Elmore's Academy picture depicts the lovers Julian Peveril and Alice Bridgenorth, hero and heroine of Sir Walter Scott's novel Peveril of the Peak, published in 1823. The story is set during the period of the Popish Plot of 1678, when there was a revival of bitter political feeling. The lovers' parents, neighbouring landowners in Derbyshire, find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict, and the Peverils, father and son, are arrested as suspected Papists. Meanwhile Alice, entrusted by her father to her brother-in-law Edward Christian, is in danger, thanks to his political machinations, of becoming the King's mistress. Thanks to the intervention of Fenella, a half Moorish retainer, who has maintained the character of a deaf mute in order to be party to her employer's secrets, all is resolved.