Knaves of Diamonds
Knaves of Diamonds
Tales of Mine and Veld
"The Angel of the Revolution," "Britain or Boer?"
"Valdar," "The Virgin of the Sun," Etc., Etc,
Illustrated by E. F. SHERIE and
C. ARTHUR PEARSON LIMITED
henrietta street w.c.
Never since men first began to risk health and life and honour for the sake of swift-won wealth have three characters of any alphabet been brought together which, in their combination, connoted, as the logicians say, so much as the three capitals "I. D. B." do, for in their internal meaning they include all the extremes and means of human fortune which may be imagined to lie between a life of luxury, and often of distinction, in which wealth makes wealth, till millions pile upon millions; and fifteen years' penal servitude on the Breakwater at Cape Town, which is the Portland of South Africa, with its semi-starvation and heart-breaking monotonous toil under the pitiless sub-tropical sun.
But between these two extremes there are many means, many chances for and against, together with an infinity of tricks and dodges, swindling of coswindlers, and betrayal of brothers and sisters in iniquity, which make up the most fascinating array of temptations that ever made the broad and easy way which—sometimes—leadeth to destruction inviting to look upon and beguiling to tread.
The true import of these mystic and momentous letters may be explained better here than elsewhere. They have, in fact, two meanings—Illicit Diamond Buying, the crime specified in the various Diamond Acts, and the Illicit Diamond Buyer, one who buys "gonivahs" or stones which he knows to have been stolen or otherwise illicitly come by.
Now between him and the actual thief, the raw kaffir working in the mines, there may be as many as three or even four intermediaries, each of whom is guilty of the whole crime, and liable to the whole penalty thereof, for just that period during which the diamonds are in his or her possession and no longer, for, according to the Diamond Laws, the stones must be found on the person or in the possession of the suspect before a conviction can be obtained.
It is just here where the most exciting and fascinating part of the art and industry of I.D.B., when looked upon, as it usually was and is, as a gamble for very big stakes, comes in. There are, indeed, not a few who have found fortune in South Africa, and certain honours there and elsewhere, who can look back to anxious moments, big with fate, which made all the difference to them between the broadcloth of the millionaire magnate and the arrow-marked canvas of the convict I.D.B. Nay, more, as some of the stories which follow hereafter will truthfully tell, the doings of one fatal moment have more than once decided which of two men was to wear the broadcloth and which the canvas.
List of Illustrations.
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