Rough Diamond -a story from South Africa Chapter 2
A Story of a lost father and a lost diamond
“Come and look here, Susan”, Danie called out as he walked to the dilapidated door of the old Longlands Hotel and stopped in front of the large window. “I didn’t know if I should show this to you, but eventually I decided I should”. He pointed to the window pane and the many names and dates and numbers that had been cut into the glass. Between J Jacobs ‘45 145 and M James 1804 -205, was J van Zyl ’93-125 . He explained to her what then seemed pretty obvious: “When diggers found a diamond of note, they celebrated it at the Longlands after recording their find on the window. On the bar counter there used to be a scale for weighing the stones and the same diamond is used to engrave the message. I wondered where Jacque weighed his or was it just a figment of his imagination? If only the stories of all those discoveries could have been recorded! There seems to be another one happening right now”, Danie seemed to ask himself.
She ached to ask him how much a diamond like that was worth, as she had no idea. In comparison to most of the others on the window it seemed rather small. At the same time, asking that question may seem to indicate that she was chasing after Jacque because of it. She could see on his face that this was a conclusion he had already made and so she blushed at the thought. He, however, was not going to let her get away with it. “A diamond of that size, depending on its quality, would be worth many millions”. Her heart went ice cold. Emotions that she had never felt before soared through her body. A few thousand questions began to jump into her mind and there was no way she could get them into any kind of order.
“Danie, Jacque is my Dad”, she tried to defend herself. She saw the disbelief in his face. “He left us when I was just a little girl and a couple of weeks ago we received some money and a letter from him postmarked Longlands”, she blurted out. “Why am I trying to defend myself to you? No wonder you could not decide if you should tell me!”
“Let’s go and see if we can find anything at the diggings. Rumours about Jacque’s recent find are rife in the area and everyone who knows him is worried about him when he disappeared. People have vanished before after finding a large diamond. It is a hard life out here on the diggings and everyone dreams of finding the big one. Hop on the back of my bike so that we can go and see what we can find out. It is only a few kilometers to his claim. If Piet Swart is still there we can ask him what he knows”.
Hanging onto the waist of Danie as they travelled on his Suzuki along dusty tracks in between the diggings, Susan asked herself if she had gone mad. How could this actually be happening to her? In one of the claims they passed a huge frontend loader was emptying river gravel onto a conveyer belt that obviously led to a sorting tray. Did Jacque have something like that? She doubted it, but who knows. At another claim a lonely worker shook a hand sieve staring intently into the mixture of gravel and sand. Danie waved a friendly greeting and got an equally friendly response. Suddenly Danie slowed and then turned into a side track nearer the river, stopping next to a small corrugated iron shack.
“This is Jacques place, and there is Piet Swart just washing up”. Susan saw a powerfully built black man washing himself in a bucket of water, his skin shining in the late evening sun. “Dag Piet”, Danie greeted the man who was obviously surprised to see these unexpected and perhaps even unwelcome visitors. He grunted an answer that Susan could not decipher. “Let me talk to him Susan” Danie suggested.
As the two men engaged in a deep conversation, with some serious head nodding and gestures, Susan inspected the site demarcated by a couple of stakes knocked into the ground. A deep hole marked the spot where Piet had been digging, while next to it lay a heap of rocks on the one side and some fine gravel/sand on the other. A pick and shovel, a couple of buckets, two round sieves and one that stood upright on a frame, were the only pieces of equipment she could see. She moved to the door of the shack but it was locked with a bolt and big lock. Peering through the small window she saw a room with some basic furniture; a bed, a table, a cupboard and two chairs. A small gas stove stood on the table and a few pots and pans were stacked in a corner.
Is this where my father lives? What has happened to him? Will Piet Swart know anything? Her mind had so many questions. In her heart she was afraid to hope for a good outcome. When, or if, she finds the answers to the questions that now raced through her mind, now so different to the ones she left home with, will they be ones she will be able to live with? If only she had stayed home and gone on with her life. Why had that letter arrived that opened this series of events?