Chapter 16 Summary
The Lad With the Silver Button: Across Morven
David takes the ferry from Torosay to Kinlochaline. The skipper is Neil Roy Macrob; since Macrob is one of the names of Stewart’s clansmen, David is anxious to talk with him privately. It is a crowded ferry and the passage is slow. The one tragedy for David on this trip is seeing what he believes to be an emigrant ship being loaded with exiled Scottish criminals bound for the slave trade in America.
When the ferry arrives in Kinlochaline on the mainland, David talks privately with Macrob and foolishly offers him money in exchange for information rather than just showing Macrob his silver button. When he does, the skipper tells the boy he should never insult a gentleman by offering him money and should never mention Stewart’s name. The man quickly does what he has been ordered and gives David directions for the rest of his journey. David is to spend the night in a public inn, go to Ardgour tomorrow and stay with John of the Claymore, then make his way to the house of James of the Glens, at Auchorn in Duror of Appin. It is a trip full of ferry crossings and tenuous journeys through mountains and other “wild and dreadful” places. Macrob warns the boy not to speak to anyone; he is to avoid Whigs (of which David is one) and Campbells and the “red soldiers.” If he sees any of these, David should hide somewhere off the road.
The inn at Kinlochaline is vile. As David walks to Morven the next day, he meets another religious teacher, Henderland, who is carrying a book which was translated by David’s friend Campbell, the kind minister of Essendean. Henderland shares the local news with the boy and says that Colin Campbell of Glenure, acting as the king’s agent, will soon begin to evict Stewarts from their homes. According to Henderland, it is likely that Campbell of Glenure (the Red Fox) will be killed by either the Stewart or the Campbell clans.
David and the catechist walk and talk all day, and David accepts the man’s offer to stay with him tonight. The boy readily accepts, for he is now wary of all Highland strangers and has no desire to meet John of the Claymore. After they eat their porridge and whey, Henderland asks David about his “state of mind towards God.” David is moved by the kind man’s concern and his humble spirit; then Henderland insists earnestly that David accept sixpence for his journey. David is afraid to insult the man and accepts, leaving the gentle man even poorer than himself.