by E.M. Forster
Howards End Chapter 17 Summary
- Margaret is still worried about the housing problem – what will she do with her siblings and all of their things next September when they're kicked out of Wickham Place? Losing the house they grew up in is like losing a kind of spiritual balance.
- The siblings are due to visit Aunt Juley in Swanage, and Margaret really wants to fix the situation before they leave. But London doesn't seem to have anything to offer.
- One day, Evie invites Margaret to dine at Simpson's, a famously traditional restaurant that Margaret had jokingly complained about never having been to. Margaret's a little confused as to why Evie would ask her, instead of Helen, but she goes in good faith, thinking that they'll get to know each other better.
- Evie and her fiancé, Percy Cahill, are waiting for her at the restaurant. Margaret immediately feels patronized by them and feels like an old maid.
- Lo and behold, it's not just the three of them – Mr. Wilcox also turns up for lunch. He and Margaret fall into a conversation as Evie and Percy chat lovingly to each other. We learn that Mr. Wilcox used to have business in the East (Greece and Cyprus), and we wonder what he used to get up to there.
- Margaret enlists Mr. Wilcox's help in finding a house, to no avail.
- During lunch, Margaret observes a kind of English society – imperialist, capitalist, and masculine – that is totally unlike that which she's familiar with. Mr. Wilcox himself is extremely domineering, and takes a firm hand with telling her what to order for lunch.
- The conversation turns to Margaret's crowd and her beliefs. She jokes that Mr. Wilcox should come and have lunch with her at her friend Eustace Miles's, where the conversation is all about health food and auras. They chat a bit about spirituality, and he confirms – with some concern – that she doesn't actually believe in auras and astral planes.
- Margaret turns the conversation to Howards End, as she always seems to do. She asks if Mr. Wilcox might be able to rent it to the Schlegels, but alas, it's impossible.
- They talk about Leonard as well, and Margaret is disturbed by how well Mr. Wilcox seems to understand her. Their views on money, though they come from different philosophies, seem to converge.
- After lunch, Margaret leaves the Wilcoxes. She suspects that lunch was Mr. Wilcox's plan all along, and wonders why he's seeking further intimacy with her.
- Margaret actually takes Mr. Wilcox (and Tibby, for propriety's sake) to lunch at Eustace Miles's.
- The Schlegels depart for Aunt Juley's, without having found a house.