Jessie Bollier is kidnapped, taken from his mother and sister, and left stranded aboard a slave ship, on its way to Africa to acquire a boatload of slave cargo. He has been taken in order to play the fife on the ship, to play the fife for the slaves, to entice them to dance, to keep the slaves fit while incarcerated on the ship.
This was a grueling tale to read. Jessie is in misery. His fellow members of the crew are in misery. The slaves are in misery. There can be no happy stories in this book and there can be no happy endings. But, along the way, Jessie meets a few people who show tiny sparks of humanity and give him hope.