The novel takes place in the era of Restoration, a time when everyone still remembers both the events of the revolution and the rule of Napoleon. In the living room of the castle of De la Bree near Paris, three men sit: the master of the house, Colonel Delmar, once a brave military man, now “heavy and bald,” his nineteen-year-old wife, the charming fragile Creole of Indiana, and her distant relative, Sir Ralph Brown, “a man in full bloom of youth and strength. “
The servant reports that someone has climbed into the garden, and the colonel grabs his gun and runs away. Knowing the harsh nature of her husband, Indiana is afraid, as if he had not killed someone hot.
The colonel comes back. Following him, the servants carry an insensible young man “with delicate, noble features.” Blood flows from the wound on his arm. Justifying himself, the colonel claims that he shot only salt. Creole Nun, the nurse and Indiana maid, together with her mistress, are busy around the wounded. The gardener reports that this “very handsome man” is Mr. de Rumière, their new neighbor. In the colonel, jealousy awakens.
Having regained consciousness, de Rumière explains his misdeed by striving to penetrate the Colonel’s factory located next to the house and to find out the secret of its prosperity, for his brother in the south of France has the same enterprise, however it brings him only losses. Delmar once refused to talk on this subject with Ramier, so he, wishing to help his brother, dared to violate the boundaries of the colonel’s possessions. Mr. Delmar is satisfied with his explanation.
The truth is that “brilliant and witty”, “endowed with various talents” Raymond de Rumière is in love with Nun, and an ardent Creole answers him in kind. That evening they had a date in the Delmar garden.
The young man’s feelings are so strong that he even thinks about going to the misalliance and legalizing their relationship. However, gradually his passion fades, he begins to be uneasy Nun and hurries to return to Paris. The inconsolable Creole writes sincere, but awkward letters, which only make her laugh.
The secular lion de Rumiere meets Indiana in one of the Paris salons. Young people remember their first meeting in the castle of De la Bree. Indiana is subdued by the charm of Raymond, in her soul she awakens love. Early married to Mr. Delmar, “stupid, tactless and ill-mannered,” the young Creole loves for the first time, because to her faithful friend, Sir Ralph, she feels exceptionally friendly feelings. Raymond is also captivated by a timid beauty.
Lovers are explained. Indiana’s love is pure and selfless, in the sense of Raymond there is a fair amount of vanity and self-love. The position of the young man is complicated by the presence of Nun, who, seeing him at Mrs. Delmar, decides that he came to the house for her.
Thinking that Raymond still loves her, Nun, in the absence of the hosts, invites him to the Delmar Castle. Fearing that Indiana would not know about his novel with her maid, Raymond agrees to come to Nun, hoping that this meeting will be the last. During a stormy night of love in Indiana’s bedroom, the Creole confesses to her lover that she is expecting a baby. Raymond is horrified, he wants to send Nun away from Paris, but she does not agree.
Unexpectedly, Mrs. Delmar returns. Nun, unaware of Ramier’s new fascination, is going to confess everything to the hostess. Raymond forbids it. Finding a young man in his bedroom, Indiana decides that he came here for her, and accuses Nun of aiding the dishonest designs of the young man. However, the behavior of the maid gives the true reason for Raymond’s appearance in the castle. His embarrassment confirms Indiana’s suspicions, her feelings are offended, and she drives him away. De Ramier wants to explain himself to Indiana, but the arrival of Sir Ralph forces him to leave the castle hastily. Nun realizes that there is nothing to hope for, and rushes into the river. Indiana still loves Raymond, but Nun’s death, in which she rightly blames the young man, fills her with disgust for him. She refuses to see him. Aspiring to again win the favor of Mrs. Delmar, Raymond resorts to the help of his mother. On the rights of neighbors, they together pay a visit to the colonel. As the mistress of the house, Indiana is forced to go out to the guests.
Having shown interest in the work of the factory and respectfully speaking about the overthrown Bonaparte, Ramier is gaining the sympathy of M. Delmar and the right to visit him at home without ceremony; He again finds the way to the heart of Indiana and receives her forgiveness. Sophisticated in secular tricks the Frenchwoman would not have succumbed so easily to his seductions, but the inexperienced Creole believes him. Indiana expects that Raymond will love her “completely, irrevocably, unlimitedly”, ready for her any sacrifice. Captured by the “irresistible charm” of a young woman, de Ramier promises everything that is demanded of him.
Raymond wants to get proof of Indiana’s love. But all his attempts to spend the night with his lover are unsuccessful because of the vigilance of Sir Ralph, who as a relative and friend of the house constantly takes care of Indiana. Feeling an opponent in him, Raymond tries to humiliate him in the eyes of Indiana. Instead of the answer, she tells him the story of Sir Ralph Brown.
Childhood and youth Ralph and Indiana were on the distant island of Bourbon, which is in the Caribbean Sea. The unloved child in the family, Ralph became attached to a small Indiana, educated and defended her. Then he went to Europe, where he married at the insistence of relatives. But in marriage he did not find happiness,... and when his wife, and even earlier, and his son died, he returned to Indiana. By this time she had already been married to Colonel Delmar. Sir Ralph bluntly asked Indiana’s husband to settle with them and come to them as a relative. When the Colonel’s affairs in the colonies went badly and he and his wife went to Europe, Sir Ralph followed them. He has no relatives or friends, Indiana and her husband – it’s all his society, all his affection. According to Mrs. Delmar, he is pleased with his present life near her; in her relationship with her husband, he does not interfere,
Still, Raymond manages to bury in Indiana’s soul a grain of mistrust for a childhood friend. Unperturbable in appearance, Sir Ralph suffers deeply from the cooling of Indiana to him, but still zealously protects her from the ardent de Ramier.
Raymond is bored with reclusive life and sublime love without hope of rapprochement. He is leaving for Paris. Indiana is in despair; to see her lover again, she is ready to confess her love to her husband. But the colonel is suddenly ruined and forced to go to Paris. Then, having settled the case and sold the castle, he was going to depart for the island of Bourbon, where he had a house.
Usually submissive Indiana flatly refuses to go with her husband. Not having achieved her consent, the enraged colonel locks her in the room. Indiana is selected through the window and runs to her lover. She spends the whole night in his bedroom, and when Raymond comes back in the morning, he tells him that he is ready to stay with him forever. “The time has come, and I want to receive a reward for my trust: tell me, do you accept my sacrifice?” she asks Ramier.
Frightened by such determination and wishing to quickly get rid of his beloved beloved, Raymond, on the pretext of taking care of her reputation, discourages her from such a step. However, Indiana had foreseen everything – the night she spent at the house of the young man had already compromised her in the eyes of the world and her husband. Raymond is furious: he fell into the net of his own vows. Having lost power over himself, he tries to master Indiana. Realizing that Ramier no longer loves her, she breaks away and leaves.
In desperation, Indiana sadly wanders along the river bank: she wants to follow Nun’s example. Seeking her from the early morning, Sir Ralph saves her from a fatal step and escorts home. Instead of explaining Indiana coldly declares to indignant Delmar that he is ready to sail with him in the colony. Faithful Sir Ralph is traveling with Dalmar.
With his worries, Sir Ralph is struggling to brighten up Indiana’s life on the island of Bourbon. Unexpectedly, a young woman receives a letter from Raymond: he writes that he is unhappy without her. The smoldering fire of a former love flares up in Indiana’s soul with renewed vigor.
The letter of Raymond falls into the hands of Delmar. A jealous husband beats Indiana. Learning about the monstrous cruelty of the colonel, indignant Ralph wants to kill him, but with Delmar there is an apoplexy stroke. Having forgotten about hatred, Indiana cares for her sick husband. But one night she, having taken her meager savings, sails to France, to Raymond.
Political winds are changing, and Ramier is on the verge of ruin. In order to improve his affairs, he favorably marries the adoptive daughter of a rich bourgeois who bought the estate of the Delmares.
Arriving in Bordeaux, Indiana falls ill with an inflammation of the brain and, without documents, gets to the hospital for the poor. A month later, without money and the most necessary, she is on the street. Fortunately, the ship on which she arrived, has not yet sailed back, and the honest captain returns her the things on her bag and money.
Arriving in Paris, she learns that Raymond bought her husband’s castle De la Brie, and decides that he did it in the hope of her return. However, after arriving at the castle, she meets not only Raymond, but also his wife…
Not remembering herself from grief, Indiana returns to Paris and stops at a cheap hotel. Here it is found by Sir Ralph. Finding the disappearance of Indiana and knowing about Raymond’s letter, he realized that she had fled to Europe to her lover. Sir Ralph tells Indiana that her husband passed away without regaining consciousness, she is free and can marry her chosen one. “Monsieur de Rumier is married!” Indiana screams back.
Indiana despises Ramier, she is desperate and wants to die. Sir Ralph invites her to die together, doing this on their own island, in the gorge where they played children. Indiana agrees, and they again cross the ocean. On the road Indiana begins to appreciate the manly and noble character of Ralph, and in her heart the last memories of her blind love for Raymond fade away.
On the island of Bourbon Ralph and Indiana, preparing to part with life, climb the picturesque mountain. Here Ralph admits in the last breath that he always loved Indiana. The young woman sees him for the first time so passionate and exalted. She realizes that she should have loved him, not Raymond. “Be my spouse in heaven and on earth!” Indiana exclaims, kissing Ralph. He takes her in his arms and goes to the top.
A year later, wandering in the mountains of the island of Bourbon, a young traveler unexpectedly encounters a hut; in it live Sir Ralph and Indiana. Happiness was given to them at the cost of many efforts, but now their days are “equally calm and beautiful.” Their life flows without grief and without regrets, and they enjoy the unknown happiness, which they owe only to themselves.