By Philip Chirwa
THE pretty, 19-year-old housemaid, Lilly Wanipala, had just started washing plates in her master’s kitchen when she was attracted by a white envelope lying on a fridge. She picked up the envelope and was surprised to discover that it was addressed to her.
The handwriting on the envelope did not appear familiar to her.
Thus, the first thing she did when she opened the envelope was to look at the bottom of the letter enclosed in it to see who had written it. Her heart missed a beat when she noticed the name of her master, Bwangulu Nkhuluzu, at the bottom of the letter.
Her immediate reaction upon noticing the master’s name was, “Oh God, now I am fired! Where will I go now?” She was a worried girl because only the previous evening, the master had complained about the poor manner she had pressed one of his trousers.
However, any fears she had were soon erased from her mind when she looked at the salutation of the letter which read: “Dearest Lilly.” By the time she finished reading the letter, she was waltzing on top of the world; for in the letter her master was proposing love to her!
To Lilly, this was a tacit confirmation of what she had been hearing people talk about her.
It was said that each time visitors went to the Nkhuluzus’ home in Avondale, they often mistook her for the lady of the house because it was usually she who entertained them in the absence of Nkhuluzu’s wife, Lena, a primary school teacher of a famous Lusaka institution.
People often found it hard to believe that she was a maid because she looked prettier and more presentable than the wife. But Lilly realised that she was there for a job and did not wish to do anything that might upset the family, especially Lena.
Maintaining her attractiveness
In short, while maintaining her attractiveness, Lilly ensured that she performed her duties of a housemaid to the best of her ability. Indeed, in terms of discipline and efficiency, the Nkhuluzus had no cause to complain against her.
As a Grade 7 dropout, Lilly could not imagine even for one moment that a man of the status of Nkhuluzu, who was a high-ranking executive in his organisation, could ever fall in love with a semi-literate girl like her.
But then the unexpected had happened: her master, according to what he had stated in the letter, was madly in love with her, and wanted her to be his second wife! “I love you more than the word love itself,” the letter read in part, and she felt really great.
Nkhuluzu intimated in the letter that he wanted Lilly’s reply that very day. He proposed that, to ensure his wife did not suspect anything, Lilly should conceal her reply in an old novel titled: “A Mad Man’s Daughter” which was in the bookshelf in the study room.
She was requested to hide her reply letter between the 28th and 29th pages of the novel in question.
On his return home, Nkhuluzu would simply remove the book from the bookshelf and go with it in a private place where he would then read the reply.
Lilly did as per arrangement – and her reply was of course a prompt “Yes” to the master’s proposal.
Serious business to discuss
The following evening after supper, Lilly and the children were watching television in the living room when an angry-looking Lena stormed in and ordered the children to go back into their bedroom “because I have some serious business to discuss with Lilly.”
Realising that their mum was in no-nonsense mood, the children quietly left the room, albeit reluctantly. Just then, Lilly started shivering, a situation which appeared to surprise Nkhuluzu.
Lena turned to her husband and said, “Tell me, what connection is there between you and Lilly? What do you people take me for? A fool? You write secret letters to each other thinking I won’t know.”
“What are you talking about, woman? Have you gone crazy?” Nkhuluzu asked his wife, seemingly shocked. “What secret letters are you talking about?”
Lena warned her husband to be honest with her because she was in possession of “damning” evidence to prove that there was an intimate love affair between him and the housemaid.
Produce the evidence
Nkhuluzu challenged his wife to produce the evidence, and when she did by producing the letter Lilly had written to him, he appeared shocked beyond belief. “This is rubbish,” he said and, turning to Lilly, he asked, “Are you sure I proposed love to you?”
“I only responded to what you had written in your letter, “Lilly said, obviously surprised by the look of innocence on her master’s face. She thought he was a good actor.
Lena then told Lilly that she was so disappointed with her because she had always thought she was a disciplined, well-behaved girl. “I didn’t realise you were a snake in the grass,” she said. “How can you flirt around with your own master? I have no time for prostitutes in my house. Tomorrow morning, pack your things and go!”
After Lilly had left the house, a smiling Lena went to see her favourite brother-in-law, Bendela, who lived in nearby Chelston and congratulated him for a job well done.
“How did it go?” Bendela asked.
“I didn’t realise that little head f yours could work out wonders,” Lena laughed. “Everything worked out in the way you planned it.”
“Are you telling me that the girl actually fell into our trap?”
“Deep into it. And you know what? Your elder brother is still puzzled by the incident and keeps asking me what happened. Of course, I would be daft to reveal the secret to him. What’s important is that my house has finally been rid of a potential rival and now I can feel safe as a wife…”
The author is a Lusaka-based media consultant, recipient of the 1978 Best News Reporter of the Year Award and a diplomat in South Africa and Botswana.
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