Margaret and Helen reconcile before Margaret leaves for Howards End, and Helen agrees to be civil to Henry in company, at least. Margaret meets Henry at his offices for the Imperial and West Africa Rubber Company. He has given her only the vaguest impression of his work, and seeing the office doesn’t enlighten much. To her displeasure, they travel to Hilton by car. She worries about how close they come to hitting chickens and children in the road. Henry tells her not to fear, and to look at the scenery if she doesn’t want to look at the road. But to her, the scenery “heaved and merged like porridge.” They lunch at Dolly’s house, then drive the short distance to Howards End.
All that matters to Margaret is that Helen agrees not to fight with her fiancé anymore. She is set on marrying Henry, no matter his flaws. Her opinion of his character is like her opinion of England’s empire: overly trusting and idealistic. Her instincts regarding Henry and his colonial business may be dubious, but she distrusts his dangerous driving, conscious on at least some level of the perils in his passion for rapid advancement at the expense of safety and moderation.
After Henry drops her off and drives over to get the key from the neighboring farmhouse, Margaret discovers that the house is unlocked, and she enters alone. The empty house is still dirty from the tenant’s hasty exit, but she loves it. She finds the cozy, sturdy rooms to be an antidote to the nauseating motor trip, and recalls her father’s anti-Imperial philosophy: “ten square miles are not ten times as wonderful as one square mile … a thousand square miles are not practically the same as heaven.” She hears another sound from within the house, and discovers an old woman coming down from the second floor, who claims to have mistaken her for Ruth Wilcox.
Margaret is fated to enter Howards End on her own terms, and form her own impression of the place. She is quickly enchanted by the modest, durable home and its long history. Ruth’s old farm-house is the material opposite of Henry’s expensive, new-fangled car. It reawakens in Margaret an awareness of life’s simpler blessings and virtues that are neglected by imperial ambition. When she is mistaken for Ruth Wilcox, it is because she has arrived to claim Ruth’s spiritual legacy at last.