Once upon a time two brothers called Kabelo and Lefa lived in a little village deep in a valley. They had two younger sisters, so their mother had four children to feed. She worked day and night, cooking and cleaning, sewing and mending, and digging and weeding her vegetable garden.
There was never enough money for everything the family needed. “You two boys are old enough to go to the city to look for work,” their mother said one day. So Kabelo and Lefa packed up the few things they owned, put them in their old backpacks and set off for the city.
“I’m going to be the richest man in Africa,” Kabelo boasted as they walked along the dirt road that wound up into the hills. “I am so clever and so handsome that it won’t take me long to become wealthy.”
“That’s good,” said Lefa.
“I suppose you’ll find a job, if you’re lucky,” Kabelo said. “Maybe you can sweep the city streets.”
“That will be good,” said Lefa. “As long as I have something to send home to Mama and my younger sisters, I will be happy.”
They had been walking all morning, and the sun was very hot. By lunchtime the brothers were very tired and hungry.
Suddenly they saw an old man with a white beard walking along the road towards them. He was bent over under the weight of the heavy sack he was carrying on his back.
“Good day, young men,” the old man said when he reached them. “Where are you going?”
“None of your business,” snapped Kabelo. “What is in your sack, old man?”
“Just rocks,” the old man said. “Now where are you two walking to?”
“We are going to the city to make some money,” Lefa said politely.
“Perhaps I can help you,” the old man said. He put his hand in his pocket and pulled out a leather bag filled with gold coins. “Now, which one of you would like this bag?” he asked.
“Me, me!” cried Kabelo. “I want it.”
“Here you are then,” said the old man, and he gave the leather bag to Kabelo, who quickly hid it in his backpack. Then he looked at the old man greedily to see what else he was carrying.
The old man put his hand into his other pocket. This time he pulled out a small brown leather box.
“What’s in there?” asked Kabelo, his eyes glinting.
The old man flipped open the lid of the box. Inside was an enormous diamond. It shone and sparkled in the light, and Lefa thought it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
“Which one of you wants this diamond?” the old man asked.
“Me, me!” shrieked Kabelo. “I want it. Give it to me.” So the old man gave Kabelo the diamond and Kabelo hid it deep in the pocket of his trousers.
The old man picked up his heavy sack again. “Which one of you wants to help me carry this sack of rocks to your village?” he asked, trying to heave the sack over his skinny old shoulders. “It’s so heavy, and I’m very tired.”
“Not me!” cried Kabelo. “We’re not going to the village. We’re going to the city. I don’t have time to help you.”
Lefa looked back at the long road they had walked that morning. “You can’t walk all that way alone, Tata,” he said. “It’s too far for you to walk with that heavy sack before the sun sets. Let me walk with you. I will carry your sack.”
“Don’t be stupid!” Kabelo shouted at Lefa. “Don’t think I’m going to wait for you. You’re going to walk all the way back to our village, just to help this old man? You’ll never make money like that!”
Lefa was worried. He wanted to go with his brother, but when he saw the old man groaning under the weight of the sack, he couldn’t leave him.
“You go ahead, Kabelo,” he said. “I’ll catch up. I’ll run all the way back to you.”
“Well, I’m not waiting for you,” said Kabelo. “I have to get to the city and sell my shiny new diamond.” And off Kabelo went, whistling happily.
Lefa heaved the sack onto his shoulders. It was so heavy it made his bones creak.
“Come along, Tata,” he said with a smile. “Let’s try and get to the village before sunset.”
All afternoon they trudged. Every step they walked the sack seemed to get heavier. Soon Lefa was wet with sweat. But still he walked on, carrying the sack for the old man.
At last they reached the village. It was almost dark.
“Where are you staying, Tata,” Lefa asked. “Do you need somewhere to shelter for the night? My family does not have a lot, but I know my mother would be happy to share our meal with you, and she will give you a place to sleep tonight.”
The old man sat down on a tree stump. “This is far enough,” he said.
“But you can’t stay here,” Lefa said. “It’s not safe. Someone might steal your sack.”
“Take it,” the old man said. “Go home to your mother, and give her the sack.”
“No, no,” exclaimed Lefa. “I can’t take your sack. You need it.”
“It is my gift to you,” said the old man.
Lefa undid the knot at the top of the sack and peered inside. Something glinted in the fading daylight. Lefa reached inside the sack and took it out. It was a diamond. Then he opened the sack some more – the whole sack was filled with precious diamonds!
“Thank you, thank you!” said Lefa. But when he looked around, the old man had disappeared. There was no sign of him anywhere. Only the sack of diamonds remained.
It was a joyful meal that evening in Lefa’s home. He hadn’t been gone long, but already he had made lots of money for his family! His mother and sisters were so happy that they danced and sang until late into the night.
Many months later, greedy Kabelo came back to the village empty-handed to show off his new car and fancy clothes. He found his family feasting on the finest food in their big new house. And around his mother’s neck, was a necklace of beautiful diamonds.