Part 2, Chapters 10–14
Last Updated on February 20, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1215
Hiram is contained in the jail. Sophia is parted from him, and Hiram concentrates his thoughts on Georgie’s treachery.
Each morning, Hiram is washed and made to stand naked in front of the flesh traders, who roughly “examine” him. He shares his cell with a young boy and an old man, who is often forced to dance, crawl, or otherwise humiliate himself for the jailers. The old man asks Hiram how he came here and says he feels sure he himself will die in jail. He is here because he “loved a woman.” He had a son and three grandchildren, and his wife asked him never to let their son be taken. When the Quality told him they were going to take his son and grandchildren, he grieved. They left his daughter-in-law behind, and he came to love her. Then his son was brought back. He was beaten for having stolen his son's wife.
The boy is taken away, and his mother wails and protests in the yard until she is hauled away by the Hounds. Next, the old man disappears one night. Then, in spring, Hiram is brought out in chains; a man wants to buy him.
Hiram is placed in a pit by his captor. He has a vision, or dream, of the first summer he was in service to Maynard. Maynard ordered all the Tasked to assemble on the bowling green to race each other for his entertainment. Hiram, too, was made to run; he caught his foot in a tree root and twisted his ankle.
Hiram’s captor orders him to get up and come out into the clearing in the woods, where he has set up a table and two chairs. The man feeds him. A wagon arrives with some other colored men in it, and Hiram climbs in.
After an hour or so, they are taken back out of the wagon and forced to line up in front of a gang of “low whites.” Hiram's captor calls the colored men “villains of Virginia” and enumerates their crimes. He then says that if they can outrun the white men, they will be freed; if the white men catch them, they will murder them. Hiram runs for his life but is cudgeled across the back, then roped and dragged back to the wagon. He is then tossed back into the pit. This routine, of being dragged from the pit and forced to participate in a “hunt,” becomes a daily occurrence.
Hiram grows stronger. His powers of memory are useful to him; he learns to double back and cover his tracks to confuse those who follow him, and he memorizes the terrain. At night in the pit, he tries to concentrate on his mother and recover his memories of her.
One night, Hiram trips over a root. Out loud, he calls out the words of a song, and the song seems to summon a vision of Lockless. Hiram realizes it is Lockless years ago. He sees himself running at Maynard’s command. When he looks up, he sees Hawkins standing over him. He has transported himself to Lockless.
Hiram wakes in Corrine’s house. He notes that Hawkins is sitting alongside her as if equal to her. They apologize for having subjected him to his ordeals; Corrine says he “took Maynard into the Goose River,” whether intentionally or not.
She tells him that the Conduction that pulled him out of the river was not the first such occurrence and that his father signed him over to her after he ran away with Sophia. Then she offers him his freedom. She and Hawkins are part of the true Underground, working against slavery. Corinne explains that Hiram was subjected to his tortures so that they could be sure he really had the Power. She tells him he will understand soon.
That evening, Hiram is invited to join Corrine, Hawkins, Amy, three other colored people, and Mr. Fields for dinner. All eat together, and then all clean up together.
Hiram discerns that he is in Bryceton, Corrine’s family home. Amy confirms this and tells him that this is an outpost of the Underground, and all the residents are part of the Army. The agents study, keep an eye on gossip, and work to gain freedom. Some agents, field agents, work outside the house to help encourage the Tasked on plantations to lead. Amy is a field agent.
Hiram is trained to be an agent. He resumes his interest in woodworking and takes part in daily life at Bryceton. He runs every night and takes up lessons with Mr. Fields again. Corrine tells him that just as he feels humiliated at having been a slave, she as a woman was humiliated by those who said she should not read or be educated. This is part of why she wants to take part in the Underground, and she encourages Hiram to study. She gives him a box of one gentleman’s assets, including letters and certificates; they can keep the box only for a week. Hiram is asked to learn the man and his “especial knowledge,” all the particulars of his life. When Corrine is satisfied, she asks Hiram to produce a document to free the man’s jockey, Levity Williams, which will seem authentic. This “learning” of people and subsequent forging of documents becomes a regular task for Hiram.
There is one woman, named Moses, who has the same power as Hiram but can control it. Hiram and Corrine begin to work to harness and control Hiram’s power. Various methods are trialed, including shackling him and asking him to recount bad memories, but none of the attempts bring forth the blue light.
Hiram asks Corrine what they will do with him if he never experiences the Conduction again. Corrine reiterates that he is free and that he is a good agent even without a special power. Hiram says he is not free; he does what she directs him to do. He asks to be shown the people they are actually freeing.
Corrine needs a guarantee of loyalty before she can admit Hiram into “the deepest sanctums of the Underground.” She asks him to destroy Georgie Parks. Using forgery, they will implicate him in a betrayal of his taskmasters, who will then kill him.
Mr. Fields reveals his real name—Micajah Bland. He, Hiram, and Hawkins set out to meet a Tasked man, Johns, who is seeking his freedom. But Johns has brought his “daughter” with him, which was not planned. Hawkins is frustrated, but they agree to take the girl, Lucy, as well, although Hiram is sure she is not really his daughter. Lucy admits this and says she has as much right to run as Johns, having been repeatedly raped. The pair are taken to a cabin in which an old white woman, an agent, is waiting to receive them.
After this, Hiram is considered a proven agent and is sent to Philadelphia. He is to go undercover as a freed man who is a carpenter. Ryland’s Hounds trawl the roads, harbors, and railways, so Hiram will need to avoid them as he sets out. Bland and Hawkins accompany him on his train journey.