Kidnapped: Chapters 25-30
Alan takes the sick David to a house in Balquidder belonging to the Maclarens, a clan friendly to the Stewarts. They put David to bed and call a doctor. David is out of bed after a week, and ready to travel again within a month. Alan refuses to leave David, although David often urges him to do so. Soon, the entire community gets to know that David is staying at the house, and come to visit him. A “Wanted” poster showing David is pinned near the foot of his bed, but while his host Duncan Dhu and others must know who he is, no one asks him any awkward questions.
One day, David is visited by Robin Oig, a son of Rob Roy (the historical Robert Roy MacGregor, usually known as Rob Roy, was a Scottish hero, outlaw, and Jacobite leader). Robin behaves as if were among inferiors. On hearing that David is a Balfour, he asks if he is related to a surgeon of the same name who cured his brother’s leg, which had been broken in the battle of Prestonpans. David says that he knows nothing of his descent. Robin goes to leave, appearing sorry that he ever bothered to talk to David. David overhears him telling Duncan that he is “only some kinless loon that didn’t know his own father.”
As Robin Oig is leaving, he meets Alan coming in. The two men exchange hostile words. Alan reminds Robin that his chief, Ardshiel, defeated Robin’s father Rob Roy in a swordfight, and accuses Rob Roy of adding Campbell to his own name. Alan and Robin agree to fight a duel, but Duncan intervenes, suggesting that as both are acclaimed pipers, they have a bagpiping contest instead. They take turns in playing different airs with ever-increasing refinements. Finally, Robin plays a piece associated with the Appin Stewarts, Alan’s own clan. Alan softens visibly. He tells Robin that he is a far greater piper than himself; and that though he thinks that he could still beat Robin in a swordfight, he feels it would be wrong to indulge in an unequal fight with such a piper. Thus the quarrel is made up.
David ends the account of his meeting with Robin Oig by noting that he was later tried and hanged in the Netherlands.
David and Alan continue on their way, and reach David’s home country. He is eager to visit Mr. Rankeillor and claim his inheritance. They reach a bridge, but a sentry is there, so they avoid crossing it and strike out across country. They need to cross the Firth of Forth, the estuary of the River Forth. They reach Limekilns and go into an inn, where the innkeeper’s daughter brings them food. David pretends to be ill, and Alan pretends to be impoverished gentry. Alan tells the woman that he cannot safely say why they are in trouble, but whistles a Jacobite tune to give her a clue. The woman feels sorry for them, but David sees that she is frightened of helping Jacobites. He mentions that he is trying to cross the Firth to visit Mr. Rankeillor, and that King George has no greater friend in Scotland than himself. She respects Rankeillor, and her fears are allayed. She steals a boat and rows David and Alan across the Firth herself. David hopes that they have not exposed her to danger.
David and Alan arrive in Queensferry. David looks for Mr. Rankeillor and runs into him by accident. Mr. Rankeillor invites him into his house, and David tells him his story, though he is worried at the thought that he is Ebenezer’s employee. Mr. Rankeillor says that he was, but no longer. On the day that David was shipwrecked, Mr. Campbell had come to his office, demanding to know where David was. Ebenezer then arrived. He claimed that he had given David a great deal of money and that David had left for continental Europe, wanting to break with his past life. Mr. Rankeillor and Mr. Campbell had not believed Ebenezer. Then Hoseason had arrived with the story that David had drowned in the shipwreck. David tells more of his story. When he mentions Alan’s name, Mr. Rankeillor, who has heard of Alan as the chief suspect in the Appin murder, pretends he has not heard, and names Alan Mr. Thomson. That way, if Mr. Rankeillor is later questioned about Alan in court, he can claim that he knows nothing about him. Similarly, Colin Campbell is renamed Mr. Glen, James of the Glens is referred to as Mr. Thomson’s relative, and Cluny Macpherson is renamed Mr. Jameson. After David finishes his story, Mr. Rankeillor gives David some fresh clothes.
When David has washed and changed, Mr. Rankeillor tells him the story of his father, Alexander Balfour, and his uncle Ebenezer. When both men were young, they fell in love with the same woman, who was to become David’s mother. Ebenezer had felt confident that she would choose him, and when she chose David’s father, Ebenezer, responded with hysteria and by drinking too much. Alexander had felt guilty and had given the woman up to Ebenezer, but she refused and rejected them both. Alexander and Ebenezer had finally agreed that the first would have the woman, while the second took the estate. Alexander and his wife had lived in poverty ever since, and the tenants of the estate of Shaws had suffered under Ebenezer’s rule. Ebenezer had become more and more selfish and miserly.
Mr. Rankeillor explains that the agreement between David’s father and Ebenezer has no validity in law, and that the estate of Shaws is David’s. However, Ebenezer is likely to contest his claim with a lawsuit. Mr. Rankeillor fears that any court case will bring up the existence of “Mr. Thomson” (Alan), which would be dangerous for David. The kidnapping might win the case for David, but it would be difficult to prove anything. He recommends that David allow Ebenezer to continue living at Shaws and be content with an allowance until the old man dies.
David thinks up a scheme that would involve Mr. Rankeillor meeting Alan. Mr. Rankeillor is at first unwilling, since as a lawyer, he would have to bring Alan to justice if he knew anything against him. But at last, Mr. Rankeillor thinks of a way he can meet Alan and not put him in danger. He tells David a story about how he once forgot his spectacles and failed to recognize his own clerk. As David takes Mr. Rankeillor to meet Alan, Mr. Rankeillor laughs and tells him that he has forgotten his spectacles. David realizes that this is Mr. Rankeillor’s way of making sure that he cannot see Alan properly, and that therefore he can truthfully say in court that he never saw him.
Mr. Rankeillor talks confidentially with Alan, and they all go to the house of Shaws. Alan knocks at the door.
Ebenezer appears at the window with his blunderbuss (firearm) in answer to Alan’s knock. David, Mr. Rankeillor, and Mr. Rankeillor’s clerk stand out of sight, as witnesses to the scene that follows. Alan tells Ebenezer that he has come about David. Ebenezer concedes that Alan can come in, but Alan will not; he says they must do business on the doorstep. Ebenezer comes out. Alan pretends to be a Highland gentleman whose friends captured David after the shipwreck and kept him in their castle. These friends found out that David’s uncle was the rich Ebenezer Balfour, and are demanding a ransom for his release. Ebenezer says that he does not care what happens to David, so he will not pay any ransom. Alan says that if Ebenezer will not pay to get David back, then he must pay them to keep him alive or to kill him. Ebenezer says he does not want him killed, so Alan says that in that case, Ebenezer must pay more, as it is more expensive to keep David alive than to kill him.
The men haggle over the price. Alan asks Ebenezer what he paid Hoseason to kidnap David. Ebenezer admits that he gave Hoseason twenty pounds, and that Hoseason would have earned more money from selling David into slavery in the Carolinas.
At that point, Mr. Rankeillor, his clerk, and David step forward and show themselves to Ebenezer, who is stunned. They take Ebenezer into the kitchen, and Mr. Rankeillor tells him not to worry, as they will accept easy terms. Mr. Rankeillor congratulates David on his good fortune, and compliments Alan on his performance. He comes to an agreement with Ebenezer that David will receive two thirds of the income from the estate of Shaws.
David tells Mr. Rankeillor that he must help Alan escape. He also wants to clear the name of James of the Glens concerning the Appin murder. Mr. Rankeillor agrees that David should help Alan to escape. But if he enters the witness box in court to try to clear James, he risks being tried for the crime himself, found guilty, and hanged. David is not dissuaded, as he feels it is his duty to come forward. Mr. Rankeillor gives David two letters. One is to his bankers, the British Linen Company, ordering them to give David his inheritance. The other letter is to a relative of David’s, a well-respected Balfour, who will help him when he testifies to James’s innocence.
David arranges to send money to Alan so that he can travel to France. Near Edinburgh, the two men part. David goes to the British Linen Company bank to claim his inheritance.
In a final note, the author writes that he may one day write a sequel telling how Alan escaped and what happened about the Appin murder. This will depend on the public’s reception of this story. The author assures his readers that all went well for both men.
Analysis of Chapters XXV-XXX
Stevenson introduces another fictionalized version of a historical character in Robin Oig, son of the folk hero Robert Roy MacGregor, who was popularly known as Rob Roy. (The historical Robin Oig’s full name was James More MacGregor.) Robin Oig’s dismissal of David as “only some kinless loon that didn’t know his own father” shows the importance to the Highlanders of the clan system. To Robin, clan is all-important, to the extent that a man such as David who does not know his own clan is utterly insignificant. Stevenson continues his critical and unheroic portrayal of Scottish folk heroes in the character of Robin, who is shown as proud, arrogant, petty, and generally unlikable.
The bagpiping duel between Alan and Robin is one of the most famous episodes in the novel. It draws attention to the dual aspects of the fierce Highland people: the warrior and the poet. When Alan and Robin first meet, they are in warrior mode, squaring up to each other like two gladiators. They exchange hostile words, and it is only the intervention of Duncan Dhu that averts a swordfight. Duncan suggests a bagpiping duel instead. As the two men try to better one another’s performance, it seems at first that the hostility has been transferred from swords to piping. But finally, Robin plays an air associated with the Appin Stewarts, Alan’s clan, and Alan softens: “The first notes were scarce out, before there came a change in his face; when the time quickened, he seemed to grow restless in his seat; and long before that piece was at an end, the last signs of his anger died from him, and he had no thought but for the music.” Alan’s former anger with Robin is transfigured into rapturous enjoyment of the music and the love for his clan that it represents. In addition, although this is not made explicit, Alan must surely appreciate the gesture of humility on Robin’s part in playing an Appin Stewart air. Alan reciprocates by stepping back from his former confrontational stance and humbly praising Robin’s playing unequivocally: “Robin Oig … ye are a great piper. I am not fit to blow in the same kingdom with ye.”
Characteristically, however, Alan’s full-hearted compliment on Robin’s playing is undercut by a snide remark to the effect that Alan still thinks he could better Robin in a swordfight. But even this undercutting is couched within such high praise for Robin’s musicianship that Robin would have to have a heart of stone to take offense. Such a fight would be unfair, Alan says, because “It would go against my heart to haggle a man that can blow the pipes as you can!” This incident could have been written to illustrate the words of the English playwright William Congreve in his 1697 play, The Mourning Bride: “Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast.”
Mr. Rankeillor’s role in this section is to bring a much-needed dose of common sense and level-headedness into the events of the novel. Since David left his father’s house at the beginning of the novel, he has become involved with a host of unsavory and malicious characters, such as Ebenezer, Hoseason and the crew of the Covenant, and the blind robber. Even Robin Oig and Cluny Macpherson have a dangerous capriciousness to them that could potentially harm David. David’s helper in dealing with these people has been Alan, but even he is something of a liability, being a wanted and hunted man. Mr. Rankeillor, in contrast, is a respected man in his community, making him the perfect guide for David at this moment of his re-entry into conventional society. He is both good-hearted and logical, combining benevolent intentions with an intelligent foresight that enables him to negotiate the legal difficulties of David’s position. It is fitting that Alan leaves David’s life at this point. His status an outlaw means that he can no longer be a mentor to David now that David has taken up his place in society as the laird of Shaws.
Many critics find the ending of Kidnapped unsatisfying. The antagonist, Ebenezer, does not put up any fight in the final confrontation and simply gives in. The outcome of David’s plan to give evidence to clear James of the Glens of the charge of complicity in Colin Campbell’s murder is not covered. The reader is not told whether Alan gets safely away to France. Stevenson states in a final note to the reader that he may conclude these two unfinished plotlines in a sequel, depending on the public reception of this novel. But the tone of this passage suggests a lack of commitment that hardly makes the reader clamor for the next installment. In fact, Stevenson did publish a sequel, Catriona (1893), which, however, was not a popular success.