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Kidnapped | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Kidnapped | Quotes


You took me for a country Johnnie Raw, with no more ... courage than a porridge stick.

David, Chapter 5

When David's Uncle Ebenezer has given David a small amount of money, Ebenezer claims that he has fulfilled the terms of the agreement made between himself and David's father. Ebenezer then asks David a favor in return, sending him up a dangerous set of stairs whose end is unfinished. David saves himself from falling to his death and realizes the extent of his uncle's enmity. As he confronts his uncle, he speaks these words, telling Ebenezer that he will not be taken for a fool and easily fall prey to his uncle's tricks. This line reveals to Ebenezer that David now knows that Ebenezer is plotting against his life, which likely encourages Ebenezer to intensify his attempts to get rid of the boy. At the same time, this line shows David's awareness that he has begun to lose his naiveté—even if he will be taken for "a country Johnnie Raw" by several other men before his adventures are over.


I think it right to tell you sir, ... there's nothing that will bring me on board that Covenant.

David, Chapter 5

After the confrontation with his uncle, David heads to the town of Queen's Ferry with his uncle and Ransome, who is the cabin boy for the ship, the Covenant. Along the way, Ransome tells David all about life aboard the ship, including the cruelty of its officers and its habit of carrying criminals and kidnapped men to sell in the American colonies. David is horrified by his tales and proclaims to his uncle that he will never go aboard the ship. David expresses his strongly held principles with this line, indicating that he would never associate with or support people like the ones Ransome describes. His hastily spoken words are proved false in the next chapter, when he will be convinced to board the Covenant of his own free will and will be imprisoned there against his will as a kidnap victim.


And life is all a variorum, at the best.

Mr. Riach, Chapter 7

Once he wakes aboard the ship the Covenant, David tries to befriend men among the crew and find someone who will help him return to Queen's Ferry. Mr. Riach is kind to him, bringing him food and water. David decides to try telling him the story of how his uncle has wronged him in the hopes that Mr. Riach will help him. Mr. Riach says he will help David, if he will write his story to Mr. Campbell and Mr. Rankeillor as well. Then he tells David to "keep your heart up" because he is not alone; there are many other men who have suffered similar fates. He says that life is a "variorum," a word derived from the Latin varius and meaning "variety." In other words life is unpredictable and changeable.


Well, ... he brought me a dirty pannikin!

Mr. Shuan, Chapter 8

After Ransome's body is brought into the sailors's quarters, David is asked to take the boy's duties and his bunk in the officers's quarters in the roundhouse. David thus overhears the discussion among Captain Hoseason, Mr. Riach, and Mr. Shuan regarding the boy's death. Mr. Shuan is dazed and does not seem to understand what he has done. The Captain yells at him, telling him that he has murdered Ransome. Mr. Shuan's only response and excuse is that the boy brought him a dirty pannikin, a type of cup that Ransome used to bring alcohol to the officers. The rationale is flimsy; Mr. Shuan killed the boy when he flew into a drunken rage over an offense so minor that it could never justify his death. David's awareness of the injustice of Ransome's death allows him to believe that the crew members are complicit in or guilty of murder, which makes it just to fight and even kill them in the later battle with Alan.


Ye've a French soldier's coat ... and a Scotch tongue, ... but so has many an honest fellow.

Captain Hoseason, Chapter 9

Captain Hoseason speaks these words to Alan Breck, just after the outlaw has come aboard the Covenant following the destruction of the boat he was on. The combination of Alan's French coat and the Scottish language identifies him as a Jacobite, a member of the 1745 failed rebellion against the Protestant English throne that sought to restore a Catholic king. Captain Hoseason proclaims that he is a proud Protestant and supporter of the current king, which should make the two men enemies. However, Captain Hoseason's claim that "so has many an honest fellow" means that he will not condemn Alan based solely on his political affiliations, although many would. Captain Hoseason prefers to hear more from the stranger and then determine the best course of action.


Wherever ye go and show that button, the friends of Alan Breck will come around you.

Alan, Chapter 11

After Alan and David fight off two attacks from the Covenant's crew members, they pass a quiet night. In the morning, Alan cleans his prized French overcoat carefully and plucks off one of its buttons. He inherited this prized button from his father, he tells David, and it will provide protection and aid if David shows it to anyone. David does not understand the full value of the button. It links him to Alan, and through Alan, to his reputation and his network of friends and family across the highlands. Showing this connection to Alan provides David with the same connections and support that Alan enjoys.


A soldier covers nae mair of it than his boot-soles.

Alan, Chapter 12

After defeating the Jacobite uprising in 1745, the English king stationed troops throughout the territory that has provided men, support, and aid to the rebels. David wonders how Alan—an outlaw because of that rebellion—can come and go without being caught as the Highlands are "covered with troops, and guarded like a city in a siege ...." Alan replies that a soldier "covers nae mair (no more) of it than his boot-soles." Although there are many troops, the king cannot truly cover all of the territory with troops. There are many places where men may secretly pass, particularly if they know which routes and regions are more strongly fortified with troops. Alan and David will make use of this knowledge later, as they flee from the highlands back to Queen's Ferry.


A sea-bred boy would not have stayed a day on Earraid.

David, Chapter 14

When the ship crashes into the rocks, David tries to help the men free it, but he is thrown away from the ship by a massive wave. He manages to float and then swim to shore, where he finds himself marooned on an islet that is separated from the mainland Isle of Mull by a "creek or an inlet of the sea" that he cannot cross. David survives on the island for four days, until some men in a small boat pass by and tell him that the water he cannot cross is a tidal inlet and it is passable when the water retreats at low tide. David finds their advice to be true and is embarrassed. His ignorance of the wild territory around him foreshadows the difficulty he will have in traveling across the rough terrain of the highlands later in his journey.


I am Alan's friend, and ... I will not stumble at the risk.

David, Chapter 20

When David and Alan are on the run from the English soldiers, who believe them to be responsible for the murder of the Red Fox, they make a stop at the house of Alan's kinsman, James Stewart. James and his clan have heard the news of the murder and expect retaliation from the English troops because James was an enemy of the Red Fox. James tells Alan that he will be forced to "paper" Alan and David—distribute wanted fliers with an offered reward—even though he does not want to do so. James will only do so, however, with their permission. Alan gives his permission readily, understanding that this action may help protect James and his family from persecution. David feels betrayed and hesitates, but seeing that Alan views it as necessary, he agrees. His words go against his own principles, but his choice is presented to the reader as an honorable one: choosing loyalty to a friend over personal security.


Upon my honest word, ye may take this money ... and here's my hand along with it.

Cluny Macpherson, Chapter 23

At one of the hideouts of the exiled Jacobite chieftain, Cluny Macpherson, David and Alan's host, offers them food and then invites them to play cards. David refuses on his Christian principles, but Alan plays. David falls into a fevered sleep for days, during which Alan plays cards with Cluny and loses all his money as well as all of the money he "borrowed" from David while he was nearly unconscious. As they leave, Cluny tries to make it right by returning David's money. David is offended because Cluny offers him generosity that he cannot repay; Cluny is offended that David will not accept what he offers. David ask Cluny to advise him what he should do, and the man begrudgingly offers it, along with "his hand," a symbol that David has earned the man's respect. David is earning himself a reputation as an honorable man for although Cluny thinks he is "too nice and convenanting," he still finds him worthy of respect.


What I thought I liked about ye, was that ye never quarrelled.

Alan, Chapter 24

After David and Alan's confrontation about the money Alan "borrowed" from David while David was feverishly ill, they march on in terrible weather. Alan sees that David is struggling a little and provokes him to keep moving with some insults. David stays mostly silent but becomes ever more ill in the rain and cold. Eventually, feverish and angry, he starts a quarrel with Alan. The two men offend one another almost beyond forgiveness before David realizes that he has spoken poorly to a man who has offered him such kindness. He begs for Alan's help in his sorry state, and as Alan agrees, the two restore their friendship. Alan admits that he had thought what he liked about David was that he did not quarrel, but now Alan has found a new respect for the young man and his principles. David has learned both to stand up for himself and when to admit that he has been wrong and apologize.


[A secret] is told to a whole countryside, and they will keep it for a century.

David, Chapter 25

David and Alan hide in Balquhidder for a month while David recovers. Their presence there is widely known among the locals, but no English soldiers ever learn that they are there. David finds this fact surprising because he is used to secrets existing only among a few friends. Here, the secret is widely known and yet well kept. David's observations about the character of the highlanders makes it clear that he feels like a foreigner even within the same country. His experience of ways of life so different from his own challenges his perceptions and helps him grow into a man with principles different from those he held when he began his journey.


She was so simple a creature that my heart smote me both with remorse and fear.

David, Chapter 27

When David and Alan near the end of their journey to Queen's Ferry, they have to cross the Firth of Forth, the area where the River Forth meets the sea tide in a wide basin. With a little playacting and a little honesty, they convince a young woman in a pub to help them secure a boat and someone to row them across. They are shocked when the young woman herself shows up to row them across in a stolen boat. Alan and David are amazed that she would risk her own safety in order to protect their secret, not sharing it even with one other person. David and Alan are delivered to their destination by the most purely honest person they have encountered, and while that makes them hopeful for the resolution of David's problems, David feels remorse for lying to an honest person and fear that they might have put her in danger.


After all that I said, I have forgot my glasses!

Mr. Rankeillor, Chapter 29

After David tells his story to Mr. Rankeillor, the lawyer agrees to help him as long as he is not required to know the true identities of any men who might have committed illegal acts. Mr. Rankeillor insists upon using a fake name for Alan, calling him Mr. Thomson, because he would be legally required to report illegal activities and would prefer not to report on a man who has been an honorable friend to David. Before they go to meet Alan to carry out the plan to make David's uncle confess to the kidnapping, Mr. Rankeillor tells David several times about the time that he forgot his glasses and mistook his secretary for another man. Then, once they have left to meet Alan, Mr. Rankeillor reveals that he has "forgotten" his glasses. The clever lawyer finds numerous ways to skirt the law in order to do what he believes to be just, even if it is not the spirit of the law.


In that case sir ... I would just have to be hanged—would I not?

David, Chapter 30

Once David's troubles are resolved, David discusses with Mr. Rankeillor how he can help Mr. Thomson (Alan) and Mr. Thomson's kinsman (James Stewart). Mr. Rankeillor gives him sound advice for Alan, but he warns that going back to the highlands to help James would be a great risk. Knowing that the judge and jury will likely be stacked against the Stewart side of the conflict, testifying on behalf of James Stewart "would be a brief transition to the gallows." Even if both men are innocent, the generations-long conflicts between the two sides are likely to result in unfair convictions and the deaths of both James and David. With the words quoted here, David responds that he is willing to risk his own life on behalf of an innocent man to whom he is indebted for saving his own life. David has become an honorable man, who is loyal to his friends and willing to risk his life on their behalf.

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