The Sheik (Chapter 8, page 1 of 31)


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Chapter 8

Slowly and painfully, through waves of deadly nausea and with the
surging of deep waters in her ears, Diana struggled back to
consciousness. The agony in her head was excruciating, and her limbs
felt cramped and bruised. Recollection was dulled in bodily pain, and,
at first, thought was merged in physical suffering. But gradually the
fog cleared from her brain and memory supervened hesitatingly. She
remembered fragmentary incidents of what had gone before the oblivion
from which she had just emerged. Gaston, and the horror and resolution
in his eyes, the convulsive working of his mouth as he faced her at the
last moment. Her own dread--not of the death that was imminent, but
lest the mercy it offered should be snatched from her. Then before the
valet could effect his supreme devotion had come the hail of bullets,
and he had fallen against her, the blood that poured from his wounds
saturating her linen coat, and rolled over across her feet. She
remembered vaguely the wild figures hemming her in, but nothing more.

Her eyes were still shut; a leaden weight seemed fixed on them, and the
effort to open them was beyond her strength. "Gaston," she whispered
feebly, and stretched out her hand. But instead of his body or the dry
hot sand her fingers had expected to encounter they closed over soft
cushions, and with the shock she sat up with a jerk, her eyes staring
wide, but, sick and faint, she fell back again, her arm flung across
her face, shielding the light that pierced like daggers through her
throbbing eye-balls. For a while she lay still, fighting against the
weakness that overpowered her, and by degrees the horrible nausea
passed and the agony in her head abated, leaving only a dull ache. The
desire to know where she was and what had happened made her forget her
bruised body. She moved her arm slightly from before her eyes so that
she could see, and looked cautiously from under thick lashes, screened
by the sleeve of her coat. She was lying on a pile of cushions in one
corner of a small-tented apartment which was otherwise bare, except for
the rug that covered the floor. In the opposite corner of the tent an
Arab woman crouched over a little brazier, and the smell of native
coffee was heavy in the air. She closed her eyes again with a shudder.
The attempted devotion of Gaston had been useless. This must be the
camp of the robber Sheik, Ibraheim Omair.

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