The Devil Always Carries the Bible Part 3
By Lawrence Kadzitche
Despite Betina’s entreaties, Anna refused to spend the night under what she said was the roof of a sorceress. She left in the afternoon. Mrs. Gobede returned in the evening and said nothing about the altercation that had occurred in the morning.
Try as she would, the words Anna had said kept returning to Betina’s mind. She had been a faithful housemaid but why should she continue being loyal and faithful to a woman who by her own actions had betrayed that trust? Why? No plausible answer presented itself the whole week she agonised over this question. The answer that started to show itself was that there was absolutely no reason.
So as the days wore on, a plan of revenge began creeping into her mind. By the end of the following week, the plan had taken a definite shape and Betina’s spirits soared. Of course, that made Mrs. Gobede suspicious but there was no law against maids working happily. All she could do was pass suspicious glances every time they crossed paths.
This became Betina’s new habit. Whenever Mrs. Gobede called her to do something she answered with a spirited ‘yes madam’ and worked on the task in a very positive manner. Mrs. Gobede wanted to ask her the reason for her new-found happiness, but her pride could not bring her to do so. All she could do was steal apprehensive glimpses at Betina like a dog who has not yet established the basis of her suspicion.
Had she known what was in Betina’s mind, she would have fired her there and then. But the mind is a sacred place, only accessible to the individual. There was no way she could know that Betina had made up her mind to steal her husband.
What Anna had said made Betina realize that Mrs. Gobede’s license to abuse her stemmed from the fact that she was Mr. Gobede’s wife. Without being married to him she was nothing. Betina had in fact gone far with education than her; Betina had attempted Form Four while she had dropped out in Standard Eight. Yet she strutted up and down the house giving orders like some medieval queen forgetting all that. Betina intended to pull down the ladder she was perched on and enjoy watching the big woman topple to the ground where she belonged.
She felt no remorse in this scheme. As far as she was concerned, Mrs. Gobede had brought this upon herself. Her grandmother always said that whoever married lightning should not fear its flash. So, Mrs. Gobede was going to be badly burnt by the lightning.
A week later, Mr. Gobede returned late at night from a business trip. As was always the case when he came back home late, Betina was the one who opened the door for him and served him his dinner while Mrs. Gobede had already gone to sleep. At such times Betina was required to go to bed only after she had removed and washed the plates. Before she had thought of my retaliation, she would wait in the kitchen until he finished eating then go and remove the plates after he had gone to bed.
But that night, she pretended to have forgotten the table salt and brought it while he was eating. She also brought the fruits he liked to eat after each meal while he was still eating, all that time sending him stolen glances. When he was retiring to bed, she was satisfied that she had awakened enough interest in him.
Betina knew it was not going to be easy to seduce Mr. Gobede. Snatching someone’s husband is not an easy thing. It is a messy business. And her task was made even more difficult by the fact that he was a church elder and a family man of very strong morals.
But she considered this not as an impossibility but rather as an obstacle to be overcome. A friend of hers had once told her that a woman could get any man she wanted if she played the game right and used any means necessary.
Working in a religious household, Betina planned to use lessons gleaned from the bible to achieve her goal. Ruth used her feminine wiles to get Boaz. Bathsheba used her nakedness to force the anointed of God, King David, into making her his wife. In Betina’s case, she planned to copy Ester. Did that orphan girl not grab Ahasuerus from the vain queen Vashti by beguiling the great Persian King with her charms? It was now up to her, Betina the housemaid, to find what charms she could use to woo the church elder Gobede.
From that day on, she wasted no opportunity to inveigle Mr. Gobede. Whenever she set her eyes on him, she always made sure she seized his attention by glancing at him in a way that told him she desired him. When he was talking to her, Betina would bite her fingertips coquettishly while looking at him from under her eyelashes.
Now and then she would deliberately spill something when he was in the sitting room watching TV or reading a newspaper. Cleaning the floor cannot be done without bending one’s back. So, she would do the cleaning while giving him an eyeful of her thighs by pretending that she was not aware that her skirt had gone up. Sometimes she would let her blouse slide up so that he could see the colourful beads around her waist. Occasionally when giving him something, she would almost throw her chest in his face so that he could get a good peek at her ample breasts.
It is a fact that being a housemaid does not mean one not endowed with the assets that men crave for. On her part she was a stunner, with a body that would make any normal man salivate with desire. When she smiled, dimples dug valleys in her cheeks. Her breasts were big, her waist narrow and her hips broad. Above all, she had the ultimate weapon that African men find irresistible; a buxom behind. When she was walking, she could shake her booty in a way that she imagined it was saying, ‘Mr. Gobede I love you, Mr. Gobede I love you.’ She displayed these wares fully for the benefit of Mr. Gobede but very carefully to prevent him from noticing that she was doing it deliberately.
It was not long that Mr. Gobede noticed her as a woman and not just as a housemaid. Betina would on occasion catch him stealing glances at her which she would encourage by acknowledging with a secret smile. Whenever she stole a glance at him, he would do the same. They found that without saying anything, they were communicating something to each other.
The high and mighty Mrs. Gobede, blinded by her bible verses, failed to see all this. She became more and more obnoxious when she noted that her abuse was not having any effect on Betina. She did not know that this was part of the plot to destroy her.
She started becoming less careful, maltreating Betina even when Mr. Gobede was around. Betina would goad her on by lots of hearty ‘yes madam’ and ‘anything else I can do, madam?’ At such times, she would try to find faults with whatever Betina was doing and use uncouth language which her husband found repugnant. Betina soon found Mr. Gobede coming to her defense.
At first, Mrs. Gobede gave up without a fight. But the more Mr. Gobede defended Betina, the more she started to lose her temper. And Betina also started to make sure that she noticed Mr. Gobede’s interest in her. Betina knew that would drive her crazy.
Their first big crash came one pleasant Saturday afternoon. Betina was in the kitchen lazily washing the plates while watching the butterflies playing among the flowers outside as the sun played peek-a-boo with tufts of clouds in the sky. A bird was singing in the tree close to the window. Mr. and Mrs. Gobede were sitting in the lounge having a bible study.
“Betina, bring me some water!” Mrs. Gobede’s voice rang from the living room.
Betina calculatingly delayed, knowing it would raise Mrs. Betina temper. “What is this lazy girl doing?” she heard her complain to Mr. Gobede, then she called again, her voice a note higher. “Betina, I said bring me a glass of water or are you trying to kill me with thirst, wicked girl?”
“I’m coming, madam,” Betina answered in a sing song voice while banging pots.
“Stupid girl, I said bring me water!”
Betina rushed into the sitting room and deliberately slipped as she neared Mrs. Gobede. The water tipped into the big woman’s lap.
“I’m sorry, madam…I…”
Mrs. Gobede jumped to her feet in a fit of rage. She slapped Betina once. Then again. The third time, Mr. Gobede caught her hand in a vice like grip.
“What are you doing? Can’t you see it was an accident?”
But Mrs. Gobede was on the warpath. With the strength that is given to mad people, she broke free and kicked Betina with her feet. Betina did not resist, only protected her head with her hands. Mr. Gobede got hold of her and pushed her away from Betina.
“What’s wrong with you? What wrong has she done?”
“I’m a Christian woman,” Mrs. Gobede hissed through clenched teeth. “I live by my bible. And my bible says spare the rod and spoil the child. Alleluia!”
“My question is: what wrong has she done?”
“Are you backing this lazy creature?”
Anger flashed in Mr. Gobede’s eyes at the accusation. “I’ll not have anyone speak like that to a human being in this house. As Christians we’re supposed to treat everyone with respect and dignity. Isn’t that what we were discussing just moments ago? Isn’t that what the bible tells us?”
“I know what the bible says, I live by that sweet old book. But that miserable creature must learn her place in this house.”
“My point is that as Christians we must live by example….”
“We must live by example!” Mrs. Gobede repeated sarcastically while clapping her hands insolently. “My bible says there should be no peace for the wicked. And don’t think I haven’t noticed the dirty looks you throw at this bitch, hypocrite!”
Mr. Gobede was calm. But his face was terrible to look at. “You’re calling me, Joseph Gobede, church elder, a hypocrite?”
“Yes, I’m calling you a charlatan and adulterer! I know you’re hankering after this garbage and that’s why you’re always defending her.”
A shocked look fell on Mr. Gobede’s face. Mrs. Gobede had crossed the thin red line. People do not know, but religious people are the cruellest people in the world. They commit and justify the worst atrocities in the name of God. Mr. Gobede was such a person. “You dare accuse me of being a charlatan? An adulterer?”
“Yes, you’re an impostor and a philanderer. And just know the Lord is watching!” Mrs. Gobede said making a sign of pointing at her eyes with her fingers then pointing at Mr. Gobede.
With that, although she did not know it, she had sealed her own doom. Although Mr. Gobede was interested in Betina, he would not have taken any action as long as it was against his religious beliefs. He could admire her, but he was beyond adultery. For Betina’s plan to work, he needed to convince himself that he had married a woman who would lead him to the very pits of hell. Their arguments were inexorably heading in that direction. For Mr. Gobede, who prided himself as the most devout Christian in his church, to be called a hypocrite by his own wife was beyond belief. And for her to insinuate that he was coveting the maid was beyond redemption.
“I thought you were an angel,” Mrs. Gobede said at length. “But I can now see horns sprouting on your head. You know bible verses, but you don’t know what they mean.”
Mrs. Gobede laughed impudently. “What do you know about the bible?” She produced her bible and waved it at Mr Gobede’s face. “I’m a Christian woman, my bible says in the book of Joshua that this book of the law shall not depart from your mouth. I live by the bible!”
Mr. Gobede was clearly struggling to control his temper. “Which bible? Do you think I don’t know what goes on here?”
“What goes on here?”
Mr. Gobede did not answer. He turned to Betina. “Go to your room.”
From that day on, there was no peace in the house. The Gobedes would quarrel almost on everything. Mr. Gobede moved out of their matrimonial bedroom and slept in the spare bedroom. They no longer talked to each other. Pretending to be an innocent bystander, Betina continued to take care of all household chores with outstanding efficiency.
Frustrated, Mrs. Gobede secretly went to see the prophet whom her husband had forbade to see. He was a young man whose skin showed considerable use of skin lightening creams. He was always dressed in suits that were more suitable for movie stars than a man of the cloth.
“I warned you my daughter that our fight is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers,” the prophet said.
“You warned me, papa. My husband and I are no longer talking. He has even moved out of our bedroom…”
The prophet shook his head. “I’m sorry I’ve to be blunt now. Your husband is not what you think he is. He’s a prince of evil under the ocean where the devil and his demons meet…”
“Abomination, prophet! Now you’ve opened my eyes, man of God. You know he has always forbidden me to come and see you. I come here by force.”
“He was afraid I would tell you who he and his dear maid really are, my daughter.”
“So, what should I do, anointed of God?”
“This man is not your husband. He is slowly eating your soul to feed it to demons!”
“I reject that in Jesus’ name!”
“He worships Moloch, the ancient god of fire. To deal with this powerful evil god, you will have to sow equally powerful seeds.”
“I’m ready for anything, papa…”
“So what seed are you going to sow, my daughter?”
“I pledge my car. It is in my name so the evil worshiper of Moloch will have no say over it.”
“A decision made from heaven, my daughter. We’ll start the prayers once we’re done with the change of ownership papers.”
Despite the prophet’s assurance, things got worse. Mrs. Gobede complained to the Church Council. Marriage counsellors from the church came to discuss the matter. Betina hid in the corridor to eavesdrop on the discussions.
“We’ve become total strangers in this house,” Mrs. Gobede carped.
Then came Mr. Gobede’s voice. “Of course, we’re total strangers. I thought I knew her. This woman is evil, more wicked than Jezebel and I wouldn’t have such a woman as my wife.”
“But the bible gives adultery as the only grounds for divorce,” elder Fikisa pointed out.
“The same bible tells us that if your eye makes you sin, remove it,” Mr. Gobede said calmly. “I’ve realized that if I continue staying with my wife I’ll live in sin, so like the eye, I’m removing her.”
“Elder Phulani,” Mr. Gobede cut him. “The bible is full examples of great men who fell because of sticking to wrong women. Samson and Ahab are excellent examples.”
There was silence, then the arguments resumed. Betina decided to stoke up the fire a little bit more. So, she took a jug of juice and some tumblers on a tray and slid into the sitting room. Slowly, she set them on the table. She gyrated her hips provocatively as she left the room, aware that only Mrs. Gobede’s eyes were following her. At the door, she turned, pursed her lips, pointed her finger threateningly at Mrs. Gobede and then made the sign of cutting the throat with her fingers.
The sign was infuriating to the woman. “And another thing,” Mrs. Gobede howled, getting to her feet, and pointing at Betina. “I think he’s fucking that bitch!” she shouted and broke into a catalogue of vile curses so obscene that even the devil would have been ashamed.
There was shocked silence in the room. “See what I meant?” Mr. Gobede said. “These’re the true colours of the woman I married. I’d rather enter the kingdom of God a bachelor than go to hell just to save a marriage.”
Mrs. Gobede let out an insane laugh. “Knock, knock, knock-the Lord is knocking at your door, hypocrite. He is the lawn mower and you’re the grass. I live by the bible and therefore your whining concerns me not.”
“Which bible? All you see are witches and demons in rats, cockroaches, and flies. What kind of Christianity is that?”
“You dare question my bible?”
“If by being a Christian and living by the bible means what you do, then I dare question the bible! When is the last time you cooked food for me? Or cleaned the house? Our bedroom looks like a war zone.”
Mrs. Gobede shook her head while clutching her bible to her chest. “I see you’re still a child in spirituality, my dear husband. How can I find time to do all that work when I’ve to wrestle against principalities and powers? My bible says in the book of Ephesus that rejoice always, pray without ceasing…”
“The principalities and powers being the rats, cockroaches and fires you accuse of being demons?”
“I won’t argue with you. The prophet has already told me who you really are.”
“This so-called prophet is confusing you…”
“Do not dare go against the anointed of God lest God strike you dead, worshipper of Moloch.”
“Do not hide behind verses, Mrs. Gobede. A woman is supposed to take care of her husband. A maid is not the replacement of a wife,” elder Phulani interjected.
Mrs. Gobede rose and moved to the elders one by one. “Elder Fikisa, you think I don’t see the way you look at the choir girls? So disgusting for a church elder.” She turned to the second elder. “And you elder Gomondo, you think I don’t know of the string of girlfriends you got stashed in different places in town? No wonder you are siding with your fellow sinner. I’m done with this nonsense!”
She went back to her seat. “After all, the prophet said you’re not the husband God gave me,” she said with finality while turning pages of her bible.
The Gobedes separated the following day and divorced a year later. Betina is now Mrs. Gobede. The first Mrs. Gobede, formerly her employer, now sells vegetables in her home village.