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Into the wilderness, p.1
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       Into the Wilderness, p.1

           Sara Donati
Into the Wilderness

  More praise for Sara Donati’s


  “My favorite kind of book is the sort you live in, rather than read. Into the Wilderness is one of those rare stories that let you breathe the air of another time, and leave your footprints on the snow of a wild, strange place. I can think of no better adventure than to explore the wilderness in the company of such engaging and independent lovers as Elizabeth and her Nathaniel.”

  —Diana Gabaldon

  “The author builds a powerful adventure story, animating everyone—German villagers, slaves and Scottish trappers alike—in a gorgeous, vividly described American landscape. The erotic passages aren’t bad, either.”


  “Donati’s captivating saga is much like the books in Diana Gabaldon’s bestselling Outlander series, and it is definitely the romance of the year when it comes to transcending genre boundaries and appealing to readers who love lush historical epics or thrilling backwoods adventure.”


  “A lushly written first novel … Donati, a skillful storyteller, easily weaves historical fact with romantic ambience to create a dense, complex design…. Exemplary historical fiction, boasting a heroine with a real and tangible presence.” —Kirkus Reviews

  “Remarkable … A vibrant tapestry … Sara Donati is a skilled storyteller who weaves historical facts into a grand adventure of love, mystery and intrigue. She takes us to an unfamiliar place and allows us to breathe the air of another time. This is exemplary historical fiction…. From page one, the action is nonstop. The more you read, the better it gets. No doubt we can look forward to a sequel.” —Tulsa World

  “An elegant, eloquent word journey … The author has [a] gift for capturing the history and the lives of the people of that time and place.”

  —Tampa Tribune

  “Epic in scope, emotionally intense, Into the Wilderness … is an enrapturing, grand adventure.” —BookPage

  “Memorable…. Draws the reader into the story from page one … A powerfully good read.” —Toronto Sun

  “A splendid read … Wonderful reading, suited for a cold winter’s night.”

  —Rocky Mountain News

  “Better buy some midnight oil, for this hugely satisfying novel is a page-turner.” —Orlando Sentinel

  Praise for QUEEN OF SWORDS

  “Fans of epic historical adventures will be captivated by the exotic setting and intriguing story line.” —Publishers Weekly

  “It’s both a smoothly written, engrossing adventure about an early American family and a vivid depiction of the little-explored War of 1812, yet it’s more than that…. Avid historical fiction and romance readers will devour it.”


  “Donati [has the] ability to bring her remarkable characters, and the history that surrounds them, to life in a way that makes readers truly care. You’ll enjoy immersing yourself in their …world and glory in their triumph over tragedy.” —Romantic Times

  “Donati’s chief strengths go beyond the intricate social canvas of her plotting to the strong, decisive characters who are the heart of her narrative.”

  —Seattle Times


  “[An] entertaining novel held together by the kind of family loyalties that defy cruelty, war and even fate itself.” —Publishers Weekly

  “There’s a lot to enjoy here. Donati keeps the plot moving at a terrific pace…. Her characters compel the reader’s attention…. Donati’s strong women characters are the heart of her books.” —Seattle Times

  “Consuming … Fire Along the Sky … centers on Hannah’s healing and the ways that women come to grips with the tragedies and triumphs of life, a universal theme that will appeal to 21st-century readers.”

  —Romantic Times

  “Readers will enjoy … Donati’s mix of historical fiction and romance.”



  “As good as it gets … Donati writes eloquently about frontier life.”

  —Tampa Tribune

  “If you enjoy historical romances like Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, you’ll love this.” —Daily American

  “A sweeping, highly enjoyable historical adventure—love story.”



  “The likable protagonists, a multitude of amusing secondary characters and exciting escapades make this a compelling read.” —Publishers Weekly

  “Donati’s skillfully told and captivating romantic historical saga brings a tumultuous era and dashing characters to life in what promises to be a very popular and rewarding series.” —Booklist

  “Sara Donati writes a story of epic proportions, akin to those wonderful wilderness classics by James Fenimore Cooper, but with the modern twist of a Diana Gabaldon.” —Romantic Times

  Also by Sara Donati





  For Emmy,

  and (as always)

  for Bill and Elisabeth

  Author’s Notes and Acknowledgments

  In the past few years I have learned that writers of historical fiction must hang together or go aground. Without the support, advice, insight, finger-wagging, ranting, and the tons of factual information others have shared with me, this book would not exist in a form worthy of consideration. In particular, I am thankful to:

  J. F. Cooper for inspiration, and S. Clemens, for perspective;

  Diana Gabaldon for constant and consistent encouragement, for contacts of enormous value, for her generosity in matters small and large, and for long discussions about this strange and compelling undertaking of writing historical fiction;

  Kaera Hallahan for reading the entire manuscript at a difficult juncture, for providing priceless commentary and badly needed, no-nonsense encouragement, for giving me the skinny on horses, and for bookmarks that tell tales;

  Michelle LaFrance for help with things historical and Gaelic, for finally falling in love with Nathaniel, and for her companionship and friendship along the way;

  Doctors Jim and Janet Gilsdorf for medical details—Janet on infectious disease; Jim on the nature and treatment of wounds. Jim in particular for invaluable technical and historical detail on hunting and trapping and canoeing in the bush;

  Marty Calvert for listening, as she always does, with skill, and for putting her finger on holes with gentle insistence; Margaret Nesse, for careful readings and entertaining discussions;

  The writers who grace the Research and Craft section of the CompuServe Writers’ Forum, for sharing their experience and expertise in a wide variety of subjects, from the nature of black-fly bites, rifle slings, and left hooks to eighteenth-century terms for hard candy and pregnancy. I am indebted to Mac Beckett, Merrill Cornish, Susie Crandall, Hall Elliott, Rob Frank, Karl Hagen, Walter Hawn, Ed Huntress, Janet Kaufmann, Janet Kieffer, Rosina Lippi-Green, Susan Martin, Janet McConnaughey, Don H. Meredith, Susan Lynn Peterson, Bonnee Pierson, Michelle Powell, Barbara Schnell, Beth Shope, Elise Skidmore, Phyllis Tarbell, Arnold Wagner, and Karen S. White for their time, interest, and generosity. In particular, I am thankful to Dr. Ellen Mandell for providing a wealth of material on eighteenth-century medical practices, and for many encouraging words and useful discussions. In the Collectibles Forum, Michael Crowder, Chuck Huber, and Neil Rothschild were helpful with details on late-eighteenth-century currency and coins;

  David Karraker for telling me that I could write all those years ago, and for his faith in me regardless of such trivial matters as differences in taste. If I could have fit his Ben and Janie into this tale, I wou
ld have done it, just to see the look on his face;

  My agent, Jill Grinberg, for her enthusiasm, energy, endless hard work, and for those uplifting answering-machine messages;

  At Bantam, Nita Taublib and Wendy McCurdy for loving this story and treating it so well;

  Wendy Fisher House for careful listening; Pat Rosenmeyer for enthusiastic reading; Moni Dressler for feeding me chocolate and sympathy; Scott Spector for taking me to the movies;

  My family for their patience and faith in me; Bill for his support in the face of crises of all kinds; Elisabeth, for her first breath and for every one she has ever taken since and for the billions yet to come. I thank her especially for not expecting me to mend her socks;

  Now there’s only Emmy. Emmy Liston provided calm when I needed it, enthusiasm when I was down, realism when I was off the ground, mysticism when I was too firmly anchored, faith in me at times I could spare myself not one shred. She gave me something I was missing in a greater writing community with an aesthetic that made me claustrophobic: permission to write this story. She is a writer’s writer, and she is my friend, and this one is for her.

  Major Characters


  The Middletons

  Judge Alfred Middleton, landowner

  Elizabeth, his daughter

  Julian, his son

  Curiosity Freeman, a freed slave, his housekeeper

  Galileo Freeman, a freed slave, the manager of his farm and holdings, and Curiosity’s husband

  Daisy, Polly, and Almanzo Freeman, their grown children, in Judge Middleton’s employ

  The Bonners

  Dan’l Bonner (known also as Hawkeye), a hunter and trapper

  Chingachgook (known also as Great-Snake or Indian John), his adoptive father, a sachem of the Mahican people

  Cora Bonner, Dan’l’s wife, a native of Scotland (deceased)

  Nathaniel Bonner (also known as Wolf-Running-Fast or Between-Two-Lives), their son, a hunter and trapper

  Hannah (also known as Squirrel or Used-to-Be-Two), Nathaniel’s daughter

  Sarah (also known as Sings-from-Books), Nathaniel’s wife (deceased)

  The Kahnyen’kehàka (Mohawk)

  Falling-Day, of the Wolf clan, Nathaniel’s mother-in-law

  Many-Doves (also known as Abigail), her daughter

  Otter (also known as Benjamin), her son

  Runs-from-Bears, of the Turtle clan


  Richard Todd, doctor and landowner

  The Reverend Josiah Witherspoon, a widower

  Katherine (Kitty) Witherspoon, his daughter

  Anna Hauptmann, widow, owner and proprieter of the trading post, and her children, Ephraim and Henrietta

  Axel Metzler, Anna’s father, a widower and proprietor of the tavern

  Billy Kirby, trapper, carpenter, lumberjack

  Liam Kirby, Billy’s young brother

  Jed McGarrity, his wife, Nancy, and sons, Ian and Rudy, and infant daughter, Jane

  Moses Southern, a trapper and hunter

  Martha Southern, his wife, and their children, Jemima, Adam, and Jeremiah

  Asa Pierce, blacksmith

  John Glove, owner of a mill. His wife, Agatha, his children, Hepzibah and Ruth; and his slaves, Benjamin and George

  Claude Dubonnet (known also as Dirty-Knife), his wife, Gertrude, and his children, Marie and Peter

  Charlie LeBlanc, farmer and trapper

  Isaac Cameron and his grown daughter, Hitty, and his sons, Benjamin, Obadiah, and Elijah

  Jack MacGregor, hunter and trapper

  Archie Cunningham and his wife, Goody, and their son Praise-Be and grown son Noah

  Jan Kaes, and Matilda, his wife, and their grown daughters, Molly and Becca

  Henry Smythe, his wife, Constance, and his daughter, Dolly


  Major General Philip Schuyler and his wife, Catherine; some of their children, Philip, Catherine, Cornelia, Rensselaer, and three of their grandchildren

  Anton Meerschaum, their overseer

  Sally Gerlach, their housekeeper

  The Reverend Lyddeker


  Judge van der Poole

  Simon Desjardins, French aristocrat and merchant

  Pierre Pharoux, French aristocrat and merchant

  Samuel Hench, a Quaker from Baltimore, Elizabeth Middleton’s second cousin

  Leendert Beekman, a Dutch merchant

  Baldwin O’Brien, a treasury agent


  Mr. Bennett, an attorney

  Mrs. Bennett, his wife


  Robbie MacLachlan, Scot, former soldier, a hunter and trapper

  Jack Lingo, hunter and trapper

  Dutch Ton, hunter and trapper

  Joe, an escaped slave


  Stone-Splitter, sachem

  He-Who-Dreams, faith keeper

  Sturdy-Heart, a maker of canoes

  Spotted-Fox, a warrior and fur runner

  Throws-Far (also known as Samuel Todd)

  Made-of-Bones, clan mother of the Wolf

  Splitting-Moon, granddaughter of Made-of-Bones

  Two-Suns, clan mother of the Turtle

  She-Remembers, clan mother of the Bear


  Sky-Wound-Round, sachem

  Bitter-Words, faith keeper


  Augusta Merriweather, Lady Crofton, Elizabeth Middleton’s aunt and Judge Middleton’s sister

  Cousin Amanda Spencer and her husband, William Spencer, Viscount Durbeyfield


  Discovering Paradise


  December, 1792

  Elizabeth Middleton, twenty-nine years old and unmarried, overly educated and excessively rational, knowing right from wrong and fancy from fact, woke in a nest of marten and fox pelts to the sight of an eagle circling overhead, and saw at once that it could not be far to Paradise. All around her was a world of intense green and severe white mountains, a wilderness of deep and bountiful silence, magnificent beyond all imagining. This was not England, that was clear enough. Nor was it the port at New-York where she had waited for months for the long trip north to begin, nor any of the settlements between New-York and Albany. Her journey was nearing its end.

  They had set out early from Johnstown, leaving the Mohawk Valley behind to follow the Sacandaga River north and then west. At midday they had eaten a cold lunch in the sleigh while the horses rested and watered, and now, finally, Elizabeth found herself within only a few miles of a new home, and a new life.

  Across from Elizabeth, her father and brother napped fitfully under piles of quilts, counterpanes, and pelts, their presence given away only by the shock of Julian’s unruly hair, and warm clouds of breath which hovered over it. The only other person awake was her father’s driver, Galileo, who perched on the box wrapped in many layers of patchwork mantle, pipe smoke trailing behind him in tendrils. Essentially alone, Elizabeth allowed herself to smile idiotically at her surroundings, struggling with her wraps until she could sit up straight. Then she drew in her breath both at the cold—she had never known such temperatures in England—and at the beauty of it. In the many years since her father had last visited England, he had often written of his holdings in upper New-York State, but his descriptions were limited to resources: so much timber, game, arable land, water. Although she had never said so, Elizabeth had thought it capricious and perhaps even imprudent of him to name the settlement Paradise. She saw now that she had been wrong.

  Trees of more kinds than she could recognize covered the rolling landscape and moved up the hills and over the higher peaks without pause. The farther they traveled, the fewer the clearings: the track snaked back and forth, narrowed, approached the river and fell back again. Through birches and white pines, Elizabeth caught a glimpse of the frozen river now and again, the ice reflecting the forest and sky i
n a revolving blur of blues and greens. The woods cleared unexpectedly, revealing a sharp bend in the river backed by bluffs. A waterfall erupted from the cliff face, half frozen in mid-arch, half still falling in a crystalline rainbow to a break in the ice. Beyond the sounds of the river, the creaking of the harness, the rhythmic beat of the horses’ hooves, and the rush of metal runners in the snow, the world was silent.

  Then, in the woods between the sleigh track and the river Elizabeth saw movement. In the deep shadows a large deer was stepping gracefully through the snow, moving down toward the water.

  At the same instant, there was a rustling in the underbrush just a few feet from the sleigh on its opposite side; Elizabeth turned, startled, to see a brace of hunting dogs emerge from a thicket, and close behind them, two men running quickly and silently. They were only in her line of sight for a moment, but Elizabeth took in the fact that they wore buckskins and fur, that they were both tall and straight, although one considerably older than the other, and that they bore long rifles held at a purposeful angle.

  The team became unsettled and Galileo spoke to them sharply as they broke stride and slowed; this roused Elizabeth’s father immediately.

  “Galileo!” he called out, half-asleep. “Galileo! What is the matter!” Judge Middleton rose as the sleigh drew to a halt.

  Elizabeth stood as well, stretching to follow the progress of the hunters, who had melted into the woods which lined the riverbed.

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