Hunter's Prize

Hunter's Prize by Marcia Gruver

Book: Hunter's Prize by Marcia Gruver Read Free Book Online
Authors: Marcia Gruver
Tags: Fiction, Romance, Christian
will be too late to change your mind. I won’t be coming back to the States.”
    “Save your prayers, dear. I won’t change my mind.”
    The door banged shut, and Ceddy tugged on Lilah’s hand. With a low whistle, she squeezed his fingers then led him to the top of the stairs.

    North Atlantic Ocean, April 1905
    Cursing his fetid luck, Denny Currie leaned against the rail and let the brisk Atlantic wind buffet him the way life had always done. Despite months of odd jobs, pinching every farthing with grasping fingers, the run-down ship he’d managed to book would take twice as long to cross the ocean as any modern steamer, since the outdated engines still required the use of sails.
    By his reckoning, he and Charlie had another week to ride the pitching, dilapidated tub before reaching New York Harbor. Another week for the ghastly boy’s family to discover what he’d smuggled home in his pocket.
    Denny had spent sleepless nights staring at the ceiling of his ramshackle flat, weighing the odds that the treasure might be undiscovered after so long a time. In its raw state, the big stone little resembled a diamond. Only a practiced eye would ever figure it out.
    If memory served, the boy had gone to live with a dotty old aunt—afact that increased his odds tenfold. The old girl could be using it as a paperweight and be none the wiser. After all, it had happened before.
    On the banks of the Orange River, in the spring of 1866, children of Boer settlers played about with sparkling rocks picked up from the ground, tossing them aside like worthless trinkets when they were bored. A roving peddler took more than a casual glance at one of the brilliant stones then passed it along to a government mineralogist. Denny’s gut-twisting quest to better himself began with the diamond rush that followed.
    Since that day, he’d followed strikes across South Africa, from the Orange River to the Vaal. Griqualand. Kimberley Mine. The strike in Pretoria—his own backyard, for pity’s sake.
    For endless years, his weary soles had trod upon the answer to life’s problems, his clumsy big feet tripping over his own destiny. Roaming the rich African soil, he’d dug, burrowed, and scoured the ground for diamond pipes until his fingers bled and muscles ached. The relentless search became obsession, aging him beyond his fifty-three years and netting him little more than frustration and dishonor.
    How could there be diamonds on every farm in Africa, yet always just out of his reach?
    Now a simple-minded heathen on his way to the docks in Port Elizabeth had stumbled onto a king’s fortune, only the dolt and his foolish aunt hadn’t realized what he held.
    Blast it all! Could every blithering fool find himself a diamond? Everyone but him?
    His chest swelled to draw a hopeful breath. With a clarity he’d never felt before, he sensed the earth tilting, shifting a bit of good luck his way.
    Stand aside, world. It’s Denny Currie’s turn at last
    “Hoy, Denny!” Charlie shouted, jerking him back to the present. Clinging to his cap, the big man staggered along the rail. “I’ve looked everywhere for you.”
    “Not everywhere, have you, mate? I’ve been ‘ere all along.”
    “Listen up, Den. We need to ‘ave us a chin-wag.”
    “Go on then,” Denny growled. “I’m listening.” He gulped as the wind whisked the words right out of his mouth. Lowering his head, he waited for the gust to pass, but the next one plastered his thinning hair to his scalp and whipped his lashes like bloomers strung on a line.
    Charlie leaned into the squall, gripping his hat with one hand and clutching his worn coat with the other. “It’s cold out, boss,” he yelled. “Come inside, will ya? It’s important.”
    Denny waved him on, and they staggered along the pitching deck to the stairwell. Shielded from the bitter wind, they descended into the belly of the ship and made their way down a long corridor to the tiny, one-room cabin they shared.

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