At breakfast, which we took late, it was manifest that James More was in some danger or perplexity; manifest that Alan was alive to the same, and watched him close; and this appearance of duplicity upon the one side and vigilance upon the other, held me on live coals. The meal was no sooner over than James seemed to come to a resolve, and began to make apologies. He had an appointment of a private nature in the town (it was with the French nobleman, he told me) and we would please excuse him till about noon. Meanwhile, he carried his daughter aside to the far end of the room, where he seemed to speak rather earnestly and she to listen without much inclination.
“I am caring less and less about this man James,” said Alan. “There’s something no right with the man James, and I wouldnae wonder but what Alan Breck would give an eye to him this day. I would like fine to see yon French nobleman, Davie; and I daresay you could find an employ to yoursel, and that would be to speer at the lassie for some news of your affair. Just tell it to her plainly—tell her ye’re a muckle ass at the off-set; and then, if I were you, and ye could do it naitural, I would just mint to her I was in some kind of a danger; a’ weemenfolk likes that.”
“I cannae lee, Alan, I cannae do it naitural,” says I, mocking him.
“The more fool you!” says he. “Then ye’ll can tell her that I recommended it; that’ll set her to the laughing; and I wouldnae wonder but what that was the next best. But see to the pair of them! If I didnae feel just sure of the lassie, and that she was awful pleased and chief with Alan, I would think there was some kind of hocus-pocus about yon.”
“And is she so pleased with ye, then, Alan?” I asked.
“She thinks a heap of me,” says he. “And I’m no like you: I’m one that can tell. That she does—she thinks a heap of Alan. And troth! I’m thinking a good deal of him mysel; and with your permission, Shaws, I’ll be getting a wee yont amang the bents, so that I can see what way James goes.”
One after another went, till I was left alone beside the breakfast table; James to Dunkirk, Alan dogging him, Catriona up the stairs to her own chamber. I could very well understand how she should avoid to be alone with me; yet was none the better pleased with it for that, and bent my mind to entrap her to an interview before the men returned. Upon the whole, the best appeared to me to do like Alan. If I was out of view among the sand hills, the fine morning would decoy her out; and once I had her in the open, I could please myself.