Robert belonged to Mrs. Mary Hickman, at least she had him in her possession and reaped the benefit of his hire and enjoyed the leisure and ease thereof while he toiled. For some time prior to his leaving, this had been a thorn in his side, hard to bear; so when an opening presented itself by which he thought he could better his condition, he was ready to try the experiment. He, however, felt that, while she would not have him to look to for support, she would not be without sympathy, as she was a member of the Episcopal Church; besides she was an old-looking woman and might not need his help a great while longer.
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Stepney was an extraordinary man, his countenance indicating great goodness of heart, and his gratitude to his heavenly Father for his deliverance proved that he was fully aware of the Source whence his help had come. Being a man of excellent natural gifts, as well as of religious fervor and devotion to a remarkable degree, he seemed admirably fitted to represent the slave in chains, looking up to God with an eye of faith, and again the fugitive in Canada triumphant and rejoicing with joy unspeakable over his deliverance, yet not forgetting those in bonds, as bound with them. The beauty of an unshaken faith in the good Father above could scarcely have shone with a brighter lustre than was seen in this simple-hearted believer.
Stepney was thirty-four years of age, tall, slender, and of a dark hue. He readily confessed that he fled from Mrs. Julia A. Mitchell, of Richmond; and testified that she was decidedly stingy and unkind, although a member of St. Paul’s church. Still he was wholly free from acrimony, and even in recounting his sufferings was filled with charity towards his oppressors. He said, “I was moved to leave because I believed that I had a right to be a free man.”
He was a member of the Second Baptist church, and entertained strong faith that certain infirmities, which had followed him through life up to within seven years of the time of his escape, had all been removed through the Spirit of the Lord. He had been an eye-witness to many outrages inflicted on his fellow-men. But he spoke more of the sufferings of others than his own.
His stay was brief, but interesting. After his arrival in Canada he turned his attention to industrial pursuits, and cherished his loved idea that the Lord was very good to him. Occasionally he would write to express his gratitude to God and man, and to inquire about friends in different localities, especially those in bonds.
The following letters are specimens, and speak for themselves:
CLIFTON HOUSE, NIAGARA FALLS, August the 27.