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From the porch of his general store in the small New England town of Coldriver, Scattergood Baines preaches homilies and counsels his neighbors. While walking the streets of Coldriver one day, Scattergood notices a strange odor emanating from Urban Downs's garage. Urban, a young chemist, explains to Scattergood that he is trying to develop a color television, but that his efforts are opposed by Homer Savage, the pharmacist father of Urban's girl friend Ruth, who wants his daughter's suitor to be a druggist like himself. After leaving Urban's laboratory, Scattergood comes to the aid of little Jimmy Jordan and his scruffy dog Emperor when the good citizens of Coldriver try to take the barking dog away from the boy. Scattergood offers Jimmy, a proud little boy who the storekeeper suspects is a runaway, food and shelter in exchange for working odd jobs. Scattergood slowly wins the boy's confidence, and one day Jimmy confides that his father killed a man while protecting him from an attack by two strangers. For his crime, Jimmy's father was sentenced to prison and Jimmy and his dog were sent to a farm school. When Jimmy learned that his father had escaped from prison, he and his dog ran away to look for him. After listening to the boy's sad story, Scattergood promises to help Jimmy find his father. Scattergood then comes to Urban's aid when the City Council orders his lab closed because of its noxious smells. Offering Jimmy the use of an empty shed at his lumber camp, Scattergood drives the chemist to the camp. From a distance Emperor recognzies Ben Mott, a new employee at the camp, and Scattergood begins to suspect that Mott is Jimmy's missing father. At the Baines's house that evening, Savage tells Scattergood that he is in danger of losing his drugstore because of a $5,000 bank note that he signed for his brother. When the druggist asks Scattergood for a loan, the storekeeper announces that he is leaving town on a business trip and that he will render a decision upon his return. The next day, Jimmy drives Ruth to visit Urban at his lab. As Ruth informs Urban that she must break off their relationship because of her father's disapproval, Jimmy and Emperor race over the piles of lumber, and the dog spies Mott, who hides in an abandoned shed. As Emperor scratches at the door of the shed, Ruth comes to fetch Jimmy and they leave the camp. While Scattergood is out of town, Pliny Pickett, a conductor on the Coldriver railroad, inadvertently tells Martin, a deputy from the state farm who has come to Coldriver in search of Jimmy, about the boy. When Martin presents himself at the Baines's house and demands the return of the boy, Jimmy runs out of the house and sees his father walking down the street. The boy runs after his father, but their reunion is interrupted by Martin. Interceding on the boy's behalf, Pliny convinces Martin to speak to Scattergood, who has just returned to town. At the Baines's general store, Scattergood tells Jimmy and his father that the governor has investigated Mott's case and has awarded him a pardon, ruling that the killing was committed in self- defense. Scattergood then offers Mott a job and a small house, and father and son are reunited at last. Soon after, Urban, Ruth and Savage arrive at the store, and Scattergood introduces them to Withers, who has come to offer Urban $10,000 for a compound that makes freckles vanish, which Scattergood discovered in the chemist's lab. When Urban takes the money and offers Savage $5,000 for a half interest in the drugstore, the druggist finally accepts the chemist as his future son-in-law. With his good deeds done, Scattergood takes a seat on the porch of his general store.