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The only relief Lydgate could get from his personal troubles was in his work. He had no time or energy for research, but he could lose himself in giving his patient painstaking and sensitive treatment and care. However, when the tension got too much, he took opium on one or two occasions. But stopped after that.
Another temptation has been gambling. On a chance visit to the billiard room at the pub, he is tempted to play the game, which he has always been good at. Seeing other men betting in the results of the game, he is tempted and wins a couple of times. Fred, tempted to his old haunt in Mary’s absence from her house, is shocked to see him feverishly involved, and losing. It is a reversal of their former roles. Fred is told Farebrother wishes to meet him below. On this pretext, he diverts Lydgate’s attention form the betting and thus rescues him. They part ways, and Farebrother, afraid that Fred’s good resolutions are slipping, issues him a direct challenge. He says if Fred lets Mary down, he himself may be tempted to try his chance at winning her. Fred is frightened and grateful for the warning. Farebrother is amazed by the power one woman can wield - to make one man make a self-sacrificing gesture and another struggle to rise above his own weakness.
The inevitable loss of hope in any sort of happiness or fulfillment, and the mounting expenses are shown taking their toll of Lydgate. Meanwhile, Fred looking at him and later at Farebrother can see the potential fate awaiting him if his weaknesses prevail. The concluding part of the chapter obviously sets up yet another contrast: that of Mary, an inspiration to two men, and Rosamond, damned in her pettiness never to understand the torment her husband is going through.
The images used here are related to animals - showing the kindling of baser urges in the characters: "an animal with fierce eyes and retractile claws" i.e. Lydgate, of Farebrother. Fred feels as "if he had a beak and talons instead of his very capable tongue, his mode of attack could hardly be more cruel."