When artist Fergus Vincent forsakes the slums of Lewin's Mead in Bristol he leaves behind him Becky, the street urchin whom he loved and married. As he sets sail on a warship bound for mutiny-torn India, Becky is left with the secret knowledge that she is carrying their child . . . But Becky has learned how to survive and she does not face the birth of her daughter, Lucy, alone. When a deadly cholera epidemic sweeps through Lewin's Mead and Becky is struck down she is cared for by Simon McAllister, a blind musician, and Lucy is taken to safety in Clifton by Fanny Tennant, the Ragged School teacher. Despite the dangers and squalor of her surroundings, once Becky has recovered she is determined to bring up her daughter in the slums, the only home she has ever known, never giving up the hope that one day Fergus will come back to find them.