In Harvey, NV, former Boston resident Henry Prince is in town getting
groceries when the local cowhands, led by Bill Whitney, rip up the
flour bags on Henry's wagon. When he sees what they're doing, he runs
out but they easily knock him down and take his apples. Paladin, passing
through town, steps up and shoots an apple out of Whitney's hand, and
the foreman asks why Paladin is butting in. Paladin informs him that
Henry is an old friend and they share the same tailor.
As the disgruntled cowhands wander off, Paladin introduces himself and explains that he used to work in Boston as a bouncer on the waterfront. They indeed had the same tailor, but never met since Henry's upper-family wouldn't have been seen dead near the waterfront dives where Paladin worked. Nonetheless, Paladin helps Henry load his wagon back up. Henry explains that he tries to stay out of town but has to come in to get groceries for himself and his wife, Gloria, out at their newly-purchased Long Valley ranch. His family exiled him from Boston because of some crime but he declines to explain further. Henry invites Paladin to visit them and the gunfighter hands him his card. When Henry wonders if Paladin was offering a sample of his work, the gunslinger assures him that he was just coming to the aid of his fellow man. As Henry rides off, Paladin asks what crime he committed and Henry tells him that he married an actress.
As Paladin goes to his horse, local rancher Clint Bryant asks for a light. Paladin obliges and Bryant explains that he could see why the gunfighter got involved in the uneven fight. However, he says that there are two sides to the stories, and that the rancher Whitney works for was going to buy the property that Henry ended up purchasing, easily outbidding all comers. Henry knows nothing about ranching, further earning him the hatred of the community. Bryant warns Paladin that Whitney is standing in a nearby saloon and is ready to blow Paladin's head off. When Bryant threatens to signal Whitney to do just that, Paladin realizes that Bryant is the rancher that Henry outbid. The rancher tells Paladin to take the next stage out of town and stay clear of the entire affair. Paladin draws his belt-buckle derringer and points out that if Whitney kills him, he might pull the trigger and kill Bryant. Bryant concedes the point and tells Whitney to go back to the ranch. As he goes, Bryant promises Paladin that he's going to run Henry off of the ranch one way or another. When he asks if Paladin plans to stay in town, a clearly disgusted Paladin says that he supposes so.
Out at the ranch, Gloria sees Paladin's card and is upset that her husband is thinking about hiring a gunfighter. As she complains that Henry is the one getting beat up, Paladin arrives at their doorstep. As a former Boston resident himself, Paladin recognizes Gloria from her stage performances and offers his congratulations. Gloria is impressed until she realizes that Paladin is the man who gave Henry his card. She invites him in nonetheless for dinner. The couple talks about how Henry's family exiled him when he married Gloria. They had no idea that Bryant wanted the grazing lands, but now none of the locals will work for them except for one Mexican, Guillermo. Henry has five hundred head of cattle arriving in the next few days and no one to handle them. He asks Paladin to hire on as his foreman, but Paladin points out that he's a businessman, not a cowhand. Unhappy with Paladin's occupation, Gloria expresses her reservations about killing and Paladin says that he shares them. However, he warns the couple that there is risk if they do anything but back down, whether they hire him or not. Gloria primly responds by saying that Bryant would have to push them a lot harder for them to take that risk.
As they talk, something slams into the front door and they hear men laughing as they ride off. Paladin tells the Princes to take cover and then goes to investigate. He finds Guillermo on the porch, tarred and feathered. When Henry sees what they've done to his ranch hand, he immediately tells Paladin that he's hired.
The next day, Paladin takes Henry out to show him how to shoot so he can defend himself in the inevitable confrontation. Henry admits that it's Gloria's idea, and Paladin warns him that shooting a man is a lot tougher than shooting a target. When Henry misses, he complains about the sights but Paladin takes the gun and easily hits the targets. To his credited, Henry admits that it's his fault and prepares to continue shooting. Realizing that Henry needs a new lesson, Paladin shoots into the dirt at Henry's feet and then over his head, daring the Bostonian to return fire. Henry can't do it, worried that he'll kill Paladin. The gunfighter takes Henry's gun and shows him that the chambers were empty, and advises him to keep track of his shots. Gloria comes out and tells them that as he was tortured, Guillermo heard Whitney and his men boasting that they were going to burn the pastures that night.
That night, Paladin, Henry, and Guillermo hide in the woods and wait for Bryant and his men. When they ride out and start spreading kerosene, Paladin sends Henry and Guillermo to flank them and then steps out and tells Bryant to give it up. The rancher does so but then orders his men to flee. One cowhand hangs back and shoots, killing Guillermo. Frozen in fear until that moment, Henry finally returns fire and kills the cowhand.
Back at the ranch, Henry blames himself for freezing so that the cowhand had the chance to kill Guillermo. Paladin admits that no one is entirely innocent in the affair, even himself. When Gloria wonders if they should stay, Paladin tells her that they'll have to decide that, not him. However, he warns the Princes that they'll have to make some painful adjustments if they do stay. Henry is ready to sell out to Bryant and leave, but Gloria refuses to run. She tells her husband that if he gives in to Bryant then she'll leave him. Henry appears ready to leave anyway, but the cattle arrive outside, strengthening his resolve. He decides and tells Gloria and Paladin that they're staying.
The next day, Paladin and Henry ride out and Paladin instructs Henry in the basics of ranching. Whitney and his men ride up and stampede the herd, but Paladin knows enough to let them tire and then turn them around once they've exhausted themselves. When they return to the ranch for dinner, Gloria is now eager to have Paladin take retaliatory steps and defend the couple. Paladin, unimpressed with her new attitude, points out that she's now more than willing to let people die to protect what's hers. When Gloria objects, Paladin reminds her that the Princes share some of the blame by ignoring the wishes of the people that bled and sweated for the land that they swooped in and purchased.
Furious, Gloria asks Henry if he has anything to say. He suggests that they should consider that Paladin is right, and Gloria storms off. Henry wonders if she's leaving and Paladin says that it's possible. He advises Henry to let her take a hotel room in town because the next stage out of town won't leave until the next day. Henry wonders what to do next and Paladin tells him to start advertising for workers, outbidding Bryant. When Henry points out that his nemesis won't like it, Paladin agrees but says that his employer doesn't have a choice. The Bostonian wonders if he should sell out because he's not entirely in the right, and Paladin points out that no matter what Henry thinks, Bryant isn't sitting up having second thoughts.
The next day, Gloria dresses up, packs her bags, and walks into town. A cowboy tries to drag her away and Gloria slaps him, while the rest of the townspeople look on and laugh. Henry is putting up posters at the post office and Gloria sees him. So do Bryant and his men, and the rancher orders Whitney to tear down the poster. Henry refuses to give up or back down, and Gloria watches with the townspeople as her husband refuses to stop even after Whitney beats him down repeatedly. When it's clear that Henry won't surrender, Bryant tells Whitney to beat him until he can't rise. Disgusted with his employer and impressed by Henry's determination, Whitney refuses and Bryant fires him. Henry staggers to his feet and puts the poster up again, and this time Bryant knocks him down and tears the poster down. Satisfied that everyone has seen enough, Paladin steps out of the crowd and orders Bryant to put the poster back up. When he refuses, Paladin slaps him until he gives in. Once Bryant has put the poster up, Paladin helps Henry up and suggests that he hire Whitney, who is now looking for work. Whitney shakes Henry's hand in admiration while Gloria takes in what she's just seen.
Later at the ranch, Henry hangs up his guns and thanks Paladin for all of his help. As they share a toast, Henry jokingly tells Paladin that he'll make sure the gunslinger isn't barred from the Boston Stock Exchange Club. Paladin half-jokingly assures his employer that it's not necessary because he's the President of the San Francisco chapter.
Written by Gadfly on Jan 7, 2018