Lydgate takes Bulstrode home from the meeting, leaving him in the care of Mrs. Bulstrode. Lydgate regrets ever coming to Middlemarch, feeling that his whole life has turned into a disaster. Regardless of whether Bulstrode brought about Raffles’s death, Bulstrode is decidedly guilty in the eyes of the community. Lydgate curses himself for accepting Bulstrode’s money; if he had not done this he would at least have a chance of escaping implication in the scandal.
One of the biggest lessons of the Bulstrode scandal is that the truth of a person’s guilt does not actually matter that much in Middlemarch. This is both because gossip is so rife and because reputation is so important. Damage to a person’s reputation is permanent even if they are later proven to be innocent.
Even if Lydgate could find some way to prove his innocence, he knows that the damage done to his reputation is permanent. Despite wishing that he had never accepted Bulstrode’s money, he decides to now stand by Bulstrode. As he nears home, dread builds as he thinks of telling Rosamond about the whole affair.
Through this whole affair, Lydgate displays a surprising amount of loyalty to Busltrode. Perhaps this is due to his general isolation, which means that Bulstrode is the only person he has left.