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Raffles follows Bulstrode both at home and at work. Finally, he demands more money and reveals the facts about Ladislaw. This puts Bulstrode through intense introspection and torment. He goes over his past when he had been a talented member and preacher in a dissenting sect in London. A rich member of the sect, Mr. Dunkirk, had become his patron and introduced him into his prosperous business.
The young Bulstrode had quickly become indispensable in the business, after conquering his early moral qualms. The Dunkirk’s daughter had run away from home and reportedly joined the stage. Later, their only son had died, followed by the father. Mrs. Dunkirk searched desperately for her daughter, employing an investigator for the purpose. Bulstrode had married the grieving widow. Sometime later, the investigator apparently Raffles, had found the daughter, been silenced by a bribe from Bulstrode, and gone away. Bulstrode had then become the lady’s sole heir. She had died, some years later, and he had made a fresh start in Middlemarch.
It is this part that has risen up to confront him through Raffles. Bulstrode is shaken. Paying blackmail bothers him less than losing the good opinion of his wife and associates, being shorn of his "piety" and his genuine desire to be philanthropist. He thinks long and hard of a way to expiate his guilt, then sends for Ladislaw. Having found that Will is the Dunkirk’s grandson, he decides to hand over a share of the funds to him. Will, already on his guard about his ancestry, comes to meet him, unawares. He is stunned on hearing the story, but quickly recovers. Informing Bulstrode abruptly, that he does not need any help from him, he leaves. He also says he is grateful he did not have the tainted money earlier. Bulstrode is left more depressed than ever, with his attempt to expiate his guilt thrown back at him. He breaks down and weeps. His only comfort is that Ladislaw is not likely to publish the facts.
Other than the three love stories, Bulstrode’s is a major narrative in the novel. His is a complex character with shades of gray. He represents a progressive trend in the town with his passion for the hospital, support for Reform and so on. Yet his exaggerated piety suggests something to hide. When the facts emerge, the self-image he had carefully constructed collapses and he has to rebuild his life.
Bulstrode is not shown as a conscious villain, like Raffles. He tends to take the easy option, which will also be profitable, then justify it as divine providence. Even when he denies the existence of Ladislaw’s mother, it is after convincing himself that she would misuse the money being an unsteady character.
Will’s reaction, while ruthless towards Bulstrode, also places him in contrast to Lydgate. The doctor allows himself to slide deep into financial problems because he lacks the strength to face up to his wife. Will prefers hardship to any taint on his reputation. He forces people to accept him on his own terms.