Study Guide

Kidnapped Friendship

By Robert Louis Stevenson

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"I call it noble," I cried. "I'm a Whig, or little better; but I call it noble."

"Ay" said [Alan], "ye're a Whig, but ye're a gentleman; and that's what does it." (12.30-31)

Davie is commenting here on the donations that Ardshiel's former tenants have been making to his upkeep while he's living in exile in France. Davie admits that his politics don't agree with the actions of these Highlanders (since he's a Whig, a supporter of the current king of England), but he can admire them all the same. And Alan says this is because Davie is "a gentleman; and that's what does it." In other words, he and Davie can overcome their political differences because they are gentlemen.

I said nothing, nor so much as lifted my face. I had seen murder done, and a great, ruddy, jovial gentleman struck out of life in a moment; the pity of that sight was still sore within me, and yet that was but a part of my concern. Here was murder done upon the man Alan hated; here was Alan skulking in the trees and running from the troops; and whether his was the hand that fired or only the head that ordered, signified but little. By my way of it, my only friend in that wild country was blood-guilty in the first degree; I held him in horror; I could not look upon his face; I would have rather lain alone in the rain on my cold isle, than in that warm wood beside a murderer. (18. 3)

But…there's a line that can't be crossed. Much of the novel is dedicated to showing how two men of completely different politics, religion, and moral feeling can still be great friends. But Davie cannot allow murder, so it's a good thing Alan didn't do it.

"James Stewart," said Alan, "I will ask ye to speak in Scotch, for here is a young gentleman with me that has nane of the other. This is him," he added, putting his arm through mine, "a young gentleman of the Lowlands, and a laird in his country too, but I am thinking it will be the better for his health if we give his name the go-by." (19.6)

Alan is incredibly careful about making sure that all conversation in front of Davie is conducted in Scots. This is not only polite and generous of him, it's also important for the advancement of the plot. Otherwise, how could Davie realistically claim to understand all of the conversations around him?

The thought of a separation ran always the stronger in my mind; and the more I approved of it, the more ashamed I grew of my approval. It would be a fine, handsome, generous thing, indeed, for Alan to turn round and say to me: "Go, I am in the most danger, and my company only increases yours." But for me to turn to the friend who certainly loved me, and say to him: "You are in great danger, I am in but little; your friendship is a burden; go, take your risks and bear your hardships alone––" no, that was impossible; and even to think of it privily to myself, made my cheeks to burn. (24.4)

Davie is afraid to keep traveling with Alan, but he is also ashamed that he wants to turn his back on such a loyal friend. So he keeps going. Stevenson quite freely depicts Davie having such cruel and disloyal thoughts. What makes him a good hero is that he rarely acts on these impulses.

I knew it was my own doing, and no one else's; but I was too miserable to repent. I felt I could drag myself but little farther; pretty soon, I must lie down and die on these wet mountains like a sheep or a fox, and my bones must whiten there like the bones of a beast. My head was light perhaps; but I began to love the prospect, I began to glory in the thought of such a death, alone in the desert, with the wild eagles besieging my last moments. Alan would repent then, I thought; he would remember, when I was dead, how much he owed me, and the remembrance would be torture. So I went like a sick, silly, and bad-hearted schoolboy, feeding my anger against a fellow-man, when I would have been better on my knees, crying on God for mercy. And at each of Alan's taunts, I hugged myself. "Ah!" thinks I to myself, "I have a better taunt in readiness; when I lie down and die, you will feel it like a buffet in your face; ah, what a revenge! ah, how you will regret your ingratitude and cruelty!" (24.37)

We have to admit that this kind of thinking sounds familiar to some of us here at Shmoop. When you're feeling totally miserable and angry at someone, haven't you ever thought, "Well, maybe I'll just die, then! How would that make them feel?" By putting such a petty, stupid argument into the novel, Stevenson reinforces both the strength and realism of Alan and Davie's friendship.

This it was that gave me a thought. No apology could blot out what I had said; it was needless to think of one, none could cover the offence; but where an apology was vain, a mere cry for help might bring Alan back to my side. I put my pride away from me. "Alan!" I said; "if ye cannae help me, I must just die here." (24.56)

The ultimate sacrifice: after spending several days wallowing in his pride and refusing to apologize, Davie finally backs down by pretending to be on the verge of death so Alan will help him. We find the scene of their making up really touching: Alan's such a sap.

On the very day of your sea disaster, Mr. Campbell stalked into my office, demanding you from all the winds. I had never heard of your existence; but I had known your father; and from matters in my competence (to be touched upon hereafter) I was disposed to fear the worst. (27.38)

These are Rankeillor's words to Davie. Remember Mr. Campbell, back from the beginning of the novel, who is pretty much Davie's moral compass? It's nice to see that Davie has more than one friend in the world, and that Mr. Campbell is willing to go looking for him when he goes missing.

So far as I was concerned myself, I had come to port; but I had still Alan, to whom I was so much beholden, on my hands; and I felt besides a heavy charge in the matter of the murder and James of the Glens. (30.1)

The problem with having friends, of course, is that you feel obliged to help them when they're in trouble. And boy, is Alan in a lot of trouble. But Rankeillor counsels Davie that, as a gentleman, he has to help Alan escape to France. And Davie agrees. Much of clan life in the Highland chapters is governed by family rules of honor, but here we see similar duties being proposed for friends who are unconnected by blood. It warms the heart!

Alan and I went slowly forward upon our way, having little heart either to walk or speak. The same thought was uppermost in both, that we were near the time of our parting; and remembrance of all the bygone days sate upon us sorely. (30.11)

Aw, they're going to miss each other! Here we have final proof that much of the emotional energy of the novel comes from the friendship between Alan and Davie. How would you characterize that friendship? Do you think that, if they were both magically returned to normal life, they would remain best buds? What is the glue that holds their friendship together?

And yet all the time what I was thinking of was Alan at Rest-and-be-Thankful; and all the time (although you would think I would not choose but be delighted with these braws and novelties) there was a cold gnawing in my inside like a remorse for something wrong. (30.15)

What could Davie possibly be feeling guilty over? He's given Alan money and they've agreed to part. What does Davie still owe him?

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