Last Reviewed on February 20, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1338
Hiram encounters Moses in the woods. She tells him she is from Maryland and that one day she will return there, but for now she needs Hiram's help, because he can run so fast. Her own special powers are not for “show,” and she answers to only one person: Harriet. Hiram agrees that he will work for her.
The next morning, a “commotion” wakes Hiram. Otha is comforting Raymond. Micajah Bland has been killed, and Lydia has been recaptured. Hiram thinks that he needs to get the forged papers back to Raymond and Otha.
He offers his condolences to Otha. Otha tells him that Bland had been his “brother,” a replacement for Lambert, who had been killed. When they had first met, Lydia had been whipped by a white man for refusing to submit; she had made him promise not to try and kill the white man, because “this is not our end.” Otha still thinks about these words and is sure Lydia will still be freed.
Hiram says goodbye to Kessiah, who says she and Harriet will be going to Philadelphia, too. Otha, Raymond, and Hiram ride together; Corrine, Hawkins, and Amy in another coach; and Harriet, Kessiah, and their driver in a third. Hiram feels responsible for Bland’s death.
The group sit outside, having stopped at an inn, and mourn Bland. Hiram says he feels that his forged papers “got [Bland] caught,” but Corrine says one of the children became ill, which meant the group had to move more slowly and were caught. The Whites were imprisoned, and Bland was killed because he continued to try to free them.
Hiram returns to his woodworking and Underground work routine in Philadelphia. The system is reviewed, and codes are changed. In October, Harriet meets with Hiram to check on his well-being. She tells him she cannot perform miracles and that she believes she herself will one day be caught, too. She asks for a pass drawn from the same hand as the letters in a file she produces and a letter “in slave-hand” to be sent by tomorrow’s post. She then puzzles Hiram by saying it is one night’s journey to Maryland.
At the appointed time, he meets Harriet at the docks as agreed. A green light begins to glow inside Harriet, who tells Hiram that “memory is the chariot, and memory is the way, and memory is bridge from the curse of slavery to the boon of freedom.” Hiram realizes he is being Conducted, by Harriet, across the water as she tells him the story of her own Tasked family—of Abe, who first made her feel the desire to be free. Hiram cannot feel his body. When he comes back to himself, he realizes “the land [has] folded like fabric,” and they have been transported to Maryland.
Harriet is exhausted from the Conduction and has to be carried. Hiram lays her down gently in the woods and hides her, then pushes deep into the forest. At nightfall he returns for Harriet and finds her awake. They trek through the woods until they find a cabin. Before entering, Harriet asks whether Hiram has any questions.
Hiram explains that his grandmother, Santi Bess, had a legendary gift for stories, and it is said that she eventually told a story that “would turn back time itself” and take her back to her ancestral homeland. One night she disappeared, as did forty-eight of the Tasked, all pure-blooded Africans.
Harriet explains that Conduction was indeed a known practice among Africans who were enslaved. She suggests that part of Hiram is trying to forget—that is why he cannot remember his mother. She explains that Conduction requires water to work and that she also needs to know the person she is Conducting and the place they are going to.
They go into the cabin, where Chase Piers greets them, alongside Harriet’s brothers Ben and Henry, and Henry’s wife, Jane. Her brother Robert is on the home plantation with his wife; she asks Hiram to fetch him and gives him a pistol.
Robert tells Hiram, when he first reaches the plantation, that he will meet him at nightfall to journey north. But he does not appear. Hiram goes to his cabin and finds a woman, Mary, yelling at Robert, saying he is leaving her. Hiram steps in and explains that Robert is indeed leaving but that she should be grateful for it—otherwise he will be taken by whites and sold. He is not running for another woman. After they leave, however, Robert says the child is not his and that he had planned to leave her, but now he has changed his mind. He loves Mary, and they will come back for her.
Robert leads Hiram to the house where his free parents live. He says he can't see his mother, because she would be so emotional to see him again that she would give them away, but he whistles until his father emerges. They go around the back of the house, where Robert is reunited with his siblings. Pop Ross, their father, says he will tell nobody he has seen them.
Everyone steps into the water. Harriet kisses her father and then begins the Conduction. She says this journey is for John Tubman, her “first love, onliest man I found fit to follow.” She says that the Lord lights her way and that He called her to Philadelphia, but John would not come. When she returned for John, John had taken up with another woman. Pop Ross told her to love “who love Harriet,” and she recognized that the Lord loved her most of all. The group chants praise to “Moses” and prays that they all find their peace.
The next morning, following the Conduction, they are back in Philadelphia. Kessiah takes care of Harriet, who is exhausted again, and Kessiah comforts Hiram as if he were a child. He feels a great sense of relief. Robert, free at last, is already thinking about rescuing Mary.
Raymond interviews all the passengers, then gives Hiram a letter. The letter recalls him “to the muck,” but he wants to remain with Raymond's Underground.
Hiram tells Harriet that he has promised Mary that he will return for her. Harriet tells him not to let others direct him—he is the bearer of the power. If he needs her, he is to send word through Kessiah.
Otha explains that McKiernan wants to sell Lydia and the children. He has written a book about his own route to freedom; a book tour should raise enough money for them to be able to buy the family back.
Kessiah and Hiram walk together, and Hiram wonders whether it is possible to help Thena escape.
Raymond, Otha, and Kessiah bid farewell to Mars, then catch a train back to Virginia. Soon they are back in Bryceton, and Hiram contemplates how to pitch to Corrine the rescue of both Sophia and Thena.
Hiram meets with Corrine and Hawkins. Corrine says she is glad she never had to marry Maynard but that his death prevented Corrine from accessing the higher echelons of society as she had planned. The connection would have been useful. She asks whether Hiram now has control of his powers. Hiram avoids this question.
Corrine says that Roscoe has died and that Hiram’s father has asked for him to take Roscoe’s place. He agrees, in return for Sophia and Thena being conducted to Philadelphia. Both Hawkins and Corrine are skeptical, but Corrine says they will do it “at the right time.”
They travel back to Lockless via Starfall. At Starfall, there are men among the low whites Hiram recognizes from training at Bryceton, and he realizes Corrine has opened an Underground station here. Georgie Parks’s home is in ruins, and Hiram feels shame, knowing this has happened because of his desire for revenge. He picks up a wooden horse from the wreckage.