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In the 1800s, after robbing the bank and wreaking havoc in the town of West Bridge, Clay Anderson and his gang escape to the hills and then split up, planning to meet later in Kansas City. While riding alone, Clay's horse goes lame, but he fortuitously encounters a young boy, Dodie, to whom he introduces himself as "Mr. Daniels," and accompanies home. Although Dodie's father, the preacher Hollis Jarret, is out, Clay is welcomed by Dodie's newly married stepmother Peg, to whom he is attracted. Clay sees the framework of a church that Hollis is building and, hearing Peg talk about Hollis' religious dedication, tells her that she does not seem the type to be married to a preacher. When Hollis later returns, he guesses that Clay is one of the robbers and convinces him not to steal the family's work horse, saying he will not be able to evade the posse. Gentle and courageous, Hollis invites Clay to stay for a few days, promising not to cause him trouble and admitting wryly that he wants to save his soul. That evening, Clay upsets Peg by making a pass at her and suggesting that she is unhappy with her marriage. Later, when they are alone in their bedroom, Hollis tells Peg Clay's identity and, even though she is distressed, says he wants to try to help him. The next morning, the Jarrets find Clay working on the church building, which he claims to be doing "for the exercise." Hollis has to pick up lumber at Ben Silas' mill and Clay agrees to join the family on their outing. At the mill, Hollis is careful to shield Clay's real identity. Ben mentions that he is selling a horse, but after Dodie wanders into the corral and is attacked by the animal, Ben admits the horse is temperamental and difficult to train. Although Hollis claims any creature can improve, Clay bluntly suggests that he shoot the horse, saying it is an "outlaw" you can never "trust." When Clay and the Jarrets return home, a visitor, circuit preacher Reverend Hastings awaits them. Clay draws his gun, but Hollis, without revealing Clay's identity, smoothes over the incident. After Hastings leaves, Hollis points out that Clay is living in fear and cannot hide forever from himself. When asked if he believes in salvation, Clay says that, to him, salvation is a clean pistol and a good horse. Clay's response gives Hollis an idea. Certain that he is doing God's will, Hollis announces that he must go away for a couple hours. While Hollis is away, Peg orders Clay to leave, threatening to tell the sheriff and accusing him of playing Hollis for a fool. Clay retorts that she does not belong to the life she is living and that she does not have the same dedication as Hollis. When Hollis returns, he brings Ben and the horse, which he has named Lucifer and plans to train as proof that no one is unredeemable. Both Ben and Clay warn him that the horse is dangerous, but Hollis says it is his job to bring out the good in everyone. When the sheriff, John Tatum, rides up to check on the outlying homesteads, Hollis stops Peg from turning over Clay, whom he introduces as someone helping with the church construction. Later, Hollis tries to ride Lucifer, but the horse crashes through the fence of the corral and goes wild. Although Hollis fails to regain control of the animal, he refuses to let Clay shoot the horse. Eventually, Clay manages to quiet the horse, but only after it terrorizes Peg and injures Dodie and his dog. That night, Hollis learns that, because of the horse, Dodie has lost faith in prayer and Clay has gained admiration for Hollis' courage. Although Peg begs Hollis to get rid of Lucifer, Hollis refuses to give up on Clay or the horse, and asks her to pray and have faith in his success. She respond that she is not strong enough to do what he asks. On his way to a sick man's bedside, Doc Parks stops by and asks Hollis to accompany him. After they leave, Peg takes a rifle to the corral to shoot the horse, but then changes her mind. Clay, who has been watching, tells her that killing the horse would not have mattered, because she would still be married to a person who thinks differently than she does. Troubled, she returns to the house and starts packing. Soon after, John rides up and asks to talk to Clay. When she goes to the barn to fetch Clay, he is saddling up to escape and tells her that he will return. John spots Clay trying to slip away and fires his gun. In the ensuing gunfight, a bullet hits an oilcan, causing a fire. Seeing the flames, Dodie runs out of the house and John accidentally shoots him. The men then lower their guns to help the child. Later, as the doctor treats Dodie, Clay threatens to kill John if he dies, but Hollis tells him to pray instead. While Hollis and Peg kneel at Dodie's bedside, Clay wanders into the half-built church. When the doctor reveals to Clay that the boy has not stopped bleeding and has only an hour to live, Clay looks for John and discovers that he has gone. Riding out in pursuit, Clay catches up to John when his buckboard overturns. Clay beats the already injured man and, while they struggle, a gun goes off. Although he is still in control, Clay realizes that he has been shot, and prepares to shoot John. Meanwhile, Dodie wakes up and, miraculously, has stopped bleeding. Upon learning that Clay has gone after John, Hollis mounts Lucifer and follows, hoping to prevent a killing. Hollis catches up to them, and while shielding John from Clay's gun, reports that Dodie will live. When Clay doubts his word, he remarks that his being able to ride Lucifer proves that miracles can happen. Although aching from his wound, Clay returns to the house and, finding the boy awake, tells him that he must leave and has come to say good-bye. As he departs, he makes peace with Peg, who has newfound faith in her husband. Disregarding the doctor's offer to tend his wound, Clay walks into the roofless church. When Hollis and John return, Clay is lying dead, his outstretched hand reaching for the shadow of the church's cross.