Orphan girl Meg Smith (name courtesy of the Institution of Hope and Mercy) has the good fortune--though it doesn't seem so at the time--to be turned over for raising to Miss Godfrey's Select Establishment for Young Ladies in Victorian London. There she acquires a ladylike accent and literacy, two qualities rare in the slums of London where she spends her youth; together with brains, a pretty face, and enormous determination, these qualities enable her to save not only herself but her two best buddies--fellow foundling Jamie and chimney sweep Angel--from a life of crime. Not to mention marrying the man she loves, Laird Charlie, whom she meets while still a child and who pops up every now and then to reassure her that somewhere humanity exists in spite of everything. ""Everything"" includes working for a fence, being beaten and starved, street begging, renting beds by the night in the foul basement of Busted Billie, and hanging out with the costermongers of Tottenham Court Road--all of which is pie compared with falling into the hands of Geordie McKinnon, who plays Fagin to the down-and-out children, using them as thieves until they are caught, then leaving them to hang. It is years before Angel and Meg can escape from Geordie, and it seems that Jamie's life is the price of their freedom; his death sends Meg running, at any cost, to find Charlie--whom she finds locked up in Tolbooth prison in Edinburgh, from which she and Angel must help him out. And so they do, in a rattling good adventure story, more in the tradition of Robert Louis Stevenson than your garden variety costume drama.