Successful Trader

The sun was streaming through the edges of the sheepskin that covered the door of Malchus’s room. Malchus knew he had overslept. The seven-day journey was more wearing than he had realized. Outside, Clement, Elmo, and Hans were moving slowly. Each punched the sheepskin on Malchus’s doorway as they lumbered by.

Breakfast wasn’t too exciting. Rachel was nowhere in sight. One of the slave girls who always assisted Rachel in the kitchen served the morning meal. She was nice, of course, but she wasn’t Rachel. Silently, the four sat around the table in the shed, eating the warm porridge that had been prepared.

Elmo was wiping his mouth with the back of his index finger when Malchus broke the silence, "I know everyone is tired this morning, but we have work to do. Clement, I’d like for you and Elmo to look over the stables and check each animal to be sure that those who tended the stock while we were gone properly cared for them."

"Let’s go Elmo," Clement said elbowing him gently in the side, "we’re in charge of the stable and are responsible for what happens, even though we’ve been gone."

"Well, since I’m in charge, I guess we had better get going," said Elmo. "The day is wasting."

"So long, men," Hans said smugly as he put his hands behind his head and reclined against the post behind him, "If you need any advice, you know where you can find me."

"Hans," Malchus said, speaking a little more firmly, "you can help me with all of our purchasing receipts. Caiaphas and Haman will want to go over them with us this morning."

"Haman? Who is he?"

"He is the priest who formerly kept the records that are now my responsibility. He spends his time supplying goods for the tables in the temple and the nearby shops."

"Can the Jewish priests read the Latin receipts?"

"Well, they know enough to deal with commerce. Eventually I will enter these transactions in the official record in Hebrew. In the meantime, we must find a way for you to learn some Hebrew."

"Rachel could be my teacher."

"I don’t think so. A young priest could be your teacher, but not Rachel!"

Hans and Malchus were still bantering back and forth when the guard appeared, telling Malchus that Caiaphas and Haman wanted to meet him in the storage area to inventory the purchases of the trip.

As soon as the guard left, Malchus quickly put the receipts on the table. "Hans, you put these in piles according to location, while I arrange each pile. Caiaphas doesn’t like to wait after he has summoned someone." It wasn’t long before both Malchus and Hans were heading out the door with receipts in hand. "Not bad, Hans, I could use somebody like you around here. Now I just hope that Caiaphas agrees."

As they neared the storage shed, they could hear Caiaphas and Haman talking inside. As they rounded the corner and entered the door, Caiaphas was the first to speak, "Did you have a successful trip?"

"Yes, we think so."

"We? And who is this with you?"

"This is Hans. He was on the ship bringing goods from Gaul. He would like to become an indentured servant. I believe that he would be an asset to our group."

"I see," Caiaphas said as from habit he stroked his beard. "Now, show me your purchases."

"Well, to begin with, we all need to move down toward the other end of the storage area as Hans has arranged the receipts in the order of the location of the goods."

The rest of the morning was spent with Caiaphas, as he looked over the new merchandise, and Haman, as he busily audited all of the transactions. Malchus answered any questions that came up concerning the transactions, while Hans followed Caiaphas around commenting on the goods that they had purchased, "The silk and perfume will sell well in any shop. Besides, they can take a large markup. Women will buy the spices, especially the ginger and cinnamon from Arabia."

Malchus was amazed that Hans could talk so easily to Caiaphas. Maybe he didn’t fully understand the status of the high priest.

Nonchalantly, Hans rattled on, "The women’s clothing from Gaul sells well in Rome. I think your customers will like it too."

Even though Haman had remained somber throughout the review, Caiaphas had maintained a pleased expression on his face. When the inventory was complete, Caiaphas spoke to Haman, "These young men have made good purchases and should be commended. Make arrangements immediately to indenture Hans, then try using him in our women’s shop. Women will enjoy talking to him, and that is the first step in making a sale." Caiaphas chuckled under his breath, then turned to a more practical matter, "The shop manager is fluent in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek and can teach Hans the Hebrew he will need."

Haman was still busy making note of what Caiaphas had said when Caiaphas exited the storage area and began to walk toward the courtyard. Haman, a little embarrassed that he had been left behind, cleared his throat as if to sound businesslike then quickly gathered up the remaining receipts and left as well.

Malchus breathed deeply, completely filling his chest, and reached for the roof of the shed with the top of his head. Staccato thoughts flowed: "My father would be pleased. Clement and Elmo have responded to my leading. Hans is going to enliven the entire compound. It feels good to know that Rachel is always nearby."

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