'Howards End' Recap: Part 4
February 2, 2020
That evening from her guestroom at Oniton Grange, Margaret attempts to write to Henry, forgiving him for his past transgression with Jacky—but she can’t find the words. Deciding to confront Henry face to face instead, she writes to Leonard, telling him bluntly that there is nothing Henry can do for him; and to Helen, telling her to forget the Basts (“they’re no good”) – Margaret promises to try to help them privately if she can, but Helen is to join them at Oniton at once.
The next morning at breakfast, a downcast Henry tells Margaret that she is too sheltered to grasp the enormity of his shame; denying it, she insists that she understands and will not hold his past against him, and they reconcile.
Helen doesn’t go to Oniton, but she does burst in on Tibby back at Wickham Place. She will soon be off to Germany and, conscience-stricken, asks him for a favor: after she’s gone, he is to deliver a check for five thousand pounds to the Basts. Tibby is aghast (it’s more than a half-million pounds in today’s money), but Helen believes this is a fair restitution. Very reluctantly, Tibby agrees to do as she asks.
His pride wounded, Leonard stubbornly returns the check…and over several months, keeps returning it despite several attempts by Tibby to deliver it at Helen’s repeated urgings. Tibby finally goes to the Basts’ flat in person, but they have moved with no forwarding address. Exasperated, he advises Helen to find a better investment for her money.
Margaret writes to Helen that she and Henry have been married with just Tibby, Aunt Juley, Charles, and Percy Carhill as witnesses. She is hurt that Helen didn’t attend the wedding and wonders why she is evidently staying in Germany indefinitely.
As Tibby has left for Oxford and demolition of the flat on Wickham Place is imminent, Henry agrees to let the Schlegels temporarily warehouse their furnishings at Howards End, while he and Margaret build an entirely new home in Sussex. But Margaret is alarmed to learn from Dolly that the caretaker Miss Avery has unpacked and distributed their furniture and belongings throughout the house, as if they are moving in. Margaret hurries down to Howards End and discovers that it’s true – right down to her late father’s ceremonial sword mounted over the fireplace. As she attempts to convince Miss Avery that there has been a misunderstanding, Margaret is awestruck by how perfectly everything fits – as if it were meant to be. Still, she insists that she and Henry will not be living at Howards End. Miss Avery smiles enigmatically, contradicting her: “You are living here now.”
At Swanage, Aunt Juley lies ill in bed with pneumonia. Tibby and Margaret send Helen an urgent telegram: come back to England at once. But as Aunt Juley improves, Helen writes that she won’t come, wishes them to communicate solely through her banker, and asks to go down to Howards End when nobody is there to retrieve a few of her books. Baffled by Helen’s odd behavior and worried about what it could mean, Margaret and Tibby appeal to Henry for advice.
At Henry’s office, he and Charles immediately jump to the conclusion that Helen has become mentally unbalanced, and Henry suggests that they ambush her with a doctor when she arrives at Howards End. Charles feels strongly that they should keep Howards End out of the equation, but Henry harshly shuts him down. Margaret is loathe to trick Helen in this way, but can’t think of an alternative. As she and Tibby leave, Leonard catches sight of them on the street, but fails to get their attention. We watch as he searches all over London for Helen.
As Henry and an apprehensive Margaret pull up in front of Howards End with the doctor, Margaret leaps out of the car and runs ahead. Helen, waiting outside the front door, turns around, and the reason for her long absence is suddenly apparent: she is pregnant.
Blocking Helen from his sight, Margaret implores Henry to stay back and frantically bundles Helen into the house, locking the two of them inside. She begs Helen’s forgiveness for the ruse, then goes out to reason with Henry as the doctor, Charles, and the chauffeur lurk in the drive. They must all go away while she alone deals with Helen.
Later, leaving Helen alone in the house, Margaret relays a request to Henry: Helen would like to spend the night in Margaret’s company at Howards End before returning to Germany the next morning. Henry is vehemently opposed to the idea, asking for confirmation that Helen is pregnant and unmarried. Margaret admits it, and Henry demands to know “the name of her seducer” so that the man can either be forced to marry Helen or “be thrashed within an inch of his life.” Margaret urges Henry to forgive Helen for what she has done, just as Henry himself has been forgiven for what happened with Jacky Bast. Undeterred, Henry forbids Helen and Margaret to stay, and Margaret defies him: she and Helen camp out at Howards End anyway, and Helen confesses that she hopes never to see Leonard again. She will raise the child herself abroad.
Meanwhile at Oxford, an incensed Charles interrogates Tibby about the identity of Helen’s lover, and Leonard Bast’s name slips out. Charles reports back to his father, who instructs him to return to Howards End in the morning and turn Helen and Margaret out, “of course, without using violence.”
Leonard, having learned that the Schlegels might be at Howards End, leaves Jacky at their flat and makes the trip down to the house. Finding a way inside, he comes upon Charles, Margaret, and Helen furiously arguing. “Mr. Bast!” exclaims Margaret, astonished. Hearing the name of Helen’s “seducer,” Charles flies into an even bigger rage, ignoring his father’s dictum and throttling Leonard. “Where’s a stick?” Charles cries, and catching sight of the sword over the fireplace, he grabs it. As Margaret and Helen scream and try to intervene, Charles smashes Leonard with the flat edge of the sword several times, driving him backward into a tall, heavy bookcase. As its contents rain down on Leonard, the bookcase topples over with a thunderous crash and crushes him to death.
A couple of days later on the lawn, Margaret coolly hands Henry the keys to Howards End; she cannot forgive him for his treatment of her and Helen. She will accompany her sister to Germany, and their marriage is over. Quietly, Henry asks Margaret if she knows what the inquest verdict will be. Leonard had heart disease, Margaret replies, and would have died anyway. No, Henry tells her: Charles will be convicted of manslaughter, and despite all his efforts and influence, will go to prison. Henry breaks down completely in front of her. “I don’t know what to do. I’m broken. I’m ended!” he sobs uncontrollably. Margaret is at a crossroads…
…as we cut to 14 months later, on a beautiful summer afternoon at Howards End. Margaret, Helen, and her flaxen-haired son are ensconced on a blanket on the lawn. All is serene, and evidently, Helen and Henry have patched up their differences. Margaret’s strength and resolve saved them all, Helen tells her.
In the drawing room, Henry is discussing his will with Evie, Paul, and Dolly as Margaret listens, sewing. “Is this going to suit everyone?” asks Henry. Begrudgingly, they acquiesce: Henry will divide his entire fortune between them, and at Margaret’s request, will leave her no money – only Howards End. Just as well, Dolly concedes, as she and Charles will need to move to some distant place after he is released from prison. Foolishly, she adds, “How odd that Mrs. Wilcox should have left Margaret Howards End all that time ago, and now she gets it after all!”
Once they are alone, Margaret gently asks Henry what Dolly meant, and he tells her the truth of what happened. “I didn’t do wrong, did I?” he asks. “Nothing has been done wrong,” Margaret assures him. Happily, they head outdoors to join a blissful Helen, carrying her son, on a carefree stroll through the meadow. For the Schlegels and Wilcoxes, at least, everything has come right in the end.