Chapter 28 Summary
I Go in Quest for My Inheritance
David does what he can to improve his appearance; when he looks in the mirror, he sees that David Balfour has come back to life but is ashamed that he has to wear borrowed clothes. When he again sits down with Mr. Rankeillor, the lawyer tells David the story of his father and his uncle. It involves a love affair, something which the boy has difficulty reconciling with his old uncle.
Ebenezer Balfour was once a young man with a “fine, gallant air,” and people often admired him when he rode by on horseback. In 1715, the promising young Balfour ran away to join the rebels. His older brother, Alexander (David’s father), pursued Balfour and found him in a ditch; he brought Balfour back home. Later, both brothers fell in love with the same young lady. The spoiled younger brother was certain his suit would prevail and was maudlin in his sorrow when he discovered he was wrong. Balfour shouted his woe to anyone who would listen. Alexander Balfour was a kind man, but he was also weak. One day he could take no more abuse and “resigned the lady.” The lady was no fool and refused to be “bandied about” between brothers, so she left them both for a time. They begged her to reconsider, but she would not.
Eventually the brothers came to an agreement because Alexander capitulated and Balfour continued his squalling selfishness. Alexander got the lady, David’s mother, and Balfour got the estate. This awful decision created many problems. Alexander’s family lived in poverty, David was not raised as gentry like he should have been, the Shaw tenants were sorely mistreated, and Balfour has had a terrible, miserly life. People who knew the story rebuffed Balfour; people who did not know the story were suspicious because the older son disappeared and the younger son assumed the estate. They called Balfour a murderer. All Balfour got was money, so that is what he came to covet. He was selfish as a young man and nothing has changed.
The estate clearly belongs to David, no matter what papers Alexander signed; however, Balfour is likely to challenge David’s identity. The case is likely to be messy and Stewart’s identity will be revealed, so Rankeillor recommends that David strike a compromise with his uncle. David devises a plan, though it requires Rankeillor to meet with Stewart; he is hesitant to do it. Eventually Rankeillor examines the plan enough to agree. Rankeillor goes with David to meet Stewart and his clerk, Torrance, goes with them. Rankeillor forgets his glasses thereby guaranteeing that he can enlist Stewart’s help without having to recognize him. Outside of town, David signals Stewart and shares his news and his plan; the two men talk together as they walk to the Shaw house. They arrive at night and all but Stewart hide as he walks openly to the door and begins to knock.