Study Guide

Kidnapped Chapter 12

By Robert Louis Stevenson

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Chapter 12

I Hear of the 'Red Fox'

  • The west coast of Scotland has a bunch of tiny islands and long inlets that are hard to picture without a map. In fact, Davie advises that you look at a map to see where the action's happening: they're currently approaching the island of Mull. (Check out this map.)
  • Davie and Alan kick back and smoke some of Hoseason's tobacco in the round-house.
  • Davie starts unloading all of his sorrows on Alan. But as soon as he mentions the minister Campbell's name, Alan tells Davie that he can't stand the Campbells.
  • Alan says that he's an Appin Stewart (Appin is a place in Scotland), and that his family and the Campbells have lots of bad blood between them. The Campbells are always cheating the Stewarts, Alan claims.
  • Alan does admit that his father, though he was a great guy, wasn't exactly good with money. Since he had no cash, Alan actually enlisted in the English army at one point –the same army that's hunting for him today. Alan abandoned the army, so now he's wanted not only for treason but for desertion.
  • Davie is impressed that, even though Alan is both a rebel and a deserter, he keeps coming back to Britain. Why doesn't he just stay in France?
  • Alan likes France well enough, he says, but he misses the heather and the deer of the Highlands. Also, he's very loyal to his clan chief, Ardshiel, and it's his responsibility to bring the rents from the tenants on Ardshiel's estate to Ardshiel's current home in France.
  • Alan then curses the Campbell family and drops the name "Red Fox." He explains that Ardshiel has been stripped of his lands and titles by the English government for his part in the Jacobite rebellion. While he managed to escape the highlands with his life, wife, and kids, he's got nothing else legally left.
  • Enter Colin Roy of Glenure, the "Red Fox" and member of the Campbell family. The English government puts him in charge of collecting rents on Ardshiel's lands in Appin. He finds out that Ardshiel's loyal tenants are scrimping and saving to send Ardshiel a second rent in addition to the rent that they're legally required to pay to the king.
  • Red Fox wants to put a stop to this funding of Ardshiel's life in exile. So he looks for tenants who will pay more for the land than the people who are currently living there. Yet, even though the families living on Ardshiel's land are paying two rents, they still manage to outbid all of the Campbells in Red Fox's family, so they get to keep their places on Ardshiel's estates.
  • Davie says that, even though he's a Whig, he's glad that Red Fox didn't succeed in ruining Ardshiel.
  • Alan answers that Red Fox won't be beaten until he's actually been killed. After Red Fox realized that he couldn't get rid of Ardshiel's tenants by legal means, he brought in the army to chase them out. He replaced Ardshiel's tenants with people so poor that they couldn't afford both the king's rents and Ardshiel's.
  • Davie tries to reason with Alan: it's the government's fault, not Red Fox's. Even if Alan were to kill Red Fox, someone else would just take his place.
  • Alan is clearly disgusted by this thinking, so Davie quickly changes the subject.
  • He wonders how Alan can come and go so openly in Scotland when he's a wanted criminal. Alan explains that because Scotland has been pretty much dominated by the English by now, you no longer see so many soldiers.
  • This makes Alan sad: all the great men like Ardshiel have been tossed out of Scotland, and all the bad ones like Red Fox – the ones who won't give the English any trouble – remain.
  • Davie sums up for us: Alan has many talents, but he also has a serious fault: he's sensitive and quick to anger. And one more thing: Alan admires a lot of people in this world, but none so much as himself. In other words: the man is vain.

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