E. M. Forster: Howards End

22. CHAPTER XXII (continued)

"You seem to think--" He looked at his watch. "Let me explain the point to you. It is like this. You seem to assume, when a business concern is conducting a delicate negotiation, it ought to keep the public informed stage by stage. The Porphyrion, according to you, was bound to say, 'I am trying all I can to get into the Tariff Ring. I am not sure that I shall succeed, but it is the only thing that will save me from insolvency, and I am trying.' My dear Helen--"

"Is that your point? A man who had little money has less--that's mine."

"I am grieved for your clerk. But it is all in the days work. It's part of the battle of life."

"A man who had little money--, "she repeated, "has less, owing to us. Under these circumstances I consider 'the battle of life' a happy expression.

"Oh come, come!" he protested pleasantly. 'you're not to blame. No one's to blame."

"Is no one to blame for anything?"

"I wouldn't say that, but you're taking it far too seriously. Who is this fellow?"

"We have told you about the fellow twice already," said Helen. "You have even met the fellow. He is very poor and his wife is an extravagant imbecile. He is capable of better things. We--we, the upper classes--thought we would help him from the height of our superior knowledge--and here's the result!"

He raised his finger. "Now, a word of advice."

"I require no more advice."

"A word of advice. Don't take up that sentimental attitude over the poor. See that she doesn't, Margaret. The poor are poor, and one's sorry for them, but there it is. As civilisation moves forward, the shoe is bound to pinch in places, and it's absurd to pretend that any one is responsible personally. Neither you, nor I, nor my informant, nor the man who informed him, nor the directors of the Porphyrion, are to blame for this clerk's loss of salary. It's just the shoe pinching--no one can help it; and it might easily have been worse."

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