Study Guide

Kidnapped Chapter 18

By Robert Louis Stevenson

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Chapter 18

I Talk With Alan in the Wood of Lettermore

  • Alan wakes up before Davie does and greets him. But Davie is in no mood to talk: he's just witnessed a murder, and he's sure that Alan is at least partly responsible for it.
  • Davie tells Alan that they must "twine" (18.5), or go their separate ways, because while Davie likes Alan, he is bad news.
  • Alan says he won't part with Davie until he gets an explanation.
  • Davie replies: what are you talking about? You know why we can't hang out anymore. There's a dead man in the road!
  • Alan asks if Davie has ever heard the fairy story of the Man and the Good People. Even though Davie doesn't want to hear it, Alan launches into it anyway.
  • The story goes like this: a man is shipwrecked on a distant rock (a rock, says Alan, quite close to where the Covenant sunk).
  • The shipwrecked man weeps that he doesn't want to die without seeing his baby son ("bairn," 18.10) once more.
  • He weeps and hollers so loudly that the king of the fairies hears and takes pity on him. When the man falls asleep, the king sends one of his people to get the baby, swaddle him in a bag ("poke," 18.10), and place him next to the shipwrecked man.
  • The problem is (adds Alan) that the man is of a suspicious nature, so when he wakes up and sees a mysterious bag next to him – with something moving inside – he takes his knife and stabs it before even looking inside.
  • When the shipwrecked man opens the bag, he finds his baby dead.
  • Davie, Alan concludes, is like this shipwrecked man: always suspecting the worst.
  • Davie demands to know if Alan really had no part in killing Red Fox. Alan swears that he hasn't.
  • Davie is relieved and sticks out his hand to shake. Alan ignores it.
  • Davie asks if Alan knows the murderer, but Alan avoids the question.
  • Davie then wonders why, if Alan is innocent, he took such care to make sure the soldiers were following him and Davie before they doubled back to Lettermore.
  • Alan gets kind of cagy on this point as well: he says that, since Davie and Alan are innocent of murder, it does them no harm to draw attention away from the man who actually killed Red Fox. In fact, decoying the soldiers away from the real murderer is the gentlemanly thing to do.
  • Davie is frustrated by Alan's reasoning, but he has to respect that Alan has such a clear moral code. Sure, this code is really different from Davie's, but Alan is willing to lay down his life according to his own rules.
  • Davie tells Alan that they have to agree to disagree on whether it's the right thing to let a murderer escape, but at any rate, they can still be friends. He offers Alan his hand a second time.
  • This time, Alan shakes Davie's hand, and all seems to be well between them.
  • Alan tells Davie they have to run away from Appin or else face a trial.
  • Davie thinks they're sure to get a fair trial in Scotland.
  • Alan doesn't see "Scotland" as one place: for him, it's all about the smaller clans. If he and Davie are caught, they'll be tried in Inveraray (or Inverara, as he calls it), which is the capital of Argyle – a stronghold of the Campbell family. Red Fox is a Campbell, so what kind of chance would Davie and Alan possibly stand in front of a jury there?
  • Alan tells Davie that they are in the Highlands now, and that Davie has to take Alan's word and run for it rather than expecting Lowland-style treatment from the law.
  • Davie feels better about things when Alan explains that they're heading for the Lowlands (where Davie is from).
  • Davie and Alan watch the red-coated English soldiers following the trail north in the direction that Alan initially led them.
  • Since the soldiers are heading in the wrong direction, Alan feels secure enough to take some time to catch up with Davie on what's been happening since the wreck of the Covenant.
  • We've heard Davie's side of things. As for Alan, here's what happened:
  • The crew was finally able to get the lifeboat down into the water just before a series of large waves pulled the Covenant down (with two men unfortunately still on board).
  • Once they reached the shore, Captain Hoseason lost it and demanded that his remaining crew capture Alan and take his money as revenge for the loss of the ship.
  • A bunch of guys closed in on Alan, but one man stood up for him: Riach, the second mate, who had also been key in making sure Davie survived his trip onboard.
  • Riach yelled at Alan to run, which he did. He looked back at the beach to see the remaining crew engaged in a giant, pointless fistfight.
  • Alan moved on and told all the people he ran into that there'd been a shipwreck on the beach. Hearing this news, they all ran to the shore without stopping to ask Alan who he was, so even though he was in Campbell country, he managed to stay safe.
  • Alan is relieved that the Covenant went down without a trace, because none of the Campbells living near the Torran rocks was able to make a profit off the wreck.

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