In this story, the narrator, a former war correspondent, travels to the Philippine Islands after the war between Spain and George Dewey. He becomes fascinated by the head-hunters, a tribe of heathen known for their hunting skills. The head-hunters are relentless and deadly, always near their prey but never seen. The narrator is captivated by their method of hunting, which involves taking the severed heads of their victims and displaying them in baskets outside their huts.
After returning home, the narrator settles in a small town in Central America and becomes friends with a wealthy merchant named Louis Devoe.
The narrator is also in love with Chloe Greene, the daughter of a local reverend. Chloe reveals to the narrator that she values small gestures of love and attention, rather than grand displays.
"You think of me," she said. "You are the man I was describing. You think of the little things, and they are what make the world worth living in."
One day, the narrator becomes ill with pernicious fever and is bedridden for two weeks. When he recovers, he goes to visit Chloe and confesses his love for her. However, he becomes jealous of Louis Devoe, who is also vying for Chloe's affections. In a fit of madness, the narrator decides to kill Devoe and present his head to Chloe as a gesture of love. He chases Devoe and eventually corners him, killing him and taking his head.
"The basket is waiting for your head."
The narrator returns to Chloe's house and presents her with Devoe's head. Chloe is delighted and sees it as a sign of the narrator's love and devotion. However, the narrator's actions are seen as insane by others, and he is taken back to his bed by his doctor. The story ends with the narrator reflecting on the value of small gestures of love and the consequences of his actions.