Study Guide

Kidnapped Chapter 7

By Robert Louis Stevenson

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Chapter 7

I Go to Sea in the Brig 'Covenant' of Dysart

  • When Davie regains consciousness, he finds himself tied up and in pain in a dark room.
  • The intense rocking of the ship convinces Davie that they are in a storm. He is so afraid for his future and so angry at his uncle that he faints again.
  • When Davie comes to a second time, seasickness is added to his list of troubles. This, Davie tells us, is pretty much the worst moment in his life, these miserable first hours on the Covenant.
  • Davie hears gunfire. He finds out afterwards that these shots have come from the town of Dysart, which the Covenant was passing. The captain Mr. Hoseason's mother lived in Dysart, and whenever the Covenant passed, she fired shots and raised a flag in her son's honor.
  • Davie has no idea how long he spent in "that ill-smelling cavern of the ship's bowels" (7.4) before he falls asleep a third time.
  • Davie wakes up to a light shining on his face from a lantern held by a guy in his thirties, with green eyes and light hair.
  • The stranger asks Davie how he is.
  • Davie starts to cry. The stranger cleans the injury on Davie's head and tells him to cheer up. He offers Davie food, gives him a bit of brandy and water, then leaves.
  • When the stranger returns a bit later, Davie is wandering in the head with a bad fever.
  • The stranger is accompanied this time by Captain Hoseason. The stranger tells Hoseason that Davie is ill, and he needs to be brought up above deck.
  • The captain says tough – Davie's not going anywhere.
  • The stranger – whose name, we now learn, is Mr. Riach – tells Captain Hoseason that he (Riach) was hired to be the ship's second mate. He hasn't been paid for anything more, and he won't help in committing murder.
  • Captain Hoseason is angry that Riach could suspect him of such a thing. He tells Riach to take Davie wherever he pleases, if he thinks Davie will die otherwise.
  • Davie notices two things: Riach is a little drunk, and he seems like he'll be a good friend to him.
  • Riach frees Davie and carries him up to a bunk in the forecastle, where Davie falls asleep yet again.
  • When Davie wakes up, he's glad to see the sun at last. He's also no longer alone: there are sailors all around.
  • Davie spends many days in the bunk recuperating.
  • He also gets to know the Covenant's sailors. While they're kind of rough -- and several of them are out-and-out criminals – he feels guilty about how judgmental he was when he first saw them at the Queen's Ferry.
  • The sailors aren't so bad, but what is pretty bad is the fate awaiting Davie: his uncle has sold him to a plantation in the Carolinas.
  • This practice of selling the labor of European immigrants to colonial American employers was pretty common in the eighteenth century. It's often called "indentured servitude," and it differs from the slavery of African Americans primarily in that indentured servants usually had term limits – three to seven years -- before the worker could go free.
  • Davie also meets up with his old buddy, the cabin boy Ransome. Ransome tells Davie that Riach (the second mate) is mean when he's sober, and Shuan (the first mate, who is the guy who gave Ransome that injury) is fine except when he's drunk. Ransome is also quite a drinker.
  • It turns out that Riach, trying to be nice, is the one who supplies Ransome with the alcohol that seems to be ruining his mind.
  • As a background to all of these conversations, Davie tells us that he's not allowed to leave the forecastle, so he's getting pretty bored.
  • He does manage to catch one lucky break: he runs into Riach when he's at just the right stage of drunkenness and tells Riach his life story. Riach promises to write a letter to Campbell (the Essendean minister) and Rankeillor (that lawyer back in Queen's Ferry) for help.
  • Riach also reassures Davie that he's not alone in his changing fortunes: Riach himself is the son of a lord and "more than half a doctor" (7.38) and here he is, serving Captain Hoseason. His reason for these changes in his life? "I like fun, that's all." (7.41).

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