A wealthy and free-spirited woman in the England of Edward VII browbeats her husband into an exploration of the Arabian desert. But when they are abducted by a fierce Sheik she finds her dreams and desires of dominating a male turned upon their head. Though she will experience the control and domination of a male she craves.
For her handsome husband, however, and a fawning young subaltern taken along with them, their own experiences at the hands of the Sheik’s wives, after being reduced to serving in the seraglio, will change them in ways from which they can never return.
A tale of domination and high romance in the classic style from Giles Rokeby.
My name is Owen Middlemass. I’m English, unmarried and based in Rye on the South-Coast. One of the Cinque-Ports and, for any of our American cousins reading, once the home for Henry James, the writer of “Portrait of a Lady” and other gems of life at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. My tiny cottage, in fact, is on the opposite side of the church to his former – and far more impressive – dwelling to which tourists flock the whole year round.
As with my father and uncle before me, I’m also a writer – though the four political biographies I’ve had published to this point can’t be said to have set the literary world afire either in terms of sales or critical satisfaction in the same way of Mr Miller’s fiction.
Which, brief but necessary introduction made, brings me to the point of my making it:
Not a week ago – and barely three weeks on from my own father’s death at the age of eighty-two, just one month on from Mr Churchill’s victory in the 1951 election, in which the subject of my latest biography played a pivotal role in his narrow victory, I sorted through the contents of the family home to which my father had left my sister, along with her two children and a journalist husband (our mother had passed at the outbreak of the war with Germany) and came away with those possessions of his which had sentimental value for me, a cheque from his estate, and a curious manuscript from my uncle Arnold, wrapped securely in brown paper and tied across with blue twine – both of which been left for me by our trusted family solicitor, Hendricks.
I say “curious” because at no time had my father ever mentioned such an item; nor the fact that he had anything belonging to my late-Uncle Arnold Middlemass in his possession.
A simple note written in father’s hand, again left for me by his solicitor, was more – a little, anyhow – forthcoming:
We will have already said our goodbyes and you are as aware of my love for you as I have always been secure in that which you have always had for me. Neither you nor your sister have need of guilt nor recrimination at either the passing of your mother or myself. We were both as proud of you as parents can be and you may be sure I will be telling her of all your recent accomplishments when, as I hope to do, I join her once again.
And now to the manuscript you now have in your possession, which, I’m sure, is bound to have tweaked that natural curiosity you have displayed since that first time your eyes were strong enough to discern figures moving before them.
What you now have in your possession is the last thing I received from my brother Arnold; placed into my hands shortly after I had tried with my presence to support his departure to the next world – this after having been summoned to his home for the very first time since he returned a hero from that accursed country all those many years before in 1910.
It is something I have read just the once since it was passed to me and I could not bring myself to make a return – not even had the events within its pages been inflicted upon a stranger.
Nor, by the same token, could I even consider its publishing at either that or subsequent times.
Not when there were so many who knew your uncle before he withdrew from public life and, by doing so, I would be sure to run the risk of bringing his memory into ill and judgemental regard.
For you, however, and with the passing of so many years from the events described, the reservations ensuring my silence have no emotional or practical pull.
You met your uncle but once when you were a child, after all – before his marriage and the ill-fated trip described in the manuscript – and, though you often heard your mother and I speak of him, you did not meet or see him again.
I have no doubt that you will find a use for his writing and, obviously, neither my brother nor I are in a position to care in regard of its public reception. After all, in these lurid and prurient days, when sex is no longer a subject considered in the same light as blasphemy by publishers and newspaper barons alike, it may even turn out be something of hot-potato and you may find yourself with a nice nest egg to go along with my other bequests to you and enjoy your twilight years without being beset with the usual problems of finance writers can sometimes endure. It would, at least, give some small meaning to Arnold’s privations and I feel he would not begrudge you any such boon accruing from his ability as a wordsmith.
I would, though, have asked you not to be too censorious of your late-uncle, but realised in time that such a request is not required and that your natural tolerance and sound sense make any appeal of the kind academic.
With all my love and fervent good wishes for your future,
You may imagine that it was in a condition of some intellectual and, I confess, sexual curiosity, that I settled myself in the sitting room of my Rye Cottage, poured myself a generous of Jameson’s, and settled in with the manuscript.
My uncle Arnold’s “condition” had long been a talking point among our family and, even after the original sensation the event itself had caused had given way to the next headline to thrill the fickle and fleeting public taste, my sister and I often heard our parents conjecturing on what could possibly have caused our “Hero” uncle’s retreat from not just public life but the company of his family and friends.
And now, the full story of the adventure that led to the papers of the day proclaiming him a hero was in my hands.
And a mystery as to why my father needed to pre-empt my reaction to what I was about to read.
Below, and with extractions and editorial tampering guaranteed to see it published rather than placed on the Vatican’s list of forbidden books, is what I read…
FOR MY BELOVED BROTHER
Salutations from beyond, my dear Bernard!
That you are reading this, and if Burnside at Willis & Threlfall has administered my wishes in accordance with his instructions, you will now be in receipt of my worldly goods and the fervent hope that they bring you more pleasure and good fortune than they ever fetched your older brother.
You will also find a certain manuscript that is yours to do with as you wish – though, knowing you, I feel sure that whatever is done will not see fruition during your own lifetime.
I am sure you already suspect the contents of the manuscript and, in this, you are right. Since my return from… that… place in 1911 – a “Hero”, if you will! – you have made many attempts to have me confide the details of my ordeal to you. Not from any prurience or suspicion on your part (I know my younger brother too well to believe him capable of such base motives) but rather a way of sharing some of that mental and physical pain with which I suffered and could not shrug off upon my return. Believe me, if there is one person on this sometimes benighted planet of ours I could have shared such things with it is you.
That, as we both know, was a confidence beyond my ability to share during my lifetime. The prospect of watching your eyes regard me as the knowledge of your brother’s ordeal became plain to you at last – along with a recognition of all the mental and physical weakness no loving brother should ever have to accept in an older sibling in whom he has invested his trust, love, and respect – ensured confession of such a kind was beyond my ability to make in your, or anybody else’s, regard.
A lack of courage, and the fear of yet more emotional pain from direct confrontation, the cemetery has now made meaningless and allows me to supply you with the document that will answer all these many unanswered questions that have plagued you in the years since my return.
Along with the answer to my self-enforced reclusivity – with no human contact other than that of my housekeeper – that followed it.
For what must have seemed like a lack of trust in you on my part all these years, I apologise and state only that no such lack was ever present in my thoughts upon your regard.
The deficiency was mine and, even as you read the manuscript left you, the lack of moral courage in facing you with the truth that was also mine will become clear.
In common with the mode in which I have made my living down the years – and having no stomach to provide the details of my disgrace via the harsher and more prosaic form of a journal that will require a moral strength I no longer possess – I made the decision to recount my adventure in a fictional third-person form.
A form that would necessitate the usual effort on my part to make such a thing reasonable as well as readable and, in the process, divert my mind a little from the pain it was unavoidable I must undergo once the project was undertaken.
You may be assured, dear brother, that what you read is as devoid as it can be of any special pleading on my part for allowing the mental and sexual humiliations that were heaped upon my head at the time of my story, and that every event written is as true as my presentation of the facts in such a fictional form allows.
Apologies also for the recital and description of words and acts I feel obliged to warn may both shock and offend you.
I have entitled my manuscript of shame in the following way:
In the hope that you will still see something of the brother you knew and respected after your reading is complete, I leave you now with a most loving…