#24 – and die.. and die..

Mr. van der Merwe, I’m the person you’re looking for. Believe me, sir, I’ll work night and
day. I’ll bring you back more diamonds than you can count.
And he was finished before he had even started. You have two
choices, Jamie told himself. You can go on or you can stay here and die… and die … and
The words echoed endlessly in his head. You can take one more step, Jamie thought.
Come on, Jamie boy. One more step. One more step …
Two days later Jamie McGregor stumbled into the village of Magerdam. The sunburn
had long since become infected and his body oozed blood and sera. Both eyes were
swollen almost completely shut. He collapsed in the middle of the street, a pile of crumpled
clothes holding him together. When sympathetic diggers tried to relieve him of his
backpack, Jamie fought them with what little strength he had left, raving deliriously. “No!
Get away from my diamonds. Get away from my diamonds—–”
He awakened in a small, bare room three days later, naked except for the bandages that
covered his body. The first thing he saw when he opened his eyes was a buxom,
middle-aged woman seated at the side of his cot.
“Wh—?” His voice was a croak. He could not get the words out.
“Easy, dear. You’ve been sick.” She gently lifted his swathed head and gave him a sip of
water from a tin cup.
Jamie managed to prop himself up on one elbow. “Where—?” He swallowed and tried
again. “Where am I?”
“You’re in Magerdam. I’m Alice Jardine. This is my boarding house. You’re going to be
fine. You just need a good rest. Now he back.”
Jamie remembered the strangers who tried to take his backpack away, and he was filled
with panic. “My things, where—?” He tried to rise from the cot, but the woman’s gentle voice
stopped him.
“Everything’s safe. Not to worry, son.” She pointed to his backpack in a corner of the
Jamie lay back on the clean white sheets. I got here. I made it. Everything is going to be
all right now.
Alice Jardine was a blessing, not only to Jamie McGregor, but to half of Magerdam. In
that mining town filled with adventurers,
all sharing the same dream, she fed them, nursed them, encouraged them. She
was an Englishwoman who had come to South Africa with her husband, when he decided
to give up his teaching job in Leeds and join the diamond rush. He had died of fever three
weeks after they arrived, but she had decided to stay on. The miners had become the
children she never had.


Copyright © 1982 by Sheldon Literary Trust

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