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Young schoolteacher Ruth Kirke is transporting a group of war orphans from South China to San Francisco when their cargo ship is torpedoed and sunk in the mid-Pacific. Along with sailor Timothy Blake, they are the only known survivors of the enemy attack. Upon arriving in San Francisco, Ruth is told by immigration officials that the undocumented children will be held unless someone posts a $500 bond for each child, guaranteeing that they will "not become public charges." Ruth and Timothy go to the home of Commodore Thomas Holliday, the wealthy owner of their sunken ship, to ask for his family's help. When they refuse, Timothy states that Ruth and the commodore were married aboard ship. For the good of the children, Ruth goes along with the deception, and she, Timothy and the war orphans move into the Holliday estate. They are later joined by the commodore's grandson, Thomas Spencer Holliday III. Ruth tells Tom how her father's mission was destroyed in a Japanese bombing raid, and she was sent south on the Burma Road with the European children. Along the way, they found a dying Chinese woman, and Ruth agreed to take care of her child as well. After Ruth learns that she is to inherit the commodore's vast shipping fortune, she and the children try to sneak out of the mansion in the middle of the night, but they are caught by Tom. She then confesses all, telling Tom that she smuggled the children aboard the commodore's ship, thinking that it was going to Calcutta. Once at sea, the commodore then promised to help her get the children into the United States, even if it meant adopting them. After their ship was torpedoed, Ruth and Timothy put the children into a lifeboat, but once they were away from the sinking ship, they discovered that one child, Pepe, had been left behind. The angry Tom insists that Ruth stay and continue the charade until the publicity about her "marriage" dies down, but agrees to care for the orphans at the Holliday estate once she leaves. Later, the children's immigration papers arrive, and Ruth, as promised, prepares to leave for her hometown of Philadelphia, despite the fact that she has fallen in love with Tom. As she waits for her train, Timothy tells Tom that Ruth is engaged to the man sitting next to her. The two are then forced to leave the train station when the innocent man, Jeff Adams, accuses them of a marriage "shake down." Later, a China relief ball is held at the Holliday estate, at which Ruth and Tom finally admit their true feelings for each other. The commodore and Pepe are also at the ball, having been rescued themselves, and knowing of the children's plight, the commodore continues the ruse. He then tells Ruth that he plans to marry her for real and raise the orphans as his own children. The commodore's plans are dashed when his brother Edgar, his sister Louise and his sister-in-law Karen tell him about the romance between Ruth and Tom. The commodore then announces that he and Ruth were never really married, but she is about to become Mrs. Holliday, as she and Tom are to be married in the Holliday estate in a few days.