Ben Tanner was a big, strong boy quite capable in dealing with the physical hardships of backwoods Vermont, but the person he was jealous of was sullen, scrawny Plin Edwards. Plin was the boy who assisted Luther Chickering as he traveled about New England trading goods at the larger settlements. Ben got his chance at the much-desired job when Plin broke a leg. On the trip to Portland, Ben, although conscientious, frequently errs or seems to. By the end of the trip he's proved himself though--by uncovering a plot to counterfeit money and to discredit outspoken opponents of the Federalists. As a by-product Plin is given work he prefers and Ben is able to continue with Luther. The descriptions of the life and work of a trader and of the businesses carried on in a busy shipping town stage a good introduction to the period. It's a route that's been taken many times before, but for readers who want to try it again, it's easy to sympathize with Ben.