A stagecoach is heading through the desert, and Paladin asks if his fellow passenger Christie Smith is hot. The driver calls down that Christie is just about there, and Christie explains that she's getting off at Three Rocks. The stagecoach stops in the middle of the desert, and Paladin points out that there's nothing there. Christie says that it looks fine to her, and Paladin helps her down. He figures that she thought there'd be a depot and somewhere there to see her, and points out that she's trying to conceal the fact that she's short-sighted. Christie says that everything is as it should be and her brother will be along, and the driver warns that the nearest ranch is fifteen miles away. Paladin and the driver both agree that she should come with them, but Christie refuses to go with them. The gunfighter says that he' ll stay with her.
Once the coach continues on, Paladin offers Christie his canteen. She says that she hates him for staying there, and he rigs up some shade in the nearby rocks. She wants to look good for her brother, and Paladin insists on riding to her brother. Christie first tries to stop him and then insists on going with Paladin. They ride off and Christie explains that she hasn't seen her brother Louis in many years. She says that he tells her everything, including the fact that he doesn't know many women.
As the pair ride on, someone shoots at them and Paladin gets Christie to cover. He then heads for the shooter, sticking to cover, and finds the discarded casings but no shooter. Paladin returns to Christie and says that the casings are from a revolver, and if the shooter had a rifle then he couldn't have missed them. Christie breaks into tears and says that she's not strong enough for the country, and that she's plain. Paladin leads her back to the horse and they continue on.
Paladin and Christie come to a stream hole and Paladin refreshes his horse. He starts on a meal and asks Christie to get some water. She stares off into space until Paladin gets her attention, and as she goes to the stream she trips and falls in. Paladin helps her out as she breaks into tears again, and Paladin points out that she has glasses and they fell out of her pocket. Christie admits that she's short-sighted, and wishes that Paladin had left her to die in the desert.
As she changes her clothes, Christie explains that she's a mail order bride. Paladin assures her that there's no shame connected with it, but Paladin says that it means she's a brave woman. Christie says that her would-be husband won't come to see her, and he probably hated the photo she sent him and tried to kill her. Paladin figures that they'll soon find the shooter, and assures her that she's beautiful. Christie explains that she corresponded with Louis Dryden two years ago, and said in his letters that he doesn't drink, smoke, or swear. When her mother died, Louis sent her money to pay all of the debts. She comes out from behind the shielding sheet, and Paladin assures her that she looks much better and Louis would have to see her before deciding if he wants to marry her.
The pair soon arrives at the ranch and goes to the house. Louis doesn't come out and Paladin points out that there's fresh paint as well as a map and bucket. He assures Christie that Louis will be pleased with her and they go to the door. No one answers the knock and the front door is unlocked. They find a bridal bed inside, and Christie yells at a spider on the floor. Paladin quickly kills it and tells Christie to sleep in the bed while he sleeps outside. He figures that his business in Dallas wouldn't have worked out anyway, and Christie figures that there's something there to be scared of.
The next day, Paladin and Christie make breakfast. Louis walks up and comes in, and asks if he looks the way that Christie thought he would. She assures him that he looks fine, and Louis says that he thought Christine was arriving that day so he was in town the day before. Paladin explains that they were shot at, and Louis says that he had no idea who shot at them. He dismisses the incident and Paladin prepares to leave. Christie asks him to say, but Louis says that they'll be busy and he's selling 400 head of cattle as a nest egg for the wedding. Paladin figures that the locals knew about the sale and points out that it would be difficult to defend the place. As he lights a cigar, Louis remembers seeing Paladin's card, and tells Christie that Paladin is a professional gunfighter. Christie doesn't believe it, and Paladin prepares to leave.
Once Paladin rides off, he remembers that Louis in the letter didn't swear or smoke. As he rides off, he comes to a dead man and another badly wounded man. The wounded man says that dry gulcher Johnny Dart attacked them, killed his hand, and left him to die. The man says that he's Louis Dryden, and Paladin points out that he talked too much about selling his cattle before removing the bullet from the real Louis' leg.
At the Dryden ranch, Christie gets water from the well and asks Johnny-as-Louis when the wedding will be. He says that the preacher stops by every other month, and Christie reminds him that he said that they'd be married in town. She figures that Johnny isn't what he said in the letters, and goes to get more water. Once she's alone, Christie runs off and finds Paladin drags her into the shed. When she says that the man in the house isn't Louis, Paladin takes her to the wounded Louis and tells her to put on her glasses. Once she does, she realizes that Louis is hurt.
Johnny comes out and finds the discarded water barrel. As he draws his gun, Paladin closes the door and draws his revolver. Johnny fires through the door and then takes cover behind a trough. Paladin shoots at him and then dares him to come out. When Johnny runs out of bullets, Paladin shoots him in the shoulder and takes him prisoner.
Later, Paladin tells Christie that Louis will be fine with just her care. He says that he'll send the preacher as soon as he delivers Johnny to the authorities. Paladin promises that he'll come back to see them, and figures that Christie was put in his path by Fate. He assures her that they don't owe him anything and rides off with Johnny.
Written by Gadfly on Nov 12, 2017