Lizzie is an orphan living with her Aunt Annie, Uncle Perce and two boy cousins within a stone's throw of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Lizzie loves her aunt but is hated by her uncle. She makes friends with Geoff Gardiner, another orphan, and is teaching him to swim in the Scaldy when Clem Gilligan rescues the pair of them from drowning. Clem works on the canal boat, The Liverpool Rose, with Jake Pridmore and his wife, plying between the great cities of Leeds and Liverpool. Lizzie's situation at home starts to worsen and eventually she is forced to flee. Her first instinct is to make for the canal, but finding Clem is not so easy . . .