Chapter 5 Summary

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

I Go to the Queen’s Ferry

Davie is now certain of his uncle’s enmity and knows his life is in imminent danger. But he is young and spirited and does not believe Balfour can harm him. In the morning he unlocks his uncle’s door and is greeted quite civilly before they eat their porridge. Davie jeers at the older man, asking if he has anything more to say to him. Balfour assumed Davie was a weak country rube and Davie assumed his uncle was as good a man as any other. Both of them were wrong.

Davie sees Balfour struggling to fabricate a lie when they are interrupted by someone knocking at the door. Davie opens the door to find a “half-grown boy in sea clothes." The child dances and sings in a ridiculous way, but he also seems to be near tears and blue with cold. He arrived to deliver a letter and he is hungry, so David brings him to the kitchen. Balfour reads the letter then shares it with Davie. It is from Ellias Hoseason and delivered by his cabin boy. If Balfour has any business to conduct with the captain, today is his last opportunity before Hoseason sails. Balfour explains that he conducts business with this captain of the trading ship, the Covenant. If Davie will accompany his uncle, Balfour can conduct his business and then take Davie to see Rankeillor, his lawyer. Perhaps Davie will believe him more than Balfour. Davie considers the proposal and figures he will be safe from violence in a crowd and can force the meeting with the lawyer if necessary. Davie would also like a closer view of the sea and ships, so he agrees to go to Queen’s Ferry but vows to keep Balfour always in his sight.

Though it is June, it is bitterly cold. Balfour does not speak on the journey; Davie talks with the cabin boy, Ransome, who has been at sea since he was nine years old. His stories are obviously exaggerated and therefore pitiable. Ransome says Captain Hoseason is fearless but leaves navigation to his first mate Mr. Shuan, “the finest seaman in the trade” except when he is drinking. Ransome has a horrible scar from a beating Shuan gave him. Based on Ransome’s stories, life on the ship sounds like “hell upon the seas.” Ransome says his life at sea is good compared to some of the people his ship transports: criminals being sent to North America as slaves and, even worse, innocent children who are trepanned (kidnapped) “for private interest or vengeance.” They arrive at the Firth of Forth and Ransome points out the Covenant. There is plenty of activity on board, but after all of Ransome’s stories, the sight is abhorrent to Davie: “from the bottom of his heart he pities all poor souls that are condemned to sail in her.” Davie tells his uncle there is no inducement which will get him to board the Covenant. Balfour agrees. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Chapter 4 Summary


Chapter 6 Summary