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24. CHAPTER XXIV (continued)
"But Charles said I must try not to mind, because she had known his grandmother."
"As usual, you've got the story wrong, my good Dorothea."
"I meant great-grandmother--the one who left Mrs. Wilcox the house. Weren't both of them and Miss Avery friends when Howards End, too, was a farm?"
Her father-in-law blew out a shaft of smoke. His attitude to his dead wife was curious. He would allude to her, and hear her discussed, but never mentioned her by name. Nor was he interested in the dim, bucolic past. Dolly was--for the following reason.
"Then hadn't Mrs. Wilcox a brother--or was it an uncle? Anyhow, he popped the question, and Miss Avery, she said `No.' Just imagine, if she'd said 'Yes,' she would have been Charles's aunt. (Oh, I say, that's rather good! 'Charlie's Aunt'! I must chaff him about that this evening.) And the man went out and was killed. Yes, I 'm certain I've got it right now. Tom Howard--he was the last of them."
"I believe so," said Mr. Wilcox negligently.
"I say! Howards End--Howards Ended!" Dolly. "I'm rather on the spot this evening, eh?"
"I wish you'd ask whether Crane's ended."
"Oh, Mr. Wilcox, how can you?"
"Because, if he has had enough tea, we ought to go--Dolly's a good little woman," he continued, "but a little of her goes a long way. I couldn't live near her if you paid me."
Margaret smiled. Though presenting a firm front to outsiders, no Wilcox could live near, or near the possessions of, any other Wilcox. They had the colonial spirit, and were always making for some spot where the white man might carry his burden unobserved. Of course, Howards End was impossible, so long as the younger couple were established in Hilton. His objections to the house were plain as daylight now.
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