Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 937
When David Balfour’s father dies, the only inheritance left his son is a letter to Ebenezer Balfour of Shaws, his brother and David’s uncle. Mr. Campbell, the minister of Essendean, delivers the letter to David and tells him that if things do not go well between David and his uncle he is to return to Essendean, where his friends will help him. David sets off in high spirits. The house of Shaw is a great one in the Lowlands of Scotland, and David is eager to take his rightful place in the family from which his father, for some unknown reason, separated himself.
As he approaches the great house, he begins to grow apprehensive. Everyone of whom he asks the way has a curse for the name Shaws and warns him against his uncle. When he arrives at the place, he finds not a great house but a ruin with one wing unfinished and many windows without glass. No friendly smoke comes from the chimneys, and the closed door is studded with heavy nails.
David finds his Uncle Ebenezer even more forbidding than the house, and he begins to suspect that his uncle cheated his father out of his rightful inheritance. When his uncle tries to kill him, he is convinced of Ebenezer’s villainy. His uncle promises to take David to Mr. Rankeillor, the family lawyer, to get the true story of David’s inheritance, and they set out for Queen’s Ferry. Before they reach the lawyer’s office, David is tricked by Ebenezer and Captain Hoseason into boarding the Covenant, and the ship sails away with David a prisoner, bound for slavery in the American colonies.
At first, he lives in filth and starvation in the bottom of the ship. The only person who befriends him is Mr. Riach, the second officer. Later, he finds even some of the roughest seamen to be kind at times. Mr. Riach is kind when he is drunk but mean when sober, whereas Mr. Shuan, the first officer, is gentle except when he is drinking. It is while he is drunk that Mr. Shuan beats Ransome, the cabin boy, to death because the boy displeased him. After Ransome’s murder, David becomes the cabin boy, and for a time his life on the Covenant is a little better.
One night, the Covenant runs down a small boat and cuts her in two. Only one man is saved, Alan Breck Stewart, a Scottish Highlander and Jacobite with a price on his head. Alan demands that Captain Hoseason set him ashore among his own people, and the captain agrees. When David overhears the captain and Mr. Riach planning to seize Alan, he warns Alan of the plot. Together, the two of them hold the ship’s crew at bay, killing Mr. Shuan and three others and wounding many more, including Captain Hoseason. Alan and David became fast friends and remain so during the rest of their adventures. Alan tells David of his part in the rebellion against King George and of the way he is hunted by the king’s men, particularly by Colin of Glenure, known as the Red Fox. David is loyal to the monarch, yet out of mutual respect, he and Alan swear to help each other in time of trouble.
It is not long before they have occasion to prove their loyalty. The ship breaks apart on a reef. David and Alan, separated at first, soon find themselves together again, deep in the part of the Highlands controlled by Alan’s enemies. When Colin of Glenure is...
(The entire section contains 937 words.)
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