#40 – The Ocean

Jamie thought of how easily he himself had been cheated. How trusting that naive young
boy had been! He could see Margaret’s oval-shaped face as she said, My father might be
the one to help you. He had thought she was a child until he had noticed her breasts and—
Jamie suddenly jumped to his feet, a smile on his face, and the up-turning of his lips made
the livid scar across his chin ripple.
‘Tell me how you happened to go to work for Van der Merwe.”
“On the day he came to the beach with his daughter—she was about eleven then—I
suppose she got bored sitting around and she went into the water and the tide grabbed
her. I jumped in and pulled her out. I was a young boy, but I thought Van der Merwe was
going to kill me.” Jamie stared at him. “Why?”
“Because I had my arms around her. Not because I was black, but because I was a
male. He can’t stand the thought of any man touching his daughter. Someone finally
calmed him down and reminded him that I had saved her life. He brought me back to
Klipdrift as his servant.” Banda hesitated a moment, then continued. “Two months later,
my sister came to visit me.” His voice was very quiet. “She was the same age as Van der
Merwe’s daughter.” There was nothing Jamie could say.
Finally Banda broke the silence. “I should have stayed in the
Namib Desert. That was an easy job. We’d crawl along the
beach picking up diamonds and putting them in little jam tins.”
“Wait a minute. Are you saying that the diamonds are just
lying there, on top of the sand?”
“That’s what I’m saying, Mr. McGregor. But forget what you’re thinking. Nobody can get
near that field. It’s on the ocean, and the waves are up to thirty feet high. They don’t even
bother guarding the shore. A lot of people have tried to sneak in by sea. They’ve all been
killed by the waves or the reefs.” ‘There must be some other way to get in.” “No. The
Namib Desert runs right down to the ocean’s shore.”
“What about the entrance to the diamond field?”
‘There’s a guard tower and a barbed-wire fence. Inside the
fence are guards with guns and dogs that’ll tear a man to pieces.
And they have a new kind of explosive called a land mine.
They’re buried all over the field. If you don’t have a map of the
land mines, you’ll get blown to bits.” “How large is the diamond field?”
“It runs for about thirty-five miles.”
Thirty-five miles of diamonds just lying on the sand. . . “My God!”
“You aren’t the first one to get excited about the diamond fields at the Namib, and you
won’t be the last. I’ve picked up what was left of people who tried to come in by boat and
got torn apart by the reefs. I’ve seen what those land mines do if a man takes one wrong
step, and I’ve watched those dogs rip out a man’s throat. Forget it, Mr. McGregor. I’ve
been there. There’s no way in and there’s no way out—not alive, that is.”
Jamie was unable to sleep that night. He kept visualizing thirty-five miles of sand
sprinkled with enormous diamonds belonging to Van der Merwe. He thought of the sea
and the jagged reefs, the dogs hungry to kill, the guards and the land mines. He was not
afraid of the danger; he was not afraid of dying. He was only afraid of dying before he
repaid Salomon van der Merwe


Copyright © 1982 by Sheldon Literary Trust

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