Study Guide

Kidnapped Chapter 16

By Robert Louis Stevenson

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Chapter 16

The Lad With the Silver Button: Across Morven

  • We're still following Davie's travels. This map continues to be a really helpful guide to where the heck Davie actually is at any given time.
  • Right now he's at Torosay, which is across a "strait" (a small, narrow channel of water) that connects to Kinlochaline on the Scottish mainland.
  • Davie wants to catch the ferry across this strait, which is steered by Neil Roy Macrob.
  • The Macrobs are allies of Alan's clan, and Alan did send Davie directly to this Torosay ferry, so Davie is eager to talk to Neil Roy.
  • There's a big ship anchored at the harbor of Loch Aline. (Incidentally, a "loch" can be either a free-standing freshwater lake [like Loch Ness or Loch Lomond] or a sea inlet, like the Firth of Forth or this Loch Aline.)
  • The ship is carrying people bound for the American colonies, and it's surrounded by weeping family members watching their loved ones being forced to leave Scotland. (For more on the transportation of convicts and rebels to the Americas in the eighteenth century, check out this interesting article [PDF].)
  • Passing this sorry sight leaves Davie in sad spirits.
  • When his ferry from Torosay reaches Kinlochaline, Davie manages to talk to Neil Roy. He asks Neil if he is one of Appin's men (in other words, if Neil is allied with Ardshiel, Alan's clan chief).
  • Davie tells Neil that he's looking for one Alan Breck Stewart, and he offers him money for any information he can give.
  • Neil thinks Davie means to turn Alan in to the English authorities.
  • Davie explains that, no, he's a friend of Alan's, and shows Neil the silver button Alan gave him.
  • Neil recognizes Davie as the "lad with the silver button" (16.12) and promises to look after him. But he also scolds Davie for mentioning Alan's name out in the open like that, and for offering "dirty money" (in other words, English money) to a "Hieland shentleman" ("Highland gentleman," 16.12).
  • Neil tells Davie to spend the night in Kinlochaline. He is to go the next day to Ardgour, to the house of John of the Claymore, and spend the night there. The following day, he is to head to the house of James of the Glens at Aucharn in Appin. (We definitely had to consult the map on this one. . .)
  • Davie follows Neil's instructions: he spends the night at an inn in Kinlochaline (which is fairly dire), then heads across Morven in the direction of Ardgour the next day.
  • He overtakes a man dressed like a priest, who is a real catechist (religious instructor), unlike Duncan Mackeigh in Mull.
  • This catechist is a member of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (an Anglican mission which still exists) who also happens to be acquainted with Mr. Campbell, the minister way back in Davie's home of Essendean.
  • The catechist's name is Mr. Henderland, and the two hit it off really well. Davie tells Henderland of his adventures (without mentioning Alan), and Henderland talks about his work with the Highlanders. As a member of the Church of England, he is (obviously) an English sympathizer, but he seems politically moderate, and he criticizes some of the English acts regulating Highland clothes and weapons and so on.
  • Davie asks Henderland about this whole Red Fox/Appin tenant thing Alan was mentioning in Chapter Twelve.
  • Henderland agrees that it's a bad situation, because the tenants are on the verge of starvation. He also points out that the whole story about the tenants coming up with a second rent for Ardshiel out of loyalty is partly a lie. Their arms have been twisted by James Stewart (also known as James of the Glens), who's Ardshiel's half brother – and by Alan Breck. Alan's a desperate customer, and James's right-hand man, says Henderland. Davie perks up upon hearing Alan's name, and says that if it's fear and extortion (from both the English and the Highland chiefs) that's making the tenants pay these rents, he doesn't want to hear anything more.
  • Henderland says it's not just fear: there's real love of Ardshiel, and self-sacrifice on the part of the tenants.
  • Davie then asks about the king's agent, Colin Campbell (whom Alan calls Red Fox).
  • Henderland says that Campbell's putting "his head in a bees' byke!" (16.32) (byke is a Scots word for hive.) In other words, Colin Campbell is really opening a can of worms.
  • Colin Campbell is trying to run the legal tenants off the land, says Henderland, but there's been a lot of escalation thanks to resistance from James Stewart.
  • Another problem is that, even if Colin Campbell does manage to get rid of the Appin Stewarts, the next land over, he'll have the same problem with the Camerons. In other words, each individual parcel of land has its own loyal clan attached to it, and Colin Campbell has to be tough enough to deal with all of them.
  • For his part, Henderland seems to think Colin Campbell is heading for assassination.
  • Even though, according to Alan's plan, Davie is supposed to spend the night with John of the Claymore, he accepts Henderland's invitation to spend the night at his place.
  • As soon as they get through Henderland's door, he immediately makes a run for his supply of snuff (a kind of tobacco you snort through your nose). Here's a guy who could use a nicotine patch: he's spent nearly the whole walk with Davie asking for snuff!
  • Afterward, Henderland starts talking to Davie about God. And while Davie is secretly laughing at Henderland about the snuff habit, he is really moved by Henderland's preaching and his goodness.

Kidnapped Chapter 16 Study Group

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