In the story Paul, abandoned as a baby is brought up in a workhouse. When he is old enough to earn his own living he is sent away and eventually arrives, dirty and ragged, at Friarswood where a brutal farmer employs and exploits him. However the villagers befriend him, and the acting clergyman, Mr. Cope, a deacon, prepares him for confirmation with the other boys. Later he rescues the 13 year old postman, Harold King from a thief, but becomes ill in consequence and is nursed by Harold’s mother. His intelligence and attainments are then recognized, and he is enabled to train as a school master, and in the last chapter of the book marries Ellen King, Harold’s sister.