Isadora tries to change Calhoun, who is trying to get away from debtors, by paying off his debts to Papa Zeringue, a gangster-like tough guy who controlled most of the city. In exchange for the debts paid, Calhoun is forced to marry Isadora. Calhoun, who was extremely scared of Papa, left his debtors and Isadora, not wanting to change his bad habits, and boards The Republic and sets for Africa. Little did he know the horrors he would encounter on that ship?
Calhoun meets a very drunk Josiah Squibb, in a bar, and steals his boarding papers to enter the ship, the Republic. Calhoun gets caught, however, and is brought before Captain Falcon. Falcon is a dwarf-like, monstrous man who does not like Negroes. Calhoun is the only black shipmate aboard the Republic, yet Falcon decides to keep him on board.
Calhoun rummages through the Captains' cabin, stealing trinkets, and discovers that Falcon is actually a very lonely man obsessed with survival and perfection. After getting caught, Falcon seems willing to forgive Calhoun, as long as Calhoun agrees to be a spy for him. Peter Cringle, the first mate, warns Calhoun to stay away from the "mad" Captain, and asks him to take sides with his shipmates. Calhoun keeps his allegiance to both sides, without anyone finding out.
The Republic travels to Africa, where Falcon buys 40 Allmuseri tribesmen, as well as a "secretive" creature that he thinks will bring him a fortune in Europe. A special crate is built for this animal. The slaves are crammed in un-humanlike conditions in the bowels of the ship. Calhoun has thoughts and hatred for Falcon, ashamed at taking part, while seeing himself in the slaves, as no other shipmate could.
The Allmuseri were simple people; they seldom fought, had high regard for another life, and would never steal or murder. One of the slaves, Ngonyama, was given jobs, and received better food and living conditions. Calhoun and Ngonyama became friendly, each learning the other's language...
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