A young man named Eric Marshall goes to teach a school on Prince Edward Island and meets Kilmeny, a mute girl who has perfect hearing. He sees her when he is walking through an old orchard and hears her playing the violin. He visits her a number of times and gradually falls in love with her. When he proposes she rejects him, even though she loves him in return, believing that her disability will only hinder his life if they were married, despite his protests that it wouldn't matter at all.
Meanwhile, Eric's good friend David who is a renowned throat doctor, comes to the island and visits Eric. He examines Kilmeny, and says that nothing will cure her but an extreme psychological need to speak. This need comes soon when Neil Gordon, who is Kilmeny's brother and madly jealous of Eric, comes behind Eric with an axe, meaning to kill him. Kilmeny is nearby, and without thinking, she yells to Eric to look behind him: she can now speak. Neil runs away on a ship, and Kilmeny and Eric get married.