Sam Lyman a homely schoolteacher, arrives from New England to settle in the Mississippi Valley town of Old Ebenezer, Arkansas while he studies law. During a game of forfeits given at the annual town social by Banker McElwyn, the richest man in town, Sam marries the banker's daughter Eva, the prettiest girl in town, in a fake ceremony. The couple later discovers that the marriage is legal and Sam offers to bow out, but Eva, who does not want to marry her father's choice, Zeb Sawyer, a rich mule dealer, persuades Sam to continue the marriage in name only. After Sam withstands slander from Zeb and McElwyn, they send night riders to horsewhip Sam and run him out of town, but he remains. When Zeb launches a run on McElwyn's bank, Sam saves it by depositing money he receives from writing a novel and bags marked $20,000, which are filled with horse shoes. Afterward, Eva refuses to have the marriage annulled.