E. M. Forster: Howards End

18. CHAPTER XVIII (continued)

They proceeded to the drawing-room. Chelsea managed better here. It was sallow and ineffective. One could visualise the ladies withdrawing to it, while their lords discussed life's realities below, to the accompaniment of cigars. Had Mrs. Wilcox's drawing-room at Howards End looked thus? Just as this thought entered Margaret's brain, Mr. Wilcox did ask her to be his wife, and the knowledge that she had been right so overcame her that she nearly fainted.

But the proposal was not to rank among the world's great love scenes.

"Miss Schlegel"--his voice was firm--"I have had you up on false pretences. I want to speak about a much more serious matter than a house."

Margaret almost answered: "I know--"

"Could you be induced to share my--is it probable--"

"Oh, Mr. Wilcox!" she interrupted, taking hold of the piano and averting her eyes. "I see, I see. I will write to you afterwards if I may."

He began to stammer. "Miss Schlegel--Margaret you don't understand."

"Oh yes! Indeed, yes!" said Margaret.

"I am asking you to be my wife."

So deep already was her sympathy, that when he said, "I am asking you to be my wife," she made herself give a little start. She must show surprise if he expected it. An immense joy came over her. It was indescribable. It had nothing to do with humanity, and most resembled the all-pervading happiness of fine weather. Fine weather is due to the sun, but Margaret could think of no central radiance here. She stood in his drawing-room happy, and longing to give happiness. On leaving him she realised that the central radiance had been love.

"You aren't offended, Miss Schlegel?"

"How could I be offended?"

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