Once Lydgate leaves, Bulstrode goes through Raffles’s pockets, where he finds a few bills and pennies. When Raffles wakes up Bulstrode offers him food, which he refuses. Later, Raffles appears to hallucinate that there is a doctor in the room, and tells this vision that Bulstrode is trying to starve him as punishment for revealing his secret, which Raffles claims he never did. Bulstrode finds strength in his conviction that Raffles is on the brink of death. He regrets not giving Lydgate the loan, as in the event of Raffles’s death he will want Lydgate on his side.
In this moment, the encounter between Bulstrode and Raffles takes a darkly sinister turn. Bulstrode is not trying to kill Raffles, but he is hoping that he will die, and Raffles arguably senses this when he accuses Bulstrode of trying to starve him to death. Raffles is realizing the mistake of finding himself unwell and helpless in the house of a man he has been trying to blackmail.
Lydgate returns and observes that Raffles’s condition has deteriorated, but says that he still expects him to pull through. Bulstrode comments that Lydgate himself does not look well, and pleads with him to sit for a moment. He tells Lydgate that he will write him a check for £1000, which Lydgate can repay when he is able. Lydgate is relieved and thanks Bulstrode. Left alone, Bulstrode continues to fixate on the prospect of Raffles dying. That evening he gives Raffles some opium per Lydgate’s instruction, and then leaves him in the care of a servant.
Lydgate perhaps should have realized that something strange was afoot due to the combination of Bulstrode’s sudden change of mind and the appearance of the ailing Raffles in Bulstrode’s home. However, whether out of obliviousness or desperation, Lydgate ignores these ominous signs and accepts the money.
That evening, Bulstrode contemplates suicide. Sitting by the fire in his living room, he realizes that he didn’t tell the servant when to stop giving Raffles doses of opium, and wonders if he should correct this oversight or not. A little while later the servant knocks on his door and says that Raffles has been begging for brandy, claiming that he is “sinking down through the earth.” Bulstrode thinks for a minute, and then gives her the keys to the wine cooler, saying that it is wrong to deny a man such a request on his deathbed.
This is a crucial passage, as there are several moments when Bulstrode’s level of guilt is decidedly ambiguous. Bulstrode “realizes” that he forgot to tell the servant how much opium to give Raffles, but to what extent was this oversight deliberate? Bulstrode is definitely guilty of helping to give Raffles alcohol when Lydgate forbade it—yet does this mean he is trying to kill him?
In the morning Bulstrode prays for a while. He then goes to see Raffles, who is asleep and seems very close to death. That afternoon Lydgate comes and witnesses Raffles die. He and Bulstrode go into Middlemarch together, discussing cholera and the Reform Bill. Bulstrode briefly mentions the arrangements for Raffles’s burial, but apart from that they do not speak about him. Later, Lydgate tells Farebrother that he has received a loan from Bulstrode and will be able to repay his debts. He plans to establish a surgery and take on an apprentice.
The chapter ends on a hopeful note for Bulstrode and Lydgate, a welcome change after so much misery and doom. However, the fact that this hope emerges out of Raffles’s death is also ominous. While Bulstrode (and to a greater degree Lydgate) is not exactly responsible for Raffles’s death, his involvement is definitely suspicious.