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In Ireland, in 1795, the master of the House of Harrow orders his servants, Sean and Sara Fox, to rear his daughter's illegitimate baby. The Foxes are paid well, and although the master admonishes Sean to mold the boy into a humble man, the grieving mother begs Sara to give him enough strength to leave Ireland. By 1827, Stephen, the Foxes' son, has grown into a charismatic man who lives by his wits as a gambler in America. Stephen's good looks intrigue Odalie D'Arceneaux, an aristocratic Creole, although she is shocked to learn that he has been accused of cheating at cards and is being cast off their riverboat onto a Mississippi River sandbar. Stephen connives his way off the sandbar onto the pigboat of the boisterous Mike Farrell, who takes him to New Orleans. There, Stephen befriends Andre, another upper-class Creole, who tells him of a charity ball being hosted by Odalie, her sister Aurore and their father, the Vicomte D'Arceneaux. Stephen again fascinates Odalie by donating one thousand dollars to her charity and then partnering Aurore when Odalie refuses his request for a dance. Later, Andre takes Stephen to La Bourse de Maspero , a combination slave market, stock market, gambling hall and restaurant. Stephen joins a blackjack game led by Otto Ludenbach, a German-American scoundrel who starved his family and slaves to acquire his rich plantation. Stephen wins the plantation from Ludenbach, then challenges him to a duel when he makes an insulting reference to Odalie. Ludenbach fires prematurely, wounding Stephen, but Stephen succeeds in killing him. Upon hearing of the duel, Odalie is furious that Stephen has linked his name to hers, but softens when she learns that he has given the grateful widow money to start a new life. Soon Stephen is hard at work improving the plantation, which he renames "Harrow," and astutely building a financial empire. Stephen continues to work while Odalie visits Paris for a year, and upon her return, he invites her family to the grand opening of Harrow. At the celebration, Odalie is anxious about Stephen's possessiveness, but when he describes his humble birth and confesses that he built Harrow for her, she tells her father that she will marry Stephen. On their wedding night, Stephen and Odalie's passionate kiss is interrupted by the well wishes of a noisy group led by Farrell. Odalie refuses to acknowledge them, and so Stephen goes to drink with his friends. When he returns, Stephen finds the bedroom door locked and breaks it down. The next morning, distressed about the violent beginning of their marriage, Odalie declares that she will wear Stephen's jewels and preside at his table, but nothing more. Although he loves her, Stephen's own pride prevents him from pressing Odalie for her forgiveness, and he loses himself in gambling, drinking and hard work. One night, Stephen comes home to find Odalie watching a voodoo ceremony conducted by the slaves to ensure the safe birth of her son. Overjoyed that Odalie is pregnant, Stephen bears her continued coldness. When the child is due, the slave Achille comes to Stephen with the news that his wife, La Belle Sauvage , a proud slave newly arrived from Africa, has also given birth to a son. Stephen wants the boy to be his son's personal attendant, but Belle asserts that her son is a prince, not a slave, and attempts to drown him rather than subject him to a life of servitude. Stephen and Achille save the baby but Belle perishes in the river. Back at the house, Stephen and Odalie admire their new son, Etienne, although Stephen reacts angrily when the doctor states that the boy may grow up with a limp due to a turned-in foot. Later, on Etienne's third birthday, Odalie admires Stephen's plans for the boy's secure financial future, but over the next few years, worries as Stephen teaches the youngster fencing and horseback jumping. One night, she and Stephen have a heated argument over the rearing of Etienne, and when the lad hears them, he rushes down the stairs and falls. Etienne dies that night, and the grief-stricken Stephen yells at the assembled slaves, telling them that Harrow itself has died. Later, the economic crisis that Stephen had predicted strikes, and although Stephen succeeds in saving a few of his friends by buying their worthless stocks, he is destroyed financially. Determined to save Harrow, Odalie decides to strip the house of its furnishings and sell her jewels. She goes to talk to Stephen at the house of his mistress Desiree, but when she tells him of her plan and her wish to have another child with him, he states that he no longer wants her or Harrow. Odalie then returns to Harrow, but there finds that the furnishings and jewelry were not enough, and that the sugarcane must be harvested and sold immediately. As a storm approaches, the slaves hide in the fields and listen to the voodoo drums, which say that Stephen is dead. Odalie tries to convince the slaves to work but they refuse. Despairing, she goes to the house but then sees that Stephen has returned and is organizing the workers. After the storm has passed and the crop has been gathered, Odalie finds Stephen at Etienne's grave and tearfully embraces him when he declares that at least the ground in which Etienne lies will always be his.