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Chapter 1 The House of Shaws

Introduction

There was a sound above my head. I jumped and looked up — at an old gun, at one of the windows.

'I — I'm here with a letter,' I said. 'A letter for Mr Ebenezer Balfour of Shaws. Is he here?'

'Put it down outside the door, and go away,' said the man with the gun.

After his parents die, young David Balfour starts his journey to the strange House of Shaws. He is going to live with his uncle. But people look strangely at him when he talks about the place. ' Stay away from there. Stay away!' a man on the road tells him.

Ebenezer Balfour is an old man, but he is dangerous. He puts David on a ship to America, and a difficult time begins. Can the man in expensive French clothes help David? Or is life more dangerous with him than without him ?

At the time of this story, King George was the king of England, Scotland and Ireland, but there were a lot of unhappy people in Scotland and Ireland. They wanted another Catholic king from the Stuart family (Stewart in this story).They fought the king's soldiers, but they lost. After the fight at Culloden, in 1746, Charles Edward Stuart had to leave Scotland. This story begins five years later.

Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh in Scotland in 1850. He was a weak child and he was ill for most of his life. He went on long journeys and in 1888 he moved to Samoa, a warm country, with his American wife. He died there in 1894. His most famous books are Treasure Island, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Kidnapped. They are all Penguin Readers.

Chapter 1 The House of Shaws

 

Early one morning in June 1751 I left my father's house in Essendean for the last time. I walked down the road, and met that good man Mr Campbell near his church.

'Did you have some breakfast, David Balfour, my boy?' he asked.

'Yes, Mr Campbell. Thank you,' I answered.

'Then I'll walk with you to the river,' he said.

We walked quietly for a time. Then Mr Campbell said,' Now, Davie, I've got something for you. It's a letter from your father. He gave it to me after your mother died. Before he died. He said, " Give it to David after they sell the house. Then he has to take it to the house of Shaws, near Cramond. Please tell him that." Here's the letter, David.'

' The house of Shaws ?' I said.' Why did he want me to go there ?'

' I don't know,' said Mr Campbell.' I think your father came from there. It's the home of the family Balfour of Shaws. Perhaps your father came from that family. He never spoke about it. He was a clever man. Cleverer than most village school teachers.'

Mr Campbell put the letter into my hand, and I read on it:' To Ebenezer Balfour of Shaws. My son, David Balfour, will give this letter to him.'

I was seventeen years old, and the son of a country teacher. I planned to go to Edinburgh. I wanted to be a student in one of the great schools there.

' Mr Campbell,' I said,' do I have to go ?'

'Cramond isn't a long way from Edinburgh,' he answered. ' You can walk there in two days.'



At the river, Mr Campbell took my hand in his hands. He suddenly looked very sad. 'Goodbye, Davie,' he said. And he turned and went quickly away.

I carried my little bag across the river, then started to climb the hill. At the top, I turned and looked back at Essendean village for the last time.

 

Two days later, in the morning, I came to the top of a hill. I could see the city of Edinburgh, and ships on the sea.

I started to walk down the hill. After a time I saw a man, and I asked him the way to Cramond.' It's to the west of the city,' he said. On my way down, I asked two or three more people. Then I came to the Edinburgh to Glasgow road.

When I was near Cramond, I began to ask the way to the house of Shaws. People looked at me strangely. 'Is it because of my clothes?' I thought. 'I'm a country boy and I'm going to a great house. Do they think that's strange ? Or is there something strange about the house?'

I changed my question when I spoke to the next man.

' Do you know the house of Shaws ?' I asked.

' Yes,' he said.' Why ?'

' Is it a big house ?' I asked.

' Oh yes. It's big,' he said.

' And the people in it ?' I said.

' People ?' he said.' What's wrong with you ? There aren't any people.'

' Oh!' I said.' Not Mr Ebenezer ?'

' Oh yes,' he said.' He's there. What do you want from him?'

' Perhaps I can get work,' I said.

' What!' He moved nearer me. ' Listen!' he said. ' Stay away from there. Stay away!'

It was nearly dark when I found the house. I stood and looked at it.' I don't like it,' I thought.' There are walls, but no glass in the windows!' I could see the light of a little fire in one of the rooms. I went to the thick, heavy door and hit it.

No answer. Everything was quiet.

'Is somebody listening to me in there?' I thought. I could hear a clock when I put my ear to the door. I nearly ran away, but suddenly I was angry. I kicked the door and shouted for Mr Balfour.

There was a sound above my head. I jumped and looked up — at an old gun, at one of the windows.

'I — I'm here with a letter,' I said. 'A letter for Mr Ebenezer Balfour of Shaws. Is he here?'

' Put it down outside the door, and go away,' said the man with the gun.

' I will not!' I said, angrily.' I'll put it into Mr Balfour's hand. It's a letter about me.'

' And who are you ?' was the next question.

' My name is David Balfour,' I said.

The man was quiet for a minute. Then he said,' Is your father dead ? Yes, of course he's dead — you're here.' He stopped and thought.' Wait there and I'll come down.'

 

Chapter 2 My Uncle

 

After a time, somebody turned a key in the door. Then the door opened a little. I moved inside — and it shut quickly after me.

' Go into the kitchen,' said the man.

And he turned the key in the door again.

I found the kitchen. There was light from a small fire, but no other light. There was a table, with a plate of food and a drink on it. It was a big room, and there were large boxes near one wall.

A small, grey man came into the kitchen. He was about sixty years old. He watched me but never looked at my face.

' Who is he ?' I thought.' What is his work here ?'

'Are you hungry?' he asked. 'You can have that food.'

' But it's your dinner,' I said.

'That's all right,' he said. 'I'll have the drink.' He drank, then put out his hand.' Give me the letter.'

' The letter isn't for you,' I said.' It's for Mr Balfour.'

' And who do you think I am ?' he said.' Give me Alexander's letter.'

' You know my father's name ?' I said.

'Of course,' he said. 'He was my brother. I'm your uncle, Davie. So give me the letter. Then sit down and eat.'

I gave him the letter, then ate some food.

'So your father is dead,' he said suddenly. 'Did he tell you anything about me ?'

' No,' I said.' He never said anything about a brother.'

' Ah!' he said.' And did he say anything about Shaws ?'

' I never heard the name,' I said.

' That's strange,' he said. But he smiled.' Now it's time for bed. I'll show you the way.'

He took me up some stairs without a light. Then he opened a door. The room inside was dark too.

' I want a light,' I told him.,

'No lights in this house,' he said. 'I'm afraid of fire. Good night. 'And he pushed me into the room.

Then he turned the key in the door.

The room was cold. And the bed — when I found it - was not dry. That night, I slept on the floor.

The next morning, breakfast was small. In the room next to the kitchen I found a lot of books. Inside one of them were some words in my father's writing: To my younger brother Ebenezer on his birthday.

I couldn't understand it. The writing was my father's, but it was not the writing of a child. So Ebenezer was the younger brother. Then why did he have the family house ? Before my father died, he had very little money.What did it mean?

I looked at the books, then cleaned the room. It was a hot day, and I thought,' There'll be rain and lightning later.'

That evening at dinner, my uncle spoke very kindly to me.

' You can help me with the house and garden, Davie,' he said. 'And I'll help you. But I'll want some papers before I can do that. They're in a box at the top of the stairs at the other end of the house. You can only get to the stairs from the outside. Here's the key' And he pulled a big old key out of his coat.' Go in, and up the stairs, and bring down the box.'

I asked,' Can I have a light, sir?'

' No,' he said.' No lights in this house.'

He opened the big door, and I went out into the night. I put my hands on the walls and found my way to the door at the end. The key turned in the door, but not easily. Then I found the stairs inside. I started to climb — higher and higher.

I climbed about 120 feet, then the rain began. Suddenly, lightning moved quickly across the sky. And I saw something! I stopped and cried out! There were no more stairs! And it was a long way down! Then everything was dark again.

'My uncle sent me up here ...' I thought. 'He ... wants to kill me!'

 

I came down the stairs very carefully. Sometimes lightning lit the stairs, but most of the time it was dark. And dangerous.

I came out of the door. Suddenly, lightning showed me my uncle at the other door. He didn't see me. He was afraid of the lightning, and he ran into the house.

When I walked into the kitchen, his face went white.

' You — you're all right ?' he said.

' Yes, thank you!' I said angrily.

I wanted to ask questions but he said,'I'll tell you about it in the morning. I want to go to bed now. I'm ill — very ill.'

I shut him in his room and turned the key in his door. Then I went back to the kitchen and made a big fire. That night I slept on the boxes.

 

Chapter 3 The Ship

 

Next morning, I opened the door of my uncle's room. But before he could tell me anything, we heard somebody at the door.

I opened it and found a boy outside.' I'm here with a letter,' he said.' And I'm very hungry.'

' Come into the house,' I said.' I'll give you some food.' When the boy started eating, my uncle read the letter. Then he gave it to me. It said:

Sir,

I am now at the Howes Hotel, and my ship is ready for sea. Do you want to speak to me again ? Tell me today.

I talked to your lawyer, Mr Rankeillor. Perhaps we will lose money because of this.

Elias Hoseason

After I read it, my uncle said,' Hoseason is the captain of a ship, the Covenant. You and I can go with this boy and see the captain at the Hawes Hotel. I will put my name to some papers. Then we can visit Mr Rankeillor, the lawyer. He knew your father.'

So we went. My uncle never said a word all the way. But the boy talked. His name was Ransome.

' I first went to sea when I was nine,' he told me.

I asked him about the Covenant.' There isn't a finer ship on the sea,' he said. And about Captain Hoseason, he said, 'He's a fine captain. He isn't afraid of anything or anybody. But he isn't a seaman. Mr Shuan, the first officer, is. He can take the ship anywhere in the world. The other people really do have a bad time.'

He talked more. These 'other people', I understood, were murderers and other bad men on their way to work in North America. Then there were children — kidnapped children. The captain sold them when the ship arrived in America.

At the Hawes Hotel, my uncle went in to see Captain Hoseason. They began a long talk with a lot of papers.

 

I went across the road and down to the sea. The ship's boat was there and some men from the Covenant stood near it. Then a man from the hotel came and spoke to me.

'Did you come with Ebenezer?' he asked. 'When I look at you, I remember Mr Alexander. He was a good man.'

' Isn't Ebenezer good?' I asked.

' No,' said the man from the hotel.' He was a fine young man. But he's a bad old man now.'

I saw Captain Hoseason go down to the ship's boat and speak to the men. He was a tall man and not the hard man of Ransome's stories. Then he came across to me.

' Sir,' he said, ' Mr Balfour spoke about you. You're a fine young man. Come to my ship with your uncle. We'll have a drink.'

I wanted to see the inside of the ship. But was it dangerous?

' My uncle and I have to see a lawyer this afternoon,' I said.

'He told me about that,' said the captain. 'But we'll go very near the town. The ship's boat can take you there later. You'll be very near Rankeillor's place. 'And when my uncle came to us, the captain suddenly spoke very quietly in my ear.' Be careful of the old man,' he said.' He's planning something bad for you. Come on to the ship. I'll tell you about it.'

So I got into the boat with him. My uncle got in and sat next to me. When we arrived at the ship, the captain climbed quickly up. Then he called me and I followed him. He showed me the interesting things on the ship.

' Where is my uncle ?' I said suddenly.

' That's a good question,' said Hoseason. He was not friendly now.

I was suddenly afraid. I ran and looked at the sea. Yes! There was the ship's boat! It was nearly at the town again! And my uncle was in it!

I cried,' Help! Help!'

My uncle turned round. His face was hard and cold ... and afraid.

Then strong hands pulled me away. There was a CRASH! I saw a great light — and then everything went black.

 

Chapter 4 To Sea

 

Iwoke up. It was dark, but I could hear the sounds of a ship in strong winds. And then I knew. I was somewhere near the bottom of a ship, and we were at sea.

I hated my uncle! He was a bad, dangerous man — I knew that now.

' I was stupid!' I thought.' What is going to happen to me now?'

After some time, I fell asleep.

 

A light woke me. A small man with green eyes looked down at me.' How are you ?' he said.

I couldn't answer. The back of my head hurt, and he looked at it. Then he began to wash it.

' It'll hurt for a long time,' he said.'Did you have any food?'

' I can't eat anything,' I said.

He gave me a drink from a cup, and then went away.

When the man came again, the captain came with him.

' Why did you bring me here, Mr Riach ?' the captain asked.

'You can see, sir,' said Riach. 'He's very ill. He can't eat. And there's no light in here. We've got to put him in the seamen's room.'

' He will stay here,' said the captain. He turned away.

Riach put a hand on his arm and said,' I'm the second officer on this old ship. Nobody pays me to murder—'

'What!' shouted Hoseason. 'You know me! I'm a hard man, but I'm not a murderer. Are you saying the boy will die ?'

' Yes, he will,' said Riach.

' All right,' said Hoseason.' Move him.'

Five minutes later, a man carried me up to the seamen's room. There they put me down on a small bed. Then I knew nothing for hours — or days.

 

The men tried to be kind to me. They gave me back my money

— most of it.

'You'll want it,' they said.'The ship is going to the Carolinas.' At that time — when I was young — people sold men for work.

Black men and white men. That was my uncle's plan for me. The ship's boy, Ransome, came in from the roundhouse

sometimes. Mr Shuan, the first officer, often hit him and hurt him badly. But to the men, Shuan was a fine man. 'The only good seaman on the ship,' they said. 'And not a bad man when he isn't drinking.'

 

Day after day and night after night the ship fought its way north in strong winds. I got better and stronger, but I could not leave the room.

One night, at about twelve o'clock, a seaman came down for his coat. After some time, the men there began talking.

' Shuan hit him too hard this time,' they said.

Who did Shuan hit? We all knew. We did not have to ask the name. Suddenly, Captain Hoseason came into the room. He looked round, and came to me.

He spoke quite kindly. 'We want you to work in the roundhouse,' he said.' Go now.'

I ran up from the seamen's room. The strong sea came up across the ship and nearly pushed me into the water. Then a kind seaman helped me. He showed me the roundhouse.

On my way there I went past two other seamen. They carried Ransome down to my old room.


Date: 2015-12-11; view: 1470


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