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Tessibel Skinner, the daughter of a poor fisherman wrongly convicted of murder, is befriended by Frederick Graves and his sister Teola. When Frederick's friend Dan Jordan visits, Dan and Teola fall in love, but he returns to school, unaware that she is pregnant. Before Teola can tell Dan, she learns that he has died in a fire. Desperate, she goes to Tess, who takes the newborn child to save Teola the pain of rejection by her stern minister father Elias. The town shuns Tess, and Frederick, although he loves her, cannot forgive her "sin." When the baby becomes dangerously ill, Tess takes it to church to be baptized, but Elias refuses, chastizing her publicly. Teola, remorseful, finally comes forward to claim the baby, thus shaming Elias, who blesses Tess for her kindliness. In the end, Teola and the baby die, Tess's father is released from prison after the real murderer is found, and Frederick is granted forgiveness by Tess.