Mr. Tulliver begins to recover physically, but his financial ruin continues. He must be considered “failed”—meaning that his house and mill will be sold. Prompted in part by Lucy’s concern for her cousins, Mr. Deane tries to persuade Guest & Co to purchase the mill, add steam power, and keep Mr. Tulliver on as manager. He also finds a job for Tom in the warehouse, as well as helping him get evening lessons in bookkeeping.
Mr. Deane’s plan for the mill highlights the impact of new technologies and forms of knowledge on traditional industries. He wants to add steam power in order to increase profits and efficiency—a form of knowledge completely inaccessible to Mr. Tulliver, but one enabled by the practical education Mr. Deane is now giving Tom.
Mrs. Tulliver decides to go visit Wakem to try to persuade him not to bid for Dorlcote Mill at auction. Her meeting with him, however, has precisely the opposite effect. Although Mr. Wakem had not planned to bid against Guest & Co, he decides to do so in order to humiliate Mr. Tulliver by buying his land and retaining him as a servant. He does this not because he particularly hates the Tullivers, but as a “soothing, flattering” way of exerting his power in St. Ogg’s.
Mr. Wakem's decision offers a chilling illustration of the consequences of failures of compassion. The narrator points out that Mr. Wakem is not particularly evil or vengeful; he simply takes the opportunity for a petty act of revenge. Instead of forgiving and being the bigger person, he compounds the damage to the Tullivers and himself by holding a grudge.