Two years pass, and the Schlegels must move out of Wickham Place in nine months. The city of London is a site of “continual flux,” surging with endless construction and demolition and expanding ever farther into the countryside. This urbanization comes at a cost: “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.”
Forster associates London with destructive flux and impermanence. The modern city has no regard for the past, and its inhabitants discard nature as they rush heedlessly forward into a noisy, smelly, industrialized future. The Schlegel children must leave the home where they’ve lived since they were born, due to an opportunistic landlord seeking to capitalize on the city’s profitable transformation.
Tibby returns from Oxford for Easter, and Margaret urges him to choose a profession to pursue. Tibby is reluctant to take up any profession, but Margaret defends the virtues of regular, honest work. “I hope that for women, too, ‘not to work’ will soon become as shocking as ‘not to be married’ was a hundred years ago,” she declares. She expresses admiration for Paul Wilcox, who has worked so industriously in Nigeria. Tibby scoffs.
Tibby doesn’t need to earn an income to provide for himself or his sisters, so he has no desire to work. Margaret approves of work for its own sake, and believes that progress for women should include full participation in the work forces. She champions Paul Wilcox’s work in Nigeria as an example of her industrious philosophy, praising his efforts to build up the British Empire. Evidently, she does not share her father’s strong distaste for empires.
Helen interrupts Tibby and Margaret to exclaim that a poor woman has just visited the house, asking for her missing husband, “Lan or Len.” Helen thinks the visit from “Mrs. Lanoline” a riot, while Margaret worries about what “horrible volcano smoking” this latest foreboding “goblin footfall” may portend.
Helen is thrilled to think that the family might be involved in the mysterious scandal of strangers. Margaret, more realistically, dreads what miseries of the poor they may become entangled with.