Back at Howards End, Miss Avery laments that Leonard died without even knowing that he was going to be a father. The doctor comes to the house, and he agrees that Leonard died of heart disease. The police also arrive and question Margaret about Leonard and Charles. She doesn’t feel Charles to be responsible for Leonard’s heart attack in any way: “No doubt Mr. Wilcox may have induced death […] but if it wasn’t one thing it would have been another as you know,” she tells the police.
Leonard made it to Howards End, the place where it could finally be possible to “connect without bitterness until all men are brothers,” but there was no fraternal compassion between him and Charles. Tragically, Charles killed him before he could learn that Helen was going to have his child, but Helen never wanted to tell him to begin with, so that’s not solely Charles’s fault. Nor is Leonard’s death solely Charles’s fault, Margaret believes, perhaps feeling responsible for her role in the circumstances that brought Helen, Leonard, and Charles together in a fatal confrontation.
Helen stays one night longer at the Averys’ farm, over the initial objections of Miss Avery’s socially-conscious niece. After the police inquest, Helen plans to leave for Germany, where she can live without as much social stigma. Margaret plans to accompany her sister and help her raise her child. She is unable to forgive Henry after his outrageous hypocrisy and refusal to empathize with Helen. In turn, she certainly isn’t going to ask his forgiveness for the blunt speech she gave him. She considers that her forceful words were addressed “not only to her husband, but to thousands of men like him—a protest against the inner darkness in high places that comes with a commercial age.”
Modern times have made even the people who live on English farms conscious of societal norms. Germany is apparently more progressive, or at least Helen can live in anonymity there. Margaret, long tolerant of Henry’s rampant sexism, has finally lost her patience with men’s oppressive double standards for themselves and their women. She connects her husband’s delusions about gender with his general willful ignorance about the world, encouraged by his commercial perspective.
Henry summons Margaret to Charles’s house, where she returns the keys to Howards End and tells him she is leaving him after the inquest. He tells her that Charles will surely be found guilty of manslaughter, and says, “I don’t know what to do—what to do. I’m broken—I’m ended.” Indeed, Charles is sentenced to three years in jail. “It was against all reason that he should be punished,” the narrator states. Henry breaks down and asks Margaret to help him rebuild his life. She takes him back to Howards End.
Henry is so utterly devastated by the idea of his son being charged and locked away that he is able to humble himself to ask Margaret for her help. The verdict is shocking to everyone, perhaps because they share Charles’s confidence that his assault wasn’t to blame for Leonard’s existing fatal heart condition. Leonard’s premature heart disease is a symptom of his poverty—lifelong poor nutrition, periods of starvation, extended exposure to pollution—which is the fault of everyone complicit in such a system. Charles is just the first person to finally be held accountable for it.