(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Frank Wellborn, who by his prodigality had gone through a fortune and lost most of his friends, is now at a point where even the alehouses refuse to give him food or drink. One morning, as he is about to be thrown from an alehouse, he meets a young page whom he had once befriended. The boy, Allworth, offers to lend him money, but Wellborn refuses, knowing how little the boy has. Allworth confides to Wellborn that he is in love with Margaret, daughter of Sir Giles Overreach, who had despoiled young Wellborn in earlier days.

Later in the morning, Wellborn sees Allworth’s widowed, wealthy young stepmother, Lady Allworth. When the lady promises to help him restore his reputation, his only request is that she receive him as a gentleman in her house. Meanwhile, Sir Giles Overreach is laying plans for his daughter’s marriage, and for his own as well. After he marries Margaret to the rich Lord Lovell, he himself plans to marry Lady Allworth.

Overreach is angered to discover that Lady Allworth, who refuses to be at home to him, has entertained the prodigal Wellborn as if he were a suitor. His anger is somewhat dissipated, however, by Lord Lovell’s visit. He realizes also that if Wellborn gets his hands on Lady Allworth’s fortune, he, as the young man’s uncle and creditor, might take it away.

Lovell, who had promised to visit Overreach’s country place, knows of the love between Margaret and his page, Allworth, and he promises the page that he will do all he can to further the affair. Upon his arrival at the Overreach estate, he tells Margaret of his plans, and the two pretend to carry on a courtship to deceive her father.

During Lovell’s visit, Lady Allworth, accompanied by Wellborn, arrives also. Overreach, who is not in love with Lady Allworth but only desires her money, is pleased by the prospect of marrying his daughter to a nobleman and getting his hands on Lady Allworth’s fortune through her possible marriage to his prodigal nephew. He even offers money to Wellborn, so that the latter can pay off his debts and appear once again as a respectable gentleman.

After the party leaves Overreach’s estate, Lovell releases young Allworth from his position and tells of further plans...

(The entire section is 918 words.)