Garfield begins this with characteristic flamboyance and a lavish cascade of startling similes--as he vividly introduces the tough poverty of an 18th-century German town; the petty shopkeepers (petty in spirit, as well) who inhabit its Protestant ghetto; 14-year-old Hans Ruppert who dreams only of getting rich; and (with fanfare), the mysterious Captain von Stumpful, who arrives in town dressed all in black with a death's head on his skull and a little black notebook in which he keeps accounts of lives and deaths. The captain wins Hans' special regard when he spirits off an accidentally severed head that would have meant trouble for the Rupperts, and soon the ""black hussar"" is leading the whole Protestant community away from raiding Catholics. . . and on to his plot in America. But once in London, the captain, who has become a wise and able leader en route, discovers that his deed will not be honored--and so abandons the group. Thanks partly to Hans' efforts, the Germans do reach America after much hardship and some death, and Hans' new English love Geneva Brown goes along. Once there, disenchantment with the captain causes Hans to lose also his faith in God, which had seemed to dawn on the journey as part and parcel of his faith in the leader; but the book ends with a miracle of sorts and a jubilant Hans, his faith restored. After the flashing start Garfield settles down to the rigors of the journey, but the mysterious captain--seen variously by the company as God, devil, Grandfather Death, straw man, and impostor--continues to intrigue. And Garfield's juggling and balancing of the meanings of ""confidence"" is as virtuoso a performance as we've come to expect.