Dopo la morte della madre, il patrigno costringe David a lasciare casa sua per trasferirsi a Londra, dove egli possiede una azienda di imbottigliamento di vini “Murdestones and Grinby’ s wine". Il povero bambino inizia un’infelice vita, controllando tutto il giorno bottiglie e tappi.
"I know that a great many empty bottles were one of the consequences of this traffic, and that certain men and boys were employed to examine them against the light, and reject those that were flawed, and to rinse and wash them. When the empty bottles ran short, there were labels to be pasted on full ones, or corks to be fitted to them, or seals to be put upon the corks, or finished bottles to be packed in casks. All this work was my work, and of the boys employed upon it I was one."