Study Guide

Kidnapped Chapter 14

By Robert Louis Stevenson

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Chapter 14

The Islet

  • Davie informs us that this next part is the worst thing that will happen to him during the course of his story. He's shipwrecked and wet, on a cold night, on a seemingly completely deserted island.
  • When dawn comes, Davie climbs a nearby hill to see if he can spot the ship, but he can't. The Covenant has sunk.
  • Davie sets out to look for a house to get help. It starts to rain, making the chill he had already been feeling even worse.
  • Davie tries to cross a creek that has cut him off from the island of Mull. It's deep enough that Davie can't get across without help, so he goes back to the beach to grab the piece of wood ("yard") he used to swim to shore. He hopes to be able to use it as a bridge.
  • This trip back to the beach is awful. Davie is intensely thirsty from having swallowed so much salt water, so he keeps having to drink nasty water from the nearby peat bogs ("hags").
  • Davie gets to the beach, only to find that the yard (which was the whole point of his backtracking in the first place) has been carried back out to sea by the tide.
  • Davie is so disappointed that he lies down on the beach and weeps.
  • His situation by now is dire: he's got nothing at all to eat. He remembers that shellfish are supposed to be tasty, so he decides to tackle some limpets and periwinkles, both of which are a kind of snail. Yum!
  • Well, that's a pretty bad idea on Davie's part: the first bout of raw snails makes him really sick. He keeps going back to them, though, because he's got nothing else.
  • Sometimes the snails make Davie puke and sometimes they don't – it's like Russian roulette with shellfish.
  • As a backdrop to this food-related horror, it keeps raining and raining and raining. Davie is never dry.
  • He walks all around the island and can't find any place better than the boulders he's been sheltering near. There's a little hut that fishermen probably once used, but the roof is gone and it provides even less protection than the boulders.
  • Even though Davie is shivering and hungry, he does have some hope of being saved. From the highest hillside over the bay, Davie can see the roofs of people's houses on the island of Iona and the smoke from people's fires from the island of Mull (in the low country of the Ross). He can't believe that he could go unrescued when there is human settlement so close to him .
  • Despite this hope, no one notices Davie's troubles for the first few days of his stay on Earraid. It doesn't even stop raining until he's been there for three days.
  • On that third day, Davie sees a red deer, which bounds away from him. Where did he come from? Davie can't say.
  • Then Davie discovers that an unnoticed hole in his pants has caused him to lose a ton of money. He left Queensferry with those fifty pounds from Ebenezer, and even after the sailors stole a bit when he first came aboard the Covenant, he still had about a third of his coins. Now he's got exactly three guinea pieces and a silver shilling: roughly a tenth of what he started with. This is a serious emotional blow: no money, he's been wet for three days, he's feeling sick, and his clothes have started to rot off his back. How could things possibly get worse?
  • Then the sun finally comes out, and Davie dries up a bit. He's lying on a rock watching the sea when he sees a small boat full of fishermen. He shouts and gestures to them and he knows they hear him, because they yell back in Gaelic and laugh. But they don't stop for him, the fiends!
  • Davie's really torn up over this. So close to rescue, and these jerks have left him behind! He weeps and wails and wishes they were dead.
  • Davie tries to choke down some shellfish, but they make him sick again, and he's now absolutely certain that he's going to die.
  • Davie forgives God, his uncle, and even the fellows who ignored his cries for help. This seems to bring about a change in his mood, because suddenly he feels much better about life in general. At least it's stopped raining, right?
  • The next morning (the fourth day on the island, if you're still counting), Davie is feeling weak, but he manages to eat some shellfish, and the sun is still shining. He goes out to the rock he likes to watch the sea from.
  • Davie sees a small boat, which appears to be aiming straight for him. He tries not to get his hopes up, but eventually he can't deny that the boat really does seem to be coming for him. He gestures and calls to the fishermen.
  • It's the same guys who left him behind the day before, with one addition, a new fellow who speaks to him in Gaelic and who also keeps laughing at Davie.
  • The man seems to be sort of trying to speak English, but he keeps lapsing back into Gaelic.
  • Davie finally works out what it is that he's trying to tell him. You remember that deep creek that has been cutting off Davie from the island of Mull? Well, when the tide goes out, the creek dries out and is totally possible to cross. So Davie's just spent four days needlessly on Earraid thanks to his complete ignorance of the sea.
  • Davie acknowledges that he's an idiot. He's now clad in rags, barely able to walk, with a raging sore throat, all because he couldn't put two and two together.

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