Samuel Hopkins Adams, who has written several earlier novels with an Erie Canal background, gives a brawling, turbulent portrait of the Canal's construction in the story of Chingo Smith. The lad was homeless and ambitious. He fell in with young thieves who robbed him. But Horner's Betsy, a maternal cinder wench, inspired him to try to get an education though schooling at that time was not compulsory. Chingo fared badly at the hands of the Overseers of the Poor, for at an auction of the poor he was assigned to clearance of the towpath. With the help of the Learned Tinker, to whom he becomes apprenticed, Chingo learns to read and write. And, in time, he throws off his shackles by inventing a wall bed to enable canal boats to offer sleeping accommodations. Though much of the period is presented gustily, the story often rambles. The effect is worked-over -- a little forced.