"I will assert that sailors are endowed with greater worth than any set of men in England." So muses Jane Austen as she stands in the buffeting wind of Southampton's quay beside her brother Frank on a raw February morning. Frank, a post captain in the Royal Navy, is without a ship to command, and his best prospect is the Stella Maris, a fast frigate captained by his old friend Tom Seagrave. "Lucky" Tom - so dubbed for his habit of besting enemy ships - is presently in disgrace, charged with violating the Articles of War. Tom's first lieutenant, Eustace Chessyre, has accused Seagrave of murder in the death of a French captain after the surrender of his ship. Though Lucky Tom denies the charge, his dagger was found in the dead man's chest. Now Seagrave faces court-martial and execution for a crime he swears he did not commit.