A group of Middlemarchers is at a dinner party, and the subject of Lydgate comes up (Lydgate's not there to defend himself, but his friend, Farebrother, speaks up on his behalf).
Minchin (a Middlemarch physician) and Toller make snide remarks about how Lydgate uses his patients as guinea pigs for his new theories, and the other men (Chichely and Standish) grumble about how Lydgate "carried off" the prettiest girl in Middlemarch.
The medical men hint that there's no way Lydgate's medical practice could support his style of life, and Farebrother begins to worry again about Lydgate's expenses.
He goes to Middlemarch (remember, he now lives at Lowick, near Dorothea, a few miles outside of town).
Lydgate seems to be in an odd mood, but Farebrother can't get him to open up about his personal affairs.
They are both invited to a New Year's Eve party at the Vincys' house, though, so Farebrother figures he'll get another chance to talk to his friend there.
Even Mary Garth is invited, so Fred is in a great mood.
Mary even impresses Mrs. Vincy (who thinks her son can do better) by entertaining all the youngest Vincys with stories by the fire.
Meanwhile, Mr. Farebrother goes to have a chat with Lydgate at the far end of the room.
He opens by thanking Lydgate for recommending him to Dorothea, and then, as delicately as possible, hints that he'd be happy to help Lydgate in any way possible.
But Lydgate's too proud to ask for financial help from anyone, and brushes Farebrother off almost rudely.