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At the end of August, there is a big auction of household effects in Middlemarch. In the sleepy monotony of the district, this auction is somewhat a gala affair. Food and drink are served lavishly and most people put in an appearance. Mr. Borthtrop Trumbull, a colorful person, is the auctioneer; and is at his verbose best. Will is there to buy a religious painting for Mrs. Bulstrode on behalf of her husband. He is in an aggressive mood, feeling that perhaps the whole town is aware if the contents of Casaubon’s will and takes the worst view of his remaining there.
In the throng, at the auction, there is Raffles, Bulstrode’s blackmailer. He eyes Will curiously and approaches him after a while. Will has bought the painting and is leaving. Raffles forces his company on Will and claims to have known his parents. He knows his mother’s maiden name, and lets slip the information that she had run away from home as her family was involved in some shady business dealings. Will is even more depressed. He thinks this history would make the local gentry think him even more unfit for Dorothea.
Obviously, the Raffle’s story links Will with Bulstrode’s unsavory past. This part of the story comes close to melodrama, with its mechanical connections. The writers aim seems to be to draw out the separation of Will from Dorothea and maintain the suspense about their possible coming together.
The auction scene is also a lively and humorous piece of local color, with the quaint figure of Borthrop Trumbull at his hilarious best.