The Sheik (Chapter 6, page 2 of 22)


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Chapter 6

And since the night that he had carried her back in triumph he had been
kind to her--kind beyond anything that she had expected. He had never
made any reference to her fight or to the death of the horse that he
had valued so highly; in that he had been generous. The episode over,
he wished no further allusion to it. But there was nothing beyond
kindness. The passion that smouldered in his dark eyes often was not
the love she craved, it was only the desire that her uncommon type and
her utter dissimilarity from all the other women who had passed through
his hands had awakened in him. The perpetual remembrance of those other
woman brought her a constant burning shame that grew stronger every
day, a shame that was only less strong than her ardent love, and a wild
jealousy that tortured her with doubts and fears, an ever-present demon
of suggestion reminding her of the past when it was not she who lay in
his arms, nor her lips that received his kisses. The knowledge that the
embraces she panted for had been shared by les autres was an
open wound that would not heal. She tried to shut her mind to the past.
She knew that she was a fool to expect the abstinence of a monk in the
strong, virile desert man.

And she was afraid for the future. She
wanted him for herself alone, wanted his undivided love, and that he
was an Arab with Oriental instincts filled her with continual dread,
dread of the real future about which she never dared to think, dread of
the passing of his transient desire. She loved him so passionately, so
completely, that beyond him was nothing. He was all the world. She gave
herself to him gladly, triumphantly, as she would give her life for him
if need be. But she had schooled herself to hide her love, to yield
apathetically to his caresses, and to conceal the longing that
possessed her. She was afraid that the knowledge that she loved him
would bring about the disaster she dreaded. The words that he had once
used remained continually in her mind: "If you loved me you would bore
me, and I should have to let you go." And she hid her love closely in
her heart. It was difficult, and it hurt her to hide it from him and to
assume indifference. It was difficult to remember that she must make a
show of reluctance when she was longing to give unreservedly. She
dropped the end of the cigarette hissing into the dregs of the coffee
and turned a page, and, as she did so, she looked up suddenly, the
magazine dropping unheeded on the floor. Close outside the tent the
same low, vibrating baritone was singing the Kashmiri love song that
she had heard last the night before she left Biskra. She sat tense, her
eyes growing puzzled.

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