Dorothea and Casaubon arrive back from their honeymoon to January snow. The morning after their arrival Casaubon speaks to Mr. Tucker in his library, while Dorothea wonders when the life of “wifely devotion” she craves will begin. When she asks Casaubon what she should do, he simply replies, “whatever you please, my dear.” The excitement she felt on first getting a glimpse of Lowick has totally evaporated. She feels an affinity with Casaubon’s aunt who had the “unfortunate” marriage, and wonders what the woman’s life was like.
On the surface Dorothea appears to possess a masochistic “appetite for submission,” to the extent that she resents Casaubon’s willingness to grant her agency. However, perhaps Dorothea is just telling herself that what she craves is “wifely devotion.” It is more likely that what she really wants is intellectual stimulation and companionship.
Dorothea runs into Celia and Mr. Brooke, who greet her enthusiastically. Dorothea and Celia go to speak alone, and when Celia asks if Dorothea enjoyed Rome, Dorothea avoids answering. Celia mentions Lady Chettam and immediately blushes, prompting Dorothea to ask what’s going on. Celia confesses that while Dorothea was gone, she and Sir James became very close, and were engaged three days ago. Dorothea replies that it is a wonderful match, and Celia adds that Sir James has been continuing work on the cottages in Dorothea’s absence.
Dorothea was correct in guessing that Sir James would be a better match for Celia than he would be for her. However, it seems as if she was less skilled in predicting the success of her own marriage to Casaubon. Her refusal to answer Celia’s question about Rome suggests that she is in denial about her marital problems, or at least wants to keep up appearances.