Part 2, Chapters 15–20
Last Updated on February 20, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1138
The day of Hiram’s departure is about four months after he arrived at Bryceton. The group set out for Clarksburg, after which they will cross the state by rail and proceed to Philadelphia. Hiram heads for the back of the train, trying to look confident.
Two days later, he arrives at Gray’s Ferry station. Hawkins and Bland do not acknowledge him; for safety reasons, they are not traveling together. Hiram is greeted by Raymond White, a colored man in “gentleman’s clothes,” who drives him in an omnibus to a house where Bland and Hawkins are already waiting. Otha White, kin to Raymond, is also there. He is a freed slave. Hawkins then leaves.
In a bakery, a colored man, Mars, the baker, is kind to Hiram and offers him gingerbread, but Hiram is suspicious. The taste of the gingerbread Conducts a vision of his mother in the kitchen at Lockless.
Hiram is glad he still has the power of Conduction but does not know how he summoned it.
He finds Raymond pacing in the house; he, Hiram, and Otha leave the house together. Raymond says that the law of the state is that slavery is illegal, but the masters in the state conceal this. A woman, Bronson, has asked for help in leaving her captor, who refuses to acknowledge the law.
The men tell Mary Bronson’s captor that he must let her go. He argues and tries to hold on to Mary’s arm, but Mary takes her child and stands behind her saviors. She is escorted back to the house.
Mary says she had a husband and two other boys, but their old master died, and one of the “low whites” began beating the slaves and sold her husband and her older two boys. She cries, and Otha comforts her.
Hiram begins work in a carpenter’s shop. Otha invites him to dinner with his mother, Viola White, and Mars, the baker, is also there. The group is very loving, which surprises Hiram. Otha explains that he had a brother, Lambert, who died, and a wife, Lydia, who is still alive but in captivity. Their parents managed to escape after several attempts, but their children had to make their own way out. Lambert did not escape. The children were separated, and Otha did not know Raymond was his brother at first when he made use of the Underground. However, he recognized his mother at once.
Hiram begins to experience more frequent Conductions and remembers more about his aunt Emma. He feels the Conduction, which is very tiring, is about revealing parts of his own psyche to him, but he cannot bear how depressed it makes him, so he determines that he will leave the Underground entirely.
He makes his way to the docks, but once there, a white man hits him across the back of the head, and he is chained, blinded, and gagged. He realizes he has been picked up by Ryland's Hounds, who drive him for several miles. Bland, however, rescues him from this captivity. He is accompanied by a girl, who demands to know what Hiram was doing by running. Bland tells him that the girl is Moses.
Hiram tells Bland about his love for Sophia and his anguish at not knowing her current situation. Bland tells him to use that anguish to fuel his commitment to the cause. He is returned to Raymond’s house.
Raymond says he knows where Sophia is being held and apologizes for not having admitted this before. Sophia is at Lockless.
Two weeks later, Raymond shows Hiram a ladder up into the rafters of his house. Here there are two crates, in which are various papers and testimonies. Raymond says they are yet to make contact with Sophia because another matter preoccupies them. He says that Lydia’s captor in Alabama has refused all their offers to pay for her freedom, so the goal is for Bland to help her escape. He asks if Hiram will assist, knowing that this is not official Underground business sanctioned by Corrine. Hiram says he will and begins studying the papers.
He goes to see Bland. Bland suggests that they could start by rescuing Sophia, who will be “the easy one.” Hiram retorts that she has been left “down in the coffin” by Corrine. His anger about this triggers a Conduction of somebody else’s anger, and he sees Bland wreathed in blue, looking frightened. When the blue light fades, Bland asks whether this was the Conduction. He has seen Moses do it before.
Bland explains that he met Corrine when she was a student and that she has repeatedly sacrificed herself for the cause. He suggests she is seeking a Conductor for her part of the world, because Moses is more tied to Philadelphia.
Hiram determines to understand how to initiate Conduction and decides that he must speak to Moses. But first he and Bland must rescue Lydia White and her children. They need precise passes in the name of Daniel McKiernan, the Whites’ captor. Elon Simpson, the son of the man who initially sold Otha, is still living nearby and has business with McKiernan.
Bland and Hiram meet a man, Chalmers, who works for Elon Simpson. He produces some of Simpson’s papers, because Bland knows he is courting Simpson’s sister, and therefore Chalmers is beholden to Bland. Bland demands entry to the house and more papers—including letters from McKiernan, from which Hiram is able to forge passes. The plan is that Bland will go west and make contact with an old friend of Otha’s, Hank, who will bring Lydia to Bland. In the guise of their “owner,” Bland will escort the Whites home.
As Bland goes south, Raymond, Otha, and Hiram go north to gather with other abolitionists in New York. Moses joins them on their carriage ride, to Hiram’s delight. Raymond calls her Harriet.
The gathering is a sea of tents, filled with people waiting to hear from the orators. Here, Hiram meets an older woman, Kessiah, who says she knows Hiram and knew his mother. She is Thena’s oldest child. She describes how she knew Hiram, his mother, and his aunt Emma, saying she once babysat Hiram. She was then sold, taken to Maryland, and put to work. She married a free man, Elias, who is a relative of Moses. Moses helped Kessiah to escape her captors, and she has remained with Moses since. She asks after Hiram’s mother, Rose, and Hiram is stricken again by the fact that he remembers so little of her.
Hiram receives a letter bearing Bland’s mark. It says that Bland has Lydia and the children and is currently making his way home through Indiana.