Though his parents are street evangelists, Clyde Griffiths (Phillips Holmes) grows up in squalor, but not without ambitions. He first works as a bellhop in Kansas City, but when he's the passenger in a car that kills a little girl, Clyde fears he'll be arrested and flees town. His wealthy uncle Samuel Griffiths (Frederick Burton) gets Clyde a job at a shirt factory in upstate New York where the young man soon becomes foreman of a department that employs only young women. He is attracted to Roberta Alden (Sylvia Sidney), known as "Bert," and though company policy forbids them to fraternize, they begin secretly dating on weekends. Eventually, Clyde seduces the smitten Bert, even though he has already become attracted to Sondra Finchley (Frances Dee), the daughter of a wealthy family. Clyde and Sondra fall in love, and she promises to marry him when she's of age, but by now, Bert has informed Clyde that she is pregnant. With vague thoughts of drowning her in mind, Clyde takes Bert on a vacation in the Adirondacks. While canoeing, he decides not to kill her, but to honorably marry her instead. He reveals to Bert what he'd planned, and in shock, she accidentally falls overboard. However, instead of rescuing her, Clyde swims to shore, and Bert drowns. Eventually, the police track him down and he is arrested, resulting in a trial that gains national attention.