A Shoshone woman, Sacagawea, leads Lewis and Clark to the Pacific at the turn of the 19th century. On her back is a tiny infant. He is her son, Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, the youngest member of the Expedition--a child caught between two worlds who is later raised by Clark as his foster son.
When the teenaged Baptiste attracts the notice of the visiting Duke Paul, Prince of Württemberg, Clark approves of the duke's "experiment" to educate the boy at court. A gleeful Duke Paul has Baptiste trained as a concert pianist and exhibits him thoughout Europe as a "half gentleman-half animal."
Eventually Baptiste turns his back on the Old World and returns to the New, determined to find his true place there. He travels into the heart of the American wilderness, and into the depths of his mother's soul, on an epic quest for identity that brings sacrifice, loss, and the distant promise of redemption.
- hold your left hand ahead of you, fingers together, right hand against your chest.
Strike your left palm with the edge of your right.
Christmas Eve, 1805
Sleet pierced the air like volleys of arrows. Having already eaten their horses and with packs nearly slack, the party looked like Romani in their rags as they stumbled up the crooked mountain trail. The little one, strapped to his mother's back, nestled his head into the curve of her neck. Needles of ice stung his cheeks, and the salty tang of the yet-unseen ocean that his mother called Paakate tickled his nose.
But Baptiste was not to giggle or cry, his mother, Sacagawea, whispered. He was to keep silent, be invisible - a lucky, if forgettable, witness to the great expedition to the Pacific.
He squeezed his eyes shut to hold his tears. The ground began to shake with the drum of approaching hooves. Suddenly his mother stopped short, and Baptiste opened one eye to see Captain William Clark ...
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