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In 18th-century England, 14-year-old John Claydon assists "Doc" Claydon, a quack whom John assumes is his father, to sell Ma Miggs' herbal medicines to fairground patrons. John is abducted by his evil uncle Sir Thomas Renton, and discovers that he has inherited a title which Renton is trying to claim for himself. John's friend Jasper helps him escape. Renton's bullies, after starting a fire in which "Doc" dies, brawl with the fairground folk, led by Valdar, the strongman. Although John is brought to trial, he is vindicated when Sarah Wilmott, a fairground peddler, and the parish records prove his identity, thus enabling him to claim his title.