Since discovering the scandal, Rosamond has barely left the house. Some days she does not even leave her room. However, one morning she decides to walk into town to post a letter to Will. There have been malicious rumors circling around Middlemarch that Will is “the grandson of a thieving Jew pawnbroker.” Though confident that Will loves her, Dorothea believes that it is impossible that they will ever get married.
This is a low moment not just for Lydgate and Bulstrode, but for the entire Middlemarch community. It appears as if almost everyone is struck by some kind of terrible disappointment of their own.
Dorothea arrives at the Lydgates’ and, believing that Rosamond is not in, her servant shows Dorothea into the drawing room. Dorothea finds Rosamond in tears, and Will sitting next to her holding both her hands. When they notice her presence they both leap up. Dorothea apologizes, saying she has a letter for Lydgate and that she didn’t realize Rosamond was there. She leaves before either Rosamond or Will can say anything, and goes straight to Freshitt Hall. Gripped by a kind of mania, she intends to tell Sir James and Mr. Brooke all about Lydgate’s marriage difficulties.
The dramatic twist in this scene has a rather Shakespearean element, with Dorothea tragically misinterpreting the nature of Rosamond and Will’s exchange. Although she only recently consciously realized Will was in love with her, Dorothea has also never had to confront the idea that he loved another woman—or indeed that another woman loved him. She is left in a profound state of shock.