Based on a novel by Howard Fast, a backwoods widower takes a bondservant for a wife, and she is wooed by his best friend.
Jim Fairways (Robert Mitchum) learns from Davey (Gary Gray) that his mother died. Jim talks to David Harvey (William Holden) and goes away until spring. David makes Davey go with him to the stockade to find a wife. Parson Jackson (Tom Tully) and Mrs. Jackson (Sara Haden) recommend a bondservant. David buys Rachel (Loretta Young) for $18 with $4 owing, and they are wed.
David sleeps by the fire and lets Rachel have the bed. The next day Rachel tries to shoot a hawk. David treats her as a servant, and she starts talking to herself. She practices shooting in the cellar. Rachel gives Davey lessons. She tells David that she could sleep in the loft, and he says he and Davey could sleep in the bed.
Jim arrives with meat and tells David he wants to find a wife and settle down. Jim praises Rachel's cooking. He plays guitar and sings while she plays the spinet. Jim goes on to the stockade. David talks with Rachel in the moonlight and says he is not ready to fall in love yet.
Jim comes back and gives Rachel a dress. On the Sabbath, David and Jim hear a shot. At the river Jim joins Rachel doing laundry. He advises her on how to shoot and asks to join Davey's lessons. David and Jim go hunting and talk. They hear Davey whistle and run back. Rachel shoots a mountain lion, and she admits she has been practicing.
Jim is leaving, and he offers David $40 for Rachel. They fight until Rachel arrives. Jim asks Rachel to go with him; but she rejects both and says she is going back to the stockade. Rachel is walking and sees a bear. David and Jim find her and ask her to ride. She walks on, and they camp. Rachel offers Davey food, and they get along better. Jim asks Rachel to marry him because he is in love with her. Davey wants her to come back, and David agrees. Rachel sees smoke. Davey is sent to the stockade, and Rachel goes back.
David and Jim in the cabin are attacked by Shawnees. A Shawnee grabs Rachel, and David rescues her. Rachel shoots a Shawnee. The buildings are set on fire, and they go into the cellar. Parson Jackson arrives, and people help.
Jim says goodbye to Davey and leaves with men. David and Rachel assess the damage and adjust. David kisses Rachel.
This drama portrays frontier living in isolation during
the era of indentured servitude. The grieving husband is slow
to treat Rachel as a wife, but his friend shows him how.