#27 – diamant kooper

Jamie kept moving north. He followed the riverbank where the diamonds might be,
digging until his arms refused to lift the heavy pick, then sifting the wet gravel through the
hand sieve. When it got dark, he slept as though drugged.
At the end of the second week, he moved upstream again, just north of a small
settlement called Paardspan. He stopped near a bend in the river and fixed himself a meal
of carbonaatje, grilled on a spit over a wood fire, and hot tea, then sat in front of his tent,
looking up at the wheeling stars in the vast sky. He had not seen a human being in two
weeks, and an eddy of loneliness washed over him. What the hell am I doing here? he
wondered. Sitting in the middle of a blasted wilderness like a bloody fool, killing myself
breaking rocks and digging up dirt? I was better off at the farm. Come Saturday, if I don’t
find a diamond, I’m going home. He looked up at the uncaring stars and yelled, “Do you
hear me, damn you?” Oh, Jesus, he thought, I’m losing my mind.
Jamie sat there, idly sifting the sand through his fingers. They closed on a large stone,
and he looked at it a moment, then
threw it away. He had seen a thousand worthless stones like it in the past weeks. What
was it Van der Merwe had called them? Schlenters. Yet, there was something about this
one that belat-edly caught Jamie’s attention. He rose, went over to it and | picked it up. It
was much larger than the other stones and of an odd shape. He rubbed some of the dirt
off it against the leg of his trousers and examined it more closely. It looked like a diamond.
The only thing that made Jamie doubt his senses was the size of it. It was almost as large
as a hen’s egg. Oh, God. If it is a diamond … He suddenly had difficulty breathing. He
grabbed his lantern and began searching the ground around him. In fifteen minutes he had
found four more like it. None of them was as large as the first one, but they were large
enough to fill him with a wild excitement.
He was up before dawn, digging like a madman, and by noon he had found half a dozen
more diamonds. He spent the next week feverishly digging up diamonds and burying them
at night in a safe place where no passers-by could find them. There were fresh diamonds
every day, and as Jamie watched his fortune pile up, he was filled with an ineffable joy.
Only half of this treasure was his, but it was enough to make him rich beyond anything he
had ever dared to dream.
At the end of the week, Jamie made a note on his map and flaked out his claim by
carefully marking the boundaries with his pick. He dug up his hidden treasure, carefully
stored it deep down in his backpack and headed back to Magerdam.
The sign outside the small building read: diamant kooper.


Copyright © 1982 by Sheldon Literary Trust

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