A tense story of the last days of the slave trade is convincing as it recounts the adventures of young Joshua Small, a founding brought up on Cape Cod, who is persuaded by Captain Balthasar Baptist to sail aboard the Caliban as first mate. Joshua is 18 at the time and tempted because of his wish to support Mrs. Small, whose husband had found Joshua on one of his voyages, though he knows at heart that the slave trade is wrong. Nevertheless he goes, and there is one brutality after another as the Caliban makes its way to West Africa and slaves are brought aboard through Elsibar, an educated Negro who has made himself a Napoleon among his people. But Elsibar now earns the enmity of Capt. Baptist. Animosities mushroom and there is a mutiny on the voyage to Havana in which Joshua and Elsibar are victorious. Because Elsibar's terms are that they go unbound to the market place, the Negroes cannot return, to that small degree in charge of their own destiny. And Joshua through the mutiny and his development as a leader has a future on honest ships open for him.