Guy Mannering, a young English gentleman traveling in Scotland, stops at the home of Godfrey Bertram, Laird of Ellangowan, on the night the first Bertram child, a boy, is born. Mannering, a student of astrology, casts the horoscope of the newborn babe and is distressed to find that the child’s fifth, tenth, and twenty-first years will be hazardous. The young Englishman puzzles over the fact that the boy’s twenty-first year will correspond with the thirty-ninth year of the woman Mannering loves, which is the year the stars say will bring her death or imprisonment. An old gypsy, Meg Merrilies, also predicts danger for the new baby. Not wishing to worry the parents, Mannering writes down his finds and presents them to Mr. Bertram, first cautioning him not to open the packet until the child passes by one day his fifth birthday. Then he departs.
Young Harry Bertram grows steadily and well. He is tutored and supervised by Dominie Sampson, a teacher and preacher retained by his father; at times, the child is also watched over by the gypsy Meg, who has great love for the boy. The child is four years old when the laird becomes a justice of the peace and promises to rid the countryside of gypsies and poachers. After he orders all gypsies to leave the district, old Meg puts a curse on him, saying that his own house is in danger of being as empty as are now the homes of the gypsies. On Harry’s fifth birthday, the prediction comes true: The boy disappears while on a ride with a revenue officer hunting smugglers. The man is killed and his body found, but there is no trace of the child. All search proving futile, he is at last given up for dead. In her grief, his mother, prematurely delivered of a daughter, dies soon afterward.
Seventeen years pass. Old Mr. Bertram, cheated by his lawyer, Gilbert Glossin, is to have his estate sold to pay his debts. Glossin plans to buy the property without much outlay of money, for the law says that when an heir is missing a purchaser need not put up the full price, in case the heir should return and claim his inheritance. Before the sale, Mannering returns and tries to buy the property to save it for the Bertram family, but a delay in the mail prevents his effort, and Glossin gets possession of the estate. Old Mr. Bertram dies before the transaction is completed, leaving his daughter Lucy homeless and penniless.
During these transactions, Mannering’s past history comes to light. Years before, he had gone as a soldier to India and married there. Through a misunderstanding, he had accused his wife of faithlessness with Captain Brown, who was in reality in love with Mannering’s daughter, Julia. The two men fought a duel, and Brown was wounded. Later he was captured by bandits, and Mannering assumed that he was dead. When Mannering’s wife died eight months later, the unhappy man, having learned she had not been unfaithful, resigned his commission and returned with his daughter to England.
When Mannering learns that he cannot buy the Bertram estate and allow Lucy to remain there with the faithful Dominie, he leases a nearby house for them. He also brings his daughter Julia to the house after he learns from friends with whom she is staying that she has been secretly meeting an unknown young man. What Mannering does not know is that the man is Brown, who escaped from his bandit captors and followed Julia to England and later to Scotland. Julia and Lucy are unhappy in their love affairs. Lucy loves Charles Hazlewood, but since Lucy has no money, Charles’s father will not permit their marriage.
Brown, loitering near the house, meets old Meg, who takes a great interest in him. Once she saved his life, and for his thanks, she made him promise to come to her whenever she sends for him. A short time later, Brown encounters Julia, Lucy, and Charles. Thinking Brown a bandit, Charles pulls a firearm from his clothing. In his attempt to disarm Charles, Brown accidentally discharges the weapon and wounds Charles....
(The entire section is 1,259 words.)