In a small mining town the Lukens girl, Netti, becomes pregnant by her father, Buck Joe. The nineteen-year-old tells her mother that she is going to have a baby. The mother has always denied her stories about the father molesting her daughter and takes money from the dad's fishing jar to get an abortion in the deep woods. Nettie, the young girl wants to keep the child. After the abortion is complete, the illegal abortionist packs up his surgery and runs from the oncoming police. The assistant throws the embryo taken from Nettie into the Chalk River where it lives and is consumed by a large snapping turtle (Tortue) in French. Brother Brown, the old man who is the only survivor of the great flood in Breton Swamp rescues Nettie. Her father has beaten her and cast her into a burlap sack, tied, and place in the high swamp grasses near the pier. He intends to let the gators eat her. While caring for the dying Brother Brown in a sinking shack in the mire, she discovers a creature in the water of the sinking back porch. It resembles a turtle, so she names it Tortue. Brother Brown tells her to throw it back to the gators, that God didn't want it to live. It replaces the love in her heart for her aborted embryo. A young reporter comes into the swamp to do a story on Brother Brown and meets Netti. He falls for her right away and is given shelter in their sinking shack. He vows to take them to his mansion in a nearby suburb. Brother Brown dies in a storm. They try to escape in the storm. One of them dies. The other two are saved.