Study Guide

Kidnapped Chapter 4

By Robert Louis Stevenson

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Chapter 4

I Run Into Great Danger in the House of Shaws

  • After this direct confrontation, Davie is pretty surprised that the rest of the day isn't so bad. After breakfast, he finds Ebenezer's library, which he spends the rest of the afternoon perusing.
  • Davie finds something a little odd, though. On the front page of a pamphlet (called a "chap-book" (4. 2)), there is an inscription in his dad's handwriting to his brother Ebenezer on his fifth birthday. But Davie is sure that Alexander was the younger brother. So either his dad learned to write really well when he was around four years old, or else he must have (weirdly) gotten Ebenezer's age wrong.
  • Davie later asks Ebenezer if his father was an exceptionally quick student, and Ebenezer says no. Davie asks Ebenezer if he and Alexander were twins, and Ebenezer jumps up and grabs Davie by his jacket.
  • Davie tells Ebenezer to let him go and asks what this is all about.
  • Ebenezer pulls himself together and asks Davie not to speak of Alexander any more: it's too painful for him.
  • Davie begins to wonder if his uncle is either crazy or trying to keep him from something that is rightfully his.
  • Ebenezer tells Davie that he's set aside some money for him, from before his birth. It's 40 pounds – and there's a weird little negotiation here. At first, Ebenezer says that he's promised Davie 40 Scottish pounds, which would have been worth about 2 English pounds. But Davie says, "Pounds sterling, I believe!" (4.14), and his uncle agrees, even though 40 English pounds (pounds sterling) would be about 20 times the value of Ebenezer's original offer.
  • Ebenezer sends Davie out the door while he counts out this money.
  • Davie is sure that Ebenezer is lying to him about this whole setting-aside-money story, but he's okay with going along with it for now. So he steps outside and notices that a storm is coming in.
  • Ebenezer calls Davie back in and gives him 37 guinea pieces (about 38 pounds and 17 shillings). Davie is amazed by Ebenezer's sudden generosity when he is so obviously a terrible miser.
  • Ebenezer says that, now, Davie owes him. Davie promises to do whatever Ebenezer wants (so long as it's reasonable).
  • Ebenezer asks for help with the house and garden, as he's getting old. Davie accepts. Ebenezer suggests they start now and sends Davie – still in the dark, because Ebenezer hates lights in the house – to a tower at the end of the house for some papers.
  • Davie dutifully heads outside to the stairs to the tower. It's pitch black outside and he has to feel his way along the wall to find the staircase, which is uneven and dangerous underfoot.
  • What makes the staircase even more dangerous is that it is unfinished! It only rises to a certain point. Fortunately, a flash of lighting lights up the scene, preventing Davie from falling five stories straight down.
  • Davie comes back down the stairs and another flash of lightning exposes his uncle standing there in the courtyard watching him.
  • Ebenezer panics at the sound of a crash of thunder and runs back into the house, leaving the door open behind him.
  • Davie sneaks in quietly and, when Ebenezer's back is turned, claps his hand on Ebenezer's shoulders.
  • Ebenezer is startled and faints. Davie takes this opportunity to rummage around in closets looking for weapons. He finds a "Highland dirk" (4.40) – a kind of long knife (link: which he grabs.
  • Ebenezer, meanwhile, slowly regains consciousness. He's obviously terrified and asks for a blue bottle of medicine for his heart, which Davie gives him.
  • Davie is really angry, what with the whole attempted murder thing, and sits staring at his uncle for a while.
  • The old man begs to be allowed to explain everything in the morning. Davie lets Ebenezer go to bed, locks Ebenezer in his room, and sleeps in front of the fire in the kitchen.

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