Scottish Shame Allayed: "Kidnapped"

I am about to set my entire Scottish ancestry spinning with an admission, throwing whole Presbyterian graveyards into turmoil: until this very week, I had never read any of the great works of Highland (or even Lowland) adventure. Not "Lorna Doone" (although I have seen the atrocious television adaptation not once but TWICE, which speaks to the deeply felt affection which I hold for its star, Richard Coyle), nor a single work by Sir Walter or RLS. Worse yet (and I may have to drop my Scottish middle name after this confession), I have barely touched the poetry of Robbie Burns. I have eaten haggis on one occasion, but with a timidity and an insistence on demanding a list of ingredients that surely belied my Glaswegian heritage.

Well, all this ancestor-roiling ends now. I have finished (finished, I say!) "Kidnapped" by the illustrious Robert Louis Stevenson. How I escaped reading this as a child I will never know, and why it took me so long to finish remains a mystery, since it is, in fact, a simple and engaging tale.

In fact, the plot of "Kidnapped" is quite straightforward, as far as adventure stories go. Young David, recently orphaned, goes to seek protection from a nefarious uncle, who arranges for him to be kidnapped (aha!) by a hearty but none too ethical sea captain bound for the plantations of America. Before he can be sold into servitude in the New World, our hero joins forces with a Highland monarchist outlaw who has been imprisoned on the ship, and they brave exposure, illness, shipwreck, hunger, and hanging to return and claim David's inheritance.

It is a completely linear tale whose outcome is never in doubt, so the principal delight of the reading experience (and there are delights to be had) lies in the language, which is a wonderful hybrid between the baroquely archaic and the pragmatic Newspeak of "1984":

"'Well,' said he, at last, 'your tongue is bold, but I am no unfriend to plainness.'"

I wonder if "unfriend" is a word that can only be use in double negative constructions, as an Anglo-Saxon type of understatement: "I am no unfriend to the Democrat party." Does that imply a fanatic beneficence to the party, or a queasy tolerance of them? Could I say that people who were once beloved to me but have betrayed my trust are now "unfriends," or is that too strong a usage? Would the word be better applied to people with whom I have simply lost touch, unfriending implying the continual possibility for re(be)friending?

Here's one more: "'You and me must twine,' I said, 'I liked you very well, Alan, but your ways are not mine, and they're not God's; and the short and the long of it is just that we must twine.'"

Isn't it wonderful how the word 'twine' contains within it both the connotation of parting and that of twisting (or even tying) together?

Now that I have soothed one group of Celtic ancestors, it only remains to pacify the other, putting to rest my Welsh shame at having read so little Dylan Thomas and absolutely no ancient epics with unpronounceable five-syllable names. Maybe someday I will even be able to form a passable pronunciation of my double-L-riddled Welsh name (I have five names, for thems that's counting, making my diplomas crowded affairs.).

"Kidnapped" by Robert Louis Stevenson - ***1/2