Kidnapped | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Kidnapped | Chapter 4 : I Run a Great Danger in the House of Shaws | Summary



Ebenezer tells David that David's father and Ebenezer had agreed on an inheritance for David before he was born. Ebenezer tries to state a sum that David finds preposterous, but David corrects him. Ebenezer gives some of the funds to David, requesting that David perform some tasks in return. Ebenezer sends David up a dangerous, unfinished staircase at night, with no candle. David climbs carefully and thanks to some timely lightning, he sees that the stairs "had been carried no higher," and that one step farther would have led to his death. When David returns inside, he retaliates by scaring his uncle and nearly giving him a heart attack. David locks the weakened man in his room, planning to get a full explanation for the man's tricks and lies.


Even if David is young and a little bit arrogant in his willingness to throw himself into a situation without proper preparation, he is also intelligent and cunning. David begins to show these traits in this chapter, in which he recognizes that his uncle is trying to con him out of what is properly his. David remains at a disadvantage because he does not know exactly what belongs to him, and he is trying to piece together the puzzle from scraps of knowledge. Still, David is observant, noting that his uncle is not always truthful in his answers, which leads him to treat his uncle with suspicion. This suspicion causes David to become more cautious, like in the way he cautiously climbs the stairs in the dark. His newly acquired caution and some good luck—as lightning showed him the end of the staircase—prevents him from falling to his death. David will make use of suspicion, caution, and good luck throughout his adventures.

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