English, and various native dialects—but on the veld and in Kimberley
everyone has spoken Afrikaans for at least a century. Mr. Beet, whose
grandparents came to Kimberley from England during the diamond rush,
had no problem communicating with Jacobs, for he speaks Afrikaans
fluently, but he did have other problems. "Jacobs was an old man," Mr.
Beet told me. "He had told his story many times, but there were many
things he didn't remember. Why, he didn't even remember the year he
found his diamond! I tried to pin him down, I worked him hard, but even
so there's a lot to be desired in his account." Mr. Beet had translated
and transcribed Jacobs' account, and he let me read it, leaning over me
and breaking in frequently as I did so.
was born on the 23rd October, 1851 [the account started], and at the
time my life story began our family lived on the farm "de Kalk," on the
south side of the Orange River, in the district of Hope Town . . . My
parents were then well-to-do, and my father, Daniel Jacobus Jacobs,
owned the farm "de Kalk," and also many cattle and sheep.
first finds weren't made at Kimberley, of course," Mr. Beet pointed
out. "They were made along the rivers—the Vaal, north of here, and the
Orange, to the south. It was some time before the diggers learned about
what we call 'dry' mining."
did not herd the livestock, but used to help my father in general work
about the farm [Jacobs went on]. One day a water pipe leading out of a
dam became choked up, and my father sent me out on the veldt to cut a
long thin branch of a tree that could be used to clear the pipe. Having
secured what I