The Sheik (Chapter 10, page 2 of 20)


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Chapter 10

It was hard work sometimes, and there were days when he dreaded the
daily rides, when the strain seemed almost more than he could bear, and
he began to make tentative suggestions about resuming his wanderings,
but always the Sheik pressed him to stay.

Ahmed Ben Hassan's final recovery was quick, and the camp soon settled
down into normal conditions. The reinforcements were gone back to the
different camps from which they had been drawn. There was no further
need of them. Ibraheim Omair's tribe, with their leader dead, had
broken up and scattered far to the south; there was no chief to keep
them together and no headman strong enough to draw them round a new
chieftain, for Ibraheim had allowed no member of his tribe to attain
any degree of wealth or power that might prove him a rival; so they had
split up into numerous small bands lacking cohesion. In fulfilling the
vow made to his predecessor Ahmed Ben Hassan had cleared the desert of
a menace that had hung over it for many years.

The relations between the Sheik and Saint Hubert had gone back to what
they had been the night of Raoul's arrival, before his candid criticism
had roused the Sheik's temper and fired his jealousy. The recollection
of the miserable week that had preceded the raid had been wiped out in
all that had followed it. No shadow could ever come between them again
since Raoul had voluntarily stood on one side and sacrificed his own
chance of happiness for his friend's.

And with the Sheik's complete recovery his attitude towards Diana had
reverted to the cold reserve that had chilled her before--a reserve
that was as courteous as it was indifferent. He had avoided her as much
as had been possible, and the continual presence of Saint Hubert had
been a barrier between them. Unostensibly but effectually he had
contrived that Raoul should never leave them alone. Though he included
her in the general conversation he rarely spoke to her directly, and
often she found him looking at her with his fierce eyes filled with an
expression that baffled her, and as each time the quick blood rushed
into her face his forehead drew together in the heavy frown that was so
characteristic. During meals it was Raoul that kept the conversation
from lapsing with ready tact and an eloquent flow of words, ranging
over many subjects. In the evening the men became immersed in the
projection of Saint Hubert's new book, for details of which he was
drawing on the Sheik's knowledge, and long after Diana left them she
could hear the two voices, both deep and musical, but Raoul's quicker
and more emphatic, continuously rising and falling, till at last Raoul
would go to his own tent and Gaston would come--noiseless and
soft-toned as his master.

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