Chapter 7 Summary

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I Go to the Brig Covenant of Dysart

Davie wakes and discovers he is bound and lying in the bottom of the ship, though it takes him some time to realize it. He is beset with despair, remorse, and anger—all of which cause him to again lose consciousness. He wakens later to a bout of seasickness, and these are the worst hours of the boy’s young life. He hears a gunshot. Davie later learns that it is Hoseason’s habit to fly the Covenant’s colors and has a gun fired as they pass Dysart, where the captain’s mother lives.

Davie is eventually roused by a small man, about thirty with fair hair and carrying a lantern. When he asks the boy how he is doing, Davie just sobs. The man is Riach, the ship’s second officer, and he cleans the wound on Davie’s head. He gives Davie some brandy and water and tries to encourage him before leaving the lad alone again. The next time Davie sees Riach, he is feeling better but is lightheaded and his body aches. Hoseason is with Riach and looks at Davie with an ”odd, black look.” Riach insists that he be brought to the forecastle and accuses the captain of being paid to murder the boy. Hoseason is insulted at the accusation and says he is happy with Riach but wants him to drink less; he tells Riach to put Davie wherever he wishes. Riach bows disdainfully at Hoseason’s departing back, and Davie believes Riach will be a “valuable friend” and ally.

Davie is taken to the forecastle where he wakes to a calm, fair day; he is glad to be in the company of others. Davie heals and gets to know the sailors. They are rough men, always ready to fight; but they also have virtues. They are often kind and occasionally honest. They even return some of the money they stole from him. The Covenant is headed for the Carolinas and Davie is to be sold as a slave to a plantation there.

Mr. Shuan, the first officer, is violent and abusive when he drinks, while Riach is only “sullen and harsh” when he is sober. The hardships and cruelties Ransome has suffered have erased most of his early memories, and the sailors have convinced the cabin boy that living on land is full of awful things like working a trade and living in a house. Ransome drinks to forget, and when he does he becomes a fool.

The Covenant is in a constant battle with the weather, and the men’s tempers are strained. Davie is never allowed on deck, but he shares his story with Riach after swearing him to secrecy. Riach vows to help Davie; if the boy writes to Mr. Rankeillor, Davie will surely be freed. Riach explains there are many men who have been unfairly sold into slavery. Riach is a nobleman’s son and nearly a doctor, but all he says about his own life is that he “liked fun, that’s all.”

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