It's a beautiful day in Hilton, and the narrator ominously tells us that it's the last happy day Margaret will have for a while. She walks through the village, and as she does, the narrator muses about England and Englishness (we should be used to this by now), wondering why England doesn't have a national mythology.
Margaret gets to the Avery farm, where she stops to pick up the keys to Howards End. She's met by Miss Avery's young niece, who seems to hold her in great respect. Since Miss Avery is at Howards End (apparently she spends a lot of time there), the young lady insists on walking Margaret to the house.
Miss Avery is indeed at Howards End, and she's locked herself in. She sends her embarrassed niece, Madge, away, but lets Margaret into the house.
Miss Avery politely and sanely invites Margaret in, and she's alarmed to see that all of the furnishings of the house are her own. Miss Avery has even hung up the Schlegels' father's sword, which seems like rather an odd choice.
Margaret tries to explain that the cases were meant to stay packed up, and that they're not moving into the house.
Miss Avery simply states that the house has been empty for too long, and Margaret does her best to reason with the stubborn old lady.
There's some confusion about the "Mrs. Wilcoxes" that Miss Avery keeps referring to – is she referring to Ruth or Margaret? One thing is clear: she thinks that the house belongs to Mrs. Wilcox, whichever one.
Miss Avery walks Margaret through the house, which is almost completely furnished with the Schlegel belongings. Margaret protests that she and Mr. Wilcox aren't going to live at Howards End, but Miss Avery is not to be dissuaded – she says ominously that Margaret doesn't think she'll ever live at Howards End, but she will. She oddly states that Margaret has been living there for the last ten minutes. Seriously weird.
Miss Avery mocks the Wilcoxes for their hay fever – they're unfit to live in the country. She admits that Wilcoxes are better than nothing, but she clearly has real disdain for them.
For Ruth Wilcox and her family, the Howards, however, Miss Avery has great affection and respect. She thinks that Ruth shouldn't ever have married Henry; instead, she says, her old friend should have married "a real soldier," a statement that obliquely criticizes Mr. Wilcox.
Margaret tells Miss Avery once more that they're not moving in to Howards End, then makes her excuses and goes back to London, where Mr. Wilcox has some suggestions about what to do with the furniture.
Before she can sort it all out, though, she has an unfortunate surprise.