(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Young Bevil, a gentleman of some fortune, is engaged to marry the daughter of Mr. Sealand. Although he is not in love with the woman, he agrees to marry her at his father’s request. On the day of the marriage, however, there is some doubt that the marriage will take place, for the bride’s father discovers that Bevil is paying the bills of a young woman he brought back from France. Fearing that the young woman, called Indiana, is Bevil’s mistress, Mr. Sealand does not want his daughter to marry a man who keeps another woman.

The father does not know that Bevil sent a letter to Lucinda Sealand that gives her his permission to break off the marriage at that late date. Bevil did so because he knows that Lucinda is really in love with his friend, Mr. Myrtle, and because he himself wants to marry Indiana. After the letter is sent, Sir John’s valet tells young Bevil that the marriage will probably be broken by Mr. Sealand. Bevil then confides in the servant that Indiana is the daughter of the British merchant named Danvers, who disappeared in the Indies soon after the ship in which Indiana, her mother, and her aunt were traveling to join him was captured by French privateers.

Myrtle then arrives at Bevil’s apartment and tells his friend that a third marriage arrangement is in the wind that day. Mrs. Sealand is trying to wed her daughter to Mr. Cimberton, a queer fellow with peculiar ideas about wives and a great deal of money; Mrs. Sealand is willing to overlook strange notions in favor of the fortune her daughter might marry. The only thing that prevents the marriage contract from being settled that day is the nonappearance of Cimberton’s wealthy uncle. Bevil suggests to Myrtle that he and Bevil’s servant Tom, an artful rascal, disguise themselves as lawyers and go to the Sealand house in an attempt to prevent the marriage or, at least, to find out what can be done to keep the contract from being signed.

Meanwhile Indiana’s aunt cautions her against the attentions of Bevil. The aunt cannot believe, despite Indiana’s reports of Bevil’s behavior, that the young man is helping Indiana and paying her bills without intending to make her his mistress. As they continue to argue, Bevil appears. Indiana tries to learn in private conversation what his intentions are, for she loves him very much. He replies only that he does everything for her because he finds pleasure in doing good. Wanting him to love her, she feels rather hurt. Secretly, Bevil promised himself that he would never tell her of his...

(The entire section is 1040 words.)