The agitation of abolition becomes personal when Abigail Williams decides to join the fight against slavery and only agrees to visit her mother's Louisville relatives because of the chance she may have to help escaping Negroes. There, the contrast to her life in Albany, the determined courting of her cousin, Randolph Harrison, the flattery and ease pave the way for her marriage to Rank, a thing much desired by the Harrisons who are deep in debt to her banker father. Lulled by her passion for Rank, she is brutally brought back to her beliefs when Rank shoots one of his slaves in the uprising following the news of Harper's Ferry; she learns of Rank's affair with colored Melissa and helps the wounded man escape to the underground railroad. Imprisoned by the Harrisons, she too is helped to freedom by Jeff Dykes, a neighbor but not recognized an ""a gentleman"", and they travel through the underground to set her on her way to Albany. There she learns of Rank's death while pursuing them -- and waits for Jeff to claim her for a newer, freer life in Minnesota. A thoughtful pacing of old trails, this builds a pre-Civil War south into its story of a woman's emotional and intellectual integrity.