Study Guide

Kidnapped Chapter 5

By Robert Louis Stevenson

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Chapter 5

I Go to the Queen's Ferry

  • Davie now knows his uncle hates him. He starts imagining how he'll get the better of Ebenezer, and the thought really tickles his fancy. He's feeling pretty full of himself by now.
  • Davie brings Ebenezer down to breakfast, then asks him point blank what is going on.
  • Ebenezer says he'll tell Davie just after breakfast. Davie's sure he's going to be lied to again.
  • Just when things are getting interesting, there's a knock at the door. Davie goes to answer.
  • It's a kid, dressed like a sailor and blue from the cold. He starts doing a kind of sailor dance, sings a snatch of poetry, and then says he has a message from "old Heasyoasy" to "Mr. Belflower" (5.12) – by which he means Balfour.
  • The letter is from Elias Hoaseason, an agent who's in business with Ebenezer to back a merchant ship, the Covenant.
  • Ebenezer suggests that Davie come with Ebenezer to the docks to talk to a nearby lawyer, Mr. Rankeillor. This Rankeillor can supposedly prove that Ebenezer's story (which we still haven't heard) is true.
  • Davie decides the Ferry area will be crowded and his uncle won't have a chance to try anything funny. So they head out with the cabin boy.
  • It turns out that the boy is named Ransome, and he's been at sea since he was nine. Ransome is not talking much sense: he shows Davie a terrible open wound inflicted on him by one of the officers of the Covenant, "Mr. Shuan," which he seems to think is a sign of what a great man Mr. Shuan is.
  • Davie thinks all of Ransome's talk proves what an awful ship the Covenant must be, even though the name seems religious.
  • At this point we need to give you a bit of historical background about the name of this ship. The Covenanters were a group of very political Presbyterian Christians who attempted to form a system of government around the Church of Scotland in the seventeenth century. This pitted the Covenanters against the Anglican church, which acknowledges the ruling king or queen of England as its leader. So at the same time that England is trying to take over Scotland, the English and the Scottish churches are getting involved in the brawl between the two countries. It all becomes pretty confusing, but the essential point is: the Covenanters are associated with Scottish patriotism, the Scottish Parliament, and a movement against the English kings (source). And we know that Stevenson is probably using "covenant" to remind his readers of this history because he refers to Patrick Walker, a Covenant pamphlet writer, elsewhere in the book (4.2).
  • The boy, Ransome, continues, talking about the "twenty-pounders" (5.31), people who are kidnapped or sold into slavery and who are therefore even worse off than Ransome is.
  • Another point of clarification here: Davie refers to people "trepanned [. . .] for private interest or vengeance" (5.31). Trepanning is an old word that means kidnapping someone to make them work for you. He's definitely not talking about the crazy surgical procedure, also called trepanning, where you drill a hole into some poor guy's head to relieve pressure on the brain. Just FYI!
  • From the top of a hill, Davie can finally see the river Forth emptying into the harbor, where a ferry is set up for upriver travel from the sea. Beyond the ferry, the Covenant is anchored. The three guys are heading for Hawes Inn, which is near the mouth of the Forth. (This region is called a "firth" (a.k.a. estuary) in Scots, hence the name "the Firth of Forth.")
  • Davie tells Ebenezer that there's no way he'll set foot onboard the Covenant. Ebenezer is like, whatever, it's cold and the Covenant is getting ready to leave, so let's hurry up.

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