John Barrington takes a berth as a second mate to return to the Caroline Islands, where he left his Islander wife two years before. The ship is carrying three passengers, a missionary and his wife and her sister. The missionary, Parker, and his wife knew Barrington previously and Mrs Parker is secretly in love with him.
Barrington's wife, Nadee, is waiting for him on the island of Losap with her grandmother, who hates Europeans and endeavours to convince Nadee that Barrington will not return. When he does reach the island, in dramatic circumstances, a misunderstanding is deliberately perpetuated and tragedy ensues.
Becke also uses this narrative to put forward vitriolic views of missionaries and the harm he believes they cause.