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38. CHAPTER XXXVIII
The tragedy began quietly enough, and, like many another talk, by the man's deft assertion of his superiority. Henry heard her arguing with the driver, stepped out and settled the fellow, who was inclined to be rude, and then led the way to some chairs on the lawn. Dolly, who had not been "told," ran out with offers of tea. He refused them, and ordered them to wheel baby's perambulator away, as they desired to be alone.
"But the diddums can't listen; he isn't nine months old," she pleaded.
"That's not what I was saying," retorted her father-in-law.
Baby was wheeled out of earshot, and did not hear about the crisis till later years. It was now the turn of Margaret.
"Is it what we feared?" he asked.
"Dear girl," he began, "there is a troublesome business ahead of us, and nothing but the most absolute honesty and plain speech will see us through." Margaret bent her head. "I am obliged to question you on subjects we'd both prefer to leave untouched. As you know, I am not one of your Bernard Shaws who consider nothing sacred. To speak as I must will pain me, but there are occasions -- We are husband and wife, not children. I am a man of the world, and you are a most exceptional woman."
All Margaret's senses forsook her. She blushed, and looked past him at the Six Hills, covered with spring herbage. Noting her colour, he grew still more kind.
"I see that you feel as I felt when-- My poor little wife! Oh, be brave! Just one or two questions, and I have done with you. Was your sister wearing a wedding-ring?"
Margaret stammered a "No."
There was an appalling silence.
"Henry, I really came to ask a favour about Howards End."
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