Frank Osbaldistone is recalled from France, where his father had sent him to learn the family’s mercantile business. Disappointed in his son’s progress, the father angrily orders the young man to Osbaldistone Hall, home of his uncle, Sir Hildebrand Osbaldistone, in northern England. His father gives him fifty guineas for expenses and instructions to learn who among Sir Hildebrand’s sons will accept a position in the trading house of Osbaldistone and Tresham.
On the road, Frank falls in with a traveler named Morris, who is carrying a large sum of money in a portmanteau strapped to his saddle. That evening, they stop at the Black Bear Inn in the town of Darlington, where they are joined at dinner by a Scotsman named Mr. Campbell, who is really Rob Roy, the Scottish outlaw. The next morning, Campbell and Morris leave together. At a secluded spot along the road, the men are halted and a highwayman robs Morris of his saddlebag. Meanwhile, Frank rides toward Osbaldistone Hall. As he nears the rambling old mansion, he sees that a fox hunt is in progress and meets Diana Vernon, Sir Hildebrand’s niece. The outspoken Diana tells Frank that all of his cousins are mixtures in varying proportions of sot, gamekeeper, bully, horse jockey, and fool. Rashleigh, she says, is the most dangerous of the lot, for he maintains a private tyranny over everyone with whom he comes in contact. It is Rashleigh, however, who is prevailed upon to accept Frank’s vacant position at Osbaldistone and Tresham.
Frank and his cousins dislike one another. One night, while drinking with the family, Frank becomes enraged at Rashleigh’s speech and actions and strikes him. Rashleigh never forgets the blow, although to all intents and purposes he and Frank declare themselves friends after their anger has cooled.
Shortly after Frank’s arrival at Osbaldistone Hall, he is accused of highway robbery. He goes at once to Squire Inglewood’s court to defend himself and to confront his accuser, who turns out to be Morris. Rob Roy, however, appears at the squire’s court of justice and forces Morris to confess that Frank is not the man who robbed him.
When Rashleigh departs to go into business with Frank’s father, Frank becomes Diana’s tutor. Their association develops into deep affection on both sides, a mutual attraction marred only by the fact that Diana is a Catholic and Frank a Presbyterian.
One day, Frank receives a letter from his father’s partner, Mr. Tresham. The letter informs him that his father has gone to the Continent on business, leaving Rashleigh in charge; Rashleigh,...
(The entire section is 1069 words.)