Young and newly-wed, Hickory Tom is captured by the Indians as revenge against his father. The Indians force him to choose between death or another marriage to the most beautiful maiden in their tribe: Dew-Drop. Dew-Drop's mother, Wah-ki, is determined that Tom will marry her daughter.
Dew-Drop is not a participant in the discussion, and her consent is assumed. Tom agrees to the marriage, despite the fact that he has now committed bigamy. Concealing his previous marriage from Wah-ki and Dew-Drop, Tom sets the stage for unpleasant revelations to come.
Tom's father, Joe, spends a year trying to find his son, and when he succeeds, he is taken aback to find that Tom is not only married to Dew-Drop, but is also the proud father of a son by Dew-Drop. Joe returns to Tom's first wife, Sally, expecting to break the news of her husband's remarriage, assuming that Dew-Drop's son gives her greater claim to Tom. However, in the intervening year, Sally has also given birth to Tom's son. Joe decides to take Sally and her son to see Tom, and calamity ensues.
Dew-Drop considers her rights to be superior (she has lived with Tom for just about a year, which is significantly longer than the few weeks he had with Sally), but she believes that Sally's child is what gives Sally a stronger claim. In an effort to keep her husband and her child's father for herself, Dew-Drop attempts to murder Sally's child, but Joe foils her plans. The chiefs of the tribe decide that the best way to settle the matter is to give Tom a choice between his two wives. He picks Sally, and Dew-Drop is heartbroken. Dew-Drop's response is violent and tragic.
But while Dew-Drop's story is tragic, the novel itself is not meant to be. Though she drowns, her child is saved from the water and Sally agrees to raise him aside her own son. Tom, Sally, the babies, and Joe all return home, where they essentially live happily ever after.