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Suffering from lack of sleep, Bill Beck, a brilliant physicist working on a government guided missile program, visits the San Francisco office of Dr. Jim Miller for help with his condition. When the physician's pretty receptionist Julie is unable to reach the doctor, she prescribes a back rub and a dry martini. Although attracted to the vivacious Julie, the reticent Bill leaves the office, then hesitates outside the door and finally screws up the courage to invite her for a drink. Bill and Julie fall in love and are married, and five years later, are still deeply in love. One day, while climbing the stairs to the observatory tower where Bill is working, Julie experiences a piercing pain in her chest and collapses. When Dr. Miller diagnoses a heart attack, Julie begs him not to tell Bill about her condition because it would kill him to lose her. Julie then comments that she wished they had a child to keep Bill company after her death, and Dr. Miller suggests adoption. Meanwhile, at the Bay Area Orphans' Home, little Hitty, rejected for adoption for the third time, tearfully plays with her toy animals and locks herself in a locker. Several weeks later, Julie broaches the subject of adoption with Bill, and soon after, pays a visit to the orphanage. When she sees Hitty gamboling by the ocean, pretending to be a horse, Julie is reminded that as a little girl she, too, made believe she was a horse, and thus feels an instant rapport with the girl. To please Julie, Bill agrees to a trial adoption period, and Julie explains to Hitty that Bill is a special genius and therefore needs special care. Bill, who is firmly grounded in the laws of empirical reality, finds it difficult to deal with the little girl's whimsical fantasies, however. When Bill's boss, Grant Allan, and several other friends throw a welcoming party for Hitty, Bill rushes out to a toy store to buy her a microscope, and at the urging of the store's owner, a model horse. Hitty is puzzled by the microscope, but delighted by the horse, which she names "Rolphe." One day, in an effort to please Bill, Hitty erases all his blackboards, thus wiping out months of research. One night, Dr. Miller is summoned to the Beck house, and fearing for Julie's health, speeds there. The doctor is relieved to find that Julie is well, but Hitty is suffering from the flu. When Julie refuses to leave Hitty to accompany Bill to a professional gathering, Bill becomes jealous, and the couple have their first fight. After Bill leaves, Dr. Miller warns that the tension is putting increased strain on Julie's delicate heart and suggests returning Hitty to the orphanage. After Hitty recovers, Julie is in the middle of telling the little girl that she must go back to the children's home when she suffers a heart attack and finally reveals her condition to Bill. Julie dies soon after, and Bill, inconsolable, refuses to leave her graveside. Grant pulls Bill from the cemetery and drives him home, where Hitty tries to take care of him as Julie would. When Hitty brings Bill breakfast in bed, just as Julie once did, Bill angrily lashes out that Hitty will never be able to take Julie's place. After Hitty tells Bill that she speaks with Julie nightly, he insists that is impossible because Julie is dead. Recognizing the futility of the situation, Hitty notifies Miss McMasters, the head of the orphanage, that Julie has died and Bill no longer wants her. Hitty then returns to the orphanage for the fourth time, deeply depressed. That night, alone in the empty house, Bill finds one of Hitty's drawings and recalls the day Julie told Hitty that she and Bill needed to be a family without her. At the orphanage, Hitty calls to Julie and then decides to ride Rolphe to the place they met by the ocean. As a storm brews, Hitty slips out of her bed, and while galloping toward the ocean, falls from a precipice onto the beach below. Sensing that Hitty is in danger, Bill phones Miss McMasters and discovers that the little girl is missing. As the onrushing tide laps at Hitty's feet, Bill asks Grant to drive him to the orphanage. They arrive just as the police are searching for the missing girl. Declaring that he cannot lose Hitty, too, Bill suggests returning to the spot where Julie and Hitty first met. There, Bill sees Hitty struggling in the current and runs to save her while Grant rescues Rolphe, who is swirling in the waves. When Hitty tells Bill that Julie must have told him to come, Bill finally realizes that Julie is still with them and sees her smiling from between the trees.