Before he dies, Mary Call's father makes her promise to take care of her siblings and to make sure that her sister Devola does not marry Kiser Pease. The problem is that Kiser is their landlord. With both parents dead (their mother died before the book begins), Mary Call knows that Kiser will turn them out and that nosy neighbors might tell the child welfare people about them, or as Mrs. Connell says, "an institution for people like them." So they do their best to keep people from finding out that they have been orphaned. When Kiser Pease suffers a near-fatal illness, Mary Call sees her chance. She visits him in the hospital and convinces him that she can heal him with mountain medicine. He believes her, and she gets him to sign a contract giving the house and land to the children.
Mary Call visits Kiser Pease in the hospital to see if she can get him to marry her.
Mary Call is desperate. Kiser Pease's sister Goldie claims that the land Kiser signed over to the Luthers really belongs to her, and that the papers are thus invalid. Goldie wants to rent the land to someone who will make her some money, and the Luther children, who are hiding the fact that their father has died, have nowhere to go. Mary Call knows Kiser wants to marry her sister Devola, but Mary Call has promised her father never to let that happen. She decides there is no way out for her family but for her to marry Kiser herself. Her plan is to then make him pay Goldie for the land and sign it over to Devola, and then, when her family is secure, to leave him. Mary Call goes to the hospital with the intention of convincing Kiser to marry her in a last ditch effort to keep her family together.
Mary Call visits Kiser Pease in the hospital because she wants to ask him to marry her. She plans on narryign Kiser tricking him into giving her the house in Devola's name, a car on Devola's name, and money. She then will divorce him and plant a line of trees on between their property so she doesnt have to look at his ugly face anymore. When she goes to the hospital Kiser says no and she yells at him and it slips out that Roy Luther is dead. Kiser nad Devola get married and are happy when he gets home.