Hiram, Thena, Sophia, and Carrie are the only enslaved people at Lockless who are not in danger of being sold. The four of them form a “unit” with their own “routine.” One night, Sophia comments that Thena is old, and is still living a very hard life. She suggests that she and Hiram take over her laundry duties for a while, to give her a break. Thena is reluctant, but eventually agrees to this. After a long day of difficult work, Hiram sits on Sophia’s bed while she gets Carrie ready to sleep. They discuss their attempt at running away. Sophia wonders aloud why neither of them was sold toward Natchez, and Hiram pretends not to know.
As has happened several times in the novel before, Hiram, Thena, Sophia, and Carrie have formed an improvised family unit, despite the fact that Sophia and Carrie are the only ones directly related to each other (although, of course, Carrie is strangely actually Hiram’s cousin). The pain of family separation is once again softened by the new relations formed in its wake.
Hiram says that he knew that Caroline was Nathaniel’s daughter as soon as he saw her. This means that although she is not Hiram’s daughter, she is still his relative, because he is a Walker. Sophia gives Hiram Caroline to hold, and he takes her in his arms. He thinks about Howell never held him like this, and how he always wanted him to. Caroline provides hope in the increasingly desolate atmosphere at Lockless. Sometimes Thena takes care of her and does so that Sunday. After doing some repair work on Sophia’s cabin, Hiram comes inside.
Hiram’s touching connection with Caroline suggests that the trauma created by separated families and absent, abusive fathers—while it can never be fully healed—does not have to carry over to the next generation. Having learned the power of parental love from Rose and the pain of not receiving it from Howell, Hiram is determined that Caroline has a better life.
Hiram fetches the rum that Mars gave him from his room in the big house and brings it back to Sophia’s cabin. Sophia remarks that he is not “the same man” he was before they ran away. He asks her what happened after they were put in jail, and Sophia tells him that Ryland’s Hounds threatened to send her into the fancy trade. She was terrified, but knew she had to be strong for the sake of her unborn baby. She named Caroline after Carolina, the home from which Sophia was taken. While Sophia was in jail, Corrine came to see her and took her out. Corrine said it would be better if Nathaniel never found out that Sophia tried to run away.
The rum Mars gave Hiram before he left Philadelphia is a reminder of the joy, hope, and freedom that Hiram briefly experienced in the North. By drinking it with Sophia, he insists on their right to experience a glimmer of this freedom back at Lockless, and to hope that one day, they will both be able to truly live freely.
After Sophia returned to Lockless, Corrine would sometimes come down to the Street and ask her who had been sold and sent toward Natchez. Sophia would ask about Hiram, and Corrine always assured her that he was alright. Sophia says she can’t believe Hiram came back to her. Hiram realizes that he has forgotten so much: about how much he missed Sophia, about his life in Philadelphia, and about his own loneliness. Hours later, Hiram and Sophia lie upstairs in bed, marveling at each other. Hiram feels he truly understands Conduction for the first time. He gets dressed, and as he goes Sophia hands him the toy horse, saying Caroline is too young for it still. Hiram bids her goodbye and leaves. He walks to the Goose, squeezes the horse, and is enveloped in a “new mist.”
Again, while Corrine keeps extremely tight control over her operation and resents interference, it is clear that she acts with thoughtfulness and care. The fact that she hid Sophia’s escape from Nathaniel and made an arrangement such that Nathaniel largely left her alone shows that she was protecting Sophia, all the while making it seem like she wasn’t.