The year is 1802 and the Bleamy family, three strong-willed Scots, are forced to leave their drought-besieged farm for London. Eleven-year-old Jeremy Bleamy soon loses his father to consumption and his mother to grief. Orphaned and now homeless and starving, he digs deep to find a strength he did not know he possessed.
Evicted by a vindictive landlord, Thedodime Crankberry, who throws Jeremy’s parents’ furniture and belongings out into the street, Jeremy retrieves what isn’t looted and established his new “home” under the family’s dinner table in a corner between two buildings.
All Jeremy has to make his way in the word is his intelligence and fighting spirit, the result of his fine upbringing by his loving parents. He manages to find a job of lighting the way for gentlemen at night on the dark London streets—a well-paying, but dangerous way to make a living. The London Mims gang expects a cut, as do the local Duke Street Boys. He stands defiant and impresses the gangs with his fearlessness.
Jeremy makes friends, but also enemies. Crankberry is still after him, as are the men who snatch orphans for slave labor in the textile mills. One night, on his way home, he defends Amy, the sister of the leader of the Duke Street Boys from an attack by the Mims gang. His heroism, in what would come to be called The Battle of Montague Close, elevated Jeremy’s reputation in the neighborhood. Where once he was looked upon with disgust as a vagrant orphan, he is now nodded at and waved to. But it makes him a target.
One night, he returns home to find his corner ablaze. Everything is lost. The orphan hunters are responsible and in a climactic standoff, Jeremy stands up to them. In the confrontation that ensues, Jeremy discovers he has real friends.