Part 3, Chapters 31–34
Last Updated on February 25, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1272
Hiram recognizes that Conduction is best achieved through the combination of water, a memory, and an object that makes the memory real.
He and Sophia at first try to hide from Thena the fact that they are together, but Thena soon realizes the truth. Early in December, Nathaniel returns, and Sophia is then summoned to him. Hiram drives her out to his home on Howell’s orders. Sophia is curious to know why Corrine might favor her, and has kept her, but Hiram says he doesn't know.
At the usual meeting place, one of Nathaniel’s men says he cannot take Sophia today but will send word when he can. So, the pair turn back to Lockless. Sophia says that Pete was sent over the bridge before Hiram’s return. She tells him she still knows she needs to run, but she cannot do so until Hiram will tell her how and what they are running toward.
They return to Thena seated in her work dress with no coat. Her head is bandaged. She has left Caroline inside sleeping and does not know what has happened to her head. Inside the house, Hiram finds furniture splintered and smashed; Thena's lockbox is cloven in two. Her laundry money has been stolen.
At this juncture, there are only about twenty-five people left in Lockless. Hiram does not know who could have done this or who to tell. So, instead, he moves the whole group down to Thena’s old cabin, and he and Sophia continue to perform the washing duties.
Sophia and Hiram discuss the possibility that Nathaniel actually intends to bring Sophia out to Tennessee, a land of different customs, and marry her. Sophia does not want this; she only wants to belong to herself.
Corrine brings a group of cousins and friends to Lockless at holiday time. Hiram knows all of them to be agents. He admires Corrine’s genius at expanding her network. On a walk with Corrine, he tells her that it is now time for his family to be Conducted as discussed, because of the attack. Corrine assures him that Sophia’s title will revert from Nathaniel to her after a week. Nathaniel is no longer interested in Sophia, so she is saved. Corinne also says that it is not yet time for Thena to be taken. She thanks Hiram for his work but says it would look odd for a woman who has established herself as a washerwoman to simply disappear.
Hiram knows she is correct but is angry all the same. Corrine warns him that if he tries to act without her consent, he will “doom” them all.
Hiram is determined to perform Conduction alone. He tells Sophia he is ready to explain where he has been and where they are headed. He tells her about training at Bryceton, meeting Moses and Kessiah, and his promise to rescue Thena. He also tells her that Corrine now holds Sophia’s title. He explains that he is going to get Sophia and Thena out but that he himself must stay at Lockless until told otherwise.
He then shows her the “how” of it. He takes her down to the river, takes her hand, and squeezes the wooden horse. His rage against Georgie, combined with the memories he and Sophia exchange about the old days, combine to begin the Conduction. Blue mist and music roll across the river. The mists envelop Sophia and Hiram and transport them across the river. They Conduct back and forth, “like dancing.”
The next day, Hiram asks Sophia where she first saw the water dance. Sophia says the dance is an old custom of giving praise and then asks whether Conduction was what Santi Bess did, her own kind of dance. She also intuits that this is why the Underground wanted Hiram.
Hiram says that he wants to Conduct Caroline and Sophia somewhere safe, but she says she doesn't want to split up the family they have created. She wants to attach herself, willingly, to Hiram and to be with him.
The next day, Sophia pretends to be ill so that Hiram can walk with Thena alone. He tells her that he has seen Kessiah and that he has promised to take Thena to her. Again, he explains what he has been doing with the Underground. But Thena is distressed that Hiram has brought back to him a memory she had finally suppressed. She tells him to stay away from her and leaves him. Kessiah was a symbol to her of all she had lost.
Hiram considers the fact that even if Thena changes her mind, a very powerful memory would be needed to move her. He goes into his father's study and writes to a safe-house by the Delaware, telling Harriet what he is going to try.
In his father's study he finds, in a box, a necklace of shells. He realizes it is the necklace he saw in his first vision of his mother. Putting it on, he feels a wave of memory ripple through him. He finally sees his mother and remembers their time together.
He hides the box away and leaves with the necklace. He performs his work, then goes to see Hawkins, who says he knows nothing he says will dissuade Hiram from his decision.
The next Sunday, he speaks to Thena. She tells him it is “a whole other Task” he is expecting of her, to go back to her daughter and revisit her own pain. But she accepts that she needs to do this, as they can no longer stay at Lockless. The pair weep together.
Not having heard from Harriet, Hiram determines that he must move alone. He takes Thena down to the Goose and pulls the shell necklace out of his shirt. He dedicates the Conduction to his mother and all mothers. He explains that he now remembers his mother, who also carried the strange power. He tells her about the visions he has seen of her. The pair are traveling as he speaks. He explains that the necklace of shells was handed to him by his mother as the hounds pulled his mother away to be sold, a connection of memory between them. When Howell took the necklace away, it took Hiram's memories from him, too.
When the pair arrive at the other side of the fold in the land, they are greeted by the green light that is Harriet. She is holding Kessiah’s hand. Hiram hands over Thena to the care of her daughter and returns to Lockless.
Hiram awakes in a stranger’s bed. Hawkins is there and says that Sophia found him outside his cabin and had him brought to town for treatment so as not to cause alarm. He is in Starfall. That evening, he goes to the Starfall Inn and speaks to Corrine.
Corrine says she knows what he has done and that, although she knew he was capable of it, she does not like that she cannot “know [his] mind” as an agent. She asks if he will also Conduct Sophia. He says he will be loyal to her and that he does not believe Corrine having Sophia’s title means Sophia is truly safe.
That fall, Howell dies, and it emerges that Corrine had saved him from debt on condition that she would inherit Lockless. The property was therefore redesigned along the lines of Bryceton, leaving Hiram “putative lord of the manor” at the Lockless station of the Underground. Hiram, Sophia, and Caroline continue their life together—living, as they always have, “underground.”