A year later, Maggie and Philip are still meeting in the woods to exchange books and talk. Maggie tells him that she disliked the last book he gave her because it featured a blonde-haired protagonist, whereas she would like to read a story “where the dark woman triumphs.” Philip tells her that he thinks she is more beautiful than blonde Lucy Deane, but Maggie laughs and says that she usually takes the side of the dark-haired girls because she “care[s] the most about the unhappy people.”
Maggie and Tom's seemingly lighthearted conversation is in fact very revealing about Maggie’s unusual capacity for empathy. She explains that she feels compassion for dark-haired women in stories because she tends to be drawn to the rejected and unhappy. This is because she herself has felt rejected and unhappy throughout in her life. In this sense, her difficult life experiences have made her more sensitive to the pain of others.
Philip confesses that he is in love with Maggie and hopes she could love a man whom “other women were not likely to love.” They finally kiss, after Philip reminds her of her childhood promise. Maggie replies that she loves him as well and would like to make him happy, but will do nothing to distress Mr. Tulliver. Philip agrees not to ask that of her, and says that he is content to wait another year for another kiss.
Maggie’s compassionate nature seems to draw her to Philip just as it draws her to the rejected love interests in the stories she reads. Philip suggests that she can love a man whom “other women were not likely to love”—which is to say him, a disabled man—because he knows that she has an empathetic personality and capacity for love.