Study Guide

David Copperfield Chapter 51

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 51

The Beginning of a Longer Journey

  • David is walking with Miss Betsey in the garden early the next morning when Mr. Peggotty comes by to speak to David.
  • Miss Betsey shakes Mr. Peggotty's hand and starts to go inside.
  • Mr. Peggotty asks her to stay.
  • He tells them that he brought Emily to his lodging house the night before.
  • Mr. Peggotty recounts Emily's story:
  • After she flees from the house where Littimer has kept her a prisoner, she runs along the beach.
  • She is so out of it that she thinks she is running towards the old boat house.
  • A woman finds Emily lying on a rock near the shore and starts to speak to her.
  • Emily can barely speak, she feels so ill.
  • Still, this woman – a pregnant young wife – tries to help Emily.
  • (Mr. Peggotty stops to bless the woman and her child, and Miss Betsey seconds his blessing.)
  • The woman asks how things can have gone so wrong for Emily, and Emily tells her whole story.
  • The woman takes Emily home, and convinces her neighbors to keep Emily's presence a secret.
  • Emily gets a bad fever, and she finds herself forgetting all the Italian she knew.
  • Even so, the young woman keeps helping her.
  • Emily falls into delirium and thinks she sees familiar faces all around her, both bad and good.
  • Finally, one morning, she wakes up clear-headed.
  • Emily begins to recover, and her knowledge of Italian starts to come back.
  • When Emily is strong again, she travels to France and becomes a maid at an inn in a port town.
  • One day, that fiend (Littimer) comes into sight, and Emily runs away again without him ever seeing her.
  • She grows frightened and jumps on a boat to England.
  • Once Emily arrives in England, she suddenly worries that her uncle will never forgive her.
  • So, Emily runs to London, alone and penniless.
  • Almost the minute Emily arrives in London, she runs into a woman who offers her lodging for the night and a job as a needleworker.
  • This woman is Martha!
  • Mr. Peggotty thanks David for recommending that Mr. Peggotty trust in Martha. Martha has been true to her word.
  • Martha tells Emily that she has seen Mr. Peggotty and that he forgives Emily.
  • Martha nurses Emily until she can go out and find Mr. Peggotty.
  • Mr. Peggotty has no idea how Miss Dartle might have found Emily, but he suspects it's thanks to Littimer.
  • It doesn't matter to Mr. Peggotty: he has spent the evening talking to his long-lost niece, and he is so happy.
  • Miss Betsey says that nothing would make her happier than to be godmother to that kindly Italian woman's child.
  • Mr. Peggotty nods, but cannot speak.
  • Finally, David asks if Mr. Peggotty has decided what to do for the future.
  • Mr. Peggotty is going to sail with Emily to Australia, where no one will reproach Emily.
  • Emily and Mr. Peggotty will go alone: Peggotty is too fond of David to leave, and Ham – can't.
  • Ham is still broken-hearted.
  • Mr. Peggotty doesn't know what to do about Mrs. Gummidge, though.
  • When Mrs. Gummidge starts thinking about her husband, she is such bad company, and he doesn't want anything to bring Emily down.
  • Mr. Peggotty wants to leave Mrs. Gummidge an allowance so that she can provide for herself.
  • In the meanwhile, Emily will rest with Mr. Peggotty while preparations are being made.
  • Mr. Peggotty's last piece of business is to send back the banknotes that came from Steerforth and that Emily sent to him. He plans to direct them to Mrs. Steerforth's house.
  • Mr. Peggotty also asks David to come with him to Yarmouth.
  • Dora seems better, so off David goes with Mr. Peggotty.
  • David doesn't want to be there when Mr. Peggotty first meets Peggotty and Ham, so he decides to stop and see Mr. Omer first.
  • Mr. Omer is now in a wheelchair, but he still seems in good spirits.
  • In fact, David is impressed by how cheerful Mr. Omer is: he says he enjoys the newspaper twice as much now that he's placed in his chair.
  • Joram and Minnie are both happy, and Joram's work is going well.
  • And Mr. Omer compliments David on his own work, which he claims to have enjoyed very much – although David has his doubts.
  • David thanks Mr. Omer for all of his kindness towards Emily and explains that she has been found by her uncle.
  • Mr. Omer is happy to hear it and asks what has become of Martha?
  • David says that he is not sure yet, but he's sure Mr. Peggotty has a plan.
  • Mr. Omer says he'll be happy to find some way to help Martha, and he's sure that Minnie will be glad to help, too.
  • Mr. Omer adds that Ham is the best man in Yarmouth, always willing to help other people out.
  • Mr. Omer sends his respects to Ham and then plays happily with his granddaughter.
  • David now heads over to Ham's house.
  • He finds Ham, Mrs. Gummidge, Mr. Peggotty, and Peggotty all gathered around the table.
  • Mr. Peggotty has told them the news.
  • The next day, when Ham comes home from fishing, David gets Ham alone for a bit.
  • Ham asks if David has seen Emily, and if he plans to see her again?
  • David thinks it would be too painful for her, but he would be happy to write to Emily for Ham if Ham wants to get in touch.
  • Ham thanks him, and asks David to say just this: Ham wants Emily to forgive him.
  • He worries that, if he hadn't pressed Emily to marry him, she might have felt free to talk to him about Steerforth and his plans, and then Ham could have saved her.
  • And there is something else: Ham is terribly unhappy. But he doesn't want Emily to know that. Ham wants David to convince her that Ham wasn't too badly hurt, and that he's still living a good life.
  • David promises that he will do his best to soothe Emily's mind.
  • Ham thanks him for that, and for accompanying Mr. Peggotty on his trip from London to Yarmouth.
  • David approaches the boat house, which has been emptied of furniture.
  • He finds Mrs. Gummidge and Mr. Peggotty.
  • The boat house seems lonely now that it is empty; apparently, the villagers think it's unlucky now.
  • Mrs. Gummidge suddenly grabs Mr. Peggotty's arm.
  • She begs him not to leave her behind.
  • Mr. Peggotty says that they are in for a long trip and a hard life, but Mrs. Gummidge doesn't care – she will die if she is left behind.
  • Mrs. Gummidge begs David to speak to Mr. Peggotty and convince him for her.
  • She kisses Mr. Peggotty's hand.
  • They carry her trunk out the door, lock up the house, and Mrs. Gummidge travels to London with Mr. Peggotty and David the next day.

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