He wants Santiago to help him find where the alchemist lives. The two search for the alchemist, and discover that the oasis is larger than they could have imagined. The Englishman seems to trust Santiago alone and no one else in the oasis. The Englishman is less willing to embrace the world, preferring to separate himself from others and to learn from books. The Englishman frets that they've wasted an entire day in their search, and Santiago says that they need to ask for help. They sit down near the wells and the Englishman says that Santiago, who speaks better Arabic, should ask people about the alchemist.
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Santiago approaches a woman who has come to the well for water, but the woman says she has never heard of the alchemist, and quickly hurries away. Before she does so, she tells Santiago that it is against their custom for him to converse with a married woman. The Englishman is disappointed, because he fears that he has come all this way for nothing.
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Santiago points out that he had never heard of alchemy , so maybe others in the oasis simply don't know the alchemist by that title. The Englishman agrees, and decides to ask for the person who cures illnesses. The two men find ways to work around this, however, demonstrating the possibility of human connections across borders and cultures. They ask a man who comes to the well, and he wonders why they want to find that person. The man reflects that perhaps they are asking about a certain powerful man, whom not even the tribal chieftains are able to see when they wish to.
He warns them to wait for the end of the war, and then leave with the caravan. Despite this word of warning, the Englishman is excited to hear that they are on the right track. Here we are presented with another seemingly cultural difference between the two characters and the people of the oasis: the people of the oasis do not value the alchemist, but instead fear him.
A young woman appears at the well, and is not dressed in black like the married woman. Santiago approaches her to ask about the alchemist , and suddenly he feels the life of the Soul of the World. Immediately he realizes that the language that everyone on earth can understand is love. The young woman smiles, and Santiago sees that as a good omen.
Even though his family told him to meet and get to know a girl before committing himself to her, he knows in that moment that he is in love.
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He feels that she has been waiting for him in the desert. Only that present moment matters, andSantiago is suddenly certain that everything that exists was written by the same hand, and with great love. Santiago is overwhelmed by love as he approaches a young woman at the well. His wholehearted commitment seems sudden, and he himself acknowledges this in the face of the advice he received from his family.
He is in love with this woman so suddenly because the pair is somehow connected by fate. Santiago asks the girl her name, and she says it is Fatima. The Englishman prods Santiago to ask about a man who cures illnesses.
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Fatima says that there is a man who knows all the secrets of the world, and who communicates with genies of the desert. She points in the direction of where the man lives. Then, filling her vessel with water, she leaves the well. The Englishman leaves in the direction that Fatima pointed, but Santiago sits at the well for a long time.
He realizes that he loved Fatima even before he knew her. Fatima tells Santiago and the Englishman about a man who seems to be the alchemist, but the way she describes him makes him seem more like someone practicing witchcraft than alchemy. The next day Santiago returns to the well, hoping to see Fatima.
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She is not there, but the Englishman is. He tells Santiago that he encountered the alchemist , and told him of his goal. The alchemist then asked him if he had ever transformed lead into gold, and the Englishman responded that he has come to the oasis to learn how to do so.
The alchemist responded that he should try his hand at this on his own first. The Englishman says that he is going to try, and he's going to start this very day. The Englishman is changed even by his brief encounter with the alchemist. He has seemingly overcome his fear and accepted that he must learn by doing, rather just than by reading and overly complicating the process of alchemy. The Englishman leaves, and Fatima arrives at the well. Santiago tells her that he loves her and wishes to marry her. He tells her that he has come into the desert in search of a treasure near the pyramids.
He thought of the war as a curse, but now he sees it as a blessing, because it has brought him to the oasis and to Fatima. Fatima points out that the war is going to end someday. Santiago feels in his heart that Fatima is more important than his treasure. Fatima says that the tribesmen are always in search of treasure, and that the women of the desert are proud of them. She fills her vessel with water and leaves. Despite their very brief acquaintance, Santiago immediately declares himself to Fatima and tells her the truth about his quest, which shows that he trusts her.
Her statement about the women being proud of the questing men suggests that she wants Santiago to continue on his journey, rather than staying at the oasis for her sake. Santiago goes to the well every day to meet Fatima. He tells her about his life as a shepherd, his encounter with Melchizedek , and his work in the crystal shop.
The two become friends. Santiago tells Fatima that the leader of the caravan called a meeting, and told those traveling with the caravan that he didn't know when the war would end and allow the caravan to continue its journey. Fatima says that she has learned from Santiago about the universal language and the Soul of the World.
She says that she has now become a part of Santiago and his quest. It now becomes more clear that everything and everyone Santiago encounters is portrayed as some kind of lesson or archetype put there for the sake of his education—there are few characters in the book that feel complex and alive, apart from their relation to Santiago and the lessons he is learning.
Fatima realizes that she has been waiting for Santiago at the oasis for a long time.
Ever since she was a child, she dreamed that a wonderful present would appear for her from the desert. Fatima says that because Santiago has told her about his dreams and about the omens, she now realizes that those omens have brought them together. She says that, because of this, she wants Santiago to continue toward his goal and pursue his dream.
The desert never changes, and their love too will never change. Fatima says "maktub," and tells Santiago that if they are really part of the same dream, and meant to be together, then he'll return to her one day. In retrospect, Fatima sees that she was aware Santiago would come out of the desert because of omens. Santiago is sad after he says farewell to Fatima that day. He thinks of the difficulty of telling a loved one that you must leave them behind and travel.
The next time he sees Fatima, she explains that women of the desert are used to departures. The desert always takes men away from the oasis. She knows that sometimes these men don't return, and if they don't return they become a part of everything, a part of the Soul of the World. She says that she will become one of the women who wait. As a desert woman, she wants her husband to be able to wander free, and she knows that if he never returned to her, she could accept the fact that he had become part of the Soul of the World.
Santiago again feels torn between staying and departing, as he did when he considered whether or not to sell his sheep and start his quest. Santiago goes in search of the Englishman , to tell him about Fatima. He finds that the Englishman has built a furnace outside his tent. The Englishman seems livelier than he did before, and he says that he has begun the first phase of the job to purify the metals and start the Master Work. He says that before this, he was held back by his fear of failure. But now he's beginning what he should have begun ten years ago. He's happy that he didn't wait twenty more years to start the Master Work, at least.
The Englishman has changed even more now that he has begun the Masterwork. He lives according to his own choice to pursue the Masterwork, rather than being guided by fear.