An independent spirited girl with a mean mother and idle father is engaged to an easy-going but illiterate Breakfast Creek fisherman when she decides to take a station job to pay for her trousseau. While she is away her mother and less good-looking sister trick the fisherman into marrying the sister, while Bett herself meets a handsome Irish migrant. Complications with an aboriginal horse-tailer and his wife lead to a forced marriage, the aboriginal wife's murder, Pat's departure to make his fortune on the Gympie goldfield, and his detainment for four years with the horse-tailer's tribe. Meanwhile Bett returns with her daughter to Brisbane, where she and the fisherman yearn for each other until he is murdered by his partner during a flood. Pat leaves the tribe, makes his fortune at Gympie, and reaches Brisbane, despite the best efforts of Bett's mother, in time to help her save the fisherman's son from the murderous partner, buy a dairy farm near her brother, and settle down for life.