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Mr. Doakes, a businessman, meets his friend, Mr. Davis, at a gentlemen's club and tells him how a fortune-teller's prediction caused him to have a disturbing dream the night before. Davis then takes a book from the club's library and reads to Doakes three stories of a similar nature:
In the first story, set during the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans, unattractive dressmaker Henrietta loves from afar law student Michael. Believing that Michael could never return her feelings, Henrietta contemplates suicide but is stopped by a bearded old man. The stranger takes her to a costume shop and offers her the use of one of its many masks. Henrietta takes one of a beautiful woman, hoping that she can use it to attract Michael, but the stranger makes her agree to return the mask by midnight. Later, the now lovely Henrietta is rescued by Michael from the unwanted advances of a would-be suitor, and the two go off to a café. There, the disillusioned Michael tells her that he is considering giving up his law studies and becoming a sailor. Henrietta helps Michael regain his self-confidence, after which he proclaims his love for her. As midnight approaches, Henrietta rushes back to the costume shop, with Michael in close pursuit. Once there, Henrietta tells Michael that she tricked him into believing that she is beautiful, but is really ugly, mean and selfish. As the bells of midnight strike, Michael convinces Henrietta to remove the mask, and she discovers, as the stranger had told her, that she has been transformed through selfless love into the beautiful woman that she has always been underneath. As the two loves leave the shop, a mask of the old bearded stranger hangs in the window.
In the second story, American lawyer Marshall Tyler attends a dinner party held by Lady Pamela Hardwick, during which fortune-teller Septimus Podgers reads the guests' palms with amazing accuracy. Septimus, however, becomes greatly disturbed when he reads Marshall's hand and refuses to tell the lawyer what he has seen. The next day, Marshall visits the fortune-teller at his home, and Septimus tells him that he is going to commit a murder. Despite his initial disbelief in the supernatural, Marshall becomes obsessed with the idea of murder and decides to kill Lady Pamela. He tries to poison her with a box of chocolates, but is chagrined to later discover that Lady Pamela has merely died of natural causes. With the prophecy still unfulfilled, Marshall decides to kill the Dean of Chichester, the reverend who inherited Lady Pamela's estate. He visits the clergyman at his home, but when the reverend realizes Marshall's intentions, Marshall dashes into the foggy London night. As he crosses the London bridge, Marshall runs into Septimus, and the fortune-teller, fearing for his life, tells Marshall that his previous prediction was wrong. The lawyer, in a fit of madness, strangles Septimus to death, then throws the clairvoyant's body in the Thames. Escaping from a bobby, Marshall runs to the grounds of the Lamarr Circus, where he is soon captured.
The third story takes place at the Lamarr Circus, after tightrope walker Paul Gaspar and his assistant Jeff witness Marshall's arrest. Haunted by a nightmare in which he falls while performing his act, Paul considers changing his routine while on a transatlantic cruise from London to New York City. Aboard ship, Paul meets reclusive Joan Stanley, who resembles a screaming woman in his nightmare, and the two quickly fall in love. When she is recognized by another passenger as "Miss Templeton," Joan becomes upset and tells Paul that she cannot see him again. That night, Paul dreams that Joan is arrested when the ship arrives in port, but the next day, they both safely disembark the ship. Revitalized, Paul decides to return to the circus and invites Joan to the opening night. While Paul's act is a great success, Joan, who is actually a notorious, yet repentant, jewel thief, has notified the police of her arrival in New York and is arrested. The two lovers meet one final time before Joan is taken away, and they promise to reunite upon her return.
Having heard all three stories, Doakes realizes that man is the master of his own fate, not governed by his dreams, and he thanks Davis for his help in overcoming his fears.