Debts left by their father multiplied the difficulties of survival for orphaned Melvena Perry, 14, and her older brother Tom, 18. Boom-or-bust Idaho, 1860, was mad with gold-fever. To repay their debt of honor, Tom and Melvena brought supplies in to Florence, a rough mining center. Shiftless help and parasitical neighbors added to Tom's business worries in trading goods for gold dust. Twice the profits of a month's work were lost en route to Walla Walla. Nevertheless, Melvena hated to see how hard the struggle was making her brother. Although he refused initially to have a kitten or a dog, Melvena persuaded him finally to take in little Luce, orphaned daughter of a dance-hall girl with healthy effects on his character. Gold strikes at Boise Basin and Warren's Meadows mean another move for the Perry children, with brighter hopes for themselves and Luce.