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Beautiful Mary Rutledge arrives in San Francisco in the 1850's to marry Dan Morgan, only to discover that Morgan has died mysteriously after loosing his fortune to Louis Chamalis, a powerful saloon owner. Mary goes to work for Chamalis as a roulette operator and although he is in love with "Swan," as she is now known, she does not return his affection. She feels emotionally dead until one afternoon when, caught in a rainstorm while riding, she meets and falls in love with Jim Carmichael, an erudite Easterner who has come West to earn his fortune. Thinking that she will never see Jim again, Mary pretends to be a lady. A short time later, when Jim wanders into the Bella Donna saloon and sees her, he gambles away all of his money at her wheel. Later, Chamalis hires Jim, ignorant of the love between him and Mary. Chamalis' power in San Francisco is by now eroding under the pressure of the vigilantes who know that he and his henchman, Knuckles Jacoby, have murdered two Scottish miners as well as Colonel Marcus Aurelius Cobb, a crusading newspaperman who had befriended Mary. Knuckles is hanged by the vigilantes. Meanwhile, Mary lets Jim win back his money and urges him to leave. Admitting their love for each other, they set out in a rowboat in the fog to reach a boat bound for the East. When Jim is shot by one of Chamalis' men, Mary promises to love Chamalis in the same way that she loves Jim if he will only let Jim go. Chamalis agrees, but knowing that he is finished, he faces the vigilantes alone, letting Jim and Mary go off together.