Here then was fresh food for conjecture. Was Alice his unknown warden, and was this maiden of the cavern the tutelar genius that watched his bed during his sickness? Was he in the hands of her father? and if so, what was his purpose? Spoil, his usual object, seemed in this case neglected; for not only Waverley’s property was restored, but his purse, which might have tempted this professional plunderer, had been all along suffered to remain in his possession. All this perhaps the packet might explain; but it was plain from Alice’s manner that she desired he should consult it in secret. Nor did she again seek his eye after she had satisfied herself that her manoeuvre was observed and understood. On the contrary, she shortly afterwards left the hut, and it was only as she tript out from the door, that, favoured by the obscurity, she gave Waverley a parting smile and nod of significance ere she vanished in the dark glen.
The young Highlander was repeatedly despatched by his comrades as if to collect intelligence. At length, when he had returned for the third or fourth time, the whole party arose and made signs to our hero to accompany them. Before his departure, however, he shook hands with old Janet, who had been so sedulous in his behalf, and added substantial marks of his gratitude for her attendance.
‘God bless you! God prosper you, Captain Waverley!’ said Janet, in good Lowland Scotch, though he had never hithero heard her utter a syllable, save in Gaelic. But the impatience of his attendants prohibited his asking any explanation.
A NOCTURNAL ADVENTURE
There was a moment’s pause when the whole party had got out of the hut; and the Highlander who assumed the command, and who, in Waverley’s awakened recollection, seemed to be the same tall figure who had acted as Donald Bean Lean’s lieutenant, by whispers and signs imposed the strictest silence. He delivered to Edward a sword and steel pistol, and, pointing up the track, laid his hand on the hilt of his own claymore, as if to make him sensible they might have occasion to use force to make good their passage. He then placed himself at the head of the party, who moved up the pathway in single or Indian file, Waverley being placed nearest to their leader. He moved with great precaution, as if to avoid giving any alarm, and halted as soon as he came to the verge of the ascent. Waverley was soon sensible of the reason, for he heard at no great distance an English sentinel call out ‘All’s well.’ The heavy sound sunk on the night-wind down the woody glen, and was answered by the echoes of its banks. A second, third, and fourth time the signal was repeated fainter and fainter, as if at a greater and greater distance. It was obvious that a party of soldiers were near, and upon their guard, though not sufficiently so to detect men skilful in every art of predatory warfare, like those with whom he now watched their ineffectual precautions.