Will is determined to see Dorothea one more time and then leave Middlemarch, even though he is somewhat embarrassed to say goodbye twice. He would never ask Dorothea to give up everything to marry him. He has a vague dream of returning in years to come with his own fortune so they can finally be together. Meanwhile, Sir James feels that he must talk to Dorothea about Will, even though he usually avoids bringing up this subject with her at all costs. He decides to use Mrs. Cadwallader as a go-between.
Although Will obviously does care about Dorothea, his refusal to tell her how he feels is arguably not the kindest thing to do for her. Will tells himself that he is sparing her the agony of having to make an impossible choice, but if he truly respected her agency, surely he would let her know the true nature of his feelings so she could make a properly informed decision.
Mrs. Cadwallader tells Dorothea that Will is in Middlemarch and that he is constantly “warbling” with Rosamond. Upset, Dorothea asks that nothing bad be said about Will, and she leaves immediately for Tipton Grange. While driving there she weeps. She intends to do some errands Mr. Brooke left for her, but upon arriving at Tipton she is informed that Will is there, picking up his portfolio of sketches. Will can see that Dorothea has been crying. He says that he had wanted to say goodbye again, adding that this time he believes he won’t ever come back.
Mrs. Cadwallader’s use of the word “warbling” is a humorous contrast to the somber gravitas with which Will and Dorothea approach life. Both of them are romantics who have ended up with a tortured view of the world and their place in it. Mrs. Cadwallader is a reminder that it is perhaps not necessary to take everything so seriously.
Dorothea and Will can hardly bring themselves to speak to each other. Will admits: “What I care more for than I can ever care for anything else is absolutely forbidden to me.” Dorothea dismisses the idea that she could be what Will cares for most, thinking that instead he must be referring to Rosamond. Though Will would never admit it, he wants to know that Dorothea loves him. They say goodbye; Dorothea asks that he remember her, and he almost angrily replies that he would forget everything else before her. After Will goes, Dorothea finally understands that he loves her.
Dorothea and Will’s serious, dramatic personalities mean that they both revel in their own private intensity of feeling, refusing to just be open and honest about what they want. We could interpret this as romantic, but at the same time, their inability to communicate also suggests that they each remain too trapped in their own private worlds to be able to properly consider the feelings of the other.
Despite everything, Dorothea feels happy that she is free to dream about Will, who she finally knows for sure has done nothing wrong. As she is driving away from Tipton, she passes Will, who tips his hat at her. She doesn’t turn around or get out, but rather sits there thinking that she wishes she had always known how he felt. At the same time, she is troubled by the inappropriateness of their relationship, particularly since Casaubon forbade it. Within two days, Will leaves Middlemarch.
The moment where Dorothea passes Will in her carriage is agonizingly anticlimactic. Now that she knows that he loves her, we are led to expect a dramatic exchange between them. However, this event doesn’t transpire, reminding us of these characters’ startling capacity for miscommunication, self-censure, and restraint.