In 1850, opposition to the Fugitive Slave Law grows in Philadelphia. Phyllis Lewis uses her job as a boarding house cook to expose the bounty hunters who seize runaway slaves. When the leader of her resistance cell is falsely accused of being a runaway and kidnapped by federal marshals, she resolves to rescue her friend. With the help of a harlot, a burglar, a traveling salesman, a lawyer, and a network of supporters, they confront the slaveocracy and the power and authority of the U.S. Government.
The noisy riders overtook us, one to each side. One swung in front of us, startling our team and forcing Katherine to rein up. Swenson turned back from his customary position ahead. As is the way with the world, it was the shorter of the two men who headed us off and who took charge. They both sported beards and dressed as most farmers would in homespun and slouch hats. Unlike honest workingmen, they each carried a short sword hanging from a leather strap across their bodies. Boxes for heavy pistols were strapped to the pommels of their saddles. Each had slung from a wrist a short whip, much heavier than a riding crop and not intended for a horse. These were whips for human beings.
The short one wore elaborate leather boots for cavalry, the kind extending up over the knee in the style seen in portraits of Napoleon Bonaparte. This Napoleon did not have to lean down very far from the saddle to grab the bridle on our team.
“Hold on there, girl,” he ordered. “Hold on there.” The horses jumped at the interruption. I grabbed the reins from Katherine, who had frozen in shock.
“Yassah, we stoppin’, we stoppin’,” I told him. Josiah Swenson rode back to us ready for his role.
“Who are you to stop me?” he shouted, his face afire in anger, red to match his beard. “What right do you have?”
“You with these girls?” Cavalry Boots asked.
“No, they’re with me. And you haven’t answered my question.” Swenson dropped his right hand across to his belt, which pulled back his coat enough to expose the butt of a revolver.