The white men are Ryland’s Hounds. Having tied Hiram and Sophia up with the rope, they march them to the jail at gunpoint. Here, they are chained by the neck, wrists, and ankles. Hiram apologizes to Sophia, but she says nothing. His despair over what has happened is so intense that he wishes he had some means of killing himself. With difficulty, Sophia drags herself closer to Hiram. She gives him a “tender” look, but then turns her gaze to look out toward Freetown. Hiram can tell that she dreams of killing herself in this moment too. She leans against him, and he is relieved by the warmth of her body.
The fact that Hiram and Sophia manage to find a moment of tender intimacy in the midst of a scene of abject misery is poignant. Indeed, it highlights one of the novel’s main messages: that even in situations of utter degradation and brutality, enslaved people never lost the sense of their own humanity expressed by loving one another.