After Mr. Barkis’s death, David stays in Yarmouth to help Peggotty arrange her affairs. He discovers that Mr. Barkis has left Peggotty a sizable inheritance and has also left money for Mr. Peggotty.
The adult David breaks his narration to say that he wishes he did not have to go on with his story. He concludes that whether he writes it or not, the outcome would still have been the same.
David goes to Mr. Peggotty’s, where Ham and Little Em’ly are expected soon. Ham arrives and tells David that Little Em’ly has run away. David is completely heartbroken, as is Mr. Peggotty. Little Em’ly has left a letter begging them all to forget her and saying that she will not come back unless the man she has run off with makes her a lady and brings her back. Ham reveals that the man she has run off with is Steerforth. They all cry together, and Mr. Peggotty vows that he will go off to find Little Em’ly.
The next morning, Mr. Peggotty again vows to find Little Em’ly. He announces that he and David will begin their search in London the next day. Mrs. Gummidge comforts Mr. Peggotty, who asks her to stay behind and wait for Little Em’ly’s return.
When David returns to the inn, Miss Mowcher visits him and relates her part in the disaster that has struck the Peggotty family. Standing on the stove, she tells David that when she ran into him and Steerforth in Yarmouth, she believed that David, not Steerforth, was in love with Little Em’ly. Miss Mowcher agreed to give Little Em’ly a letter, which she assumed David had written. The letter put the whole affair into motion. Miss Mowcher apologizes for causing such a nightmare and cautions David not to judge her based on her size. She reminds him that it is not her fault that she was born a dwarf and that she must be sarcastic to get by in the high society she keeps. David agrees, and when Miss Mowcher leaves, he reflects that he has a very different opinion of her than before.
Mr. Peggotty and David arrive in London the next day. They visit Mrs. Steerforth, who blames Little Em’ly for her son’s downfall and Mr. Peggotty for having raised such a wretch. Mrs. Steerforth swears that her son will never marry Little Em’ly. As they leave, Miss Dartle angrily hisses at David for introducing Steerforth to Little Em’ly and for bringing Mr. Peggotty to the Steerforth house. Mr. Peggotty departs to search for Little Em’ly.