The action takes place in New England on the farm of Effraim Cabot in 1850.
In the spring, the old Cabot unexpectedly leaves somewhere, leaving the farm for sons – the elders, Simeon and Peter, and Ebin, born in a second marriage. Cabot is a rough, stern man, his sons are afraid and secretly hating him, especially Ebin, who can not forgive his father for having deceived his beloved mother, loading him with unbearable work.
Father is absent for two months. A stray preacher who came to the village next to the farm brings news: old Cabot got married again. According to rumors, the new wife is young and pretty. The news prompts Simeon and Peter, long dreaming of California gold, to leave the house. Ebin gives them money for the journey, provided that they sign a document in which they will renounce the rights to the farm.
The farm originally belonged to the late mother Ebina, and he always thought of her as his – in the future. Now, with the appearance of
a young wife in the house, there is a threat that everything will get to her. Abbey Patnem is a pretty, full-bodied woman of thirty-five, her face betrays the passion and sensuality of nature, and stubbornness. She is delighted that she became the mistress of the land and the house. Abby says “my” with rapture, talking about all this. She is impressed with the beauty and youth of Ebina, she offers the young man a friendship, promises to establish his relationship with his father, says that he can understand his feelings: on the spot of Ebina, she would also be wary of a new person. She had a hard time in life: orphaned, she had to work for strangers. She got married, but her husband turned out to be an alcoholic, and the child died. When the husband died, Abby was even delighted, thinking that she regained her freedom, but soon realized that she was free to bend her back in other people’s houses. Cabot’s proposal seemed to her a miraculous salvation – now she can work at least in her own house.
Two months have passed. Ebin is in love with Abby, he is painfully drawn to her, but he fights
with feeling, brutalises his stepmother, insults her. Abby does not take offense: she guesses which battle is unfolding in the heart of a young man. You oppose nature, she tells him, but she takes her, “makes you, like these trees, like these elms, strive for someone.”
Love in the soul of Ebina is intertwined with hatred for an uninvited guest, pretending to have a house and a farm, which he considers his own. The owner in it defeats the man.
Cabot, in his old age, blossomed, looked younger, and even softened a little with his soul. He is ready to comply with any request of Abby – even to drive his son out of the farm, if she so desires. But Abby wants the least of all this, she passionately seeks Ebeena, dreams about him. All that she needs from Cabot is a guarantee that after the death of her husband the farm will go to her. If they have a son, so be it, Cabot promises and offers to pray for the birth of the heir.
The thought of his son deeply settles in Cabot’s soul. It seems to him that no one has understood him in his whole life – neither his wife nor his sons. He did not chase after easy profit, he did not seek a sweet life – otherwise why would he stay here, on the rocks, when he could easily settle on the chernozem meadows. No, God sees, he did not seek easy life, and his farm is right, and all the talk of Ebin that she belonged to his mother is nonsense, and if Abby gives birth to a son, he will gladly leave it to him.
Abbey appoints Ebina a date in the room that his mother used to live. At first it seems to the boy a sacrilege, but Abby assures that the mother only would like his happiness. Their love becomes the revenge of Cabot’s mother, who slowly killed her here on the farm, and after revenge, she will finally be able to rest peacefully there, in the grave. Lips of lovers merge into a passionate kiss…
A year passes. In the house Cabot guests, they came to the feast in honor of the birth of the owners of the son. Cabot is drunk and does not notice malicious hints and frank jibes. Peasants suspect that the baby’s father is Ebin: since the young stepmother settled in the house, he completely abandoned the village girls. Ebina is not at the festival – he crept into the room where the cradle stands, and looks tenderly at his son.
Cabot has an important conversation with Ebin. Now, says the father, when they had a son with Abby, Ebin needs to think about getting married – so that he could live where the farm will get his younger brother. He, Cabot, gave Abby the word: if she gives birth to a son, then after his death he will go to them, and he will ban Ebina.
Ebin suspects that Abby led a dishonest game with him and seduced her specifically to conceive a child and take away his property. And he, a fool, believed that she really loved him. All this he brings down on Abbey, not listening to her explanations and assurances of love. Ebin swears that tomorrow morning he will leave from here – to hell this damn farm, he will still get rich and then come back and take away from them everything.
The prospect of losing Ebina leads Abbey to horror. She is ready for anything, only if Ebene believes in her love. If the birth of a son killed his feelings, took away her only pure joy, she is ready to hate an innocent baby, despite the fact that she is his mother.
The next morning, Abby tells Ebina that she has kept her word and proved that she loves him more than anything else. Ebin does not need to go anywhere: their son is no more, she killed him. After all, the beloved said that if the child was not there, everything would remain the same.
Ebin is shocked: he did not want the baby’s death at all. Abbie misunderstood him. She is a murderer, sold to the devil, and there is no forgiveness for her. He immediately goes to the sheriff and everything will tell – let him be led away, let him lock himself in the cell. Sobbing Abbey repeats that she committed a crime for the sake of Ebina, she can not live apart from him.
Now there’s no point in hiding anything, and Abby tells her husband about the romance with Ebin and how she killed their son. Cabot looks at his wife in horror, he is amazed, although he had previously suspected that something was going wrong in the house. It was very cold here, so he was drawn to the cowshed, to the cows. And Ebin is a weakling, he, Cabot, would never have betrayed his woman…
Ebin is on the farm before the sheriff – he ran all the way, he repents terribly in his act, in the last hour he realized that he himself is to blame for everything and more – that he loves Abby madly. He offers the woman to run, but she only sadly shakes her head: she must atone for her sin. Well, says Ebin, then he will go to prison with her – if he shares the punishment with her, he will not feel so alone. The approaching sheriff leads Abby and Ebina. Stopping on the threshold, he says that he really likes their farm. Great land!