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In 1938, at the United States Military Reservation at Fort Carroll, Little Jim Tukker, the seven-year-old son of Capt. Big Jim Tukker, is reported missing by Sui Jen, the Tukkers' Chinese house servant. Big Jim and others search for Little Jim and his dog Wolf, but it is Little Jim's mother Jean who finds him in the nearby wilderness and takes him home. The following day, Big Jim tells his son that he will soon have a baby brother or sister with whom to play, and Little Jim immediately tells friends the exciting news. Little Jim's friends, hoping to win the privilege of playing with the baby when it arrives, give Little Jim special consideration. When Jean goes into a difficult labor, she is taken to an off-base hospital, where Sui Jen and Big Jim anxiously await news of her condition. Little Jim, meanwhile, is taken to the home of their friends the Glensons and is shielded from the truth about his mother. When Jean dies in childbirth, Sui Jen gently prepares Little Jim for tragic news, and helps him accept the loss by telling him a Chinese myth about the disappearance of a woman. Meanwhile, Big Jim, devastated by the death of his wife, grows increasingly reclusive and begins drinking heavily. Three months pass, and some of the neighborhood women decide to help Big Jim by finding him a new wife. Gossip about the plans to remarry Big Jim eventually reach some of Little Jim's friends, who taunt him with the news. Angered, Little Jim engages Ronnie, one his pals, in a fistfight and goes home with a blackened eye. When Sunday school teacher Miss Martin, the wife of Col. Starwell and Miss Hall visit the Tukkers, they show their displeasure at Little Jim's lack of conventional religious schooling and decide that Sui Jen is a poor influence on the boy. Sui Jen eventually assumes some of the responsibilities of caring for Little Jim, and takes him to visit the base chaplain for a religious consultation. Although Little Jim recites in Chinese the only prayer he knows, the chaplain realizes that Sui Jen has taught Little Jim religious beliefs that are universally true, and gives Sui Jen his blessing to continue educating Little Jim. Sui Jen then gets an idea to help Big Jim by dressing Little Jim in Chinese garb, hoping that the sight of his son dressed as a Chinese boy will shock Big Jim into realizing that he has been neglecting his son. The plan works, and when Big Jim sees his son in his new clothes, he angrily demands to take over Little Jim's upbringing. Big Jim eventually quits drinking, and resumes his role as a father. A short time later, after Little Jim is enrolled in military school, the Tukkers discover that Sui Jen is a former Chinese army general, and that he has been asked to return to China to lead the army in its fight against the Japanese.