#57 – Profit or loss?

The customer bell rang and Van der Merwe said, “Excuse me, I’ll be right back. Please make yourself at
home, Mr. Travis.” He hurried out.
Margaret carried a steaming bowl of vegetables and meat over to the table, and as she hurried to take the
bread from the oven Jamie stood there, silently looking at her. She had blossomed in the year since he had
seen her. She had become a woman, with a smoldering sexuality that had been lacking before.
“Your father tells me you’re an excellent cook.”
Margaret blushed. “I—I hope so, sir.”
“It’s been a long time since I’ve tasted home cooking. I’m looking forward to this.” Jamie took a large butter
dish from Margaret and placed it on the table for her. Margaret was so surprised she almost dropped the
plate in her hands. She had never heard of a man who helped in woman’s work. She lifted her startled eyes
to his face. A broken nose and a scar spoiled what would otherwise have been a too-handsome face. His
eyes were light gray and shone with intelligence and a burning intensity. His white hair told her that he was
not a young man, and yet there was something very youthful about him. He was
tall and strong and—Margaret turned away, embarrassed by his gaze.
Van der Merwe hurried back into the room, rubbing his hands. “I’ve closed the shop,” he said. “Let’s sit down
and have a fine dinner.”
Jamie was given the place of honor at the table. “We’ll say grace,” Van der Merwe said.
They closed their eyes. Margaret slyly opened hers again, so that she could continue her scrutiny of the
elegant stranger while her father’s voice droned on. “We are all sinners in your eyes, O Lord, and must be
punished. Give us the strength to bear our hardships on this earth, so that we may enjoy the fruits of heaven
when we are called. Thank you, Lord, for helping those of us who deserve to prosper. Amen.”
Salomon van der Merwe began serving. This time the portions he served Jamie were more than generous.
They talked as they ate. “Is this your first time out this way, Mr. Travis?”
“Yes,” Jamie said. “First time.”
“You didn’t bring Mrs. Travis along, I understand.”
“There is no Mrs. Travis. I haven’t found anyone who’d have me.” Jamie smiled.
What fool of a woman would refuse him? Margaret wondered. She lowered her eyes, afraid the stranger
might read her wicked thoughts.
“Klipdrift is a town of great opportunity, Mr. Travis. Great opportunity.”
‘I’m willing to be shown.” He looked at Margaret, and she blushed.
“If it isn’t too personal, Mr. Travis, may I ask how you acquired your fortune?”
Margaret was embarrassed by her father’s blunt questions, but the stranger did not seem to mind.
“I inherited it from my father,” Jamie said easily.
“Ah, but I’m sure you’ve had a lot of business experience.”
“Very little, I’m afraid. I need a lot of guidance.”
Van der Merwe brightened. “It’s fate that we met, Mr. Travis.
I have some very profitable connections. Very profitable, indeed. I can almost guarantee that I can double
your money for you in just a few months.” He leaned over and patted Jamie’s arm. “I have a feeling this is a
big day for both of us.”
Jamie just smiled.
“I suppose you’re staying at the Grand Hotel?”
‘That’s right.”
“It’s criminally expensive. But I suppose to a man of your means …” He beamed at Jamie.


Copyright © 1982 by Sheldon Literary Trust

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