Bulstrode requests a meeting with Will. He tells Will that he married his grandmother and that he became wealthy as a result. He says that he was unable to find Will's mother. He offers to give Will a fair share of the inheritance that would have come to him if Bulstrode had located Will's mother. Will states that he doesn't believe Bulstrode's assertion that he didn't find his mother. Bulstrode admits his guilt and says he wants to atone for it. Will asks if Bulstrode's wealth derives from the thievery Raffles hinted at. Bulstrode replies that he entered the business after it had already become established. Will refuses Bulstrode's tainted money, because he doesn't want to do something that would disappoint Dorothea.

Commentary

Mrs. Cadwallader tells Sir James and Dorothea that Ladislaw lingers in Middlemarch, stirring a scandal with his frequent visits with Rosamond. Dorothea uneasily remembers her encounter with Will at the Lydgate home. Will visits her at Lowick and announces that there is malicious gossip against his character. He says that what he cares for most is forbidden to him because of the gossip, so he must leave Middlemarch to save his reputation. Dorothea thinks for an instant that she is what Will cares for most, but then she remembers the rumors about Rosamond and thinks Will might also refer to her. She feels sick at heart, but doesn't know why, because Will has taken steps to preserve his honor. Will, disappointed that Dorothea does not beg him to stay, leaves Middlemarch the following day.

Rosamond's miscarriage is infused with symbolic meaning. The conventional expectation of wives is that they obey their husbands' wishes. To disobey a husband's wisdom is a transgression of her socially accepted gender role. Moreover, the wife's primary duty is to produce and care for children. Rosamond fails in both respects. Her first transgression is "punished" by the second. Her behavior might inspire harsh criticism, but before one judges, it is necessary to attend to Eliot's rich psychological treatment of Rosamond's character.

Rosamond's own ambitions for upward social mobility are stunted by the rigid social constraints on women. Unlike Lydgate, she has no public vocation to perform. She has no outlet for her intractable, headstrong energies outside her home. Her only outlet for her frustrated ambition is her husband. Captain Lydgate represents the social world she wishes to enter. Lydgate forbids her to go out riding with his cousin a second time, but Rosamond is already restless, so Lydgate's order only exacerbates those feelings. He represents yet another male voice telling her what to do with her life.

Her transgression of conventional expectations placed on women's behavior is met with an unfortunate, regrettable accident. The miscarriage should be read symbolically. It is a symbolic punishment for exercising the power of her free choice. It is a sign that demonstrates in no uncertain way the consequences of her resistance against the constraints of conventional gender roles.

Moreover, Rosamond has an agenda that goes contrary to Lydgate's. He plans to stay in Middlemarch for the long term. She wants to leave. Husband and wife do not form a complementary unit. Rosamond is not willing to play the passive ornament to Lydgate's life. Neither do Lydgate and Rosamond form an amicable partnership. In other words, there is a deep conflict in their marriage. The efforts of one spouse resist the efforts of the other. Such a situation produces nothing but conflict.