Chapter 7: Lessons
Sapphira is instructed in the ways of the harem, particularly to acquaint her with the likes of her new master, in preparation for her first night in his bedchamber.
A eunuch is often portrayed as a well put together ebony skinned man, bared to the waist, bulging arms folded across a glistening oiled chest rippling with muscles, a whip thrust through his belt to enforce his will on the women of the harem—his shortcomings concealed by baggy trousers.
Those sharing this image would be sorely disappointed in Mustafa. Indeed, he was bared to the waist, wore the requisite trousers, and had a whip at hand, but instead of the barreled chest and rippling muscles here was a podgy middle-aged man with a broad roll of fat where his youthful waist once resided—the soft fleshy build of a leisured man accustomed to good living. His appearance would improve in the eyes of many if he wore an all-concealing djellaba.
Eunuchs, throughout the ages, have garnered well-earned reputations for treating harem slave women severely and cruelly. I reasoned that revenge moved them in that direction. They would see the women under their care as the reason for their own mutilation. A mutilation inflicted upon them that rendered them forever impotent and unable to release their needs, needs that the women of the harem would unconsciously arouse while the eunuchs watched over them and readied them for another man’s enjoyment.
I felt that Mustafa was not of this vein—but I did not trust Talil. I would be careful.
“Remove your clothes,” and mindful of the whip at his side, I hurriedly obeyed his abrupt order without protest.
He sorted through my clothes with the handle of his whip, offhandedly flipping to one side my undergarments. “Put them away. You will not wear any of those while you are here. Now come, set your mark here,” he said, holding out a dipped pen and pointing to the end of a column of names and signs in a book he held open—a calendar by the look of it.
After slight hesitation, I wrote my new name—Sapphira.
“Oh, you can write can you? So you are one of those clever girls, are you?” he said, sarcastically.
“I can only write my name,” I replied, not wishing to build on his obvious sense of inferiority in this matter of writing.
“Before we start I will let you know that I keep this roster, a record of menses and callings to the Master’s bedchamber. I have great influence over when and whom he chooses for company. When might I expect your bleeding?”
“It should be two weeks hence, Sir, but I cannot be certain. My menses are not regular.”
He wrote a strange symbol in a column opposite my name in his roster and said; “You will have nights with the Master before then.”
“Correct me if I am mistaken, but having come from Ahmad you could not be a virgin—he is too shrewd to swap a virgin for our well deflowered Nadya—and I assume that he used his marvelous balm on you,” he said, kneeling down on one knee and slipping his fat fingers deeply between my thighs. Naturally, I leaned forward, pulled back slightly and squeezed my thighs against his hand, but apart from a questioning upward glance from him, he ignored my unintentional protest and continued unperturbed. “I feel a thorough denuding. Often when less knowledgeable slavers prepare women for sale they forget that a woman has valleys as well as hills and lay bare just the mons, but Ahmad knows better, there is nothing further for me to do here—you are as smooth as a rose petal.”
He moved behind me. “Give me one of your feet.”
Kneading my foot, he announced, “You have hard skin on the back of your heels. With young lively girls like you there is no telling where they may end up,” he said, smiling, “so I will give you a pumice stone and some oil to take back to your room. Smooth away the rough skin; I want your heels to feel as smooth as the rest of you.
“Now tell me, are you aware of the night ways of a harem slave girl, did he teach you?”
“No sir,” I replied, offering as explanation for my ignorance of the night ways one of my well rehearsed answers that fitted the story of my enslavement. “I had been married for only two months before I was captured. The corsairs killed my husband.” I paused briefly here, and tried to look somewhat unfortunate and sad. “They took me straight away to the slave market in Jeddah, and sold me to Sheik Ahmad. He had no time for me because of his travels and trading. I have had no instruction in the night ways of a harem.”
“How old are you?” he asked, suspiciously.
“Eighteen, Sir,” I answered, realizing too late that my untruthful answer—twenty-three was closer to the truth—had opened a chink in my story.
He pulled away, to take a full look at me. “Hmm, you look older than eighteen. You came to marriage late.
“However, it’s not important. Let us proceed. And call me Mustafa, not sir, for I, too, am a slave, here to serve in ways not of my choosing.”
Greatly relieved that he dropped the question of my age, I relaxed somewhat as he continued with my introduction to the ways.
“Consider yourself fortunate that Sheik Ahmad had little time for you. His teaching methods are crude and severe. He is too quick to use the whip. You will find my ways more skillful and sophisticated and more to your liking, but we will have to start from the beginning because two months of marriage is too short a time to learn the ways of the marriage bed, never mind that of the harem. Here the ways of the bed are different and more varied.
“Sheik Ali has ordered me to acquaint your mind and body with these ways and has permitted also for this whip to be put to you should you cause trouble or are less than diligent in learning. Fortunately for you, I am a patient man, unlike Ahmad, and not over-eager to chastise you,” he said, slapping the whip handle sharply into his palm, the smacking sound and dancing thongs emphasizing the possibility that if I overwhelmed his patience, the thongs would not be dancing in the air.
“Now, it is not intended that you always enjoy or wish for what is demanded of you—that is the lot of a slave—even so, you will be ordered to do only what is possible for a willing girl to do, although you may at first find some of them unusual, awkward, and distasteful. However, you will obey his orders no matter what. The laws of the land do not reach through the walls of the harem; here there are no laws against his wishes, you yield to them or take the consequences. If you do not yield to him, I will take it to mean deliberate obstinance on your behalf and treat you to a good whipping, and if that is not sufficient to correct your ways, then other more painful persuasions will be used to remind you of your obstinacy and encourage change in your ways.”
Following this short threatening tirade I allowed a moment of thoughtful silence to pass, time enough to make a face as though about to shed tears. “It frightens me when I think that the Master could disapprove of me, and order those things done to me,” I said pleadingly, in an attempt to put myself in his guardianship, make him father me, and win his sympathy.
“That is why I am here with my skills and knowledge; to show girls how to please the Master. You have nothing to worry about; you have well formed womanly virtues that will override innocence and inexperience. You will please him.”
In my mind I was not sure, whether “you will please him” was a softly spoken order or an opinion.
“And now I will continue where Ahmad left off, but before we start, I will tell you that you are a beguiling girl and our Master is quite overjoyed at his good fortune in having you here. You will be a frequent visitor to his bedchamber. My roster and the Master’s desire to see more of you will ensure that, but do not be concerned if he does not call you for a few days—he will not want to show to others his great eagerness for you.
“Now let us start. It is time for your afternoon bathing; I shall show you how we do it here.
“When you were bathed shortly after you arrived it was sufficient only to remove the dust of your journey for your showing. What I will show you now is the more thorough cleansing required of all harem females in the Master’s service. Remember, a woman spoils quickly after bathing; she can be sour again in less than an hour, and that is why I insist on your frequent bathing and why the Master has provided these luxurious baths for your use. Make full use of them, a woman cannot bathe too often.”
I stood naked in the shallow water of the small soaping bath while he scooped up several pitchers of water and poured them over me before soaping me down from head to toe. He washed my hair, probed my openings, my every cranny and cleavage, and followed up with a cursory rinsing.
Was my new master watching from behind the screen as Ahmad had said he did from time to time? I did not ask, or look in that direction, although I did notice the screened-off room.
“Now rinse off thoroughly in there,” he said, pointing to the larger and deeper bath. “While relaxing here, after afternoon bathing, many of the girls draw on the hookah. It is lit for your enjoyment on these occasions; one of the servants will pass it around.
“What I have shown you, you are to do yourself every afternoon, no less, whether you are on my calling roster or not. Is that understood?”
“Dry yourself and come back to my room and I will put on your mehndi.”
I dried myself and left for his room, dressed in nothing more than a towel over my arm. “Had he been a whole man I would be going to his room for more than mehndi,” I thought, having sensed that he found it arousing bathing me the way he did.
“Brush your hair till it shines and flows free,” he said, handing me a brush and a brass comb.
I went to work on my hair. It was badly tangled and knotted from the journey and washing, although I soon had it separated, shiny, and smooth.
“For this evening I will mehndi you, however, this is something you will do yourself, or have one of the servants do. Try different things. It is an art—there are no rules,” he said, as he approached with a tray of bottles and jars in hand.
I was surprised to learn from Mustafa that we had servants to attend us. Among the women were two black slaves who were there to assist in our bathing, grooming and dressing, should we so desire.
He applied liberal amounts of black kohl and malachite green to my eyes, rouge to my cheeks, painted my lips with cochineal, and smoothed rough edges from my nails. Not wanting to offend, I told him how pleased I was with my appearance when he held a mirror up to me, while thinking to myself that I looked garish and painted, and could do better on my own.
“Now,”—he often started his sentences with this word—“you will learn how to use oil and fragrance. Always use oil sparingly so your clothes will not stick to you. The purpose is to burnish and polish your skin, not hold your clothes in place,” he said, smiling. “It is particularly attractive on breasts and buttocks, but I also want to see it used in other places where it can help catch the Master’s eye and attract his scrutiny.
“Can you think of other places?’
“Yes, your face of course, and your legs and feet. And don’t forget why your mons was smoothed. Do that place too. Now, lie over my knees.”
He oiled my shoulders, back and buttocks and down the back of my legs, rubbing vigorously with long strokes followed by small circular ones, as though polishing a piece of fine furniture.
“Now, your breasts. Kneel here, between my legs,” he said, pointing to the floor between his parted legs.
Mustafa took what I thought was an overly long time oiling my breasts and applying rouge to my nipples; I was sure he was taking advantage of me for his own enjoyment.
“Your breasts still have the look and feel of youthfulness about them, deliciously firm and not overly bountiful. Add to this the interesting beauty that comes from your mixed blood and I must venture that you will indeed be an intriguing gift for our Master to open,” his choice of the word open, deliberate or otherwise, not passing me by unnoticed.
Flattering afternoon sunlight reflecting upwards from the polished marble floor outlined my breasts, and I thought they looked enticing and without doubt “irresistibly alluring” to a man. I was pleased with what I saw—my nipples proudly erect on glistening mounds.
“I see that your nipples have not been pierced,” he said, pinching a nipple and stretching it away from the breast while twisting it painfully back and forth. “I will wait to see how well they hold jewelry before I do anything, but from the way they stand I doubt they will need a visit from my silver needle, however, they are somewhat pale in color.
“Smelling and tasting sweet at all times is important and something I insist upon from Sheik Ali’s girls,” he said, bringing to mind my mother’s advice about helping nature with fragrances, “but remember, never put perfume in your openings or on your nipples, it tastes bitter. It is more than sufficient to put small dabs around them, and on your neck, hands and thighs.
“Now come forward for a little secret of mine—part your legs.” He dipped his finger into a small jar and offered it to my lips to taste. The sweetness of honey and the coolness of menthol spread through my mouth. Again, he dipped his finger into the jar, and with his other hand parting me, he placed a dab of the sticky mixture on that most sensitive part of a woman. “Just a little,” he advised, “just a hint of sweetness is all that is required, no stickiness. I have also cassia, ylang-ylang and oil of jasmine; all of them taste sweet and can be used there should you prefer.”
I knew of the intriguing aphrodisiac powers ascribed to ylang-ylang, and I decided that if I had to be “flavored”—and not wanting to taste like a mint bonbon—then the nectar of ylang-ylang would be my choice.
He walked around me, lifted and fondled my breasts, supposedly to inspect my rouging, but more thoroughly and lingering than necessary for that purpose. He ran his fingers through my hair. “You are now ready to please your Master,” he announced, “but I have more to show you, and that is how to present yourself in the Master’s bedchamber.
“We do not conceal his possessions from his eyes. I arrange carefully his fine furniture and put valuable artifacts and vases on display. I hang his precious carpets on walls and spread them over the floors, and I show him his girls with the same care. Not that I intend to hang you on the wall or spread you on the floor,” he said, with a chuckle as his hand reached out and rested on my knee, “however, you must show yourself to best effect. That is why we color your lips, rouge your breasts, remove your hair from certain parts, and teach you to present yourself so that he may see clearly the opportunities and make wise choices for his pleasures.”
He led me to the center of the room and pointed to a small rug.
“Kneel before me as though I am your Master.
“Now, spread your knees apart while keeping your feet together, and place your hands on the floor beside your feet. Lean backwards a little. Now throw your head back and shake your shoulders to free your hair and jostle your breasts. Raise your hips. Keep them high and push them forward.”
He paused in his instructions for a moment as I held my pose. “Encouraging, for an inexperienced girl.
“Now I will show you a variation of that position. Raise your arms over your head and lie back till your head touches the floor.”
I started to lean backwards and suddenly lost balance and toppled onto my back, my knees lifting up from the floor. For a moment, I cringed and closed my eyes, expecting to feel the sting of the whip. Instead, he laughed at my awkward predicament and helped me back onto my knees. I laughed with him.
“Try again. Spread your knees apart, toes touching. This time first sit back on your feet; that will stop you from toppling over. Raise your arms high over your head and hook your thumbs together. Lean backwards, slowly, until your head and hands touch the floor behind you. Now, raise your hips and chest to make a smooth arch from your knees to your hands, letting your hands slide back along the floor as you raise yourself. Your breasts should be uppermost, at the top of the arch. We call this ‘making the bow’,” he said, as the handle of his whip traced the curved path from the front of my thighs, over my hips and breasts, and down my neck. “You show well in this position, use it often.
“And there is no need to abandon modesty when you present yourself—jewelry and clothes may be worn. In fact, I think it often enhances your presentation if you wear some. In the harem wardrobe, we have fascinating clothes and adornments that enhance a woman’s natural allure, and have no concerns; if they obstruct his course, he will remove them.
“There is one more position to show you today. Kneel again, and turn around, face away from me.
“Now, raise your hands straight above your head as before but this time roll forward until your hands touch the floor in front of you. Raise your buttocks, and arch your back downwards so your breasts just touch the floor. Keep your forehead and hands flat on the floor in front of you, and your knees and feet apart enough to invite the Master to kneel between them,” he said, tapping my feet farther apart with his foot.
“We call this ‘offering the peach’.
“Excellent, a beautiful and promising beginning,” he declared.
“Stand up, and tell me about your conversion to Islam,” he asked, with a smirk that hinted at his disbelief. “Your faith could cause a lamentable waste of your beauty.”
“It was Ahmad’s idea,” I replied. “He taught me from the Qur’an.” I then recited the first verse.
“Praise is to God, Lord of the two Worlds.
Mustafa raised his eyebrows, obviously surprised, and asked questions about my new faith. I answered them easily as my upbringing in Tunisia made me far from ignorant about the teachings of Mohammed.
“It is unlike Ahmad to encourage a girl’s conversion; he values infidels highly since they fetch higher prices and their enslavement is condoned. I thought for a moment that maybe your conversion was a matter of convenience, or even a false claim, to avoid the bedchamber obligations of a nonbeliever. Your answers to my questions were complete and show knowledge of the Holy Book. I apologize for my doubts.
“Come here, turn around.”
He kneaded my buttocks in the same way that he had done earlier with my breasts. “You are so nicely rounded. Such is the pity, because laid over the Damascus bolster you would look enticing enough for a king.”
I felt vulnerable as a woman assuming these positions before a man, naked as I was. Nevertheless, the knowledge that what I was doing was a secret held within the walls of this harem—and would remain there forever unless I chose otherwise—buoyed my spirits. Gradually, as the lessons progressed, I forgot about my nakedness, and felt free, uninhibited, and not at all ashamed or humiliated. Further emboldened by the absence of anyone I knew, or anyone who would ever know or meet my family, I grew proud and confident in what I was showing.
“That is all for today. In your room, you must make these positions every day and practice rising from them slowly and gracefully. That is difficult to do, it requires strength and agility,but you have the strength and suppleness of a young girl and will master the art.” With a comforting smile on his face he added, “And no more toppling over!
“Have you ever pleasured a man?” he asked quickly, in a casual way.
“Pleasured?” I asked, in an effort to add to the aura of innocence and helplessness I was trying to create.
“Then that must be your next lesson. Ali always enjoys a woman that way,” he advised.
I felt a small sadness for Mustafa. A man in an unfortunate situation and condition not of his choosing, acting out the part without conviction. “Harmless,” I thought—though I was not ready to test the possibility—I would obey him.
Next chapter in the book
Although I had become conscientious and even enthusiastic in learning and practicing my lessons—I rather enjoyed them—I was not looking forward to this morning session, knowing what it was about.
Next Review Chapter is Chapter 9: Hennaed