Lieutenant John Pearce is considering his future. Lacking funds, an occupation if he leaves naval service, or the evidence of perjury he once held against Captain Ralph Barclay, the brute who pressed he and his friends into the navy, his prospects are not promising. Ralph Barclay meanwhile has problems of his own. His wife Emily is refusing to live under the same roof as him and she has the means to get her own way: the perjury evidence Pearce believes lost at sea. Barclay's slippery clerk, Gherson, has as much at stake as his employer and is prepared to go to any lengths to silence Emily and Pearce. So when a smiling stranger offers Pearce and his companions the illegal yet profitable opportunity to fetch a contraband-laden ship from a French port, is all as it seems? Are Pearce and his Pelicans sailing into prosperity - or danger?