Part 3, Chapters 15-17 Summary
Tensions increase between Mr. Boffin and Mr. Rokesmith. After Mrs. Lammle tells him about Rokesmith’s proposal to Bella, Mr. Boffin confronts his secretary, stating that it was sheer insolence on Rokesmith’s part to approach a woman so far above his station. Bella objects to Mr. Boffin’s attack on Mr. Rokesmith for her sake, but Mr. Boffin dismisses her objections. Bella begs Mr. Rokesmith’s forgiveness for the manner of her rejection of his proposal.
Mr. Boffin dismisses Rokesmith without letting him resign. Before he leaves, Rokesmith repeats his love for Bella, which has not lessened since her rejection. Mr. Boffins asks him how he can say he loves Bella when he would subject her to a life of poverty instead of stepping aside and letting her live a life of luxury by marrying a wealthy man. Bella angrily rejects Boffin and his money, apologizing to Rokesmith for being the cause of his downfall. Bella leaves the Boffin home, although Mr. Boffin warns her that if she does, she can never come back.
Bella arrives at her father’s office at the counting house to inform him that she has left the Boffins’ home and financial support. Mr. Rokesmith arrives, having assumed that Bella would run to her father immediately. Bella tells him that she is his if he will still have her.
Mr. Wilfer concludes that both Bella and Rokesmith have left Mr. Boffin. The three of them join together for a meal of milk and a cottage loaf, causing Bella to compare the trio to the three nursery hobgoblins at their house in the forest.
Mr. Wilder tries to prepare Bella for her mother and sister’s reactions to her return home. Mrs. Wilfer greets Bella with an “I told you so” attitude, but Bella refuses to be drawn into an argument. Lavinia archly announces to Bella that she and George Sampson are engaged. Although Bella refuses to argue, Mrs. Wilfer and Lavinia start to quarrel, as is their habit.
When the Lammles’ possessions are put up for auction, the Veneerings suddenly discover that the Lammles are not their oldest and dearest friends after all. They decide that they must give a dinner party for their real oldest and dearest friends.
Mrs. Lammle visit Mr. Twemlow to express her regret at involving him in her plot against Fledgeby and Georgiana Podsnap and informs him that it is Fledgeby rather than Riah who instigated both Twemlow’s and the Lammles’ financial downfall. She also tells him that she and her husband are bound together by their mutual deception.
At the Veneerings’ dinner are several new friends that they have made since Mr. Veneering entered Parliament. The guests discuss the Lammles’ inability to live within their means. Mr. Podsnap refuses to discuss them. Mr. Dolls, Jenny Wren’s father, arrives with a message for Eugene Wrayburn.