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Jess (1912)

Adventure | Drama | Romance
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Silas Croft was a kindly old Englishman who had a farm in South Africa. With him resided his two nieces, whom he had taken from their drunken, worthless father when they were of a tender age. Jess, the elder, was brilliant and educated; Bess, the younger was beautiful, but frankly admitted that she did not possess the mental attainments of Jess. The two were great friends, and Jess, although the senior by only three years, had almost a motherly affection for her pretty little sister. Croft, finding old age stealing upon him, advertised for a partner, stipulating that he must be a gentleman. Probably it was his secret idea that the right man might come along, and fall in love with his favorite, beautiful Bessie. Captain John Neil, an English army officer, who had found his income insufficient to support him in his profession, heard of the business opportunity and accepted it. Jess, the unimpressionable, speedily fell in love with him, and her womanly intuition told her that she could win him, for he was fascinated by her. The girl was happy for a while, but suddenly learned that her little sister was also in love with the handsome Englishman. The elder sister realized that happiness for her, meant sorrow, probably life-long sorrow, for Bess. Accustomed to making sacrifices for the girl she so tenderly loved, Jess made another. On the pretext of a visit to an old school friend, she absented herself from home, knowing that Neil would be bound to fall in love with Bess, who was beautiful and amiable. The expected happened. At the time Jess departed, Neil liked both girls, but preferred Jess. Thrown into daily companionship with Bess, he soon grew to love her, and made her happy by proposing to her. And little sister wrote to big sister, telling her the glorious news, never even suspecting the truth. Jess received the letter in her place of refuge, and rejoiced that she had been able to ensure the happiness of Bess, while at the same time she wept in secret over the fate that had taken all romance out of her young life. At this time, the rebellion which freed the Transvaal from British rule was brewing. Croft, who at first doubted that any trouble was impending, at last realizes the gravity of the situation, and Neil consents to go to Pretoria and bring Jess home before it is too late. The gallant soldier arrives in the city, but is unable to leave with his charge, because the Boers have besieged the place, and even couriers cannot pierce the lines. A certain Frank Muller, son of a Boer and an Englishwoman, is one of the leaders in the revolt. He had proposed to Bess and been rejected. Learning that his successful rival is in Pretoria, he plans to dispose of him. Pretending great friendliness, he sends Neil a pass for Jess and himself, signed by Oom Paul Kruger. The unsuspecting Englishman falls into the trap, and with the girl, leaves under the charge of a Boer escort, furnished by Muller. These men have been tricked into believing that Kruger has ordered that the couple be killed, and while they are crossing a river, fire upon them and believe they are slain. Jess and Neil, however, have a miraculous escape. Following the crossing of the river under fire, on their way to Pretoria, Jess and Neil become separated, and the girl reaches the farm alone. There she finds that the villain Muller has been ahead of her, and that her uncle is a prisoner, on a charge of treason. Muller, who is military head of the district, tells Bess that Croft will be convicted and hanged unless Bess consents to marry him. The girl, however, refuses, the court-martial is held, and when Jess arrives, her uncle is under sentence to die at dawn, a few hours away. There is no one to whom she can appeal, and Jess, grief-stricken, decides to be her own avenger. Muller is asleep in his tent, waiting for the dawn when the last of the protectors of the girl he covets shall be separated from her by death. He awakes with a start. Bending over him is Jess. He believes it is a visitor from another world, for he could have sworn that he had seen her die a horrible death. Stricken with terror, unable to speak or make a motion, he goes to his death, his last thought being that there is a life beyond the grave, and that evil brings its own punishment. Jess wanders away into the desert and dies. Neil, searching, finds the body. The troubles of the others are finally swept away, and Neil and Bess live happily many years in their English home, never realizing that they owe everything to the self-sacrificing Jess, although they sincerely mourn and miss her. Written By Moving Picture World synopsis  Less

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