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As a child in Bangor, Maine in 1824, Jenny Hager, daughter of the town drunk Tim, has as her sole playmate Ephraim Poster, the son of Isaiah, the storekeeper. Jenny, whose mother abandoned her as a baby, is a difficult girl, with a high opinion of herself. Several years later, she has grown into a beautiful woman and Ephraim has gone away to school in England. When a boatload of sailors docks, Jenny sets her sights on the captain, and Isaiah, a widower who is attracted to Jenny, tells Tim that his daughter is consorting with sailors. Accusing Jenny of behaving like her mother, Tim beats her, then collapses and dies. Jenny runs to Isaiah's house for help, and while his housekeeper bathes her wounds, the town elders decide to marry her to the wealthy Isaiah. Jenny agrees to the marriage, but soon after the marriage writes Ephraim a seductive letter persuading him to come home. Jenny then asks proper Meg Saladine to teach her to act like a lady. When the minister asks his wealthy congregation for money to enlarge the church, none will give until Jenny offers $1,000 of her husband's money and the other wives follow suit, ensuring Jenny's reputation as a devout woman. After Ephraim returns, Isaiah jealously tries to drive him away, but Jenny persuades her husband to let him stay. She then carefully makes sure that Ephraim falls in love with her. When Isaiah falls ill, Jenny devotedly cares for him, but after he recovers, she becomes hysterical because she had secretly planned to marry Ephraim and live on Isaiah's money. When trouble breaks out in town among the lumberjacks, John Evered, Isaiah's foreman and Meg's fiancé, helps quell the fighting. Jenny is immediately infatuated with John and invites him and Meg to dinner that evening. Soon, however, John returns to the woods, and Isaiah decides to visit his holdings there. He insists that Ephraim accompany him on the canoe trip, even though Ephraim is terrified of the water. Before they leave, Jenny suggests that Ephraim arrange for his father's death on the trip. After Ephraim accidentally upsets the canoe and Isaiah drowns, Jenny forbids him to enter the house and drives him to drink. She then takes over the management of her dead husband's properties and promotes John to a job in town. A drunken Ephraim tries to tell the townspeople the truth about Jenny, but they are now convinced that she is a respectable woman and do not believe him. John questions Ephraim carefully about his accusations and then suggests that Jenny confront Ephraim and prove her innocence. When John and Jenny arrive at Ephraim's cabin, however, he has hanged himself. While John cuts down the body, Jenny scares away their horses, and they are forced to stay all night together in the cabin. Soon Jenny and John are married. The marriage is happy, although Jenny discovers that she is unable to have children. When Lincoln Pittridge, a revivalist preacher, proclaims that an evil woman cannot reproduce, Jenny believes that he can see into her soul and tells John that Ephraim's stories about her were true. This is too much for John, and he leaves her. The next morning Jenny finds him in the country with Meg. Although John has told Meg that he intends to return to Jenny because he loves her, Jenny tries to run them over in a jealous fit and is thrown over a cliff to her death.