Study Guide

David Copperfield Chapter 29

By Charles Dickens

Chapter 29

I Visit Steerforth at His Home, Again

  • David asks Mr. Spenlow for some time off, which he gives – why not, since David's not getting a salary?
  • Mrs. Steerforth and Miss Dartle both welcome David to their home in Highgate.
  • David notices that Miss Dartle seems to be watching him and Steerforth very closely, as though comparing their faces.
  • Every time David starts to talk to Steerforth, he notices that Miss Dartle is nearby.
  • Finally, Steerforth, his mother, Miss Dartle, and David all go for a walk.
  • Miss Dartle grabs David's arm and pulls him back a bit.
  • She asks about David's job, which David agrees is a bit boring sometimes.
  • Miss Dartle seems to be hinting at something that David doesn't get at all.
  • She asks David (in her usual odd, roundabout way) if Steerforth has been away from home so much because he has been spending time with David.
  • Of course, David says that he hasn't seen much of Steerforth at all.
  • Miss Dartle asks David what on earth Steerforth is doing, then?
  • David replies that he knows nothing at all.
  • Miss Dartle makes him promise not to tell anyone they've had this conversation.
  • David observes that Mrs. Steerforth seems particularly happy with her son; David thinks that the two seem very much alike, really.
  • At dinner, Miss Dartle wants to ask a question.
  • Mrs. Steerforth pleads with her not to take too much time about it, but to be direct, as she used to be.
  • Miss Dartle wonders that she could every have been different than she is now – what can have caused the change?
  • Perhaps she should study Steerforth's manner to learn how to be more frank, Miss Dartle suggests.
  • Mrs. Steerforth agrees.
  • Miss Dartle then asks if two people who are very like one another get into an argument, if it's all the harder for them to make up afterwards?
  • Like, let's just say that Steerforth and Mrs. Steerforth got into an argument. What would happen?
  • The Steerforths dismiss the possibility.
  • David also notices that Steerforth is going out of his way to charm Miss Dartle.
  • Miss Dartle resists as much as she can, but eventually, even she starts to soften.
  • Steerforth asks Miss Dartle to sing an Irish song, just as she used to.
  • The song is perfect and odd and unearthly.
  • Steerforth puts his arm around Miss Dartle and tells her that they should love each other forever.
  • Miss Dartle hits Steerforth and runs out of the room.
  • Mrs. Steerforth comes in and asks what's happened to Miss Dartle.
  • Steerforth explains that she was being an angel, so she had to become a devil to make up for it.
  • Mrs. Steerforth warns him not to try Miss Dartle's temper too much.
  • Later that night, when David says good night to Steerforth, Steerforth laughs over Miss Dartle's fierceness. He tells David that Miss Dartle is always dangerous.
  • Steerforth gets a bit sentimental, and tells David that, if anything should happen between them, David should always think of Steerforth at his best.
  • David says that he loves Steerforth in all of his moods.
  • David almost confesses Agnes's suspicions about Steerforth's character, but he can't figure out how.
  • Instead, the next morning, David leaves for Yarmouth before the household wakes up.

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