Forced to surrender his ship, the Sutherland, after a long and bloody battle, Captain Horatio Hornblower now bides his time as a prisoner in a French fortress. Within days he and his first lieutenant, Bush, who was crippled in the last fight, will be taken to Paris to be tried on trumped-up charges of violating the laws of war, and most probably executed as an attempt by Napoleon to rally the war-weary empire behind him. Even if Hornblower escapes this fate, and somehow finds his way back to England, he will have to face court-martial there for his surrender of a British ship. As fears for his life and his reputation compete in Hornblower's mind with worries about his pregnant wife and possibly widowed Barbara Wellesly, the indomitable captain impatiently awaits the chance to make his next move.
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