The rain beat the roof as if it were trying to tear its way through. The noise inside the house was so deafening that if Jack could have heard the rolling thunder and the sharp cracks of lightening outside, his mind would have flashed back to childhood and his father's words of warning of the inhospitable nature of the jungle.
"Never leave the house unarmed," his father would growl, "bar the door and windows at night and stay inside."
Even during the day Jack learned to always stay alert, listen for anything out of the ordinary, the snap of a twig, a rustle of foliage, watch for movement, stay focused to survive. None of that knowledge was going to mean much in this chaotic atmosphere.
The heavy leather boots, clod hoppers they called them, stomped on the wood floor of the great room and created such a racket that the curses and other violent language could not be heard above it.
Red faced, sweaty, young men, eight in total, played a game with no name. A game they had made up over the years combining soccer, rugby and Australian football to gain relieve from the loneliness of their isolated existence, the stress of farming life and the constant pursuit of diamonds.
The goal at one end was a large fireplace guarded by Fritz Kaiser, a short, fat man with receding blond hair and at the other goal was Jack Austin, Lord Claremont. In knee high boots, jodhpurs, a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up and at the ready, he stood in front of the open French doors. The scrum advanced toward Jack, they pushed and shoved each other, elbows to the ribs, suddenly Duncan MacGregor broke free and fired a shot on goal. Jack deftly moved to his left and snagged the ball in midair. Duncan, fists clenched at his side, head tilted back, roared in disappointment. Jack grinned and fired the ball straight back at him. The combatants moved to the center of the room, Duncan placed the ball in the center of the tight circle of men and the scrum began again. Angus Dawson, the oldest of the group at thirty two, grabbed the ball free after a fierce struggle and advanced on Fritz. Angus kicked a rifle shot so hard and fast that Fritz had no time to react as the ball zoomed past him into the fire place for a goal while producing a huge cloud of ash. Angus ripped off his shirt and ran around the room swinging it over his head. The losers, bent over, their hand on their knees trying to catch their breath laughed at Angus and congratulated the other members of his team.
Four men grabbed a large wooden table that had been placed against the wall for the game, moved it back to the center of the room while the rest set the chairs around it. With steins in hand, a large cask of beer was attacked with more good natured pushing and shoving. Sprawled in their seats, some still catching their breath, the kibitzing started.
"Fritz, you're the shits," said Thomas Bailey, a member of the losing team. This was followed by the beating of pewter mugs on the table.
"Don't be hard on Fritz, lads," said Angus, "it was all do to my excellent athletic ability that did him in." Hoots and more mug banging ensued. Duncan MacGregor let out another roar.
"Must be your second beer, MacGregor," said Thomas.
"You're taking the game mighty hard tonight, Duncan," said Angus.
"It's not the game," said Thomas, "it's the beer. Two beer MacGregor." Thomas started rhyming MacGregor with beer so it came out MacGregeer. "Two beer MacGregeer, two beer MacGregeer."
MacGregor stood abruptly, drained his beer and slammed his mug on the table. "To hell with you, Thomas Bailey, and your sing songs, and that goes for the rest of you as well." With that he stormed out of the room.
"Come back, Duncan, the lads meant no harm," shouted Angus as the door was slam