Chapter 1 Summary

I Set Off Upon My Journey to the House of Shaws

Davie’s journey begins in Essendean, Scotland, in June, 1751, when he leaves his father’s house for the last time. The kind minister, Mr. Campbell, meets the boy at the front gate and walks companionably with the boy, escorting him as far as the ford to make sure he starts on the right path. The boy has been happy in Essendean, but he has never been anywhere else. Now that both his parents are dead, he will be as close to them in one place as another. Davie just wants to be sure he is going to a place where he will have a chance to better himself.

Campbell explains that after the boy’s mother died and his father got sick, his father gave Campbell a letter which will serve as Davie’s inheritance. His father’s instructions were that his letters should be given to Davie when he leaves Essendean and goes to the house of Shaws, near Cramond. Cramond is where Davie’s father came from, and it is fitting for his son to return there. Though he did not know it until now, Davie’s family name is Balfour of Shaws: “an ancient, honest, reputable house, peradventure in these latter days decayed.” Alexander Balfour was a learned gentleman and served as the town dominie (teacher).

Campbell gives the boy the letter; it is addressed to Ebenezer Balfour, Esq., and Davie is to deliver it to him in person. The seventeen-year-old is excited about this unexpected opportunity after being raised humbly in the country. Campbell says it is a two-day walk to Cramond; in the unlikely event that the boy is not well received, all Davie has to do is come right back to Essendean. Campbell sees it as his duty to prepare the boy for the potential dangers in his new world. He admonishes Davie to be diligent in his prayers and Bible reading and avoid excessive material things. Davie must be quick to learn and slow to speak; he must also be obedient and honor those in authority. Davie agrees.

Campbell gives the boy his small inheritance and three gifts: a shilling, a small Bible, and a recipe for Lilly of the Valley Water which Davy is thankful for and will use for his entire life, in both sickness and health. Campbell prays for the boy and leaves; Davie chides himself for being too eager to be off on this new adventure. After taking a final look at the village of Essendean, the place where his parents are buried, Davie begins his journey.