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After a hurricane strikes Jamaica in 1870, the Thorntons are convinced that their five children--Emily, John, Rachel, Edward, and Laura--must leave for England in order to receive a proper education. Along with two Creole children, they set sail, but their ship is captured by pirates, and the children are accidentally locked in the hold where they are playing. Juan Chavez, commander of the pirate ship, becomes fond of the children (particularly Emily), but the crew believes them to be an ill omen, so Chavez sails for Tampico, hoping to leave the children with Rosa, madam of a local whorehouse. Upon arriving, however, Rosa warns Chavez that the authorities are searching for him, and after John slips and falls to his death, the pirates leave with the remaining children. When Chavez refuses to attack a Dutch vessel because the children are on board, the pirates mutiny and capture the Dutch captain. The Dutchman approaches Emily with a knife, asking her to cut his bonds, and in panic she kills him. Later, the pirates are captured by a British ship and brought to trial. Under strenuous questioning, Emily blames Chavez and his men for the accidental death of her brother and for the murder of the Dutch captain, which she herself committed. The pirates are subsequently hanged, and the children enter school.