Throughout the ages, small children have scratched out a living working at difficult and dangerous jobs. When she makes a speech acknowledging her promotion to the position of Judge of Orphans, lawyer Mary Rose Cabrini captures the attention of a mysterious child who begs her for help in pursuing the truth about the origins of his family. The boy's tale stretches back to gas-lit New York City and an era in which every child of the street had to fend for himself against starvation, filth, nosey do-gooders, other street children, cops, truant officers. Mary Rose discovers that the child has a secret legacy. But is she being tricked by the clever youngster into a trap of deceit, disgrace-and ultimately-death?

"Colorful characters lodge in the imagination."
Lou Allin

"There were only four windows on each floor of the tenement, no air-shafts, no ventilators. The air in the narrow unlighted stairwell smelled of dust, urine, tomato paste, animal dung, coal smoke and burning human flesh. It was no worse than the smell of horses in the street, of saliva baked onto the sidewalk, the smell of clothes and hair never washed, the smell of bad meat roasted outside all year long. The boy was used to the smells, but he didn't think he could ever get used to the cries that filled the whole dank building, the cries of screaming monkeys, and screaming children, too."