Lady Flippant, a widow disappointed in her efforts to find a new husband, berates her matchmaker, Mrs. Joyner, for not finding her a wealthy young man to relieve her impecunious position. The lady’s brother, Alderman Gripe, has grown tired of her foppish visitors, especially the witless Mr. Dapperwit. At the suggestion of the cozening Mrs. Joyner and the double-dealing Dapperwit, Sir Simon Addleplot disguises himself and gains employment as a clerk to the miserly Gripe in order to woo the usurer’s daughter, Mistress Martha, and through her secure her father’s fortune. Not realizing that he has been gulled into masquerading as Jonas the clerk, Sir Simon is also duped into believing that he is loved by Lady Flippant, who is really enamored of Dapperwit.
Together with Mr. Vincent, his friend and confidant, Mr. Ranger is about to go into St. James’s Park in search of amorous adventure when he is discovered by his cousin Lydia, to whom he is betrothed. He avoids her, however, and dines with the gulled Sir Simon, Dapperwit, and Lady Flippant for the diversion of watching the work of Mrs. Joyner, who has already made twenty crowns through introductions and will obtain one hundred crowns if Sir Simon gets Mistress Martha or fifty if he gets Lady Flippant. The widow spurns Sir Simon, flirts with Dapperwit, and hints at matrimony to both Ranger and Vincent.
Later, all promenade through St. James’s Park in the hope of discovering one another’s intrigues. Lydia, recognizing Ranger, runs into the house of her friend Christina in order to avoid a compromising meeting with her betrothed. Ranger pursues her only to become enamored of Christina, who is faithfully waiting the return to London of her fiancé, Mr. Valentine. In order to help Lydia, Christina pretends to be the young woman Ranger has pursued from the park. Once her little act is over, she sends the impertinent young man away. Ranger, in despair because he has not learned the fair unknown’s name, has no idea that Lydia has overheard his gallant speeches to Christina.
Ranger goes to the home of his friend Vincent. Valentine, whose life is in danger from a rival, is in hiding there, for he wishes no one to know of his return from France before his loved one knows. The concealed Valentine overhears Ranger ask Vincent the name of the young woman whom Ranger earlier pursued into her...
(The entire section is 972 words.)