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by Charles Dickens
David Copperfield Chapter 18 Summary
A Retrospect David looks back on his school days. David is not the least successful boy in school, but he's still a long way off from being the first one (Adams). Adams is not as superior as Steerforth, but David still wonders what he'll be when he leaves the school – he's sure that Adam will be amazing. David has a crush on Miss Shepherd, who boards at a school run by the Misses Nettingalls. The Misses Nettingalls' pupils go to the same church that Doctor Strong's students attend. Luckily, David and Miss Shepherd also go to the same dancing school. David gives Miss Shepherd little presents: brazil nuts, cookies, and oranges. Slowly, however, they grow apart: David hears that Miss Shepherd wishes David didn't stare at her so much. Worse still, Miss Shepherd has a crush on Jones, one of his schoolfellows. One day, David happens to walk past the Misses Nettingalls' girls and sees Miss Shepherd making a face at him and then laughing to her friends. He's done with her. David grows older, and decides that he's above the Misses Nettingalls' young ladies. He's too good for them and for dancing school. Doctor Strong calls David a promising scholar, and Mr. Dick and Miss Betsey are both very proud of him. A young butcher in the town threatens to beat up Doctor Strong's boys because they think they're so great. In fact, he stops a couple of the younger boys and punches them. This butcher challenges David directly, and so David decides to fight him. The butcher totally kicks David's butt, and he has to stay home for a couple of days to recover. Agnes nurses David. She agrees that David had no choice but to fight the butcher (his honor was at stake!). Adams graduates from the school and goes on to become a lawyer. David no longer thinks Adams is so very great: he suddenly seems very meek and not at all grand. Now David is head boy! He feels about a million miles away from the little boy he was when he first arrived at Doctor Strong's school. And Agnes has also grown up: she is like a calm, sweet sister to David. David has fallen in love yet again, this time, with the eldest Miss Larkins. Miss Larkins is a tall woman of about thirty, and David is head over heels for her. David plans to go to a ball that he knows Miss Larkins will also attend. When he can't be with Miss Larkins, he tries to catch the eye of her father, Mr. Larkin. David worries that, at 17, he may be too young for Miss Larkins. But so what! He'll be 21 soon! Fantasies run through David's head of Miss Betsey giving him her blessing to marry Miss Larkins and offering him a fortune of 20,000 pounds. Sadly, in real life, he also notices that Miss Larkins is very popular with the army officers in the town: he starts to worry that she won't even notice him. So, David finally makes it to the ball and asks Miss Larkins to dance. David tells Miss Larkins that he doesn't want to dance with anyone else. They do dance together, and David is pleased that he has snatched Miss Larkins from the arms of Captain Bailey. David asks Miss Larkins for a flower, which he then kisses and pins to his chest. (Seriously.) Miss Larkins tells David that he is very bold, and then asks to be escorted back to Captain Bailey. Miss Larkins later approaches David with a plain, somewhat older gentleman on her arm. She introduces David to Mr. Chestle, who is in the hops trade (hops are flower clusters that are key in the beer and ale brewing process). David thinks that Mr. Chestle must be some friend of the family, and is very proud of the introduction. He's absolutely thrilled at this attention from Miss Larkins. That is, until several weeks later, when Agnes tells him at dinner that Miss Larkins has just gotten married. To Captain Bailey? Nope, to Mr. Chestle. David is miserable, stops wearing his best clothes, and throws away Miss Larkins' flower. Tired of the whole dating scene, David challenges the butcher to another fight and beats him. He feels a bit better. And that's David's rise to the age of 17!
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