Lydgate no longer has the capacity to carry out medical research and experiments. He has never been tempted to gamble, and yet now, in his desperation, he finds himself considering it. In Middlemarch, most gambling happens in the billiard room at the Green Dragon. Lydgate goes there and plays well, finally seeing a glimmer of hope in the future. Young Hawley, who is studying to be a lawyer, arrives with Fred Vincy. Fred is shocked to see Lydgate gambling. Fred has been working hard and wants to relax and celebrate by playing billiards, though he has promised himself he won’t bet.
The novel takes a pretty strong stance against gambling, which is shown to be a dangerous, irresponsible, and foolish pursuit that never leads to anything good. Indeed, gambling is one of several ways of acquiring money that always comes back to haunt people (the others being theft, deception, and cheating). To borrow Ladislaw’s phrase, “ill-gotten money” is worse than no money at all.
However, before long Fred is tempted to bet the £10 he has brought with him. At this point Lydgate has won £16, but Hawley’s arrival disturbs his lucky streak, and Lydgate begins “losing fast.” Fred plans to ask Lydgate if Rosamond is home in order to prevent his downfall from continuing, but at that moment he is told that Farebrother is downstairs and wants to speak with him. Before going, Fred urges Lydgate to stop playing and to come with him to see Farebrother. Embarrassed, Lydgate reluctantly agrees. When they meet Farebrother, Lydgate greets him but then leaves.
Fred’s desire to stop Lydgate’s gambling could simply be a matter of worrying about his family’s reputation. On the other hand, perhaps it is a sign that Fred is finally gaining some maturity and responsibility when it comes to money.
Farebrother says that he was disappointed to hear that Fred has been going to the Green Dragon every night, though Fred assures him that he has not been betting. Farebrother then mentions their romantic rivalry. Fred says he remains committed to Mary; Farebrother comments that Mary seems to feel the same about Fred, but that her feelings could change if Fred messes everything up. Farebrother says he wants Fred to be happy and successful. Moved, Fred says he will make himself “worthy” of both Mary and Farebrother. They part ways.
Farebrother’s kind-heartedness becomes even more prominent here, when he not only refuses to get in the way of Fred’s romance with Mary but even assures him that Mary loves him in return. Farebrother genuinely cares about everyone around him. In this sense, even though he is not particularly strict or pious, he is arguably the most Christian character in the novel.