A long novel, with convincing 1830s historical background but mild in matters of human relationships. Tolan Cobb and Jason are close friends from their Alabama childhood, though Jason is Tolan's slave. As young men, the two return from a stint fighting Seminoles (Tolan fights, Jason carries the gun) to find the Cobb estate burned, most of its black and white inhabitants dead, and Jason's 15-year-old ""woman"" Louisa carried off by Indians. Tolan sells his land and heads West with Jason, who is accepted in this more egalitarian society for his blacksmithing skills--while proper book-minded Tolan, as in his previous life, tries hard to find a place for himself. Though he could leave, Jason sticks with Tolan out of loyalty, even after the conscience-stricken Tolan reveals that he has freed Jason and refrained from telling him for fear of being left alone. In the end, though, Jason's newly found Louisa helps him make the break, to the far West where they will be truly free. Meanwhile Tolan finds his place on a Quaker farm and Underground Railroad station, where he marries the daughter of the house and considers a career in politics. The story reads easily despite Jason's ungrammatical first-person telling. Jason's ambiguous status gives the period-based wanderings some interest, but none of the characters are subjected to testing or scrutiny. Tolan is especially unlifelike; he and Jason haven't a short moment between them; Jason and Louisa resume their love without a hitch despite all that has happened to both during their separation; and readers' expectations are never disturbed.