#25 – strange mixture

She kept Jamie in bed for four more days, feeding him, changing his bandages and
helping him regain his strength. By the fifth day, Jamie was ready to get up.
“I want you to know how grateful I am to you, Mrs. Jardine. I can’t pay you anything. Not
yet. But you’ll have a big diamond from me one day soon. That’s a promise from Jamie
She smiled at the intensity of the handsome young boy. He was still twenty pounds too
thin, and his gray eyes were filled with the horror he had been through, but there was a
strength about him, a determination that was awesome. He’s different from the others,
Mrs. Jardine thought..
Jamie, dressed in his freshly washed clothes, went out to explore the town. It was
Klipdrift on a smaller scale. There were the same tents and wagons and dusty streets, the
fiimsily built shops and the crowds of prospectors. As Jamie passed a saloon, he heard a
roar from inside and entered. A noisy crowd had gathered around a red-shirted Irishman.
“What’s going on?” Jamie asked
“He’s going to wet his find.”
“He’s what?”
“He struck it rich today, so he stands treat for the whole saloon. He pays for as much
liquor as a saloon-full of thirsty men can swallow.”
Jamie joined in a conversation with several disgruntled diggers sitting at a round table.
“Where you from, McGregor?”
“Well I don’t know what horseshit they fed you in Scotland,
but there ain’t enough diamonds in this fuckin’ country to pay expenses.”
They talked of other camps: Gong Gong, Forlorn Hope, Del-ports, Poormans Kopje,
Sixpenny Rush …
The diggers all told the same story—of months doing the backbreaking work of moving
boulders, digging into the hard soil and squatting over the riverbank sifting the dirt for
diamonds. Each day a few diamonds were found; not enough to make a man rich, but
enough to keep his dreams alive. The mood of the town was a strange mixture of optimism
and pessimism. The optimists were arriving; the pessimists were leaving.
Jamie knew which side he was on.
He approached the red-shirted Irishman, now bleary-eyed with drink, and showed him
Van der Merwe’s map.


Copyright © 1982 by Sheldon Literary Trust

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