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by Charles Dickens
David Copperfield Chapter 56 Summary
The New Wound, and the Old Having seen Steerforth's drowned body, David remembers the last thing Steerforth said to him: "Think of me at my best!" (56.1). David can't help but do that, even now. The fishermen bring Steerforth's body to the same room in which Ham's body has been laid, but they decide that's kind of wrong. So, they move Steerforth's body to the inn where David is staying. Needing to break the news to Steerforth's mother himself, David calls on Joram to help him transport the body to London. David arrives at Mrs. Steerforth's house and knocks on the door. The parlor-maid answers and asks if David is all right? He looks sick. David admits that he is tired. He asks if Mrs. Steerforth is at home. Mrs. Steerforth receives David. She is not well. Next to Mrs. Steerforth sits Miss Rosa Dartle. Mrs. Steerforth notices that David is dressed all in black. David replies that he is in mourning for his wife. Mrs. Steerforth offers her condolences. From the look on David's face, Steerforth's mother guesses that something is wrong with her son. Miss Dartle has already put two and two together: she clearly knows that Steerforth is dead. But David has to clarify for Mrs. Steerforth. Mrs. Steerforth asks Miss Dartle for help, but Miss Dartle immediately starts to quarrel with her. Miss Dartle points to the scar on her lip and asks Mrs. Steerforth if she remembers how Miss Dartle got it (i.e., from Steerforth himself). Miss Dartle blames Steerforth's bad temper on the way Mrs. Steerforth spoiled him. David tries to stop Miss Dartle, but she refuses to be quiet. Miss Dartle screams that she has always loved Steerforth better than his mother has. After he disfigured her face, neither Mrs. Steerforth nor her son ever really believed that Miss Dartle had true feelings. Miss Dartle blames all of Steerforth's faults on his mother. David replies that, if Miss Dartle can't forget his faults even at this moment, at least she should help his mother. Miss Dartle kneels next to Mrs. Steerforth and curses David. David leaves the house and brings Mrs. Steerforth the body of her son. Mrs. Steerforth is comatose; she doesn't respond to her doctors at all. David finds the house completely silent and death-like except for the occasional cry from Mrs. Steerforth.
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