The Sheik (Chapter 7, page 2 of 19)


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Chapter 7

She looked away across the desert beyond the last palms of the oasis. A
haze hung round about, shimmering in the heat and blurring the outline
of the distant hills. A tiny breeze brought the acrid smell of camels
closer to her, and the creaking whine of the tackling over the well
sounded not very far away. Diana gave a little sigh. It had all grown
so familiar. She seemed to have lived no other life beside this nomad
existence. The years that had gone before faded into a kind of dim
remembrance, the time when she had travelled ceaselessly round the
world with her brother seemed very remote. She had existed then,
filling her life with sport, unconscious of the something that was
lacking in her nature, and now she was alive at last, and the heart
whose existence she had doubted was burning and throbbing with a
passion that was consuming her. Her eyes swept lingeringly around the
camp with a very tender light in them. Everything she saw was connected
with and bound up in the man who was lord of it all. She was very proud
of him, proud of his magnificent physical abilities, proud of his hold
over his wild turbulent followers, proud with the pride of primeval
woman in the dominant man ruling his fellow-men by force and fear.

The old Arab had finished his prayers and rose leisurely from his
knees, salaaming with a broad smile. All the tribesmen smiled on her,
and would go out of their way to win a nod of recognition from her. She
faltered a few words in stumbling Arabic in reply to his long, flowery
speech, and with a little laugh beat a hasty retreat into the tent.

She paused beside the Vicomte. "Is it another novel?" she asked shyly,
indicating the steadily increasing pile of manuscript.

He turned on his chair, resting his arms on the rail, twirling a
fountain pen between his fingers, and smiled at her as she curled up on
the divan with Kopec, who had followed her into the tent. "No, Madame,
Something more serious this time. It is a history of this very curious
tribe of Ahmed's. They are different in so many ways from ordinary
Arabs. They have been a race apart for generations. They have beliefs
and customs peculiarly their own. You may, for instance, have noticed
the singular absence among them of the strict religious practices that
hold among other Mohammedans. Ahmed Ben Hassan's tribe worship first
and foremost their Sheik, then the famous horses for which they are
renowned, and then and then only--Allah."

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