1796 in the region of Bern: after the death of her dear mother, Elsi, the miller's daughter, leaves the house of her father and is taken on as a farm girl by a farmer in Heimiswyl. Everyone, except the farmer, believes that Elsi, due to her certain virtuous ways, cannot be a farm girl. Elsi proves them all wrong. Through her careful and independent manner of working in the house and on the farm, Elsi, a tall, well-built and pretty girl, draws the attention, and later the jealousy, of the initially bigoted farm girls. Elsi spurns the attentions of the young lads, especially when they try to lead her onto the dance floor- but for good reason: Elsi's father has frittered his sizeable fortune away in taverns and plunged the whole family into misfortune. The young farmer, Christen is not so easily dismissed. Elsi is too proud. She cannot enjoy the pleasures of a visit to an inn with Christen without her thoughts always turning to her reckless father. Yet Christen strives unperturbed to get the attention of the pretty girl. When Elsi does not yield, he becomes furious. Driven by his jealousy, he courts a more willing girl from Heimiswyl. The farmer's wife cannot understand Elsi's behaviour. She is determined to pair the girl off with Christen, son of wealthy parents. As the French occupy Vaud and draw closer to Berne, the situation becomes grave for gunner Christen. Once more he turns to Elsi, pleading with her to marry him. Because the proud girl feels ashamed of her family she turns him down again. When Christen is enlisted, she regrets her behaviour and fears for his life. In great distress, she reveals the secret of her origins to the farmer"s wife who had already heard of the reckless miller and merry reveller. ...All this business with your father is not as terrible as you think... says the farmer's wife. Both women finally come to the conclusion that Christen must be told. Elsi, at long last, desires to be his. The girl sets off "