Pablos's parents, mother-witch and the father-thief are arguing over whose livelihood is better. The father says that theft is not a simple craft but a fine art. Cherishing a noble dream, the boy opposes parents’ suggestions and, courtesy of his persistence, starts learning. At the school Pablos encounters Don Diego Coronel, the gentleman’s son. He loves his new friend and has fun teaching him various games. But the hero’s stay in school was short, as the following has happened.
The scrawny steed, Pablos rode on a carnival, stole a cabbage from the tray and promptly swallowed it. Traders started throwing in Pablos and his schoolmates trash, while students picked up stones and the fight began. Don Diego’s head was pierced, and his parents have resolved not to let him to school. Pablos’s parents were furious, blaming their careless son. He leaves father's house and becomes Don Diego’s servant. The boys start living in a boarding school. Due to Cabra’s greediness, children in the school starve. The only way out is stealing and Pablos proves to be good at it. After one of the students’ death from hunger, Don Diego's father sends them to the University of Alcalá.
Owing to cunning and resourcefulness, Pablos becomes famous, while his pious and honest and master is still living among the rogue-students. A lot happens to Pablos. One day he gave Don Diego the word to steal the sword from the night patrol. He implemented it in the following way: told the patrol about nonexistent murderers and robbers who are currently in the public house, he asks law enforcement officers to act according to his instructions. Pablos explains that the criminals are armed and, as soon as they see the swords, which only the guards have, they will shoot, so the patrol should leave the swords in the grass in a meadow near the house.
Naturally, to obtain weapons was easy. In Alcalá this Pablos’s prank was long wondered about, though it has been heard that he imposed a tribute to all the surrounding orchards and vineyards, and turned a market place into place unsafe for merchants as if it were a dense forest. All of these "exploits" courted him a fame of a clever villain. Moreover, many have sought to lure Pablos to their service, but he remained faithful to Don Diego. Yet fate had to separate them.
Don Pablos gets a letter from his uncle, the executioner, who reported the sad news. The father has been hanged for thefts, and the uncle performed the sentence. His mother also has been condemned by the Inquisition to 400 lethal lashes for witchcraft. Uncle asks Pablos to come for inheritance in the amount of 400 ducats, and advises him to think of the executioner profession, as with his knowledge of Latin and rhetoric, he will be unsurpassed in this art. Diego was sad to part. The next day, Pablos goes to Segovia to his uncle, and gets the money. Uncle leads silly talk, continually applying to the bottle, and nephew decides to escape from the house as soon as possible.
The next morning Pablos hires a donkey and begins a long-awaited trip to the capital, Madrid. On the road unexpected acquaintance happens. Don Toribio, a poor gentleman, who lost his father's property because of the fact that it has not been redeemed within the proper period, commits Pablos into the laws of the city life. Don Toribio is a member of the gang: deception is their whole life. So, at night, they gather on the streets mutton and bird bones, peel from the fruit, old wine bottles, and throw it all in their rooms. If in the morning somebody comes to visit, he immediately pronounced harvested phrase: "Sorry for the mess, your grace, there was a dinner party”. Hoodwinked visitor takes all this stuff for the remains of a dinner party and believes that it is a wealthy gentleman in front of him.
Also, there are a million ways to dine in someone else's house. Suppose, after talking with someone for two minutes, swindlers find out where the stranger lives, and go there as if on a visit, but certainly at lunchtime, and never refuse an invitation to join the meal. These young people cannot afford to fall in love unselfishly, and it happens only when necessary.
Pablos gets excited by this unusual way of existence and says Don Toribio of his decision to join their brotherhood. Upon arrival in Madrid Pablos lives with one of the friends of Don Toribib, who hires him as a servant. There is a paradoxical situation: firstly, the swindler feeds his master, and secondly, the swindler does not go away from the poor gentleman. This confirms the true kindness of Pablos and he makes us sympathize with him, although we understand that, in fact, there is nothing to admire. Pablos spends a month in the company of knights of easy money, learning all the tricks of their thieving. But once being caught on selling the stolen dresses, all the “rogue board" is sent to prison. But Pablos has an advantage, he is new to the company, therefore, giving the bribe comes to freedom.
Pablos settles in the hotel and starts to court after the master's daughter, and introduces himself as Senor Don Ramiro de Guzman. One day, Pablos, wrapped in a cloak and having changed the voice, he pretends to be Don Ramiro’s manager and asks the girl to tell the lord of his future large income. This case has completely struck the maiden and she agrees to Pablos’s night date. But when our hero climbed to the roof to enter through the window into the room, he slipped and flew down on the roof of a neighboring house with such force that broke all of the shingles. The noise woke up the entire house, servants, taking Pablos for a thief, have beaten him with sticks. Without paying for food and accommodation, he gets away from the hotel.
Now Don Pablos appears as Felipe Tristan and, relying on his initiative and continuing to pretend a rich man, tries to get acquainted with a noble lady. Soon the bride is found, but at Pablos’s trouble, her cousin is Don Diego Coronel, who recognizes in Don Felipe Tristan his former servant, and orders his servants to pay off a vile liar and cheater. As a result, Pablos’s faces is dissected by the sword, he is all wounded and groaning in pain. This unexpected violence knocked him out of the rut, and for some time Pablos was forced to stay inactivity. Then a poor man taught him the necessary plaintive tone and lamentations, and our hero is wandering the streets begging. Soon, however, his fate changed dramatically again. One of the greatest swindlers invites him to work together, opening his greatest secret in the highest art of begging. On the day they steal three or four children and then return them for rewarded. Having earned a considerable sum of money, Pablos leaves the capital and goes to Toledo, the city where he knows nobody, and nobody knows him.
In the inn he meets a troupe of traveling comedians, who also hold the way to Toledo. He joins them; he is a born actor and enthusiastically plays on a stage. Soon he becomes known and starts writing comedies himself, thinking about how to become a director of the troupe. But all his plans crash in an instant. The director goes to prison for not paying his debts, the troupe breaks up, and each goes his own way. His fellow actors offer him a job with other companies, but Pablos refuses as temporarily has no need of money, has lost interest in the work and just wants to have fun. For a while, he attends services at a convent and makes one of the nuns fall in love with him. Having robbed the naive girl Pablos disappears from Toledo.
Now his way lies to Seville. Here he soon masters the basics of card games and becomes an ace among other scams. Suddenly, in a city hotel Pablos meets one of his companions from Alcalá called Matorral, a professional killer. Once having got into a bloody battle with the night patrol, Pablos is forced to hide from justice. Pablos moves to the West India. But nothing good happens there with him as well.