After the death of her father, Dorcas Remalie, a New York heiress, becomes the ward of her uncle. Her uncle lives in a small community deep in the countryside, where he owns thousands of acres of forest and several saw mills. There’s quite a culture shock at first, but she comes to enjoy the woods and makes friends with several of the townsfolk. She never accepts her uncle, however. Outwardly, he professes righteousness and claims the role of the put-upon martyr, but in private, he is the most ruthless and cold-hearted man alive. Uncle lives in abject terror of death, because he believes in a literal hell and is quite sure than he’s damned to it for having been complicit in the murder of his illegitimate son 25 years ago.
Much of the neighboring land has been clear-cut, but the mountain is still virgin forest. Uncle plans on acquiring and logging it, but a stranger, Jevons, arrives in town who intends on having the mountain declared a national park. Dorcas falls in love with Jevons, but overhears that he is actually the son her uncle thought was dead and has come to blackmail him. She’s torn, but ultimately decides to support Jevons.
Uncle, afraid of exposure, plots to kill both of them. Dorcas escapes and joins some friends deeper in the woods, where she becomes engaged to Jevons and he shares with her his secret plans for raising enough money to buy the mountain. Jevons disappears one night, apparently murdered by Uncle’s men. Dorcas takes the reigns herself and sees Jevons’s operations through. The mountain is saved.
Uncle, accused of Jevons’s murder, sends the foreman of his saw mill to the gallows in his place. Then he learns that it was actually the foreman who was his son. Driven into a religious madness, he dons sackcloth, covers himself in ash, and jumps to his death while muttering apocalyptic phrases. But Jevons wasn’t actually dead after all. He stumbles into town, weak from hunger and having been tied up for days, where he reunites with Dorcas.