David becomes depressed at the idea that he is now poor. Although he realizes this emotion is selfish, he cannot escape it because he worries that Dora will be deprived of things she wants. David tells Miss Betsey that he loves Dora, but Miss Betsey chastises him for pursuing a pointless romance. David tries to cancel his apprenticeship with the law firm because it pays nothing, but Mr. Spenlow refuses to refund the money Miss Betsey has paid to apprentice him.
On his way home, David sees Agnes, who is on her way to visit Miss Betsey. Agnes has heard of Miss Betsey’s ruin and comforts David. However, Agnes also tells him that Uriah Heep is destroying her father: Uriah and his mother have moved in with the Wickfields, and nothing is the same about the house. David and Agnes visit Miss Betsey and discuss her financial situation with her. Agnes suggests that David take a job as secretary for Doctor Strong, who is looking for help. Mr. Wickfield and Uriah Heep arrive, and Miss Betsey castigates Uriah, who is as slimy as ever.
On his way to visit Doctor Strong, David concludes that his new financial difficulties will allow him to prove that he loves Dora. He determines that he will work through every difficulty to be with her and will raise himself and his aunt out of their present distress. Doctor Strong agrees that David should be his secretary and that the two of them will work together on the dictionary Doctor Strong is compiling. They begin immediately. While they are at breakfast, Jack Maldon asks Annie to go to the opera with him that night. Annie does not want to go, but Doctor Strong tries to force her.
David is suspicious of Jack Maldon’s intentions and of Annie’s fidelity to Doctor Strong. Later, however, he hears that Annie has managed to cancel the date and go see Agnes instead. David takes Mr. Dick, who is upset about Miss Betsey’s financial situation, to see Traddles with him. Together, they decide that Mr. Dick can work at copying legal manuscripts—a task that he must try to accomplish without inserting references to King Charles I. Mr. Dick succeeds in doing so and thus earns some money for the family.
David receives a letter from Mr. Micawber stating that Mr. Micawber intends to move and asking David to come say farewell. David and Traddles go and have dinner with the Micawbers and discover that Mr. Micawber has plans to go to Canterbury to work for Uriah Heep. David is very uncomfortable at this arrangement but does not learn the details of it.
David tells Dora about his financial woes the next time he sees her at Miss Mills’s house. Dora becomes hysterical at the idea that she might have to live in poverty and refuses to listen to David’s argument that she should learn how to manage a house. David calms Dora, but she becomes hysterical every time he mentions money. David begs Miss Mills to try to bring Dora around to an understanding. Miss Mills agrees to try, although she does not think it can be done.