Raphael Olbromski, adventurous son of an aristocratic Polish landowner. As a boy, he is thrown out of school for an escapade and then is cast out of the family by his strict father for bringing disgrace upon his name. Befriended by a nobleman, Raphael settles down and spends some time in school. After working four years as a laborer on his father’s land, he serves for a time as secretary to his benefactor, Prince Gintult. Following a tragic escapade with the girl he loves, Raphael joins the forces of Napoleon and fights bravely with the French armies.
Prince Gintult, a Polish nobleman who befriends Raphael. He treats the young man almost as a member of his family, pays for the youth’s education, and makes him his private secretary. Raphael later saves the prince’s life in battle.
Elizabeth, the prince’s sister. A haughty young woman, she strikes Raphael with her riding crop when he kisses her after rescuing her from a runaway horse. Later, she helps him escape from Austrian-held Poland to join the French forces led by Napoleon.
Helen, a beautiful young woman who loves Raphael and is loved by him for many years. Meeting after years of separation, she and Raphael flee to the country, but the lovers are set upon by bandits, who bind Raphael and rape Helen. To escape her tormentors, Helen jumps off a cliff and is killed.
Christopher Cedro, a longtime friend of Raphael. The two are schoolmates and later serve together under Napoleon. Like Raphael, Christopher is an adventurous boy and, later, a brave soldier.
Nardzevski, Raphael’s uncle, a landowner who fiercely adheres to the old ways and mistreats his peasants as they were mistreated in feudal times. He will not acknowledge the Austrian occupation of Poland and refuses to pay the taxes levied by Austria.
Casper, a huntsman who is Nardzevski’s only loyal friend.
Peter Olbromski, Raphael’s older brother. He, too, is cast out of the family by the boys’ stern father. He befriends Raphael until his untimely death.