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When a fire breaks out in an orphanage on the East Side of New York, little Timothy Patrick Aloysius Michael Kelly runs away wearing only his nightclothes. Chased by a policeman, Tim takes refuge in the junk wagon of Max Ginsberg. The next morning, the lonely old man is impressed by Tim's honesty for returning his coin purse, which had fallen onto the street, and offers him a five-cent reward, but Tim declines, asking for a job instead. Max at first refuses, but takes pity on the boy, who soon becomes his constant, loving companion and a partner in Max's rag and bottle business. One day, Max relates the story of what happened to him fifteen years before: Working as a sewing machine operator in Greenberg's factory, Max impresses his boss with a new invention. Following his boss's advice to see a lawyer and obtain a patent, Max signs papers drawn up by unscrupulous lawyers Bernard and Winkler, who cheat him out of his invention and force him into poverty while they become millionaires. For years, honest attorney Richard L. Scott has been trying to help Max, but lack of written proof of Max's claim has thwarted him. Max sadly admits to Tim that he does not even know where Bernard and Winkler are. Unknown to Max, Winkler has died, but Bernard is still alive and lives in a posh New York neighborhood. One day, when Max's rheumatism prevents him from taking his cart out to collect junk, Tim convinces him to let him do the work. At Bernard's house, his wife and the maid are so enamored of little Tim that Mrs. Bernard gives the boy some of her husband's old clothes, unaware that one jacket contains a 1910 letter written to Bernard by Winkler. In the letter, Winkler reveals that he is dying and feels guilty over what they have done to Max and implores his former partner to make amends. Not understanding the significance of the letter, Tim uses it to plug a hole in their horse Dynamite's feedbag. Later, Scott comes to visit and explains that he has learned that Bernard is living somewhere in New York under the name Bishop. Overhearing some of the details of Bernard and Winkler's fraud, Tim realizes that the letter is proof of Max's claim, but when he goes to get it, the feedbag only contains blackened scraps. Without saying anything to Max, Tim goes to the home where he had received the coat and asks to see "Mr. Bernard." Ashamed, Mrs. Bernard says nothing and shows Tim in to see her husband. Bernard is unmoved by Tim's pleas and tells him that he has no legal proof of the claim after Tim reveals that Winkler's letter has been destroyed. Because he has failed to help his beloved Max, Tim sadly goes home and removes the name "Kelly" from the "Ginzberg and Kelly" sign on the wagon. Although not explaining why, Tim then tells Max that he has to go back to the orphanage. Max is broken-hearted, and begs him to stay, but Tim insists he must leave. Just then, Bernard arrives. Following Max's strong rebukes, Bernard says that he wants to make amends and plans to give him $200,000 for the invention because Tim made him realize that he has been wrong. When Tim says that Bernard also owes interest, they laugh, and Bernard promises to return the next day with the money and the interest. Tim, who has just discovered that the letter was not destroyed after all, is about to tear it up but secretly decides to keep it in a safe place, just in case. Tim and Max joyfully embrace after Bernard leaves, and Max agrees to let their partnership be changed from "Ginsberg and Kelly" to "Kelly and Ginsberg." Some time later, Max and Tim have become the largest antiques dealers in New York and enjoy playing golf at a swank country club.