This is romantic novel book. Dr. Melmoth, the President of fictional Harley College, takes into his care Ellen Langton, the daughter of his friend, Mr. Langton, who is at sea. Ellen is a young, beautiful girl and attracts the attentions of the college boys, especially Edward Walcott, a strapping though immature student, and Fanshawe, a reclusive, meek intellectual. While out walking, the three young people meet a nameless character called 'the angler', a name he gets for appearing an expert fisherman. The angler asks for a word with Ellen, tells her something in secret, and apparently flusters her. Walcott and Fanshawe become suspicious of his intentions. We learn that the angler is an old friend of the reformed Inn owner, Hugh Crombie. The two had been at sea together, where Mr. Langton had been the angler's mentor and caretaker. Langton and the angler had a falling out, however, and, thinking that Langton has been killed at sea, the angler undertakes to marry Ellen in order to inherit her father's considerable wealth. Thus in his secret meeting with Ellen, the angler instructs her to sneak out of Melmoth's home and follow him, telling her he has information about her father’s whereabouts. His real aim, though, is to kidnap her, to tell her of her father’s death, and to manipulate her into marrying him.