Antoinette Frobelle, reigning belle of the South, is accused of having Negro ancestry and is sold as a slave to Victor Jallot, a young adventurer. He frees her, makes Captain Remy confess to his responsibility for the lie about her parentage, and then weds the girl. In 1808, after Congress passes a law against the importation of slaves into the U.S., slave-running or smuggling, becomes a frequent practice especially along the Louisiana coast. Victor Jallot, a penniless Creole aristocrat, and his black servant Poupet arrive at an old inn near New Orleans, which serves as a rendezvous point for smugglers. In a card game, Victor acquires the deed to an establishment which he is led to believe is a fencing academy. That night, Victor meets Antoinette Frobelle, the daughter of a New Orleans ship merchant, and carries her across a muddy street, to the displeasure of her companion, Creole dandy Jean Delicado. Victor soon discovers that the "academy" is really an abandoned barber shop, where fencing is also taught. Nevertheless, Victor and Poupet go into business as a fencing teacher and assistant. At a café, after Antoinette invites Victor to join her at her table, Delicado contends he is only a barber and she insults Victor. Although she later tries to apologize, he spurns her. When Antoinette's father Louis cannot repay money he has used that belongs to slave runner Captain Remy, the captain confronts him with a charge that Antoinette is really an octoroon, and not his daughter. Louis is unable to refute Remy's information, and Antoinette is summarily placed on the auction block with slaves. Victor, having pawned his jewels, buys her, then gives her the assignment and sets her free. Although she goes off with Louis, she later returns to Victor, saying she cannot accept her freedom. Victor tells her he believes that she is fully white and confesses he loves her. They are interrupted as Remy and Delicado enter the barber shop intoxicated. As Victor begins to shave Remy, he threatens to slit his throat with his razor unless he tells the truth about Antoinette, and Remy confesses that she is white and of aristocratic birth. The Creoles then beat Remy for his effrontery, and Antoinette hugs Victor, telling him she'll be his slave forever.