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David spends most of the day hanging around the House of Shaws. He finds a book in the library, signed by his father and dedicated to his Uncle Ebenezer on his fifth birthday. This confuses David, since he feels sure that Uncle Ebenezer must be much older than his father. It confuses him so much that he wonders whether perhaps his father was quick to learn to write, and so he asks Ebenezer if he and David's father were brothers. This enrages Ebenezer. But the uncle stops himself, and he pretends that he is so upset by his brother's death that he cannot bear to hear him spoken about. All of this only confuses David even more.
But it does make him suspicious. He begins to think that perhaps there is some great fortune due to him, by inheritance, that his uncle is trying to keep him from. So he becomes suspicious himself. But then Ebenezer gives him forty pounds sterling, supposedly a present he has held for David since his birth. This act of generosity, coming from such a miser, impresses David, and his heart melts slightly.
Ebenezer asks David to bring down a chest from the side-tower of the house. David agrees, but finds the stairway pitch-dark. He goes forward anyway, while a storm rages outside. By the lightning, he sees that there are hardly any steps; he could easily have fallen to his death. He goes back down the stairs and outside and discovers his uncle waiting, miserably. He sneaks up behind his uncle and nearly frightens him to death. David tries to interrogate his uncle, but Ebenezer only says he will tell him everything in the morning.
David sleeps a restless night, aware of his uncle's great dislike, even hatred of him. But, in his youth, David thinks himself the better man, and makes plans to trick his uncle and get the upper hand of him, and eventually to control him. When he confronts his uncle the next morning, the uncle mumbles that having David climb the stairs was "a little joke."
There is a knock at the door, and a cabin-boy is there, with a note for Ebenezer from Captain Hoseason. Hoseason is waiting at Queen's Ferry harbor with his ship, the Covenant, and Hoseason is awaiting any further orders from Ebenezer before he sets sail. It seems that Ebenezer has interests overseas, and they are not doing so well. Ebenezer decides to go see Hoseason with David and the cabin boy. On the way, David enters conversation with the cabin-boy and discovers his name is Ransome. Ransome describes life on the Covenant; particularly terrible is Mr. Shuan, the navigator, who abuses Ransome to the point of causing wounds. David decides life on the Covenant must be a living hell.
David and Ebenezer meet Hoseason, who is staying in an inn. Ebenezer sends David down to amuse himself while he and the captain speak. David goes and speaks to the sailors of the Covenant, whom he finds to be rather dirty and rude.
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