Before he's abducted, Jessie is a fairly normal thirteen-year-old. He's poor, so he dreams of being rich. He's curious about what he doesn't know. His abduction changes his life forever. Jessie is forced to grow up too soon when he's exposed to the realities and evils of slavery on a slave ship. He hates what he sees and especially hates that he must play his fife so the slaves will dance. Even though he escapes and returns to his mother and sister, Jessie learns that being rich isn't what life is all about since wealth is connected to slavery in some way. His experiences on the ship toughen him to be able to endure life as a prisoner of war during the Civil War. After the war, he lives an almost peaceful life except that he can't tolerate hearing music.