Tracing the history of a great-grandfather, Ella Pipping comes upon the improbable adventures of Nils Gustaf Von Schultz, an early 19th century soldier of fortune with a penchant for lost causes and romantic fabrications. After military training in the Swedish Guard Nils rushed off to join the abortive Polish Rebellion of 1831 -- a favorite radical cause of the day. Following this debacle he became an exile in the France of Louis Phillipe, served in the French Foreign Legion, married a rich Scottish girl in Italy, and made a brief unsuccessful attempt at domesticity in Sweden. But gambling debts and wanderlust got the best of him and he soon bolted to the New World leaving a tearful wife and two infant daughters. No sooner had he arrived in America than the bug to fight oppression hit him again and he gathered a small band to liberate ""poor enslaved Canada"" from the British tyrant. Unfortunately, the Canadians did not appreciate invasion of their country by the valiant Yankee would-be liberators and Nils ended up on the gallows for his role in the Rebellion of Upper Canada in 1838. You may see Nils as a wild-eyed romantic fool but his descendant ardently believes in his flashing eyes and palpitating, freedom-loving heart and she credits him with a ""Byronic touch"" which these impetuous escapades hardly support. The narrative is considerably complicated by the hero's imaginative lies about his own shadowy origins and the author glues it all together from family letters, tears, and sticky sentiment.