The narrator begins his story by discussing youth and life. He talks about how he left the ship he was a crew member of and upon coming to the shore found shelter at Officers' Home. There he is greeted by a displeased steward. He meets other seamen staying there, among whom he gets close to Captain Giles.
One night, he and Captain Giles overhear Hamilton, another seaman staying there, talking about the narrator and how he is better for some position than him. Captain Giles reveals to the narrator that he noticed the steward behaving strangely when some letters arrive and tries to persuade the narrator to investigate. He is reluctant but when he sees the steward he can't help but press him about it. It turns out that Captain Giles was right and the letter was sent to the narrator asking him to come to the Harbour Office for an interview about becoming a captain of a ship.
The next day the narrator goes to the interview and gets the job. He is overwhelmed and excited by his new sense of duty. Captain Giles escorts him the following night to the port where he will depart to go to his appointed ship. The narrator gets aboard a steamer where the captain has a nasty personality. Finally, he arrives to Bangkok and gets to enjoy the marvelous beauty of his ship.
The narrator gets on the deck of the ship and there he meets the chief mate who tells him the story about the previous captain who prior to his death turned insane and wanted to take the ship down along himself and the crew. This insanity leads the captain to die and he, Mr. Barns, rescued the ship and brought it ashore.
There is an outbreak of disease and Mr. Barns gets affected by it. Ignoring the doctor's warning to leave Mr. Barns ashore the new captain of the ship, narrator, sets out to the sea. The journey is slow with ship barely moving. The disease affects the entire crew besides the captain and Ransome, the trustworthy cook.
After moving slowly for about fifteen days, a storm suddenly breaks out but there are no casualties to the ship. In fact, the ship starts to move at a decent pace now. Help also arrives for the diseased members and the ship is brought back to the port.
After coming back, the narrator meets with Captain Giles and talks about not belonging to the youth shadow line anymore. With a new crew the narrator sets out to the Indian Ocean. Before he departs he writes a recommendation letter for Ransome and wearily watches the good but troubled man leave.