The Sheik (Chapter 6, page 1 of 34)


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Chapter 6

Diana was sitting on the divan in the living-room of the tent lingering
over her petit dejeuner, a cup of coffee poised in one hand and
her bright head bent over a magazine on her knee. It was a French
periodical of fairly recent date, left a few days before by a Dutchman
who was touring through the desert, and who had asked a night's
hospitality. Diana had not seen him, and it was not until the traveller
had been served with dinner in his own tent that the Sheik had sent the
usual flowery message conveying what, though wrapped in honeyed words,
amounted practically to a command that he should come to drink coffee
and let himself be seen.

Only native servants had been in attendance,
and it was an Arab untinged by any Western influence who had received
him, talking only Arabic, which the Dutchman spoke fluently, and
placing at his disposal himself, his servants and all his belongings
with the perfunctory Oriental insincerity which the traveller knew
meant nothing and accepted at its own value, returning to the usual set
phrases the customary answers that were expected of him. Once or twice
as they talked a woman's subdued voice had reached the Dutchman's ears
from behind the thick curtains, but he knew too much to let any
expression betray him, and he smiled grimly to himself at the thought
of the change that an indiscreet question would bring to the stern face
of his grave and impassive host. He was an elderly man with a tender
heart, and he wondered speculatively what the girl in the next room
would have to pay for her own indiscretion in allowing her voice to be
heard. He left the next morning early without seeing the Sheik again,
escorted for some little distance by Yusef and a few men.

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