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by Charles Dickens
David Copperfield Chapter 38 Summary
A Dissolution of Partnership David continues with his plan on reporting on Parliamentary Debates. He learns shorthand, but it is really hard. Traddles, Miss Betsey, and Mr. Dick help him to learn by staging debates slowly, with pauses for him to catch up. David really is working very hard: he is always on time at both Doctor Strong's home and at the law offices. One day, he finds Mr. Spenlow muttering to himself and looking cold and reserved. Mr. Spenlow asks David to follow him to a coffee shop. David worries that Mr. Spenlow has found out about his engagement to Dora. Once they arrive at one of the private rooms of the coffee shop, they find Miss Murdstone waiting for them. . Miss Murdstone is holding several letters in David's handwriting written to Dora. She continues that she has long suspected Dora of loving David, but she hasn't had any evidence until now. Miss Murdstone did notice that, since she returned from her brother's wedding, Dora has been getting an awful lot of letters from Miss Mills. Unluckily, Jip happened to be playing with one of these letters in Miss Murdstone's presence. She saved it from the dog, read it, and found that it was from David. Miss Murdstone then managed to bully Dora into giving up all of David's love letters. Mr. Spenlow asks David to explain himself. David says that the fault is all his, not Dora's. Mr. Spenlow answers that David is to blame, for sneaking into his house and keeping this whole love affair a secret. Dora's father says that David cannot truly love Dora because he hasn't considered Dora's station in life or potential future with David. David agrees that it's true that he hasn't though much of the future, but they are engaged. Mr. Spenlow tells David not to talk about engagements. It's all nonsense, and he insists that David stop thinking of Dora. Forget about the past, Mr. Spenlow encourages David. David doesn't want to make Mr. Spenlow angry, but he does tell him that he's committed to Dora. Mr. Spenlow answers that he's going to influence Dora to forget the whole thing. Miss Murdstone snorts, suggesting that it's about time that Mr. Spenlow intervene. David is slowly edging towards the door when Mr. Spenlow tells David that he has money to leave to his daughter. David protests that he's not in this for the money. Mr. Spenlow is sure that David isn't, but even so – he's thinking about changing his will to include conditions against foolish marriages. Mr. Spenlow gives David a week to consider this, a week that David won't use: he can't deprive Dora and himself a chance at happiness. Miss Murdstone stares after David the same way she used to when he messed up his lessons. David sits in his little office and writes a letter to Mr. Spenlow begging him not to frighten Dora further, nor to make her cry. He leaves the letter on Mr. Spenlow's desk. Mr. Spenlow warns David that, if he keeps on about this, Mr. Spenlow will have to send Dora abroad again. David then writes to Miss Mills and asks to meet her. Miss Mills weeps with David and promises to go to Dora the next morning to reassure her of David's commitment. Miss Mills seems to be enjoying all of this love drama. David then passes all of this news on to Miss Betsey, who tries to comfort him. The next day, David goes in to the office, which is odd. All of the clerks, including Mr. Tiffey, are standing around and not working. Mr. Tiffey gives David the news: Mr. Spenlow is dead. David staggers, and the clerks help him to a chair. Mr. Spenlow's usual carriage arrived home without him. They found Mr. Spenlow's body about a mile back on the road. He appears to have either fallen or jumped out of the coach on his way home and been overcome by a sudden illness. David is absolutely shocked. He also feels a bit guilty because he's jealous of Dora's grief for someone other than David. That night, David travels to Mr. Spenlow's house. He finds Miss Mills there, and gives her a letter to pass on to Dora. The next day, David receives a letter from Miss Mills about Dora, who is weeping constantly. Mr. Jorkins comes into the office to look for Mr. Spenlow's will. David is also eager to find the will, since he wants to know what Dora's future holds. They look all around the office but can't find one. Oddly enough, when David reassures Mr. Jorkins and Mr. Tiffey that Mr. Spenlow had told him hat Mr. Spenlow had a will all drawn up, they shake their heads. Mr. Jorkins and Mr. Tiffey agree that people are weird about their wills, and often lie about them. That proves to be true: even though Mr. Spenlow's whole law career was built on wills, he did not, in fact, leave one. What's even more extraordinary is that, after paying off all of Mr. Spenlow's bills and debts, there isn't actually much money left over for Dora. Mr. Spenlow had two estranged sisters who agree to take Dora into their home. David manages to visit her new neighborhood quite often. Miss Mills goes so far as to keep a diary of Dora's activities for David. This journal is quite hilarious: Miss Mills's little comments are filled with intense emo.
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