The Sheik (Chapter 5, page 1 of 26)


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Chapter 5

Under the awning of the tent Diana was waiting for Gaston and the
horses, pulling on her thick riding-gloves nervously. She was wrought
up to the utmost pitch of excitement. Ahmed Ben Hassan had been away
since the previous day and it was uncertain if he would return that
night or the next. He had been vague as to how long he would be
absent. There had been a constant coming and going amongst his
followers--messengers arriving on exhausted horses at all hours of the
day and night, and the Sheik himself had seemed unusually preoccupied.
He had not condescended to give any reason for the special activity of
his people and she had not asked him.

In the four weeks that had elapsed since she had promised him her
obedience she had been very silent. The fear and hatred of him grew
daily. She had learned to stifle the wild fits of rage and the angry
words that leaped to her lips. She had learned to obey--a reluctant
obedience given with compressed lips and defiant eyes, but given, and
with a silence that surprised even herself. Day after day she had
followed the usual routine, dumb unless he spoke to her; and with his
own attention occupied with matters beyond the four walls of his tent
he had not noticed or did not trouble to heed her silence. Lately he
had left her very much alone; she had ridden with him almost daily
until the last week, when he had announced curtly that in the meantime
the length of her rides must be curtailed and that Gaston would
accompany her. He had not offered any explanation, and she had not
sought one. She had chosen to see in it merely another act of tyranny
imposed on her by the man whose arbitrary exercise of power over her
and whose tacit possession of her galled her continually. And under the
sullen submission a wild fury of revolt was raging. She searched
feverishly for means of flight, and now the Sheik's absence seemed to
have given her the chance she had been waiting for. In the solitude of
the previous night she had tossed impatiently from side to side of the
big couch, vainly trying to find some means of taking advantage of her
comparative freedom to effect her escape. Surely she could find some
way of avoiding Gaston's vigilance. Excitement had kept her awake half
the night, and in the morning she had had hard work to keep her
agitation hidden and to appear as usual. She had even been afraid to
order the horses any earlier in her nervous terror lest the valet
should suspect there was any reason behind the simple request. After
her petit dejeuner she had paced the tent, unable to sit still,
dreading lest any moment might bring the return of the Sheik and
frustrate her hopes.

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