It is a year later, and Maggie and Philip have been meeting regularly in the Red Deeps. On this day Maggie gives returns a book to Philip, which he has lent her and announces her determination to read no more books in which the blond women "carry away all the happiness." Philip teases Maggie that she would like to carry away all the love from her blond cousin Lucy. They continue to discuss love, and Philip begins to drop hints of his own love for Maggie and wish for her to love him, and Maggie finally understands. Maggie is shocked and begins to adjust her understanding of their last year together. Philip asks her if she loves him. Maggie explains simply that she loves no one better but begs that they not discuss it further as she reveals her lingering fear that their meetings will lead to "evil." Philip's company has already led her to want more from the world and become weary of her home and her parents. Philip entreats Maggie to think only of their love.
Maggie and Philip near the end of their walk. Philip fears that Maggie loves him only as a brother. Maggie agrees that her happiness with him is as great as the happiness she felt as a child, when Tom was good to her. As they part, Maggie is caught up in the moment, and her words express more than she feels—she agrees that she would like to be always with Philip and make him happy and stoops to kiss his "pale face that was full of pleading, timid love—like a woman's." Maggie leaves feeling truly happy, feeling that "if there were sacrifices in this love, it was all the richer and more satisfying."
The day after Maggie's last meeting with Philip, her aunt Pullet comes to tea at the Tullivers'. The table conversation shifts from Lucy Deane's beauty to Philip Wakem, whom Mrs. Pullet reports having seen "a-scrambling out o' the trees and brambles at the Red Deeps." Maggie, sitting across from Tom, blushes deeply and is unsure if Tom notices.
Tom did notice and remembers hearing Mrs. Tulliver scold Maggie for walking in the clay at Red Deeps, but his mind refuses to accept the possibility that his sister would seek the company of a deformed man. The next afternoon, Bob Jakin mentions having seen Philip Wakem on the mill side of the river. Tom, convinced, confronts Maggie on her way out of the house. Tom questions her, and Maggie explains everything, including their vows of love. Tom makes Maggie swear on a Bible never to see Philip again, or he will tell their father of her deceit. Maggie insists that she see Philip once more, and Tom brings Maggie to Red Deeps to meet Philip. Tom berates Philip and insults his deformity. Philip stands by his good intentions to Maggie and accuses Tom of being incapable of understanding what he feels for Maggie.
Tom pulls Maggie away and Maggie confronts Tom about his cruel words to Philip and his continual enjoyment in punishing her. Tom reminds Maggie that his actions have brought the family goodness, while Maggie's actions have brought no one good. Tom leaves for appointments, and Maggie goes to her room to mourn. Yet the end of the chapter wonders about the cause of a "certain dim background of relief in the forced separation from Philip."
Three weeks later, Tom comes home early from work in a good mood. He triumphantly tells his father of the money of Uncle Glegg's on which he has traded and that he now has three hundred and twenty pounds return. Their debts will finally be fully paid. Mr. Tulliver breaks into sobs.