Girl lives with her brothers and her bad-tempered Pa, on the small farm that was her grandfather’s in Virginia in 1858. Since the death of her grandfather, the only person that showed her tenderness, Girl has become housekeeper and servant to the remaining menfolk–tending the garden, cooking, cleaning, and staying clear of their casual abuse as best she can. Still, Girl hasn’t given in. She is sustained by memories of her grandpa and all he taught her about wild and garden plants, stars, and animals, plus daily conversations with the mother she only knows from her grandpa’s stories. When a runaway slave girl named Zenobia shows up seeking refuge, Girl (later named Lark by Zenobia) decides to flee from her own horrible home life with Zenobia. Their dangerous escape brings them up against copperhead snakes, evil slave catchers and Lark’s own Pa and brothers who are chasing her down. Lark and Zenobia are joined by another runaway slave named Brightwell as they make their way to a Quaker safe house, where Lark believes Zenobia and her friends will be helped to freedom.