Study Guide

David Copperfield Chapter 13

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 13

The Sequel of My Resolution

  • David sits down for a time on a stoop to collect his thoughts.
  • Luckily, it's a warm summer night.
  • Unluckily, he has very little money and no real plan beyond walking all the way to Dover (which is about 73 miles from London).
  • He happens to walk past a shop that advertises buying used clothes, with the best price given for rags.
  • David rolls up his waistcoat and brings it to the shopkeeper, Mr. Dolloby.
  • Mr. Dolloby offers David ninepence – about U.S. $5.00 in today's money (source).
  • David decides to spend the night in a haystack he knows is located behind his old school, Salem House (which, we remember, is near London).
  • David has some trouble finding Salem House, but at last he does, and the haystack as well – and that's where David passes his first night outside.
  • David dreams of talking to his school friends, and jerks awake with Steerforth's name on his lips.
  • It's just about dawn, and David falls asleep again.
  • When he wakes up again, he creeps off without ever announcing himself to the boys at Salem House.
  • David hears church bells ringing: it's Sunday morning.
  • David walks about 23 miles on that first day.
  • He is too afraid to spend the night at an inn, so he sleeps outside again, in a field near a troop outpost where a guard is patrolling. This makes David feel safe.
  • David realizes he needs more money for food the next day, so he takes off his jacket to sell.
  • Most of the second-hand clothing stores he finds are too grand for his poor little jacket.
  • Finally, he finds a small place that caters to sailors.
  • An old man in the shop keeps asking David what he wants, and punctuating every sentence with "goroo" (13.23).
  • David asks eighteen pence – about $10 – for his jacket, and the man says he won't give it to David – he offers David an exchange instead of cash.
  • David says that he will wait outside while the old man thinks over his offer.
  • David sits and waits for many hours.
  • The man – Charley – is an old drunk, frequently teased by boys in the neighborhood.
  • This is why he behaves so badly with David.
  • Charley comes out of his shop throughout the day with other things he offers David instead of money: a fishing rod, a fiddle, a hat, and a flute.
  • David asks, with tears in his eyes, for either his money or his jacket.
  • Finally, Charley starts doling out David's money a little bit at a time.
  • David is exhausted by all of this, but he continues on his way.
  • What frightens David the most as he travels on the road to Dover are the other "trampers" (13.44), men like David who are walking the roads.
  • One of them is a young tinker (a person who fixes tin pots, pans, and tools) traveling with a woman.
  • This man grabs David by the shirt and demands to know where David is going.
  • He threatens to knock David's brains out if David says he's better than the tinker.
  • The tinker demands "the price of a pint of beer" (13.54) from David, but the woman with the tinker shakes her head no.
  • David takes his cue from the woman and says he's very poor and has nothing.
  • The tinker then asks how David dares to wear his brother's silk handkerchief? The tinker grabs the handkerchief from around David's neck and throws it to the woman.
  • She laughs as though this is a joke, throws the handkerchief back to David, and whispers to David to get away.
  • The tinker grabs the handkerchief back and punches the woman to the ground.
  • David is so frightened by this exchange that he hides from all people passing him from then on out, which slows his travel a lot.
  • The only thing that keeps David going is his memory of his mother's face in her youth, which gives him hope for the future.
  • Finally, David makes it to Dover.
  • David asks around everywhere for Miss Betsey Trotwood, but the people he asks either laugh at him or else they won't tell him because they don't like the looks of him.
  • At last, he meets a good-natured fellow driving a carriage, who knows where Miss Betsey lives. What's more, he gives David a penny, which David uses to buy bread before he goes to meet his aunt.
  • Following the driver's directions, David winds up near a cluster of houses.
  • He stops in at a general store to ask which house is Miss Betsey's.
  • A customer, a young woman standing at the counter, turns around and asks David what he wants of her employer.
  • The young woman thinks David is a beggar, but she agrees to lead David to the house anyway.
  • The young woman takes David to the house and then hurries in.
  • David stands at the garden gate and looks inside.
  • He is not looking too great: his shoes have practically lost their soles, his clothes are stained and torn, and his hair hasn't been brushed in days.
  • David doesn't know how he can meet his aunt in this condition.
  • He sees a gray-haired man with a red face looking at him through the parlor window. The man winks at David, laughs, and then goes away.
  • David is so surprised by this man that he is about to turn away and reconsider his plan when he sees a lady come out of the house.
  • The lady is carrying gardening gloves and a knife. David is sure she is Miss Betsey.
  • Miss Betsey tells David to go away, because boys aren't wanted here.
  • His aunt goes to a corner of the garden to work.
  • David is so desperate that he approaches Miss Betsey, touches her softly with his arm, and tells her that she is his aunt.
  • Miss Betsey sits down suddenly on the ground, she's so shocked.
  • David explains that his mother has died and that he has been miserable since then, and that he walked all the way here to find Miss Betsey.
  • David is so exhausted and strung out that he bursts into tears.
  • Miss Betsey takes him straight into the parlor and starts feeding him random things to try and get him to calm down (among these potions? Salad dressing. Ick.).
  • David is still hysterical, so Miss Betsey makes him lie down on the couch.
  • Miss Betsey rings a bell, and her servant (the young woman from the store, whose name is Janet) comes in.
  • Miss Betsey asks Janet to bring Mr. Dick downstairs.
  • Mr. Dick comes into the room laughing: it's the gray haired man who winked at David through the parlor window and frightened him.
  • Miss Betsey tells Mr. Dick that this boy is David Copperfield, who has run away.
  • David's aunt exclaims that his sister, (the fictional) Betsey Trotwood would never have run away!
  • Miss Betsey tells Mr. Dick that, since he is so sharp, she wants his advice on what to do with David.
  • Mr. Dick says that, if it was him, he would wash David.
  • Miss Betsey turns to Janet and instructs her to heat the bath.
  • During all this, David takes a look at the three people around him: his aunt is attractive, but very stern looking. Mr. Dick seems childish and strange: David thinks he may be a bit crazy.
  • Janet, the servant, is around 19 or 20; she's very neat and pretty.
  • As Janet is heating David's bath, Miss Betsey suddenly cries out, "Janet! Donkeys!" (13.113).
  • Miss Betsey feels very possessive of the patch of green in front of her house, and her main horror in life is the sight of donkeys trying to get into it.
  • So, she spends much of her time driving away kids who happen to ride their donkeys into her green patch.
  • But even as Miss Betsey is driving away the donkeys, she is feeding David spoonfuls of broth.
  • His bath is also very helpful: it soothes his aching limbs and makes him warm.
  • After his bath, Miss Betsey and Janet put him into a set of Mr. Dick's clothes, wrap him in several shawls, and let him sleep on the sofa.
  • As he dozes, Miss Betsey pushes David's hair from his face and seems generally to feel pity for him.
  • When he wakes up, they all have dinner.
  • Throughout this meal, David is very nervous: what is Miss Betsey going to decide to do to him?
  • David explains everything that has happened to him in his life up to this point.
  • Miss Betsey wonders why "the Baby" – a.k.a. Mrs. Copperfield – bothered to get married again.
  • Mr. Dick wonders if it was because she wanted to.
  • Miss Betsey dismisses this out of hand – her husband would be certain to abuse her somehow, so why did Mrs. Copperfield want another one?
  • Also, Miss Betsey wants to know, why David's mother couldn't have given birth to a girl like she was supposed to?
  • As though it wasn't enough that Mrs. Copperfield insisted on giving birth to a son, then she had to go off and marry someone named Murderer!
  • No wonder David has become a wanderer, Miss Betsey decides.
  • And then that Peggotty! Miss Betsey continues. She had to go and get married next!
  • David protests that Peggotty is the best and most devoted friend he could have, and that he would have gone to Peggotty instead of Miss Betsey except that he wasn't sure she could support him.
  • Miss Betsey approves of David's loyalty.
  • After a long day of suspense for David about his fate, Miss Betsey turns to Mr. Dick and asks what she should do with David.
  • Mr. Dick answers that she should put David to bed.
  • And so she does: David gets sent to a pleasant bedroom overlooking the sea.
  • Miss Betsey locks his door from the outside, probably, David guesses, to keep him from running away.
  • David is so grateful that he prays never to be homeless himself, nor to forget what it is to be homeless.

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