#61 – the Wage

“Well! I hear there is good news.” Van der Merwe beamed. He seated himself at the table and pushed the
plate and silverware away, clearing a place in front of him.
“That’s right, sir.” Proudly, Jamie took a large leather pouch from his jacket pocket and poured the diamonds
on the kitchen table. Van der Merwe stared at them, hypnotized, then picked them up slowly, one by one,
savoring each one, saving the largest until last. Then he scooped up the diamonds, put them in a chamois
bag and put the bag in a large iron safe in the corner and locked it.
When he spoke, there was a note of deep satisfaction in his voice. “You’ve done well, Mr. McGregor. Very
well, indeed.”
‘Thank you, sir. This is only the beginning. There are hundreds more there. I don’t even dare think about
how much they’re worth.”
“And you’ve staked out the claim properly?”
“Yes, sir.” Jamie reached in his pocket and pulled out the registration slip. “It’s registered in both our
Van der Merwe studied the slip, then put it in his pocket. “You deserve a bonus. Wait here.” He started
toward the doorway that led into the shop. “Come along, Margaret.”
She followed him meekly, and Jamie thought, She’s like a frightened kitten.
A few mintues later, Van der Merwe returned, alone. “Here we are.” He opened a purse and carefully
counted out fifty pounds.
Jamie looked at him, puzzled. “What’s this for, sir?”
“For you, son. All of it.”
“I—I don’t understand.”
“You’ve been gone twenty-four weeks. At two pounds a week, that’s forty-eight pounds, and I’m giving you
an extra two pounds as a bonus.”
Jamie laughed.”I don’t need a bonus. I have my share of the diamonds.”
“Your share of the diamonds?”
“Why, yes, sir. My fifty percent. We’re partners.”
Van der Merwe was staring at him. “Partners? Where did you get that idea?”
“Where did I—?” Jamie looked at the Dutchman in bewilderment. “We have a contract.”
“That is correct. Have you read it?”
“Well, no, sir. It’s in Afrikaans, but you said we were fifty-fifty partners.”
The older man shook his head. “You misunderstood me, Mr. McGregor. I don’t need any partners. You were
working for me. I outfitted you and sent you to find diamonds for me.”
Jamie could feel a slow rage boiling up within him. “You gave me nothing. I paid you a hundred and twenty
pounds for that equipment.”
The old man shrugged. “I won’t waste my valuable time quibbling. Tell you what I’ll do. I’ll give you an extra
five pounds, and we’ll call the whole thing quits. I think that’s very generous.
Jamie exploded in a fury. “We’ll nae call the whole thing quits!” In his anger his Scottish burr came back. “I’m
entitled to half that claim. And I’ll get it. I registered it in both our names.”
Van der Merwe smiled thinly. “Then you tried to cheat me. I could have you arrested for that.” He shoved the
money into Jamie’s hand. “Now take your wages and get out.”
‘I’ll fight you!”
“Do you have money for a lawyer? I own them all in these parts, boy.”
This isn’t happening to me, Jamie thought. It’s a nightmare. The agony he had gone through, the weeks and
months of the burning desert, the punishing physical labor from sunrise to sunset—it all came flooding back.
He had nearly died, and now this man was trying to cheat him out of what was his.
He looked Van der Merwe in the eye. “I’ll not let you get away with this. I’m not going to leave Klipdrift. I’ll tell
everybody here what you’ve done. I’m going to get my share of those diamonds.”
Van der Merwe started to turn away from the fury in the pale-gray eyes. “You’d better find a doctor, boy,” he
muttered. “I think the sun has addled your wits.”


Copyright © 1982 by Sheldon Literary Trust

Read More


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s