The Sheik (Chapter 4, page 1 of 15)


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Chapter 4

"A month! Thirty-one days! Oh, God! Only thirty-one days. It seems a
lifetime. Only a month since I left Biskra. A month! A month!"

Diana flung herself on to her face, burying her head deeply into the
cushions of the divan, shutting out from her sight the barbaric luxury
of her surroundings, shuddering convulsively. She did not cry. The
complete breakdown of the first night had never been repeated. Tears of
shame and anger had risen in her eyes often, but she would not let them
fall. She would not give her captor the satisfaction of knowing that he
could make her weep. Her pride was dying hard. Her mind travelled back
slowly over the days and nights of anguished revolt, the perpetual
clash of will against will, the enforced obedience that had made up
this month of horror. A month of experience of such bitterness that she
wondered dully how she still had the courage to rebel. For the first
time in her life she had had to obey. For the first time in her life
she was of no account. For the first time she had been made conscious
of the inferiority of her sex. The training of years had broken down
under the experience.

The hypothetical status in which she had stood
with regard to Aubrey and his friends was not tolerated here, where
every moment she was made to feel acutely that she was a woman, forced
to submit to everything to which her womanhood exposed her, forced to
endure everything that he might put upon her--a chattel, a slave to do
his bidding, to bear his pleasure and his displeasure, shaken to the
very foundation of her being with the upheaval of her convictions and
the ruthless violence done to her cold, sexless temperament. The
humiliation of it seared her proud heart. He was pitiless in his
arrogance, pitiless in his Oriental disregard of the woman subjugated.
He was an Arab, to whom the feelings of a woman were non-existent. He
had taken her to please himself and he kept her to please himself, to
amuse him in his moments of relaxation.

To Diana before she had come to Africa the life of an Arab Sheik in his
native desert had been a very visionary affair. The term sheik itself
was elastic. She had been shown Sheiks in Biskra who drove hard
bargains to hire out mangy camels and sore-covered donkeys for trips
into the interior. Her own faithless caravan-leader had called himself
"Sheik." But she had heard also of other and different Sheiks who lived
far away across the shimmering sand, powerful chiefs with large
followings, who seemed more like the Arabs of her imaginings, and of
whose lives she had the haziest idea. When not engaged in killing their
neighbours she visualized them drowsing away whole days under the
influence of narcotics, lethargic with sensual indulgence. The pictures
she had seen had been mostly of fat old men sitting cross-legged in the
entrance of their tents, waited on by hordes of retainers, and looking
languidly, with an air of utter boredom, at some miserable slave being
beaten to death.

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