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Wealthy investment broker J. H. King is adamant about securing fifty percent ownership in a copper mine apparently owned by the family of its discoverer, the late John Pepper, a copper mining engineer. Pepper's widow and her five children, unaware of the worth of the property, are waging a battle against poverty with the little money the matriarch earns by sewing. Eldest daughter Polly organizes the others,Ben, Joey, Davie and Phronsie,in preparations for their mother's birthday celebration. A dress knitted by Polly is to be sold for $1.50 to purchase ingredients for the cake. Polly and Joey's efforts to locate the dress's buyer lead them to the King mansion, where Jasper, King's grandson, agrees to give his new friends the necessary makings. Joey and Polly invite Jasper to ride on the "Black Pirate," their "boat," a modified go-cart, and the three race down the long driveway and through the streets to the Pepper home. After helping the Peppers repair their stove, Jasper departs. At dinner, all the Peppers pretend to like Polly's tasteless cake; while at the King residence, Jasper celebrates his birthday with his grandfather, who barely notices Jasper until he learns that his new acquaintances are the same Pepper family who inherited the mine. When Mrs. Pepper has to leave for a few days to work at an overall factory, Polly becomes the head of the household. Jasper returns to the Peppers with a kitten and a songbird as gifts, and the cold-hearted Mr. King ingratiates himself in the household to try to convince Polly, the heir to the mine, to sell her share. After presenting the family with a new stove the next day, they celebrate with a dinner of beans. When Phronise becomes a victim of the measles, King and Jasper are quarantined with all the Pepper children. King gradually develops an admiration for these exceptional children, as one by one they are struck down by measles and Polly valiantly struggles to be nurse, cook and housekeeper. When Polly, exhausted from worry and work, falls seriously ill, King sends for his doctor and the girl's mother. Polly's illness leaves her temporarily blind. Informed by the doctor that Polly's recovery depends on rest, quiet and good food over the next several weeks, King bundles the family into his car and takes them to his mansion, where he grows very fond of the Peppers as Polly recuperates. Barker, his business assistant, is surprised to learn that King is no longer interested in swindling, let along buying, the mine. A week later, as the family celebrates the return of Polly's vision, Mr. Thompson of the Amalgamated Mining Company visits with King to discuss a bid for the mine. Polly, hidden from their view, overhears the men and misinterprets King's interest in her family. Believing that he is trying to wrest control of the property from her, Polly forces her family to leave the King residence. Jasper is sent by King to beg the Peppers to listen to his grandfather's explanation, and Mrs. Pepper agrees that this is warranted. In his study, King offers the Peppers an honest justification of his motives and confides that their visit with him has given him the greatest pleasure he has had in years. Polly, in awe of being presented with a $75,000 check for her half of the mine, refuses to sell, instead agreeing to become King's partner in the mine. The family is then invited to move into the King household on a permanent basis.