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Kidnapped | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Kidnapped | Chapter 28 : I Go in Quest of My Inheritance | Summary



After David cleans up, Mr. Rankeillor tells him the story of the disagreement between his father Alexander Balfour and his Uncle Ebenezer. Ebenezer was the younger brother but received much admiration with his "fine, gallant air." Still, when Alexander and Ebenezer fell in love with the same woman, Alexander prevailed. Ebenezer wallowed in shocked disappointment for so long that Alexander gave up the woman. She then withheld herself from either man until the brothers struck a deal: "The one man took the lady, the other the estate." Mr. Rankeillor tells David that no matter what the men agreed, David is now the rightful heir to the estate. David proposes a plan that will force Ebenezer to hand over a large portion of the estate while keeping the matter out of the courts, where it would create a scandal. The men go meet Mr. Thomson (the fake name Mr. Rankeillor insists they use for Alan Breck) to secure his help in the plan. Mr. Rankeillor conveniently forgets his glasses, so that he may not recognize Alan and be forced to give witness against him.


Mr. Rankeillor shows himself to be an honorable man, if not an entirely honest one. He chooses to prioritize what he thinks is right above the letter of the law. He agrees to take part in David's scheme because it will resolve the conflict between David and his uncle without putting it before the courts. For Mr. Rankeillor, this is important because it allows Ebenezer to maintain some of his honor, whereas a court battle would produce a scandal. Mr. Rankeillor finds clever ways to protect himself from committing any illegal acts. He insists that David continue to use the false names for Alan and other people who may have done something illegal so that he technically does not know their identities. He "forgets" his glasses so that he cannot be required to identify or describe Alan. Mr. Rankeillor knows that these actions are against the spirit of the law, but not against the law as written. He is smart enough to exploit that subtle difference in order help people in the way that he feels is just, even if it is not the justice that a court would hand down.

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