Determined to reach Miss Betsey's home in Dover, David sets out on foot. He passes a small second-hand clothing store, sells his waistcoat for a small sum, and then spends the night in a haystack near Salem House School.
David, "a dusty, sunburnt, half-clothed figure," arrives in Dover after six days of traveling and inquires about his aunt. After several unsuccessful inquiries, he is directed to Miss Trotwood's cottage. Miss Trotwood, seeing the ragged urchin in her garden, sternly bids him, "Go away! Go along! No boys here!" But when David tells her who he is and what an unhappy life he has led since his mother's death, she takes charge of him with vigor, but it should be added, with abruptness.
Janet, the Trotwood housekeeper, is directed to prepare a bath for David; in the meantime, his aunt feeds him some broth. After David naps, he is fed a large supper while Miss Trotwood comments on the folly of marriage. The conversation is interrupted with her cry, "Janet! Donkeys!" Suddenly Miss Trotwood and the housekeeper rush outside to chase the donkey-riders off the lawn. This is a frequent occurrence at the cottage.
The household consists of Miss Trotwood, the housekeeper, and Mr. Dick, a congenial simpleton whom Miss Trotwood has befriended. They are all kindly people, and David feels fortunate to be there. At breakfast the next morning, Miss Trotwood tells David that she has written to his stepfather. David implores her not to send him back, but she is noncommittal in her reply.
David visits with Mr. Dick (actually, his name is Mr. Richard Babley, but he detests the name), who is writing a long "Memorial" to the Lord Chancellor. When a part of the manuscript is finished, Mr. Dick uses it to paper a huge kite. In this way Mr. Dick circulates his "facts a long way." David thinks him quite mad, but a harmless, friendly fellow nonetheless.
A reply to Miss Trotwood's letter arrives, stating that the Murdstones are coming to speak to her about David. David is terrified at the prospect of this visit. When the Murdstones arrive the, next day, they immediately incur the wrath of Miss Trotwood by guiding their donkeys across the front lawn. Finally, the Murdstones enter the house, and David's stepfather tells about the many difficulties he has had with the rebellious boy. Miss Trotwood counters by saying that David's interests, particularly his annuity, has not been looked after and that his mother was ill-used. Exasperated, Mr. Murdstone states that if David does not return, "my doors are shut against him . . ."
Miss Trotwood asks David if he wishes to return, and he replies that he does not; she then asks Mr. Dick what she should do with the boy and after a bit of thought, he replies, "Have him measured for a suit of clothes directly." She thanks Mr. Dick for his good sense, and with some final caustic remarks, she ushers the Murdstones out of the house. David now has a new set of guardians and his aunt decrees that he shall now be known as "Trotwood Copperfield." And so David begins a new life.
In Chapter 13, Dickens uses elements of the popular picaresque, or adventure story. This type of novel was well established in Dickens' time and consisted of the wandering journey of a hero through a series of thrilling, unconnected incidents. The hero is forced to live by his wits as he encounters different people (usually of low station) who attempt to cheat him or otherwise use him for their own ends. Because the hero sees all levels of society, the author is able to give a panoramic picture of life during a particular time.
The delineation of Miss Trotwood's true character in Chapter 14 is Dickens' way of revealing that behind the brusque exterior shown in the first chapter lies a compassionate nature. Note, too, her concern, as evidenced in her guardianship of Mr. Dick and her instinctive rejection of the Murdstones.