Dorothea has been occupying herself by attending to the needs of the local people in Lowick, but two days after her trip to the Lydgates’ there is no one left to help. She sits in the library and attempts to read a book about political economy, but finds it impossible to concentrate. Miss Noble comes to see her and says she can’t stay long, as she has “left a friend in the churchyard.” She then explains that the friend is Will, who will not come in because he is worried that he has “offended” Dorothea. However, he has asked that Dorothea come and see him outside briefly.
The various go-betweens that become involved in Dorothea and Will’s relationship remind us that nothing is ever truly private in Middlemarch, even one’s deepest, most secret feelings. Whereas before everything (and everyone) seemed to be conspiring to keep Will and Dorothea apart, the tide has changed, and there are now people helping them to finally be together.
Dorothea thinks about Casaubon’s will, and somewhat hesitantly tells Miss Noble that Will should come in. When they first see each other, Dorothea and Will struggle to speak. Will confesses that he is embarrassed to be back so soon, and he also mentions the rumors about his family history. He explains that Bulstrode offered him money, but that he did not accept it because he was sure Dorothea would not approve. He admits that without Dorothea’s respect, he feels he has nothing to live for. A sudden thunderstorm breaks out, and they grip hands in fright and do not let go.
Dorothea and Will have spent so much time privately thinking about one another that when they are finally in each other’s presence they cannot even bring themselves to talk. Confronting the reality of each other is overwhelming, and it is only once the storm breaks out that they are finally able to break through their hesitancy and touch each other, as if reminding each other of the reality of their existence.
Will admits that he is hopeless, because even if Dorothea loves him he will always be poor and they therefore cannot be together. For this reason, he had intended to leave and no longer trouble her. Dorothea says she “would rather share all the trouble of our parting,” and they kiss. After another period of silence, Will bursts out in anger at their situation. He declares that they can never marry, but Dorothea says there is a chance they can. Will tells her goodbye, but she replies that she hates her money and wouldn’t mind being poor. Immediately Will embraces her while she begins to cry.
Even after they kiss, Will remains committed to the idea that his union with Dorothea is impossible. This is perhaps simply another manifestation of his tortured, romantic nature. There may be a side of Will that—like Dorothea—is afraid of what he wants and even more afraid of getting it. Eventually, however, they are able to get over this fear and realize that they should obviously be together.