Paladin arrives in Abilene and checks into the local hotel. The sign
outside advertises Tomahawk Carter's Wild West Show and Paladin takes
note of it before going inside. As he checks in, a young woman, Ella
West, comes storming into the lobby, shooting up the place and cursing
at the bartender for not serving a woman. Paladin ignores the woman but
Ella takes note of his fancy clothing and tries to rile him. The
gunslinger ignores her and Ella tells the gathering crowd that she can
outshoot and outcuss any man there.
The Wild West show's star horse rider, Tracey Calvert, enters the lobby and Ella looks at him for a moment in surprise. She finally threatens to run him out of town but Tracey, unimpressed, ignores her. Another show worker, Breed, steps forward and offers to take care of Ella. However, Tomahawk Carter himself comes in and interrupts them, and buys a round of drinks to calm everyone down. He wants to talk to Ella about her behavior but she ignores him and leaves, and Tomahawk spots Paladin at the desk. The show owner pays for the damages and then introduces Tracey to Paladin and takes the two men to a booth to talk privately. Tomahawk wants to hire Paladin to "civilize" Ella, his spotlight female gunslinger, so that he doesn't have to keep paying for all the damage she's causing. Paladin doesn't think that it's possible to civilize a woman and dismisses her as a loud-mouthed shrew. Tracey comes to her defense, insisting that she isn't so bad, and Paladin asks how long he's known Ella. When Tracey ducks the question, Paladin agrees to take the job if Tomahawk gives him 10% of the show's profits if he succeeds.
Tomahawk agrees and they go to see Ella at her hotel room. She refuses and says that she's quitting, but then turns around and demands that Tomahawk fire Paladin. Paladin pours himself a drink and invites Ella to sit down, and she shoots the glass out of his hand. Unimpressed, Paladin tells her that the cost will be deducted from her paycheck. As Tomahawk hastily leaves, Ella tries to slap Paladin, but he flips her to the floor and then invites her to sit down and begin their first lessons. She reluctantly does so and Paladin begins by teaching her how to talk to reports without swearing.
The lessons continue and Paladin recites poetry and teaches her how to talk properly. As she slowly warms up, Ella explains that she grew up on a dirty farm and that Tracey grew up at a neighboring farm. Ella begins to warm to Paladin and he realizes that she's interested in him. When she tries flirting with him, Paladin hesitates, reluctant to take advantage of her, and Ella takes offense. She prepares to walk away, saying that she only signed on with the Wild West show to put Tracey in his place. Ella insists that she won't be tamed but Paladin orders her to sit down and she reluctantly sits down for another lesson.
Later, Paladin takes Ella to the bar to practice genteel drinking. As Tomahawk comes in, Breed sees Paladin and Ella together and leaves before they notice him. Student and teacher go back to Paladin's room and Paladin recites more poetry to a smitten Ella. They talk about her feelings and Ella admits that in the past she had feelings for Tracey and he was her entire world. When Tracey's parents moved away, they took Tracey with him and Ella begged him to let her come with him. Since then, she's never said anything similar to another man until now, and she says it to paladin. Crying, Ella tells Paladin that she won't be any bother to him and will do everything that he says. Paladin pushes her away and tells her that she smells and should take a bath. The sobbing girl runs out of the room.
Ella goes back to the bar and starts shooting the place up again. Tracey comes in and tells her to stop acting like a child, and Breed tells Tracey to get out. The show rider refuses, saying that he hoped that he and Ella would talk when they got back together at the show. However, he realizes that she's not a real woman because she doesn't act like one. Breed offers to take care of Tracey and tells Ella to give the rider a gun so they can have a fair fight. As Ella hesitates, unwilling to let things go so far, Paladin enters the bar in his gunslinger's garb. Ella tells Breed that she's changed her mind and doesn't want Tracey dead, but Breed insists that they had a bargain and she's going to keep her side of it.
Paladin tells Tracey to get out of the way and Breed tells Paladin that he'll have to fight. Paladin explains that he promised Tomahawk that he'd avoid bloodshed if he could and tells the bartender to set up five shot glasses of whiskey on the bar. Breed thanks him for the courtesy but Paladin draws and shoots out all five glasses in a matter of seconds. The gunslinger then tells Breed that he has one bullet left and invites him to draw. Breed backs down as Tomahawk comes in, and Paladin tells the owner to pay Breed his final wages because he's going to be doing some traveling. As Tomahawk leads Breed out, Paladin brusquely tells Ella that their lessons will begin that night and she should be at his room on time.
That night, Ella comes in wearing a dress and tells Paladin that she took a bath. She admits that Tracey was right about her not being a woman and asks Paladin to help her with her hair. As he strokes it, he recites more poetry and Ella starts to kiss him. Paladin backs away and Ella says that he's just like the silver knight on his holster: chivalrous and willing to compliment a woman just to be kind. Her teacher assures her that she is an attractive woman and kisses her.
Later, Paladin steps out to prepare to leave. Tracey comes in and explains that Paladin asked for a meeting. He makes conversation with Ella, offering her a seat as a lady, and Ella is surprised that he considers her a lady. Tracey admits that when she asked to come with him, he wasn't ready to make that kind of decision and as a result he panicked. Ella admits that she was scared as well and Tracey apologizes for saying that she isn't a real woman. However, they figure that it's too late for the two of them to talk things out.
Paladin returns and tells Ella that he's moving on because she's graduated and earned his fee. Tracey takes offense on Ella's behalf, pointing out that no one would describe a lady in such a manner, and paladin says that Ella is no lady. When Tracey swings at him, Paladin easily avoids the punch and decks the show rider. A crying Ella goes to Tracey to tend his wounds and Paladin first leaves an envelope on the table and then walks out. Once he leaves, Ella realizes that Paladin deliberately provoked the fight to make her and Tracey face their feelings for each other.
As Paladin mounts up, Tomahawk comes out and worries that now he has a lady rather than a gunslinger. Paladin assures him that everything will be fine. Meanwhile, Tracey and Ella watch Paladin prepare to leave and read the letter. In it, Paladin explains that Tracey has first claim on Ella. Inside the envelope is Paladin's silver chess knight watch fob: one final gift to the woman. On the street, Tomahawk worries that he might never get Ella back as a performer. Paladin assures him that he'll be running a double-attraction from now on and that Tracey will make sure that Ella does her job.
Written by Gadfly on Dec 17, 2017