by Charles Dickens
David Copperfield Chapter 40 Summary
- David tells Miss Betsey all about his visit with the Wickfields.
- Miss Betsey paces up and down, a sign that she is worried.
- She reads David's note to Dora's aunts and approves of it.
- David mails it and waits for a response.
- One snowy afternoon, as David is walking home from Doctor Strong's house, he sees a woman walking past him whom he recognizes.
- He doesn't place who it is until he sees someone else standing on the steps of a church: Mr. Peggotty.
- That's when he gets that the woman he just passed was Martha Endell, the fallen woman whom Emily tried to help.
- Mr. Peggotty is only in London for the night before he goes away again.
- David and Mr. Peggotty head over to a nearby pub.
- Mr. Peggotty tells David about his travels: first, he headed over to France, where he wandered mostly alone and on foot.
- He would walk from town to town, sometimes in the company of other travelers or old soldiers.
- In each town, he would wait for someone to turn up who spoke English.
- He was well treated by local families with daughters Emily's age, and especially by families with daughters who had died.
- David sees that Martha is standing at the door listening carefully.
- Mr. Peggotty starts to sob, thinking about the children he met and how he misses Emily.
- He collects himself and returns to his story.
- Eventually, he made his way to the east coast of France, where he makes his way over to Italy.
- Mr. Peggotty makes his way through Italy the same way he did in France, until he hears news of Emily, Littimer, and Steerforth. They are in Switzerland.
- Mr. Peggotty travels north to the Swiss Alps, still on foot.
- He has stopped thinking of revenge on Steerforth. All he dreams of is finding Emily and bringing her home.
- But Mr. Peggotty is too late, and they had already left by the time he arrives in Switzerland.
- So, Mr. Peggotty comes home again.
- He goes to the boat house and finds Mrs. Gummidge keeping house.
- While Mr. Peggotty was away, two letters came, written in Emily's handwriting. One contained a fifty pound bank note.
- The second is a full-on letter addressed to Mrs. Gummidge.
- In it, Emily begs for news of Mr. Peggotty's health, and for news of Ham. She is praying for both of them.
- Mrs. Gummidge and Ham have replied to these letters, saying that Mr. Peggotty has gone to look for Emily.
- Then, the day before yesterday, another sum of money arrived – addressed to Mr. Peggotty and "From a true friend" (40.51) – which has a German postmark.
- So, Mr. Peggotty is setting off again to Germany.
- David asks how Ham is doing.
- Ham is still working hard and never complains, but he seems heartbroken.
- Mr. Peggotty worries that Ham is not being careful of his life, that he goes out in all kinds of weather.
- David observes that Martha Endell has disappeared from the doorway. Mr. Peggotty never noticed her there.
- Mr. Peggotty is glad that he was able to see David before going off again.
- He assures David that his only wish is to be able to find Emily and to return that money to Steerforth – he won't accept it.
- They walk out of the pub, and David sees a glimpse of a lady who might be Martha.
- David asks Mr. Peggotty where he is staying to distract Mr. Peggotty from the figure until it is gone.
- When David looks again, there is no trace of Martha Endell to be seen.
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