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Convicted of murdering her husband Cliff, Ellen Beldon has less than twenty-four hours before she will be the first woman hanged in the state of Texas when friend and cowboy Judd Farrow, posing as a preacher, helps her escape a Beldon County jail. Ellen and Judd meet up with Ellen's uncle, Nathan Conroy, who creates a diversion to lose their pursuers Mace and Kell Beldon, Cliff's father and half-brother respectively, and the sheriff. Days later, after failed attempts to extradite Ellen from New Mexico, where she is now residing on Nate's ranch, Mace and Kell go to Santa Bella, Mexico, where they hire gunslinger Gil McCord to bring Ellen back to Texas. Gil accepts half the payment in advance and rides to Texas, where the sheriff deputizes him. Days later, Gil arrives at Nate's ranch posing as a cowboy in search of work. Although Judd is suspicious of the man, Nate hires him for two weeks of work. The next morning when Gil takes a break from post-hole digging to befriend Ellen, an overprotective Judd warns Gil to stay away from her. Later that evening, when Judd expresses affection for Ellen, she is more concerned with the law than with romance and spurns him. One afternoon, Gil puts a stone in his horses' hoof and uses the lame horse as an excuse to miss a routine trail ride. Meanwhile, Judd, infuriated by Ellen's rejection, finds her alone on the trail and tries to force himself upon her. Gil arrives just in time to knock Judd out and escort Ellen back to the ranch, but during the ride home, Gil grabs the reins to Ellen's horse and announces he is taking her back to Texas. Although Ellen struggles to free herself and outrun Gil, the proficient cowboy controls her horse with his whip and prods them toward the Texas border. Hours later, Judd and cowboys Frank Cooper and Clint leave in search of Ellen without informing Nate. By the next afternoon, Gil and Ellen cross into Texas territory, where, Gil reminds her that as a deputy, he has legal grounds to kill anyone who attempts to stop him from turning her over to the proper authorities. Later that day, while taking a rest at a watering hole, Gil offers soap and a towel to Ellen to take a bath, but Ellen does not understand his kindness towards a convicted murderess. Gil insists that he is "not judge or a jury" and refuses to take responsibility for her impending doom. Soon, Judd, Cooper and Clint spot smoke rising from Gil's campfire and head toward the watering hole, where Gil, hiding behind some boulders, holds the three men at gunpoint. Gil warns them that he is deputized, but Judd draws his gun anyway. Gil easily kills Judd and then orders the others to return the body to Nate. Later that day, as Gil and Ellen continue towards Beldon County, four armed Indians ambush them. When Gil starts fighting the Indians, Ellen comes to his aid to defeat their assailants. Later, as Ellen dresses his wounds, Gil asks her why she did not flee. When Ellen replies that she could not leave him to die, he asks her who really killed her husband. Ellen then recounts the fateful day: One day during a barn dance, Ellen, planning on a divorce, accepted a dance with another partner, which sent Cliff into a jealous rage. He slapped Ellen and ran after her as she fled. Once outside, Kell interceded in the argument, struggled with Cliff for his gun and then shot him. Ellen, having learned earlier that Mace was going to leave the entire family inheritance to Cliff, realizes that Kell killed her husband so that he would receive the inheritance instead. Hearing the shot, the townspeople exited the dance to find Ellen alone with her dead husband. Kell and the only other witness, his cohort Elby Kirby, had already fled the scene. After Kell presented an alibi at the trial, Ellen was convicted of the crime. Back in the present, Gil brings Ellen to Beldon County, where Kell offers to give him the balance of his pay in trade for the woman, but Gil insists on talking to Mace first. Later that night, Gil decides to take Ellen to his friend Domingo Ortega in Santa Bella for safe-keeping, while he investigates a lead on Kirby. Finding the drunken Kirby in a dilapidated cabin near Salt Creek, Gil asks him to tell the truth. When he refuses, Gil knocks him out and lashes him with wet rawhide. Back in the town, Mace suspects that Ellen is at Ortega's and sends Kell, accompanied by an associate, to Santa Bella, where Kell knocks Ortega out and takes Ellen. Meanwhile, as the drying rawhide tightens around Kirby's throat, he finally admits that he witnessed the murder. In a nearby village, Gil presents Kirby and his testimony to Judge Larson, who, convinced there has been a miscarriage of justice, issues a legal order to prevent Ellen from being hanged and orders the sheriff to give Gil custody of her until a new trial date can be set. Meanwhile, Ellen pleads with Mace to postpone the hanging until Gil returns with evidence that will prove Kell shot Cliff. On the way to see Mace, Gil is intercepted by a desperate Kell, who challenges him to a gunfight. Gil easily outdraws Kell, killing him, then tells Mace the truth about his son's murder. After examining the judge's order, Mace allows Ellen to leave in Gil's custody and await the trial that will finally prove her innocence.