#54 – Investment Issues

The guard glared after them. “Stupid idiots.”
Ten minutes later, Jamie and Banda were on their way to Port Nolloth. They were carrying with them
diamonds worth half a million pounds.
The expensive carriage rolled down the dusty main street of Klipdrift, drawn by two beautiful matched bays.
At the reins was a slender, athletic-looking man with snow-white hair, a white beard and mustache. He was
dressed in a fashionably tailored gray suit and ruffled shirt, and in his black cravat was a diamond stickpin.
He wore a gray top hat, and on his little finger was a large, sparkling diamond ring. He appeared to be a
stranger to the town, but he was not.
Klipdrift had changed considerably since Jamie McGregor had left it a year earlier. It was 1884, and it had
grown from a camp to a township. The railway had been completed from Cape Town to Hopetown, with a
branch running to Klipdrift, and this had created a whole new wave of immigrants. The town was even more
crowded than Jamie remembered, but the people seemed different. There were still many prospectors, but
there were also men in business suits and well-dressed matrons walking in and out of stores. Klipdrift had
acquired a patina of respectability.
Jamie passed three new dance halls and half a dozen new saloons. He drove by a recently built church and
barbershop, and
a large hotel called the Grand. He stopped in front of a bank and alighted from the carriage, carelessly
tossing the reins to a native boy.
“Water them.”
Jamie entered the bank and said to the manager in a loud voice, “I wish to deposit one hundred thousand
pounds in your bank.”
The word spread quickly, as Jamie had known it would, and by the time he left the bank and entered the
Sundowner Saloon, he was the center of interest. The interior of the saloon had not changed. It was
crowded, and curious eyes followed Jamie as he walked up to the bar. Smit nodded deferentially. “What
would you like, sir?” There was no recognition on the bartender’s face.
“Whiskey. The best you have.”
“Yes, sir.” He poured the drink. “You’re new in town?”
“Just passin’ through, are you?”
“No. I’ve heard this is a good town for a man looking for investments.”
The bartender’s eyes lighted up. “You couldn’t find better! A man with a hundred—A man with money can do
real well for hisself. Matter of fact, I might be of some service to you, sir.”
“Really? How is that?”
Smit leaned forward, his tone conspiratorial. “I know the man who runs this town. He’s chairman of the
Borough Council and head of the Citizen’s Committee. He’s the most important man in this part of the
country. Name of Salomon van der Merwe.”
Jamie took a sip of his drink. “Never heard of him.”
“He owns that big general store across the street. He can put you on to some good deals. It’d be worth your
while to meet him.”
Jamie McGregor took another sip of his drink. “Have him come over here.”
The bartender glanced at the large diamond ring on Jamie’s finger, and at his diamond stickpin. “Yes, sir.
Can I tell him your name?”
‘Travis. Ian Travis.”
“Right, Mr. Travis. I’m sure Mr. van der Merwe will want to meet you.” He poured out another drink. “Have
this while you’re waitin’. It’s on the house.”
Jamie sat at the bar sipping the whiskey, aware that everyone in the saloon was watching him. Men had
departed from Klip-drift wealthy, but no one of such obvious wealth had ever arrived there before. It was
something new in their experience.
Fifteen minutes later, the bartender was back, accompanied by Salomon van der Merwe.


Copyright © 1982 by Sheldon Literary Trust

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