The Mapping of Love and Death
The seventh book in the Maisie Dobbs series, 2010
With my love
There is a great deal of unmapped country within us
which would have to be taken into account in an
explanation of our gusts and storms.
– GEORGE ELIOT, DANIEL DERONDA
War is like love; it always finds a way.
– BERTOLT BRECHT
Michael Clifton stood on a hill burnished gold in the summer sun and, hands on hips, closed his eyes. The landscape before him had been scored into his mind's eye, and an onlooker might have noticed his chin move as he traced the pitch and curve of the hills, the lines of the valley, places where water ran in winter, gullies where the ground underfoot might become soft and rises where the rock would never yield to a pick. Michael could see only colored lines now, with swirls and circles close together where the peaks rose, and broad sweeps of fine ink where foothills gave way to flat land. Yes, this was the place. He had wired his mother a month earlier, asking her to cosign a document releasing the funds held in trust for him from his maternal grandfather's will. Each of the Clifton offspring had received a tidy sum. His two sisters had set money aside for their own children and together had indulged in a little investing in land, while his older brother had rolled the bequest into an impressive property. Now it was his turn and, following the example set by his siblings, he had taken his father's advice to heart: 'Land is where to put your money. And if it's good land, you'll get your money back time and time again.' Edward Clifton would be pleased when he saw the maps, would slap him on the back.
Soon, perhaps early next year, a sign bearing the Clifton name would be set above the opening to a new trail into the valley, and travelers passing on the old stage road would assume that the famous company founded some forty years ago by Edward Clifton-a young Englishman who was still in his teens when he'd disembarked from a ship at Ellis Island in search of his fortune-was drilling for oil. But they would be wrong, for this Clifton was the youngest son, and this was his land, his oil.
Michael opened his eyes, gazed at the gold and green vista a few moments longer, and began packing away his equipment in a heavy canvas bag. One by one he took each piece and wrapped it carefully with linen and sackcloth: an octant, a graphometer, the surveyor's compass-a gift from his parents when he completed his studies-a waywiser, theodolite, and tripod. Using these tools attached him to the past, like a plumb line drawn across time connecting him to early mapmakers with that same curiosity. He'd always felt so young-the youngest son of a man who came to a young country in his youth. His roots were fresh, new, and in his love of the land-especially this very primitive land shaped by the power of nature-he felt those roots entrench into ancient soil.
He loaded the bag onto the back of a mule-drawn cart, the Mexican driver waiting patiently while he leapt up to sit on the floor and prepared to leave, his legs dangling down as he reached across for his stationery box. He opened the wooden box, checked that he had collected all his pens, sturdy German writing instruments each filled with a different colored ink. He liked the heft of the pens, the flow of ink, the narrow threads of color that issued from the pinlike point onto the heavy mapping paper. Michael Clifton might sometimes have been thought an impulsive young man anxious to make his mark, but he knew his business and he was nothing if not a diligent cartographer.
In Santa Ynez, Michael transferred his equipment and personal effects to a larger carriage for the journey into Santa Barbara. From there he could telegraph his father that he was on his way, but would save the good news for later, when he was home. He wanted to see the look on Edward Clifton's face when he told him of his discovery, he wanted to experience the joy and pride in person. For now he would check into The Arlington Hotel-the Clifton name alone meant a suite would be made available-bathe the dust from his skin, and then he would buy himself the biggest steak he could find in town. He might walk along the beach, smell that crisp Pacific air once more before boarding a California Pacific train bound for San Francisco tomorrow, and from there to the East Coast along the transcontinental railroad. Then, before you knew it, he would be home. But he would return soon to this place. Yes, he would be back-and this new Clifton Corporation would be his.
It was the newsboy outside the hotel who caught his attention.
'Read all about it. Read all about it. Britain goes to war! Kaiser to fight whole world. Read all about it.'
Pulling a handful of coins from his pocket, Michael bought a newspaper and began reading as he made his way through the hotel foyer. He signed the guest register, only marginally aware of what he was writing, and where. He nodded upon receiving the key to his rooms, and continued reading as the bellhop struggled with his belongings. Once in the suite, he slumped down in a chair, looking up only to press a few cents into the boy's palm.
It had come as no surprise to his family that Michael Clifton chose to become a cartographer. He had loved maps since childhood, drawn to the mystery of lands far away, fascinated by the names of places and the promise he saw held within a map. 'You always know where you are with a map,' he had told his parents, while persuading them of his choice of profession. 'And if you know where you are, why, you're more likely to be brave, to have an adventure, to search beyond where everyone else is looking. Think of what I could do for the company!' His father had laughed, seeing through the subtle entreaty. Yet Michael was right-it had been good for the company, to have a man in the family business who could read the land. You knew where you were with family, and as Edward had told his children time and again, you knew where your money was when it was in land. But what Michael never even tried to explain was the sense of wonder that came with a map, for each one told a story, and he, the surveyor and cartographer, was the storyteller, the translator, the guide to places a person might never otherwise see. He could tame a forest, prairie, or wilderness with a few strokes of his pen. And he had a knack for finding nature's buried treasures.
It had taken no time at all for Michael to make his decision. Before leaving his rooms he copied precise details from the maps and land documents into a small leather-bound notebook, adding sketches carefully marking those places where drilling should begin. That the valley held oil deposits was without question-William Orcutt, the surveyor for Union Oil, had the coast and much of the valley all but sewn up. Yet to know exactly where to tap into