Tuck Everlasting opens in the present day, in the town of Treegap. Cars and pedestrian traffic make their way through the streets. Jesse Tuck (Jonathan Jackson) rides his motorcycle through the town and makes his way to a gated house on the outskirts. He takes off his helmet and looks at the estate wistfully. A narrator for the movie (Elisabeth Shue) recites a passage on the nature of time, and notes that for the Tuck family, it didn't exist. As the scenery shifts to show a peaceful forest, the narrator goes on to say that the story begins on the first week of summer, 'not so very long ago,' when Treegap was a quaint village, and Mae Tuck (Sissy Spacek) went there every ten years to meet up with her sons. After a brief image of a stately tree, with a T carved into the bark, the scenery changes to show Treegap as it was in 1914. Mae rides her horse-drawn wagon through the dirt streets.
She window-shops along several stores, before sitting in her wagon, playing a wistful tune on her small music box. Mae's sons, Miles (Scott Bairstow) and Jesse make their way to her, and there is an emotional reunion. Jesse has brought some gifts for Mae: a small bronze replica of the Eiffel Tower, bought in Paris, and a box of French chocolate. Miles proves much more emotionally restrained than Jesse; the hug he gives his mother moves her to say, albeit affectionately, 'You're as cozy as barbed wire. ' But more than anything, she's happy that they're back after ten years. We then see the Foster estate, and young Winnie Foster (Alexis Bledel) lays on the lawn, staring out into space and daydreaming, before her mother (Amy Irving) calls her inside. The Fosters are a wealthy family; the estate is gated and the mansion is well-furnished and appointed. Winnie is shown to be given a strict upbringing to be a proper lady of the time, which involves constant piano practice in the parlor, and having to dress properly, including a corset she finds very uncomfortable.
She is also schooled in playing croquet. The narrator explains that the formality of Winnie's life is stifling her and leaving her without time or chance to be the two things she needs to be most: a teenager, and a girl. As Winnie continues piano practice under the watchful eye of her mother and grandmother, the narrator says that the need for, and feeling of, change was drawing ever closer and more strongly. Winnie rides with her mother into town, who's come to pick up cakes from the bakery for a formal tea party. As Mrs. Foster goes into the bakery, Winnie, still in the automobile, lifts her veil and turns to watch some boys playing stickball in the streets. The boys happen to look in her direction, and recognize her. One approaches her and starts to make fun of her, sitting prim and proper in her fancy car (cars being rare in 1914).
He challenges her to step out of the car and get her feet dirty. Mrs. Foster, in the bakery, fusses over the various pastries available in the bakery and says that none of them are satisfactory for the tea party. The baker is offering to make them up special for her, when Mrs. Foster suddenly hears the sound of the kids outside cheering, and calling Winnie's name. Turning, she sees to her horror that Winnie has stepped out of the car and joined the stickball game, hitting the ball and running around the bases. Winnie is smiling as she reaches home plate for a home run, but her fun is cut short when her mother storms out and puts a stop to it. In a secluded cabin in the woods outside Treegap, the Tuck family makes their home.
There is merry in the air as Jesse demonstrates a French dance, and the family patriarch, Angus Tuck (William Hurt) looks through an early-model picture animator. Miles, however, proves to be in a broody and dark mood, even when his father says he's glad to have his sons home. Miles tells Angus, also sometimes just called Pa Tuck or Tuck for short, that he's probably going to be leaving soon; he's heard early stories of war brewing and he plans to sign up to fight 'against the Huns. 'When Angus asks if fighting in a war will solve things, and whether Miles has seen enough killing for two lifetimes, Miles reveals another motive for getting as far from Treegap as he can: he knows that someone is on to them; knows or suspects a secret about the Tucks that they need to keep from people, at all costs. As Miles speaks about how a strange man has been following him and Jesse, and keeps reappearing even though they lose him several times, a flashback is shown of Miles and Jesse stowing away on the caboose of a locomotive, and a Man in a Yellow Suit (Sir Ben Kingsley; unnamed, and will be referred to hereafter as MITYS, for Man In The Yellow Suit) standing on the tracks behind the train as it pulls away, looking intently at the two brothers. Miles is sure that MITYS knows something about the Tucks that they can't let anyone know about them.
Angus, however, says it was only a matter of time before someone found them. The Industrial Revolution has led to increasing settlement everywhere, and the world is closing in on them. The forest they've called home for a long time, is shrinking as continued population growth clears it away for further building of civilization. A few weeks ago, Angus saw tire tracks on the lower marsh, and he knows there will be more. Mae, Jesse and Miles are quiet and deeply thoughtful as Pa Tuck tells them all that they must not go into town again for anything, and that if they see anyone too close to their home in the woods, they 'know what to do. 'Evening at the Foster Estate. Winnie is trying to catch fireflies fluttering about among the trees.
A man's voice tells her she's going about it the wrong way. Winnie turns and sees MITYS standing just outside the estate's gate. Though he admits never having tried catching fireflies himself, he proves to know the way of a hunter, explaining it to Winnie, and then quickly catching a firefly in his hand, that drifts too close to him. Letting the insect go, he explains to Winnie that he's looking for some old friends who live in the area, and he was hoping that someone in the Foster family could point him in the right direction.
Winnie innocently (and perhaps, a bit carelessly) says that her father, Robert Foster (Victor Garber), practically built Treegap through the resources of his business, and he owns much of the land around it. Mrs. Foster comes up at that moment, and MITYS starts to introduce himself, and to explain that he's looking for a certain family he hopes the Fosters can help him find. But before MITYS can tell her the name of the family, Mrs.
Foster, more brusquely and less warmly than Winnie, says she doesn't know, nor want to know, everyone in the town, and she doesn't discuss the issue with people she's never met. Accepting the statement without changing expression, MITYS bids her good night. As Mrs. Foster leads Winnie back to the house, scolding her for speaking to strangers so freely, MITYS begins to whistle a curious and very familiar tune. The next day, Mr.
and Mrs. Foster are telling Winnie that they're sending her to the Middlehouse Academy for Girls in Pensford, supposedly one of the finest, most reputable schools for teaching girls to become proper ladies of the upper-crust society. Winnie has heard of Middlehouse; the stories that have reached her about their 'curriculum' frightens her to death. But the Fosters insist that her desire not to go through such a rigid and unmerciful method of schooling in 'ladylike manners and etiquette' are exactly why she needs to. But Winnie rebels. Running from the parlor, she angrily shouts that she won't go to such a terrible place. Winnie runs to the gate, clutching the bars like the bars of a prison cell, as the narrator says that the Fosters failed to understand one thing: Winnie was to be sent 500 miles away to be educated, but all she wanted was to step outside her own fence.
And so she did. Winnie wanders into the woods, exploring the forest. Although the woods are peaceful and there is no danger about, it soon becomes clear that Winnie is lost, struggling to find her way about. Pushing her way through some brush, she hears the sound of gurgling water. Moving toward it, she finds a curious site. Jesse Tuck kneels at the base of a large, beautiful tree that has a letter T carved into the trunk. Jesse is drinking from a small spring of water bubbling up into a small hollow between the tree's huge roots.
Winnie slowly steps out into the open, approaching closer as Jesse splashes some water onto his face. Standing, he turns, and he's startled on seeing Winnie. Looking around warily, he asks her how long she's been standing there, and admonishes her for coming into this part of the woods, and she should turn and go home. Taking a bit of defiance at the statement, Winnie boldly tells Jesse that her family owns the woods and she can stay as long as she feels like. When Winnie tells Jesse her name, he recognizes the surname Foster, and doesn't look completely pleased to hear it. He restates his belief that Winnie needs to go back home, and Winnie, matching his slightly curt tone, says she was on her way...
but admits she's lost. Jesse, seeming to have an idea of where the Foster estate is, offers to guide Winnie back. Winnie is grateful for the offer, but says that she's thirsty and needs a drink first. All at once Jesse starts acting a little oddly in trying to keep Winnie away from the spring. His initial excuses carry no credibility, but when Winnie tries to move past him, he resorts to grabbing her and blocking her from the spring. Pulling away, Winnie starts to run, threatening to have Jesse arrested.
As she runs, a piece of her dress sleeve catches on a branch and tears off. Jesse starts to give pursuit as Winnie runs-- straight into Miles, who catches and intercepts her. Despite Jesse suddenly saying they can't do what they're doing, Miles coldly says that they have to do what Pa Tuck said, no exceptions. Holding fast to Winnie, Miles half pulls, half drags her to his horse, and rides off with her, Jesse running in pursuit. A brief shot of the Foster estate shows that Mr.
and Mrs. Foster are keenly aware of how long Winnie has been gone. A maidservant calls out into the woods from just behind the fence. Miles arrives at the Tuck cabin with Winnie as his prisoner. Seeing the girl struggle with Miles, Mae runs up, scolding Miles and trying to comfort Winnie-- until Miles tells Mae that he caught Winnie at the spring with Jesse... and that Winnie is a Foster.
All of the Tuck family knows the Foster name, and Mae is in shock, saying softly, 'it's finally happened. 'For the immediate moment, Mae has a frightened teenage girl on her hands, begging to go home. Asking Miles to fetch Pa Tuck, who's across the lake, Mae turns back to Winnie and again tries to comfort her, promising to bring her back home as soon as she can. As Miles goes to bring Tuck back, Mae starts to pace around. She pulls out her music box and begins turning the handle. Winnie looks closely at Mae as she listens to the music. She recognizes the tune, though she doesn't tell Mae from where. Prattling as much to herself as to Winnie, Mae says she found the music box in the forest one day, and she used to put Miles and Jesse to bed with it every night, and the music always gave them good dreams.
The sun has set and very early evening has fallen when Miles and Jesse return to the cabin with Pa Tuck. Mae has been trying to tend to Winnie, who's still deeply upset at having been kidnapped and brought here by force; she still feels like a prisoner even though Mae tries to assure her that she's not. Tuck slowly approaches Winnie, peering curiously at her, before calling his family into a huddle. Although they speak in whispers, Winnie can still clearly overhear much of the coversation; Angus asks Miles and Jesse 'does she know?' and they're concerned about her being a Foster. Getting impatient, Winnie asks them out loud what they think she knows about them. Introducing her husband to Winnie, Mae calls him Angus for the first time. Angus slowly approaches Winnie again, offering his hand for a handshake, although Winnie is still too nervous to do so. Seeing this, Angus quietly asks her if she's hungry, and Mae very agreeably suggests they all have dinner.
Winnie sits with the Tucks at the dinner table, but hardly eats. She finally tells them that her father will come looking for her. She thinks that an offer of ransom money to the Tucks will expedite her return home. Angus and Mae gently insist they don't want any of her family's money, even though they know how wealthy Mr. Foster is, and they intend to bring her safely home; although Angus points out, as much to his family as anyone else, that they need to know how much they can trust Winnie. Miles immediately protests, saying that Winnie can't be trusted any more than any 'normal person. ' When Jesse tries to defend Winnie, saying he believes that she won't turn on the family, Miles gets angry. He holds Jesse responsible for whatever predicament the Tucks believe themselves to be in.
Calling Jesse a fool, Miles curtly leaves the dinner table and the cabin. Mrs. Foster stares out the window of her estate. She stares at the front gate, her mouth opening in recognition, and calls urgently for her husband.
Mr. Foster is speaking to Henry, the constable of Treegap (Richard Pilcher). He tells Henry that Mrs. Foster suspects MITYS, who'd been speaking to Winnie at the gate the other night. But Henry surprises Mr. Foster by bringing him into the constabulary office-- where MITYS sits. MITYS admits that he was talking to Winnie at the estate, and he remembers her well, but he doesn't know where she is at the moment.
He's in town searching for a family he used to know, and had come to the constabulary for help, and when he spoke to Winnie at the Foster estate, she thought Mr. Foster might be able to help. MITYS hands Mr. Foster and old photograph showing a young man wearing a Civil War era Union military uniform. He says the family is named Tuck, and they're long-lost relatives, as he claims. On his way out, MITYS says that although he doesn't know where Winnie is now, he's willing to join the search for her, saying he's talented at finding people. Mae has curtained off an area of the house so Winnie can sleep in privacy. She helps Winnie out of her corset, a garment Mae finds distasteful; saying that torturing themselves is no way for young women to live.
Mae has no daughters, but she says she does have a granddaughter, and grandson. Their names are Anna and Beau, and a small photograph of them is in a locket Mae wears. But Winnie notices Mae saying that Miles 'loved them so--' past tense. Mae only says that the children have passed on, along with their mother, and that all the good parts of Miles died along with them.
Mae helps Winnie into a sleeping gown, making further small talk. Winnie now feels safe around Mae, consenting to Mae calling her by her first name. Before retiring to bed, Mae smiles kindly at Winnie, saying it's a good feeling having another woman at the cabin. MITYS is in the town cemetery, looking reverently at one of the graves. The priest of the church finds his way to MITYS, asking if he's lost. MITYS drops the name Tuck, asking if the priest has heard of it. When told no, MITYS says he didn't think the priest would know of any Tucks in the cemetery, and then makes a curious comment, 'or in any other.
'Suddenly MITYS approaches the priest closer, a puzzled look on his face, as he asks what the priest believes most people desire as he tends to them on their deathbeds. He offers whether they would desire more time. MITYS' dialogue starts to turn ominous as he speaks about how much people would give to live forever, and suddenly asking the priest if he's prepared to die-- how much would he desire to live forever, never growing old or sick. As suddenly as the conversation started, it ends, as MITYS bids the priest good night and takes his leave, whistling the curious, wistful tune. Dawn is just breaking when Jesse awakens Winnie, asking her if she'd like to see the Eiffel Tower. Sleepily, she mumbles that someday it would be a nice thing.
But Jesse says he wants to take her now-- 'while the day is still ours. 'A shot of the Foster estate, where Mr. Foster and Henry are organizing a large search party for Winnie, shows that Jesse might have the right idea. Mr. Foster gives Henry one of Winnie's nightgowns so the search dogs can get her scent. It doesn't take long before one of the searchers and dog handlers finds the scrap of fabric torn from Winnie's dress when she was running away from Jesse. Now, rather than running away from him, Winnie is running with him, through the woods to a tall stone hill-- Jesse's 'Eiffel Tower,' which he says is two feet higher than the real one in Paris. Jesse takes Winnie on an arduous climb to the top of the stone hill, which Jesse admits is more difficult than the long stairway to the top of the tower in Paris.
As they climb, Winnie asks Jesse how old he is. He looks young, but he says he's been to the real Eiffel Tower in Paris. Jesse tells Winnie that he's 104 years old. When Winnie asks for a serious answer, Jesse says he is being serious, but then gives in and agrees to 'call it 17. 'Winnie and Jesse reach the top of the stone hill, where they take time to enjoy the majestic, panoramic view. As the search party continues, and MITYS also appears to be searching on his own, and Mrs. Foster plays the piano to try and keep her mind busy, time continues to pass.
Watching Tuck and Mae at work around the cabin, running through the woods with Jesse, Winnie loses track of how long she's been staying with the Tucks. The family lives a simple lifestyle, never in a rush for anything. Winnie starts enjoying her time with them. She's also falling in love with Jesse.
Jesse takes her to a short waterfall where it empties into a stream. At first, she's surprised when he starts undressing to his underwear, until he dives off the rock they were sitting on, into the water, and swims around. He invites Winnie to join him, but Winnie can't swim and is afraid. Taking this news with surprise, Jesse says that he'll just have to enjoy the swim on his own. Emboldened by this, taking it as a challenge, Winnie takes off her outer dress and jumps into the water with Jesse. He catches her easily, keeping her afloat and swimming around with her. The light-hearted, playful, and loving mood is in sharp contrast to the ever-brooding Miles, who is in town, intoxicated, beating out several opponents in poker at a saloon. One of the disgruntled players quickly assumes that Miles is cheating.
Miles, however, proves he's exceptionally sharp at counting the position of each card in the deck, particularly the aces. But when the sore loser asks if Miles is looking for trouble, Miles eagerly says that he is; this leads to the saloon bouncer tossing Miles out. Miles doesn't even seem to mind this, taking it all with a drunken chuckle. But Miles is unaware of another patron at the saloon: MITYS, who becomes alerted to the commotion, sees Miles, and discreetly starts to follow him. Jesse has built a campfire, and encourages Winnie to listen to the various types of bird songs and calls throughout the woods. The bird calls sound like soulful music, and Winnie smiles and starts to sway side to side as she listens.
Jesse takes a stick and starts to play a percussion tune against a fallen log, and Winnie dances, starting to feel at one with nature. Jesse joins her, and the two of them dance passionately. Unaware that MITYS is searching through the woods purposefully. Still later, Winnie lays beside the campfire with Jesse, snuggling peacefully with him. But when Winnie innocently says that she wishes the moment could last forever, Jesse starts to turn thoughtful, his words chosen with care. He tells Winnie that they could see the world together, and have a million moments like this one. There's a secret about the Tucks that Winnie doesn't yet know; something Jesse has sworn never to tell anyone, even her. A secret that forces the Tuck Family to live apart from the rest of society, hiding from civilization.
Winnie is the first person Jesse's met, that he wanted to tell the secret to. Winnie, not realizing how serious Jesse is, leans in and kisses him. The kiss breaks Jesse; makes him want to tell Winnie the truth. Reminding her about the giant oak tree where they met, and the spring bubbling up from it, Jesse tells Winnie the truth about himself and his family: They're immortal. Jesse truly is 104 years old; he just stopped aging at 17.
Jesse is certain that the spring is what caused it. He's going to be 17 years old until the end of the world. Twigs suddenly start breaking behind Jesse and Winnie, and they spin around to look. Miles has found them; his intoxication is wearing off fast, although he's not quite sober yet. Miles and Jesse immediately fall into an argument; Miles challenging Winnie on whether she'd have preferred to learn the truth before she kissed Jesse, and asking if Jesse has told her the downsides of being immortal.
Getting upset, Jesse accuses Miles of not wanting Jesse to have what Miles lost. Interceding between the brothers, Winnie asks to hear the whole truth. Miles begins to tell the story. He, Jesse, Tuck and Mae all had a drink from the spring as they were heading further west to build a homestead. Their horse drank as well, but their cat didn't; Miles insists this one small detail is important. The water tasted heavenly, and Tuck carved a large T into the trunk to mark the tree as a landmark for the family. They found a good place to build their homestead, and it was soon after that they began to realize that something was different about them.
Jesse climbed a tree, and fell thirty feet to the ground, landing with all his weight atop his neck. But before Mae could let out a yell of grief, Jesse got back to his feet as if nothing happened. No pain, no broken bones. Miles' face and voice start to gradually turn darker as he says that this wasn't all. Things began happening.
The family horse was shot by hunters who mistook it for a deer. But the bullets simply bounced off the horse's flank, barely leaving a mark in its hide. Tuck was bitten by a rattlesnake, and lived through the poison without becoming ill. It was the cat who finally died; from old age. Miles starts fingering the wedding ring he wears, remembering further.
He fell in love and married, having two beautiful children with his wife. The children were named Anna and Beau. He and his family eventually built their own homestead not far from the rest of the Tucks. But by now, Tuck had figured out that the spring had made them all immortal. Miles knew he wouldn't age, and nothing could kill him; over time his own children would be older than he; his wife growing old and dying while he lived on.
Needing to save them, Miles pleaded with his wife to come to the spring with him, so she and the kids could drink and live forever with him. Miles' wife didn't take Miles seriously; she thought he and his family had sold their souls to the devil. As people began to talk, word spread around and everyone in the area thought that the Tucks were dabbling in black magic and witchcraft. They burnt the homestead, looking to kill the Tucks, and of course the Tucks couldn't die.
This is why they withdrew from civilization, keeping themselves hidden from people. In his grief, becoming increasingly bitter, Miles began fighting in wars. He fought in the Mexican-American war, watching many brave soldiers die during the siege of Veracruz. He fought in the Civil War, watching casualties mount at Gettysburg. He prayed that an enemy soldier would kill him as well-- but no bullet could do this. Miles couldn't die.
But the most painful loss was his family. Influenza took Anna before she turned 15. If Beau were still alive, he'd be close to eighty. And Miles' beloved wife..
. died old and alone in an insane asylum. Both Miles and Winnie are in tears as the story ends. Miles, Jesse and Winnie return to the Tuck cabin early the following morning. Tuck and Mae immediately know that Jesse has told Winnie the truth about them.
Tuck says he needs speak with Winnie one on one, and takes her out onto the lake in a rowboat. Angus Tuck looks all around at the living forest around them, asking Winnie to do the same. He talks about human lives, how Winnie was once a child, and is now a young woman; one day she'll have children and do something important-- and then she'll pass on, making way for new life. The Tucks, as Angus insists, don't truly live as other people do; they simply 'are.
' Like rocks stuck at the side of a stream. Angus softly insists to Winnie that the secret she's learned is extremely dangerous; if people learned about the spring, they'd trample and kill each other in a mad rush to it. As Angus says, people are so desperate not to die, that they also never live the lives they have. Winnie admits she's afraid of dying, asking if that's a bad thing.
Angus says it isn't, but to never live one's life is so much worse than dying, which Angus calls merely 'part of the wheel. ' The one thing Angus asks Winnie to understand, is to fear an unlived life, rather than death. But there's one thing both Angus Tuck and Winnie should fear; they just don't know it. MITYS has found them. From a secluded spot on the shore, he looks through his binoculars and watches the two of them as they sit in the rowboat.
MITYS goes to the Foster estate to inform Mr. and Mrs. Foster that he knows where Winnie is. He tells them that she appears to have been with the Tuck family for some time now. But it doesn't take long to show that MITYS is far less concerned for the welfare of either Winnie or her parents, than his own agenda. His seemingly idle statement that he's the only person who knows where Winnie can be found, and therefore brought safely home, shows Mr.
Foster that MITYS has a price for divulging this information. MITYS briefly beats around the bush before finally getting to the point; in return for bringing the Fosters and a search party to the Tuck cabin, MITYS wants ownership of the woods around Treegap. He's not interested in the town itself; just the immediate surrounding forest. Both of the Fosters are sickened by the play, but Mrs. Foster begs her husband to give MITYS whatever he asks, so she can finally have Winnie back.
As MITYS leaves the estate, Mr. Foster hands him the proper papers that make him the owner of the woods around Treegap. MITYS assures the Fosters that their ordeal is over, but they have to move quickly; the Tucks were packing up to leave the cabin and the forest. MITYS suggests that Constable Henry organize a posse quickly so that the Tucks can be arrested. MITYS says he's also heading to the cabin himself, and he's sure to arrive before anyone else.
The posse organizes under Constable Henry at the Foster estate, and Mr. Foster says he's coming along himself. The Tucks are loading up their wagon and making final preparations to leave their cabin. Jesse is tasked with bringing Winnie back home. But their last few moments together are interrupted by the arrival of MITYS, who's found his way to their home.
Angus quickly recognizes MITYS as the man who's been following and tracking Miles and Jesse. MITYS reveals how he found the Tucks, and how he learned their secret in the first place: his grandmother was an employee at the insane asylum where Miles' wife was confined, and MITYS took the stories of her ranting and raving about a people in the woods that could live forever, to heart. Miles' wife often rambled about a music box that always had a calming effect on her children. MITYS whistles the tune from the music box; Mae's music box.
MITYS reveals that Mr. Foster has signed ownership of the woods to him. He offers to ensure that the Tucks can remain at their cabin indefinitely, safe from the outside world; what MITYS wants in return is knowledge of where the spring is. His motive for this is finally revealed as pure greed; MITYS knows that people desperate to live forever, would pay him all of their worldly goods and material wealth, down to the smallest coin, in return for one sip from the spring.
When Angus refuses to meet this demand, MITYS grabs Winnie and pulls a gun, menacing the girl with it. Jesse lunges at MITYS, who shoots automatically. Jesse falls briefly, but is unhurt; proving his immortality. The Tucks are in a standoff with MITYS, who continues to hold Winnie at gunpoint. But MITYS has turned his back to Mae.
Mae picks up her husband's shotgun by its barrel, and swinging with all her strength, clubs MITYS across the back of the head with the stock of the weapon. Just then, Constable Henry's rescue team starts to converge on the cabin. Miles and Jesse escape on horseback as Mr. Foster races to the cabin and hugs Winnie in relief. Back at the Foster home, Mr. and Mrs. Foster can't understand or accept Winnie defending the Tucks or that she's come to love them all as dear friends. She insists that Mae was only protecting her when she hit MITYS from behind.
But Henry reveals that it's all irrelevant. MITYS has died from the blow, meaning Mae, who is locked in the town jail with Angus, will be charged with murder, and she'll be hanged for it. Henry sadly tells Mr. Foster that Winnie will be required to testify. Henry finds MITYS as much a slick weasel and scoundrel as Mr. Foster does, but Mae will still face the gallows for killing him. It's a dark and stormy night, and Winnie lays in bed, trying to sleep, when she's alerted to a sound at her window. Jesse has climbed up there, come to seek her help.
If his mother goes to the gallows, she won't die from the hanging, and the Tuck family's secret will be out. Winnie agrees they have to get Mae and Angus sprung from jail somehow. Jesse has a plan how. Winnie runs to the jail and pounds on the door, screaming in terror for help. The night watchman jailer answers the door and Winnie staggers in, crying fearfully that the people who kidnapped her have come back for her again, and if they catch her, they'll kill her. The jailer grabs his rifle and goes outside, where Jesse and Miles slowly walk toward the building, dressed in dark cloaks and top hats, brandishing sabers.
They approach the jailer slowly and menacingly. The jailer fires at them, and they fall to the ground, but then slowly rise again. The jailer runs away in fear as Winnie grabs spare jail cell keys and frees Angus and Mae. Miles has brought the family wagon to the square. Mae and Jesse both hug Winnie, wishing she could come with them, but both Angus and Winnie know that Mr. Foster would hunt them all across the country without letup. Jesse gets an idea.
He begs Winnie to drink from the spring. Then when it was safe, he would come back for her and they could see the whole world, starting with the Eiffel Tower. As the Tucks ride off in the wagon, he pledges to love her until his dying day. Back at the Foster House, Winnie's grandmother lies on her deathbed. Winnie sees Mrs. Foster lay down beside Grandma Foster, staying by her side until she's gone.
After Grandma Foster's funeral, Winnie finds her mother staring out at the woods. Mrs. Foster admits she was heartbroken at the thought of losing Winnie, who was growing up very fast, and wanted to keep her baby as her little girl. Winnie and her mother make peace, and as summer draws to a close, The Fosters drive off, leaving Treegap to see the world. The scene changes back to show Treegap as it is in the present day (presumably 2002, the year the movie was released). We return to the first scene, where Jesse Tuck has returned to the town.
He rides his motorcycle through the streets, and looks wistfully at what used to be the Foster estate, and the cars parked on its property. Jesse then walks through the forest and finds his way to the magic spring, where Winnie waits for him... She's buried there.
Jesse sinks to his knees as he looks on Winnie's gravestone. Having chosen never to drink from the spring, Winnie went on to marry, have children, and live a full life, before she passed away in 1999 at the venerable age of 100. To forever safeguard the magic spring, she arranged that she be buried at the base of the tree from which the spring flowed; her gravestone forever sealing it up so that nobody would again find it. As Jesse turns his gaze to the sky, the narrator delivers her closing recitation: "Tuck said it to Winnie the summer she turned 15. 'Do not fear death, but rather the unlived life. You don't have to live forever; you just have to live.
' And she did. "The view pans up along the upper branches of the trees and fades to black..