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Rachel and the Stranger

Rachel and the Stranger(1948)

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In the mid-1800s, after his wife dies, Big Davey, an isolated Ohio backwoodsman, becomes concerned that, without a woman in his life, his young son Davey will grow up "wild." To assure his son's civility, Big Davey rides to the local stockade to secure the services of a housekeeper and is told about bondwoman Rachel. Although Big Davey buys the enslaved Rachel for eighteen dollars, Parson Jackson insists that he must marry her for the sake of propriety. Upon returning to the wilderness, Davey, who is still in mourning for his mother, rejects Rachel, while Big Davey regards her merely as a servant. The hard-working, gentle Rachel accepts her position in the household and dutifully follows Big Davey's orders. When her skills are compared unfavorably to Big Davey's first wife, however, Rachel determines to educate herself in backwoods' ways and secludes herself in the cabin cellar to learn rifle shooting. Soon after, Indian scout Jim Fairways, a longtime friend of Big Davey's and a former rival for his first wife's affection, shows up at the cabin. The flirtatious, handsome Jim is immediately attracted to Rachel and brings her out of her shell with his singing and guitar playing. Rachel surprises Big Davey when she accompanies Jim on his first wife's spinet and reveals her musical talents. After Jim leaves that night for the stockade, where he hopes to find his own wife, Big Davey tries to romance Rachel under a moonlit sky. His efforts are thwarted by a jealous Davey, however, and concerned about his son's insecurities, Big Davey tells Rachel that he is not ready to fall in love. Soon after, Jim returns to the cabin bearing gifts but no wife and begins a prolonged stay at the cabin. Jim quickly deduces what Rachel is doing in the cellar and offers her instruction on how to shoot. Jim's continued attentions to Rachel provoke Big Davey, and one night, he confronts his friend about his intentions. The scout freely admits his interest in Rachel and offers Big Davey forty dollars for her. Outraged with jealousy, Big Davey begins to brawl with Jim in front of Rachel, who then denounces both men and leaves the homestead in a huff. Jim, Big Davey and Davey soon catch up to Rachel in the woods, but she rejects their entreaties and beds down for the night by herself. Jim and Big Davey set up camp a few yards away, and although hungry, each man refuses to go hunting, fearful that while one is gone, the other will woo Rachel. Finally, Jim tells Rachel that he loves her and wants to marry her, while Big Davey asks Rachel to return with him but is unable to admit his love. Rachel's romantic dilemma is soon forgotten when she sees smoke in the sky and realizes that Shawnee Indians are attacking Big Davey's homestead. After racing back to the cabin, Big Davey and Jim confront the Indians, who are releasing the stock. Rachel is then captured by a Shawnee as she attempts to help her husband, but is rescued by Big Davey and is able to shoot the Indian. When the Indians set fire to the barn where Rachel, Jim and Big Davey are hiding, Rachel battles the flames and the men do their best to fend off the attackers. Eventually, the three are rescued by men from the stockade, and the Shawnee are forced to flee. In the wake of the attack, Jim decides to leave to pursue the Indians, while Big Davey finally embraces Rachel as his wife.