Margaret talks with Henry at Charles’s house. Henry says he told Charles about Helen and Charles has gone to talk to Tibby. He asks Margaret if Helen was wearing a wedding ring, and she says no. He then asks if Helen told her the name of her “seducer,” and Margaret says she did not even ask Helen such a thing. She asks Henry if he intends to make Helen’s lover marry her, and he says yes. She asks him what he would do if Helen’s lover turned out to be married, and he says he would make the fellow “pay heavily.” Margaret had meant for Henry to realize his hypocrisy in being so scandalized by Helen’s affair when he himself had an affair when he was married to Ruth Wilcox, but he didn’t realize she was baiting him.
Predictably, Henry has determined that the men of the two families must get to the bottom of Helen’s mysterious pregnancy and settle the matter. Margaret, meanwhile, respected her sister’s privacy absolutely and did not ask how she became pregnant. Henry does not recognize the hypocrisy of betraying Helen’s privacy after he himself had an affair with an unmarried woman which Margaret and Helen treated with discretion. He rails against the man who could have slept with Helen without doing the right thing and marrying her and he can’t see the irony.
Margaret asks Henry if Helen may stay the night at Howards End. He refuses, saying he does not understand why Helen wants to stay there, and he fears that if she stays one night, she may feel entitled to stay for longer. He also feels that harboring a woman pregnant out of wedlock will damage his reputation. As Margaret’s husband, he would naturally like to help Helen; nonetheless, he says, “I cannot treat her as if nothing has happened.” Margaret asks her husband to forgive Helen as he has been forgiven. He ignores her meaning and insists that he has “the memory of my dear wife to consider” in regards to the sanctity of Howards End. Margaret cannot bear his hypocrisy, and demands, “Only say to yourself, ‘What Helen has done, I’ve done.’” He still refuses to recognize what she means and declares that she and Helen do not have his permission to sleep over at Howards End.
As Margaret feared, Henry cannot look past his limited, self-interested mindset to grant Helen any small kindness before she begins her hard life as an ostracized unwed mother. He refuses to see that he is treating Helen by an outrageous double standard when he committed the same transgression—he arguably behaved worse, since he was married to Ruth at the time of his affair. He is so oblivious that he dares to claim that granting Helen the right to stay at Howards End would sully Ruth’s memory, when he already committed the ultimate insult against her.