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Young Scattergood Baines is wandering the country, looking for a place to settle. He decides on Coldriver, a small New England town to which he is introduced by the boy Hipp. Although he has only forty dollars in his pocket, Scattergood shrewdly announces that he plans to open a general store. When the established merchants learn of his plans, they offer to buy him out for $750. After making sure that there is a loophole in the agreement, Scattergood signs the papers and with the money opens a hardware store. Twenty years later, Scattergood has become a leading citizen of Coldriver. Married and prosperous, he is a member of the schoolboard and has built a railroad that carries timber to the mill at a very low profit. Pliny Pickett runs the railroad, and Hipp, now grown to manhood, plays an essential part in the Baines's enterprises. As chairman of the schoolboard, Scattergood accepts the board's decision to hire the prim- looking Helen Parker as the new teacher. When he meets Helen at the station however, Scattergood is surprised to find that she is a real beauty. To placate the schoolboard, Scattergood asks Helen to wear glasses and comb her hair in an unflattering style. Soon after, James McKettrick, a fast-talking agent representing local mill owners John Keith and Harold Crane, offers to buy Scattergood's railroad. Realizing that the mill owners plan to boost the transportation fees of the railway, Scattergood asks for three days to consider their proposition. During that period, he arranges to have Johnny Bones, the town's young attorney, buy all the options on the surrounding timberland. Bones buys them in his own name, and consequently, the community is unaware that Scattergood is behind the venture. When Pliny inadvertently leaks the information, the townspeople think that Scattergood has betrayed them and that he has bought the options for his own private benefit. To pressure Scattergood, McKettrick announces that unless he sells the railroad, the mill owners plan to bore a tunnel through Hopper Mountain, thereby enabling the milling company to get their timber without patronizing the locals. Knowing that he owns options on all the land surrounding Coldriver, Scattergood agrees to sell the railroad. In the meantime, Helen's homeliness has made her a popular teacher, and romance has blossomed between her and Johnny. Her acceptance is soon marred by Clara Potts, the town gossip, who peeps through a window in Helen's cottage and discovers that not only is she beautiful, but is entertaining a gentleman visitor as well. After the schoolboard demands her resignation, Helen has an argument with Johnny over her visitor and decides to leave town. Soon after buying the railroad, Crane and Keith discover that Scattergood owns all the timberland, and hence they are powerless to get the timber to the mill. Scattergood then informs them that it would cost $2,000,000 to drill a tunnel through the mountain, thus making it impossible to buy wood in any other district except Coldriver. Having outsmarted the mill owners, Scattergood offers to buy back the railroad and to distribute the profits to the people of Coldriver. Before leaving town, Helen tells Scattergood the secret of her mysterious visitor: Prior to coming to Coldriver, Helen had been a vaudeville performer and the man visiting her came to ask her to rejoin the company. Upon learning the news, Johnny proposes to Helen and all ends happily.