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When Mr. Bulstrode gets home after the day of the auction, his wife tells him that someone had come to see him.
It was Raffles.
Raffles goes to see him the next day at the bank, and he comes home looking anxious.
His wife thinks he has a headache, but he's really just thinking about his past, and wondering what to do about Raffles, who keeps haunting him.
We finally learn more about Bulstrode's past as he goes into lengthy reflection about it: he was a young banking clerk in London, and caught the attention of the owner of a trading house who went to the same church he did.
He eventually became a partner at the trading house, which was really more like a high-end pawnshop that didn't ask where the goods they sold came from.
Bulstrode had some prickings of conscience, but learned to ignore them.
He learns more about the Dunkirk family: they had a daughter who ran away from home some years before, and a son who died.
After a while, the senior partner, Mr. Dunkirk, died, leaving Bulstrode as the sole owner of the business.
The wife, Mrs. Dunkirk, didn't know anything about her husband's shady business.
She fell in love with the younger Bulstrode, but before she would agree to marry him, she wanted to search for her daughter. After all, if the daughter were alive, some share of the family fortune should go to her.
Bulstrode agreed to this, and did find Sarah Dunkirk (who had become Sarah Ladislaw in the meantime), but concealed it from Mrs. Dunkirk.
Mrs. Dunkirk believed her daughter to be dead, and agreed to marry Bulstrode.
Bulstrode's conscience, in present-day Middlemarch, is starting to prick him again (particularly because Raffles is there to remind him of his sketchy past), but how can undo what he did then?
Raffles is the only other person who knows that Bulstrode basically swooped in and took the family fortune away from Sarah Dunkirk (and her son, Will Ladislaw), and that the family fortune was made in shady ways.
Bulstrode is having a harder time justifying his past actions to himself (he really is a deeply and devoutly religious man, although an awful hypocrite).
So he decides to do right by Will Ladislaw.
He asks Will to meet him in a private room at a pub.
Will assumes that it has something to do with the Pioneer newspaper.
Bulstrode asks if it's true that Will's mother's name was Sarah Dunkirk.
Yes, Will says.
Bulstrode says what Will already knows – that Sarah Dunkirk had run away from her family, but that her mother had never known the reason why.
Bulstrode then tells Will that he had married Sarah's mother, and was enriched by the marriage, but that he couldn't have gotten the money had Sarah not run away.
Will is put off by the information, although he doesn't know why.
Bulstrode adds that Will has no legal claim on him (he didn't, after all, break any laws himself – he was just involved with people who did).
Will asks if Bulstrode had known where Sarah was, but concealed it from her mother.
Bulstrode can't bring himself to lie. He hadn't expected Will to ask that.
He admits that he did know that Sarah was alive.
Bulstrode then offers to pay Will five hundred pounds a year, and to leave him something when he dies, as a way to atone for what he did to Sarah.
Will then asks whether Bulstrode was involved in the family business.
Bulstrode realizes that Raffles must have told him. But again, he can't deny it.
Will then refuses any and all money from Bulstrode – he calls it "ill-gotten" money – and says that his mother had tried to stay clear of that whole business, and he means to, as well.
The bitterness and scorn in Will's voice makes Bulstrode break down and cry after Will leaves.
But at least, he figures, Will is unlikely to tell anyone about it.