Captain Patricio Maloné is sitting in a café in New Orleans when he is approached by a man named Francis Kearny. Kearny tells the captain about his constant bad luck and how it has affected his life.
He believes that his bad luck is caused by a star named Phœbe, which he was born under. Despite his bad luck, Kearny is eager to join the captain on an expedition to Esperando. The captain agrees and they set sail, but encounter numerous setbacks along the way.
‘Just in from a gold-hunting expedition on the coast of Costa Rica,’ he explained. ‘Second mate of a banana steamer told me the natives were panning out enough from the beach sands to buy all the rum, red calico, and parlour melodeons in the world.
Despite these setbacks, Kearny remains optimistic and determined. Eventually, they reach their destination and join forces with Don Rafael Valdevia to overthrow the tyrant President Cruz.
However, their plans are foiled when Don Rafael is found dead. The captain later learns that Kearny's belief in his bad luck was unfounded, as the star he thought was causing it was actually a different one.
‘PHŒBE’S GONE!’ he cried, with all his lungs. ‘She’s busted and gone to hell. Look, Captain, the little red-headed hoodoo has blown herself to smithereens. She found Kearny too tough to handle, and she puffed up with spite and meanness till her boiler blew up. It’s be Bad-Luck Kearny no more. Oh, let us be joyful! Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall; Humpty busted, and that’ll be all!’
Kearny later marries a woman named Phœbe, seemingly embracing his bad luck.