Young Mikey Quinn, scavenging on the streets of Hull, is thrown into prison for stealing a rabbit from the butcher. His chief accuser, a well-to-do lawyer, has a daughter, Eleanor, whom he badly mistreats. When Mikey is released he finds that his mother has died and his brothers taken into the workhouse - determined to find a better life for his family, he walks all the way to London to seek his fortune.
There he finds that the grim realities of city life are even worse than they were in Hull, and comes under the evil patronage of the sinister Tully, first encountered when he was in prison. But he also meets Eleanor again, and between them they face the dangers of London and gradually make a new life for themselves. Together they have to face journeying back to Hull - the long walk home.