Chapter 16: The Lad with the Silver Button: Across Morven

David takes a ferry from Torosay to mainland Scotland. On the way, he sees what he first thinks is an emigrant ship, bound for the American colonies, full of Scottish "criminals" being forced into exile.

David speaks to the captain of the ship, who informs him that he is to stay at the local public inn that night, then cross Morven and meet with a man named John of the Claymore, who would give him further instructions as to where David could find Alan.

David stays at the inn, which is terrible, and then heads across Morven. On the way he befriends a catechist, a religious instructor, named Henderland. Henderland is kind, and has read some of the works of David's friend Mr. Campbell. Henderland tells David about many of the current events in the Highlands, and even gives Alan a small compliment. He tells David that Colin Campbell of Glenure, the King's Factor (agent), will soon begin turning out Stewart tenants from their homes. Henderland believes Glenure will soon die at the hands of one clan or another.

They reach Henderland's home, where David decides to stay for the night, rather than heading directly to James of the Claymore. Henderland then catechizes David, who is happy to have the man speak to him of God.

Chapter 17: The Death of the Red Fox

David crosses the Linnhe Loch into Appin. Once there, he walks to a side road, pops out of a bush and asks a small group of travelers the way to Aucharn, where Alan is supposed to be waiting for David. The travelers turn out to be none other than Colin Campbell of Glenure, his lawyer, and two other men. Glenure begins to question David about his business when he is suddenly shot and killed. David runs after the murderer, but the killer outruns him. When David returns to the scene of the murder, the lawyer accuses him of being an aide to the crime, and David must flee again. Alan, who has apparently been fishing nearby, pulls David into a bush. Alan swiftly leads him away into the woods. After nearly an hour of running, the two collapse in the forest of Lettermore.

Chapter 18: I Talk with Alan in the Wood of Lettermore

Alan and David awake. David is angry; he believes Alan murdered Glenure in cold blood. He wants to part immediately, but Alan is offended and demands an explanation. When David voices his suspicions, Alan denies that he had anything to do with the murder, and points out that he would never do so without a sword or a pistol with him. He then swears that he had nothing to do with it, and David believes him.

When David asks about the real killer—for he had a chance to see him as he ran away—Alan, who has clearly seen the fellow, pretends not to have seen him closely, and tries to confuse David's memory. In fact, Alan intended to use himself and David to draw away the blame from the real killer, something he thinks is his duty as a fellow Highlander and enemy of the Campbells. This impresses David greatly.

Alan then points out that they are wanted criminals, and likely to die if caught. So they must flee through the heather, or the Scottish wilderness, until they can reach their destinations: Cramond for David, and France for Alan.

Alan then tells David of what happened after he was washed overboard the Covenant. Alan, Captain Hoseason, Riach and several others sailors had made it to the shore; the rest of the sailors were not so lucky, including two who were trapped, wounded, in the forecastle, and had screamed horribly until the ship sunk. On the shore, Hoseason had ordered his men to lay hands on Alan and take his gold, but Riach had prevented them and Alan escaped.


This part of the story is probably the most difficult to believe. Not only does David stumble right into the very spot where Alan is, but also he is present for the murder of Glenure. It is arguable that Alan, despite his oath to David, may have had some part in the murder, though given Alan's character it seems unlikely he would swear such an oath if he was really involved. But the idea that David just happens to be present at the shooting requires a great suspension of disbelief. Many adventure stories have situations that are much more fantastic or unlikely, and once the reader has gotten this far and seen how David tends to stumble blindly into bad situations, it isn't very surprising that he ends up being accused as an accessory to Glenure's murder.

Alan's willingness to sacrifice himself for the unknown killer of Glenure has a great effect upon David. The youth sees it as a noble thing to do, since he believes that Alan had nothing to do with the crime. Alan, on the other hand, sees it as his only real course of action. Stevenson is drawing a difference between a "Highland code of ethics" and the moral attitudes followed by the more "Anglicized" David. David is a product of Lowland society, which is largely English in nature, influence, and religion. Alan is a product of the wild Highlands. But David recognizes the virtue in Alan's self-sacrifice, saying, "Mr. Henderson's words came back to me: that we ourselves might take a lesson by these wild Highlanders. Alan's morals were all tail-first; but he was ready to give his life for them, such as they were."

Chapter 18 begins the next major stage of the novel, the flight through the Highland wilderness (the "heather"). This combines the adventurous nature of the story with the descriptive details of landscapes that one might find in a travelogue. While Alan and David press their way through the woods, hiding from soldiers and meeting Scottish clansmen, the reader will also become familiar with many natural aspects of the Highlands. Stevenson has a good gift for this kind of description, and he succeeds in his goal of making David's flight seem like one through a "foreign country."