Out of the frying pan into the fire"" thinks Stephen two-thirds of the way through when he's roped in a crate and tossed into the hold of the pirate ship, but it might do for the disasters that dog him from the beginning. An orphan, he's on his way from Glasgow to Bristol to meet a friend of his late uncle's who will hopefully find him a place in the navy. Britain is warring with Napoleonic France, and, by a combination of brashness and bad luck, he becomes involved in the fall-out from an international smuggling operation: the variously menacing, murderous conspirators are undercutting each other for possession of a diamond necklace from the French crown jewels. In quick succession, Stephen is passenger On a ship stalked by pirates and in a stagecoach overtaken by some of the same crew; rescued by a highwayman who's the grandson of Dick Turpin; apprehended by revenue officers and a dastardly Squire; holed up in an old mill with Turpin; bound for France on the aforementioned pirate ship; captured and imprisoned in Saint-Malo; etc., etc. He arrives in Bristol a little late--but so is his uncle's friend. Larruping adventure, recounted by Stephen in a proper period style which makes it all the more incredible.