A group of farmers conspire to attack Sir Philip’s detestable wall under the cloak of darkness. When the Lord and his men arrived, a minor conflict is engaged involving tossed rocks and a hat fired off the head of a young man named Peter. When the police constable shows up asking for Peter, Peter takes the course of valor and heads for exile in order to protect himself and the rest of the farmers.
Upon arriving in Penrith, Peter meets up with Tom Burney, an old acquaintance of the family. From Tom, Peter learns his head on the table thanks to Sir Philip who has decided that no stone will remain unturned in his search. One of those stones turns out not to be a trunk in which Peter hides after being spotted by Sir Philip following the rather unwise decision to attend a theatrical performance. Having remained undetected in the trunk on the stage, Peter makes the decision to remain inside until the acting troupe has left the town and only then emerge and make a run for freedom away from Sir Philip.
Until the actors discover him, that is, and actually extend an invitation for him to join their noble troupe of thespians. After all, Peter is living at a time when even girl parts are played by boys. One night Peter is awakened by a boy who actually desires to be an actor and that boy has knife. When the head of the company, Mr. Desmond, agrees to post their letters back home, Peter discovers this young man—Kit—writes a letter addressed to Sir Philip.
Eventually, however, Kit and Peter become friends after Peter discovers that Kit is not all “he” seemed to be and even meet a young dramatist named William Shakespeare who is so impressed with the two that that he becomes something of a mentor. After performing in several plays, Peter gets a letter telling him that he should not hope to return home safely any time soon. Kit was scheduled to play Juliet, but decided to run away rather than risk Sir Philip discovering “his” identity. After all, Sidney’s real intentions were to marry Kit and steal her estate. Peter goes on instead, seemingly able to convince Sidney that he was not the rabble-rouser they were looking for.
During plans to put on a production of The Merry Wives of Windsor, a mysterious person known only as the Yellow Gentlemen steals a script from Peter. This eventually results in Peter and Kit working together with none other than Sir Joseph Williams of the staff of Queen Elizabeth along with assistance from Francis Bacon to solve the mystery needed to retrieve the manuscript.
A series of events follow involving Peter meeting up with his mother and discovering that Sir Philip is in league with the Yellow Gentlemen and that a plot is afoot to assassinate the Queen during a production of Shakespeare’s history play, Henry the Fifth. Before he can finally arrive to shoulder the burden of being the one person capable of shedding light on the conspiracy, Peter accidentally causes the death of a man as they struggle atop a cliff.
Nearly everywhere they turn for help, Kit and Peter discover people involved in the conspiracy. Soon enough, they become utterly convinced that nobody can be fully trusted. After a near-tragic run-in with Sir Philip’s men, the two meet up with again Mr. Desmond and his acting troupe and realize that they have no choice but to trust that they are not also part of the assassination plot. Acting as part of the Queen’s army, they assist in the arrest and detainment of Sir Sidney and his men. A few days later as they prepare for the production of Henry the Fifth, both Kit and Peter are delivered personally to the Queen and tell their story. She rewards Kit by agreeing to become her guardian. As for Peter, his reward is the destruction of Sir Philip’s detestable wall. Later, he and Kit will marry.