Peter Shamokin is a young man who comes of age amid neglect and sorrow in the high-risk environment of the frontier of the New World in the late eighteenth century. He drifts into a life as a lone hunter and trapper, sharing supplies with a succession of men who are as loveless and homeless as he is.
Despite the hard existence, Peter finds some solace and contentment. He possesses a fireglass, a gift given to him by a trader for a favor, which serves as both a magnifying glass and a fire starter. Through hardships and injuries, the fireglass serves as a good luck charm that carries him through to safety. Then, one day, Peter rescues a baby from among the remains of her murdered family in the wreckage of a flatboat. He names her Dinah and resolves to take care of her, and from that moment on, his life forever changes. Although history is being made in the Ohio Valley, Peter manages to slip unscathed through its pages—until those events touch Dinah.
In this novel, a hunter living in the Ohio Valley in the 1700s has two treasures that give his life purpose: the fireglass and the baby he rescues and raises as his own.