Knaves of Diamonds/Chapter 4

IV.

THE FINDING OF DIAMOND PAN.

"It's no good, little girl; I've seen it coming for weeks, and, now that it has come, we may as well look it in the face. It isn't nice, but we've got to. I'm frozen clean out, and I'd better strike out a new line of some sort before I have to pay with my liberty when I can't pay any longer with my purse."

"But do you mean to tell me, Tom, that such a horrible injustice as that can be possible? That just because you haven't got as much money, and can't employ as many kaffirs as Macadam and that German Jew partner of his, Grünstein, you'll not only have to lose your claim, but be fined like this to your last sovereign! I don't wonder, upon my word, at men being driven from honest work into I.D.B., or anything else, when there are laws like that on the Fields. Why, it's worse than I.D.B. itself! Here they'll give a man fifteen years on the Breakwater for just being found with diamonds he can't account for strictly enough to please the detectives, and yet they'll allow one man to ruin another, and perhaps spoil all his prospects in life, just because he is richer, and because he has got a grudge against him. It's shameful! that's what it is, and if I had my way, and I was a man, I'd—"

"No, you wouldn't, little girl; or if you did there'd only be another funeral very soon after. There is only one law here, and that is the law of money. Everyone's here to make it, and everyone, whether he's an honest man or a thief, is bound to uphold everything that protects it. If you have money you can do as you please, but if you haven't you might as well try to hold up the next rockslip on your back as try to work against it. If I was to take it out of either Macadam or Grünstein in the way you mean, there wouldn't be a man in camp to put his hand out to save me from being lynched the next minute, though there isn't a kaffir or a kopje-walloper on the Fields who doesn't see the swindle.

"But what makes me maddest of all, Lucy, is that it isn't only Macadam's grudge against me for hanging on to that stone which fell with some of my blue into his claim. It's that greasy, hook-nosed son of a thief Grünstein being spoons on you, and wanting me out of the place, so that, as he thinks, he can have the running to himself. That's why he keeps Macadam up to it and goes in with him, and that's why I've hung on so long.

"But it's no use any longer. I can't go on, and I'd better stop before I'm ruined completely. In another week I shouldn't have even the claim to sell. Now I can get something for it, and with that I'll have to clear off the Fields and try my luck over the border. It's my only chance. It looks like chucking up the sponge, I know, and I don't like it, especially as it means leaving you, little girl, almost alone; but if I were to hang on, it would really be playing their game for them."

"Well, I suppose you're right, Tom, and if it can't be helped, it can't. But never mind, we're both of us young enough yet, and you've all Africa before you. I know you'll do your best—and, Tom, you can remember this, that however long you are doing it, when you come back you'll find me just the same as I am now. A bit older, of course, but not so very old, I hope, that you'll—"

The conversation came to an abrupt end just here, or perhaps it might be more correct to say that it was continued in a language which is not translatable through the cold and unsympathetic medium of print.

The facts which had so far formed the basis of the conversation between Miss Lucy Carnegie, the daughter of a fairly well-to-do diamond broker, and Mr. Tom Burrows, a not particularly prosperous diamond miner, may be briefly summarised as follows:

In the days of the open mine-working at the De Beers and Kimberley mines, there existed a law which was the cause of much heart-burning and no little injustice among miners. A digger was compelled, under penalty of progressive fines, which either amounted to, or actually culminated in, confiscation of his claim, to keep pace in removing his "blue" with his next-door neighbour to such an extent as to preclude his ground falling into his neighbour's claim. Such a regulation was really a necessity, but, at the


It was continued in a language which is not translatable.

same time, it is obvious that it might be made an instrument of both tyranny and dishonesty by fortunate and wealthy diggers to freeze out their less prosperous neighbours by driving them either to abandon their claim, or to sell it at an absurdly low price.

This is what had happened to Tom Burrows. His next neighbours, Macadam and Grünstein, were both richer men than himself, and they owned claims on both sides of his. He had quarrelled with Macadam, and Grünstein disliked him, and wanted to get rid of him for the reasons which he stated to his sweetheart. Hence they put all the kaffir workmen they could hire into their claims, and got out their "blue" at a rate which Burrows, with his two kaffirs and one Bushman, could not possibly keep pace with.

The necessary result was that his ground kept falling into theirs far faster than he could get it removed. His neighbours laid the usual informations against him, and time after time he was summoned and fined for failing to obey the law. The fines and the extra expense that he had been forced into for labour had now almost exhausted his resources, and, as he said, if it went on much longer he would lose his claim. This would have meant utter ruin and the deferring of his hopes for an indefinite time, and hence his resolve to throw up the sponge, as he put it, and end the unequal contest.

The next day he sold his claim to his victorious neighbours at about a third of its value, and that night went home to his little tin shanty in Currey Street in no very cheerful or amiable frame of mind, but still by no means despondent. He was young, hearty, and athletic. He possessed nearly two hundred pounds, and, as he believed, a sweetheart who would be as faithful as she was good and pretty. All Africa was open to him, and there were even bigger prizes to be drawn in the fascinating lottery of diamond digging than there had been in the rosiest days of the Victorian and Californian gold-fields.

For all that, he didn't like the idea of being beaten, and still less did he like the idea of leaving Kimberley without taking his sweetheart with him, as he had hoped to do when they had plighted their troth some six months before. Yet, as he had said, there was no help for it. There were no other claims worth having within reach of his means, and he could only remain in camp by taking a berth as overseer or something of that sort, which, of course, would offer no prospect of that sudden rise to wealth which, in common with every other digger on the Fields, he had so confidently anticipated, and which alone could realise the hopes that he cherished on a certain subject which lay very near to his heart.

Now there is a well-known fact which writers of fiction have, very naturally, plagiarised to a considerable extent. It is—generally and more especially in such gambles with destiny as diamond-hunting and gold-digging—that a man's fortunes change for the better, if they are going to do so at all, just when he seems to have the best reasons for accusing the Fates of using loaded dice to his disadvantage. It is also true that under such circumstances the capricious Fates delight to bring about the change through some apparently inadequate and often disreputable agency.

It was just this way with Tom Burrows. Shortly after he had begun on his claim he had, to all intents and purposes, bought a Bushman from a white digger whom he one day found ill-using him a little worse than a Shoreditch savage is accustomed to use his wife. He had expostulated with the digger, who told him in terms of almost sulphurous eloquence to mind his own business. For the next four minutes and a half by the clock the Bushman had a rest, and his master, when he had decided that he had really been in a fight and not an earthquake, was not in a position to go on with his licking.

The next proceeding was an adjournment to the nearest bar, where Tom stood the digger a drink, paid the value of the trifle which he had accused the Bushman of stealing, and so secured his consent to the immediate transfer of his services. That: the kind of man Tom was.

Now, this Bushman, who was known on the Fields as Shirty—from the fact that he was the only one of his kind who possessed a shirt, or even a fragment of one, worn in the fashion of the white man—was a dirty, drunken, disreputable little savage. Like the rest of his species, he had received but few advantages from Nature, and even these he had not turned to any account.


Shirty.

A dispassionate estimate would have placed him considerably lower in the scale of respectability than a decently-brought-up dog, but in one respect at least he would not have suffered by comparison with a dog. Though he only dimly grasped what it meant, he had never forgotten the one kindness that had been done him during the course of his sordid and degraded existence, and so it happened that, in the weird arrangement of human things, he was able to repay it with magnificent interest.

Of course he knew of the sale of the claim. His new master had treated him firmly but still with no approach to brutality, and he had no taste to change his service for that of Macadam or Grünstein. The first thing he did on receiving his dismissal, and the last of his wages, was to go and have a drink of Cape Smoke, and it seemed as though some occult virtue in that commonly fatal fluid kindled somewhere within the recesses of his half-developed little brain a ray of real independent intelligence.

He didn't take a second drink, and, more wonderful still, he seemed to know that if he had done so he would have gone on as long as his money lasted or he could see to get the stuff into his mouth. He went right away, as a dog who hears his master's whistle would have done, to Tom's shanty. Tom was there in the middle of a very brown study, and he greeted his late retainer somewhat gruffly. But Shirty did not mind this; he was accustomed to it.

Humbly but insistently he took him by the edge of his coat and drew him to the door and out into the open air. It was a clear, magnificently-starry night, and when they got out, Shirty began pointing at the stars and muttering in his queer, guttural voice, with many clicks and grunts, and in an almost hopeless mixture of English, Dutch, and his own language, about some place where there were as many of the "sheeney klippies" which people found in the mines as there were stars in the sky. Moreover, those same stars would show him, Shirty, how to guide the good white Baas to the place where they were.

Tom did not get at the meaning of this all at once, but when he did, and he had satisfied himself, first, that Shirty was not drunk, and secondly, that he was very much in earnest, he took him back into the hut and put him through a stiff and lengthy cross-examination, the result of which was that Shirty—after coming to the end of his vocabulary—went down on his hands and knees on the mud floor, and with an old knife and certain bits of stick, drew lines and made dots, and stuck the bits of stick upright at equal distances from each other, until there were thirty of them in a line reaching half-way across the floor.

Tom got the key to the hieroglyphics by recognising that the dots were intended to show the positions of the bigger and brighter stars which Shirty had pointed out to him during his preliminary discourse outside; and ultimately, after considerable study and much talk in mixed languages, he arrived at the definite conclusion that somewhere, thirty days' journey out to the north-west, over the arid wildernesses of the great and terrible Thirstland, there was a half-dried river whose bed was strewn with diamonds as thickly as some streams were with pebbles.

Then straightway arose the question as to how much confidence he might have in his guide. Was it worth while, on such evidence, to plunge into that awful wilderness whose only known history was one of hunger and thirst and sufferings unspeakable, which had been endured by the few who had come back out of the many who had essayed to cross it, in the hope of finding better lands beyond?

If the question had faced him at any other time, he would probably have dismissed it with scant consideration. But just now he was in the same frame of mind as that in which a man, who is having a fight to a finish with bad luck, planks the remains of his dwindling pile on the turn-up of a single card or the chance of a single number. If Shirty's story of the river of diamonds was only a half, a quarter, or even a hundredth part true, and he could get there and come back, he would return not only a rich man, but a man of many millions.

He thought about it nearly all night. Then he went to bed and slept on it. When he woke, soon after daybreak, he heard himself half-unconsciously muttering:

"Millions! Millions!"

He accepted the omen, and decided to go. That day he bought his outfit—a very light waggon, something after the American spider build, four good draught mules, a horse for himself, a tent, and the rest of a prospector's usual kit—and at dawn the next morning he started. He had told no one, not even his sweetheart, the real object of his journey. He saw no use in raising in her breast dazzling hopes which might, after all, end in the whitening of a few bones in some unknown spot far away out yonder over the wilderness, and to have confided in anyone else would have been madness.

Plenty of diggers went prospecting in those days, squeezed out by the constantly growing pressure of the new companies that were being formed to buy up and unite the richest claims; so all he said was that he was going to do as these did, and, without further explanation, turned his back on the camp, and his face towards the long straight line which marked the seeming meeting-place of the endless veld and the endless sky. Forty days later, half-a-dozen heavywinged aas-vogels were wheeling slowly to and fro in the dead, breathless air, looking down in hideous anticipation at two slowly moving figures which were dragging themselves, seemingly with the last efforts of their lives, over the frightful wilderness of sand and stone and dwarfed thorny shrubs, which stretched away in a ghastly monotony of unbroken level till the wearied eye could see no further. One was the figure of a man, the other that of a mule. Two biggish bundles were slung across the mule's saddle. They were neither very big nor very heavy, yet every now and then the mule stumbled feebly under them. The man had tied his left hand to the saddle, and in his right he had a whip-stock, which he was using half as a walking-stick and half as a crutch.

His eyes were three-parts closed, and his head hung down till his chin touched his breast, and rolled slowly from side to side with the motion of his body. His mouth was half open, and the tip of his tongue protruded a little between his dry, black, cracked lips. It was as dry and black as they were, and if you could have put your ear close to his face you would have heard his teeth grating upon it.

Every now and then one or two of the vultures would swoop down a little lower to investigate, as though wondering when it would be safe to begin the promised banquet. It would probably have begun before this but for one fact which the vultures didn't see, or, if they did, didn't understand. The mule's tongue was hanging out of one side of her mouth, dry and black like the man's, but her


Every now and then one or two of the vultures would swoop down.

head was stretched out straight, her eyes, though half-glazed, were wide open, and her nostrils were distended and quivering.

She smelt water, and she was going towards it. It might be near or far, but as long as she could put one hoof before the other she would stagger on in that direction, swerving neither to right nor left till she reached the water, or dropped dead in her tracks.

Tom Burrows knew this, and that was why he had tied himself to the saddle. The mule was the better animal now, and her instinct had to take the place of the human reason that had failed. If she reached the water he would reach it, if not—well, it would do her no injury if he had to cut her throat to gain strength enough to struggle on a little farther.

This was, so far, the end of his expedition, and the outcome of his hopes. Poor little Shirty's body had, more than a week ago, been assimilated into the system of a starving lion, his horse had died of the "big head" sickness before that, one of his mules had strayed, and by this time no doubt its bones were picked clean. Two others had taken the sickness, and had died the same night. The waggon stood abandoned five or six days' journey back, and here he was, with the strongest and wiriest of his animals, worn to a skeleton like himself, and half mad with thirst, within scent of water, it was true, but within sight of nothing but the bare, baked wildernesses around, and the blazing white-hot heavens above.

Hour after hour passed in dumb, hopeless struggling, and blind, half-conscious suffering, and still man and beast staggered on, and the wheeling vultures came lower and closer.

At last, about the middle of the afternoon, the mule stopped, and a sort of shudder ran through her body. Tom stumbled, and would have fallen, if his hand had not been fast to the saddle. As if the stoppage had roused him out of his slumber, he pulled himself up; his reason seemed to be awakening for a last struggle with delirium, and he raised his head and looked about him, and tried to remember where he was, and what had happened to him.

Had the mule given out at last? Her knees were shaking, and her head drooping. This was the end, then. He dropped his stick and fumbled for his knife to cut his left hand loose, so that— No, the mule didn't fall; she raised her head again. A horrible sound, like a human death-rattle, seemed to come out of her dried throat, and then she started forward again. He staggered on beside her, feeling a vague sort of anger at the necessity for any more exertion. Presently the ground began to dip a little, then more and more, and the mule hobbled on quicker and quicker, making the noise in its throat almost continuously.

Was she coming to water at last? Tom pulled himself together once more, rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand, and looked about him. He saw lakes and rivers and plashing cascades whose waters made no sound; but he had seen those every day—every hour almost—since the thirst-madness began, ever in the skies, not on the earth, and he was not quite mad enough yet not to know that.

But stop—if there was no water on earth there surely had been some here once. He rubbed his eyes harder, till he even brought a little moisture into them. That cleared his sight, and he saw that the mule had brought him to a little shallow valley, and that along the middle of it there ran a string of patches of sand, broken by worn boulders and lumps of dry-baked, grey-blue earth that had once been mud.

The mule tottered to one of the sand patches and thrust her nose into the sand with a hoarse, rattling grunt. At the same moment it flashed across Tom's half-clouded mind that water is often found beneath the dry beds of vanished African streams. He cut his hand loose, flung himself down on the sand, and began to dig with his knife feebly but desperately. The mule, meanwhile, began scraping with her fore-hoofs, and this encouraged him to go on. He broke the sand up with the knife-blade, and scooped it out with his hands. Presently the knife-blade began to rattle and clink against pebbles in the sand, and when the hole was about a foot deep there were more stones than sand.

He thrust his hands down and brought up a double handful of them. He happened to look at them before he threw them away, and as he did so a sound something like what the mule was making came from his throat. The pebbles were diamonds of all sizes and colours, and in his two hands there he probably held a 'hundred thousand pounds' worth. He flung them away with a cry that it would not have done anyone much good to hear. What were all the diamonds in the world worth in comparison to half a pint of water?

He thrust his hands into the hole again. This time he uttered a very different cry, for now the stones at the bottom were wet. He grubbed them up and threw them out, now with frantic energy—thousands and thousands of pounds' worth of them. The mule put her nose among them, and seemed to draw the moisture off them with her breath. That was all the good they were just then.

After a few more minutes of hard work a little water—real liquid water!—collected at the bottom of the hole. He tried to thrust his head into it so that he could get his lips to the water, but it was too small, so he made


He flung them away with a cry.

a cup of his hands and put them against his mouth, and in that instant he passed from the torments of Hell to the joys of Paradise. His lips and tongue seemed to melt as the water touched them, and his thickening blood pulsed with new life already.

He was brought out of his ecstasy by the mule thrusting its nose down into the hole. He tried to drag it back; he might as well have tried to drag a tree up by its roots. For a few mad moments man and beast fought for the water. He kicked her, and even struck her with the knife, but she was too busy even to notice it. Then the delirium left him again. There was a light short spade and a little prospector's pick tied between the two bundles on the mule's back. He cut them adrift and went to another patch and began to dig, leaving his beast to enjoy what she had earned so well.

He soon got to the water this time. There was plenty of it, apparently, under the whole river bed; plenty, no doubt, to wash out the diamondiferous earth; perhaps even enough with proper management to run a little crushing mill if ever they should come to hard "blue."

There is no miracle so great as the change that a drink of sweet, fresh water will make in a man who is dying with thirst. If the Elixir of Life had been discovered it could have made no greater change in a man at the point of death. Madness becomes sanity, agony becomes a delight of physical existence, and the desert that was a Hell before seems a Paradise in those first few minutes of new life.

In less than half-an-hour after he had staggered into the valley, Tom Burrows was sitting on a boulder with a tin pannikin of water in one hand and a strip of biltong in the other, enjoying himself thoroughly. The mule had drunk her fill, and was now munching contentedly at some very indigestible-looking herbage that she had found under one of the banks of the underground river.

"Millions! Millions! Here they are at last, if I can only get them back!" exclaimed the man who, half-an-hour before, could not have articulated two words distinctly to save his life; and as he said this he turned over with his foot a couple of spadefuls of sand and pebbles and diamonds, which he had thrown up out of his water-hole close by the boulder.

"I wonder what the folks in camp would say to this—and how the deuce I'm going to get back? Sinbad's Valley of Diamonds would be a fool to this, I reckon, if it was properly dug up. Poor little Shirty, he was right after all, though it was the mule that got me here. That mule may turn out worth a good many millions if I do get back—yes, but that's the question. Well, I've found the place anyhow—fancy a river with diamonds for pebbles! That's what it comes to. I wonder where this river goes to?

"Why, what an ass I am!" he suddenly cried, jumping up to his feet. "Of course I shall get back. These rivers always come to the surface some time, or open into some other river, and I'll work along this one till it does. It may take a few months, but that doesn't matter now. I'm bound to get somewhere in time." It took him nearly four months of incessant toil to do it, but the hope within him was now too strong for hunger or thirst, or weariness to conquer it, and so in the end he and the mule both reached the sea at Waalfisch Bay, and there he sold the mule that had unconsciously led him to the new Golconda which was hidden away in the wilderness from all eyes but his, and then took ship to Port Elizabeth.

He would have stopped at Cape Town, but he knew that to try and sell any of the rough diamonds that he had brought with him there would at once land him in endless difficulties, for of course he could only account for the possession of them by telling the truth, which, probably, no one would believe, even if he had a mind to tell it, which he had not. But at Port Elizabeth there were plenty of respectable citizens who would buy a few thousand pounds' worth of gems from him without asking a question, provided that he let them have them cheap enough, and what did that matter to a man who knew how to go straight to a place where diamonds were as plentiful as the pebbles by the seashore?

He had been close on seven months away when he at length climbed down from the front of the coach at the Kimberley Post-office. Miss Carnegie had, of course, already been advised of his arrival by telegram, and


He climbed down from the front of the coach.

equally of course she was there to meet him. It also happened that an intimate friend and co-patriot of Mr. Grünstein had been a traveller by the same coach, and had brought with him certain vague, but by no means comforting, particulars as to the late exile's present means and future prospects.

Mr. Grünstein had watched Tom Burrows depart into the wilderness with undisguised, and indeed frankly expressed, satisfaction. He was himself getting to be a rich man now, and after Tom's departure he had succeeded in ingratiating himself with Miss Carnegie's father, even if he had not made much progress with the young lady herself. Still, granted that the more favoured suitor should vanish, a mere adventurer and a practically ruined man, into the wilderness never to return, there were no reasonable reasons why present wealth and respectability should not ultimately triumph over absent uncertainty, however romantic it might be.

But now absent romance had unexpectedly become a present reality, and from what Mr. Grünstein heard from his friend, it was pretty heavily gilded. Divested of imaginative trimmings, certain facts had leaked out, and so reached Mr. Grünstein's ears, either through Tom's own indiscretion or that of some of the gentlemen he had had dealings with in Port Elizabeth. He had come back from somewhere, evidently a very different locality from that for which he had started, with a large number of rough diamonds of extraordinary size, colour, and purity in his possession. Of these he had sold, at very easy prices, some four to five thousand pounds' worth at Port Elizabeth. That he had others still in hand seemed sufficiently clear from the fact that one of the Port Elizabeth merchants had vainly endeavoured to buy a magnificent orange-coloured stone of over a hundred carats. Now from Mr. Grünstein's point of view it was sufficiently aggravating that the wanderer should return at all; but that he should come back after some seven months' absence, certainly the possessor of thousands, and possibly the discoverer of some unknown diamond-field, and therefore the potential possessor of millions, was something a great deal worse. It meant the ruin of Mr. Grünstein's dearest hopes, and possibly it might mean retaliation for what had gone before—a retaliation which now, as then, the possession of superior wealth would make easy.

He saw the meeting between Miss Carnegie and the returned wanderer, and went away with his heart full of bitterness and dark thoughts to take counsel with his partner. Mr. Macadam was a man who made it his boast that he never forgave an injury, great or small, and he had not yet forgiven Tom Burrows, for it is notoriously a difficult thing to forgive those whom we have injured without just cause.

It will be necessary here to explain that during Tom Burrows' absence from Kimberley the Amalgamation had taken place. The great De Beers Corporation now governed the Fields with irresistible sway, and the last and most drastic of the Diamond Laws had been passed. This was, of course, perfectly well known to Messrs. Grünstein and Macadam, if not to the discoverer of the New Golconda, and the result of about half-an-hour's interview between them, and of certain immediately subsequent information conveyed to Inspector Lipinzki, was an official visit to the house of Miss Carnegie's father, where Mr. Tom Burrows was discovered in the act of showing such a collection of rough diamonds to his sweetheart and her now smiling parents as had never been seen in Griqualand West before.

In the course of the exciting and somewhat painful scene which followed, the owner of the diamonds absolutely refused to give any satisfactory account of their possession, and strenuously insisted on his hosts keeping the pledge they had given, and holding their tongues—upon which the inspector and his men did their obvious duty under the circumstances, seized the diamonds, walked Master Tom off to prison, and warned the Carnegies—father, mother, and daughter—that they would have to appear the next morning at the police-court as witnesses, and that any attempt at flight would be both useless and disastrous.

When his case came on the next day, Tom was amazed, and Miss Lucy and her parents were not a little dismayed, at the formidable array of evidence that was given in support of the charge of illicit dealing and unlawful possession. The accused obstinately held his tongue, and they had bound themselves by a solemn promise to do likewise. There was, therefore, no evidence for the defence beyond the bald and unsupported statement that the diamonds in question had not come out of any mine in Griqualand West or within the jurisdiction of the Cape Government.

But, on the other hand, Mr. Grünstein and his friend, Tom's fellow-traveller from Port Elizabeth, deliberately swore, the one that Thomas Burrows had had illicit dealing with certain kaffirs employed in the mines, and the other that he had taken a very valuable parcel of rough stones from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, and there disposed of some of them at the usual prices asked by illicit traffickers. This evidence was supported by that of three "converted" kaffirs, who could usually be bought on the Fields for such nefarious purposes, to the effect that they had seen certain of these very stones purchased by a Polish Jew who had since fled the country.

The theory of the prosecution, therefore, was that the accused had all along been engaged in the illicit traffic, and that his departure into the wilderness, and his absence from the Fields, were merely parts of an elaborate scheme for obtaining credence to a cock-and-bull story that was only a flimsy covering for illicit dealings on a gigantic scale.

It was a pretty flimsy theory, certainly, but the prosecuting counsel made the most of it, and there was not a shred of evidence to contradict it, so the case was sent for trial to the Special Court, bail was refused, and Mr. Grünstein congratulated himself on having successfully annulled his rival's mysterious good-fortune, and earned for himself and his fellow-conspirators the ten per cent. reward on an exceedingly valuable capture.

It was, however, noticed that the accused, so far from recognising the perilous position in which he stood, seemed to treat the whole affair as a joke, and, as a matter of fact, the magistrate had more than once to reprove him for unseemly hilarity during the giving of the evidence for the prosecution.

That afternoon the Secretary of De Beers Company received through Inspector Lipinzki a letter from the prisoner requesting him, in the interests of the whole diamond trade of the world, to call upon him that evening, and bring with him the inspector and one of the Directors of De Beers, whom Tom had known intimately before his departure. They went, and, having pledged their honour to secrecy, they received from him a detailed and circumstantial account of his adventures, from which only one particular was omitted, and that was the locality and exact position of the New Golconda, which could only be discovered by means of the map which its discoverer had made, and which would be as hard, if not harder, to find than Diamond Pan itself. There is no need to reproduce the interview in detail; it will be sufficient to say that towards its close the prisoner said very quietly, but with all the air of a man who knows what he is talking about and means to stick to what he says:

"Now, gentlemen, I have told you nearly all that I intend you to know for the present. You can believe me or do the other thing, just as you please. Granted that you don't, it is quite possible that I may be convicted and sent to the Breakwater, but now I will give you one more fact. If that happens, I shall not have served twelve months of my sentence before the markets of the world will be flooded with diamonds such as the mines of Kimberley never have produced and never will. They shall be so cheap that every servant girl shall be able to blaze with them if she likes, and when they are as cheap as, or cheaper than, their imitations, I fancy you will find the monopoly of De Beers as unsaleable a commodity as the diamonds which it then won't pay to produce.

"On the other hand, if the prosecution is withdrawn, as I suggest, and those who have conspired to ruin me are properly punished, I will conduct an expedition, half of which shall be selected by myself and half by you, to the place I have spoken of. If you find that I have lied to you, well, you may shoot me on the spot, and say that a lion got me for all I care, but if you find that what I say is correct, and that there really exists a whole valley paved with diamonds, such as you have seen to-day, to an unknown depth, then you will give me a share in the De Beers Consolidated Mines to the value of a million, and, in consideration of that, I will make an agreement with you giving you a half share in my discovery, which will be very cheap at the price.

"Our interests will then be identical, and your control of the diamond market as intact as it is now. Later on we can, of course, take such steps as we think fit to astonish the world by the production of a limited quantity of such diamonds as it has never even dreamt of."

These were weighty words, and the next morning a full meeting of the Directors of De Beers sat for five hours to consider them, and in the end, by the casting vote of the General Manager, it was decided to accept Mr. Burrows' terms.

The next day, on the advice of Inspector Lipinzki, who had never believed that the diamonds had come from the Griqualand mines, they were submitted to the inspection of a committee of experts, and they unanimously decided that no such stones ever had been, or, in all probability, would be, found in Kimberley or its neighbourhood. On the strength of this, the prosecution was withdrawn, Tom Burrows was released, and Mr. Grünstein and his confederate made a prompt appearance in the dock on a charge of conspiracy and perjury and suborning of perjury.

The traveller from Port Elizabeth broke down before the examination had proceeded ten minutes, offered himself as Queen's evidence, and gave the whole thing away. On strong recommendations from the Detective Department, they were remanded for six weeks "pending the production of further evidence," and during that six weeks the discoverer of the New Golconda rediscovered it in company with a very select but lavishly-equipped expedition.

When they got back to Kimberley, Tom's innocence was conclusively established, and, in the event, it so happened that he and his bride sailed from Cape Town on their wedding trip to England on the same day that Mr. Grünstein and his friend arrived in Cape Town for the purpose of doing five and three years respectively on the Breakwater.

Very shortly afterwards there was a large extension of British territory north and west of Griqualand, the reasons for which were not wholly political. Mr. Burrows, under his real name, is now a Director of De Beers and a millionaire several times over. Some day the Kimberley Mines may be exhausted. It may be a very long time before that happens, but should it come to pass in their life-times, it will be an event of absolute indifference to that gentleman and his colleagues.