A massive storm, a goose-drownder, sweeps cross the Nevada town of Silverado. The town’s sole resident, Boone Gillis, runs into the saloon where passing gamblers Bart Maverick and Gentleman Jack Darby have been stuck for a week on their way through. Gentleman Jack persuaded Bart to head to Silverapolis to take advantage of some poker-hungry miners, but the goose-drownder came and stranded them. Bart has already lost $185,000, and Gentleman Jack suggests that the next person who draws an ace gets three swings at the other to relieve the boredom. His opponent agrees and they deal, while Boone goes back to the barn to deal with two calving cows. Gentleman Jack deals Bart an ace and insists that he hit him.
Before Bart can swing, the stage arrives in town. The usual driver, Luke, is sick, and a driver named Latimer has taken his place. He went through Silverado to get to Carson City because the other road is flooded, but Boone warns that the other road isn’t in any better shape. Latimer tells his passengers to go inside, and an attractive woman, Stella Legendre, calls for help. Gentleman Jack gets there first and she tells him that they have a sick man, Rance. The other two passengers, Hurley and Red Herring, help him into the saloon. Stella says that Rance is her brother and gets him to bed, saying he has a bronchial condition. However, Bart notices blood on his hand, but tells Hurley that he cut his own hand. Once Bart leaves, Rance wonders what they’ll do when Bart realizes he didn’t cut his hand.
Outside, Bart tells Gentleman Jack that Rance is bleeding and is carrying a hidden gun. The other passenger, Red Herring, brings in his luggage. He explains that the other three got on separately. As Herring talks, he secretly slips a derringer up his sleeve. When he goes in with the luggage, Bart and Gentleman Jack figure that the four passengers are involved in something shady and put on their guns.
Boone makes soup and Hurley comes in. He asks if there’s another way to Carson City, insisting that Rance needs a doctor. Boone tells him that the doctor in Carson City was put away for operating on gunslingers, and tells Hurley that he knows Rance is the Arapaho Kid. Hurley draws his gun but Boone tells him to put it away, unimpressed. He tells Hurley he doesn’t care who Rance is and serves up the soup, and Hurley puts away his gun. While Hurley takes the soup to Rance, Stella asks Bart for some drinking water. He knows her name and reminds her that one night in Abilene she rolled him and took his watch. Stella tries to deny it at first but then admits that she was there, working as a dance hall girl. As she goes to Rance, Bart reminds her that she took the time to listen to him when he needed it, before she took the watch, and he appreciated it.
Hurley comes out and tells Stella to tend to her brother, and then asks Bart what he wants with Stella. Bart denies knowing her and nervously rolls a coin across his knuckles. Hurley notices and comments that Bart is good with his fingers. Gentleman Jack comes in out of the rain after checking for other sleeping quarters for Bart, while he stays in the saloon in case Stella needs protection. As they start to argue, Rance slaps Stella as she tries to give him some medication. She staggers out and Rance accuses her of wanting the bounty on him, and that she messed up a job by sitting it out. When Rance fires a shot, Bart punches him unconscious. As Hurley and Stella get Rance back to bed, Gentleman Jack decides to sleep in the barn after all, figuring that Stella is up to something shady. Boone comes in and Bart gives him the gun and tells the old-timer to hide it. Bart then settles into a chair across from the bedroom and stands watch.
Hurley sees Bart and tells Stella to keep him busy while he slips out the window. She goes out and tries to distract Bart by asking for a cigarette and a drink. Stella starts to go back into the bedroom but then admits that she’s not Rance’s sister, but that he wouldn’t shoot him. Bart asks about how Rance got shot and warns that he’ll soon die. Stella insists that Rance is more alive than Bart will ever be and gives him back his watch before storming back into the bedroom.
Gentleman Jack and Latimer are sleeping in the barn, while Herring feigns sleep and watches them. Hurley runs outside the barn and whistles for Latimer, who tries to slip way. Gentleman Jack wakes up and sees him go, and Herring sees both men. Latimer joins Hurley and they get into the stage, and Herring goes outside. Gentleman Jack watches the entire thing from the window as Herring goes outside, and then draws his gun and goes to the door.
In the stage, Latimer insists that there’s nothing hidden in the vehicle, but Hurley says that Rance had $10,000 in gold coin, a mine payroll. Hurley complains that everything has gone wrong with their plan and that the original driver, the one they killed, managed to wing Rance. He briefly accuses Latimer of taking the gold, but Latimer insists there’s no way that he could have taken it. Hadley takes him to tell Rance, and Herring goes to the wagon and knocks on the bottom. Once he goes back inside, Gentleman Jack also checks for a hidden compartment, and finds a single gold coin underneath the stage. He crawls down underneath and keeps knocking until he breaks through the boards and a stream of gold coins pours out.
Stella comes out of the bedroom and Bart gives her the watch back. She thanks him and complains about her new life, but admits she wasn’t happy with her old one. Stella talks about her father was a self-made brimstone preacher who hated women, and she finally ran away at 15. She met a smooth-talker in St. Louis who thought she was a singer, but left her with no money or prospects. Bart tells her she can still get a happy ending, but not with Rance, and she insists that he’s more than just a half-breed. However, Bart warns that Rance is a stone-cold killer and she should get away from him. He kisses her on the cheek and wishes her luck, and says that it’s about time she’s had some.
Gentleman Jack hides the bag of gold coins in the woods. As he gets up, he sees the corpse of the original driver floating in the creek. He goes back to the saloon and tells Boone and Bart what he found. Boone thinks he knows who it is and goes out to check with Bart and Gentleman Jack. Hurley and Latimer overhear them talk and tell Rance, but he’s more interested in how Stella has been distracted since her last talk with Bart. He reminds her that he took her out of a dance hall where she was working as a prostitute and wants him dead, and Stella insists that she loves him.
Bart, Boone, and Gentleman Jack bring in the corpse of the driver, Luke Rogers. Angry that Luke is dead, Boone draws his gun and demands that Hurley and the others come out. Hurley comes through the door and wings Boone in the arm, and then disarms Bart and Gentleman Jack. Stella gets their guns and Rance yells for her. She goes to his side and realizes that he’s close to death. Hurley tells Latimer to find a bottle of alcohol for Rance and then tells Bart that he’s going to take the bullet out of his friend.
Bart has no choice but to cut the bullet out. Hurley sends her out so she doesn’t have to watch, and Latimer gives her the gun and goes inside. Rance, still conscious demands another drink. Once he has it, he tells Bart to continue. After checking the wound, Bart warns Hurley that the bullet is lodged behind a rib and he’ll have to probe. Hurley tells him to do it and Bart finally gets it out, but Hurley prepares to kill him anyway. When Rance moans in pain, distracting Hurley, Bart grabs a blanket, throws it over the outlaw, and runs out of the bedroom. Hurley and Latimer run out after him, but Herring comes in and shoots them both down. He tells Stella to turn over her gun, but Rance comes out and shoots him in the arm.
Bart goes for the derringer but Rance points out that it’s a two-shooter and Herring fired both shots. Rance tells Stella to prove she doesn’t love Bart by killing him, and Bart hugs her and says that he loves her and that he never forgot her. The gambler says that he’s trying to save her life and keep her from becoming a killer, and tells Stella to think of herself. Rance flies into a rage and Bart grabs the gun from Stella and shoots the outlaw dead.
The next day, the rain clears and Boone confirms that the stage can leave. Herring admits that he works for Wells Fargo and offers to make sure Bart gets the $5,000 for the Arapaho Kid. Realizing which way things are going, Gentleman Jack says that he took the gold from the stage and hid it for safekeeping. Herring buys his story and says that he’ll see what he can do for a reward. Once Herring and Boone leave, Gentleman Jack congratulates Bart on giving an incredible performance by claiming to love Stella. Bart finally punches him, reminding him that he’s collecting a debt. Gentleman Jack takes it in good grace and goes to get the horses ready.
Stella comes out of the bedroom and gives Bart his watch back. She says she won’t need it anymore and that she’s going to give herself another chance, but for now her feelings died with Rance. Stella says that she’s going to find her cousin in the Dakota Territories and help her raise her children. She gives Bart a sisterly goodbye kiss and leaves for the stage. Gentleman Jack comes in and says that their horses are ready, and asks if Bart punched him because of the bet or because he suggested Bart was playacting. Bart goes to the window and watches Stella board the stage. She smiles at him and he smiles back as the stage leaves town. However, as Bart and Gentleman Jack pack to leave, the goose-drownder starts up again. Boone warns that it’s too late to cross the creek, and the two gamblers start playing cards again.
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