Colonel Fairfax is awaiting execution at the Tower of London for sorcery. When his hoped-for reprieve fails to arrive, Sergeant Meryll and his daughter Phoebe, who is secretly fond of the Colonel, plot his escape. They plan to disguise him as Leonard Meryll who is shortly to join the Yeomen but whom no-one has yet seen.
Unaware of their plan, Fairfax's last request is to die a married man, for, without a wife, his estate will fall into the hands of the kinsman who brought the charge of sorcery against him. A willing candidate is found in Elsie Maynard. Although her companion, Jack Point is initially worried at the proposal his doubts are soon dispelled by the promise of 100 crowns and the assurance that Elsie will be a widow within the hour. They are therefore horrified when they hear that Fairfax has escaped.
Jack and Wilfred Shadbolt (the head jailer) subsequently conspire to pretend that Wilfred has shot Fairfax and seen him drown thereby releasing Elsie from the marriage contract. Fairfax, meanwhile, had discovered that Elsie is his wife (neither knew of the other's identity at the marriage ceremony) and is about to reveal this to her when the shot is heard and Jack and Wilfred spin their tale.
Elsie is distraught at the news of her husband's apparent death but is comforted by "Leonard", alias Fairfax, who subsequently proposes to her. This enrages Phoebe who, is a jealous temper, confesses her feelings for "Leonard" to Wilfred realising, too late, that she is thereby claiming to be in love with her brother! Wilfred quickly deduces the true identity of "Leonard" and, in order to silence him, Phoebe consents to marriage.
When Phoebe's real brother brings news of Fairfax's reprieve, Elsie is initially distressed at the thought of leaving "Leonard" but overjoyed at the revelation that "Leonard" and Fairfax are one and the same. In vain, Jack appeals to Elsie to consider his feelings for her before he falls broken-hearted at her feet.