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An impoverished young woman named Letty (Lillian Gish) travels west by train from Virginia to live at her cousin Beverly's isolated ranch in Sweet Water. On the way, she is bothered by the constantly blowing wind. Fellow passenger and cattle buyer Wirt Roddy (Montagu Love) makes her acquaintance and tells her the wind usually drives women crazy.Upon arrival, she is picked up by Beverly's closest neighbors, Lige Hightower (Lars Hanson) and the older, balding Sourdough (William Orlamond), who live 15 miles from her cousin. Wirt assures her he will drop by occasionally to see how she is doing.After endless miles in sand and wind, they arrive at the ranch. Beverly (Edward Earle) is delighted to see her, but his jealous wife Cora (Dorothy Cumming) gives her a cold reception, despite Letty saying she and Beverly (who was raised by Letty's mother) are like brother and sister. Cora is further angered when her children seem to like Letty better.At a party, Sourdough tells Lige that he intends proposing to Letty. Lige explains he was planning to do the same. After Wirt drops by, a cyclone interrupts the festivities. Most of the guests seek shelter in the basement, where Wirt declares his love for Letty and offers to take her away from the dismal place. After the cyclone passes, Lige and Sourdough talk to Letty in private. When they flip a coin to see who will ask for her hand in marriage (Lige wins), Letty thinks it is just a joke.Afterward, Cora demands that she leave Beverly alone and that she has to leave the ranch. Because she has neither money nor a place to go, she decides to go away with Wirt, but then Wirt reveals that he wants her for a mistress, informing her that he already has a wife. She goes back to Cora, who tells her to choose from her two other suitors. She marries Lige.When Lige takes her home, he kisses Letty for the first time, but her lack of enthusiasm is unmistakeable. He becomes more forceful, but when she tells him that his actions have made her begin to hate him, Lige promises her he will never touch her. He states he will try to make enough money to send her back to Virginia. In the meantime, Letty works around the house, but is bothered by the ever present wind.One day, Lige is invited to a meeting of the cattlemen, who must do something to avoid starvation. Letty, terrified of being left alone with only the wind for company, begs to go with him. He agrees. After she cannot control her horse in the fierce wind, he has her get on behind him on his horse. When she falls off, Lige tells Sourdough to take her home.When the cattlemen return, they bring an unwanted guest, an injured Wirt. After he recovers, Lige insists he participate in a roundup of wild horses to raise money for the cattlemen. Wirt goes along, but later sneaks away and tries once again to persuade Letty to go away with him. She rejects him.That night, a bad storm makes the house shake. Letty faints. Wirt picks her up and deposits her on the bed. When she awakens, he becomes more aggressive. Letty picks up a revolver to defend herself, though Wirt is confident she will not fire. When he grabs the gun, it goes off, killing him. Letty decides to bury him outside. After she is done, the wind uncovers the body, terrifying her.When Lige returns, Letty is so glad to see him, she kisses her husband. She then confesses she killed and buried Wirt. When Lige looks outside, however, the corpse is nowhere to be seen. He tells Letty that the wind can remove traces when a killing is justified. He has enough money to send her away, but Letty declares she loves him and that she no longer wants to leave. She is no longer afraid of the wind.