Dion Boucicault's 1857 melodrama, set in New York at a time of financial turmoil, uses every trick in the book of the genre — a villainous banker… a wise-cracking shady subordinate who brings about the banker's downfall… stolen documents… a heroine who suffers nobly and, in the end, marries a rich blue-blood… a raging inferno in Brooklyn Heights which leads to the climactic revelation of the drama.
The story begins when a villainous tycoon, Bloodgood, misappropriates the funds of an honest sea captain, and uses them to rebuild his fortune while the rest of the nation sinks deeper into poverty and despair during a Wall Street crash.
However, in the furtherance of his evil scheme, Bloodgood has had to pay hush money to a disreputable clerk in his bank, Badger, and this will ultimately prove to be his undoing. Some time after the crime, Badger returns to New York and proceeds to blackmail his former employer.
Bloodgood calls his bluff, defying Badger to find the heirs to the sea captain’s fortune - the only way his crooked dealings can be exposed.
How Badger does this involves those same heirs, now fallen on hard times, a scion of New York aristocracy, also living in reduced circumstances, Bloodgood's spoiled and willful daughter, and a family of humble tradespeople. Bloodgood finally gets his comeuppance, with the outcome in the balance until the last minute, but all turns out well in the end, which itself contains one last and curiously moving surprise.
This version has been rewritten in a more contemporary style, paring down some of the overripe language but keeping the pace, surprise and flavor of the original.