(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Captain Plume, commander of a company of grenadiers, and his aide, Sergeant Kite, arrive in Shrewsbury to enlist a number of recruits for Captain Plume’s command. They have traveled to Shrewsbury because of success in gaining recruits in that city some months before and because of Captain Plume’s amorous successes at the same time. Upon their arrival the pair are greeted with the news that a young woman who has just given birth has named Captain Plume as the baby’s father. At the captain’s request, Sergeant Kite marries the woman and goes on record as the father of the child. This is not the first time he has done as much for the captain; he has accumulated a list of six wives in the same manner.

Captain Plume also finds his good friend Mr. Worthy at Shrewsbury. Worthy had been a happy-go-lucky chap, much like Captain Plume, until his fiancé inherited a fortune. The young woman, Melinda, has taken on airs since becoming rich, and she has proceeded to make life miserable for Worthy. His latest grievance is that another officer on recruiting duty, one Captain Brazen, has apparently become a successful rival for Melinda’s hand and fortune. Captain Plume asks Worthy about Melinda’s cousin Sylvia Balance, whom the captain loves but cannot marry because his life is too uncertain and he has too little money. Worthy tells Captain Plume that Sylvia Balance still thinks very well of him.

While Worthy and Captain Plume are talking, Melinda and Sylvia are having a conversation of their own, in which Sylvia tells her cousin that she is determined that the captain should not leave Shrewsbury alone. The two women quarrel, and after Sylvia’s departure Melinda writes a letter to Sylvia’s father in which she tells him that Captain Plume intends to dishonor Sylvia. That evening Captain Plume has dinner with Sylvia and her father, Justice Balance, who considers the captain a fine match for his daughter. During the evening, news comes from Germany by mail that Justice Balance’s son and heir has died. Immediately Justice Balance revises his attitude toward Captain Plume, for he does not like to think of the captain as his daughter’s husband if Sylvia is to inherit all of his fortune. Calling Sylvia into private conference, he tells her of the change in his attitude. Although the young woman is very much in love with the captain, she promises that she will not marry without her father’s consent. Captain Plume leaves the house without learning what has happened, and a short time after his departure, Melinda’s spiteful letter to Sylvia’s father arrives. After reading the letter, Justice Balance, concerned with getting Sylvia away from the captain, immediately sends her by coach to one of his country estates.

When Worthy and Captain Plume learn of Sylvia’s departure, they interpret the action erroneously: They think that she believes herself too good for the captain now that she...

(The entire section is 1192 words.)