Cecile and her friend, an Indian named Lesharo, break societal conventions in the small white settlement they live in by falling in love and choosing to live a life free of constrictions and discrimination. Cecile Chesne is a young French-Canadian girl who feels restricted by the societal pressures of the world she lives in. One day, Cecile witnesses a "pani" (a native Indian slave) be branded. She is horrified that people commit such brutality on other people. The scene continues to disturb her for the rest of the day. Cecile's father is a “coureur de bois” (a woodsman trader) that has somewhat taken up a position as a merchant in Quebec circa 1700s. One day, Cecile overhears her father talking to a man named Antoine. Antoine works for the Company of the Colony of Canada, and he is interested in finding new opportunities for fur trading with the Indians. The man seems to be trying to convince her father to work for him as a hunter in a new settlement he is trying to establish and he wants them to accompany him back to Fort Detroit where the company is based.
One day, Cecile sees an Indian slave being mistreated and realizes that its the same slave that was brutally branded. She purchases him and finds out his name is Lesharo. Cecile tells Lesharo he is free but he doesn't leave her. When Cecile brings Lesharo home, her father is very angry because he doesn't believe in slavery. Lesharo insists on staying with them, however, to help them with chores in order to show his gratitude to Cecile for freeing him. Lesharo tells them he is of the Pawnee tribe, the People of the Wolf and after he has worked for Cecile and her father, he plans on returning home. When Lesharo finds out that Cecile and her father are going to make a dangerous trek through the Canadian wilderness to get to Fort Detroit, he offers to help them.
As they journey, they pass great sights like the Niagara Falls. They are stalked by a lone wolf, that Lesharo insists is not threatening but rather a blessing from his people. While journeying, Lesharo saves Cecile from the venomous bite of a rattlesnake, putting Cecile and her father in his debt. They are also caught in a storm which forces them to take refuge with one of Lesharo's friends – a white man named Pierre who has married an Indian woman named Marguerite. The group stay with Pierre and Marguerite and become friends. Pierre has a home in Fort Detroit and offers to let Cecile and her father live there. Her father will be away from the fort on long expeditions, so Lesharo offers to continue to stay with her as protection.
When Cecile, her father and Lesharo arrive at Fort Detroit, Antoine refuses to let Lesharo or any native enter the settlement. Cecile is angered that Lesharo is humiliated is such a way and insists that Lesharo stay with her. In the end, Antoine makes a concession. Cecile gets a job as a tutor for the children of Antoine's wife, Marie-Therese. The children prove to be difficult and bratty and Cecile finds it a challenge to manage them without outright spanking them for their misbehavior. As the days pass, Cecile learns that the children misbehave so much because they want the attention of their father, who is often away or caught up in fort affairs. Cecile earns the respect of the children through her stories and her patience. Lesharo also helps her to manage the children.
One day, Marie-Therese invites Cecile to a fancy dinner. It turns out that one of the soldiers of the fort, Lieutenant Edmond Saint-Germain, has taken an interest in her and Marie-Therese was thinking of doing Cecile a favor by matching them up. Edmond proves to be quite charming and he confides with Cecile that at one point in his career, he had been taken as a slave himself by the Mohawk Indians. He eventually became part of the Mohawk community, even marrying a Mohawk woman. But his wife died in childbirth and he was brought back to Montreal after a Great Peace treaty between the Mohawks and the French were signed.
After that evening, Cecile confides with Lesharo that she hated the dinner and the “high-class” society. Not only did she feel stifled, she didn't agree with the views of the women at the fort, especially when it comes to Indian-white relations. Cecile makes the decision that she wants to live with nearby Miami people at their village in Wendat. This decision is controversial but Cecile is determined. After leaving the fort, Cecile and Lesharo feel freer. Strangely, one night, the very same lone wolf that had followed them at the start of their trip makes its appearance again.
Cecile falls into the regular daily life of Wendat Village. One day, Edmond comes to visit Cecile and asks her to help Marie-Therese take care of the boys. Marie-Therese is pregnant again and doesn't have the energy to run around after her children. Cecile agrees, but only if the boys come to live with her in the Wendat Village. Seeing no other choice, Marie-Therese complies. Cecile and Lesharo teach the boys how to swim and enjoy nature.
As the weeks pass, Cecile realizes that she is in love with Lesharo. Her father returns from his expedition and they explore the wilds to find their own place to build a house. They find a beautiful unclaimed island far enough from the fort that they will not be bothered by the activities there. Lesharo and Cecile's father build a longhouse and Cecile continues to teach Marie-Therese's two boys.
Lesharo is in love with Cecile as well, but he can't help but think she deserves to live a normal life in the fort and not be ostracized for loving him. He also thinks that his life and her life are too different and that they will not be happy together. In a bid to please Cecile, Lesharo decides to become a Catholici Cecile is dismayed that Lesharo would think that she required him to do that in order for them to be together. Meanwhile both Edmond and Lesharo vie for Cecile's attentions in their own ways.
As the months pass, food becomes scarce and there is tension in the trade between those at the fort and the surrounding Indian tribes. Apparently a great wolf has been spotted around the fort and to the Indians, this wolf symbolizes their people but to the men at the fort, it is something dangerous that must be hunted down. Lesharo thinks that the wolf has appeared also because he has betrayed his own people by converting to Catholicism. Against Cecile's wishes, Lesharo runs off into the night, in search of the wolf so that he can protect it from the hunters.
Lesharo finds the wolf just as the men wound it. Because he tries to stop the men from killing the wolf he is captured. Edmond tries to help free Lesharo but his superiors want to punish Lesharo with lashings. Before he can be punished, the fort is again attacked by Indians, who set fire to their buildings. Lesharo is trapped inside a building on fire and Cecile tries to save him. In the end, Edmond saves Lesharo and Lesharo owes him his life.
The story ends with Cecile finally understanding that she loves Lesharo as who he is and the two going back to their island to live away from the fort.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like that this story gives a glimpse into how life must have been like living in a settlement in the 1700s. I think Maxine Trottier did a good job portraying how different people dealt with their surroundings. Some of the wealthier women tried to pretend they were still in high society, preserving all the ridiculous customs of their homeland. Some malicious soldiers decided to take advantage of the lack of law enforcers to behave atrociously. And still others, took this as an opportunity to make genuine friendships with the locals.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Cecile, her father and Lesharo lived with Pierre and Marguerite. It was one of the few moments in the story where Cecile and Lesharo were free to be together in public and not feel judged.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that Cecile isn't afraid to break societal conventions. Everyone in the story tries to give her advice and convince her not to do something as crazy as fall in love with a native Indian, but in the end, Cecile doesn't care for their advice. Many times, the uppity white people looked down on Lesharo, even calling him a dog, and every single time Cecile would firmly object. It is wearying to have to face so much discrimination however I think in the end, the two will be happy living in the wilderness and building a private life together.