Margaret and Helen talk at Howards End, each repenting for their part in the disastrous confrontation at Evie’s wedding. Helen admits the danger of “isolat[ing]” to extremes, acknowledging, “I isolated Mr. Wilcox from the other forces that were pulling Leonard downhill.” Margaret apologizes for rashly writing such dismissive letters that night, and concedes that it was wrong of her to have dismissed the Basts.
Margaret and Helen defy Henry’s will and stay at Howards End, but Helen has lost her principled outrage against the Wilcoxes. She says that she was wrong to blame Henry alone for Leonard’s misfortune. In turn, Margaret says that she was wrong to send the Basts away when they needed help. Unlike people like Henry, they are able to recognize and sincerely apologize for their mistakes.
Helen replies that it was not wrong: “It is right to save the man whom one loves. I am less enthusiastic about justice now.” She describes how overwrought she was by the time she got Margaret’s letters, and how dismayed she was to learn of Leonard’s dual humiliation at Henry’s hands. She explains that she does not love Leonard, however; on the contrary, she says, “I want never to see him again, though it sounds appalling. I wanted to give him money and feel finished.” She invites Margaret to leave for Germany with her, and Margaret considers it.
Helen unexpectedly takes Margaret’s side, saying that Margaret was right to abandon the Basts and rescue her marriage. Perhaps now that she has lost her respectability, she is more conscious of it. Or, perhaps now that sleeping with Leonard has cost her that respectability, she is less sympathetic to him. Either way, her apparent loss of compassion for him is chilling. Now that the Schlegels are embarrassed by their friendship with Leonard—which they repeatedly encouraged despite his wariness—they no longer care about him.