Mrs. Wilcox asks Margaret to join her in shopping for Christmas presents one morning. Margaret is a great help to Mrs. Wilcox, who struggles to navigate the crowded stores and decide on gifts. Margaret mentions that in the future the Schlegels will have to celebrate Christmas in a new home, once their lease on Wickham Place expires. Mrs. Wilcox is very upset to hear that they will be forced to leave their childhood home. It makes her think of her beloved Howards End, and she invites Margaret to visit there that very day. Margaret observes that the weather looks poor and Mrs. Wilcox looks tired, and politely declines the sudden proposal. Mrs. Wilcox seems offended by her rejection, and they part at odds with one another.
Margaret takes charge for Ruth Wilcox, who evidently lacks her husband’s cold efficiency. Margaret organizes their errand like she organizes her household, experienced from taking care of things for her less responsible siblings. She prepares to efficiently locate a new home for them, without the powerful melancholy that Mrs. Wilcox indulges. When Mrs. Wilcox impulsively invites her to visit Howards End, her practical instinct leads her to turn down the offer. Mrs. Wilcox fails to understand Margaret’s sensible logic, expecting her friend to be more flexible.
Over lunch, Margaret changes her mind, having understood 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.” She surprises Mrs. Wilcox at the train station, but they are surprised in turn by the unexpected appearance of Henry and Evie, who have returned early from their motor trip to Yorkshire after Henry crashed the car. The trip to Howards End is forgotten.
Mrs. Wilcox was not entirely wrong—Margaret does eventually understand the depth of her feeling for her home, and is willing to spontaneously join her on a visit there, after all. Unfortunately, Ruth’s familial duties come first yet again, and she abandons her trip home to rejoin her husband and daughter. She hates London, and never would have left Howards End to begin with, but she loves her husband and agrees to move to the city for his sake. Oblivious Henry, in turn, fails to see how much his wife misses her home.