Robert Louis Stevenson


Robert Louis Stevenson

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Kidnapped Summary

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Kidnapped is an historical-adventure novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, first published in 1886. A sequel, called Catriona, was published in 1893. It is a fictional account of real-life historical events that took place in 18th Century Scotland, including the Appin murder, which was committed just after the 1745 Jacobite rising.

David Balfour arrives at the House of Shaws, an unfinished ruin of a house. His paranoid and thrifty Uncle Ebenezer lives there, surviving on small ale and parritch. David’s father has just died, and David has come to find out if his father was actually the elder brother, thereby making him the heir to the House of Shaws. Ebenezer tells David to retrieve a chest from the top of a tower. David is forced to climb the stairs in darkness, nearly falling before he sees the staircase end abruptly, and suspects his Uncle of foul play.

David returns to confront his Uncle, who finally agrees to tell him the whole story about his father in the morning. A cabin boy from a ship arrives at the house the next day, telling Ebenezer that Captain Hoseason needs to speak with him. Ebenezer and David both go to the pier, but David leaves his Uncle alone with the captain. Later, Hoseason offers to take them both on a jaunt in his ship, and they agree, but soon after they set out David notices his uncle has escaped on a skiff, and is headed towards the shore. At this point, David is struck unconscious.

He awakes, bound, and is told he will be sold into slavery in the Carolinas. But stormy winds drive the ship back to Scotland. They are near the dangerous coastline of the Hebrides when they strike a small boat, killing all but one member of its crew. The survivor is a man named Alan Breck Stewart, who is brought aboard. He tries to bribe Hoseason, but David overhears the crew planning to kill Alan for the money. David and Alan work together, barricading themselves in the round house. Alan kills a crewman named Shuan, and David wounds Hoseason. Five other crewmen are killed, and the rest give up.

Hoseason agrees to bring them to land. David tells Alan his story, and Alan explains his own. His birthplace, Appin, is being ruled by a tyrant, Colin Roy of Glenure, the King’s factor and a Campbell. He is known as the Red Fox, and Alan vows to kill him.

Another storm throws them against the dangerous Torran Rocks, and in the confusion, the two men are separated. David is washed ashore, while the rest of the ship's crew row to safety on the same island, Erraid, near Mull. David runs into two beggars; the first tries to stab him and the other, who is blind, tries to shoot him. David arrives at Torosay, takes a ferry across a river, and meets Alan’s friend, Neil Roy McRob, who instructs him further. A catechist takes the young man to the mainland.

David runs into the Red Fox himself, along with his lawyer, his servant, and a sheriff officer. David tries to ask for directions, but just then a hidden sniper shoots and kills the King’s agent. David is suspected of the assassination but he manages to flee. He happens upon Alan, whom he now thinks is the assassin, but Alan denies the allegation. They continue to seek a safe place to rest, but David’s health is rapidly deteriorating. Alan convinces a Highlander chief, Cluny Macpherson, to give them shelter. During this period, David recovers, while Alan gambles all of their money away; David later manages to get it back through begging.

When the two men are on the run again, and David's illness returns. They find shelter at the Duncan Dhu Maclaren’s house, a Stewart ally and a piper. During this time, Alan convinces an innkeeper’s daughter that David is a Jacobite nobleman who is dying. She takes them to meet one of David’s uncle’s lawyers, Mr. Rankeillor, who agrees to help David with his inheritance. The lawyer says that David’s father and uncle had a feud over a woman, David’s mother. David's father got the woman, so informally, Ebenezer got the estate. However, the agreement is null upon the elder brother’s death, so the estate belongs to David.

David and the lawyer hide in the bushes outside Ebenezer’s house. Alan speaks to him, pretending to have found a a badly wounded David close to the wreck of the Covenant. He says David is being held captive in the Hebrides, and asks if Ebenezer wants his nephew back. Ebenezer initially denies all responsibility for what happened to his nephew, but soon admits to paying Hoseason off. Upon hearing this, David and Rankeillor reveal themselves and Ebenezer is trapped. The three of them speak in the kitchen and eventually come to an agreement. David will receive two thirds of the estate’s income for as long as his uncle lives.

The end of the novel shows David and Alan parting ways on Corstorphine Hill. Alan is returning to France, and David is going to a bank to settle his money.
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