#59 – at the dinner

“Klipdrift seems very prosperous,” Jamie said as they rode along the main street.
“I suppose it would be interesting for a newcomer,” Margaret said. And she thought, I’ve hated it until now.
They left the town and drove out toward the mining camps along the Vaal River. The seasonal rains had
turned the countryside into an enormous, colorful garden, filled with the luxuriant bush Karroo, and the
spreading Rhenoster bush and heaths and diosmas plants that could be found nowhere else in the world. As
they drove past a group of prospectors, Jamie asked, “Have there been any big diamond finds lately?”
“Oh, yes, a few. Every time the news gets out, hundreds of new diggers come pouring in. Most of them
leave poor and heartbroken.” Margaret felt she had to warn him of the danger here. “Father would not like to
hear me say this, but I think it’s a terrible business, Mr. Travis.”
“For some, probably,” Jamie agreed. “For some.”
“Do you plan to stay on a while?”
Margaret felt her heart singing. “Good.” Then added quickly, “Father will be pleased.”
They drove around all morning, and from time to time they stopped and Jamie chatted with prospectors.
Many of them recognized Margaret and spoke respectfully. There was a warmth to her and an easy
friendliness that she did not reveal when she was around her father.
As they drove on, Jamie said, “Everyone seems to know you.”
She blushed. “That’s because they do business with Father. He supplies most of the diggers.”
Jamie made no comment. He was keenly interested in what he was seeing. The railroad had made an
enormous difference. A new combine called De Beers, named after the farmer in whose field the first
diamond discovery was made, had bought out its chief rival, a colorful entrepreneur named Barney Barnato,
and De Beers was busily consolidating the hundreds of small claims into one organization. Gold had been
discovered recently, not far from Kimberley, along with manganese and zinc. Jamie was
convinced this was only the beginning, that South Africa was a treasure-house of minerals. There were
incredible opportunities here for a man with foresight.
When Jamie and Margaret returned, it was late afternoon. Jamie stopped the carriage in front of Van der
Merwe’s store and said, “I would be honored if you and your father would be my guests at dinner tonight.”
Margaret glowed. “I’ll ask Father. I do so hope he’ll say yes. Thank you for a lovely day, Mr. Travis.”
And she fled.
The three of them had dinner in the large, square dining room of the new Grand Hotel.
The room was crowded, and Van der Merwe grumbled, “I don’t see how these people can afford to eat


Copyright © 1982 by Sheldon Literary Trust

Read More


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s