An author’s note sets the period in which the events take place.
Thanks to the intervention of Oliver Twist, The Artful Dodger, Jack Dawkins, is saved from being transported to a penal colony, but he soon finds himself back on the wrong side of the law when he falls in with the Peninsular War veteran, turned smuggler, Abel Garnett. A sinister psychopath out of Abel’s past, a devastating flood and Napoleon’s escape from Elba, all serve to wreck their plan to recover a wagon load of smuggled goods and free some of Abel’s gang from the local jail. After escaping from a man-o’- war and eluding militia, they flee to France, leaving behind Abel’s wife, Yvonne, and his stepdaughter, Lysette, the first human being the Dodger has ever loved. Flashbacks reveal how Abel’s embittered character has been forged by his ordeals during the retreat to Corunna and throughout the Peninsular War, at the end of which he is badly wounded by the sadistic gambler, Captain Randall Swithin, when he finds him assaulting Lysette. The sadistic Swithin has already executed Abel’s roguish comrade, Johnny Rose, for stealing a chicken. Lysette’s widowed mother, Yvonne, saves Abel’s life and they eventually marry.
With Napoleon marching on Brussels, the two fugitives stumble across a plot to assassinate the Duke of Wellington. Having gambled away his fortune, Randall Swithin has been hired by wealthy Frenchmen to carry out the murder, but, after a race against time, Abel and Jack manage to save the duke's life. With Swithin dead, Abel and The Artful Dodger are granted a free pardon for their crimes and, re-united with Yvonne and Lysette, they take ship for a new life in America.
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