As Henry predicted, Margaret was indeed unaware of Mrs. Wilcox’s wish for her to inherit Howards End. She wouldn’t learn of it until years later, the narrator notes. Had she heard of it sooner, she, too, would have dismissed the will as the fancy of an ill woman. She reflects on the time she spent with the surviving Wilcoxes in the final week of Mrs. Wilcox’s life, and she concludes that while they tend to be “suspicious and stupid,” they nonetheless “had grit … and she valued grit enormously.” She believes that their life of “telegrams and anger” cultivates “such virtues as neatness, decision, and obedience,” virtues from which civilization as well as character are formed.
The idea that Margaret would also have rejected Ruth Wilcox’s desire for her to have Howards End speaks to the undeniable peculiarity of Ruth’s last-minute message. It was a request that could not be understood according to any logic of the “outer life” of order and reason, but could only make sense in terms of the “inner life” of unrestrained emotion and unspoken spiritual communication. Margaret still gives credit to the “outer life” that the rest of the Wilcoxes represent, and so she fails to grasp the significance of Ruth’s message.
Helen returns from her marvelous trip to Germany, pleased to have received another flattering marriage proposal while she was there, despite having no interest in the man. Tibby is pleased by his recent visit and interview at Oxford. It has been barely six months since Helen and Paul’s ill-fated engagement.
The Wilcox family and the Schlegel family have crossed paths a great many times in the past half year, but they are set to retreat into their own lives once more. Helen has had a new proposal to finally forget Paul’s.