Since some gentlemen have recently made their literary mark without having any learning, modern critics are now claiming that a writer does not require learning. However, the narrator believes that writing—like any art—requires knowledge and study. A writer especially needs to have knowledge of their subject&mash;for instance, if one brought together Homer, Virgil, and Aristotle, they would not write a very good book on the art of dance.
Jones receives two letters from Lady Bellaston. The first asks him whether he arranged to meet Sophia in the drawing room of her house. She warns him that she can hate as passionately as she can love. The second urges him to come and visit her at her house immediately. As Jones is preparing to leave, Lady Bellaston walks in with her dress in disarray. She asks if Jones has betrayed her, and he promises her on his knees that he has not. Suddenly Partridge prances into the room announcing Mrs. Honour's arrival. Tom hides Lady Bellaston behind his bed before Honour enters. Honour prattles on about how Lady Bellaston meets men at a house where she pays the landlady's rent. Then she hands Jones a letter from Sophia. Once Honour leaves, Lady Bellaston emerges from behind the bed, enraged that she has been "slighted for a Country Girl." Lady Bellaston now realizes that Sophia will always occupy first place in Jones's affections, but resigns herself to the second prize. She and Jones decide to camouflage the purpose of his visits by pretending that Tom has come to visit Sophia.
Jones receives a letter from Sophia saying that if he cares for her at all, he should not visit her that day—she is worried that Lady Bellaston suspects something. Jones pretends to be ill so as not to offend Lady Bellaston—he writes an explanatory letter to her ladyship, as well as a letter to Sophia. Lady Bellaston sends a note announcing that she will visit Jones at his room at nine that night. Mrs. Miller asks Tom, very courteously, to leave her house, as she does not approve of him entertaining strange women in his room from ten at night to two in the morning. She is worried about the virtue of her daughters. Jones, slightly annoyed, says that he will not defame her house, but he needs to see whomever he pleases. Tom learns from Mrs. Miller that Partridge has told her about the highway robbery and of Tom's relation to Allworthy. Tom is furious. Partridge blames Mrs. Honour for disclosing these facts.
Nightingale tells Tom that he is also planning to leave Mrs. Miller's house, but without saying farewell. Tom insinuates that he knows this surreptitious mood has some relation to Nancy. He accuses Nightingale of using too much gallantry in order to make Nancy fall in love with him. Nightingale professes that he likes Nancy more than any woman he has ever met, but that his father has prearranged a marriage for him with a woman he has never seen before. He begs Tom not to reveal his secret. The narrator praises Nightingale's honorable character—although this honor, he says, does not extend to affairs of love.
Mrs. Miller invites Tom to tea—she does not wish to part on bad terms with him. She tells him her story, saying that, without Allworthy's assistance, her family could not have survived. Mrs. Miller's father left his three daughters poverty-stricken, and Mrs. Miller was the only daughter to survive. She married a clergyman, who died five years after their wedding. Mrs. Miller reads Tom the generous letter that Allworthy wrote to her at this time. He sent her an initial twenty guineas, then bought her a furnished house, and bestowed a fifty-pound annuity on her. Tom relates his history to Mrs. Miller—without mentioning Sophia. That night Jones waits in his room from nine until midnight, but Lady Bellaston makes no appearance.
Jones is woken by an uproar. He summons Partridge, who relates that Nancy, Mrs. Miller, and Betty are crying in the kitchen. He jokes that there is a new delivery for the "Foundling-Hospital." Mrs. Miller tells Jones that Nightingale—"that barbarous Villain"—has deflowered her daughter, who is pregnant with his child. She shows Tom the letter Nightingale left for Nancy, in which he promises to provide for her and the child. Nancy's reputation might have been preserved if she had not fainted in public after receiving the letter. Nancy has twice attempted suicide, says Mrs. Miller. She admits that she noticed Nightingale's attentions to Nancy, but sincerely thought that he would marry her daughter. Tom resolves to find Nightingale.