The Sheik (Chapter 1, page 2 of 12)


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Chapter 1

The Englishman laughed.

"Been making love to her, I expect. A thing she does not understand and
won't tolerate. She's the coldest little fish in the world, without an
idea in her head beyond sport and travel. Clever, though, and plucky as
they are made. I don't think she knows the meaning of the word fear."

"There's a queer streak in the family, isn't there? I heard somebody
yapping about it the other night. Father was mad and blew his brains
out, so I was told."

The Englishman shrugged his shoulders.

"You can call it mad, if you like," he said slowly. "I live near the
Mayos' in England, and happen to know the story. Sir John Mayo was
passionately devoted to his wife; after twenty years of married life
they were still lovers. Then this girl was born, and the mother died.
Two hours afterwards her husband shot himself, leaving the baby in the
sole care of her brother, who was just nineteen, and as lazy and as
selfish then as he is now. The problem of bringing up a girl child was
too much trouble to be solved, so he settled the difficulty by treating
her as if she was a boy. The result is what you see."

They moved nearer to the open window, looking into the brilliantly lit
ballroom, already filled with gaily chattering people. On a slightly
raised platform at one end of the room the host and hostess were
receiving their guests. The brother and sister were singularly unlike.
Sir Aubrey Mayo was very tall and thin, the pallor of his face
accentuated by the blackness of his smoothly brushed hair and heavy
black moustache. His attitude was a mixture of well-bred courtesy and
languid boredom. He seemed too tired even to keep the single eye-glass
that he wore in position, for it dropped continually. By contrast the
girl at his side appeared vividly alive. She was only of medium height
and very slender, standing erect with the easy, vigorous carriage of an
athletic boy, her small head poised proudly. Her scornful mouth and
firm chin showed plainly an obstinate determination, and her deep blue
eyes were unusually clear and steady. The long, curling black lashes
that shaded her eyes and the dark eyebrows were a foil to the thick
crop of loose, red-gold curls that she wore short, clubbed about her
ears.

"The result is worth seeing," said the American admiringly, referring
to his companion's last remark.

A third and younger man joined them.

"Hallo, Arbuthnot. You're late. The divinity is ten deep in would-be
partners already."

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