Fred hears from Farebrother’s female relatives about the stipulation in Casaubon’s will forbidding Dorothea from marrying Will. Fred has not spoken much to Rosamond since she got married; she is highly disapproving of his decision not to enter the church and instead work for Mr. Garth. Lydgate, meanwhile, believes that there is something between Dorothea and Will, and that if true, this rumor is “too serious to gossip about.” He is feeling so detached from Rosamond that he does not even consider speaking to her about it. Rosamond tells him the story as she heard it from Fred, and Lydgate urges her not to repeat it to Will.
This passage demonstrates how gossip connects everyone in Middlemarch to each other, to the point that members of the community seem to feel personally invested in things that actually have nothing to do with them. Of course, Rosamond and Lydgate’s close friendship with Will does mean that they care about Will’s romantic life—yet instead of talking to Will directly about this, they discuss it with others behind closed doors.
The next time she sees Will, however, Rosamond brings up Dorothea, declaring the whole situation “thoroughly romantic.” Will goes bright red and asks what she is talking about; surprised, she explains everything. Rosamond tries to remain playful, saying she is excited about his and Dorothea’s wedding, but Will angrily insists that they will never marry. After Will leaves, Rosamond sits alone, feeling melancholy.
Rosamond can be rather callous when it comes to other people’s feelings—she treats the situation Will is in like an entertaining story rather than a truly difficult experience. Will, on the other hand, could be accused of taking his own life a bit too seriously.