Suicide, fratricide, murder, sadism, a suspicion of bastardy--not the expected stuff of juvenile fiction, not the unwavering grip of an adult treatment, just a maudlin sequence of self-dramatizing pulp. Is Obadiah Samuel Douglass the son of Feste Tennent, the bounder whose flighty nature also provoked Eliza Wickhart's suicide? Would old Ezra Wickhart and his six sadistic sons really inflict such malicious tortures on the apprentice whose mother may have married (and been abandoned by) this same scoundrel? If Obadiah's mother, instead of being vague right through her Camille-like death, had told the boy the truth, he would know that the cameo of Feste which Ezra Wickhart throws at him is not his father. A constant runaway who always expects to return because he won't desert his mother, he rejects the passing stranger's offer, then follows through and eventually joins Feste after his mother's funeral. Expecting a youngster to be so clearheaded after subjection to gross tortures (chained to bed and workbench, target of every drunken boot in the house) is really stretching it without appropriate elasticity of character. In the midst of all this savagery, George Washington and the French and Indian wartime (1754) efforts seem tame; yet from pretentious chapter headings (Death Rides a Gray Donkey, Disparate Brotherhood) to Obad's return to a now childless, withered old man, it is insidiously beckoning with maybe three seconds of conceivable emotion.