Study Guide

David Copperfield Chapter 40

By Charles Dickens

Chapter 40

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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