At the Carlton, Paladin is in the lobby reading his newspaper when Hey Boy comes over and pours him a drink. Paladin chuckles and shows Hey Boy an article about a scarcity of women in Bend-in-the- River, Oregon. Rancher J. Brodie has "declared war" on men intercepting the stagecoaches with mail-order brides. Paladin figures that there's a job in it for him and sends his card.
Later, Mr. Lyman, the owner of the wagon shipping company, arrives and tells Paladin that the three women he arrived to send to Bend-in-the-River are gone. He says that the women arrived and then galloped off in the river, and Paladin goes upstairs to dress for the trip.
Paladin rides through the wilderness until he comes to a river. Madame Chalon trains a rifle on him and orders Paladin to dismount. Once he does, Chalon complains that the animals won't obey her. Paladin notes that her wagon is in a hole and Chalon tells him to get it out. He says that it's his wagon and presents his papers and his card. Chalon says that all of her money is invested in the wagon and she doesn't intend to lose it, and Paladin points out that she hasn't cocked the rifle she's training on him and unloaded.
Paladin takes the rifle and goes over to the wagon, gets on the wagon, and has the horses rocket it. One of the women peers out of the back where she's hiding, and Chalon waves her down. Once the wagon is free, Paladin suggests that it's time that he meets the brides, and Chalon agrees once he promises discretion. The three French brides--Annette, Cecile, and Yvonne--stand up as Chalon introduces them. Paladin helps Chalon aboard and they head for Bend-in-the-River.
After stopping to make camp, Paladin helps Chalon down and Chalon tells the brides to get down on their own. He says that they have a camp to set up, and Chalon points out that they hired him. Paladin tells her that on the trail, they all do a full day's work. He helps the brides down and tells Chalon that those who work, eat. Paladin goes off to hunt for himself and when he returns, finds the brides bathing in the nearby river. He cooks his dinner while they eat the sandwiches that Chalon purchased before their departure. An owl in the nearby forest hoots and the brides stir nervously. They suggest that they do what Paladin asks, but Chalon refuses, insisting that she'll bring Paladin to his knees.
The women finally give in and Paladin serves biscuits and rabbit. Over the next few days, they continue on their trip. After one night, they have to pull the wagon out of another hole. Chalon is upset that they've tossed away their stays on Paladin's advice, and complains that he's ruining her and her training. He points out that Brodie may have different expectation, but Chalon isn't impressed.
That night, Annette stares up at the sky. Cecile talks about the scarcity of women in the States, and Paladin overhears them from where he's laying. Yvonne asks Chalon if the other men in the country are like Paladin, and Chalon says that the French government should be thankful there are no Frenchmen like Paladin.
The next day, the group continues on with the women singing. Paladin suggests that Chalon have the women hide because they're getting close, and the brides reluctantly do so. As they ford the river, Brodie and his men ride up. They soon discover the brides, and Brodie says that a Brodie has never stolen anything. Paladin introduces himself and presents the women, but Brodie has no idea who they are and says that he's never seen Chalon and her "brides" before. The ones that he paid for arrived in town from Boston the day before. Chalon explains that she isn't the woman Lyman was expecting, and she wants to open a salon at Bend-in-the-River so she played along with Paladin's misunderstanding.
Chalon says that they'll be off, but Paladin gets an idea and says that they'll camp there for the night. Brodie's three sons eagerly help them down out of the wagon and the women make camp. One of the sons says that they sent the Boston women away, and Chalon refuses to marry her brides off to poor farmers. Brodie assures her that his sons aren't poor and concedes that the brides are talented. He tells Paladin that he'll take the four women, and explains that he's a widower. Chalon agrees, and Paladin wants his payment to be extended to include Chalon as well. The sons go over to help the brides make camp and Paladin rides off, satisfied.
Written by Gadfly on Feb 26, 2019