The old woman who startled Margaret at Howards End was Miss Avery, a former friend of Ruth’s who lives on the farm next door and keeps the keys to the house for the Wilcoxes. Henry dismisses her prowling around the house as the harmless stupidity of the uneducated. He shows Margaret around Howards End and explains that the days of small farms have ended. To save some of the value of his wife’s property, he had to sell off the animals, thin out the trees, and build an addition onto the house. Margaret loves him for saving it. She’s enchanted by the English-ness of the house and the great wych-elm bending over it. In the ancient tree, she finds the old pigs’ teeth that Ruth once told her were planted to cure toothache.
While Ruth Wilcox was alive, she was friends with Miss Avery, but the rest of her family looks down on the old spinster and farmwoman. Henry looks down on the work of farming, and only took the trouble to save Howards End for his wife’s sake. Saving the property meant getting rid of much of its farming legacy, but enough of its ancient heritage has survived to please Margaret.