XXIII. AS A
To set up a household was no new experience for me.
But the establishment in Natal was different from the
ones that I had had in Bombay and London. This time part
of the expense was solely for the sake of prestige. I
thought it necessary to have a household in keeping with
my position as an Indian barrister in Natal and as a
representative. So I had a nice little house in a
prominent locality. It was also suitably furnished. Food
was simple, but as I used to invite English friends and
Indian co-workers, the housekeeping bills were always
A good servant is essential in every household. But I
have a never known how to keep anyone as a servant.
I had a friend as companion and help, and a cook who
had become a member of the family. I also had office
clerks boarding and lodging with me.
I think I had a fair amount of success in this
experiment, but it was not without its modicum of the
bitter experiences of life.
The companion was very clever and, I thought, faithful
to me. But in this I was deceived. He became jealous of
an office clerk who was staying with me, and wove such a
tangled web that I suspected the clerk. This clerical
friend had a temper of his own. Immediately he saw that
he had been the object of my suspicion, he left both the
house and the office. I was pained. I felt that perhaps I
had been unjust to him, and my conscience always stung
In the meanwhile, the cook needed a few days leave, or
for some other cause was away. It was necessary to
procure another during his absence. Of this new man I
learnt later that he was a perfect scamp. But for me he
proved a godsend. Within two or three days of his
arrival, he discovered certain irregularities that were
going on under my roof without my knowledge, and he made
up his mind to warn me. I had the reputation of being a
credulous but straight man. The discovery was to him,
therefore, all the more shocking. Every day at one
o'clock I used to go home from office for lunch. At about
twelve o'clock one day the cook came panting to the
office, and said, 'Please come home at once. There is a
surprise for you.'
'Now, what is this?' I asked. 'You must tell me what
it is. How can I leave the office at this hour to go and
'You will regret it, if you don't come. That is all I
I felt an appeal in his persistence. I went home
accompanied by a clerk and the cook who walked ahead of
us. He took me straight to the upper floor, pointed at my
companion's room, and said, 'Open this door and see for
I saw it all. I knocked at the door. No reply! I
knocked heavily so as to make the very walls shake. The
door was opened. I saw a prostitute inside. I asked her
to leave the house, never to return.
To the companion I said, 'From this moment I cease to
have anything to do with you. I have been thoroughly
deceived and have made a fool of myself. That is how you
have requited my trust in you?'
Instead of coming to his senses, he threatened to
'I have nothing to conceal,' said I, 'Expose whatever
I may have done. But you must leave me this moment.'
This made him worse. There was no help for it. So I
said to the clerk standing downstairs: 'Please go and
inform the Police Superintendent, with my compliments,
that a person living with me has misbehaved himself. I do
not want to keep him in my house, but he refuses to
leave. I shall be much obliged if police help can be sent
This showed him that I was in earnest. His guilt
unnerved him. He apologized to me, entreated me not to
inform the police, and agreed to leave the house
immediately, which he did.
The incident came as a timely warning in my life. Only
now could I see clearly how thoroughly I had been
beguiled by this evil genius. In harbouring him I had
chosen a bad means for a good end. I had expected to
'gather figs of thistles' I had known that the companion
was a bad character, and yet I believed in his
faithfulness to me. In the attempt to reform him I was
near ruining myself. I had disregarded the warning of
kind friends. Infatuation had completely blinded me.
But for the new cook I should never have discovered
the truth and being under the influence of the companion,
I should probably have been unable to lead the life of
detachment that I then began. I should always have been
wasting time on him. He had the power to keep me in the
dark and to mislead me.
But God came to the rescue as before. My intentions
were pure, and so I was saved in spite of my mistakes,
and this early experience thoroughly forewarned me for
The cook had been almost a messenger sent from Heaven.
He did not know cooking, and as a cook he could not have
remained at my place. But no one else could have opened
my eyes. This was not the first time, as I subsequently
learnt, that the woman had been brought into my house.
She had come often before, but no one had the courage of
this cook. For everyone knew how blindly I trusted the
companion. The cook had, as it were, been sent to me just
to do this service, for he begged leave of me that very
'I cannot stay in your house,' he said. 'You are so
easily misled. This is no place for me.'
I let him go.
I now discovered that the man who had poisoned my ears
against the clerk was no other than this companion, I
tried very hard to make amends to the clerk for the
injustice I had done him. It has, however, been my
eternal regret that I could never satisfy him fully.
Howsoever you may repair it, a rift is a rift.