Johnston (The Ghost of Nicholas Greebe, p. 824, etc.) portrays the evils of slavery through the sufferings of a boy born a slave because his skin is the color of ""smooth, dark wood."" The boy grows up under ""the whish of the lash""--he cried at the near-fatal beating of an old man and was himself whipped, and then ""striped good"" for a desperate act of vandalism. The boy's father, a carpenter and mule driver, builds ""a good wagon of smooth, dark wood"" for the casually cruel master and eventually, with mules Swing and Low, the wagon becomes their chariot bearing the family away to freedom following the war and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. ""Fast as a snakebit wind,"" they learn of Lincoln's assassination and set out to pay their last respects. Ransome's paintings give life to the characters and bring out the luster of the surroundings; the story is ardent and somber, a piercing lament.