Since his intimate meeting with Helen at Oniton, Leonard Bast has been living in misery. He blames himself for the entire situation, although more likely than not, she was the one who initiated their relationship. Leonard thinks he has ruined Helen, likening her to a work of art, and he constantly feels anxiety about what has become of her. He is also in grave trouble financially. Helen forgot to pay the hotel bill when she ran off, which left him and Jacky to figure out a way to settle it and get back to London. After their brief tryst, Helen left him a note and was gone.
One of the only thinks keeping Leonard alive is his need to provide for Jacky. He considers himself unemployable and ruined, and relies on handouts from his family for support. He knows that they would rather give him money than have him show up on their doorstep. One day, when he happens to see Margaret from afar, he decides he must confess his sin to her and, if possible, find out how Helen is. He tracks Margaret down at Ducie Street and, once he is informed she has gone to Howards End, decides to go there as well.
Leonard leaves in the middle of the night, and arrives at Hilton very early in the morning. He, too, is taken with how different the country is from city life. For Leonard, it is a welcome change. He walks to Howards End from the station, and by the time he arrives has barely mustered up the courage to confess to Margaret. However, as soon as he gets to the house, Charles intercepts him. He can hardly get his words of confession out before Charles strikes him with the blunt end of a sword that belonged to Mr. Schlegel. Upon being struck, Leonard feels a terrible pain, not on the impact point of the blow, but in his heart. He falls to the floor, taking a bookshelf with him, and dies in a shower of books, not from the sword, but from a heart attack. Even though Charles' blow did not directly cause Leonard's death, Miss Avery makes a comment about Charles having committed murder.
Back at Dolly's, Mr. Wilcox is quite worried because Margaret has not come home. He discusses the situation with Charles, for he knows that he will have to explain himself at some point. Charles says he will go to Howards End first thing in the morning, which is when he encounters Leonard Bast and strikes him. Upon returning to his father, Charles announces what happened at Howards End. He assumes that Leonard was there for sinful reasons, thinking that the Schlegels allowed him to stay the night. He acknowledges the scandal of the situation that resulted in his violence, admitting he and Dolly will likely have to relocate. Despite Leonard's death, Charles does not seem sorry, and is pleased that Margaret will be out of his father's life.
Following Leonard Bast's death, everyone feels overwhelmed. An inquest is held, where it is agreed upon that heart disease was the main cause of death. After this traumatic experience, Helen is ready to depart for Germany once again. Margaret plans to go with her. Before departing, Mr. Wilcox summons her. She assumes that he wants to collect the keys to Howards End, and she goes to see him under that assumption.
Mr. Wilcox tells Margaret that Charles will be charged with manslaughter against Leonard Bast. He is genuinely upset by this development, but Margaret is still bitter over the recent events and shows no mercy. She is firm with him, even when he admits that he is broken. However, things quickly turn around. Charles is found guilty of manslaughter and is sentenced to three years in jail, which breaks Mr. Wilcox's spirit. He turns to Margaret as his sole source of comfort, and since Helen, too, is in need of support, Margaret looks after both her husband and her sister. She finds that her only option is to take them to Howards End. One year later, Helen has had a boy whom Tom, the milk boy, loves to play with. Helen and Mr. Wilcox have learned to get along, and the three adults live together in peace.
Mr. Wilcox gathers his children to inform them that he is going to leave Howards End to Margaret, who will in turn leave it to her nephew, Helen's illegitimate son. Margaret is called in to be present for this announcement, and Dolly, there in Charles's stead, foolishly makes a comment about Ruth Wilcox's wishes having been fulfilled. When Margaret asks her husband about the meaning of this remark, he is honest with her. She tells him that she is not upset, for all has come together, and Helen's child will grow up in the wonderful countryside.
While pitiful, Leonard's death is poetic. He dies in the country rather than in the slums of London, and is ironically buried under books, which he spent his life cherishing in his quest for culture and intellect. Upon his arrival at Hilton, he notices how life is governed by nature rather than by the rush of the city. After living in such misery, being in the country is a comfort to him, despite the guilt that has led him there. Leonard remembers his conversation with Helen about how death can be a salvation for man.
Charles, though driven by anger, is extremely worried about his father. In this capacity, he notices that Margaret has had a surprising effect on the elder Mr. Wilcox that Charles almost envies. Here, Charles is revealed the most as a sympathetic character. He slightly regrets that his father has found someone to help him connect with non-practical aspects of life, and laments that nobody ever taught him the importance of saying "I," a topic that Helen discussed with Leonard before their intimacy.
As Margaret thinks about what will happen when she leaves Mr. Wilcox, she envisions his future and imagines how he will move and move until he dies. Mr. Wilcox is finally able to ground his life with Margaret at Howards End, but only after his spirit is broken.
Howards End is a novel about connecting, and by the final chapter's close, many connections are drawn. Throughout Howards End, Forster stresses the greyness of daily life, the importance of "I" statements and expressing feeling, and celebrates the inner life. The end of the novel seems to acknowledge that while life takes unexpected turns, when people and ideas are brought together, they must learn to live with each other. This final statement appears to mirror aspects of English and German conflicting cultures of the time. Although the cultures conflict with one another, they must both inhabit the Earth and learn to live in harmony. Margaret tells her sister that everybody must embrace each other's differences. She proves to be right, as she, Mr. Wilcox, and Helen are able to achieve happiness and find value in each other despite all odds. Helen remarks that to end up at Howards End must have been Margaret's plan all along, but it is really Mrs. Wilcox's spirit that is finally lingering, for the intention was originally hers.
The final action of Howards End seems to demonstrate the importance of connection. Those who are unable or unwilling to connect to their worlds in a meaningful way suffer. Charles refused to develop or allow for any kind of relationship with the Schlegel sisters, and Leonard Bast is unable to accept or connect with the realities of his meager existence. Similarly, Mr. Wilcox fights hard against embracing Margaret's approach to life. In contrast, Helen and Margaret work to find and develop connections with everything around them. They accept and embrace people with lives different from their own (Leonard Bast for Helen and Mr. Wilcox for Margaret), and cherish their connections between each other and their home. The characters that are able to understand the importance of interpersonal, physical, and emotional connections, namely Margaret, Helen, and a broken Mr. Wilcox, survive and thrive in Howards End. Mr. Wilcox's choice to leave Howards End to Margaret and then to Helen's son demonstrates that the Schlegel inner life has finally merged with the Wilcox outer life. Howards End symbolizes this unification, which was originally foreshadowed in the description of Mrs. Wilcox's romantic existence in the otherwise highly practical household. Forster's final message appears to be that one cannot live an entirely external or internal life. The ideal existence is a merging of the two. Thus, to embrace the entirety of life, one must "only connect."