, who witnessed the
marriage settlement, and by Mr. Cahill.  Paul did send a
cablegram.  In a few minutes, and without the aid of music,
the clergyman made them man and wife, and soon the glass
shade had fallen that cuts off married couples from the
world.  She, a monogamist, regretted the cessation of some
of life's innocent odours; he, whose instincts were
polygamous, felt 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 there, and Margaret hoped for a meeting
with her sister.  In this she was disappointed.  As they
came south, Helen retreated over the Brenner, and wrote an
unsatisfactory postcard from the shores of the Lake of
Garda, saying 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 standard, for 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 again, and 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--Margaret, so lively and intelligent, and
yet so submissive--he would have kept himself worthier of
her.  Incapable of grouping the past, he 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 oats, for which he was heartily sorry, and 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 Ages, his 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 trouble, and, indeed, he liked to see
her reading poetry or something about social questions; it
distinguished her from the wives of other men.  He had only
to call, and she clapped the book up and was ready to do
what he wished.  Then they would argue so jollily, and once
or twice she had him in quite a tight corner, but as soon as
he grew really serious, she gave in.  Man is for war, woman
for the recreation of the warrior, but he does not dislike
it if she makes a show of fight.  She cannot win in a real
battle, having no muscles, only nerves.  Nerves make her
jump out of a moving motor-car, or refuse to be married
fashionably.  The warrior may well allow her to 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--casually, as was his habit--that
Oniton Grange was let.  She showed her annoyance, and asked
rather crossly why she had not been consulted.

"I didn't want to bother you," he replied.  "Besides, I
have only heard for certain this morning."

"Where are we to live?" said Margaret, trying to laugh.
"I loved the place extraordinarily.  Don't you believe in
having a permanent home, Henry?"

He assured her that she misunderstood him.  It is home
life that distinguishes us from the foreigner.  But he did
not believe in a damp home.

"This is news.  I never heard till this minute that
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 place, the Grange is on clay, and
built where the castle moat must have been; then there's
that destestable little river, steaming all night like a
kettle.  Feel the cellar walls; look up under the eaves.
Ask Sir James or anyone.  Those Shropshire valleys are
notorious.  The only possible place for a house in
Shropshire is on a hill; but, for my part, I think the
country is too far from London, and the scenery nothing
special. "

Margaret could not resist saying, "Why did you go there,
then?"

"I--because--" He drew his head back and grew rather
angry.  "Why have we come to the Tyrol, if 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 came, and 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 house 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 civilization which is altering human nature so
profoundly, and throws upon personal relations a stress
greater than they have ever borne before.  Under
cosmopolitanism, if it comes, we shall receive no help from
the earth.  Trees and meadows and mountains will only be a
spectacle, and 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 Street, and 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 Margaret, getting up.  "If
Oniton is really damp, it is impossible, and must be
inhabited by little boys.  Only, in the spring, let us look
before we leap.  I will take warning by Evie, and not hurry
you.  Remember that you have a free hand this time.  These
endless moves must be bad for the furniture, and are
certainly expensive."

"What a practical little woman it is!  What's it been
reading?  Theo--theo--how much?"

"Theosophy."

So Ducie Street was her first fate--a pleasant enough
fate.  The house, being only a little larger than Wickham
Place, trained her for the immense establishment that was
promised in the spring.  They were frequently away, but at
home life ran fairly regularly.  In the morning Henry went
to the business, and his sandwich--a relic this of some
prehistoric craving--was always cut by her own hand.  He did
not rely upon the sandwich for lunch, but liked to have it
by him in case he grew hungry at eleven.  When he had gone,
there was the house to look after, and the servants to
humanize, and 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 helping, but being Henry's wife, she
preferred to help someone else.  As for theatres and
discussion societies, they attracted her less and less.  She
began to "miss" new movements, and to spend her spare time
re-reading or thinking, rather to the concern of her Chelsea
friends.  They attributed the change to her marriage, and
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 stimulants, and was
passing from words to things.  It was doubtless a pity not
to keep up with Wedekind or John, but some closing of the
gates is inevitable after thirty, if the mind itself is to
become a creative power.


Chapter 32

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 cried, as soon as she
entered the room.  "Charles is so ang--I mean he is sure you
know about it, or rather, that you don't know."

"Why, Dolly!" said Margaret, placidly kissing her.
"Here's a surprise!  How are the boys and the baby?"

Boys and the baby were well, and in describing a great
row that there had been at Hilton Tennis Club, Dolly forgot
her news.  The wrong people had tried to get in.  The
rector, as representing the older inhabitants, had
said--Charles had said--the tax-collector had said--Charles
had regretted not saying--and she closed the description
with, "But lucky you, with four courts of your own at Midhurst."

"It will be very jolly," replied Margaret.

"Are those the plans?  Does it matter me seeing them?"

"Of course not."

"Charles has never seen the plans."

"They have only just arrived.  Here is the ground
floor--no, that's rather difficult.  Try the elevation.  We
are to have a good many gables and a picturesque sky-line."

"What makes it smell so funny?" said Dolly, after a
moment's inspection.  She was incapable of understanding
plans 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 Margaret, trying to conceal her
vexation.  She was getting rather sore on this point.
"Helen is odd, awfully.  She has now been away eight months.

"But hasn't she any address?"

"A poste restante somewhere in Bavaria is her address.
Do write her a line.  I will look it up for you."

"No, don't bother.  That's eight months she has been
away, surely?"

"Exactly.  She left just after Evie's wedding.  It would
be eight months."

"Just when baby was born, then?"

"Just so."

Dolly sighed, and stared enviously round the
drawing-room.  She was beginning to lose her brightness and
good looks.  The Charles' were not well off, for Mr. Wilcox,
having brought up his children with expensive tastes,
believed in letting them shift for themselves.  After all,
he had not treated them generously.  Yet another baby was
expected, she told Margaret, and they would have to give up
the motor.  Margaret sympathized, but in a formal fashion,
and Dolly little imagined that the step-mother was urging
Mr. Wilcox to make them a more liberal allowance.  She
sighed again, and at last the particular grievance was
remembered.  "Oh yes," 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 done, for he feels certain you don't know."

"Books!" cried Margaret, moved by the holy word.
"Dolly, are you serious?  Has she been touching our books?"

"Hasn't she, though!  What used to be the hall's full of
them.  Charles thought for certain you knew 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
anyone 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 duckpond.

"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 not she 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 humour,
Dolly 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 Dolly, and 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 33

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 luke-warm 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', 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, nor 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 comradeship, not
passionate, that is our highest gift as a nation, was
promised by it, as 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.  "Yes, Mrs. Wilcox; no,
Mrs. Wilcox; oh yes, Mrs. Wilcox, auntie received your
letter quite duly.  Auntie has gone up to your little place
at the present moment.  Shall I send the servant to direct
you?"  Followed by: "Of course, auntie does not generally
look after your place; she 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 sometimes, 'Where'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 cake, but unfortunately this
acquired her gentility in the eyes of Miss Avery's niece.

"I cannot let you go on alone.  Now don't.  You really
mustn't.  I will direct you myself if it comes to that.  I
must get my hat.  Now"--roguishly--"Mrs. Wilcox, don't you
move while I'm gone."

Stunned, Margaret did not move from the best parlour,
over which the touch of art nouveau had fallen.  But the
other rooms looked in keeping, though they conveyed the
peculiar sadness of a rural interior.  Here had lived an
elder race, to which we look back with disquietude.  The
country which we visit at week-ends was really a home to it,
and the graver sides of life, the deaths, the partings, the
yearnings for love, have their deepest expression in the
heart of the fields.  All was not sadness.  The sun was
shining without.  The thrush sang his two syllables on the
budding guelder-rose.  Some children were playing
uproariously in heaps of golden straw.  It was the presence
of sadness at all that surprised Margaret, and ended by
giving her a feeling of completeness.  In these English
farms, if anywhere, one might see life steadily and see it
whole, group in one vision its transitoriness and its
eternal youth, connect--connect without bitterness until all
men are brothers.  But her thoughts were interrupted by the
return of Miss Avery's niece, and were so tranquillizing
that she suffered the interruption gladly.

It was quicker to go out by the back door, and, after
due explanations, they went out by it.  The niece was now
mortified by unnumerable chickens, who rushed up to her feet
for food, and by a shameless and maternal sow.  She did not
know what animals were coming to.  But her gentility
withered at the touch of the sweet air.  The wind was
rising, scattering the straw and ruffling the tails of the
ducks as they floated in families over Evie's pendant.  One
of those delicious gales of spring, in which leaves stiff in
bud seem to rustle, swept over the land and then fell
silent.  "Georgia," sang the thrush.  "Cuckoo," came
furtively from the cliff of pine-trees.  "Georgia, pretty
Georgia," 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 reply, and the front door was locked.

"Are you sure that Miss Avery is up here?" asked Margaret.

"Oh yes, Mrs. Wilcox, quite sure.  She is here daily."

Margaret tried to look in through the dining-room
window, but the curtain inside was drawn tightly.  So with
the drawing-room and the hall.  The appearance of these
curtains was familiar, yet she did not remember them 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 answer, and could see nothing; the
kitchen-window was fitted with a blind, while 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 books, and she lifted up her voice also.  At
the first cry she succeeded.

"Well, well!" replied someone inside the house.  "If it
isn't Mrs. Wilcox come at last!"

"Have you got the key, auntie?"

"Madge, go away," said Miss Avery, still 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 voice, "of course." But
after that came silence.  They called again without
response.  They walked round the house disconsolately.

"I hope Miss Avery is not ill," hazarded Margaret.

"Well, if you'll excuse me," said Madge, "perhaps I
ought to be leaving you now.  The servants need seeing to at
the farm.  Auntie is so odd at times." Gathering up her
elegancies, she retired defeated, and, as if her departure
had loosed a spring, the front door opened at once.

Miss Avery said, "Well, come right in, Mrs. Wilcox!"
quite pleasantly and calmly.

"Thank you so much," began Margaret, but 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 curtain, and Margaret uttered a cry of despair.
For an appalling thing had happened.  The hall was fitted up
with the contents of the library from Wickham Place.  The
carpet had been laid, the big work-table drawn up near the
window; the bookcases filled the wall opposite the
fireplace, and 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
instance, these books are my brother's.  We are storing them
for him and for my sister, who is abroad.  When you kindly
undertook to look after things, we never expected you to do
so much."

"The house has been empty long enough," said the old woman.

Margaret refused to argue.  "I dare say we didn't
explain," she said civilly.  "It has been a mistake, and
very likely our mistake."

"Mrs. Wilcox, it has been mistake 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 brain, Margaret 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 Margaret, sitting down in one
of her own chairs.  "I really don't know what's to be
done."  She could not help laughing.

The other said: "Yes, it should be a 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
and 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 repassing through the hall.  Her voice
was lost, but 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 upstairs, for there is no need to
go into expense at Hilton."

"It is all a mistake," repeated Margaret, feeling that
she must put her foot down.  "A misunderstanding.  Mr.
Wilcox and I are not going to live at Howards End."

"Oh, indeed.  On account of his hay fever?"

"We have settled to build a new home for ourselves in
Sussex, and part of this furniture--my part--will go down
there presently." She looked at Miss Avery intently, trying
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 here, Mrs.
Wilcox, but you will."

"That remains to be seen," said Margaret, smiling.  "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 course, some day--one never knows, does 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 remark, but with a queer feeling of
disloyalty Margaret rose from her chair.  She felt that
Henry had been obscurely censured.  They went into the
dining-room, where the sunlight poured in upon her mother's
chiffonier, and 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 straw, but, as far as she
could make out, nothing 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 weedy, and grass had sprung up
at the very jaws of the garage.  And Evie's rockery was only
bumps.  Perhaps Evie was responsible for Miss Avery's
oddness.  But Margaret suspected that the cause lay deeper,
and that the girl's silly letter had but loosed the
irritation of years.

"It's a beautiful meadow," she remarked.  It was one of
those open-air drawing-rooms that have been formed, hundreds
of years ago, out of the smaller fields.  So the boundary
hedge zigzagged down the hill at right angles, and 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 Avery, "for
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: "Ay, they breed
like rabbits.  Well, well, it's a funny world.  But He who
made it knows what He wants in it, I suppose.  If Mrs.
Charlie is expecting her fourth, it isn't for us to repine."

"They breed and they also work," said Margaret,
conscious of some invitation to disloyalty, which was echoed
by the very breeze and by the songs of the birds.  "It
certainly is a funny world, but so long as men like my
husband and his sons govern it, I think it'll never be a bad
one--never really bad."

"No, better'n nothing," said Miss Avery, and 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 died, but we stayed civil.  It was a
very civil family.  Old Mrs. Howard never spoke against
anybody, nor let anyone be turned away without food.  Then
it was never 'Trespassers will be prosecuted' in their land,
but would people please not come in.  Mrs. Howard was never
created to run a farm."

"Had they no men to help them?" Margaret asked.

Miss Avery replied: "Things went on until there were no men."

"Until Mr. Wilcox came along," corrected Margaret,
anxious 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 lights 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 sorry but
I am making other arrangements, and must ask you to give me
the keys."

"Certainly, Mrs. Wilcox," said Miss Avery, and resigned
her duties with a smile.

Relieved at this conclusion, and having sent her
compliments to Madge, Margaret 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
recommended, and advised her to store in London after all.

But before this could be done an unexpected trouble fell
upon her.


Chapter 34

It was not unexpected entirely.  Aunt Juley's health had
been bad all the winter.  She had had a long series of colds
and coughs, and 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 generalize, 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 realize 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
could 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 dear, take 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 come, and had been very kind.  Yet
again Margaret said so.

Mrs. Munt did not die.  Quite outside her will, a more
dignified power took hold of her and checked her on the
downward slope.  She returned, without emotion, as fidgety
as ever.  On the fourth day she was out of danger.

"Margaret--important," it went on: "I should like you to
have some companion to take walks with.  Do try Miss Conder."

"I have been 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 Helen, but Margaret's
voice trembled as she made it.  By now she was deeply pained
at her sister's behaviour.  It may be unbalanced to fly out
of England, but to stop away eight months argues that the
heart is awry as well as the head.  A sick-bed could recall
Helen, but she was deaf to more human calls; after a glimpse
at her aunt, she 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!  Henry, long pardoned by his wife, was still too
infamous to be greeted by his sister-in-law.  It was morbid,
and, to her alarm, Margaret 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 Paul, an 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 away, but
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 mishap, such as may happen to any young man or woman?
Can human nature be constructed on lines so insignificant?
The blundering little encounter at 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 faded, but
the magic of his caress endured.  And where there is
enjoyment of the past there may also be
reaction--propagation at both ends.

Well, it is odd and sad that our minds should be such
seed-beds, and we without power to choose the seed.  But man
is an odd, sad creature as yet, intent on pilfering the
earth, and heedless of the growths within himself.  He
cannot be bored about psychology.  He leaves it to the
specialist, which is 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 patient,
and it is suggested that Margaret has succeeded--so far as
success is yet possible.  She does understand herself, she
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 Munich, and would be in London herself
on the morrow.  It was a disquieting letter, though the
opening was affectionate and sane.


Dearest Meg,

Give Helen's love to Aunt Juley.  Tell her that I
love, and have loved, her ever since I can remember.  I
shall be in London Thursday.

My address will be care of the bankers.  I have not
yet settled on a hotel, so 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 me, dearest Meg.  This must read like rather
a tiresome letter, but all letters are from your loving

                                                  Helen


It was a tiresome letter, for 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 good, but would do herself harm, and, at the
risk of disaster, she kept her colours flying a little
longer.  She replied that their aunt was much better, and
awaited developments.

Tibby approved of her reply.  Mellowing rapidly, he was
a pleasanter companion than before.  Oxford had done much
for him.  He had lost his peevishness, and could hide his
indifference to people and his interest in food.  But he had
not grown more human.  The years between eighteen and
twenty-two, so magical for most, were leading him gently
from boyhood to middle age.  He had never known
young-manliness, that quality which warms the heart till
death, and gives Mr. Wilcox an imperishable charm.  He was
frigid, through no fault of his own, and without cruelty.
He thought Helen wrong and Margaret right, but the family
trouble was for him what a scene behind footlights is for
most people.  He had only one suggestion to make, and that
was characteristic.

"Why don't you tell Mr. Wilcox?"

"About Helen?"

"Perhaps he has come across that sort 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
furniture, as she would now return at once.  Margaret
replied, "Certainly not; meet me at the bankers at four."
She and Tibby went up to London.  Helen was not at the
bankers, and they were refused her address.  Helen had
passed into chaos.

Margaret put her arm round her brother.  He was all that
she had left, and never 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 uttered, and in a few minutes she took
it up herself.  Nothing else explained.  And London agreed
with Tibby.  The mask fell off the city, and she saw it for
what it really is--a caricature of infinity.  The familiar
barriers, the streets along which she moved, the houses
between which she had made her little journeys for so many
years, became 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 merged, if it be merged at all,
with 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 now, on a London afternoon, while
rain fell slowly.

Henry was the only hope.  Henry was definite.  He might
know of some paths in the chaos that were hidden from them,
and 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's, whose dome stands out of the welter so
bravely, as if preaching the gospel of form.  But within,
St.  Paul's is as its surroundings--echoes and whispers,
inaudible songs, invisible mosaics, wet 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 Swanage,
and slow to admit the growth of a new trouble.  When they
told him of their search, he only chaffed Tibby and the
Schlegels generally, and declared that it was "just like
Helen" to lead her relatives a dance.

"That is what we all say," replied Margaret.  "But why
should it be just like Helen?  Why should she be allowed to
be so queer, and to grow queerer?"

"Don't ask me.  I'm a plain man of business.  I live and
let live.  My advice to you both is, don't worry.  Margaret,
you've got black marks 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. Wilcox, who was in good spirits, retorted, "I don't
suppose I ever shall."  He leant back, laughing at the
gifted but ridiculous family, while the fire flickered over
the map of Africa.  Margaret motioned to her brother to go
on.  Rather diffident, he obeyed her.

"Margaret's point is this," he said.  "Our sister may be
mad."

Charles, who was working in the inner room, looked round.

"Come in, Charles," said Margaret kindly.  "Could you
help us at all?  We are again in trouble."

"I'm afraid I cannot.  What are the facts?  We are all
mad more or less, you know, in these days."

"The facts are as follows," replied Tibby, who 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 facts, but these are the most
striking."

"She has never behaved like this before, then?" asked Henry.

"Of course not!" said his wife, with 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 her, surely."

"Oh yes; she and I have always hit it off together."

"No, Henry--can't you see? --I don't mean that."

She recovered herself, but not before Charles had
observed her.  Stupid and attentive, he 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 someone, or wanted to
help them.  There's no possible excuse for her now.  She is
grieving us deeply, and that is why I am sure that she is
not well.  'Mad' is too terrible a word, but she is not
well.  I shall never believe it.  I shouldn't discuss my
sister with you if I thought she was well--trouble you about
her, I mean."

Henry began to grow serious.  Ill-health was to him
something perfectly definite.  Generally well himself, he
could not realize 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
seized, he had promised to take her down into Hertfordshire,
but meanwhile arranged with a nursing-home instead.  Helen,
too, was ill.  And the plan that he sketched out for her
capture, clever and well-meaning as it was, drew its ethics
from the wolf-pack.

"You want to get hold of her?" he said.  "That's the
problem, isn't it?  She has got to see a doctor."

"For all I know she has seen one already."

"Yes, yes; don't interrupt."  He rose to his feet and
thought intently.  The genial, tentative host disappeared,
and 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 up to a
specialist in no time."

Margaret shook her head.  "It's quite impossible."

"Why?"

"It doesn't seem impossible to me," said Tibby; "it is
surely a very tippy plan."

"It is impossible, because--" She looked 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 language, and 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.  "Pater, we may
as well keep Howards End out of it," he said.

"Why, Charles?"

Charles could give no reason; but Margaret felt as if,
over tremendous distance, a salutation had passed between them.

"The whole house is at sixes and sevens," he said
crossly.  "We don't want any more mess."

"Who's 'we'?" asked his father.  "My boy, pray, who's 'we'?"

"I am sure I beg your pardon," said Charles.  "I appear
always to be intruding."

By now Margaret wished she had never mentioned her
trouble to her husband.  Retreat was impossible.  He was
determined to push the matter to a satisfactory conclusion,
and Helen faded as he talked.  Her fair, flying hair and
eager eyes counted for nothing, for she was ill, without
rights, and any of her friends might hunt her.  Sick at
heart, Margaret joined in the chase.  She wrote her sister a
lying letter, at her husband's dictation; she said the
furniture was all at Howards End, but could be seen on
Monday next at 3 p.m., when a charwoman would be in
attendance.  It was a cold letter, and the more plausible
for that.  Helen would think she was offended.  And on
Monday next she and Henry were to lunch with Dolly, and then
ambush themselves in the garden.

After they had gone, Mr. Wilcox said to his son: "I
can't have this sort of behaviour, my boy.  Margaret's too
sweet-natured to mind, but I mind for her."

Charles made no answer.

"Is anything wrong with you, Charles, this afternoon?"

"No, pater; but you may be taking on a bigger business
than you reckon."

"How?"

"Don't ask me."


Chapter 35

One speaks of the moods of spring, but the days that are her
true children have only one mood; they are all full of the
rising and dropping of winds, and the whistling of birds.
New flowers may come out, the green embroidery of the hedges
increase, but the same heaven broods overhead, soft, thick,
and blue, the same figures, seen and unseen, are wandering
by coppice and meadow.  The morning that Margaret had spent
with Miss Avery, and the afternoon she set out to entrap
Helen, were the scales of a single balance.  Time might
never have moved, rain never have fallen, and man alone,
with his schemes and ailments, was troubling Nature until he
saw her through a veil of tears.

She protested no more.  Whether Henry was right or
wrong, he was most kind, and she knew of no other standard
by which to judge him.  She must trust him absolutely.  As
soon as he had taken up a business, his obtuseness
vanished.  He profited by the slightest indications, and the
capture of Helen promised to be staged as deftly as the
marriage of Evie.

They went down in the morning as arranged, and he
discovered that their victim was actually in Hilton.  On his
arrival he called at all the livery-stables in the village,
and had a few minutes' serious conversation with the
proprietors.  What he said, Margaret did not know--perhaps
not the truth; but news arrived after lunch that a lady had
come by the London train, and had taken a fly to Howards End.

"She was bound to drive," said Henry.  "There will be
her books.

"I cannot make it out," said Margaret for the hundredth time.

"Finish your coffee, dear.  We must be off."

"Yes, Margaret, you know you must take plenty," said Dolly.

Margaret tried, but suddenly lifted her hand to her
eyes.  Dolly stole glances at her father-in-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 Margaret, uncovering her face.
"Only most frightfully worried.  I cannot feel that Helen is
really alive.  Her letters and telegrams seem to have come
from someone else.  Her voice isn't in them.  I don't
believe your driver really saw her at the station.  I wish
I'd never mentioned it.  I know that Charles is vexed.  Yes,
he is--" She seized Dolly's hand and kissed it.  "There,
Dolly will forgive me.  There.  Now we'll be off."

Henry had been looking at her closely.  He did not like
this breakdown.

"Don't you want to tidy yourself?" he asked.

"Have I time?"

"Yes, plenty."

She went to the lavatory by the front door, and as soon
as the bolt slipped, Mr. Wilcox said quietly:

"Dolly, I'm going without her."

Dolly's eyes lit up with vulgar excitement.  She
followed him on tip-toe out to the car.

"Tell her I thought it best."

"Yes, Mr. Wilcox, I see."

"Say anything you like.  All right."

The car started well, and with ordinary luck would have
got away.  But Porgly-woggles, who was playing in the
garden, chose this moment to sit down in the middle of the
path.  Crane, in trying to pass him, ran one wheel over a
bed of wallflowers.  Dolly screamed.  Margaret, hearing the
noise, rushed out hatless, and was in time to jump on the
footboard.  She said not a single word: he was only treating
her as she had treated Helen, and her rage at his dishonesty
only helped to indicate what Helen would feel against them.
She thought, "I 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 in, but will wait a little short
of the front gate, behind 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 doctor, a very young man, began 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 Margaret, wondering what would have
happened if she had added: "Though she did resent my
husband's immorality."

"She always was highly strung," pursued Henry, leaning
back in the car as it shot past the church.  "A tendency to
spiritualism and those things, though nothing serious.
Musical, literary, artistic, but I should say normal--a very
charming girl."

Margaret's anger and terror increased every moment.  How
dare these men label her sister!  What horrors lay ahead!
What impertinences that shelter under the name of science!
The pack was turning on Helen, to deny her human rights, and
it seemed to Margaret that all Schlegels were threatened
with her.  "Were they normal?"  What a question to ask!  And
it is always those who know nothing about human nature, who
are bored by psychology and shocked by physiology, who ask
it.  However piteous her sister's state, she knew that she
must be on her side.  They would be mad together if the
world chose to consider them so.

It was now five minutes past three.  The car slowed down
by the farm, in the yard of which Miss Avery was standing.
Henry asked her whether a cab had gone past.  She nodded,
and the next moment they caught sight of it, at the end of
the lane.  The car ran silently like a beast of prey.  So
unsuspicious was Helen that she was sitting on the porch,
with her back to the road.  She had come.  Only her head and
shoulders were visible.  She sat framed in the vine, and one
of her hands played with the buds.  The wind ruffled her
hair, the sun glorified it; she was as she had always been.

Margaret was seated next to the door.  Before her
husband could prevent her, she slipped out.  She ran to the
garden gate, which was shut, passed through it, and
deliberately pushed it in his face.  The noise alarmed
Helen.  Margaret saw her rise with an unfamiliar movement,
and, rushing into the porch, learnt the simple explanation
of all their fears--her sister was with child.

"Is the truant all right?" called Henry.

She had time to whisper: "Oh, my darling--" The keys of
the house were in her hand.  She unlocked Howards End and
thrust Helen into it.  "Yes, all right," she said, and stood
with her back to the door.


Chapter 36

"Margaret, you look upset!" said Henry.  Mansbridge had
followed.  Crane was at the gate, and the flyman had stood
up on the box.  Margaret shook her head at them; she could
not speak any more.  She remained clutching the keys, as if
all their future depended on them.  Henry was asking more
questions.  She shook her head again.  His words had no
sense.  She heard him wonder why she had let Helen in.  "You
might have given me a knock with the gate," was another of
his remarks.  Presently she heard herself speaking.  She, or
someone for her, said "Go away." Henry came nearer.  He
repeated, "Margaret, you look upset again.  My dear, give me
the keys.  What are you doing with Helen?"

"Oh, dearest, do go away, and I will manage it all."

"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 back, and was questioning the driver of Helen's cab.
A new feeling came over her; she was fighting for women
against men.  She did not care about rights, but if men came
into Howards End, it should be over her body.

"Come, this is an odd beginning," said her husband.

The doctor came forward now, and whispered two words to
Mr. Wilcox--the scandal was out.  Sincerely horrified, Henry
stood gazing at the earth.

"I cannot help it," said Margaret.  "Do wait.  It's not
my fault.  Please all four of you to go away now."

Now the flyman was whispering to Crane.

"We are relying on you to help us, Mrs. Wilcox," said
the young doctor.  "Could you go in and persuade your sister
to come out?"

"On what grounds?" said Margaret, suddenly looking him
straight in the eyes.

Thinking it professional to prevaricate, he murmured
something about a nervous breakdown.

"I beg your pardon, but it is nothing of the sort.  You
are not qualified to attend my sister, Mr. Mansbridge.  If
we require your services, we will let you know."

"I can diagnose the case more bluntly if you wish," he retorted.

"You could, but you have not.  You are, therefore, not
qualified to attend my sister."

"Come, come, Margaret!" said Henry, never raising his
eyes.  "This is a terrible business, an appalling business.
It's doctor's orders.  Open the door."

"Forgive me, but I will not."

"I don't agree."

Margaret was silent.

"This business is as broad as it's long," contributed
the doctor.  "We had better all work together.  You need us,
Mrs. Wilcox, and we need you."

"Quite so," said Henry.

"I do not need you in the least," said Margaret.

The two men looked at each other anxiously.

"No more does my sister, who is still many weeks from
her 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 support, for there was trouble ahead.

"It all turns on affection now," said Margaret.
"Affection.  Don't you see?"  Resuming her usual methods,
she wrote the word on the house with her finger.  "Surely
you see.  I like Helen very much, you not so much.  Mr.
Mansbridge doesn't know her.  That's all.  And affection,
when reciprocated, gives rights.  Put that down in your
notebook, Mr. Mansbridge.  It's a useful formula."

Henry told her to be calm.

"You don't know what you want yourselves," said
Margaret, folding her arms.  "For one sensible remark I will
let you in.  But you cannot make it.  You would trouble my
sister for no reason.  I will not permit it.  I'll stand
here all the day sooner."

"Mansbridge," said Henry in a low voice, "perhaps not now."

The pack was breaking up.  At a sign from his master,
Crane also went back into the car.

"Now, Henry, you," she said gently.  None of her
bitterness had been directed at him.  "Go away now, dear.  I
shall want your advice later, no doubt.  Forgive me if I
have been cross.  But, seriously, you must go."

He was too stupid to leave her.  Now it was Mr.
Mansbridge who called in a low voice to him.

"I shall soon find you down at Dolly's," she called, as
the gate at last clanged between them.  The fly moved out of
the way, the motor backed, turned a little, backed again,
and turned in the narrow road.  A string of farm carts came
up in the middle; but she waited through all, for there was
no hurry.  When all was over and the car had started, she
opened the door.  "Oh, my darling!" she said.  "My darling,
forgive me." Helen was standing in the hall.


Chapter 37

Margaret bolted the door on the inside.  Then she would have
kissed her sister, but Helen, in a dignified voice, that
came strangely from her, said:

"Convenient!  You did not tell me that the books were
unpacked.  I have found nearly everything that I want.

"I told you nothing that was true."

"It has been a great surprise, certainly.  Has Aunt
Juley been ill?"

"Helen, you wouldn't think I'd invent that?"

"I suppose not," said Helen, turning away, and crying a
very little.  "But one loses faith in everything 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 anyone.  What would our
father have thought of me?"

She did not think of questioning her sister, nor of
rebuking her.  Both might be necessary in the future, but
she had first to purge a greater crime than any that Helen
could have committed--that want of confidence that is the
work of the devil.

"Yes, I am annoyed," replied Helen.  "My wishes should
have been respected.  I would have gone through this meeting
if it was necessary, but after Aunt Juley recovered, it was
not necessary.  Planning my life, as I now have to do--"

"Come away from those books," called Margaret.  "Helen,
do talk to me."

"I was just saying that I have stopped living
haphazard.  One can't go through a great deal of"--she
missed out the noun--"without planning one's actions in
advance.  I am going to have a child in June, and in the
first place conversations, discussions, excitement, are not
good for me.  I will go through them if necessary, but only
then.  In the second place I have no right to trouble
people.  I cannot fit in with England as I know it.  I have
done something that the English never pardon.  It would not
be right for them to pardon it.  So I must live where I am
not known."

"But why didn't you tell me, dearest?"

"Yes," replied Helen judicially.  "I might have, but
decided to wait."

" I believe you would never have told me."

"Oh yes, I should.  We have taken a flat in Munich."

Margaret glanced out of window.

"By 'we' I mean myself and Monica.  But for her, I am
and have been and always wish to be alone."

"I have not heard of Monica."

"You wouldn't have.  She's an Italian--by birth at
least.  She makes her living by journalism.  I met her
originally on Garda.  Monica is much the best person to see
me through."

"You are very fond of her, then."

"She has been extraordinarily sensible with me."

Margaret guessed at Monica's type--"Italiano Inglesiato"
they had named it: the crude feminist of the South, whom one
respects but avoids.  And Helen had turned to it in her
need!

"You must not think that we shall never meet," said
Helen, with a measured kindness.  "I shall always have a
room for you when you can be spared, and the longer you can
be with me the better.  But you haven't understood yet, Meg,
and of course it is very difficult for you.  This is a shock
to you.  It isn't to me, who have been thinking over our
futures for many months, and they won't be changed by a
slight contretemps, such as this.  I cannot live in England."

"Helen, you've not forgiven me for my treachery.  You
COULDN'T talk like this to me if you had."

"Oh, Meg dear, why do we talk at all?"  She dropped a
book and sighed wearily.  Then, recovering herself, she
said: "Tell me, how is it that all the books are down here?"

"Series of mistakes."

"And a great deal of the furniture has been unpacked."

"All."

"Who lives here, then?"

"No one."

"I suppose you are letting it though--"

"The house is dead," said Margaret with 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 here, I can't go on like
this.  I warn you I won't.  Helen, why should you be so
miserably unkind to me, simply because you hate Henry?"

"I don't hate him now," said Helen.  "I have stopped
being a schoolgirl, and, Meg, once again, I'm not being
unkind.  But as for fitting in with your English life--no,
put it out of your head at once.  Imagine a visit from me at
Ducie Street!  It's unthinkable."

Margaret could not contradict her.  It was appalling to
see her quietly moving forward with her plans, not bitter or
excitable, neither asserting innocence nor confessing guilt,
merely desiring freedom and the company of those who would
not blame her.  She had been through--how much?  Margaret
did not know.  But it was enough to part her from old habits
as well as old friends.

"Tell me about yourself," said Helen, who had chosen her
books, and was lingering over the furniture.

"There's nothing to tell."

"But your marriage has been happy, Meg?"

"Yes, but I don't feel inclined to talk."

"You feel as I do."

"Not that, but I can't."

"No more can I.  It is a nuisance, but no good trying."

Something had come between them.  Perhaps it was
Society, which henceforward would exclude Helen.  Perhaps it
was a third life, already potent as a spirit.  They could
find no meeting-place.  Both suffered acutely, and were not
comforted by the knowledge that affection survived.

"Look here, Meg, is the coast clear?"

"You mean that you want to go away from me?"

"I suppose so--dear old lady!  it isn't any use.  I knew
we should have nothing to say.  Give my love to Aunt Juley
and Tibby, and take more yourself than I can say.  Promise
to come and see me in 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 lovingly, as if she was saying farewell to
the past.

Margaret unbolted the door.  She remarked: "The car has
gone, and here's your cab."

She led the way to it, glancing at the leaves and the
sky.  The spring had never seemed more beautiful.  The
driver, who was leaning on the gate, called out, "Please,
lady, a message," and handed her Henry's visiting-card
through the bars.

"How did this come?" she asked.

Crane had returned with it almost at once.

She read the card with annoyance.  It was covered with
instructions in domestic French.  When she and her sister
had talked she was to come back for the night to Dolly's.
"Il faut dormir sur ce sujet." While Helen was to be found
"une comfortable chambre a l'hotel." The final sentence
displeased her greatly until she remembered that the
Charles' had only one spare room, and so could not invite a
third guest.

"Henry would have done what he could," she interpreted.

Helen had not followed her into the garden.  The door
once open, she lost her inclination to fly.  She remained in
the hall, going from bookcase to table.  She grew more like
the old Helen, irresponsible and charming.

"This is Mr. Wilcox's house?" she inquired.

"Surely you remember Howards End?"

"Remember?  I who remember everything!  But it looks to
be ours now."

"Miss Avery was extraordinary," said Margaret, her own
spirits lightening a little.  Again she was invaded by a
slight feeling of disloyalty.  But it brought her relief,
and she yielded to it.  "She loved Mrs. Wilcox, and would
rather furnish her house 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 London, but 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.

"Oh, WHAT a place for mother's chiffonier!" cried Helen.

"Look at the chairs, though."

"Oh, look at them!  Wickham Place faced north, didn't it?"

"North-west."

"Anyhow, it is thirty years since any of those chairs
have felt the sun.  Feel.  Their little backs are quite warm."

"But why has Miss Avery made them set 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--"

"And never will."

"I don't agree.  In two thousand years they'll know."

"But the chairs show up wonderfully.  Look where Tibby
spilt the soup."

"Coffee.  It was coffee surely."

Helen shook her head.  "Impossible.  Tibby was far too
young to be given coffee at that time."

"Was Father alive?"

"Yes."

"Then you're right and it must have been soup.  I was
thinking of much later--that unsuccessful visit of Aunt
Juley's, when she didn't realize 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
have put up with it."

"Ah, that greengage tree," cried Helen, as if the garden
was also part of their childhood.  "Why do I connect it with
dumbbells?  And there come the chickens.  The grass wants
cutting.  I love yellow-hammers--"

Margaret interrupted her.  "I have got it," she
announced.

  'Tea, tea, coffee, tea,
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 said, "Perhaps the Wilcoxes are beginning the siege." "What nonsense--listen!" And the triviality faded from their faces, though it left something behind--the knowledge that they never could be parted because their love was rooted in common things. Explanations and appeals had failed; they had tried for a common meeting-ground, and had only made each other unhappy. And all the time their salvation was lying round them--the past sanctifying the present; the present, with wild heart-throb, declaring that there would after all be a future, with laughter and the voices of children. Helen, still smiling, came up to her sister. She said, "It is always Meg." They looked into each other's eyes. The inner life had paid. Solemnly the clapper tolled. No one was in the front. Margaret went to the kitchen, and struggled between packing-cases to the window. Their visitor was only a little boy with a tin can. And triviality returned. "Little boy, what do you want?" "Please, I am the milk." "Did Miss Avery send you?" said Margaret, rather sharply. "Yes, please." "Then take it back and say we require no milk." While she called to Helen, "No, it's not the siege, but possibly an attempt to provision us against one." "But I like milk," cried Helen. "Why send it away?" "Do you? Oh, very well. But we've nothing to put it in, and he wants the can." "Please, I'm to call in the morning for the can," said the boy. "The house will be locked up then." "In the morning would I bring eggs, too?" "Are you the boy whom I saw playing in the stacks last week?" The child hung his head. "Well, run away and do it again." "Nice little boy," whispered Helen. "I say, what's your name? Mine's Helen." "Tom." That was Helen all over. The Wilcoxes, too, would ask a child its name, but they never told their names in return. "Tom, this one here is Margaret. And at home we've another called Tibby." "Mine are lop-eared," replied Tom, supposing 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 Helen, as she sipped the milk. "But you said that the house was dead not half an hour ago." "Meaning that I was dead. I felt it." "Yes, the house has a surer life than we, even if it was empty, and, as it is, I can't get over that for thirty years the sun has never shone full on our furniture. After all, Wickham Place was a grave. Meg, I've a startling idea." "What is it?" "Drink some milk to steady you." Margaret obeyed. "No, I won't tell you yet," said Helen, "because you may laugh or be angry. Let's go upstairs first and give the rooms an airing." They opened window after window, till the inside, too, was rustling to the spring. Curtains blew, picture-frames tapped cheerfully. Helen uttered cries of excitement as she found this bed obviously in its right place, that in its wrong one. She was angry with Miss Avery for not having moved the wardrobes up. "Then one would see really." She admired the view. She was the Helen who had written the memorable letters four years ago. As they leant out, looking westward, she said: "About my idea. Couldn't you and I camp out in this house for the night?" "I don't think we could well do that," said Margaret. "Here are beds, tables, towels--" "I know; but the house isn't supposed to be slept in, and Henry's 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 Margaret, "we can't without getting Henry's leave. Of course, he would give it, but you said yourself that you couldn't visit at Ducie Street now, and this is equally 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 him, and I was going to clear it out when Aunt Juley's illness prevented me. I sympathize with Charles. He feels it's his mother's house. He loves it in rather an untaking way. Henry I could answer for--not Charles." "I know he won't like it," said Helen. "But I am going to pass out of their lives. What difference will it make in the long run if they say, 'And she even spent the night at Howards End'?" "How do you know you'll pass out of their lives? We have thought that twice before." "Because my plans--" "--which you change in a moment." "Then because my life is great and theirs are little," said Helen, taking fire. "I know of things they can't know of, and so do you. We know that there's poetry. We know that there's death. They can only take them on hearsay. We know this is our house, because it feels ours. Oh, they may take the title-deeds and the doorkeys, but for this one night we are at home." "It would be lovely to have you once more alone," said Margaret. "It may be a chance in a thousand." "Yes, and we could talk." She dropped her voice. "It won't be a very glorious story. But under that wych-elm--honestly, I see little happiness ahead. Cannot I have this one night with you?" "I needn't say how much it would mean to me." "Then let us." "It is no good hesitating. Shall I drive down to Hilton now and 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 sympathize with the technical attitude that Henry would adopt. If possible, she would be technical, too. A night's lodging--and they demanded no more--need not involve the discussion of general principles. "Charles may say no," grumbled Helen. "We shan't consult him." "Go if you like; I should have stopped without leave." It was the touch of selfishness, which was not enough to mar Helen's character, and even added to its beauty. She would have stopped without leave, and escaped to Germany the next morning. Margaret kissed her. "Expect me back before dark. I am looking forward to it so much. It is like you to have thought of such a beautiful thing." "Not a thing, only an ending," said Helen rather sadly; and the sense of tragedy closed in on Margaret again as soon as she left the house. She was afraid of Miss Avery. It is disquieting to fulfil a prophecy, however superficially. She was glad to see no watching figure as she drove past the farm, but only little Tom, turning somersaults in the straw. Chapter 38 The tragedy began quietly enough, and like many another talk, by the man's deft assertion of his superiority. Henry heard her arguing with the driver, stepped out and settled the fellow, who was inclined to be rude, and then led the way to some chairs on the lawn. Dolly, who had not been "told," ran out with offers of tea. He refused them, and ordered her 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 began, "there is a troublesome business ahead of us, and nothing but the most absolute honesty and plain speech will see us through." Margaret bent her head. "I am obliged to question you on subjects we'd both prefer to leave untouched. As you know, I am not one of your Bernard Shaws who consider nothing sacred. To speak as I must will pain me, but there are occasions--We are husband and wife, not children. I am a man of the world, and you are a most exceptional woman." All Margaret's senses forsook her. She blushed, and looked past him at the Six Hills, covered with spring herbage. Noting her colour, he grew still more kind. "I see that you feel as I felt when--My poor little wife! Oh, be brave! Just one or two questions, and I have done with you. Was your sister wearing a wedding-ring?" Margaret stammered a "No." There was an appalling silence. "Henry, I really came to ask a favour about Howards End." "One point at a time. I am now obliged to ask for the name of her seducer." She rose to her feet and held the chair between them. Her colour had ebbed, and she was grey. It did not displease him that she should receive his question thus. "Take your time," he counselled her. "Remember that this is far worse for me than for you." She swayed; he feared she was going to faint. Then speech came, and she said slowly: "Seducer? No; I do not know her seducer's name." "Would she not tell you?" "I never even asked her who seduced her," said Margaret, dwelling on the hateful word thoughtfully. "That is singular." Then he changed his mind. "Natural perhaps, dear girl, that you shouldn't ask. But until his name is known, nothing can be done. Sit down. How terrible it is to see you so upset! I knew you weren't fit for it. I wish I hadn't taken you." Margaret answered, "I like to stand, if you don't mind, for it gives me a pleasant view of the Six Hills." "As you like." "Have you anything else to ask me, Henry?" "Next you must tell me whether you have gathered anything. I have often noticed your insight, dear. I only wish my own was as good. You may have guessed something, even though your sister said nothing. The slightest hint would help us." "Who is 'we'?" "I thought it best to ring up Charles." "That was unnecessary," said Margaret, growing warmer. "This news will give Charles disproportionate pain." "He has at once gone to call on your brother." "That too was unnecessary." "Let me explain, dear, how the matter stands. You don't think that I and my son are other than gentlemen? It is in Helen's interests that we are acting. It is still not too late to save 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 anger, she sat down again, blinking at him as he told her as much as he thought fit. At last she said: "May I ask you my question now?" "Certainly, my dear." "Tomorrow Helen goes to Munich--" "Well, possibly she is right." "Henry, let a lady finish. Tomorrow she goes; tonight, with your permission, she would like to sleep at Howards End." It was the crisis of his life. Again she would have recalled the words as soon as they were uttered. She had not led up to them with sufficient care. She longed to warn him that they were far more important than he supposed. She saw him weighing them, as if they were a business proposition. "Why Howards End?" he said at last. "Would she not be more comfortable, as I suggested, at the hotel?" Margaret hastened to give him reasons. "It is an odd request, but you know what Helen is and what women in her state are." He frowned, and moved irritably. "She has the idea that one night in your house would give her pleasure and do her good. I think she's right. Being one of those imaginative girls, the presence of all our books and furniture soothes her. This is a fact. It is the end of her girlhood. Her last words to me were, 'A beautiful 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 word, designedly; he had thought of a telling point--"because a house in which one has once lived becomes in a sort of way sacred, I don't know why. Associations and so on. Now Helen has no associations with Howards End, though I and Charles and Evie have. I do not see why she wants to stay the night there. She will only catch cold." "Leave it that you don't see," cried Margaret. "Call it fancy. But realize that fancy is a scientific fact. Helen is fanciful, and wants to." Then he surprised her--a rare occurrence. He shot an unexpected bolt. "If she wants to sleep one night, she may want to sleep two. We shall never get her out of the house, perhaps." "Well?" said Margaret, with the precipice in sight. "And suppose we don't get her out of the house? Would it matter? She would do no one any harm." Again the irritated gesture. "No, Henry," she panted, receding. "I didn't mean that. We will only trouble Howards End for this one night. I take her to London tomorrow--" "Do you intend to sleep in a damp house, too?" "She cannot be left alone." "That's quite impossible! Madness. You must be here to meet Charles." "I have already told you that your 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 fingers, "I should say that it did concern Charles." "In what way? Will Helen's condition depreciate the property?" "My dear, you are forgetting yourself." "I think you yourself recommended plain speaking." They looked at each other in amazement. The precipice was at their feet now. "Helen commands my sympathy," said Henry. "As your husband, I shall do all for her that I can, and I have no doubt that she will prove more sinned against than sinning. But I cannot treat her as if nothing has happened. I should be false to my position in society if I did." She controlled herself for the last time. "No, let us go back to Helen's request," she said. "It is unreasonable, but the request of an unhappy girl. Tomorrow she will go to Germany, and trouble society no longer. Tonight she asks to sleep in your empty house--a house which you do not care about, and which you have not occupied for over a year. May she? Will you give my sister leave? Will you forgive her--as you hope to be forgiven, and as you have actually been forgiven? Forgive her for one night only. That will be enough." "As I have actually been forgiven--?" "Never mind for the moment what I mean by that," said Margaret. "Answer my question." Perhaps some hint of her meaning did dawn on him. If so, he blotted it out. Straight from his fortress he answered: "I seem rather unaccommodating, but I have some experience of life, and know how one thing leads to another. I am afraid that your sister had better sleep at the hotel. I have my children and the memory of my dear wife to consider. I am sorry, but see that she leaves my house at once." "You mentioned Mrs. Wilcox." "I beg your pardon?" "A rare occurrence. In reply, may I mention Mrs. Bast?" "You have not been yourself all day," said Henry, and rose from his seat with face unmoved. Margaret rushed at him and seized both his hands. She was transfigured. "Not any more of this!" she cried. "You shall see the connection if it kills you, Henry! You have had a mistress--I forgave you. My sister has a lover--you drive her from the house. Do you see the connection? Stupid, hypocritical, cruel--oh, contemptible! --a man who insults his wife when she's alive and cants with her memory when she's dead. A man who ruins a woman for his pleasure, and casts her off to ruin other men. And gives bad financial advice, and then says he is not responsible. These, man, are you. You can't recognize them, because you cannot connect. I've had enough of your unweeded kindness. I've spoilt you long enough. All your life you have been spoiled. Mrs. Wilcox spoiled you. No one has ever told what you are--muddled, criminally muddled. Men like you use repentance as a blind, so don't repent. Only say to yourself, 'What Helen has done, I've done.'" "The two cases are different," Henry stammered. His real retort was not quite ready. His brain was still in a whirl, and he wanted a little longer. "In what way different? You have betrayed Mrs. Wilcox, Helen only herself. You remain in society, Helen can't. You have had only pleasure, she may die. You have the insolence to talk to me of differences, Henry?" Oh, the uselessness of it! Henry's retort came. "I perceive you are attempting blackmail. It is scarcely a pretty weapon for a wife to use against her husband. My rule through life has been never to pay the least attention to threats, and I can only repeat what I said before: I do not give you and your sister leave to sleep at Howards End." Margaret loosed his hands. He went into the house, wiping first one and then the other on his handkerchief. For a little she stood looking at the Six Hills, tombs of warriors, breasts of the spring. Then she passed out into what was now the evening. Chapter 39 Charles and Tibby met at Ducie Street, where the latter was staying. Their interview was short and absurd. They had nothing in common but the English language, and tried by its help to express what neither of them understood. Charles saw in Helen the family foe. He had singled her out as the most dangerous of the Schlegels, and, angry as he was, looked forward to telling his wife how right he had been. His mind was made up at once: the girl must be got out of the way before she disgraced them farther. If occasion offered she might be married to a villain or, possibly, to a fool. But this was a concession to morality, it formed no part of his main scheme. Honest and hearty was Charles's dislike, and the past spread itself out very clearly before him; hatred is a skilful compositor. As if they were heads in a note-book, he ran through all the incidents of the Schlegels' campaign: the attempt to compromise his brother, his mother's legacy, his father's marriage, the introduction of the furniture, the unpacking of the same. He had not yet heard of the request to sleep at Howards End; that was to be their master-stroke and the opportunity for his. But he already felt that Howards End was the objective, and, though he disliked the house, was determined to defend it. Tibby, on the other hand, had no opinions. He stood above the conventions: his sister had a right to do what she thought right. It is not difficult to stand above the conventions when we leave no hostages among them; men can always be more unconventional than women, and a bachelor of independent means need encounter no difficulties at all. Unlike Charles, Tibby had money enough; his ancestors had earned it for him, and if he shocked the people in one set of lodgings he had only to move into another. His was the leisure without sympathy--an attitude as fatal as the strenuous: a little cold culture may be raised on it, but no art. His sisters had seen the family danger, and had never forgotten to discount the gold islets that raised them from the sea. Tibby gave all the praise to himself, and so despised the struggling and the submerged. Hence the absurdity of the interview; the gulf between them was economic as well as spiritual. But several facts passed: Charles pressed for them with an impertinence that the undergraduate could not withstand. On what date had Helen gone abroad? To whom? (Charles was anxious to fasten the scandal on Germany.) Then, changing his tactics, he said roughly: "I suppose you realize 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 someone." "No one. I don't think so." Involuntarily he blushed. He had remembered the scene in his Oxford rooms. "You are hiding something," said Charles. As interviews go, he got the best of this one. "When you saw her last, did she mention anyone's name? Yes, or no!" he thundered, so that Tibby started. "In my rooms she mentioned some friends, called the Basts--" "Who are the Basts?" "People--friends of hers at Evie's wedding." "I don't remember. But, by great Scott! I do. My aunt told me about some tag-rag. Was she full of them when you saw her? Is there a man? Did she speak of the man? Or--look here--have you had any dealings with him?" Tibby was silent. Without intending it, he had betrayed his sister's confidence; he was not enough interested in human life to see where things will lead to. He had a strong regard for honesty, and his word, once given, had always been kept up to now. He was deeply vexed, not only for the harm he had done Helen, but for the flaw he had discovered in his own equipment. "I see--you are in his confidence. They met at your rooms. Oh, what a family, what a family! God help the poor pater--" And Tibby found himself alone. Chapter 40 Leonard--he would figure at length in a newspaper report, but that evening he did not count for much. The foot of the tree was in shadow, since the moon was still hidden behind the house. But above, to right, to left, down the long meadow the moonlight was streaming. Leonard seemed not a man, but a cause. Perhaps it was Helen's way of falling in love--a curious way to Margaret, whose agony and whose contempt of Henry were yet imprinted with his image. Helen forgot people. They were husks that had enclosed her emotion. She could pity, or sacrifice herself, or have instincts, but had she ever loved in the noblest way, where man and woman, having lost themselves in sex, desire to lose sex itself in comradeship? Margaret wondered, but said no word of blame. This was Helen's evening. Troubles enough lay ahead of her--the loss of friends and of social advantages, the agony, the supreme agony, of motherhood, which is even yet not a matter of common knowledge. For the present let the moon shine brightly and the breezes of the spring blow gently, dying away from the gale of the day, and let the earth, who brings increase, bring peace. Not even to herself dare she blame Helen. She could not assess her trespass by any moral code; it was everything or nothing. Morality can tell us that murder is worse than stealing, and group most sins in an order all must approve, but it cannot group Helen. The surer its pronouncements on this point, the surer may we be that morality is not speaking. Christ was evasive when they questioned Him. It is those that cannot connect who hasten to cast the first stone. This was Helen's evening--won at what cost, and not to be marred by the sorrows of others. Of her own tragedy Margaret never uttered a word. "One isolates," said Helen slowly. "I isolated Mr. Wilcox from the other forces that were pulling Leonard downhill. Consequently, I was full of pity, and almost of revenge. For weeks I had blamed Mr. Wilcox only, and so, when your letters came--" "I need never have written them," sighed Margaret. "They never shielded Henry. How hopeless it is to tidy away the past, even 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 Helen, her voice growing more tender, "I 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 gap, which Mr. Wilcox had filled up, had reappeared, and her track through the dew followed the path that he had turfed over, when he improved the garden and made it possible for games. "This is not quite our house yet," said Helen. "When Miss Avery called, I felt we are only a couple of tourists." "We shall be that everywhere, and for ever." "But affectionate tourists--" "But tourists who pretend each hotel is their home." "I can't pretend very long," said Helen. "Sitting under this tree one forgets, but I know that tomorrow I shall see the moon rise out of Germany. Not all your goodness can alter the facts of the case. Unless you will come with me." Margaret thought for a moment. In the past year she had grown so fond of England that to leave it was a real grief. Yet what detained her? No doubt Henry would pardon her outburst, and go on blustering and muddling into a ripe old age. But what was the good? She had just as soon vanish from his mind. "Are you serious in asking me, Helen? Should I get on with your 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 born, and would continue after their deaths, but its song was of the moment. The moment had passed. The tree rustled again. Their senses were sharpened, and they seemed to apprehend life. Life passed. The tree nestled again. "Sleep now," said Margaret. The peace of the country was entering into her. It has no commerce with memory, and little with hope. Least of all is it concerned with the hopes of the next five minutes. It is the peace of the present, which passes understanding. Its murmur came "now," and "now" once more as they trod the gravel, and "now," as the moonlight fell upon their father's sword. They passed upstairs, kissed, and amidst the endless iterations fell asleep. The house had enshadowed the tree at first, but as the moon rose higher the two disentangled, and were clear for 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 41 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 philosophize, or she could look into the future and plan for her child. But the father saw nothing beyond his own sin. Weeks afterwards, in the midst of other occupations, he would suddenly cry out, "Brute--you brute, I couldn't have--" and be rent into two people who held dialogues. Or brown rain would descend, blotting out faces and the sky. Even Jacky noticed the change in him. Most terrible were his sufferings when he awoke from sleep. Sometimes he was happy at first, but grew conscious of a burden hanging to him and weighing down his thoughts when they would move. Or little irons scorched his body. Or a sword stabbed him. He would sit at the edge of his bed, holding his heart and moaning, "Oh what SHALL I do, whatever SHALL I do?" Nothing brought ease. He could put distance between him and the trespass, but it grew in his soul. Remorse is not among the eternal verities. The Greeks were right to dethrone her. Her action is too capricious, as though the Erinyes selected for punishment only certain men and certain sins. And of all means to regeneration Remorse is surely the most wasteful. It cuts away healthy tissues with the poisoned. It is a knife that probes far deeper than the evil. Leonard was driven straight through its torments and emerged pure, but enfeebled--a better man, who would never lose control of himself again, but also a smaller, who had less to control. Nor did purity mean peace. The use of the knife can become a habit as hard to shake off as passion itself, and Leonard continued to start with a cry out of dreams. He built up a situation that was far enough from the truth. It never occurred to him that Helen was to blame. He forgot the intensity of their talk, the charm that had been lent him by sincerity, the magic of Oniton under darkness and of the whispering river. Helen loved the absolute. Leonard had been ruined absolutely, and had appeared to her as a man apart, isolated from the world. A real man, who cared for adventure and beauty, who desired to live decently and pay his way, who could have travelled more gloriously through life than the Juggernaut car that was crushing him. Memories of Evie's wedding had warped her, the starched servants, the yards of uneaten food, the rustle of overdressed women, motor-cars oozing grease on the gravel, rubbish on a pretentious band. She had tasted the lees of this on her arrival: in the darkness, after failure, they intoxicated her. She and the victim seemed alone in a world of unreality, and she loved him absolutely, perhaps for half an hour. In the morning she was gone. The note that she left, tender and hysterical in tone, and intended to be most kind, hurt her lover terribly. It was as if some work of art had been broken by him, some picture in the National Gallery slashed out of its frame. When he recalled her talents and her social position, he felt that the first passerby had a right to shoot him down. He was afraid of the waitress and the porters at the railway-station. He was afraid at first of his wife, though later he was to regard her with a strange new tenderness, and to think, "There is nothing to choose between us, after all." The expedition to Shropshire crippled the Basts permanently. Helen in her flight forgot to settle the hotel bill, and took their return tickets away with her; they had to pawn Jacky's bangles to get home, and the smash came a few days afterwards. It is true that Helen offered him five thousands pounds, but such a sum meant nothing to him. He could not see that the girl was desperately righting herself, and trying to save something out of the disaster, if it was only five thousand pounds. But he had to live somehow. He turned to his family, and degraded himself to a professional beggar. There was nothing else for him to do. "A letter from Leonard," thought Blanche, his sister; "and after all this time." She hid it, so that her husband should not see, and when he had gone to his work read it with some emotion, and sent the prodigal a little money out of her dress allowance. "A letter from Leonard!" said the other sister, Laura, a few days later. She showed it to her husband. He wrote a cruel insolent reply, but sent more money than Blanche, so Leonard soon wrote to him again. And during the winter the system was developed. Leonard realized that they need never starve, because it would be too painful for his relatives. Society is based on the family, and the clever wastrel can exploit this indefinitely. Without a generous thought on either side, pounds and pounds passed. The donors disliked Leonard, and he grew to hate them intensely. When Laura censured his immoral marriage, he thought bitterly, "She minds that! What would she say if she knew the truth?" When Blanche's husband offered him work, he found some pretext for avoiding it. He had wanted work keenly at Oniton, but too much anxiety had shattered him; he was joining the unemployable. When his brother, the lay-reader, did not reply to a letter, he wrote again, saying that he and Jacky would come down to his village on foot. He did not intend this as blackmail. Still, the brother sent a postal order, and it became part of the system. And so passed his winter and his spring. In the horror there are two bright spots. He never confused the past. He remained alive, and blessed are those who live, if it is only to a sense of sinfulness. The anodyne of muddledom, by which most men blur and blend their mistakes, never passed Leonard's lips-- And if I drink oblivion of a day, So shorten I the stature of my soul. It is a hard saying, and a hard man wrote it, but it lies at the foot of all character. And the other bright spot was his tenderness for Jacky. He pitied her with nobility now--not the contemptuous pity of a man who sticks to a woman through thick and thin. He tried to be less irritable. He wondered what her hungry eyes desired--nothing that she could express, or that he or any man could give her. Would she ever receive the justice that is mercy--the justice for by-products that the world is too busy to bestow? She was fond of flowers, generous with money, and not revengeful. If she had borne him a child he might have cared for her. Unmarried, Leonard would never have begged; he would have flickered out and died. But the whole of life is mixed. He had to provide for Jacky, and went down dirty paths that she might have a few feathers and dishes of food that suited her. One day he caught sight of Margaret and her brother. He was in St. Paul's. He had entered the cathedral partly to avoid the rain and partly to see a picture that had educated him in former years. But the light was bad, the picture ill placed, and Time and Judgment were inside him now. Death alone still charmed him, with her lap of poppies, on which all men shall sleep. He took one glance, and turned aimlessly away towards a chair. Then down the nave he saw Miss Schlegel and her brother. They stood in the fairway of passengers, and their faces were extremely grave. He was perfectly certain that they were in trouble about their 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 know, he would tell them everything he knew. He re-entered St. Paul's. But they had moved in his absence, and had gone to lay their difficulties before Mr. Wilcox and Charles. The sight of Margaret turned remorse into new channels. He desired to confess, and though the desire is proof of a weakened nature, which is about to lose the essence of human intercourse, it did not take an ignoble form. He did not suppose that confession would bring him happiness. It was rather that he yearned to get clear of the tangle. So does the suicide yearn. The impulses are akin, and the crime of suicide lies rather in its disregard for the feelings of those whom we leave behind. Confession need harm no one--it can satisfy that test--and though it was un-English, and ignored by our Anglican cathedral, Leonard had a right to decide upon it. Moreover, he trusted Margaret. He wanted her hardness now. That cold, intellectual nature of hers would be just, if unkind. He would do whatever she told him, even if he had to see Helen. That was the supreme punishment she would exact. And perhaps she would tell him how Helen was. That was the supreme reward. He knew nothing about Margaret, not even whether she was married to Mr. Wilcox, and tracking her out took several days. That evening he toiled through the wet to Wickham Place, where the new flats were now appearing. Was he also the cause of their move? Were they expelled from society on his account? Thence to a public library, but could find no satisfactory Schlegel in the directory. On the morrow he searched again. He hung about outside Mr. Wilcox's office at lunch time, and, as the clerks came out said: "Excuse me, sir, but is your boss married?" Most of them stared, some said, "What's that to you?" but one, who had not yet acquired reticence, told him what he wished. Leonard could not learn the private address. That necessitated more trouble with directories and tubes. Ducie Street was not discovered till the Monday, the day that Margaret and her husband went down on their hunting expedition to Howards End. He called at about four o'clock. The weather had changed, and the sun shone gaily on the ornamental steps--black and white marble in triangles. Leonard lowered his eyes to them after ringing the bell. He felt in curious health: doors seemed to be opening and shutting inside his body, and he had been obliged to steep sitting up in bed, with his back propped against the wall. When the parlourmaid came he could not see her face; the brown rain had descended suddenly. "Does Mrs. Wilcox live here?" he asked. "She's out," was the answer. "When will she be back?" "I'll ask," said the parlourmaid. Margaret had given instructions that no one who mentioned her name should ever be rebuffed. Putting the door on the chain--for Leonard's appearance demanded this--she went through to the smoking-room, which was occupied by Tibby. Tibby was asleep. He had had a good lunch. Charles Wilcox had not yet rung him up for the distracting interview. He said drowsily: "I don't know. Hilton. Howards End. Who is it?" "I'll ask, sir." "No, don't bother." "They have taken the car to Howards End," said the parlourmaid to Leonard. He thanked her, and asked whereabouts that place was. "You appear to want to know a good deal," she remarked. But Margaret had forbidden her to be mysterious. She told him against her better judgment that Howards End was in Hertfordshire. "Is it a village, please?" "Village! It's Mr. Wilcox's private house--at least, it's one of them. Mrs. Wilcox keeps her furniture there. Hilton is the village." "Yes. And when will they be back?" "Mr. Schlegel doesn't know. We can't know everything, can we?" She shut him out, and went to attend to the telephone, which was 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 lodging, and, as sometimes happens when the mind is overtaxed, he fell asleep for the rest of the room, but kept awake for the patch of moonlight. Horrible! Then began one of those disintegrating dialogues. Part of him said: "Why horrible? It's ordinary light from the room." "But it moves." "So does the moon." "But it is a clenched fist." "Why not?" "But it is going to touch me." "Let it." And, seeming to gather motion, the patch ran up his blanket. Presently a blue snake appeared; then another, parallel to it. "Is there life in the moon?" "Of course." "But I thought it was uninhabited." "Not by Time, Death, Judgment, and the smaller snakes." "Smaller snakes!" said Leonard indignantly and aloud. "What a notion!" By a rending effort of the will he woke the rest of the room up. Jacky, the bed, their food, their clothes on the chair, gradually entered his consciousness, and the horror vanished outwards, like a ring that is spreading through water. "I say, Jacky, I'm going out for a bit." She was breathing regularly. The patch of light fell clear of the striped blanket, and began to cover the shawl that lay over her feet. Why had he been afraid? He went to the window, and saw that the moon was descending through a clear sky. He saw her volcanoes, and the bright expanses that a gracious error has named seas. They paled, for the sun, who had lit them up, was coming to light the earth. Sea of Serenity, Sea of Tranquillity, Ocean of the Lunar Storms, merged into one lucent drop, itself to slip into the sempiternal dawn. And he had been afraid of the moon! He dressed among the contending lights, and went through his money. It was running low again, but enough for a return ticket to Hilton. As it clinked Jacky opened her eyes. "Hullo, Len! What ho, Len!" "What ho, Jacky! see you again later." She turned over and slept. The house was unlocked, their landlord being a salesman at Convent Garden. Leonard passed out and made his way down to the station. The train, though it did not start for an hour, was already drawn up at the end of the platform, and he lay down in it and slept. With the first jolt he was in daylight; they had left the gateways of King's Cross, and were under blue sky. Tunnels followed, and after each the sky grew bluer, and from the embankment at Finsbury Park he had his first sight of the sun. It rolled along behind the eastern smokes--a wheel, whose fellow was the descending moon--and as yet it seemed the servant of the blue sky, not its lord. He dozed again. Over Tewin Water it was day. To the left fell the shadow of the embankment and its arches; to the right Leonard saw up into the Tewin Woods and towards the church, with its wild legend of immortality. Six forest trees--that is a fact--grow out of one of the graves in Tewin churchyard. The grave's occupant--that is the legend--is an atheist, who declared that if God existed, six forest trees would grow out of her grave. These things in Hertfordshire; and farther afield lay the house of a hermit--Mrs. Wilcox had known him--who barred himself up, and wrote prophecies, and gave all he had to the poor. While, powdered in between, were the villas of business men, who saw life more steadily, though with the steadiness of the half-closed eye. Over all the sun was streaming, to all the birds were singing, to all the primroses were yellow, and the speedwell blue, and the country, however they interpreted her, was uttering her cry of "now." She did not free Leonard yet, and the knife plunged deeper into his heart as the train drew up at Hilton. But remorse had become beautiful. Hilton was asleep, or at the earliest, breakfasting. Leonard noticed the contrast when he stepped out of it into the country. Here men had been up since dawn. Their hours were ruled, not by a London office, but by the movements of the crops and the sun. That they were men of the finest type only the sentimentalist can declare. But they kept to the life of daylight. They are England's hope. Clumsily they carry forward the torch of the sun, until such time as the nation sees fit to take it up. Half clodhopper, half board-school prig, they can still throw back to a nobler stock, and breed yeomen. At the chalk pit a motor passed him. In it was another type, whom Nature favours--the Imperial. Healthy, ever in motion, it hopes to inherit the earth. It breeds as quickly as the yeoman, and as soundly; strong is the temptation to acclaim it as a super-yeoman, who carries his country's virtue overseas. But the Imperialist is not what he thinks or seems. He is a destroyer. He prepares the way for cosmopolitanism, and though his ambitions may be fulfilled, the earth that he inherits will be grey. To Leonard, intent on his private sin, there came the conviction of innate goodness elsewhere. It was not the optimism which he had been taught at school. Again and again must the drums tap, and the goblins stalk over the universe before joy can be purged of the superficial. It was rather paradoxical, and arose from his sorrow. Death destroys a man, but the idea of death saves him--that is the best account of it that has yet been given. Squalor and tragedy can beckon to all that is great in us, and strengthen the wings of love. They can beckon; it is not certain that they will, for they are not love's servants. But they can beckon, and the knowledge of this incredible truth comforted him. As he approached the house all thought stopped. Contradictory notions stood side by side in his mind. He was terrified but happy, ashamed, but had done no sin. He knew the confession: "Mrs. Wilcox, I have done wrong," but sunrise had robbed its meaning, and he felt rather on a supreme adventure. He entered a garden, steadied himself against a motor-car that he found in it, found a door open and entered a house. Yes, it would be very easy. From a room to the left he heard voices, Margaret's amongst them. His own name was called aloud, and a man whom he had never seen said, "Oh, is he there? I am not surprised. I now thrash him within an inch of his life." "Mrs. Wilcox," said Leonard, "I have done wrong." The man took him by the collar and cried, "Bring me a stick." Women were screaming. A stick, very bright, descended. It hurt him, not where it descended, but in the heart. Books fell over him in a shower. Nothing had sense. "Get some water," commanded Charles, who had all through kept very calm. "He's shamming. Of course I only used the blade. Here, carry him out into the air." Thinking that he understood these things, Margaret obeyed him. They laid Leonard, who was dead, on the gravel; Helen poured water over him. "That's enough," said Charles. "Yes, murder's enough," said Miss Avery, coming out of the house with the sword. Chapter 42 When Charles left Ducie Street he had caught the first train home, but had no inkling of the newest development until late at night. Then his father, who had dined alone, sent for him, and in very grave tones inquired for Margaret. "I don't know where she is, pater," said Charles. "Dolly kept back dinner nearly an hour for her." "Tell me when she comes in--." Another hour passed. The servants went to bed, and Charles visited his father again, to receive further instructions. Mrs. Wilcox had still not returned. "I'll sit up for her as late as you like, but she can hardly be coming. Isn't she stopping with her sister at the hotel?" "Perhaps," said Mr. Wilcox thoughtfully--"perhaps." "Can I do anything for you, sir?" "Not tonight, my boy." Mr. Wilcox liked being called sir. He raised his eyes and gave his son more open a look of tenderness than he usually ventured. He saw Charles as little boy and strong man in one. Though his wife had proved unstable his children were left to him. After midnight he tapped on Charles's door. "I can't sleep," he said. "I had better have a talk with you and get it over." He complained of the heat. Charles took him out into the garden, and they paced up and down in their dressing-gowns. Charles became very quiet as the story unrolled; he had known all along that Margaret was as bad as her sister. "She will feel differently in the morning," said Mr. Wilcox, who had of course said nothing about Mrs. Bast. "But I cannot let this kind of thing continue without comment. I am morally certain that she is with her sister at Howards End. The house is mine--and, Charles, it will be yours--and when I say that no one is to live there, I mean that no one is to live there. I won't have it." He looked angrily at the moon. "To my mind this question is connected with something far greater, the rights of property itself." "Undoubtedly," said Charles. Mr. Wilcox linked his arm in his son's, but somehow liked him less as he told him more. "I don't want you to conclude that my wife and I had anything of the nature of a quarrel. She was only over-wrought, as who would not be? I shall do what I can for Helen, but on the understanding that they clear out of the house at once. Do you see? That is a sine qua non." "Then at eight tomorrow I may go up in the car?" "Eight or earlier. Say that you are acting as my representative, and, of course, use no violence, Charles." On the morrow, as Charles returned, leaving Leonard dead upon the gravel, it did not seem to him that he had used violence. Death was due to heart disease. His stepmother herself had said so, and even Miss Avery had acknowledged that he only used the flat of the sword. On his way through the village he informed the police, who thanked him, and said there must be an inquest. He found his father in the garden shading his eyes from the sun. "It has been pretty horrible," said Charles gravely. "They were there, and they had the man up there with them too." "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! Charles, in your mother's house!" "I know, pater. That was what I felt. As a matter of fact, there is no need to trouble about the man. He was in the last stages of heart disease, and just before I could show him what I thought of him he went off. The police are seeing about it at this moment." Mr. Wilcox listened attentively. "I got up there--oh, it couldn't have been more than half-past seven. The Avery woman was lighting a fire for them. They were still upstairs. I waited in the drawing-room. We were all moderately civil and collected, though I had my suspicions. I gave them your message, and Mrs. Wilcox said, 'Oh yes, I see; yes,' in that way of hers." "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 recognized 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 father, with anxiety in his voice. "What sword? Whose sword?" "A sword of theirs." "What were you doing with it?" "Well, didn't you see, pater, I had to snatch up the first thing handy I hadn't a riding-whip or stick. I caught him once or twice over the shoulders with the flat of their old German sword." "Then what?" "He pulled over the bookcase, as I said, and fell," said Charles, with a sigh. It was no fun doing errands for his father, who was never quite satisfied. "But the real cause was heart disease? Of that you're sure?" "That or a fit. However, we shall hear more than enough at the inquest on such unsavoury topics." They went into breakfast. Charles had a racking headache, consequent on motoring before food. He was also anxious about the future, reflecting that the police must detain Helen and Margaret for the inquest and ferret the whole thing out. He saw himself obliged to leave Hilton. One could not afford to live near the scene of a scandal--it was not fair on one's wife. His comfort was that the pater's eyes were opened at last. There would be a horrible smash up, and probably a separation from Margaret; then they would all start again, more as they had been in his mother's time. "I think I'll go round to the police-station," said his father when breakfast was over. "What for?" cried Dolly, who had still not been "told." "Very well, sir. Which car will you have?" "I think I'll walk." "It's a good half-mile," said Charles, stepping into the garden. "The sun's very hot for April. Shan't I take you up, and then, perhaps, a little spin round by Tewin?" "You go on as if I didn't know my own mind," said Mr. Wilcox fretfully. Charles hardened his mouth. "You young fellows' one idea is to get into a motor. I tell you, I want to walk: I'm very fond of walking." "Oh, all right; I'm about the house if you want me for anything. I thought of not going up to the office today, if that is your wish." "It is, indeed, my boy," said Mr. Wilcox, and laid a hand on his sleeve. Charles did not like it; he was uneasy about his father, who did not seem himself this morning. There was a petulant touch about him--more like a woman. Could it be that he was growing old? The Wilcoxes were not lacking in affection; they had it royally, but they did not know how to use it. It was the talent in the napkin, and, for a warm-hearted man, Charles had conveyed very little joy. As he watched his father shuffling up the road, he had a vague regret--a wish that something had been different somewhere--a wish (though he did not express it thus) that he had been taught to say "I" in his youth. He meant to make up for Margaret's defection, but knew that his father had been very happy with her until yesterday. How had she done it? By some dishonest trick, no doubt--but how? Mr. Wilcox reappeared at eleven, looking very tired. There was to be an inquest on Leonard's' body tomorrow, and the police required his son to attend. "I expected that," said Charles. "I shall naturally be the most important witness there." Chapter 43 Out of the turmoil and horror that had begun with Aunt Juley's illness and was not even to end with Leonard's death, it seemed impossible to Margaret that healthy life should re-emerge. Events succeeded in a logical, yet senseless, train. People lost their humanity, and took values as arbitrary as those in a pack of playing-cards. It was natural that Henry should do this and cause Helen to do that, and then think her wrong for doing it; natural that she herself should think him wrong; natural that Leonard should want to know how Helen was, and come, and Charles be angry with him for coming--natural, but unreal. In this jangle of causes and effects what had become of their true selves? Here Leonard lay dead in the garden, from natural causes; yet life was a deep, deep river, death a blue sky, life was a house, death a wisp of hay, a flower, a tower, life and death were anything and everything, except this ordered insanity, where the king takes the queen, and the ace the king. Ah, no; there was beauty and adventure behind, such as the man at her feet had yearned for; there was hope this side of the grave; there were truer relationships beyond the limits that fetter us now. As a prisoner looks up and sees stars beckoning, so she, from the turmoil and horror of those days, caught glimpses of the diviner wheels. And Helen, dumb with fright, but trying to keep calm for the child's sake, and Miss Avery, calm, but murmuring tenderly, "No one ever told the lad he'll have a child"--they also reminded her that horror is not the end. To what ultimate harmony we tend she did not know, but there seemed great chance that a child would be born into the world, to take the great chances of beauty and adventure that the world offers. She moved through the sunlit garden, gathering narcissi, crimson-eyed and white. There was nothing else to be done; the time for telegrams and anger was over, and it seemed wisest that the hands of Leonard should be folded on his breast and be filled with flowers. Here was the father; leave it at that. Let Squalor be turned into Tragedy, whose eyes are the stars, and whose hands hold the sunset and the dawn. And even the influx of officials, even the return of the doctor, vulgar and acute, could not shake her belief in the eternity of beauty. Science explained people, but could not understand them. After long centuries among the bones and muscles it might be advancing to knowledge of the nerves, but this would never give understanding. One could open the heart to Mr. Mansbridge and his sort without discovering its secrets to them, for they wanted everything down in black and white, and black and white was exactly what they were left with. They questioned her closely about Charles. She never suspected why. Death had come, and the doctor agreed that it was due to heart disease. They asked to see her father's sword. She explained that Charles's anger was natural, but mistaken. Miserable questions about Leonard followed, all of which she answered unfalteringly. Then back to Charles again. "No doubt Mr. Wilcox may have induced death," she said; "but if it wasn't one thing it would have been another, as you yourselves know." At last they thanked her, and took the sword and the body down to Hilton. She began to pick up the books from the floor. Helen had gone to the farm. It was the best place for her, since she had to wait for the inquest. Though, as if things were not hard enough, Madge and her husband had raised trouble; they did not see why they should receive the offscourings of Howards End. And, of course, they were right. The whole world was going to be right, and amply avenge any brave talk against the conventions. "Nothing matters," the Schlegels had said in the past, "except one's self-respect and that of one's friends." When the time came, other things mattered terribly. However, Madge had yielded, and Helen was assured of peace for one day and night, and tomorrow she would return to Germany. As for herself, she determined to go too. No message came from Henry; perhaps he expected her to apologize. Now that she had time to think over her own tragedy, she was unrepentant. She neither forgave him for his behaviour nor wished to forgive him. Her speech to him seemed perfect. She would not have altered a word. It had to be uttered once in a life, to adjust the lopsidedness of the world. It was spoken not only to her husband, but to thousands of men like him--a protest against the inner darkness in high places that comes with a commercial age. Though he would build up his life without hers, she could not apologize. He had refused to connect, on the clearest issue that can be laid before a man, and their love must take the consequences. No, there was nothing more to be done. They had tried not to go over the precipice but perhaps the fall was inevitable. And it comforted her to think that the future was certainly inevitable: cause and effect would go jangling forward to some goal doubtless, but to none that she could imagine. At such moments the soul retires within, to float upon the bosom of a deeper stream, and has communion with the dead, and sees the world's glory not diminished, but different in kind to what she has supposed. She alters her focus until trivial things are blurred. Margaret had been tending this way all the winter. Leonard's death brought her to the goal. Alas! that Henry should fade, away as reality emerged, and only her love for him should remain clear, stamped with his image like the cameos we rescue out of dreams. With unfaltering eye she traced his future. He would soon present a healthy mind to the world again, and what did he or the world care if he was rotten at the core? He would grow into a rich, jolly old man, at times a little sentimental about women, but emptying his glass with anyone. Tenacious of power, he would keep Charles and the rest dependent, and retire from business reluctantly and at an advanced age. He would settle down--though she could not realize this. In her eyes Henry was always moving and causing others to move, until the ends of the earth met. But in time he must get too tired to move, and settle down. What next? The inevitable word. The release of the soul to its appropriate 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. Yet, would they meet again? Are there not rather endless levels beyond the grave, as the theory that he had censured teaches? And his level, whether higher or lower, could it possibly be the same as hers? Thus gravely meditating, she was summoned by him. He sent up Crane in the motor. Other servants passed like water, but the chauffeur remained, though impertinent and disloyal. Margaret disliked Crane, and he knew it. "Is it the keys that Mr. Wilcox wants?" she asked. "He didn't say, madam." "You haven't any note for me?" "He didn't say, madam." After a moment's thought she locked up Howards End. It was pitiable to see in it the stirrings of warmth that would be quenched for ever. She raked out the fire that was blazing in the kitchen, and spread the coals in the gravelled yard. She closed the windows and drew the curtains. Henry would probably sell the place now. She was determined not to spare him, for nothing new had happened as far as they were concerned. Her mood might never have altered from yesterday evening. He was standing a little outside Charles's gate, and motioned the car to stop. When his wife got out he said hoarsely: "I prefer to discuss things with you 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 realized. I am unable to forgive you and am leaving you." "I am extremely tired," said Henry, in injured tones. "I have been walking about all the morning, and wish to sit down." "Certainly, if you will consent to sit on the grass." The Great North Road should have been bordered all its length with glebe. Henry's kind had filched most of it. She moved to the scrap opposite, wherein were the Six Hills. They sat down on the farther side, so that they could not be seen by Charles or Dolly. "Here are your keys," said Margaret. She tossed them towards him. They fell on the sunlit slope of grass, and he did not pick them up. "I have something to tell you," he said gently. She knew this superficial gentleness, this confession of hastiness, that was only intended to enhance her admiration of 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 something, she and I and her child." "Where are you going?" "Munich. We start after the inquest, if she is not too ill." "After the inquest?" "Yes." "Have you realized 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 was 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 punished, but the law, being made in his image, sentenced him to three years' imprisonment. Then Henry's fortress gave way. He could bear no one but his wife, he shambled up to Margaret afterwards and asked her to do what she could with him. She did what seemed easiest--she took him down to recruit at Howards End. Chapter 44 Tom's father was cutting the big meadow. He passed again and again amid whirring blades and sweet odours of grass, encompassing with narrowing circles the sacred centre of the field. Tom was negotiating with Helen. "I haven't any idea," she replied. "Do you suppose baby may, Meg?" Margaret put down her work and regarded them absently. "What was that?" she asked. "Tom wants to know whether baby is old enough to play with hay?" "I haven't the least notion," answered Margaret, and took up her work again. "Now, Tom, baby is not to stand; he is not to lie on his face; he is not to lie so that his head wags; he is not to be teased or tickled; and he is not to be cut into two or more pieces by the cutter. Will you be as careful as all that?" Tom held out his arms. "That child is a wonderful nursemaid," remarked Margaret. "He is fond of baby. That's why he does it!" was Helen's answer. They're going to be lifelong friends." "Starting at the ages of six and one?" "Of course. It will be a great thing for Tom." "It may be a greater thing for baby." Fourteen months had passed, but Margaret still stopped at Howards End. No better plan had occurred to her. The meadow was being recut, the great red poppies were reopening in the garden. July would follow with the little red poppies among the wheat, August with the cutting of the wheat. These little events would become part of her year after year. Every summer she would fear lest the well should give out, every winter lest the pipes should freeze; every westerly gale might blow the wych-elm down and bring the end of all things, and so she could not read or talk during a westerly gale. The air was tranquil now. She and her sister were sitting on the remains of Evie's mockery, where the lawn merged into the field. "What a time they all are!" said Helen. "What can they be doing inside?" Margaret, who was growing less talkative, made no answer. The noise of the cutter came intermittently, like the breaking of waves. Close by them a man was preparing to scythe out one of the dell-holes. "I wish Henry was out to enjoy this," said Helen. "This lovely weather and to be shut up in the house! It's very hard." "It has to be," said Margaret. "The hay-fever is his chief objection against living here, but he thinks it worth while." "Meg, is or isn't he ill? I can't make out." "Not ill. Eternally tired. He has worked very hard all his life, and noticed nothing. Those are the people who collapse when they do notice a thing." "I suppose he worries dreadfully about his part of the tangle." "Dreadfully. That is why I wish Dolly had not come, too, today. Still, he wanted them all to come. It has to be." "Why does he want them?" Margaret did not answer. "Meg, may I tell you something? I like Henry." "You'd be odd if you didn't," said Margaret. "I usen't to." "Usen't!" She lowered her eyes a moment to the black abyss of the past. They had crossed it, always excepting Leonard and Charles. They were building up a new life, obscure, yet gilded with tranquillity. Leonard was dead; Charles had two years more in prison. One usen't always to see clearly before that time. It was different now. "I like Henry because he does worry." "And he likes you because you don't." Helen sighed. She seemed humiliated, and buried her face in her hands. After a time she said: "Above love," a transition less abrupt than it appeared. Margaret never stopped working. "I mean a woman's love for a man. I supposed I should hang my life on to that once, and was driven up and down and about as if something was worrying through me. But everything is peaceful now; I seem cured. That Herr Forstmeister, whom Frieda keeps writing about, must be a noble character, but he doesn't see that I shall never marry him or anyone. It isn't shame or mistrust of myself. I simply couldn't. I'm ended. I used to be so dreamy about a man's love as a girl, and think that for good or evil love must be the great thing. But it hasn't been; it has been itself a dream. Do you agree?" "I do not agree. I do not." "I ought to remember Leonard as my lover," said Helen, stepping down into the field. "I tempted him, and killed him and it is surely the least I can do. I would like to throw out all my heart to Leonard on such an afternoon as this. But I cannot. It is no good pretending. I am forgetting him." Her eyes filled with tears. "How nothing seems to match--how, my darling, my precious--" She broke off. "Tommy!" "Yes, please?" "Baby's not to try and stand.--There's something wanting in me. I see you loving Henry, and understanding him better daily, and I know that death wouldn't part you in the least. But I--Is it some awful appalling, criminal defect?" Margaret silenced her. She said: "It is only that people are far more different than is pretended. All over the world men and women are worrying because they cannot develop as they are supposed to develop. Here and there they have the matter out, and it comforts them. Don't fret yourself, Helen. Develop what you have; love your child. I do not love children. I am thankful to have none. I can play with their beauty and charm, but that is all--nothing real, not one scrap of what there ought to be. And others--others go farther still, and move outside humanity altogether. A place, as well as a person, may catch the glow. Don't you see that all this leads to comfort in the end? It is part of the battle against sameness. Differences--eternal differences, planted by God in a single family, so that there may always be colour; sorrow perhaps, but colour in the daily grey. Then I can't have you worrying about Leonard. Don't drag in the personal when it will not come. Forget him." "Yes, yes, but what has Leonard got out of life?" "Perhaps an adventure." "Is that enough?" "Not for us. But for him." Helen took up a bunch of grass. She looked at the sorrel, and the red and white and yellow clover, and the quaker grass, and the daisies, and the bents that composed it. She raised it to her face. "Is it sweetening yet?" asked Margaret. "No, only withered." "It will sweeten tomorrow." Helen smiled. "Oh, Meg, you are a person," she said. "Think of the racket and torture this time last year. But now I couldn't stop unhappy if I tried. What a change--and all through you!" "Oh, we merely settled down. You and Henry learnt to understand one another and to forgive, all through the autumn and the winter." "Yes, but who settled us down?" Margaret did not reply. The scything had begun, and she took off her pince-nez to watch it. "You!" cried Helen. "You did it all, sweetest, though you're too stupid to see. Living here was your plan--I wanted you; he wanted you; and every one said it was impossible, but you knew. Just think of our lives without you, Meg--I and baby with Monica, revolting by theory, he handed about from Dolly to Evie. But you picked up the pieces, and made us a home. Can't it strike you--even for a moment--that your life has been heroic? Can't you remember the two months after Charles's arrest, when you began to act, and did all?" "You were both ill at the time," said Margaret. "I did the obvious things. I had two invalids to nurse. Here was a house, ready furnished and empty. It was obvious. I didn't know myself it would turn into a permanent home. No doubt I have done a little towards straightening the tangle, but things that I can't phrase have helped me." "I hope it will be permanent," said Helen, drifting away to other 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 meadows, but at the end of them was a red rust. "You see that in Surrey and even Hampshire now," she continued. "I can see it from the Purbeck Downs. And London is only part of something else, I'm afraid. Life's going to be melted down, all over the world." Margaret knew that her sister spoke truly. Howards End, Oniton, the Purbeck Downs, the Oderberge, were all survivals, and the melting-pot was being prepared for them. Logically, they had no right to be alive. One's hope was in the weakness of logic. Were they possibly the earth beating time? "Because a thing is going strong now, it need not go strong for ever," she said. "This craze for motion has only set in during the last hundred years. It may be followed by a civilization that won't be a movement, because it will rest on the earth. All the signs are against it now, but I can't help hoping, and very early in the morning in the garden I feel that our house is the future as well as the past." They turned and looked at it. Their own memories coloured it now, for Helen's child had been born in the central room of the nine. Then Margaret said, "Oh, take care--!" for something moved behind the window of the hall, and the door opened. "The conclave's breaking at last. I'll go." It was Paul. Helen retreated with the children far into the field. Friendly voices greeted her. Margaret rose, to encounter a man with a heavy black moustache. "My father has asked for you," he said with hostility. She took her work and followed him. "We have been talking business," he continued, "but I dare say you knew all about it beforehand." "Yes, I did." Clumsy of movement--for he had spent all his life in the saddle--Paul drove his foot against the paint of the front door. Mrs. Wilcox gave a little cry of annoyance. She did not like anything scratched; she stopped in the hall to take Dolly's boa and gloves out of a vase. Her husband was lying in a great leather chair in the dining-room, and by his side, holding his hand rather ostentatiously, was Evie. Dolly, dressed in purple, sat near the window. The room was a little dark and airless; they were obliged to keep it like this until the carting of the hay. Margaret joined the family without speaking; the five of them had met already at tea, and she knew quite well what was going to be said. Averse to wasting her time, she went on sewing. The clock struck six. "Is this going to suit every one?" said Henry in a weary voice. He used the old phrases, but their effect was unexpected and shadowy. "Because I don't want you all coming here later on and complaining that I have been unfair." "It's apparently got to suit us," said Paul. "I beg your pardon, my boy. You have only to speak, and I will leave the house to you instead." Paul frowned ill-temperedly, and began scratching at his arm. "As I've given up the outdoor life that suited me, and I have come home to look after the business, it's no good my settling down here," he said at last. "It's not really the country, and it's not the town." "Very well. Does my arrangement suit you, Evie?" "Of course, Father." "And you, Dolly?" Dolly raised her faded little face, which sorrow could wither but not steady. "Perfectly splendidly," she said. "I thought Charles wanted it for the boys, but last time I saw him he said no, because we cannot possibly live in this part of England again. Charles says we ought to change our name, but I cannot think what to, for Wilcox just suits Charles and me, and I can't think of any other name." There was a general silence. Dolly looked nervously round, fearing that she had been inappropriate. Paul continued to scratch his arm. "Then I leave Howards End to my wife absolutely," said Henry. "And let every one understand that; and after I am dead let there be no jealousy and no surprise." Margaret did not answer. There was something uncanny in her triumph. She, who had never expected to conquer anyone, had charged straight through these Wilcoxes and broken up their 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 lifetime, so that you may be independent of me. That is her wish, too. She also is giving away a great deal of money. She intends to diminish her income by half during the next ten years; she intends when she dies to leave the house to her--to her nephew, down in the field. Is all that clear? Does every one understand?" Paul rose to his feet. He was accustomed to natives, and a very little shook him out of the Englishman. Feeling manly and cynical, he said: "Down in the field? Oh, come! I think we might have had the whole establishment, piccaninnies included." Mrs. Cahill whispered: "Don't, Paul. You promised you'd take care." Feeling a woman of the world, she rose and prepared to take her leave. Her father kissed her. "Good-bye, old girl," he said; "don't you worry about me. " "Good-bye, Dad." Then it was Dolly's turn. Anxious to contribute, she laughed nervously, and said: "Good-bye, Mr. Wilcox. It does seem curious that Mrs. Wilcox should have left Margaret Howards End, and yet she get it, after all." From Evie came a sharply-drawn breath. "Good-bye," 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 me, Henry, what was that about Mrs. Wilcox having left me Howards End?" Tranquilly he replied: "Yes, she did. But that is a very old story. When she was ill and you were so kind to her she wanted to make you some return, and, not being herself at the time, scribbled 'Howards End' on a piece of paper. I went into it thoroughly, and, as it was clearly fanciful, I set it aside, little knowing what my Margaret would be to me in the future." Margaret was silent. Something shook her life in its inmost recesses, and she shivered. "I didn't do wrong, did I?" he asked, bending down. "You didn't, darling. Nothing has been done wrong." From the garden came laughter. "Here they are at last!" exclaimed Henry, disengaging himself with a smile. Helen rushed into the gloom, holding Tom by one hand and carrying her baby on the other. There were shouts of infectious joy. "The field's cut!" Helen cried excitedly--"the big meadow! We've seen to the very end, and it'll be such a crop of hay as never!" Weybridge, 1908-1910. *** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Howards End" *** Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials. Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians. This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying. We also ask that you: + Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes. + Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. 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