The Sheik (Chapter 3, page 1 of 19)


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Chapter 3

The warm sunshine was flooding the tent when Diana awoke from the deep
sleep of exhaustion that had been almost insensibility, awoke to
immediate and complete remembrance. One quick, fearful glance around
the big room assured her that she was alone. She sat up slowly, her
eyes shadowy with pain, looking listlessly at the luxurious
appointments of the tent. She looked dry-eyed, she had no tears left.
They had all been expended when she had grovelled at his feet imploring
the mercy he had not accorded her. She had fought until the unequal
struggle had left her exhausted and helpless in his arms, until her
whole body was one agonised ache from the brutal hands that forced her
to compliance, until her courageous spirit was crushed by the
realisation of her own powerlessness, and by the strange fear that the
man himself had awakened in her, which had driven her at last moaning
to her knees. And the recollection of her abject prayers and weeping
supplications filled her with a burning shame. She loathed herself with
bitter contempt. Her courage had broken down; even her pride had failed
her.

She wound her arms about her knees and hid her face against them.
"Coward! Coward!" she whispered fiercely. Why had she not scorned him?
Or why had she not suffered all that he had done to her in silence? It
would have pleased him less than the frenzied entreaties that had only
provoked the soft laugh that made her shiver each time she heard it.
She shivered now. "I thought I was brave," she murmured brokenly. "I am
only a coward, a craven."

She lifted her head at last and looked around her. The room was a
curious mixture of Oriental luxury and European comfort. The lavish
sumptuousness of the furnishings suggested subtly an unrestrained
indulgence, the whole atmosphere was voluptuous, and Diana shrank from
the impression it conveyed without exactly understanding the reason.
There was nothing that jarred artistically, the rich hangings all
harmonised, there were no glaring incongruities such as she had seen in
native palaces in India. And everything on which her eyes rested drove
home relentlessly the hideous fact of her position. His things were
everywhere. On a low, brass-topped table by the bed was the half-smoked
cigarette he had had between his lips when he came to her. The pillow
beside her still bore the impress of his head. She looked at it with a
growing horror in her eyes until an uncontrollable shuddering seized
her and she cowered down, smothering the cry that burst from her in the
soft pillows and dragging the silken coverings up around her as if
their thin shelter were a protection. She lived again through every
moment of the past night until thought was unendurable, until she felt
that she would go mad, until at last, worn out, she fell asleep.

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