This chapter chronicles the meeting of two characters, Tom Tulliver and Philip Wakem at their school run by Mr. Stelling. Tom is returning to school with trepidation but is comforted by the thought of gifts he has for his beloved little sister Laura.
Upon his arrival, he is introduced to Philip Wakem, who is a new schoolfellow. Philip Wakem, with his physical deformity and retiring nature, is strikingly different from Tom. While Tom is athletic and outgoing, Philip is more inclined towards intellectual pursuits – he loves drawing, Greek history and literature. Tom finds this strange but intriguing and is clearly impressed by Philip's drawing abilities.
Philip's physical limitations don’t deter him from excelling in his studies. He seems to handle Latin, Greek and Mathematics with ease, unlike Tom, who struggles with and detests Latin. Philip further intrigues Tom with stories of Greek heroes, and he offers to tell Tom more such stories, given Tom’s disinterest in reading. Tom responds to these stories of adventure and warfare with enthusiasm.
In an attempt to prove his own prowess, Tom boasts about his sporting abilities and mentions fishing – a prospect that Philip dismisses due to his personal disinterest. This irks Tom, who feels that his new companion might be looking down on him.
Despite their differences and the underlying tension because of their families' feud back home, they share a surprisingly engaging conversation. The chapter ends with the boys being summoned for dinner, leaving no room for escalation of their disagreements. Tension and excitement fill the air as the boys are just beginning to navigate their relationship.