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by Charles Dickens
David Copperfield Chapter 29 Summary
I Visit Steerforth at His Home, Again David asks Mr. Spenlow for some time off, which he gives – why not, since David's not getting a salary? Mrs. Steerforth and Miss Dartle both welcome David to their home in Highgate. David notices that Miss Dartle seems to be watching him and Steerforth very closely, as though comparing their faces. Every time David starts to talk to Steerforth, he notices that Miss Dartle is nearby. Finally, Steerforth, his mother, Miss Dartle, and David all go for a walk. Miss Dartle grabs David's arm and pulls him back a bit. She asks about David's job, which David agrees is a bit boring sometimes. Miss Dartle seems to be hinting at something that David doesn't get at all. She asks David (in her usual odd, roundabout way) if Steerforth has been away from home so much because he has been spending time with David. Of course, David says that he hasn't seen much of Steerforth at all. Miss Dartle asks David what on earth Steerforth is doing, then? David replies that he knows nothing at all. Miss Dartle makes him promise not to tell anyone they've had this conversation. David observes that Mrs. Steerforth seems particularly happy with her son; David thinks that the two seem very much alike, really. At dinner, Miss Dartle wants to ask a question. Mrs. Steerforth pleads with her not to take too much time about it, but to be direct, as she used to be. Miss Dartle wonders that she could every have been different than she is now – what can have caused the change? Perhaps she should study Steerforth's manner to learn how to be more frank, Miss Dartle suggests. Mrs. Steerforth agrees. Miss Dartle then asks if two people who are very like one another get into an argument, if it's all the harder for them to make up afterwards? Like, let's just say that Steerforth and Mrs. Steerforth got into an argument. What would happen? The Steerforths dismiss the possibility. David also notices that Steerforth is going out of his way to charm Miss Dartle. Miss Dartle resists as much as she can, but eventually, even she starts to soften. Steerforth asks Miss Dartle to sing an Irish song, just as she used to. The song is perfect and odd and unearthly. Steerforth puts his arm around Miss Dartle and tells her that they should love each other forever. Miss Dartle hits Steerforth and runs out of the room. Mrs. Steerforth comes in and asks what's happened to Miss Dartle. Steerforth explains that she was being an angel, so she had to become a devil to make up for it. Mrs. Steerforth warns him not to try Miss Dartle's temper too much. Later that night, when David says good night to Steerforth, Steerforth laughs over Miss Dartle's fierceness. He tells David that Miss Dartle is always dangerous. Steerforth gets a bit sentimental, and tells David that, if anything should happen between them, David should always think of Steerforth at his best. David says that he loves Steerforth in all of his moods. David almost confesses Agnes's suspicions about Steerforth's character, but he can't figure out how. Instead, the next morning, David leaves for Yarmouth before the household wakes up.
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