I knew I was right!!! I was pretty sure that there was something going on between Daniel and Rory. But well, first things first.
A new character appears. It is Tom Elliot, a soldier serving for a special group. He is charismatic, loud, full of himself, and Joan learns he is also a womaniser. Tom is Nathaniel Elliot’s younger son. He tells Joan that there were six siblings at one time, but now there is only him and a sister left. When Joan tells Maude about Charlie, Maude is dismissive but is ready to meet the man.
Joan is also involved in some dangerous activity. Maude asks her to visit Abdullah’s son, Sallim, who is in jail. His family is banned from visiting, so Maude asks her to go, disguising as an Arabian woman. So Joan agrees, and she goes to see the man, who tells her about his being incarcerated for opposing the sultan. The conditions in the prison are horrendous; they don’t even have enough water to survive, and Salim tells her that there is no light at the end of the tunnel as the sultan won’t let him free. Joan finds Maude’s interest in Salim curious, and I wonder if Maude is related to Salim in some way. She says that Abdullah is her slave, but there is something peculiar in their relationship. What if Maude is Salim’s mother?
When Joan sees Charlie Elliot next is in the army camp. She and Rory go to see Daniel, who tell them he is about to leave for an incursion. There is a tense moment between Daniel and Joan when she asks him to write something to her mother in the letter she intends to send, which he does reluctantly. Rory goes to talk to him, and when he doesn’t come back, Charlie Elliot offers to walk her to Daniel’s tent. From outside they could see both men even though they are hidden from view, and what Joan sees shocks her. She sees her brother and Rory kissing passionately, more passionately than Joan has ever been kissed.
I expected that Joan would say something, but she remains silent, acting as if nothing had happened. She goes to see Daniel alone with the intention of telling something, but she eventually doesn’t dare, especially when he tells her that he is leaving the following day. I understand that Joan’s position is very difficult, but she hasn’t given any thought to the fact that her brother and fiancé, who claim to love her, have no problem deceiving and taking her for a fool.
Joan tells herself that she will act as if she hadn’t seen a thing. Her only problem is that Charlie Elliot was there with her, and at the dinner party in the British Residency where Maude is invited, she tries to ignore him. When she receives Maude, Charlie comes to greet her, and Maude tells him that his father is a thief and liar, and then leaves it at it. Then after dinner Charlie comes to her, telling her that he has arranged for her to go with Peter Sawyer to the oil camp near Fort Jabrin. She will go as her secretary, and she even cries in excitement.
The days she is to meet Peter Sawyer, she leaves a letter for Rory and the Gibsons, her hosts, telling them that she is to spend the day and night at Maude’s. Peter and Joan fly over the area that Joan longs to see for herself. In the oil camp she goes for walk and goes as far as she can. She is mesmerised by the vastness and silence of desert. When it is time for dinner at the camp, she is surprised to find Charlie Elliot. They talk about her father’s death and about his siblings’. Joan feels that Charlie’s buoyancy is a shield that keeps up. When he walks her to the hut where she’ll sleep, he kisses her, and she lets him kiss. But when he is about to deepen the kiss, she tells him to stop. She says she is engaged, and he can’t help but tell her that Rory is queer, and he likes her and he thinks she likes him back. Joan gets angry and flees into her hut despite his calls. The following day Charlie is gone.
When Joan goes back home, she is dismayed that Rory has found out about her lying about staying at Maude’s. There is a tense moment when Rory tells her that they shouldn’t keep secrets from each other, and Joan can’t help herself by hinting that he also has secrets to keep. I feel sorry for Joan. She is torn about what she is supposed to do and what she feels. Then when she visits Maude next, she is surprised when Maude tells her that she is engaged to the wrong man. So that is when Joan tells her about Rory and Daniel. I like Maude’s pragmatic attitude, telling her that there have been some marriages in which one in the pair was queer, but the marriage was just a facade for both of them to do their own life. Yet, Maude guesses that in this case Joan is supposed not to know. Maude also surprises Joan by reproving Charlie Elliot and telling her that she shouldn’t trust him at all. I guess that Maude is comparing Charlie to his father, and I imagine that something happened in the past that made Maude so hostile towards Nathaniel Elliot.
In the chapters in Maude’s past we see how Nathaniel and Maude became closer and closer with time. Nathan went with the family on the trips Elias Vickery organised. Maude went to St Margaret’s Hall in Oxford and before the end of her exams Nathan visited her. He had gone to Cambridge but only got a minor degree, disappointing Elias Vickery. When he visited Maude, she told him about being hired to go to Egypt, and Maude felt disappointed as she wouldn’t be able to see him. When Nathan went, she realised she was in love with him. The next time we saw him together was in Syria where Maud had gone exploring. She was doing what she loved, writing about her travels and exploring the world. Nathan surprised him by being in her hosts’ house. They talked about their travels, about Nathan getting malaria, and about her mother dying. They also talked about marriage. Even though Maude had claimed she would never marry, she told herself that she would ignore her principles for Nathan. She gave him a vague opinion about marriage, and when she asked him, she got knocked when he told him about her being engaged to someone called Faye March. Then at the moment she knew that Nathan was aware of her feelings. After that encounter, Maude couldn’t keep still and kept travelling. Nathan had told her about his plans to go to Arabia and that was the place she had planned to go next. We know that they do meet in Arabia and Nathan beats her in being the first to go to Fort Jabrin, and I think this is the turning point in their relationship. I imagine that something more happened because Maude is still bitter about Nathan. What did she mean about Nathan being a liar and a thief? What did he steal? I wonder if in fact Maude was the first to get to Jabrin, but somehow Nathan told the press about him being the first, so that is why Maude thinks he stole that glory from her. When Joan asks Maud about her words, she tells her that she and everybody will know soon. I wonder if Maude is writing her memoirs and is going to reveal some shocking truth to the world.