Adapted from a novel by Somerset Maugham, a fugitive travels the south seas and falls in love.
In Sydney Ryan (Sidney Toler) pays Captain Nichols (Arthur Hohl) to take a man to sea for a year. Fred Blake (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) says good-bye to his father. Nichols and Fred find Dr. Saunders (Dudley Digges) on an island. Nichols wants to take him along to treat his dyspepsia. Fred objects but, after a quarrel, agrees. During a storm Nichols laughs and gives Fred the wheel; the mast breaks and kills a man. Having faced death, Fred is ready to live. Saunders suggests that a change in life can be a new start. Fred swims to an island and meets English Louise Frith (Patricia Ellis) and Danish Eric (Ralph Bellamy), and Louise invites him to dinner. Eric guides their ship through a narrow passage. Frith (Reginald Owen) welcomes them while his crotchety father-in-law Swan (William V. Mong) complains. Frith tells Saunders he is translating the Lusiad. Fred dances with Louise and kisses her.
Eric tells Fred and Saunders that he's secretly engaged to Louise and wishes he were as innocent as she. Saunders says to regret nothing, because "Life is short; Nature is hostile; and man is ridiculous." Eric offers Fred a room, and Saunders plans to wait for a Dutch ship. Fred teaches Eric boxing. Louise wants to watch Fred paint the boat. She kisses Fred, who says she must think of Eric. Fred tells her the police are after him, because he killed a man, whose wife helped him do it. Nichols tells Eric that Louise is with Fred. Saunders calls on Frith, who discovers that Swan has torn his manuscript into pieces. Frith philosophically plans to rewrite it.
Eric sees Fred leaving Louise and chokes him. Thinking he killed him, he wanders off in a windstorm. Saunders revives Fred, who wants to tell Eric that he loves Louise. Fred finds Eric laying on the floor with a gun in his hand and goes to Saunders for help. Saunders is smoking six pipes (of opium?) and washes the blood off Fred, who says he did not kill Eric, his best friend. Police question Saunders, looking for Fred. Nichols tells Saunders he is turning Fred into the police, and the doctor tells him his dyspepsia is cancer. Saunders wakes up Fred, who rejects his cynicism. Fred goes to the boat and orders the black crew to raise the sails; they choose to go with him, and he finds Louise aboard. In a storm they make it through the channel, and Saunders asks for seven pipes.
This philosophical melodrama portrays a desperate man on the run to the far corners of the earth; but, meeting new friends, he regains hope despite the tragic death of the man he admired.