• Rear Admiral Lord Horatio Hornblower is the commander-in-chief of His Britannic Majesty's ships and vessels in the West Indies.
• As the novel opens, Hornblower is paying an official courtesy visit to New Orleans.
• Hornblower commands three frigates and fourteen sloops and schooners, but presently his flagship is the Crab.
• Aboard ship, Hornblower entertains His Britannic Majesty's Consul-General, Mr. Cloudesley Sharpe.
• The men discuss the slave trade and the problematic letters of marque being issued by various revolutionary South American governments.
• Sharpe points out the Daring, originally built as a privateer and is large, very fast and well armed.
• Daring has been hired by Cambronne, a French soldier of past renown and a devoted Bonapartist.
• Cambronne's ostensibly plans to transport French soldiers from a failed colonization attempt in Texas back to France.
• Hornblower suspects something else and determines to keep a close eye upon Cambronne.
• Hornblower learns Daring...
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