Wednesday, June 18, 2008

“Where did you find this jewel Baby?” she asked, her voice a quaver hanging in the air. “In our backyard Mama,” Baby answered.

She stood up and out of bed and walked, just as she was, nightgown and barefoot, out of the room and down the corridor and past the child playing with the dolls, and past the other child reading a book, and past her mother who was putting a cake into the oven, and out the back door. “Show me where you found the jewel Baby,” she said, and Baby did.

They stood near the lemon tree in the right back corner of the garden, barefoot and shivering. There she saw a small hole dug in the ground, no deeper than a fist, and no wider than a foot. She knelt down, pulling her gown up over her knees, and started to dig deeper with both hands. The wet earth was pushed under her fingernails, beads of sweat began to form on her forehead, thunder rumbled, the sky darkened, and thick streams of rain descended. Baby was still standing beside her, watching, with his pudgy little hand still in his pocket, caressing the jewel which was hidden there. But a person can only dig so far with bare hands, so she stood up and ran to the shed, returning with the big metal shovel.

Watching her all this time, framed in the back doorway, was her mother. But she didn’t notice.

She shovelled and shovelled until the hole became a deep pit. Each time the shovel hit the packed earth she heard a thump and a scrape, a thump and a scrape, a thump and a scrape, and then she heard something different. She shovelled again and heard it again - a strange crystal-like clinking. By manoeuvring the shovel slowly and carefully she was able to lift the clinking object up and out of the deep pit. It was a hessian sack folded over itself, and when she lay it on the wet ground and unwrapped it, and turned it upside down, out poured a rainbow of jewels.

Baby’s eyes widened in wonder, and he put out his little hand, to try and feel the colours and see if they were real. But his mother’s hand snapped onto his, “No, Baby, no touching!” She put the sack down on the ground and sorted through her cache of jewels, talking to Baby as she did so. “Now, Baby, see this? This is a garnet, this is an amethyst, and this one is called aquamarine. Now you know this one, don’t you? That’s right, it’s a diamond. Now this is an emerald. Lovely this one, isn’t it? This one is called a moonstone, can you tell how it looks a bit like a moon? Peridot, sapphire, opal, topaz. How many is that Baby? Can you count them all? That’s right, you clever clever boy, that’s ten jewels. Plus here is number eleven, this one is turquoise.” The naming and numbering made them both breathless with anticipation, the rain was still streaming down, and the thunder was still roaring from above, but they had eyes only for each other, and their glittering, glistening cache of jewels.

“But it’s NOT eleven Mama, we almost forgot, I have number twelve. What is mine called?” asked Baby, as he took his treasure out from his little pocket. She looked at his jewel, sparkling in his little hand, and smiled and said “That, my darling little boy, is a ruby.” “A ruby, a ruby,” Baby repeated in a whisper, “I love this ruby Mama. I love you too it there with yours,” and he placed it gently between the moonstone and the peridot. “Thankyou,” she said to her youngest son, “that makes twelve.”

“Now, baby, do you know what we are going to have to do?” she asked as she eyed the jewels and touched them with her rain-damp fingertips, “We are going to have to put all of the jewels back where they came from. We have to treasure them away,” she said, and she returned the jewels to the sack, folded it over several times, and threw it back into the deep pit. The sack made a soft, thudding sound as it landed, and Baby said to her, “That makes me feel sad.” “Me too sweetie,” she looked down at him with a small, wistful smile, “but it’s what we have to do...this will be our secret treasure...can you keep a secret?” Baby didn’t answer, he just looked at her with his big blue eyes and slowly moved his head up and down.

After burying their cache of jewels they walked back to the house together, and with each step they took through the garden the rain stopped, the clouds blew away and the sun began to shine down on them. When they finally arrived at the house, they pushed open the back door and there was Grandma waiting for them with two towels and warm slippers and one cup of tea and one cup of cocoa (not too hot), and then, the doorbell rang.


blackbird said...



Tuli said...

REAL jewels in her cache!

Oh, jeez. ANOTHER wait!

But the anticipation is delicious. :)

laura said...

first eurolush leaves and now it's almost the end of the story?'s going to be a long summer ;)

ps thank you for the intoxicating tale!

bluemountainsmary said...

What is her mother up to ?