Robert was thirty-five years of age, of a chestnut color, and well made. His report was similar to that of many others. He had been provided with plenty of hard drudgery—hewing of wood and drawing of water, and had hardly been treated as well as a gentleman would treat a dumb brute. His feelings, therefore, on leaving his old master and home, were those of an individual who had been unjustly in prison for a dozen years and had at last regained his liberty.
The civilization, religion, and customs under which Robert and his companions had been raised, were, he thought, “very wicked.” Although these travelers were all of the field-hand order, they were, nevertheless, very promising, and they anticipated better days in Canada. Good advice was proffered them on the subject of temperance, industry, education, etc. Clothing, food and money were also given them to meet their wants, and they were sent on their way rejoicing.
John was a prisoner of hope under James Ray, of Portsmouth, Va., whom he declared to be “a worthless sot.” This character was fully set forth, but the description is too disgusting for record. John was a dark mulatto, thirty-one years of age, well-formed and intelligent. For some years before escaping he had been in the habit of hiring his time for $120 per annum. Daily toiling to support his drunken and brutal master, was a hardship that John felt keenly, but was compelled to submit to up to the day of his escape.
A part of John’s life he had suffered many abuses from his oppressor, and only a short while before freeing himself, the auction-block was held up before his troubled mind. This caused him to take the first daring step towards Canada,—to leave his wife, Mary, without bidding her good-bye, or saying a word to her as to his intention of fleeing.
John came as a private passenger on one of the Richmond steamers, and was indebted to the steward of the boat for his accommodations. Having been received by the Committee, he was cared for and sent on his journey Canada-ward. There he was happy, found employment and wanted for nothing but his wife and clothing left in Virginia. On these two points he wrote several times with considerable feeling.
Some slaves who hired their time in addition to the payment of their monthly hire, purchased nice clothes for themselves, which they usually valued highly, so much so, that after escaping they would not be contented until they had tried every possible scheme to secure them. They would write back continually, either to their friends in the North or South, hoping thus to procure them.