Howards End Audiobook by E. M. Forster | Full Audiobook | Part 1

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 Köln.’ 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 Engländerin 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, Fräulein Mosebach, who remembers all the time that Beethoven is “echt Deutsch”; or like Fräulein Mosebach’s young man, who can remember nothing but Fräulein 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 “wunderschöning” 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 Fräulein 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 Fräulein 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! Fräulein 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-æsthetic 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 Fräulein 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 here 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 Fräulein 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 Fräulein 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 Fräulein 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 Fräulein 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. Fräulein 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 Böcklin or my veterinary surgeon. ‘Oh, Böcklin,’ they say; ‘he strains after beauty, he peoples Nature with gods too consciously.’ Of course Böcklin 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 ingénue. 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 Fräulein 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 Förstmeister someone–Helen could not remember his name Herr Förstmeister 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 Förstmeister 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 naïve 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 Förstmeister 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 employés.” “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 I to have my brain picked?” Mr. Wilcox turned to Margaret with the air of humorous strength that he could so well command. “Are we 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 risqué. 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 fiancé, 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? Gruyère or Stilton?” “Gruyère, 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, Rügen, 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-à-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 Böcklin’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?