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by Charles Dickens
David Copperfield Chapter 40 Summary
The Wanderer 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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