Gerrit Ammidon, despairing of any chance to marry his love, Nettie Vollar, because of a bitter feud between his father and her grandfather, sails to China to "get away from it all". While in Shanghai he rescues a beautiful young woman being attacked by a gang of street toughs. She turns out to be Taou Yuen, a Manchu princess. Gerrit discovers that, unless she finds a husband, she will be put to death, and he agrees to marry her. They return to Java Head, the Ammidon family home in Salem, Massachusetts, but Gerrit's "homecoming" has some unexpected consequences.