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  • Nat Duncan and Harry Kellogg are college mates. Nat is the scion of a supposed rich family, while Harry has nothing but the expenses of an education. While Harry is in his diggings hard at work to make good in his college course, we find Nat with riotous companions of both sexes, finding two automobiles insufficient to carry the large party he is entertaining, and resulting in his arrest for stealing a trolley car and telephoning to his pal to find bail for him. However, with sufficient pride not to suffer the odium of a plucking at exams, Nat manages to secure a degree, while Harry graduates with high honors, and begins a business career in the mercantile firm of Bartlett and Co. Nat's father dies when it is discovered that the estate is bankrupt. Harry secures for him a berth as commercial traveler with Bartlett and Co., and after a turn at expensive living, his career as a drummer is closed when he sends home an account, with expenses set at $361.20 and sales $97.50. He tries many means of livelihood, all unsuccessful. One night his old friend, Harry, rescues him from a park bench and takes him home to his own apartment. Nat, driven almost to desperation by his continued failures, is willing to grasp at any straw that will keep his head above water, and with the characteristic remark, "God help the future Mrs. Duncan," he signs a contract with Harry. This contract specifies, that he is to renounce forever, liquor and tobacco, that he must go regularly to church, that he must not swear or use slang, and that he must secure some position in the chosen village of Redville, which will afford the opportunity of meeting the heiress he is to win. The contract is religiously kept, and Nat soon causes real excitement in the town of Redville, but his abstemious habits his studious nights, and his close attention to his religious duties are noted. But the position he must secure so as to repay Harry the five hundred dollars loaned him for working capital does not materialize and he finally applies for employment to an old druggist and inventor named Samuel Graham. Graham, in his eagerness to create fame and fortune for himself out of his inventions, has left his drug business fall into decay, and his only daughter, Betty, has grown up as the household drudge. Naturally, the old man cannot afford to pay a clerk; Nat offers to work for nothing if Graham will teach him the business. This proposition is accepted and immediately Nat developed an adaptability he had never dreamed of before. With some of his money he pays long-standing accounts against Graham which restores his credit. Lockwood, the village banker, whose daughter Nat has chosen to be the bride of his agreement forecloses a mortgage against Graham, and Nat pays it. A party is to be given in honor of the arrival of so desirable a young man in the village. Betty has no dress to wear, and with his remaining $32.80, Nat buys that. Immediately the old prestige of the store is revived, it is filled with customers, and the old man now has ample time to work at his patents. A machine for manufacturing illuminating gas from crude oil attracts the attention of a young promoter named Burnham, who makes the inventor an offer of $500 for it, but Nat refuses to permit him to accept it. At the party given by the Lockwoods, Nat becomes engaged to Josie, the banker's daughter, and then Betty discovers for the first time that she loves Nat herself. A rival to Nat's affections is Roland Barnett a clerk in the Lockwood Bank, and he believing that the interloper must have an unsavory record, takes measures to unearth it. Nat has been very earnest in his attentions to business, and has devoted much time to the study of chemistry. When the work of both inventors demand more room, the old living quarters above the store are turned into laboratories, and a new home is secured more befitting the altered circumstances of the Grahams. Nat's invention is a death-dealing appliance which he calls an aero-grenade. Betty is unhappy in the new home for uneducated as she is she knows that she can never grace it. Nat has not the money to pay for Betty's education, but she has a rich uncle. Colonel Bohun in the village who, when Betty's mother died, was denied privilege of adopting her and has bitterly resented what he considered a slight. Nat's first meeting with the Colonel is not successful, but he finally wins over the old man and Betty is sent to school at his expense. The metamorphosis in the girl under the influences of education and young women of refinement is almost magical, and when she comes home for Thanksgiving holidays she creates a stir in Nat's soul which makes him forget everything. At this juncture Harry receives a letter setting forth the state of things, and he at once takes a train for Redville. Now Nat is unhappier than ever, for Harry refuses to release him from his singular agreement, and what is harder to bear, he takes a strong fancy to Betty himself. Meanwhile, Roland's private detective sends an old newspaper containing an account of the absconding of a defaulter, and expressing the opinion that no doubt Nat must be the culprit. Before he can make use of his discovery, however, a great calamity comes to the quiet sleepy Redville. While Nat is demonstrating his aero-grenade to some capitalists who have made an offer for that and the gas machine, it explodes setting the laboratory on fire. Graham, Harry and the capitalists escape from the burning room, but in trying to extinguish the flames meant to be unquenchable, Nat is hopelessly imprisoned in the laboratory, surrounded by flames. But the invention of old Graham proves to be a life saver in its destruction, for when the fire reaches the gas tank it explodes, blowing out the front of the building and Betty herself drags him insensible through the aperture, when men dared not venture near it. Roland goes to the Lockwoods with his evidence against Nat. It has the effect intended, for when Nat is faced by it, he refuses either to affirm or deny it, the engagement with Josie is terminated and he finds that Betty has loved him all along.


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