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David Balfour, or, Catriona

By Robert Louis Stevenson

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    David Balfour, also known as Catriona, is the sequel to Stevenson's much better known Kidnapped. I am not sure why this one has remained so obscure in Stevenson's works, but it should not be, because it is a great story and every bit as exciting. If you have not read the first one yet, you probably should, because this picks up at the exact place where the first one ends, and brings it to conclusion in Part I. Part II brings the whole story to conclusion, particularly the romance between David and Catriona. It's all very good and easy to read, and you won't want to put it down. It was published in 1893, rather a few years after its predecessor, published in 1886. And like the first, it is very Scottish and uses lots of Scottish dialect. You get used to it, though, and it becomes quite charming.
    When we left David in Kidnapped, he, along with Alan Breck Stewart and James Stewart were wanted in what became known as the "Appin Murder" an historical fact, which was Stevenson's inspiration for Kidnapped. Keep in mind, also, that it was set in the 18th century during the "Jacobite Uprisings," which supported the return of the Stuarts, exiled in France, to regain the throne from King George. So much of the story is political, because the situation in Scotland was nasty and political at the time, especially between warring clans. David is not a Highlander, in fact he is a "good Whig" and loyal to King George. But Alan saved his life, and the two developed a life-long friendship. David cares less for politics and more for justice.
    When David manages to return after his kidnapping ordeal, not to his old home in the country, but to his rightful inheritance as Laird of Shaws, which his uncle had swindled from David's father, he finds himself suddenly a wealthy man. He could just let it go at that, but does not, because his father raised him to be a man of extraordinarily high moral character. So, knowing that he could be tried and sent to the gallows, he nevertheless seeks an attorney, then goes to the Lord Advocate of Scotland, William Grant of Prestongrange. He is willing to swear on the witness stand that neither he, nor Alan, nor James committed the murder, and to risk his own neck in doing it. Meanwhile, he has caught a brief glimpse and a word with a lovely young lady, whose name is Catriona, and whose father, James MacGregor Drummond, currently known as James More, has just been arrested.
    The Lord Advocate and David take a liking to each other, but David doesn't exactly trust him, nor should he. In spite of his numerous attempts to discourage David's determination to free himself and the two others from conviction of the murder, David holds fast. James More, who is a rotten scoundrel, is also promised freedom to work against David's testimony. But those in power have decided ahead of time that James Stewart shall die, whether or not he is guilty, because the issue here is not justice, but warring political factions. David is particularly resented because he is, politically, on the side of the Lord Advocate—a Whig in the service of King George. David, however, isn't thinking politically, he is thinking of what is morally right. Good man, that David.
    In the end, The Lord Advocate has David kidnapped (again), the trial finds James Stewart guilty, and he is hung. This concludes Part I. Part II wraps up the other themes in the story: dealing with the rat James More, protecting and rescuing his daughter Catriona, with whom David is in love, and getting Alan once again safely out of Scotland. It all turns out well, and is a great story. This, along with its predecessor, Kidnapped should most definitely be on your reading list.


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