Elizabeth did not hear from her husband for two weeks. He sent word to Jacob that he had arrived safely, was accommodated comfortably, and gave directions on how to handle a few business matters. Elizabeth demanded to read the letter. She was disheartened to see that she was not mentioned at all, until she read the post-script:
Accompanying this letter is a gift to my wife, to convey heartfelt apologies for my hasty departure.
Despite the brevity of the note, her heart fluttered. “He sent me a gift?”
Jacob smiled tightly and nodded. Elizabeth’s face fell.
“What is it? Is it horrible?”
“It’s on the porch,” he replied shortly.
A small crowd of workmen and slaves had gathered to gawk. Her “gift” was by far the tallest man she had ever laid eyes upon, with skin so dark, she understood for the first time why Africans were dubbed “Black.” His body was hard and chiseled as if from stone. Scars marred his wrists, ankles, and shoulders. He stood like a silent sentinel and tried not to look at her as she gaped up at him.
“He sent me… a slave?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Jacob replied. His voice dripped with disappointment.
“That hound!” she cried.
Everyone was now gawking at her. She covered her face and took a deep breath, then drummed her fingers over her lips.
“He is a gift?” she confirmed. “He is mine?”
Elizabeth regained her composure, pulling back her shoulders and raising her chin. She looked her new arrival up and down. Daisy, behind her, hid her face as if she might burst into laughter.
“What is your name?” Elizabeth asked.
He glanced down at her and shifted uncomfortably. “Marcel,” he replied.
“Seulement un peu.”
Elizabeth nodded. Her eyes drifted over his impressive physique once more. She turned, slapping her husband’s letter into Jacob’s chest. “Free him. Employ him. Get him a tutor.”
Jacob gaped. The small audience burst into tittering. Daisy covered her mouth, eyes wide. Marcel stared after her, not sure if he understood correctly.
“Bienvenu à liberté, Marcel,” she called, disappearing inside.