In 1930s Mississippi, lonely Jackson Fentry (Robert Duvall) lives by himself as the sole caretaker of a sawmill. One day, close to the property, he discovers a young woman, Sarah Eubanks (Olga Bellin), who is three months pregnant. Since she was abandoned by both her husband and her family, Jackson takes her in. The two fall in love and get married just before her death. Jackson raises the child as his own, until the boy's uncles arrive to demand he be returned to the family.