Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

covers.

forth the diamond.charged residue is scru• discovery that I am shadowed prompts me tinized almost particle by particle. The to be less ready to trickle handfuls of seeking or "sorting” house consists of a diamonds through my fingers, and to tuck long but, with tables so disposed as to be up my cuffs ostentatiously, to disarm sussearchingly illuminated by the rays of picion that I may be exercising a little the sun.

Here are assembled, in com- legerdemain. paratively noiseless activity, a multi- After the English sorters have secured tude of black convicts, with a sprinkling the greater part of the contained treasure of white sorters. A Kaffir half fills a com- – have, as it were, picked the plums out mon hand-sieve with the precious mate- of the pudding—the débris is passed on rial, pours some water over it, swirls it to the native convicts for the discovery of about with a peculiar jerk which tends to the casually remaining currants. They send the heavier diamonds down to the turn the stuff over twice, and their find bottom, and then with a bump empties ings are dropped into boxes with padlocked the sieve upside down in front of a Euro

One which I examined contained pean. Most of the diamonds present ap- nine or ten seed-stones, as the result of pear on the reversed surface of the topsy- five or six hours' work ; but their total turvied heap ; but numerous stragglers are value was reckoned at about £50. The also found by turning over seriatim, with a prisoners receive a special money reward bricklayer's snall trowel

, the bright pretty in proportion to their success, amounting, pile of olivine (a species of jade), garnets as far as I remember, to 14d. per carat. (false), non-magnetic iron, and diamonds, It is manifest that without soine such inwhich, slightly dripping to aid selection, ducement they would scamp their investiglitters in the sun like a child's box of gation. beads. Each searcher is supplied with a For diamond labor the Company hires common little tin box, into which he from Government sixty-five Kaffir condrops his findings. I peer into one of victs, of whose maintenance it bears the them taken haphazard : it contains about entire expense, and whose condition in a dozen small stones, representing the re- the prison, which I subsequently inspected, sults of one man's searching for three or might almost be called enviable. They four hours, and is approximately equiva- are grouped together by tribes; the sepalent to the value of £1600. The monot- rate and silent system is ignored ; they ony of investigation naturally brings about are well and warmly housed ; an occaa tendency to become careless ; and in sional wback from the warders habitually order to keep attention on the full stretch, constitutes their punishments; and their variety is afforded by frequently changing food comprises, together with other allowthe sorters to different-sized siftings ; so ances, the enormous daily meat-ration of that at one spell the prizes to be discov- 16 lb., plus a large supply of bread. The ered consist of stones no larger than pep- traditional rollicking "life on the ocean percorns, while at another they are as big wave'' dwindles into dulness compared as hazel-nuts. The facilities for theft by with a “life in a convict-yard" at KimEuropean workers are obvious, inasmuch berley. They are every night searched to as searching of their persons—as in the the very skin to prevent them pilfering case of natives, to be hereafter described diamonds. -is out of the question ; and there is no Thus we have followed the stages of doubt that the Company is consequently mining, farining, washing, sifting, searchsubjected to heavy losses, wbich some ex- ing, and finding, during which diamonds perts estimate as being as high as 10 per have been discovered in small numbers, cent—i.e., £10 worth is stolen out of but generally of exceptional size, in the every £100 worth discovered. Numerous mine, a few more in the “ blue" exposed placards forbid visitors to handle the gravel in the open fields, but by far the greater ** How do you know,” I inquire, " that number in the sorting-houses. Next, the I, a perfect stranger to you, have not al- scene reverts to the rooms in the De Beers ready secreted two or three diamonds un- office, where all the stones are sent for der my tongue or up my sleeve ?“No sale. Considering the vast treasure it fear," is the smiling reply ; "unknown contains, the building is of a flimsy dato yourself, you are being carefully and ture, with little provision against fire or incessantly watched." And this startling thieves beyond one or two safes, and a

as

a

few loaded revolvers on the table, ready high as 60 per cent of their value, and to be snatched up for instant use. Mr. the loss of weight incurred thereby freJoseph, we may assume, is still arguing quently amounts to two-thirds of their the question of £26,000 or £26,400 be- original carats. Among the curiosities of fore one parcel ; but on another adjacent the collection are fancy stones of queer table are spread out other diamonds worth shapes and colors-deep yellow, dark about £60,000 in their rough state. purple, and prismatic shades. But all These are arranged in about eight rows, diamonds-good, bad, and indifferenteach containing seven or eight little heaps, are transmitted to Europe at the present and, moreover, so disposed as to be gradu- rate of 40,000 or 50,000 carats weekly, ated both according to color, from white and ultimately find their way into the to darkish yellow-and to size, from pin's hands of the Amsterdam cutters. heads to nutmegs. A large proportion By degrees the De Beers Company has are characterized by a curious mathemati- bought up the four principal mines in the cal regularity of shape-perfect octahe- district, which are included in the limited drons being the most frequent, with occa- space of four square miles, and comprise sional dodecahedrons ; but it is out of the the Kimberley, area 31 acres ; Du Toits, question to muster up any admiration for 35 acres ; Bultfontein, 27 acres ; while them in their present condition. They the De Beers proper, the most valuable of have been cleaned by immersion in a solu- all, spreads over 184 acres. In addition, tion of boiling water and acid ; yet they it has a large proprietorship in Brazilian still resemble bits of common dull glass, mines. The directors therefore strenuand can only be rendered interesting by a ously insist, with every appearance of peremptory demand on prophetic imagina- sound reasoning, that the purchase of tion. Even a 400-carat diamond, found their shares should not be regarded as a the previous day, marking an era in the speculation like gold-mine property, but De Beers discoveries, and which is now safe and permanent investment. produced out of an old tin box easily to They claim that, being the chief diamondbe prized open by a schoolboy with his producers in the world, they can so reguknife, cannot produce a vestige of enthu- late the issues of stones to the market that siasm among the Company, although it they can maintain a steadily uniform nakes a stir among the outside public. price, and that their unworked “ blue," It is a perfect octahedron of a distinctly even at the present level, will suffice for yellow color, about the size of a par- many years' harvest on the existing scale. tridge's egg, and even when cut will be of But as yet the bottom has not been a weight far in excess of the Koh-i-noor. plumbed, and the deeper the shaft ihe Though of very high value, it can never richer the produce. I may mention the become of world-wide repute, inasmuch theory, which, however crude, is not en. as it is not of the first water. Indeed tirely without verisimilitude, that the dia. there is reason to surmise that only a mi- mondiferous material has been thrust up nority of the Kimberley findings are brill- by igneous agency from immense proiants, and that all such are absorbed into fundity through a superincumbent mass ; the Brazilian diamonds which constitute that the same agent had long ago crystalfamily jewelry handed down as heirlooms lized the diamonds ; and that if we could of great value. “How can you distin- dig down to that crust we should find the guish true from false dianionds ?” I ask. precious stones sticking to the roof like

By common-sense,” is the contemptu- pieces of suet in a pudding. Nor is it ous reply of experts so trained by long argued-can there be the smallest doubt ? experience that they jump at accurate con- after such long and extensive experience, clusions without being able to trace the as to the uniform average richness of the process thereof. It was pointed out, be- earth. For instance, the accepted estisides, that by crackling large stones to

mate that one De Beers truck-load will gether in the hand the noise produced is produce 1} carat is useful and true in theof a peculiar sharp grating sound. Ad- ory only, but that a thousand loads will mirable ! only unfortunately few of us possess enough large diamonds to enable us to

of the diamonds produced from carry out the experiinent. The expense the four principal Kimberley mines in 1887 of cutting and polishing is estimated as was £4,033,332.

* The

as

bring to light 1500 carats is perfectly ac- perfectly nude blacks represents a type of curate in practice.

life so strangely removed from civilizaOne morning when I was inspecting the tion, that we need all the dictates of huworks, the 400-carat stone to which I have manity and religion to prevent our conalready alluded was discovered, and great stantly forgetting “after whose image" was the curiosity and interest excited all these men are made. An English suthroughout Kimberley generally. But the perintendent conducts me through the esmining managers were supremely indiffer- tablishment, and by degrees the impresent : the find would merely help to bal- sion of noisy chaos is changed into an apance the average, and its direct influence preciation of the system and order mainon the gross receipts would be quite in- tained. In one corner are quarters reappreciable. Should there be any tem- served for the European warders ; elseporary surfeit of stones in England, the where is a large butchery, where good demand in America, and especially in the mutton is sold at 4d. and beef at 3d, a States, is steadily increasing, and there is pound. The superior tribes—that is to an encouraging prospect of a fresh field say, the most industrious, intelligent, refor sale in the vast and populous Chinese liable, and stalwart, such as the Zulus—are empire. On the other hand, the counter- flesh-eating, and habitually consume arguments must be conceded, that it is much as 11 lb. daily ; the inferior—as, quite within the bounds of possibility the for example, the Korannas and Bushmen demand for diamonds may simultaneously —subsist entirely on mealies and other diminish throughout the world ; and there vegetable diet. Here is a canteen on an exists the still more serious contingency of extensive and comprehensive scale, furthe discovery of fresh and extensive sur- nishing the natives with every article of face-washings, so inexpensive in working daily life they have learned to require by as to lessen materially the value of the association with Europeans, and with Kimberley mines with their costly ma- every description of grocery for which chinery.

they have a fancy. Beer, spirits, or alWith some sensation of relief I turn cohol in any form whatsoever, are, bowfrom poring over these—shall I say stu- ever, rigidly excluded ; and although pid ?-stones, to the remarkable system Kaffirs are prone to excessive intemperof native labor organized for their collec- ance, and here have plenty of money at tion. I have already alluded to the ex- their disposal, they readily accept the retreme facilities for pilfering them ; and to striction-one more instance of the adcounteract this as effectually as possible, vantageous practicability of suddenly dea large native compound-an enclosure priving habitual inebriates of their poison. within the mining enclosure-has been The receipt of high wages powerfully deestablished, comprising an area of 1.} acre, velops the craze for gambling, as innate in surrounded by corrugated-iron sheeting, blacks as in whites. A group is collected about 10 feet high and very difficult to in a shady corner absorbed in a game of climb. Incessant watch and ward, iron childish simplicity with cards, which a portals, bolts and bars, are safeguards Kaffir deals with the neatness and rapidity against the escape of insiders ; and all of a professed prestidigitator. The stakes outsiders are subjected, like ourselves, to are 5d. per deal-as ruinously high as una scrutiny of our appearance and an ex- limited loo would be to Englishmen-and amination of our passes, ere admitted the winners clutch at their gains with a within the precincts of that anomaly - a frenzy quite at variance with the ideal imprison for free men. One working shift passiveness of the savage. Elsewhere, in is being actually employed in the mines; the open, cooks are preparing food in but the remainder, 1400 or 1500 in num- Jarge caldrons for their respective tribes. ber, constitute a strange collection of nu- A hasty inspection of some of the nauseous merous tribes, collected from every quar- seething messes conveys to me the im. ter of South Africa, which would engross pression that the chief constituents are the interest of an enthusiastic ethnologist. heads and entrails

. Tribes are kept apart Nor is the sight altogether displeasing : in separate huts ; for were there an indislaughing and talking, basking and sleep- criminate mixture, one half would quickly ing, eating, smoking, and playing, are in be at the throats of the other balf. The full swing ; but the concourse of so many interiors of the dwellings mark curiously the gradations of savagedom. In some acteristic distinction between monkey and for example, among the Zulus — compara- man is the power possessed by the latter tive neatness, order, and cleanliness pre- of opposability between the forefinger and vail ; their blankets and rugs are brightly thumb. This power is lacking in the striped, their rags are brilliant, their sleep- Bushinen. Pinch my finger,” I said to ing-places have some semblance of being one of them ; "pinch much harder." human resorts, and even faint traces of at- In vain ; the pressure would scarcely have tempted decoration can be detected. In injured a fly. Now, an anthropoidal ape others, notably among the Baralongs and possesses many human characteristics, but Batlapins, the interiors are like nothing is essentially a monkey ; a Bushman poselse than the lairs of grovelling beasts of sesses many apish characteristics, but is the field. One habit, however, seems essentially a man. A miserable, dwarfed, common to all. Whatever the heat of decrepit, repulsive man. One whom I the weather or warmth of the spot, the measured was only four feet three inches sleeping savage is careful to envelop com- in height, with a skinny feeble body to pletely in his blanket not only his body correspond, a screwed-up chest, drum. but his head, leaving not the smallest stick legs and arms, very small cerebelchink for breathing, so that it is marvel. lum, prognathous jaws, high cheek-bones, Jous he is not asphyxiated. The higher acute facial angle, and lack-lustre eyes. tribes of Kaffirs are, however, clean in His features were totally devoid of extheir habits, and delight in wallowing in pression ; his demeanor, when examined the large compound tank provided for and handled, was more stolid than that of them, and are remarkably free from a sheep ; his language could barely be bouquet de native ; whereas a single whiff called coherent; and in fact, it was diffiof a Chinaman is sickening, and proximity cult and painful to realize that this poor even to a bath-loving Japanese elicits an brutish animal must be classified in a involuntary “phew."

genus which comprises a Newton, a MilMy conductor assures me that although ton, and a Shakespeare. The only inthe number of Europeans is a mere frac- stance I witnessed of Bushman intelligence tion of the total of black residents, not the was in a tiny infant in Kimberley hospislightest difficulty is experienced in main- tal. The creature was about the size of a taining order. This is due partly to the puppy, and equally bright and vivacious, multiplicity of tribes, each one of which illustrating the theory that in a race of regards with distrust the others, and de- low intellect intelligence is in an inverse clines to combine ; partly to the constant ratio to age. influx of fresh arrivals and departure of To supply the incarcerated Kaffirs with old hands ; partly to the entire absence of any means of intellectual occupation—to women and children ; and finally, to the give them books, paper, writing materials, fact that all are healthy adults, whose time etc.--would be like presenting ruffles to a is pretty well taken up in working, eating, man wanting a shirt. I inspected the and sleeping. Moreover, a certain nom- small nominal scbool ; it was a mere farce. ber of tribal princelets, who receive wages I espied two or three Methodist hymnbut never do a stroke of work, materially books in possession of so-called converts ; contribute to suppress quarrels. My but alas ! here, as elsewhere in South guide appeared to be on excellent terms Africa, the expression “ native convert” with his charges, rousing numerous sleep- is, in cases which are sadly numerous, ers whom I wished to question, by gently synonymous with “ outward show and inpulling their ears, and eliciting from them ward deceit.” To put the matter crudely, willing if not intelligent replies. Among yet I believe not inaccurately, between the representatives of races, taking them Christianity and the Kaffir faith intervenes roughly in order of superiority, were a wide and debased gap. It is not diffiZulus, Basutos, Delagoa Bay men, Fin- cult for missionaries to drag the savage goes, Hottentots, Baralongs, Batlapins, down from the elevation, however slight, Korannas, and Bushmen. These latter of his own creed ; but instead of endeavgive rise to a sombre repugnance, almost oring forthwith to raise him to the pinamounting to a shuddering aversion, in nacle indicated by Christ's teaching, they that they are examples of the lowest are too frequently content to acquiesce in depths of a degraded humanity. A char- a small measure of individual success, and

rear.

that fragment of the true cross which was that were showing in dense black masses given by Pope Leo the Third to Charle- all around. This point attained, the magne on his coronation, and which dy. whole force then halted. Already there nasty after dynasty of French monarchs had been ringing out around the moving have since worn as a talisman.

square the rattle of the musketry fire of Very sad and solemn was the scene as Buller's horsemen as they faced and stung we stood around, silent all, and with bared the ingathering impis. heads, looking down on the untimely The time had come. Buller's men, dead. An officer detached the necklet, having done their work, galloped back and placed it in an envelope, with several into the shelter of the square till their locks of the Prince's short dark hair, for time should come again. And lo! as transmission to his poor mother, who a they cleared the front, a living, concentric year later made so sad a pilgrimage to the wave of Zulus was disclosed. On the spot where we then stood over her dead slope toward Nodwengo the shells were son, Then the body, wrapped in a blan- crasbing into the black masses that were ket, was placed on lance-shafts, and on this rushing forward to the encounter. Into extemporized bier it was borne by officers the hordes in front the Gatlings, with up the slope to the ambulance that was in their measured volleys, were raining pitiwaiting. It was a miserable ending, less showers of death. Le Grice and truly, for him who had once been the Son Harness were pouring shell into the thickof France ! It was strange that it should ets of black forms showing on the left and have happened to me to have stood by the But those Zulus could die—ay, first gan fired by the Germans from the they could dare and die with a valor and heights of Saarbrück on that August devotion unsurpassed by the soldiery of morning of 1870 when the Prince Imperial any age and of any nationality. They received what his father grandiloquently went down in numbers, but numbers stood styled the boy's “baptism of fire," and up and sped swiftly and steadily on. The to stand thus by the corpse of him un- sharper din of the musketry fire filled the timely slain in the obscure corner of a re- intervals between the hoarse roar of the mote continent. I had seen the Emperor cannon and the scream of the speeding his father at the pinnacle of his Imperial shells. Still the Zulus would not stay the power ; I saw him in the hour of his bit- whirlwind of their converging attack. ter humiliation after the defeat of Sedan; They fired and rushed on, halting to fire, I saw him lying dead in the corridor of and then rushing ou again. There were Camden Place, and witnessed his coffin those who had feared lest the sudden conlaid down in the little chapel under the front with the fierce Zulu rush should try elms of Chislehurst. And now I had the nerves of our beardless lads ; but the lived to see his only son lying dead in a British soldier was true to his manly tradigrassy hollow of Zululand, pierced to tions when he found himself in the open, death by assegai stabs. It has been my and saw his enemy face to face in the lot to gaze on many dead who have died daylight. For half an hour the square of wounds at the hands of an enemy; stood grim and purposeful, doggedly but never have I stood by death with pro- pouring the sleet of death from every founder emotion than when I looked down face. There was scarce any sound of huthat mournful morning on the corpse of man speech, save the quiet injunctions of the last heir of a splendid name.

the officers—“Fire low, men ; get your After many delays the day at length aiin ; no wildness !" The Zulus could came when, as our little army camped on not get to close quarters simply because the White Umfaloosi, there lay on the of the sheer weight of our fire. The canbosom of the wide plain over against us ister tore through them like a harrow the great circular kraal of Ulundi, King through weeds; the rockets ravaged their Cetewayo's capital. After two days' fu- zigzag path through the masses. One tile delay, on the third morning the force rush came within a few yards, but it was crossed the river and moved forward their last effort. Their noble ardor could across the plain, preserving on its march not endure in the face of the appliances of the formation of a great square, until a civilized warfare. They began to waver. suitable spot was reached whereon to halt The time for the cavalry bad at length and accept the assault of the Zulu hordes come. Lord Chelmsford caught the mo

« AnteriorContinuar »