Chapter 22 Summary

The Flight in the Heather: The Moor

Eleven hours of hard travel bring David and Stewart through a mountain range and into a desolate land which they must cross, but they have to stop until the mist dissipates. They cannot go west to Appin or south to Campbells’ lands; going north will not take them either to France or to Queens Ferry, so they must go east. David wishes they could each travel in a different direction but says nothing.

To the east are the barren moors, where a man can be seen from miles away; it will be another difficult passage made mostly at night, but David vows to Stewart that he will keep going until his strength is gone. The mist rises to reveal the desolate moors, but at least there are no soldiers. Sometimes they have to crawl from bush to bush, and David soon regrets his vow. David is so weary that he falls asleep while on watch and wakes to find soldiers on horses fanning out around them. He wakes Stewart who decides they must run like rabbits for a wild mountain called Ben Alder. They must cross paths with the soldiers to get there, but it is their only hope.

David is so sore and miserable that he wants to give up, but he gains a kind of false courage from his fear of Stewart and keeps moving. Stewart is also suffering physically, but he is undeterred. They have no food or water, and David is convinced that those who write about being weary have never experienced it. He is so exhausted he can barely remember anything about his life and assumes each step will be his last. Stewart is true officer material, for he keeps David going despite his unwillingness to do so.

When day breaks, they can finally walk upright rather than crawl as they did all night, but they are now bent and stooped like old men, stumbling often as they walk. Neither of them speaks or even looks at the other; Stewart leads and David walks several paces behind him. Suddenly a few ragged men leap from the heather and pin the travelers down with their weapons. Stewart speaks with them in Gaelic and discovers they are Cluny Macpherson’s men. Macpherson is the leader of a previous rebellion and is also a wanted man. Stewart and David will be safe here until these men can inform Macpherson of their arrival.

Stewart falls immediately into a deep sleep, but David is troubled and can only rest his body. Soon they are escorted to Macpherson; while Stewart is refreshed, David is lightheaded and sick at even the thought of food. A sort of “horror of despair” settles over the boy, and he wants to weep with hopelessness.