Margaret goes down to the town of Hilton to see what has become of her stored belongings at Howards End. She walks from the train to the Averys’ farm to retrieve the keys to Howards End from Miss Avery. She admires the timeless, undisturbed countryside she observes along the way, and is rather disappointed to find that Miss Avery’s niece, running the family farm with her husband, has learned to be highly conscious of refined manners rather than naturally frank. The fields, with their cycles of planting and harvesting, life and death, give Margaret the impression of melancholy and cheerfulness simultaneously. She feels that “In these English farms, if anywhere, one might see life steadily and see it whole … connect without bitterness until all men are brothers.”
Margaret goes to see for herself what’s going on with her belongings. She exercises her own will instead of her husband’s by forgoing a car and walking by herself, which Henry always disapproved of. She enjoys the escape from Henry’s frustratingly conventional preferences and their fast-paced urban lifestyle. Inspired by her natural surroundings, she longs for more genuine and less formal relationships. The fertile fields and pastures that Forster portrays are part of his romanticized vision of agricultural England, where there is enough for everyone and people live in harmony with the most fundamental rhythms of life.
Miss Avery’s niece, Madge, takes Margaret to meet Miss Avery at Howards End, telling Margaret how her aunt has become more eccentric lately and now spends quite a lot of time there, in the house that once belonged to her old friend. Inside the house, Margaret discovers what Miss Avery has been doing with all her free time: she has unpacked and carefully laid out all the furniture being kept there, as if the Schlegels were living there. Margaret insists that she and Henry are not moving into Howards End, but into a much larger house in Sussex, where they can host the big parties that they are “oblige[d]” to give. However, Miss Avery doesn’t seem to believe her.
The Wilcoxes’ provocation of Miss Avery has made her miss her old friend Ruth more than ever, and she believes that Margaret will be another Ruth, resistant to the Wilcox mindset. She represents Ruth’s will to give Howards End to Margaret to live in, which Henry still hasn’t told Margaret about. Margaret argues that Howards End cannot fulfill her and Henry’s needs, referring to the social demands on them to host extravagant parties. One could say that the outer life of “invitations and menus” has overtaken Margaret’s inner emotional life.
Margaret politely tours Howards End with Miss Avery, and notes that her furniture and possessions suit the house nicely. She admires the meadow behind the house, and Miss Avery laughs at the Wilcoxes’ hay fever. Miss Avery predicts that the house will be inhabited again in a matter of weeks, but Margaret repeats firmly that they are not coming. She takes the keys from Miss Avery and makes plans to move everything into a real storage facility.
Margaret can’t help but notice how well her belongings fit Howards End. Miss Avery takes satisfaction from how ill-suited the Wilcoxes are to country life, with their highly symbolic allergies to the fertile outdoors. Margaret is still not won over to the idea of moving into Howards End, and she shuts Miss Avery out of the house.