Ruth Wilcox calls upon the Schlegels just before Helen leaves for Germany, going against English custom that the newcomer should wait to be called upon. Rather than call upon her in turn, Margaret writes her a letter to say that it would be best if the two families ended their acquaintance after all the trouble that occurred last summer. She apologizes for the discourtesy, claiming only that Helen and Paul should not meet again.
Ruth demonstrates that she isn’t afraid to be unorthodox and defy convention. Margaret admires her, but is wary of the Wilcox charm that may again seduce Helen into a foolish infatuation. Helen has sworn she will never renew her old feelings for Paul Wilcox, but Margaret believes she knows best.
Mrs. Wilcox replies that Margaret should not have written such a letter, because she had called to say that Paul has left for Nigeria. Margaret feels terrible for having forgotten that Paul would be leaving to work abroad that fall, and for having been so rude. She rushes over to apologize to Mrs. Wilcox in person, and they share a companionable conversation. Mrs. Wilcox is lying in bed, tired out from the recent wedding of Charles and Dolly. She sounds liveliest when she talks about Howards End, which was her childhood home.
Ruth Wilcox calls out Margaret for her rudeness, refusing to take the snub quietly. Margaret sincerely feels sorry, and readily admits her mistake. The honesty between the two women thereafter lays the foundation for a close friendship. Ruth’s evident passion for telling Margaret about Howards End signals that the house will be very meaningful to their friendship.