"Freckles" is an adult orphan, just under twenty years of age, with bright red hair and a freckled complexion. His right hand is missing at the wrist, and has been since before he can remember. Raised since infancy in a Chicago orphanage, he speaks with a slight Irish accent. Exhausted after days of walking and looking like a hobo, he applies for a job with the Grand Rapids lumber company, guarding timber in the Limberlost Swamp. McLean, part owner of the large company, enthralled with the Limberlost, hires him to be on the watch for those who aim to steal the expensive timber. McLean's chief worry is Black Jack Carter, who has sworn to smuggle several priceless trees out of the swamp. Initially terrified of the wilderness after a lifetime in an urban environment, Freckles first conquers his fears, aided by exploration of the Limberlost, and falls in love with the swamp. When a recently fired lumberman named Wessner tries to bribe Freckles so the Black Jack's gang of thieves steal a prime tree next to the trail, Freckles gets into a fist fight with Wessner and, although severely pummeled, chases him off. The next afternoon, while Freckles is recovering from beating, a lovely girl about sixteen years of age appears looking for him. Freckles falls in love with her while she helps him recover, and she becomes his guardian angel as the Black Jack's gang seeks revenge.