In Egypt to recuperate after a long illness, an English journalist with an aversion to commitment find himself at the centre of an ancient mystery and the object of interest for a monstrous Arab woman with the face of a predatory savage and the body of the most voluptuous Amazon queen.
A woman labouring under an ancient curse that only he can lift.
If he can be persuaded to give himself into her ownership, till-death-do-they-part, and serve her in a manner of her choosing.
And if he can’t be persuaded…?
Femdom in the classic early-twentieth-century style from Ezra Bedford.
It is entirely possible that Benedict Constant Perryman will be long revered by the public as a brilliant journalist. And on this score that public will, in a rare display of sound judgment, be declared correct. But, by those who were close to him – or as close as such a man allowed – the most notable aspect of his character was his confirmed misogyny and distaste for feminine wiles and frippery of any kind.
The mere sound of a girlish giggle, or worse, a hectoring and shrewish tone, was almost enough in itself to have him seeking the most isolated and self-flagellatory bastion of monkish privation.
His distaste for the society of women amounted to a mania, and to Perryman it made no difference if the package came in a pretty face with well-turned ankles or a face mirroring the features of an ill-bred Mastiff with slobbery chops.
Whatever their level of physical attraction, angelic or canine, the presence of women in his life was akin to that of a red rag waved under the snorting nose of an already irritated and long-horned Limousin.
This was all the more extraordinary, since Perryman, aside from being one of the most handsome men I ever knew, was of that number of our gender who, aside from being sociable, did not prefer the company of his own gender.
I pray here that you may take my none too subtle drift in order that I am not forced to elaborate further, as to do so not only contravene the law of the land but taxes my experience of such complex and, for me, unfathomable… matters.
Suffice it say, that he was Mediterranean of looks with eyes vivid and bright of intelligence. Noble, being the first word to spring to mind as an encapsulate. In fact, his features had always struck me as the features of an early Roman of the Equestrian Order. Aquiline and clean-cut despite his dark and sometimes brooding features. It coming as no surprise to any who knew him that, at any of the mixed gatherings at which he was so rarely inclined to appear, women gravitated in his direction from whatever of the two poles they were occupying at the time, just as though he possessed some magnetic attraction for the sex and they had no option but to seek him out.
And his reaction upon these occasions?
Why, he would bolt, of course.
And it was this aversion to the female of the species that leads us to his extraordinary end – if it be ended, that is.
An end which will be sure to be remembered by some of those who read of it; though to others whose recall of such events, of history even, is more… ephemeral… the machinations of countries and individuals that affected whole continents in the interval between his death and the present will have ensured that the peculiar circumstances of his last days will no longer be familiar.
Even if it did create a very considerable stir in Cairo and beyond at the time.
And yet, as is only natural, and when the missing man failed to return to his homeland, the nine days’ wonder of his disappearance was forgotten in the excitement of some new story or another that held the public’s fickle interest be it trite and meaningless or otherwise.
It is this story, with all the sensational events, including the perfidy and sexual cruelty of that sex he had until then managed to avoid, I shall endeavour to relate to you now.
Briefly, in order not to dwell on the preamble to the story and move events along; aware as I am of the deplorable falls in concentration levels of the reading public that makes them so quick to irritation and disinterest in general if their need for sensation is not instantly met; I shall precis by explaining that Perryman was recuperating at Cairo’s Mena House – or Shepheard’s, as it is more popularly known. Having landed up there after a rather severe illness in London his physician assured him would be better served by a spell in a dry climate rather than that of a winter bound London and the ever-present pea-soupers that had proved fatal for more than one consumptive and his weakened chest.
Finding the doctor’s advice sound and feeling more himself after a few days free of cold and polluted fog, he had felt hemmed in and claustrophobic indoors. Thus, had Perryman decided to leave Mena House one evening for a stroll. Wearing a light dust-coat over his evening clothes to ward off the chill Cairo night, he had turned in the direction of the Great Pyramid.
And never returned.
No one has ever seen him since – or ever reported having seen him.
And now I tell you his story in its bald and sexually shocking entirety.
Though I add a proviso:
If the story I am about to impart to you is an elaborate hoax – perpetrated by Perryman himself, for some obscure reason while he remains in in hiding; or by another well enough acquainted with his handwriting to assimilate it – I do not profess to say.
Certainly, his description of the human-bondage befalling him at the hands, of all people, a woman – and a monstrous though, if he is to be believed, as I do believe, sensuous example of the gender he so despised before leaving – is plausible and written in a style those of us fortunate enough to have known him as well as he would allow have all agreed to be authentic.
Ultimately, however, the decision is yours.
Credulity or incredulity.
Belief or disbelief.
On that score I can be of no help to you save to publish what has been placed in my hands in the most accessible and truthful way.
That is one effort, at least, in which you may be assured no veracity has been spared.
As to how it came into my possession, however?
That may be told very briefly.
Two years after Perryman’s disappearance I was in Cairo, and although I was not staying at Mena House I sometimes visited friends there. One night as I came out of the hotel to enter the car which was to drive me back to the Continental, a tall native, dressed in white and so muffled up that little more of his face than two gleaming eyes was visible, handed me a packet – a roll of paper, apparently – saluted me with extraordinary formality, and departed.
No one else seemed to have noticed the man, although the chauffeur, of course, was nearly as close to him as I was, and a servant from the hotel had followed me out and down the steps. Something I recall being intrigued by at the time, and even more later. At that point, though, I simply stood there in the dusk, staring at the packet in my hand. Only then, after the tall figure vanished – already swallowed up in the shadow of the road – did I react. naturally assuming that the man had made some mistake.
It wasn’t until some moments later that I held the package near the lamp of the car and examined it closely.
It was a roll of some kind of parchment, tied with a fragment of thin string, and upon the otherwise blank outside page my name was written very distinctly!
I entered the car, rather dazed by the occurrence, which presented several extraordinary features, and, unfastening the string, began to read.
It was only then, and with real earnest, that I thought I must be dreaming.
Since I shall supply the whole of the manuscript for perusal shortly, I will make no further reference to the contents here, but will content myself with mentioning that it was written with a dark-brown ink and – shockingly to me at the time, and even in a more diluted fashion now – to discover it was the familiar hand of Benedict Perryman upon which my disbelieving eyes were fixated.
His unmistakable scrawl covered some kind of parchment or papyrus whose provenance has since defied three different experts to whom I have shown it, but which, in short, is of unknown manufacture.
The twine with which it was tied proved to be of finely plaited reed and was, though uncommon, more readily recognisable.
But to return to the text itself:
That part of Perryman’s narrative, if the following amazing statement is really the work of Perryman, as I and my colleagues believe it to be – that part which deals with events up to the time that he left both Mena House and the world, I have been able to check. The dragoman, Hassan Abd-el-Kebîr, was still practising his profession of interpreter at Mena House during the time of my visit, and he confirmed the truth of Perryman’s story in regard to the heart of lapis-lazuli – which he had seen and you will soon learn of.
He also knew of the meeting with the woman in the Mûski.
This last something Perryman himself had spoken of to him.
For the rest, the manuscript shall tell my former friend’s story without my aid…