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In 1890, Lord Fancourt Babberly, known to his friends as Babbs, has been studying at Oxford for ten years to obtain a three-year degree before joining his uncle Hilary's law firm. During a cricket match, Babbs is annoyed by schoolmate Harley Stafford and their subsequent chase ends with Babbs unconscious, holding onto the rope of the fire bell. About to be expelled for his inadvertent prank, Babbs tells the don, Mr. Redcliff, that his friends, Jack Chesney and Charley Wykeham, were witnesses to the event and can prove his innocence. Redcliff promises to interview the young men the following day, after which Babbs returns to his rooms. There he finds Jack and Charley very upset, for Stephen Spettigue, the guardian of their respective girl friends, Amy Spettigue and Kitty Verdun, intends to take the girls away so that his income as their guardian will not be stopped by any romances. Jack and Charley have invited the girls to tea, during which they will propose. The intended chaperone is Charley's Brazilian aunt, Donna Lucia d'Alvadorez, whom he has never met. Meanwhile, unknown to Charley, the wealthy donna Lucia is consulting Hilary, who advises her to visit her heir Charley incognito, as Spettigue is a well-known fortune hunter. Hilary sends Babbs a telegram ordering him to entertain Mrs. Beverly Smythe, the name donna Lucia plans to use, and she leaves for Oxford. She is not on the train Charley meets, however, and Charley and Jack panic, for the girls will not come to tea unless a chaperone is present. When Babbs appears in the dress he is to wear for the school variety show, Charley and Jack blackmail him into impersonating donna Lucia in exchange for their testimony to Redcliff. Babbs assumes the role of the aunt from Brazil, "where the nuts come from," and soon is amusing the girls. Babbs must also fend off the attentions of Spettigue and Jack's father, Sir Francis Chesney, who are both after Lucia's fortune. The real Lucia arrives at Oxford, and Babbs spends a wearying afternoon going back and forth entertaining her as himself and impersonating her to keep Spettigue and Chesney away from the romancing young couples. Jack and Charley succeed in their marriage proposals, but the girls insist that they obtain a written consent from Spettigue. Jack and Charley convince Babbs to continue the charade at dinner that night, and to accept Spettigue's proposal in exchange for the written consent. Babbs goes through with the dinner, during which Lucia secretly deduces his real identity. After dinner, Babbs and Lucia pursue their own romance in the garden, and when Chesney sees them, he deduces the nature of the ruse and laughingly congratulates Spettigue on his incipient engagement. After Babbs wheedles the consent from Spettigue, his identity is revealed when his wig is accidentally removed. Spettigue declares that the consent is invalid, as it is addressed to Donna Lucia d'Alvadorez, but Lucia then reveals her own identity. As Babbs wonders if Spettigue can sue him for breach of promise, he receives a kiss from Lucia, and Jack and Charley embrace Kitty and Amy.