A night in a Moorish harem
Lord George Herbert is universally acknowledged to be the handsomest man in the English nobility. His form is tall and muscular, but of a perfect symmetry. His features are handsome but manly and of a ruddy bronze colour acquired at sea. His short and curly brown hair shades a broad and white forehead beneath which sparkle large hazel eyes. He wears a heavy beard and moustache, but they are not able to conceal his handsome mouth.
His courage and talents together with the powerful influence of his family have procured for him, at the early age of twenty-three, the command of one of the finest ships in the English navy.
The following strange but true narrative is from his pen and it may be imagined that he did not intend to have it copied. But he left it in possession of a fair and frail lady who thought it too good to be kept secret, and so the reader has the benefit of it.
Her British Majesty's ship Antler, of which I was in command, lay becalmed one afternoon off the coast of Morocco. I did not allow the steam to be raised for I knew the evening breeze would soon make toward the land.
Retiring to my cabin I threw myself upon the sofa. I could not sleep for my thoughts kept wandering back to the beautiful women of London and the favours which some of them had granted me when last on shore.
Months had elapsed since then and months more would elapse before I could again hope to quench, in the lap of beauty, the hot desire which now coursed through my veins and distended my genitals.
To divert my mind from thoughts at present so imperative I resolved to take a bath. Beneath the stern windows which lighted my cabin lay a boat, into which I got by sliding down a rope which held it to the ship. Then I undressed and plunged into the cool waves. After bathing I redressed, and, reclining in the boat, fell asleep. When I awoke it was dark and I was floating along near the shore. The ship was miles away.
The rope which held the boat must have slipped when the breeze sprang up, and the people on the ship being busy getting underway had not noticed me. I had no oars and dared not use the sails for fear the Moorish vessels in sight would discover me. I drifted towards a large building which was the only one to be seen; it rose from the rocks near the water's edge. The approach to the place on which it stood seemed to be from the land side, and all the windows which I could see were high above the ground.
The keel of my boat soon grated on the sand and I hastened to pull it among the rocks for concealment, for it was quite possible I might be seized if discovered and sold into slavery. My plan was to wait for the land breeze just before dawn and escape to sea. At this moment I heard a whispered call from above. I looked up and saw two ladies looking down on me from the high windows above, and behind these two were gathered several others whom I could just see in the gloom.
'We have been watching you,' said the lady, 'and will try to assist you. Wait where you are.'
She spoke in French, which is the common medium of communication among the different nations inhabiting the shores of the Mediterranean, and which had become familiar to me. I now thought this isolated building was a seraglio and I resolved to trust the ladies, who would run even more risk than myself in case of discovery.
After waiting some time, a rope of shawls was let down from the window and the same voice bid me climb. My discipline when a midshipman made this easy for me to do; I rose hand over hand and safely reached the window through which I was assisted by the ladies into the perfumed air of an elegant apartment richly furnished and elegantly lighted.
My first duty was to kiss the fair hands which had aided me, and then I explained the accident which had brought me among them and the plan I had formed for escape before dawn. I then gave my name and rank.
While doing this I had an opportunity to observe the ladies; there were nine of them and any one of them would have been remarked for her beauty. Each one of them differed from all the others in the style of her charms: some were large and some were small; some were slender and some plump, some blonde and some brunette, but all were bewitchingly beautiful. Each, too, was the most lovely type of a different nationality, for war and shipwrecks and piracy enable the Moorish Pashas to choose their darlings from under all the flags that float on the Mediterranean.
A lady whom they called Inez and whom, therefore, I took to be a Spaniard, answered me by bidding me in the name of all of them the warmest welcome.
'You are,' she said, 'in the seraglio of Abdallah, the Pasha of this district, who is not expected until tomorrow, and who will never be the wiser if his ladies seize so rare an opportunity to entertain a gentleman during his absence.' She added, 'We have no secrets or jealousy between ourselves,' smiling very significantly.
'That is very unusual,' said I. 'How can any of you know whether he has any secrets with the one he happens to be alone with?'
'But one of us is never alone with him,' said Inez. The blank look of consternation I had set them all laughing.
They were brimful of mischief and were evidently bent on making the most of the unexpected company of a young man. Inez put her hand on my sleeve. 'How wet you are,' said she. 'It will not be hospitable to allow you to keep on such wet clothes.'
My clothes were perfectly dry, but the winks and smiles that the young ladies exchanged as they began to disrobe me led me cheerfully to submit while they proceeded to divest me of every article of clothing.
When at length my shirt was suddenly jerked off they gave little affected screams and peeped through their fingers at my shaft, which by this time was of most towering dimensions. I had snatched a hearty kiss from one and all of them as they had gathered round to undress me.
Inez now handed me a scarf which she had taken from her own fair shoulders. 'We can none of us bear to leave you,' she said, 'but you can only kiss one at a time; please throw this to the lady you prefer.'
Good heavens! Then it was true, that all of these beautiful women had been accustomed to be present when one of them was embraced.
'Ladies,' said I, 'you are unfair. You have stripped me, but you keep those charms concealed which you offer to my preference. I am not sure now if you have any imperfections which you wish to keep covered.'
The ladies looked at one another, blushed a little, then nodded and laughed, then began undressing. Velvet vests, skirts of lawn and silken trousers were rapidly flung to the floor. Lastly, as if at a given signal, every dainty chemise was stripped off and some of the most lovely forms that ever floated through a sculptor's dream stood naked before me. Was I not myself dreaming, or had I in truth been suddenly transported amid the houses of the seventh heaven?
For a while I stood entranced, gazing at the charming spectacle. 'Ladies,' said I at last, 'it would be immodest in me to give preference when all are so ravishingly lovely. Please keep the scarf, fair Inez, and when I have paid a tribute to your fair charms, pass it yourself to another, till all have been gratified.'
'Did he say all?' cried a little brunette.
'All indeed!' cried the rest in chorus, bursting into laughter.
'Every one,' said I, 'or I will perish in the attempt.'
Inez was standing directly in front of me; she was about nineteen, and of that rarest type of Spanish beauty, partly derived from Flemish blood. Her eyes were sparkling brown, but her long hair was blonde. It was braided and coiled round the top of her head like a crown which added to her queenly appearance, for she was above the