Based on a play by Houston Branch, a call-girl flees to an island to escape a murder charge, marries a sailor and stays true to him while he's gone.
In New Orleans Gilda Carlson (Dorothy Mackaill) gets a call and goes to an apartment to find Piet Van Staal (Ralf Harolde), whom she no longer likes. She slaps him, knocks him out with a bottle, and leaves as a fire starts. Angie calls Gilda and tells her that Piet burned to death, warning her the bell-boy described her. Carl Bergen (Donald Cook) finds Gilda and asks her to marry him now that he is an officer. She says no, explaining she became a call-girl and killed a man; but Carl still loves her and helps her escape by stowing her away and taking her to an island with no extradition. Gilda checks into the hotel, and Carl pays for a month. The only minister is away; so Carl and Gilda wed each other by themselves. Carl kisses her good-bye and boards his ship.
Five men sit and wait for Gilda. One catches a hen for her; but she is accepting no presents. Bruno (Morgan Wallace) says criminals who follow their strict laws are "safe in hell," but any violation puts them in his jail. The revolutionary Gomez (Victor Varconi) offers Gilda his suite; but she throws water in his face. When mail comes, Bruno takes her only letter. Leonie (Nina Mae McKinney) sings as she pours drinks. Bored, Gilda joins the party and learns their criminal stories; she says she killed a man and is tough too. Gilda tells Leonie she is keeping her promise to the sailor; but Leonie reminds her the rent is almost due.
Gilda sees Piet arrive. Piet says he took the life insurance money from his wife, who then went to the police. Gilda says she can go home and sends a radiogram to Carl to come get her. Piet tells Egan about Gilda's past. Bruno gives Gilda a gun to protect herself, though it's against the law. Piet enters her room and locks the door. He grabs her, and a shot is heard. In her murder trial the lawyer Jones (Charles Middleton) argues she acted in self-defense. Bruno tells Gilda she could still get six months in his jail for having a gun. Rather than face that, she tells the judge she lied and killed Piet in cold blood. She tells Bruno he won't get her except with a noose. Gilda tells Jones that she had to keep her promise to the best man she ever knew. Gilda sees Carl coming and asks the guard to let her see him. Carl tells her he got a new job in New Orleans, and they kiss; but he has to catch his ship. Gilda glares at Bruno and goes with the guards.
In this tragedy Gilda learns that a safe haven for criminals can be hell, because it is difficult to live with criminals. Though she has been a prostitute, she chooses not to be abused by Bruno even though it means death, because she has learned what true love is.