Paladin goes to a station house to order a ticket to San Francisco, and finds a woman sitting on the bench. As a man takes his cases out to the couch, he bumps into an Apache, Little Horse. The man takes offense and attacks Little Horse, and the two men fight until Paladin separates them. The woman, Della Little Horse, says a few words to Little Horse and he leaves. Ben the station master apologizes, saying that Little Horse doesn't usually cause any trouble and he works for a family in town. She says that Della is the daughter of Chief White Cloud, and paladin tips his hat to her. The station master tells Paladin that Paladin just graduated from a ladies seminar in Boston and is traveling through.
Mr. Grayson and his wife arrive with Clyde Barnes, a major feed salesman, and his wife says that the station master should have Della say over. He doesn't see a reason why, and Paladin offers to escort Della to the coach. She accepts, and the stage coach goes on. Paladin accidentally spells some of Della's perfume, and he asks her about her trip heading home. He offers to take her to show her around San Francisco, and Della says that she's meeting her fiancé in San Francisco and he's a West Point cadet. Undeterred, Paladin offers hic congratulations.
The coach pulls over when the harness breaks, and the passengers get out to stretch. Mrs. Grayson offers Barnes and her husband some of the food she has with her, and pointedly ignores Paladin and Della. Paladin insists on taking Della over and joining the others, and tells them that they're carrying a large shipment of gold and the country is notorious for its bandits. He tells Barnes that some outlaws mutilate the passengers but typically just kill them. When Mr. Grayson objects to the company putting them on a dangerous trip, Paladin assures him that there probably isn't any danger and offers his services. Mrs. Grayson complains about his mercenary ways, but Barnes eagerly offers to pay. Paladin suggests that they hand over the food and go back to the coach. When they do, Della invites Della to dine with him.
When the coach arrives at a transfer station, bandits open fire on them. Paladin climbs up on the top despite Barnes' objections, and the shotgun man Hank Slade is wounded. When the coach jerks to a halt, Paladin falls off and bandit Ed Rance takes Paladin's gun. He assures Paladin that he's having his men pick up Slade and takes Paladin to the station where the others are being held. Paladin knows Rance by reputation, and Rance looks over the passengers. He takes an interest in Della, and Paladin warns that she's a princess and bad totem for the outlaw. Rance tells Della that she's pretty and Paladin says that that touching an Apache woman results in torture. Barnes dismisses Della as just an Indian and brushes her aside, and Rance punches him and tells him to show respect for a lady.
Rance has his men Red and Grady take the locked safe box to blow it open, saying that he doesn't want to frighten Della. As Rance goes, he tells Barnes that if he ever touches Della again then he'll kill him. Once the outlaws go outside, Paladin tends to Slade's wound. Meanwhile, Rance and his men open the safe box, and he tells them to pack the gold and wants some time with Della. When Grady warns that the last time Rance approached a woman it didn't end well, Rance says that she's an Apache and keeps her word, and asks if he's some kind of freak.
Back inside, Rance says that it won't be much longer and tells the passengers that he's going to kill everyone but Paladin. Paladin figures that Rance doesn't want to kill them, and Race says that it depends on how things work out. The outlaw tells Della that he wants to talk to her, and when Paladin advises against it, Rance tells him to keep his mouth shut. Paladin persists, suggesting that Rance talk to Mrs. Grayson, but Rance isn't interested. He says that it will be up to Della whether the rest of them live or die. Rance asks Della to stay with him for 30 days and if she wants to leave after that, she's free to go. He asks for her word that she'll stay, and Rance warns that if Della doesn't go with him then he'll kill them all. Della asks for a few minutes to consider his offer. The outlaw says that some kind of men go crazy in the wilderness, and insists that he's not an animal. He leaves Red to watch them while he goes to help Grady load the horses.
Paladin offers Della a sheet to keep herself warm, and uses it to knock Red out. Barnes freezes rather than grab Red's gun, and Rance and Grady come back in and subdue Paladin. Rance tells Della to make her decision, and the Graysons and Barnes tell Della that she has no choice. Paladin quotes Romeo and Juliet and the last scene with where Juliet pretends to kill herself. Della drinks the vial of perfume and collapses, and Rance catches her. Paladin grabs his gun and says that he played the trick, not Della. He orders Rance to call Red and Grady in, and when they do Paladin gets the drop on them. Rance tells Della that he could have killed everyone there but didn't because of her. Della agrees and says that she believes that Rance has respect for her. She asks Paladin to let them run because it's the only way she can thank them, and Paladin lets them go... after he recovers the gold.
The next day, the coach heads out and the passengers pay Paladin. Della offers them sandwiches that she made, and Barnes and the Graysons refuse. Paladin tells Della that it would be a pleasure to eat with her.
Written by Gadfly on May 13, 2018