Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Sir William Ashton, the new master of the Ravenswood estate, is delighted to hear of the disturbances at the late Lord Ravenswood’s funeral. He hopes that the brave stand of Edgar, the young and former master of Ravenswood, which made it possible for the previously prohibited Episcopal service to take place in Scotland, will put Edgar in disfavor with the Privy Council and prevent his attempt to reclaim his family’s property. However, when the Lord Keeper and his daughter Lucy visit old Alice, a tenant on the estate, they are warned about the fierce Ravenswood blood and the family motto, I Bide My Time.
The Ashtons’ first encounter with Edgar seems fortunate; he shoots a bull as it charges Sir William and Lucy, saving them from serious injury. The sheltered, romantic girl is fascinated by her proud rescuer, who leaves abruptly after he identifies himself. Her more practical father gratefully softens his report of the disturbances at Lord Ravenswood’s funeral and asks several friends to help Edgar.
On the evening of the rescue, Edgar joins Bucklaw, the heir to a large fortune, and the adventurer-soldier Captain Craigengelt at a tavern where he tells them that he will not go with them to France. As he starts home, Bucklaw, who thinks himself insulted, challenges him to a duel. Edgar wins, gives his opponent his life, and invites him to Wolf’s Crag, the lonely, sea-beaten tower that is the only property left to the last of the once-powerful Ravenswoods.
Old Caleb Balderstone does his best to welcome his master and his companion to Wolf’s Crag in the style befitting the Ravenswood family, making ingenious excuses for the absence of whatever he is not able to procure from one of his many sources. The old man provides almost the only amusement for the two men, and Edgar thinks often of the girl he rescued. Deciding not to leave Scotland immediately, he writes to his kinsman, the Marquis of A——, for advice. The marquis tells him to remain at Wolf’s Crag and hints at political intrigue, but he offers no material assistance to supplement Caleb’s meager findings.
One morning, Bucklaw persuades Edgar to join a hunting party that is passing by the castle. An ardent sportsman, Bucklaw brings down a deer, while his friend watches from a hillside. Edgar offers Wolf’s Crag as shelter against an approaching storm for an elderly gentleman and a young girl who came to talk to him.
Poor Caleb’s resourcefulness is taxed to its limit with guests to feed. When Bucklaw thoughtlessly brings the hunting party to the castle, Caleb closes the gate, saying that he never admits anyone while a Ravenswood dines. The old servant sends them to the village, where Bucklaw meets Captain Craigengelt again.
At Wolf’s Crag, Edgar soon realizes that his guests are Sir William and Lucy; Sir William planned the hunt with the hope of securing an interview with Edgar. Lucy’s fright at the storm and Caleb’s comical excuses for the lack of food and elegant furnishings make relations between the two men less tense. When Edgar accompanies Sir William to his room after a feast of capon cleverly procured by Caleb, the older man offers his friendship and promises to try to settle certain unresolved questions about the estate in Edgar’s favor.
An astute politician, Sir William heeds a warning that the Marquis of A—— is likely to rise in power, raising his young kinsman with him, and he fears the loss of his newly acquired estate. He feels that Edgar’s goodwill might be valuable, and his ambitious wife’s absence allows him to follow his inclination to be friendly. A staunch Whig, Lady Ashton is in London, where she is trying to give support to the falling fortunes of her party.
Although Edgar’s pride and bitterness against the enemy of his father keeps him from trusting Sir William completely, the Lord Keeper has an unexpected advantage in the growing love between Edgar and Lucy. Anxious to assist the romance, he invites Edgar to accompany them to the castle where the young man once...
(The entire section is 1660 words.)
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