Albert Cluveau is a white man who kills people. He often goes fishing with Jane, eats food she fixes for him, and drinks her coffee. He talks about fishing and farming, but mostly he likes to discuss the details of how many people he has killed, both white and black. Albert Cluveau disgusts Jane, but she continues to tolerate him. Then one day, Cluveau tells Jane that Ned is in trouble. There are some white people who want Ned dead.
Jane goes to Ned’s house to warn him. It is late at night and Ned is teaching in his home. When he is finished, Jane thinks Ned looks too tired to hear or heed her warning. So she goes home without telling him about what Cluveau has said.
A few days later, Cluveau is back at Jane’s house. He repeats that there are white people who want him to kill Ned. He tells her he has begged them to ask someone else to do the job. He does not want to kill Ned because he has become friends with Jane. But if they insist that he go through with the deadly task, he cannot refuse to do it. This time, Jane goes over to Ned’s house and tells him about Cluveau. But Ned will not stop teaching. Jane appeals to Ned’s wife, but she tells Jane that Ned is determined to teach until they kill him.
Jane joins Ned, his wife and children, and several of Ned’s students at the riverside to hear Ned give a lecture. White men have been traveling up and down the road all morning, but Jane is worried about two white men in a boat not far from shore. They are pretending to fish, but Jane knows they are there to hear what Ned is saying.
Ned tells his students that they must be strong. They must always stand up for their rights no matter what that might cost them. They should never be afraid to die for what they believe in. He wants them to look beyond the color of their skin and not to listen to people who tell them they are inferior. He then tells them about some brave men in history who accomplished great feats. He says he wants them to act as those men did.
When Ned is finished, he sits down next to Jane. Jane is afraid to look at him, though she can feel Ned staring at her. When she does turn to see him, she reads a message in his eyes: he is not afraid to die.
Ned made it through that day, but he did not last much longer. He continued to teach, and his students helped him build his school. One day when he goes into town to buy some lumber for the school with two of his students, Ned runs into Albert Cluveau. Cluveau tells Ned to get down from his wagon. Ned does as Cluveau says. As soon as Ned’s feet touch the ground, he starts running toward Cluveau. The gun goes off and wounds Ned in the leg. This does not stop him. He keeps coming for Cluveau. Cluveau shoots again, this time wounding Ned in the chest.
Afterward, the two students load Ned’s body onto the wagon and drive home. Ned is buried on the school grounds. The people of the community complete the school in Ned’s honor after he is gone.