Howard's End by E.M. Forster
Chapters 1-10

E.M. Forster Chapters 1-10
Chapters 11-20
Chapters 21-30
Chapters 31-40
Chapters 41-44

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Howard's End by E.M. Forster.
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[1]         
[2]         Chapter 1
[3]         
[4]         One may as well begin with Helen's letters to her sister.
[5]         
[6]         
[7]                                                          HOWARDS END,
[8]                                                              TUESDAY.
[9]         
[10]        Dearest Meg,
[11]        
[12]        It isn't going to be what we expected. It is old and
[13]        little, and altogether delightful--red brick. We can
[14]        scarcely pack in as it is, and the dear knows what will
[15]        happen when Paul (younger son) arrives tomorrow. From hall
[16]        you go right or left into dining-room or drawing-room. Hall
[17]        itself is practically a room. You open another door in it,
[18]        and there are the stairs going up in a sort of tunnel to the
[19]        first-floor. Three bedrooms in a row there, and three
[20]        attics in a row above. That isn't all the house really, but
[21]        it's all that one notices--nine windows as you look up from
[22]        the front garden.
[23]        
[24]        Then there's a very big wych-elm--to the left as you
[25]        look up--leaning a little over the house, and standing on
[26]        the boundary between the garden and meadow. I quite love
[27]        that tree already. Also ordinary elms, oaks--no nastier
[28]        than ordinary oaks--pear-trees, apple-trees, and a vine. No
[29]        silver birches, though. However, I must get on to my host
[30]        and hostess. I only wanted to show that it isn't the least
[31]        what we expected. Why did we settle that their house would
[32]        be all gables and wiggles, and their garden all
[33]        gamboge-coloured paths? I believe simply because we
[34]        associate them with expensive hotels--Mrs. Wilcox trailing
[35]        in beautiful dresses down long corridors, Mr. Wilcox
[36]        bullying porters, etc. We females are that unjust.
[37]        
[38]        I shall be back Saturday; will let you know train
[39]        later. They are as angry as I am that you did not come too;
[40]        really Tibby is too tiresome, he starts a new mortal disease
[41]        every month. How could he have got hay fever in London?
[42]        and even if he could, it seems hard that you should give up
[43]        a visit to hear a schoolboy sneeze. Tell him that Charles
[44]        Wilcox (the son who is here) has hay fever too, but he's
[45]        brave, and gets quite cross when we inquire after it. Men
[46]        like the Wilcoxes would do Tibby a power of good. But you
[47]        won't agree, and I'd better change the subject.
[48]        
[49]        This long letter is because I'm writing before
[50]        breakfast. Oh, the beautiful vine leaves! The house is
[51]        covered with a vine. I looked out earlier, and Mrs. Wilcox
[52]        was already in the garden. She evidently loves it. No
[53]        wonder she sometimes looks tired. She was watching the
[54]        large red poppies come out. Then she walked off the lawn to
[55]        the meadow, whose corner to the right I can just see.
[56]        Trail, trail, went her long dress over the sopping grass,
[57]        and she came back with her hands full of the hay that was
[58]        cut yesterday--I suppose for rabbits or something, as she
[59]        kept on smelling it. The air here is delicious. Later on I
[60]        heard the noise of croquet balls, and looked out again, and
[61]        it was Charles Wilcox practising; they are keen on all
[62]        games. Presently he started sneezing and had to stop. Then
[63]        I hear more clicketing, and it is Mr. Wilcox practising, and
[64]        then, 'a-tissue, a-tissue': he has to stop too. Then Evie
[65]        comes out, and does some calisthenic exercises on a machine
[66]        that is tacked on to a greengage-tree--they put everything
[67]        to use--and then she says 'a-tissue,' and in she goes. And
[68]        finally Mrs. Wilcox reappears, trail, trail, still smelling
[69]        hay and looking at the flowers. I inflict all this on you
[70]        because once you said that life is sometimes life and
[71]        sometimes only a drama, and one must learn to distinguish
[72]        t'other from which, and up to now I have always put that
[73]        down as 'Meg's clever nonsense.' But this morning, it really
[74]        does seem not life but a play, and it did amuse me
[75]        enormously to watch the W's. Now Mrs. Wilcox has come in.
[76]        
[77]        I am going to wear [omission]. Last night Mrs. Wilcox
[78]        wore an [omission], and Evie [omission]. So it isn't
[79]        exactly a go-as-you-please place, and if you shut your eyes
[80]        it still seems the wiggly hotel that we expected. Not if
[81]        you open them. The dog-roses are too sweet. There is a
[82]        great hedge of them over the lawn--magnificently tall, so
[83]        that they fall down in garlands, and nice and thin at the
[84]        bottom, so that you can see ducks through it and a cow.
[85]        These belong to the farm, which is the only house near us.
[86]        There goes the breakfast gong. Much love. Modified love to
[87]        Tibby. Love to Aunt Juley; how good of her to come and keep
[88]        you company, but what a bore. Burn this. Will write again
[89]        Thursday.
[90]        
[91]                                                        Helen
[92]        
[93]        
[94]                                                         HOWARDS END,
[95]                                                              FRIDAY.
[96]        
[97]        Dearest Meg,
[98]        
[99]        I am having a glorious time. I like them all. Mrs.
[100]       Wilcox, if quieter than in Germany, is sweeter than ever,
[101]       and I never saw anything like her steady unselfishness, and
[102]       the best of it is that the others do not take advantage of
[103]       her. They are the very happiest, jolliest family that you
[104]       can imagine. I do really feel that we are making friends.
[105]       The fun of it is that they think me a noodle, and say so--at
[106]       least Mr. Wilcox does--and when that happens, and one
[107]       doesn't mind, it's a pretty sure test, isn't it? He says
[108]       the most horrid things about women's suffrage so nicely, and
[109]       when I said I believed in equality he just folded his arms
[110]       and gave me such a setting down as I've never had. Meg,
[111]       shall we ever learn to talk less? I never felt so ashamed
[112]       of myself in my life. I couldn't point to a time when men
[113]       had been equal, nor even to a time when the wish to be equal
[114]       had made them happier in other ways. I couldn't say a
[115]       word. I had just picked up the notion that equality is good
[116]       from some book--probably from poetry, or you. Anyhow, it's
[117]       been knocked into pieces, and, like all people who are
[118]       really strong, Mr. Wilcox did it without hurting me. On the
[119]       other hand, I laugh at them for catching hay fever. We live
[120]       like fighting-cocks, and Charles takes us out every day in
[121]       the motor--a tomb with trees in it, a hermit's house, a
[122]       wonderful road that was made by the Kings of
[123]       Mercia--tennis--a cricket match--bridge--and at night we
[124]       squeeze up in this lovely house. The whole clan's here
[125]       now--it's like a rabbit warren. Evie is a dear. They want
[126]       me to stop over Sunday--I suppose it won't matter if I do.
[127]       Marvellous weather and the view's marvellous--views westward
[128]       to the high ground. Thank you for your letter. Burn this.
[129]       
[130]                                                 Your affectionate
[131]                                                            Helen
[132]       
[133]       
[134]                                                       HOWARDS END,
[135]                                                            SUNDAY.
[136]       
[137]       Dearest, dearest Meg,--I do not know what you will say:
[138]       Paul and I are in love--the younger son who only came here
[139]       Wednesday.
[140]       
[141]       
[142]       Chapter 2
[143]       
[144]       Margaret glanced at her sister's note and pushed it over the
[145]       breakfast-table to her aunt. There was a moment's hush, and
[146]       then the flood-gates opened.
[147]       
[148]       "I can tell you nothing, Aunt Juley. I know no more
[149]       than you do. We met--we only met the father and mother
[150]       abroad last spring. I know so little that I didn't even
[151]       know their son's name. It's all so--" She waved her hand
[152]       and laughed a little.
[153]       
[154]       "In that case it is far too sudden."
[155]       
[156]       "Who knows, Aunt Juley, who knows?"
[157]       
[158]       "But, Margaret dear, I mean we mustn't be unpractical
[159]       now that we've come to facts. It is too sudden, surely."
[160]       
[161]       "Who knows!"
[162]       
[163]       "But Margaret dear--"
[164]       
[165]       "I'll go for her other letters," said Margaret. "No, I
[166]       won't, I'll finish my breakfast. In fact, I haven't them.
[167]       We met the Wilcoxes on an awful expedition that we made from
[168]       Heidelberg to Speyer. Helen and I had got it into our heads
[169]       that there was a grand old cathedral at Speyer--the
[170]       Archbishop of Speyer was one of the seven electors--you
[171]       know--'Speyer, Maintz, and Koln.' Those three sees once
[172]       commanded the Rhine Valley and got it the name of Priest Street."
[173]       
[174]       "I still feel quite uneasy about this business, Margaret."
[175]       
[176]       "The train crossed by a bridge of boats, and at first
[177]       sight it looked quite fine. But oh, in five minutes we had
[178]       seen the whole thing. The cathedral had been ruined,
[179]       absolutely ruined, by restoration; not an inch left of the
[180]       original structure. We wasted a whole day, and came across
[181]       the Wilcoxes as we were eating our sandwiches in the public
[182]       gardens. They too, poor things, had been taken in--they
[183]       were actually stopping at Speyer--and they rather liked
[184]       Helen insisting that they must fly with us to Heidelberg.
[185]       As a matter of fact, they did come on next day. We all took
[186]       some drives together. They knew us well enough to ask Helen
[187]       to come and see them--at least, I was asked too, but Tibby's
[188]       illness prevented me, so last Monday she went alone. That's
[189]       all. You know as much as I do now. It's a young man out
[190]       the unknown. She was to have come back Saturday, but put
[191]       off till Monday, perhaps on account of--I don't know.
[192]       
[193]       She broke off, and listened to the sounds of a London
[194]       morning. Their house was in Wickham Place, and fairly
[195]       quiet, for a lofty promontory of buildings separated it from
[196]       the main thoroughfare. One had the sense of a backwater, or
[197]       rather of an estuary, whose waters flowed in from the
[198]       invisible sea, and ebbed into a profound silence while the
[199]       waves without were still beating. Though the promontory
[200]       consisted of flats--expensive, with cavernous entrance
[201]       halls, full of concierges and palms--it fulfilled its
[202]       purpose, and gained for the older houses opposite a certain
[203]       measure of peace. These, too, would be swept away in time,
[204]       and another promontory would rise upon their site, as
[205]       humanity piled itself higher and higher on the precious soil
[206]       of London.
[207]       
[208]       Mrs. Munt had her own method of interpreting her
[209]       nieces. She decided that Margaret was a little hysterical,
[210]       and was trying to gain time by a torrent of talk. Feeling
[211]       very diplomatic, she lamented the fate of Speyer, and
[212]       declared that never, never should she be so misguided as to
[213]       visit it, and added of her own accord that the principles of
[214]       restoration were ill understood in Germany. "The Germans,"
[215]       she said, "are too thorough, and this is all very well
[216]       sometimes, but at other times it does not do."
[217]       
[218]       "Exactly," said Margaret; "Germans are too thorough."
[219]       And her eyes began to shine.
[220]       
[221]       "Of course I regard you Schlegels as English," said Mrs.
[222]       Munt hastily--"English to the backbone."
[223]       
[224]       Margaret leaned forward and stroked her hand.
[225]       
[226]       "And that reminds me--Helen's letter--"
[227]       
[228]       "Oh, yes, Aunt Juley, I am thinking all right about
[229]       Helen's letter. I know--I must go down and see her. I am
[230]       thinking about her all right. I am meaning to go down"
[231]       
[232]       "But go with some plan," said Mrs. Munt, admitting into
[233]       her kindly voice a note of exasperation. "Margaret, if I
[234]       may interfere, don't be taken by surprise. What do you
[235]       think of the Wilcoxes? Are they our sort? Are they likely
[236]       people? Could they appreciate Helen, who is to my mind a
[237]       very special sort of person? Do they care about Literature
[238]       and Art? That is most important when you come to think of
[239]       it. Literature and Art. Most important. How old would the
[240]       son be? She says 'younger son.' Would he be in a position
[241]       to marry? Is he likely to make Helen happy? Did you gather--"
[242]       
[243]       "I gathered nothing."
[244]       
[245]       They began to talk at once.
[246]       
[247]       "Then in that case--"
[248]       
[249]       "In that case I can make no plans, don't you see."
[250]       
[251]       "On the contrary--"
[252]       
[253]       "I hate plans. I hate lines of action. Helen isn't a baby."
[254]       
[255]       "Then in that case, my dear, why go down?"
[256]       
[257]       Margaret was silent. If her aunt could not see why she
[258]       must go down, she was not going to tell her. She was not
[259]       going to say "I love my dear sister; I must be near her at
[260]       this crisis of her life." The affections are more reticent
[261]       than the passions, and their expression more subtle. If she
[262]       herself should ever fall in love with a man, she, like
[263]       Helen, would proclaim it from the house-tops, but as she
[264]       only loved a sister she used the voiceless language of sympathy.
[265]       
[266]       "I consider you odd girls," continued Mrs. Munt, "and
[267]       very wonderful girls, and in many ways far older than your
[268]       years. But--you won't be offended? --frankly I feel you are
[269]       not up to this business. It requires an older person.
[270]       Dear, I have nothing to call me back to Swanage." She spread
[271]       out her plump arms. "I am all at your disposal. Let me go
[272]       down to this house whose name I forget instead of you."
[273]       
[274]       "Aunt Juley"--she jumped up and kissed her--"I must,
[275]       must go to Howards End myself. You don't exactly
[276]       understand, though I can never thank you properly for offering."
[277]       
[278]       "I do understand," retorted Mrs. Munt, with immense
[279]       confidence. "I go down in no spirit of interference, but to
[280]       make inquiries. Inquiries are necessary. Now, I am going
[281]       to be rude. You would say the wrong thing; to a certainty
[282]       you would. In your anxiety for Helen's happiness you would
[283]       offend the whole of these Wilcoxes by asking one of your
[284]       impetuous questions--not that one minds offending them."
[285]       
[286]       "I shall ask no questions. I have it in Helen's writing
[287]       that she and a man are in love. There is no question to ask
[288]       as long as she keeps to that. All the rest isn't worth a
[289]       straw. A long engagement if you like, but inquiries,
[290]       questions, plans, lines of action--no, Aunt Juley, no."
[291]       
[292]       Away she hurried, not beautiful, not supremely
[293]       brilliant, but filled with something that took the place of
[294]       both qualities--something best described as a profound
[295]       vivacity, a continual and sincere response to all that she
[296]       encountered in her path through life.
[297]       
[298]       "If Helen had written the same to me about a
[299]       shop-assistant or a penniless clerk--"
[300]       
[301]       "Dear Margaret, do come into the library and shut the
[302]       door. Your good maids are dusting the banisters."
[303]       
[304]       "--or if she had wanted to marry the man who calls for
[305]       Carter Paterson, I should have said the same." Then, with
[306]       one of those turns that convinced her aunt that she was not
[307]       mad really and convinced observers of another type that she
[308]       was not a barren theorist, she added: "Though in the case of
[309]       Carter Paterson I should want it to be a very long
[310]       engagement indeed, I must say."
[311]       
[312]       "I should think so," said Mrs. Munt; "and, indeed, I can
[313]       scarcely follow you. Now, just imagine if you said anything
[314]       of that sort to the Wilcoxes. I understand it, but most
[315]       good people would think you mad. Imagine how disconcerting
[316]       for Helen! What is wanted is a person who will go slowly,
[317]       slowly in this business, and see how things are and where
[318]       they are likely to lead to."
[319]       
[320]       Margaret was down on this.
[321]       
[322]       "But you implied just now that the engagement must be
[323]       broken off."
[324]       
[325]       "I think probably it must; but slowly."
[326]       
[327]       "Can you break an engagement off slowly?" Her eyes lit
[328]       up. "What's an engagement made of, do you suppose? I think
[329]       it's made of some hard stuff, that may snap, but can't
[330]       break. It is different to the other ties of life. They
[331]       stretch or bend. They admit of degree. They're different."
[332]       
[333]       "Exactly so. But won't you let me just run down to
[334]       Howards House, and save you all the discomfort? I will
[335]       really not interfere, but I do so thoroughly understand the
[336]       kind of thing you Schlegels want that one quiet look round
[337]       will be enough for me."
[338]       
[339]       Margaret again thanked her, again kissed her, and then
[340]       ran upstairs to see her brother.
[341]       
[342]       He was not so well.
[343]       
[344]       The hay fever had worried him a good deal all night.
[345]       His head ached, his eyes were wet, his mucous membrane, he
[346]       informed her, was in a most unsatisfactory condition. The
[347]       only thing that made life worth living was the thought of
[348]       Walter Savage Landor, from whose IMAGINARY CONVERSATIONS she
[349]       had promised to read at frequent intervals during the day.
[350]       
[351]       It was rather difficult. Something must be done about
[352]       Helen. She must be assured that it is not a criminal
[353]       offence to love at first sight. A telegram to this effect
[354]       would be cold and cryptic, a personal visit seemed each
[355]       moment more impossible. Now the doctor arrived, and said
[356]       that Tibby was quite bad. Might it really be best to accept
[357]       Aunt Juley's kind offer, and to send her down to Howards End
[358]       with a note?
[359]       
[360]       Certainly Margaret was impulsive. She did swing rapidly
[361]       from one decision to another. Running downstairs into the
[362]       library, she cried--"Yes, I have changed my mind; I do wish
[363]       that you would go."
[364]       
[365]       There was a train from King's Cross at eleven. At
[366]       half-past ten Tibby, with rare self-effacement, fell asleep,
[367]       and Margaret was able to drive her aunt to the station.
[368]       
[369]       "You will remember, Aunt Juley, not to be drawn into
[370]       discussing the engagement. Give my letter to Helen, and say
[371]       whatever you feel yourself, but do keep clear of the
[372]       relatives. We have scarcely got their names straight yet,
[373]       and besides, that sort of thing is so uncivilized and wrong.
[374]       
[375]       "So uncivilized?" queried Mrs. Munt, fearing that she
[376]       was losing the point of some brilliant remark.
[377]       
[378]       "Oh, I used an affected word. I only meant would you
[379]       please only talk the thing over with Helen."
[380]       
[381]       "Only with Helen."
[382]       
[383]       "Because--" But it was no moment to expound the personal
[384]       nature of love. Even Margaret shrank from it, and contented
[385]       herself with stroking her good aunt's hand, and with
[386]       meditating, half sensibly and half poetically, on the
[387]       journey that was about to begin from King's Cross.
[388]       
[389]       Like many others who have lived long in a great capital,
[390]       she had strong feelings about the various railway termini.
[391]       They are our gates to the glorious and the unknown. Through
[392]       them we pass out into adventure and sunshine, to them alas!
[393]       we return. In Paddington all Cornwall is latent and the
[394]       remoter west; down the inclines of Liverpool Street lie
[395]       fenlands and the illimitable Broads; Scotland is through the
[396]       pylons of Euston; Wessex behind the poised chaos of
[397]       Waterloo. Italians realize this, as is natural; those of
[398]       them who are so unfortunate as to serve as waiters in Berlin
[399]       call the Anhalt Bahnhof the Stazione d'Italia, because by it
[400]       they must return to their homes. And he is a chilly
[401]       Londoner who does not endow his stations with some
[402]       personality, and extend to them, however shyly, the emotions
[403]       of fear and love.
[404]       
[405]       To Margaret--I hope that it will not set the reader
[406]       against her--the station of King's Cross had always
[407]       suggested Infinity. Its very situation--withdrawn a little
[408]       behind the facile splendours of St. Pancras--implied a
[409]       comment on the materialism of life. Those two great arches,
[410]       colourless, indifferent, shouldering between them an
[411]       unlovely clock, were fit portals for some eternal adventure,
[412]       whose issue might be prosperous, but would certainly not be
[413]       expressed in the ordinary language of prosperity. If you
[414]       think this ridiculous, remember that it is not Margaret who
[415]       is telling you about it; and let me hasten to add that they
[416]       were in plenty of time for the train; that Mrs. Munt, though
[417]       she took a second-class ticket, was put by the guard into a
[418]       first (only two seconds on the train, one smoking and the
[419]       other babies--one cannot be expected to travel with babies);
[420]       and that Margaret, on her return to Wickham Place, was
[421]       confronted with the following telegram:
[422]       
[423]       ALL OVER. WISH I HAD NEVER WRITTEN. TELL NO ONE.
[424]                                   --HELEN
[425]       
[426]       But Aunt Juley was gone--gone irrevocably, and no power
[427]       on earth could stop her.
[428]       
[429]       
[430]       Chapter 3
[431]       
[432]       Most complacently did Mrs. Munt rehearse her mission. Her
[433]       nieces were independent young women, and it was not often
[434]       that she was able to help them. Emily's daughters had never
[435]       been quite like other girls. They had been left motherless
[436]       when Tibby was born, when Helen was five and Margaret
[437]       herself but thirteen. It was before the passing of the
[438]       Deceased Wife's Sister Bill, so Mrs. Munt could without
[439]       impropriety offer to go and keep house at Wickham Place.
[440]       But her brother-in-law, who was peculiar and a German, had
[441]       referred the question to Margaret, who with the crudity of
[442]       youth had answered, "No, they could manage much better
[443]       alone." Five years later Mr. Schlegel had died too, and Mrs.
[444]       Munt had repeated her offer. Margaret, crude no longer, had
[445]       been grateful and extremely nice, but the substance of her
[446]       answer had been the same. "I must not interfere a third
[447]       time," thought Mrs. Munt. However, of course she did. She
[448]       learnt, to her horror, that Margaret, now of age, was taking
[449]       her money out of the old safe investments and putting it
[450]       into Foreign Things, which always smash. Silence would have
[451]       been criminal. Her own fortune was invested in Home Rails,
[452]       and most ardently did she beg her niece to imitate her.
[453]       "Then we should be together, dear." Margaret, out of
[454]       politeness, invested a few hundreds in the Nottingham and
[455]       Derby Railway, and though the Foreign Things did admirably
[456]       and the Nottingham and Derby declined with the steady
[457]       dignity of which only Home Rails are capable, Mrs. Munt
[458]       never ceased to rejoice, and to say, "I did manage that, at
[459]       all events. When the smash comes poor Margaret will have a
[460]       nest-egg to fall back upon." This year Helen came of age,
[461]       and exactly the same thing happened in Helen's case; she
[462]       also would shift her money out of Consols, but she, too,
[463]       almost without being pressed, consecrated a fraction of it
[464]       to the Nottingham and Derby Railway. So far so good, but in
[465]       social matters their aunt had accomplished nothing. Sooner
[466]       or later the girls would enter on the process known as
[467]       throwing themselves away, and if they had delayed hitherto,
[468]       it was only that they might throw themselves more vehemently
[469]       in the future. They saw too many people at Wickham
[470]       Place--unshaven musicians, an actress even, German cousins
[471]       (one knows what foreigners are), acquaintances picked up at
[472]       Continental hotels (one knows what they are too). It was
[473]       interesting, and down at Swanage no one appreciated culture
[474]       more than Mrs. Munt; but it was dangerous, and disaster was
[475]       bound to come. How right she was, and how lucky to be on
[476]       the spot when the disaster came!
[477]       
[478]       The train sped northward, under innumerable tunnels. It
[479]       was only an hour's journey, but Mrs. Munt had to raise and
[480]       lower the window again and again. She passed through the
[481]       South Welwyn Tunnel, saw light for a moment, and entered the
[482]       North Welwyn Tunnel, of tragic fame. She traversed the
[483]       immense viaduct, whose arches span untroubled meadows and
[484]       the dreamy flow of Tewin Water. She skirted the parks of
[485]       politicians. At times the Great North Road accompanied her,
[486]       more suggestive of infinity than any railway, awakening,
[487]       after a nap of a hundred years, to such life as is conferred
[488]       by the stench of motor-cars, and to such culture as is
[489]       implied by the advertisements of antibilious pills. To
[490]       history, to tragedy, to the past, to the future, Mrs. Munt
[491]       remained equally indifferent; hers but to concentrate on the
[492]       end of her journey, and to rescue poor Helen from this
[493]       dreadful mess.
[494]       
[495]       The station for Howards End was at Hilton, one of the
[496]       large villages that are strung so frequently along the North
[497]       Road, and that owe their size to the traffic of coaching and
[498]       pre-coaching days. Being near London, it had not shared in
[499]       the rural decay, and its long High Street had budded out
[500]       right and left into residential estates. For about a mile a
[501]       series of tiled and slated houses passed before Mrs. Munt's
[502]       inattentive eyes, a series broken at one point by six Danish
[503]       tumuli that stood shoulder to shoulder along the highroad,
[504]       tombs of soldiers. Beyond these tumuli habitations
[505]       thickened, and the train came to a standstill in a tangle
[506]       that was almost a town.
[507]       
[508]       The station, like the scenery, like Helen's letters,
[509]       struck an indeterminate note. Into which country will it
[510]       lead, England or Suburbia? It was new, it had island
[511]       platforms and a subway, and the superficial comfort exacted
[512]       by business men. But it held hints of local life, personal
[513]       intercourse, as even Mrs. Munt was to discover.
[514]       
[515]       "I want a house," she confided to the ticket boy. "Its
[516]       name is Howards Lodge. Do you know where it is?"
[517]       
[518]       "Mr. Wilcox!" the boy called.
[519]       
[520]       A young man in front of them turned round.
[521]       
[522]       "She's wanting Howards End."
[523]       
[524]       There was nothing for it but to go forward, though Mrs.
[525]       Munt was too much agitated even to stare at the stranger.
[526]       But remembering that there were two brothers, she had the
[527]       sense to say to him, "Excuse me asking, but are you the
[528]       younger Mr. Wilcox or the elder?"
[529]       
[530]       "The younger. Can I do anything for you?"
[531]       
[532]       "Oh, well"--she controlled herself with difficulty.
[533]       "Really. Are you? I--" She moved away from the ticket boy
[534]       and lowered her voice. "I am Miss Schlegels aunt. I ought
[535]       to introduce myself, oughtn't I? My name is Mrs. Munt."
[536]       
[537]       She was conscious that he raised his cap and said quite
[538]       coolly, "Oh, rather; Miss Schlegel is stopping with us. Did
[539]       you want to see her?"
[540]       
[541]       "Possibly--"
[542]       
[543]       "I'll call you a cab. No; wait a mo--" He thought.
[544]       "Our motor's here. I'll run you up in it."
[545]       
[546]       "That is very kind--"
[547]       
[548]       "Not at all, if you'll just wait till they bring out a
[549]       parcel from the office. This way."
[550]       
[551]       "My niece is not with you by any chance?"
[552]       
[553]       "No; I came over with my father. He has gone on north
[554]       in your train. You'll see Miss Schlegel at lunch. You're
[555]       coming up to lunch, I hope?"
[556]       
[557]       "I should like to come UP," said Mrs. Munt, not
[558]       committing herself to nourishment until she had studied
[559]       Helen's lover a little more. He seemed a gentleman, but had
[560]       so rattled her round that her powers of observation were
[561]       numbed. She glanced at him stealthily. To a feminine eye
[562]       there was nothing amiss in the sharp depressions at the
[563]       corners of his mouth, nor in the rather box-like
[564]       construction of his forehead. He was dark, clean-shaven and
[565]       seemed accustomed to command.
[566]       
[567]       "In front or behind? Which do you prefer? It may be
[568]       windy in front."
[569]       
[570]       "In front if I may; then we can talk."
[571]       
[572]       "But excuse me one moment--I can't think what they're
[573]       doing with that parcel." He strode into the booking-office
[574]       and called with a new voice: "Hi! hi, you there! Are you
[575]       going to keep me waiting all day? Parcel for Wilcox,
[576]       Howards End. Just look sharp!" Emerging, he said in
[577]       quieter tones: "This station's abominably organized; if I
[578]       had my way, the whole lot of 'em should get the sack. May I
[579]       help you in?"
[580]       
[581]       "This is very good of you," said Mrs. Munt, as she
[582]       settled herself into a luxurious cavern of red leather, and
[583]       suffered her person to be padded with rugs and shawls. She
[584]       was more civil than she had intended, but really this young
[585]       man was very kind. Moreover, she was a little afraid of
[586]       him: his self-possession was extraordinary. "Very good
[587]       indeed," she repeated, adding: "It is just what I should
[588]       have wished."
[589]       
[590]       "Very good of you to say so," he replied, with a slight
[591]       look of surprise, which, like most slight looks, escaped
[592]       Mrs. Munt's attention. "I was just tooling my father over
[593]       to catch the down train."
[594]       
[595]       "You see, we heard from Helen this morning."
[596]       
[597]       Young Wilcox was pouring in petrol, starting his engine,
[598]       and performing other actions with which this story has no
[599]       concern. The great car began to rock, and the form of Mrs.
[600]       Munt, trying to explain things, sprang agreeably up and down
[601]       among the red cushions. "The mater will be very glad to see
[602]       you," he mumbled. "Hi! I say. Parcel for Howards End.
[603]       Bring it out. Hi!"
[604]       
[605]       A bearded porter emerged with the parcel in one hand and
[606]       an entry book in the other. With the gathering whir of the
[607]       motor these ejaculations mingled: "Sign, must I? Why
[608]       the--should I sign after all this bother? Not even got a
[609]       pencil on you? Remember next time I report you to the
[610]       station-master. My time's of value, though yours mayn't
[611]       be. Here"--here being a tip.
[612]       
[613]       "Extremely sorry, Mrs. Munt."
[614]       
[615]       "Not at all, Mr. Wilcox."
[616]       
[617]       "And do you object to going through the village? It is
[618]       rather a longer spin, but I have one or two commissions."
[619]       
[620]       "I should love going through the village. Naturally I
[621]       am very anxious to talk things over with you."
[622]       
[623]       As she said this she felt ashamed, for she was
[624]       disobeying Margaret's instructions. Only disobeying them in
[625]       the letter, surely. Margaret had only warned her against
[626]       discussing the incident with outsiders. Surely it was not
[627]       "uncivilized or wrong" to discuss it with the young man
[628]       himself, since chance had thrown them together.
[629]       
[630]       A reticent fellow, he made no reply. Mounting by her
[631]       side, he put on gloves and spectacles, and off they drove,
[632]       the bearded porter--life is a mysterious business--looking
[633]       after them with admiration.
[634]       
[635]       The wind was in their faces down the station road,
[636]       blowing the dust into Mrs. Munt's eyes. But as soon as they
[637]       turned into the Great North Road she opened fire. "You can
[638]       well imagine," she said, "that the news was a great shock to
[639]       us."
[640]       
[641]       "What news?"
[642]       
[643]       "Mr. Wilcox," she said frankly. "Margaret has told me
[644]       everything--everything. I have seen Helen's letter."
[645]       
[646]       He could not look her in the face, as his eyes were
[647]       fixed on his work; he was travelling as quickly as he dared
[648]       down the High Street. But he inclined his head in her
[649]       direction, and said, "I beg your pardon; I didn't catch."
[650]       
[651]       "About Helen. Helen, of course. Helen is a very
[652]       exceptional person--I am sure you will let me say this,
[653]       feeling towards her as you do--indeed, all the Schlegels are
[654]       exceptional. I come in no spirit of interference, but it
[655]       was a great shock."
[656]       
[657]       They drew up opposite a draper's. Without replying, he
[658]       turned round in his seat, and contemplated the cloud of dust
[659]       that they had raised in their passage through the village.
[660]       It was settling again, but not all into the road from which
[661]       he had taken it. Some of it had percolated through the open
[662]       windows, some had whitened the roses and gooseberries of the
[663]       wayside gardens, while a certain proportion had entered the
[664]       lungs of the villagers. "I wonder when they'll learn wisdom
[665]       and tar the roads," was his comment. Then a man ran out of
[666]       the draper's with a roll of oilcloth, and off they went again.
[667]       
[668]       "Margaret could not come herself, on account of poor
[669]       Tibby, so I am here to represent her and to have a good talk."
[670]       
[671]       "I'm sorry to be so dense," said the young man, again
[672]       drawing up outside a shop. "But I still haven't quite understood."
[673]       
[674]       "Helen, Mr. Wilcox--my niece and you."
[675]       
[676]       He pushed up his goggles and gazed at her, absolutely
[677]       bewildered. Horror smote her to the heart, for even she
[678]       began to suspect that they were at cross-purposes, and that
[679]       she had commenced her mission by some hideous blunder.
[680]       
[681]       "Miss Schlegel and myself." he asked, compressing his lips.
[682]       
[683]       "I trust there has been no misunderstanding," quavered
[684]       Mrs. Munt. "Her letter certainly read that way."
[685]       
[686]       "What way?"
[687]       
[688]       "That you and she--" She paused, then drooped her eyelids.
[689]       
[690]       "I think I catch your meaning," he said stickily. "What
[691]       an extraordinary mistake!"
[692]       
[693]       "Then you didn't the least--" she stammered, getting
[694]       blood-red in the face, and wishing she had never been born.
[695]       
[696]       "Scarcely, as I am already engaged to another lady."
[697]       There was a moment's silence, and then he caught his breath
[698]       and exploded with, "Oh, good God! Don't tell me it's some
[699]       silliness of Paul's."
[700]       
[701]       "But you are Paul."
[702]       
[703]       "I'm not."
[704]       
[705]       "Then why did you say so at the station?"
[706]       
[707]       "I said nothing of the sort."
[708]       
[709]       "I beg your pardon, you did."
[710]       
[711]       "I beg your pardon, I did not. My name is Charles."
[712]       
[713]       "Younger" may mean son as opposed to father, or second
[714]       brother as opposed to first. There is much to be said for
[715]       either view, and later on they said it. But they had other
[716]       questions before them now.
[717]       
[718]       "Do you mean to tell me that Paul--"
[719]       
[720]       But she did not like his voice. He sounded as if he was
[721]       talking to a porter, and, certain that he had deceived her
[722]       at the station, she too grew angry.
[723]       
[724]       "Do you mean to tell me that Paul and your niece--"
[725]       
[726]       Mrs. Munt--such is human nature--determined that she
[727]       would champion the lovers. She was not going to be bullied
[728]       by a severe young man. "Yes, they care for one another very
[729]       much indeed," she said. "I dare say they will tell you
[730]       about it by-and-by. We heard this morning."
[731]       
[732]       And Charles clenched his fist and cried, "The idiot, the
[733]       idiot, the little fool!"
[734]       
[735]       Mrs. Munt tried to divest herself of her rugs. "If that
[736]       is your attitude, Mr. Wilcox, I prefer to walk."
[737]       
[738]       "I beg you will do no such thing. I'll take you up this
[739]       moment to the house. Let me tell you the thing's
[740]       impossible, and must be stopped."
[741]       
[742]       Mrs. Munt did not often lose her temper, and when she
[743]       did it was only to protect those whom she loved. On this
[744]       occasion she blazed out. "I quite agree, sir. The thing is
[745]       impossible, and I will come up and stop it. My niece is a
[746]       very exceptional person, and I am not inclined to sit still
[747]       while she throws herself away on those who will not
[748]       appreciate her."
[749]       
[750]       Charles worked his jaws.
[751]       
[752]       "Considering she has only known your brother since
[753]       Wednesday, and only met your father and mother at a stray hotel--"
[754]       
[755]       "Could you possibly lower your voice? The shopman will overhear."
[756]       
[757]       "Esprit de classe"--if one may coin the phrase--was
[758]       strong in Mrs. Munt. She sat quivering while a member of
[759]       the lower orders deposited a metal funnel, a saucepan, and a
[760]       garden squirt beside the roll of oilcloth.
[761]       
[762]       "Right behind?"
[763]       
[764]       "Yes, sir." And the lower orders vanished in a cloud of dust.
[765]       
[766]       "I warn you: Paul hasn't a penny; it's useless."
[767]       
[768]       "No need to warn us, Mr. Wilcox, I assure you. The
[769]       warning is all the other way. My niece has been very
[770]       foolish, and I shall give her a good scolding and take her
[771]       back to London with me."
[772]       
[773]       "He has to make his way out in Nigeria. He couldn't
[774]       think of marrying for years and when he does it must be a
[775]       woman who can stand the climate, and is in other ways--Why
[776]       hasn't he told us? Of course he's ashamed. He knows he's
[777]       been a fool. And so he has--a damned fool."
[778]       
[779]       She grew furious.
[780]       
[781]       "Whereas Miss Schlegel has lost no time in publishing
[782]       the news."
[783]       
[784]       "If I were a man, Mr. Wilcox, for that last remark I'd
[785]       box your ears. You're not fit to clean my niece's boots, to
[786]       sit in the same room with her, and you dare--you actually
[787]       dare--I decline to argue with such a person."
[788]       
[789]       "All I know is, she's spread the thing and he hasn't,
[790]       and my father's away and I--"
[791]       
[792]       "And all that I know is--"
[793]       
[794]       "Might I finish my sentence, please?"
[795]       
[796]       "No."
[797]       
[798]       Charles clenched his teeth and sent the motor swerving
[799]       all over the lane.
[800]       
[801]       She screamed.
[802]       
[803]       So they played the game of Capping Families, a round of
[804]       which is always played when love would unite two members of
[805]       our race. But they played it with unusual vigour, stating
[806]       in so many words that Schlegels were better than Wilcoxes,
[807]       Wilcoxes better than Schlegels. They flung decency aside.
[808]       The man was young, the woman deeply stirred; in both a vein
[809]       of coarseness was latent. Their quarrel was no more
[810]       surprising than are most quarrels--inevitable at the time,
[811]       incredible afterwards. But it was more than usually
[812]       futile. A few minutes, and they were enlightened. The
[813]       motor drew up at Howards End, and Helen, looking very pale,
[814]       ran out to meet her aunt.
[815]       
[816]       "Aunt Juley, I have just had a telegram from Margaret;
[817]       I--I meant to stop your coming. It isn't--it's over."
[818]       
[819]       The climax was too much for Mrs. Munt. She burst into tears.
[820]       
[821]       "Aunt Juley dear, don't. Don't let them know I've been
[822]       so silly. It wasn't anything. Do bear up for my sake."
[823]       
[824]       "Paul," cried Charles Wilcox, pulling his gloves off.
[825]       
[826]       "Don't let them know. They are never to know."
[827]       
[828]       "Oh, my darling Helen--"
[829]       
[830]       "Paul! Paul!"
[831]       
[832]       A very young man came out of the house.
[833]       
[834]       "Paul, is there any truth in this?"
[835]       
[836]       "I didn't--I don't--"
[837]       
[838]       "Yes or no, man; plain question, plain answer. Did or
[839]       didn't Miss Schlegel--"
[840]       
[841]       "Charles dear," said a voice from the garden. "Charles,
[842]       dear Charles, one doesn't ask plain questions. There aren't
[843]       such things."
[844]       
[845]       They were all silent. It was Mrs. Wilcox.
[846]       
[847]       She approached just as Helen's letter had described her,
[848]       trailing noiselessly over the lawn, and there was actually a
[849]       wisp of hay in her hands. She seemed to belong not to the
[850]       young people and their motor, but to the house, and to the
[851]       tree that overshadowed it. One knew that she worshipped the
[852]       past, and that the instinctive wisdom the past can alone
[853]       bestow had descended upon her--that wisdom to which we give
[854]       the clumsy name of aristocracy. High born she might not
[855]       be. But assuredly she cared about her ancestors, and let
[856]       them help her. When she saw Charles angry, Paul frightened,
[857]       and Mrs. Munt in tears, she heard her ancestors say,
[858]       "Separate those human beings who will hurt each other most.
[859]       The rest can wait." So she did not ask questions. Still
[860]       less did she pretend that nothing had happened, as a
[861]       competent society hostess would have done. She said, "Miss
[862]       Schlegel, would you take your aunt up to your room or to my
[863]       room, whichever you think best. Paul, do find Evie, and
[864]       tell her lunch for six, but I'm not sure whether we shall
[865]       all be downstairs for it." And when they had obeyed her, she
[866]       turned to her elder son, who still stood in the throbbing
[867]       stinking car, and smiled at him with tenderness, and without
[868]       a word, turned away from him towards her flowers.
[869]       
[870]       "Mother," he called, "are you aware that Paul has been
[871]       playing the fool again?"
[872]       
[873]       "It's all right, dear. They have broken off the engagement."
[874]       
[875]       "Engagement--!"
[876]       
[877]       "They do not love any longer, if you prefer it put that
[878]       way," said Mrs. Wilcox, stooping down to smell a rose.
[879]       
[880]       
[881]       Chapter 4
[882]       
[883]       Helen and her aunt returned to Wickham Place in a state of
[884]       collapse, and for a little time Margaret had three invalids
[885]       on her hands. Mrs. Munt soon recovered. She possessed to a
[886]       remarkable degree the power of distorting the past, and
[887]       before many days were over she had forgotten the part played
[888]       by her own imprudence in the catastrophe. Even at the
[889]       crisis she had cried, "Thank goodness, poor Margaret is
[890]       saved this!" which during the journey to London evolved
[891]       into, "It had to be gone through by someone," which in its
[892]       turn ripened into the permanent form of "The one time I
[893]       really did help Emily's girls was over the Wilcox
[894]       business." But Helen was a more serious patient. New ideas
[895]       had burst upon her like a thunder clap, and by them and by
[896]       her reverberations she had been stunned.
[897]       
[898]       The truth was that she had fallen in love, not with an
[899]       individual, but with a family.
[900]       
[901]       Before Paul arrived she had, as it were, been tuned up
[902]       into his key. The energy of the Wilcoxes had fascinated
[903]       her, had created new images of beauty in her responsive
[904]       mind. To be all day with them in the open air, to sleep at
[905]       night under their roof, had seemed the supreme joy of life,
[906]       and had led to that abandonment of personality that is a
[907]       possible prelude to love. She had liked giving in to Mr.
[908]       Wilcox, or Evie, or Charles; she had liked being told that
[909]       her notions of life were sheltered or academic; that
[910]       Equality was nonsense, Votes for Women nonsense, Socialism
[911]       nonsense, Art and Literature, except when conducive to
[912]       strengthening the character, nonsense. One by one the
[913]       Schlegel fetiches had been overthrown, and, though
[914]       professing to defend them, she had rejoiced. When Mr.
[915]       Wilcox said that one sound man of business did more good to
[916]       the world than a dozen of your social reformers, she had
[917]       swallowed the curious assertion without a gasp, and had
[918]       leant back luxuriously among the cushions of his motor-car.
[919]       When Charles said, "Why be so polite to servants? they
[920]       don't understand it," she had not given the Schlegel retort
[921]       of, "If they don't understand it, I do." No; she had vowed
[922]       to be less polite to servants in the future. "I am swathed
[923]       in cant," she thought, "and it is good for me to be stripped
[924]       of it." And all that she thought or did or breathed was a
[925]       quiet preparation for Paul. Paul was inevitable. Charles
[926]       was taken up with another girl, Mr. Wilcox was so old, Evie
[927]       so young, Mrs. Wilcox so different. Round the absent
[928]       brother she began to throw the halo of Romance, to irradiate
[929]       him with all the splendour of those happy days, to feel that
[930]       in him she should draw nearest to the robust ideal. He and
[931]       she were about the same age, Evie said. Most people thought
[932]       Paul handsomer than his brother. He was certainly a better
[933]       shot, though not so good at golf. And when Paul appeared,
[934]       flushed with the triumph of getting through an examination,
[935]       and ready to flirt with any pretty girl, Helen met him
[936]       halfway, or more than halfway, and turned towards him on the
[937]       Sunday evening.
[938]       
[939]       He had been talking of his approaching exile in Nigeria,
[940]       and he should have continued to talk of it, and allowed
[941]       their guest to recover. But the heave of her bosom
[942]       flattered him. Passion was possible, and he became
[943]       passionate. Deep down in him something whispered, "This
[944]       girl would let you kiss her; you might not have such a
[945]       chance again."
[946]       
[947]       That was "how it happened," or, rather, how Helen
[948]       described it to her sister, using words even more
[949]       unsympathetic than my own. But the poetry of that kiss, the
[950]       wonder of it, the magic that there was in life for hours
[951]       after it--who can describe that? It is so easy for an
[952]       Englishman to sneer at these chance collisions of human
[953]       beings. To the insular cynic and the insular moralist they
[954]       offer an equal opportunity. It is so easy to talk of
[955]       "passing emotion," and how to forget how vivid the emotion
[956]       was ere it passed. Our impulse to sneer, to forget, is at
[957]       root a good one. We recognize that emotion is not enough,
[958]       and that men and women are personalities capable of
[959]       sustained relations, not mere opportunities for an
[960]       electrical discharge. Yet we rate the impulse too highly.
[961]       We do not admit that by collisions of this trivial sort the
[962]       doors of heaven may be shaken open. To Helen, at all
[963]       events, her life was to bring nothing more intense than the
[964]       embrace of this boy who played no part in it. He had drawn
[965]       her out of the house, where there was danger of surprise and
[966]       light; he had led her by a path he knew, until they stood
[967]       under the column of the vast wych-elm. A man in the
[968]       darkness, he had whispered "I love you" when she was
[969]       desiring love. In time his slender personality faded, the
[970]       scene that he had evoked endured. In all the variable years
[971]       that followed she never saw the like of it again.
[972]       
[973]       "I understand," said Margaret--"at least, I understand
[974]       as much as ever is understood of these things. Tell me now
[975]       what happened on the Monday morning."
[976]       
[977]       "It was over at once."
[978]       
[979]       "How, Helen?"
[980]       
[981]       "I was still happy while I dressed, but as I came
[982]       downstairs I got nervous, and when I went into the
[983]       dining-room I knew it was no good. There was Evie--I can't
[984]       explain--managing the tea-urn, and Mr. Wilcox reading the
[985]       TIMES."
[986]       
[987]       "Was Paul there?"
[988]       
[989]       "Yes; and Charles was talking to him about Stocks and
[990]       Shares, and he looked frightened."
[991]       
[992]       By slight indications the sisters could convey much to
[993]       each other. Margaret saw horror latent in the scene, and
[994]       Helen's next remark did not surprise her.
[995]       
[996]       "Somehow, when that kind of man looks frightened it is
[997]       too awful. It is all right for us to be frightened, or for
[998]       men of another sort--father, for instance; but for men like
[999]       that! When I saw all the others so placid, and Paul mad
[1000]      with terror in case I said the wrong thing, I felt for a
[1001]      moment that the whole Wilcox family was a fraud, just a wall
[1002]      of newspapers and motor-cars and golf-clubs, and that if it
[1003]      fell I should find nothing behind it but panic and
[1004]      emptiness. "
[1005]      
[1006]      "I don't think that. The Wilcoxes struck me as being
[1007]      genuine people, particularly the wife."
[1008]      
[1009]      "No, I don't really think that. But Paul was so
[1010]      broad-shouldered; all kinds of extraordinary things made it
[1011]      worse, and I knew that it would never do--never. I said to
[1012]      him after breakfast, when the others were practising
[1013]      strokes, 'We rather lost our heads,' and he looked better at
[1014]      once, though frightfully ashamed. He began a speech about
[1015]      having no money to marry on, but it hurt him to make it, and
[1016]      I--stopped him. Then he said, 'I must beg your pardon over
[1017]      this, Miss Schlegel; I can't think what came over me last
[1018]      night.' And I said, 'Nor what over me; never mind.' And then
[1019]      we parted--at least, until I remembered that I had written
[1020]      straight off to tell you the night before, and that
[1021]      frightened him again. I asked him to send a telegram for
[1022]      me, for he knew you would be coming or something; and he
[1023]      tried to get hold of the motor, but Charles and Mr. Wilcox
[1024]      wanted it to go to the station; and Charles offered to send
[1025]      the telegram for me, and then I had to say that the telegram
[1026]      was of no consequence, for Paul said Charles might read it,
[1027]      and though I wrote it out several times, he always said
[1028]      people would suspect something. He took it himself at last,
[1029]      pretending that he must walk down to get cartridges, and,
[1030]      what with one thing and the other, it was not handed in at
[1031]      the Post Office until too late. It was the most terrible
[1032]      morning. Paul disliked me more and more, and Evie talked
[1033]      cricket averages till I nearly screamed. I cannot think how
[1034]      I stood her all the other days. At last Charles and his
[1035]      father started for the station, and then came your telegram
[1036]      warning me that Aunt Juley was coming by that train, and
[1037]      Paul--oh, rather horrible--said that I had muddled it. But
[1038]      Mrs. Wilcox knew."
[1039]      
[1040]      "Knew what?"
[1041]      
[1042]      "Everything; though we neither of us told her a word,
[1043]      and had known all along, I think."
[1044]      
[1045]      "Oh, she must have overheard you."
[1046]      
[1047]      "I suppose so, but it seemed wonderful. When Charles and
[1048]      Aunt Juley drove up, calling each other names, Mrs. Wilcox
[1049]      stepped in from the garden and made everything less
[1050]      terrible. Ugh! but it has been a disgusting business. To
[1051]      think that--" She sighed.
[1052]      
[1053]      "To think that because you and a young man meet for a
[1054]      moment, there must be all these telegrams and anger,"
[1055]      supplied Margaret.
[1056]      
[1057]      Helen nodded.
[1058]      
[1059]      "I've often thought about it, Helen. It's one of the
[1060]      most interesting things in the world. The truth is that
[1061]      there is a great outer life that you and I have never
[1062]      touched--a life in which telegrams and anger count.
[1063]      Personal relations, that we think supreme, are not supreme
[1064]      there. There love means marriage settlements, death, death
[1065]      duties. So far I'm clear. But here my difficulty. This
[1066]      outer life, though obviously horrid, often seems the real
[1067]      one--there's grit in it. It does breed character. Do
[1068]      personal relations lead to sloppiness in the end?"
[1069]      
[1070]      "Oh, Meg, that's what I felt, only not so clearly, when
[1071]      the Wilcoxes were so competent, and seemed to have their
[1072]      hands on all the ropes. "
[1073]      
[1074]      "Don't you feel it now?"
[1075]      
[1076]      "I remember Paul at breakfast," said Helen quietly. "I
[1077]      shall never forget him. He had nothing to fall back upon.
[1078]      I know that personal relations are the real life, for ever
[1079]      and ever.
[1080]      
[1081]      "Amen!"
[1082]      
[1083]      So the Wilcox episode fell into the background, leaving
[1084]      behind it memories of sweetness and horror that mingled, and
[1085]      the sisters pursued the life that Helen had commended. They
[1086]      talked to each other and to other people, they filled the
[1087]      tall thin house at Wickham Place with those whom they liked
[1088]      or could befriend. They even attended public meetings. In
[1089]      their own fashion they cared deeply about politics, though
[1090]      not as politicians would have us care; they desired that
[1091]      public life should mirror whatever is good in the life
[1092]      within. Temperance, tolerance, and sexual equality were
[1093]      intelligible cries to them; whereas they did not follow our
[1094]      Forward Policy in Thibet with the keen attention that it
[1095]      merits, and would at times dismiss the whole British Empire
[1096]      with a puzzled, if reverent, sigh. Not out of them are the
[1097]      shows of history erected: the world would be a grey,
[1098]      bloodless place were it entirely composed of Miss
[1099]      Schlegels. But the world being what it is, perhaps they
[1100]      shine out in it like stars.
[1101]      
[1102]      A word on their origin. They were not "English to the
[1103]      backbone," as their aunt had piously asserted. But, on the
[1104]      other band, they were not "Germans of the dreadful sort."
[1105]      Their father had belonged to a type that was more prominent
[1106]      in Germany fifty years ago than now. He was not the
[1107]      aggressive German, so dear to the English journalist, nor
[1108]      the domestic German, so dear to the English wit. If one
[1109]      classed him at all it would be as the countryman of Hegel
[1110]      and Kant, as the idealist, inclined to be dreamy, whose
[1111]      Imperialism was the Imperialism of the air. Not that his
[1112]      life had been inactive. He had fought like blazes against
[1113]      Denmark, Austria, France. But he had fought without
[1114]      visualizing the results of victory. A hint of the truth
[1115]      broke on him after Sedan, when he saw the dyed moustaches of
[1116]      Napoleon going grey; another when he entered Paris, and saw
[1117]      the smashed windows of the Tuileries. Peace came--it was
[1118]      all very immense, one had turned into an Empire--but he knew
[1119]      that some quality had vanished for which not all
[1120]      Alsace-Lorraine could compensate him. Germany a commercial
[1121]      Power, Germany a naval Power, Germany with colonies here and
[1122]      a Forward Policy there, and legitimate aspirations in the
[1123]      other place, might appeal to others, and be fitly served by
[1124]      them; for his own part, he abstained from the fruits of
[1125]      victory, and naturalized himself in England. The more
[1126]      earnest members of his family never forgave him, and knew
[1127]      that his children, though scarcely English of the dreadful
[1128]      sort, would never be German to the backbone. He had
[1129]      obtained work in one of our provincial Universities, and
[1130]      there married Poor Emily (or Die Englanderin as the case may
[1131]      be), and as she had money, they proceeded to London, and
[1132]      came to know a good many people. But his gaze was always
[1133]      fixed beyond the sea. It was his hope that the clouds of
[1134]      materialism obscuring the Fatherland would part in time, and
[1135]      the mild intellectual light re-emerge. "Do you imply that
[1136]      we Germans are stupid, Uncle Ernst?" exclaimed a haughty and
[1137]      magnificent nephew. Uncle Ernst replied, "To my mind. You
[1138]      use the intellect, but you no longer care about it. That I
[1139]      call stupidity." As the haughty nephew did not follow, he
[1140]      continued, "You only care about the' things that you can
[1141]      use, and therefore arrange them in the following order:
[1142]      Money, supremely useful; intellect, rather useful;
[1143]      imagination, of no use at all. No"--for the other had
[1144]      protested--"your Pan-Germanism is no more imaginative than
[1145]      is our Imperialism over here. It is the vice of a vulgar
[1146]      mind to be thrilled by bigness, to think that a thousand
[1147]      square miles are a thousand times more wonderful than one
[1148]      square mile, and that a million square miles are almost the
[1149]      same as heaven. That is not imagination. No, it kills it.
[1150]      When their poets over here try to