Based on a novel by Frederick William Wallace, a young minister helps a disreputable woman and goes to sea with her into a difficult situation.
Near Boston in 1840 Anson Campbell (Lars Hanson) arrives on a ship and is welcomed by eager Mary Phillips (Marceline Day) and others who are skeptical. At the beach he gives her a ring, and she hopes to see him in her father's pulpit. He dines with Mary and friends, who compete in belt-busting. Men go to help a ship in distress during a storm. Bess Morgan (Pauline Starke) survives but is castigated by a man from the ship. Anson takes care of her in a nearby house.
Peter Campbell (Sam de Grasse) sees his nephew Anson massaging her legs, and he wants her removed. Rumors spread. Bess suspects Anson's help, because her stepfather abused her. She is glad the baby died. Anson tells his uncle that he cannot judge her. Zeke Crosby (George Fawcett) brings some clothes to Bess.
Mary asks Anson to follow his uncle's advice and warns him that he may lose his pulpit. However, Anson won't turn Bess out. Bess tells Mary that a man loves her and not to throw it away.
Bess does not want to go back to Boston, and Zeke offers to take her somewhere else. Bess sees a ship and asks to go on it as a cook. Zeke gives her money and rows her and Anson out to the ship. The captain (Ernest Torrence) says he is going to Rio and is willing to take her. Anson hires on as a seaman. Mary learns that Anson is gone.
Anson discovers that it is a convict ship, and they brand prisoners. The captain drinks wine with Bess and plays the violin, but she hears screams. Anson leaves the wheel to rescue Bess, but the captain knocks him out. The captain has Anson lashed. Bess uses her petticoat and water to treat his wounds. Anson in despair says it is a devil's world.
At night the captain sneaks into a room and finds Bess in bed. He tells her it is either him that night or the guards of the salt mines. She has a knife and stabs herself in the stomach. The captain records that a female convict was lost at sea. Anson tries to comfort Bess and then goes after the captain. They climb up the rigging and fight on the yardarm. The captain falls to the deck, and Anson goes back to Bess.
The ship returns, and people gather. Peter complains that Anson has named the ship Bess Morgan. Anson tells the people what happened. Bess tells Anson that dying is not hard, and she asks him to pray. He prays and closes her eyes. He tells the people that this taught him how to pray and to serve God. The people are moved, and Peter admits to Anson that he was wrong. Mary comes to Anson, and they embrace. The postscript indicates that this became a gospel ship.
This drama contrasts moral opposites. By helping a persecuted
woman even though she may have sinned, the young man learns how
to minister to those in need. In doing so a wicked captain is
replaced by a good one.