Chapter 6 Summary

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What Befell at the Queen’s Ferry

Ransome leads Davie and Ebenezer Balfour to the inn and into a small, sparse room where Captain Hoseason waits. The captain is the most studious and self-possessed man that David has ever seen. Immediately Hoseason stands and greets Balfour. The room is extraordinarily hot due to a blazing fire; though he had vowed to keep his uncle always in his sight, Davie is so hot in this room that he eagerly leaves when Hoseason suggests he go play for a while.

As the two men talk, Davie walks straight to the water. The smell of the ocean and the sight of the Covenant “beginning to shake out her sails” make him think of voyages to foreign lands. Davie exchanges a few words with one of the least-terrifying sailors who says he is glad to be leaving a port where there are no taverns, but he speaks with such “horrifying oaths” that Davie hurries away from him. Ransome later begs Davie for a drink but neither boy is old enough, so Davie offers him ale instead. Soon both boys are heartily eating a meal at the inn. Davie asks the owner of the inn if Mr. Rankeillor, the lawyer, is an honest man. The innkeeper assures the boy that he is then asks Davie if he is related to Ebenezer Balfour, as Davie looks like Mr. Alexander.

Davie denies the relationship and the innkeeper says Balfour is a wicked old man; Jennet Clouston and many others would love to see Balfour come to a violent end because he forced them all out of their homes. Balfour was “a fine young fellow” before he killed his older brother Alexander so he could inherit the family holdings. Though Davie had suspected that his father was the older brother; now he knows it is true. It is also true that he is a rich man, with a house and land of his own.

Davie sees Hoseason down on the pier talking to his men before returning to the inn. Davie wonders how this tall, serious, and imposing man could be the same awful monster Ransome had described. (Davie will discover later that Hoseason is neither as good as Davie sees nor as bad as Ransome described. Hoseason leaves the better part of himself behind when he boards his ship and becomes captain of his vessel.) Now Balfour, and Hoseason call Davie, and the captain flatters the boy, tricking him into getting into a skiff with Balfour to go see the Covenant, something Davie is quite eager to do. Hoseason overcomes the boy’s hesitations with reason and rationality, and soon Davie is shown around the ship by the captain.

When Davie suddenly asks about his uncle, the captain does not respond. Davie runs to the bulwarks where he sees the skiff heading back to the shore. Balfour’s face is full of “cruelty and terror.” As Davie cries for help, he is suddenly struck from behind and falls senselessly to the deck. 

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