From the age of eight, sixteen-year-old Charity Crosse has been living rough with her grandfather and begging on the streets. When her grandfather passes away, Charity is helped by a kindly doctor who introduces her to bookseller, Jethro Dawkins. He takes Charity in to help in his bookshop and keep house in their one room behind the shop. Charity sleeps under the counter and is not well treated, but Jethro instills in her the love of books that began when her grandmother taught her to read. And she starts to hope of a better future for herself.