The English Girl 4 (Pages 278 – 384)

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SPOILERS!!!

Now I can understand why Maude is the way she is. :O

Joan and Salim walk and walk, and they are met by Salim’s cousin and some other men. Then Salim leaves her in a town, and his promises to come back are not very reassuring. I really don’t understand Sallim. It was him who made him leave the comforts of her life, and now he leaves her in a place where she knows nobody and she doesn’t even speak the language. Yet, Salim returns ten days later, and he fulfils his promise. He takes her to the summit of the Green Mountain, and she is in total bliss.

When they are going down the mountain, Sallim tells her that this is the last thing he can do for her and she needs to go on her own. Joan had already decided that she couldn’t stay away as her behaviour must be worrying everybody who loves her. In the way down, they have to find shelter in a cave as a British plane keeps shooting from above. In the cave they find Sallim’s cousin and some other men. They have a radio there, and they learn that there is a group of British trapped and in danger, and another group further down. The men in the cave do not trust Joan and want her to stay with them, but Sallim vouches for her and tells them she won’t betray them.

When Joan finally leaves, she is scared but rushes down the mountain. She is torn between wanting to help the soldiers but refusing to betray Salim. A man finally finds her, and she recognises at once. It is Charlie Elliot’s friend, and he takes her to Charlie. Despite her apprehension about what she is expected, Charlie surprises her by laughing, but then she tells them about the men trapped up in the mountain, and Charlie confirms that one of those men is Daniel.

Joan is taken to the nearest camp by Charlie’s friend, and the colonel gives her a good telling-off. At his questions Joan is lost because she can’t tell anything about Sallim as then she would be linked to his break from prison. Her answers are vague, and finally the colonel lets the matter drop, but he threatens that they will get to the bottom of the matter. She goes to sleep, and the following day Daniel is there. He has been rescued, and they talk about why she left and about Rory for the first time. Joan discovers that it is Daniel who prevented Rory from marrying him as he thought it wasn’t right for Joan. Rory thought that marrying Joan would be the best solution for them to keep seeing each other and at the same keep their respectability. Daniel says that he would never have let Rory marry her. What he tells her is that Charlie Elliot has been captured alongside six other men, and despite her feelings, she finally tells him that the man up there is Salim.

Joan is taken to Muscat where she is met by Rory. Without a word she gives him her engagement ring, but she realises she has no reason to explain any further why their engagement is off. Rory is not very kind when he recriminates her behaviour, but Joan is not a meek girl any longer, she counterattacks, reminding him that he has also reasons to feel ashamed. Robert Gibson also gives her a good scolding, but thankfully, his wife mediates and saves her from any more recriminations.

The following day she decides to go and see Maude. There is something she has discovered and she tells her. As I suspected, Sallim is Maude’s son, and Maude has been helping the rebels for years, Sallim being a leader. Maude doesn’t show any regrets, and when Joan asks her to do something for Charlie Elliot, the woman doesn’t budge and tells her that she has come in good time to listen what the others need to hear. Joan doesn’t know who she is talking about, and then steps sound outside the door, and then Colonel Singer, Robert Gibson and some other army man appear. They tell Maude that they don’t know what connection she has with the rebels and Sallim, but the rebels have sent a message, saying that they will free Elliot and the others if they meet Maude’s requirements. And what Maude wants is for the army to bring Nathaniel Elliot to her.

I thought that Maude was too hard and cruel, but then we learnt what happened in 1909 when Maude was crossing the desert. It was a terrible expedition; the terrain was almost insurmountable, they were attacked by raiders, and Maude even had to pounce on a man that almost killed one of her men, and she was terribly exhausted. As they were on the way to a well, one of the men discovered that there were the trail of some men that seemed to be lost. Maude suggested they could try to help them, but she was dissuaded, and when they found the trail again, the men finally agreed to find the men and help them. To Maude’s shock she discovered that one of the men was Nathan, who was supposed to be exploring miles from here. He explained that they got lost and if it hadn’t been for Maude, he would have died.

They reached an oasis, and Nathan became stronger and Maude and the others could rest for a few days. Nathan and Maude talked, and Nathan kept praising her bravery and strength. One night when they were alone, Maude finally managed to tell him about her feelings, and Nathan told her that she was the only woman who could make her happy, and he asked him to marry him, and she naturally agreed. That night Maude and Nathaniel made love, and she felt as the happiest woman on earth. They continued the expedition, and at some point Nathan explained his worries, about being a failure for not reaching the desert the first as he had planned. He kept whining about being different for her, but he had a reputation, and now he would be a total failure. Then Maude told him that they could tell the world that they did it together, and nobody had to be any the wiser.

Then comes the dark of moment in which everything changed it. When Maude woke up one morning a few days later, she found a big spider and after she managed to shake it off and be safe, she felt that there was something wrong. Her two faithful guides were a few metres away, but there were a few camels missing, and only a skin of water. When she woke the men, it was clear that they had been beaten up, and they told him the truth. They had been betrayed, and they kept saying that it had been Nathan, who had betrayed her and the Bedouin guide told her that Nathan had a dangerous shine in his eyes. So what they had done is sneak away in the middle of the night, emptying the skins of water and leaving them enough so they could return to the well, which would take them four days while they continued and reached The Empty Quarters the first. What a terrible thing to do!!! Not only has Nathaniel betrayed her as a fellow explorer but as a friend and a woman. Why did he have to fill her head with empty promises? I have the impression that Nathan always begrudged her how easy it was for her to pursue what she wanted as she had money and he didn’t. Yet, this is such a horrible thing to do, especially when Maude had always helped him, and she saved him from a sure death. No wonder old Maude is so bitter whenever his name comes up. I imagine that Sallim is Nathan’s son as well. I wonder what Maude wants to see Nathan now for. What will she want him to do as reparation?

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