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Authors: Jacqueline Winspear

The Mapping of Love and Death

BOOK: The Mapping of Love and Death
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The Mapping of Love and Death

A Maisie Dobbs Novel

Jacqueline Winspear

For John

“The Bluesman”

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

Contents

 

Prologue

Michael Clifton stood on a hill burnished gold in the summer…

One

Would you believe it, Billy—three years and we’re still in…

Two

Why do you think Dr. Hayden didn’t say something in his…

Three

In haste Maisie gathered her belongings, packed her case, and…

Four

The address Archibald Davidson had given Maisie over the phone led…

Five

Maisie was leaving Hampstead when she turned off the High…

Six

Maisie arrived at the office with the intention of clearing…

Seven

As if it had been orchestrated by Maurice, while Maisie…

Eight

The following morning, Maisie had only just closed the front…

Nine

At the hospital, Maisie went straight to the ladies’ lavatory…

Ten

The following day, after a brief meeting with Billy at…

Eleven

Priscilla, good morning to you!” Maisie twisted the telephone cord…

Twelve

Maisie placed telephone calls to her father and Priscilla prior…

Thirteen

Having left her motor car parked outside her flat in…

Fourteen

Maisie prepared a simple evening meal of soused mackerel and…

Fifteen

Maisie stopped at a pie and mash shop on her…

Sixteen

James, I think I ought to confess to you that…

Seventeen

Detective Inspector Caldwell was waiting in a parked Invicta motor…

Eighteen

Maisie looked around what seemed to be an expanse of…

Nineteen

Maisie’s first task the following morning was to make the…

Twenty

Maisie packed a few items of clothing into her leather…

Twenty-One

It was Maurice who had taught Maisie that, following the…

Epilogue

Maisie sat on the floor in The Dower House conservatory…

 

The Santa Ynez Valley, California, August 1914

M
ichael 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.
Well done, son. Well done. Didn’t I always say you had the nose? Didn’t I, Martha? Didn’t I, Teddy?
And his brother would shake his hand, perhaps add a friendly punch to the shoulder.
Good for you, little brother.
And there would be no rancor, no slight because he had acted alone, only familial joy because he had succeeded.

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 the riches took an expert eye. Some said you had to touch the land to know, that a man who knew where to sink his shovel could hear oil rumbling in the earth.

His task complete, and with the series of maps rolled and placed in a leather tube along with the original title documents to the land—his land—he went directly to the Central Bank of California on State Street, where he left the leather tube in a safe deposit box, withdrew a portion of the funds held in his name at the bank, and then made his way to the railroad station, where he purchased a ticket to Boston via San Francisco and New York. He left the office, then stopped short
in the street before returning to the ticket counter, whereupon he informed the clerk that he had changed his mind, and would go only as far as New York. The clerk grumbled, but asked no questions as he made out the new ticket. From New York, Michael planned to sail to England as soon as he could secure a passage—and it was surprising the speed with which anything could be reserved, booked, obtained, and acquired when you were a Clifton.

It was only right that he go, because for his family, England was the old country. He’d read that other boys were going over, boys like him who had limey blood in their veins. Of course, he suspected they probably wouldn’t let him bear arms, being an American by birth, but he had a profession, and he was only too aware that in wartime armies needed to know where they were going, needed to know the lie of the land. He would wire his family and let them know of his decision just before he sailed. His father might argue, but he would also be proud that his son was going to fight for the country he’d left a lifetime ago. And his maps of the valley and the deed to his land would be safe until he returned; after all, according to reports, the war in Europe would be over by Christmas. Thus, by the time a tall spruce tree was alive with baubles, tinsel, and lights in the window of the grand house on Boston’s Beacon Hill, he’d be home.

Fitzroy Square, London, April 1932

W
ould you believe it, Billy—three years and we’re still in business!” Maisie Dobbs turned away from the floor-to-ceiling window, where she had been watching gray, rain-filled clouds lumbering across an otherwise springlike sky. She smiled and sat down at the table where she and her assistant, Billy Beale, had been working.

Billy ran his fingers through his hair. “And we’ve a few more clients on the books than we expected in January.”

Maisie leaned back in her chair. “We’ve been lucky, there’s no doubt about that. I just hope it continues throughout the year.”

“Perhaps the Americans we’re seeing this morning have a few friends over here who might need your services,” said Billy. “I mean, that’s how almost all the work comes in, isn’t it? Through clients who were satisfied with what you did for them.”

“Speaking of the Americans, I want to read that letter once more before they arrive.” Maisie stood up and walked across the room to her desk. She took her seat and leaned forward, her forearms resting on
the blotting pad. “Apparently they’re very good people, quite down to earth, but they’ll be expecting me to be completely prepared for the appointment, especially with such a strong personal reference from Dr. Hayden.”

She reached for a manila folder with the words “Clifton, Edward and Martha” inscribed along one side, and took out a well-thumbed letter from Dr. Charles Hayden. Maisie had been introduced to the eminent American surgeon by Simon Lynch, a captain in the army medical corps, during the war. At the time Dr. Hayden was a volunteer with a medical contingent from the Massachusetts General Hospital. They had corresponded since the war, and now he wrote in response to a letter from Maisie.

Please do not apologize for the delay in letting me know that Simon has passed away. Though my first concern is always for my patients, in my dealings with families of the sick and dying, I know the passage of grief is a difficult one to navigate, so please do not concern yourself that you should have written sooner. You have been in Pauline’s and my thoughts so often over the years, especially given Simon’s medical circumstances. As a doctor, I confess, I was amazed at the man’s continued physical resilience, when there was no obvious function in his mind.

He continued with reminiscences of times spent with Simon, and followed with news of his family. Then the letter took a different tack.

Maisie, I hope you don’t mind, but I have taken the liberty of referring a friend to you. He and his wife are more than willing to pay for your professional services, and they are in any case planning to sail for France in late March, then will travel on to England in April. I know they will be in touch and you will want to hear the story straight from
the horse’s mouth. But let me fill you in on what I know so that you might be prepared for what’s in store.

I met the Cliftons though their son-in-law, Bradley Marchant. He’s married to their eldest daughter, Meg, and is one of my colleagues here at the hospital. We went to their wedding at the family vacation home on Cape Cod, and I’m a godfather to their eldest. I don’t know if you need all this detail, but I thought I should let you know anyway.

Edward Clifton is an Englishman by birth. He came over here when he was about eighteen, nineteen, something like that. He wasn’t exactly penniless, but he knew how to work—and to make something of himself, he had to work hard. He turned his hand to anything he could, then started putting money into land. Bradley said that acquiring land was an obsession with Edward when he was younger. I guess it’s something about coming from over there and starting again in a new country—he needed to own a part of it, stake his claim. From land he moved into building and founded a construction company, then started investing in stocks; all tied to the land in some way. I’ll cut to the chase here, and say that by the time he was thirty, Edward Clifton was very, very wealthy. Then he met Martha Stanbourne—she’s from an important family, it’s said their ancestors came to America on the
Mayflower.
The Stanbournes are what we call “Boston Brahmins” over here. They married—there’s no doubt it was a love match—and had four children. There’s Edward Jr. (Teddy), then Margaret and Anna, and bringing up the rear, Michael. Couldn’t have met a nicer family.

Maisie paused. When she had first read the letter, as soon as she saw the word
Michael
the thought had crossed her mind: That’s the one. It’s Michael who has caused them pain. For there was no doubt in her mind, even in reading a few paragraphs, that the Cliftons were in some emotional turmoil. Why else would they need her services?

In August 1914, Michael was out in California—he was a mapmaker, surveyor of some sort. Apparently he’d bought a tract of land with money left to him by Martha’s father. It would have been a lot of money, and according to Bradley, there’s still plenty held in trust. He was very excited about the purchase, and was due to come back to Boston—couldn’t wait to see his parents to tell them all about it. Then I guess you could say he crossed paths with fate when he saw the news about war in Belgium. He changed his plans at the last minute and sailed for Europe. Edward will fill you in on the details, but Michael enlisted in England and was attached to a military cartography unit—no doubt if it wasn’t for his profession he would have been sent packing back to Boston.

“Cuppa, Miss, before they get here?”

Maisie glanced at the clock. “Oh yes, please. They’re bound to be shocked if they see me drinking out of my old army mug. Americans always expect to see the English sipping tea from fine bone china.” She went back to the letter.

Michael was listed as missing in early 1916. In January a farmer working the land (somewhere in the Somme Valley) put his plough into a gully, and when he and some other men were digging it out, the ground started to fall away and the bodies of several British soldiers were found. Michael was identified by his tags. By now you’re probably wondering why the Cliftons need to see someone like you. Apparently the ground gave way to a dugout and a series of what you could only describe as rooms—so well made, the Brits might have been occupying an old German trench. It was there that the soldiers’ belongings were found. They were members of a surveying team. Michael’s journal was discovered, along with other personal effects. Don’t ask me how
the Cliftons managed to get their hands on the journal. You know the soldiers weren’t allowed to keep any sort of diary, so it’s a wonder it wasn’t retained by the authorities. It’s now with Edward and Martha, along with a collection of letters. His wallet was tucked in his jacket pocket, and apparently his surveying compass and other tools he’d taken with him were also returned to the family. Now, the reason they want to see you is this: the letters were from a woman, they think an English woman, and they want to find her. That’s everything I know, but at least you’ll be prepared when they arrive.

Please keep in touch, Maisie. Pauline sends her love—perhaps you girls will have a chance to meet one day.

It was signed with a flourish: “Charles.”

“There you are, Miss. Nice cuppa the old char.”

“Lovely—thank you, Billy.” Maisie pushed back her chair, leaving the letter open on the table as she looked out upon the square again. She cupped her hands around the chipped enamel mug. “I thought we were in for a warm spring, but look at that rain.”

“Coming down cats and dogs, ain’t it?” Billy sipped his tea and reached for the letter. “You know what I reckon happened to this here Michael Clifton?” Billy continued without waiting for an answer. “I reckon he heard about the war starting and came over all patriotic for the half of him that was British. That and the fact that something gets into lads when a war starts. Makes them get all mannish, as if they can’t wait to get on with getting old. Look at me and my brother—and him buried over there.”

Maisie nodded. “I know—though it’s true to say that you and your brother were also pushed by public opinion. I remember Charles—Dr. Hayden—saying that in America in 1914 it was different. There were a lot of people who had just emigrated from Germany, so there was a
significant allegiance to the Kaiser at first. But thank heavens for the American doctors and nurses who volunteered when war broke out; they saved a great many lives.”

“So, what do you think of this, Miss?” He held up the letter.

“Let’s see what the Cliftons have to say—they’ll be here in a minute. But I don’t think it has anything to do with money. If they want to find that woman, it’s because there’s a link to Michael. The question is, what kind of link? It could be something as simple as wanting to speak to someone who knew their son at a time when he was at a great distance from them—it appears they were a close family. But my sense is that it’s more than that.” Maisie closed her eyes. “They want to unlock some door to the past, I would say. And they have reason to believe this woman holds the key.”

The bell above the door began to ring.

“That must be them. Go on, Billy, go and let them in while I put these few things away.”

 

M
aisie turned up the jets on the gas fire and pulled four chairs closer, so that the room might be more welcoming when the new clients entered. She heard their footsteps on the stairs, and Billy asking how they were liking England and if they had had a good crossing from France. The door opened, and Maisie walked towards Edward and Martha Clifton, extending her hand to welcome them into the room.

“How lovely to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Clifton. May I take your coats?”

Maisie judged Edward Clifton to be about seventy-seven or seventy-eight, probably a little older than her father. He was a man of average height, not stooped, but one who seemed ill at ease with the restricted movement that came with age. He wore a black woolen overcoat and black homburg, which he removed as he stepped into the office. His
suit was of a deep slate gray fabric, a color matching the silk tie and the kerchief in his pocket. Martha Clifton—Maisie suspected she might be some ten years younger than her husband—removed a cashmere coat trimmed with fur. She was wearing a stylish ensemble of light tweed in which mauves were blended with earthen colors perhaps more suited to autumn than spring. Her cloche accentuated deep-set brown eyes, around which the skin was lined, gathering in gentle ripples when Maisie took her hand, and she smiled in return. Maisie could imagine that smile becoming broad upon greeting her children and grandchildren, and an image came to mind of her eyes filled with tears when she was reminded of her youngest son, Michael.

When her guests were settled, Maisie took the seat closest to her desk, while Billy handed cups of tea to Edward and Martha, and in those precious seconds without conversation, she was able to gauge their mood and feelings towards each other. They were, as might be imagined, somewhat tense, though Maisie could detect a connection between them that she found rare in a man and wife of their generation. They leaned towards each other in the way that a pair of ancient oaks might seem as one, their branches laced together as the years passed. Yet at the same time there was an independence and, Maisie thought, profound respect. She could see that there had been no secrets in the household, and decisions had never been made alone, until the day Michael left for England.

“Now, perhaps you could tell me what it is you would like to discuss with me, and how you think I might be able to help you.” She was careful not to mention Charles Hayden’s letter, as she wanted to hear the story from the couple.

“Well—” Edward Clifton looked at his wife, and reached for her hand, which she had already moved towards his. “Our son, who was an American citizen, came to England in ’14 to join up.” He cleared his throat. His voice was deep, and though one could not mistake the
Englishman in his accent, there was a slower rhythm to his speech, a cadence distinguishing him as one who had gone away and would never again be at ease in the country of his birth. “He decided not to tell us until just before he sailed.” He glanced at his wife again. Martha Clifton nodded for him to continue. “Michael’s mother and I, well, we thought he’d be turned away and shipped right back home, but that was not to be, given his profession.”

“Which was?”

“Michael was a cartographer. He had been working for one of the family companies as a surveyor, assessing land prior to purchase.”

“And is that what he was doing before he enlisted for service in England?”

“Yes—and no.”

Maisie looked at Martha, who had leaned forward as she spoke. “Each of our children has money left in trust by my father. The trust stipulated that until they reached the age of thirty, I had to cosign transfer of funds from the trust. From the time he was in his teens, Michael had been fascinated by California. He said there was so much there for a young man, that he wanted to just go see what it was all about. Then, a month before he left to return to Boston, he wired me and asked for a significant sum to be transferred into an account in Santa Barbara—it’s a little town along the coast.”

“And you agreed?”

“It was his money. He was a man—twenty-three at the time. And both his father and I felt that if he lost the money, well, it represented an investment on a lesson that would stand him in good stead.”

Maisie nodded. “And before I go on—may I ask how you felt about Michael making a decision that was not on behalf of the family business?”

“We were all for it,” said Edward. He paused to clear his throat. “Let
me explain. My great-grandfather was a shoemaker who built a successful business, which was in turn taken over by my grandfather, then my father. I was the only male in my generation, and from early childhood I was told that I was in line to take over the business. It was drummed into me time and time again.” He smiled and looked at his wife. “And you know something, Miss Dobbs? I couldn’t stand it. I hated the smell of the factories, the untreated leather, the whale oil when it was delivered, the tannery. I detested the shoe business and would have walked around in rubber boots to make my point. I had no mind to go into that company, and in the end, I suppose you could say I ran away. I had a bit of money of my own—we weren’t poor, but I had to earn every penny—and America beckoned. Same thing happened in Martha’s family, to her brothers; they were expected to join a family business without consideration of what they might have wanted. In my case, my father and mother disowned me, my letters were returned, and I never spoke to my family again—which grieves me to this day. So, with that in mind, my corporation is set up to be run independently. We never wanted our children to feel beholden to us. If they had it in them to join the company—fine. But if not, we still wanted them to sit at the table with us for Thanksgiving dinner without an argument about it. As it happens, Teddy—our eldest son—and our daughter Anna’s husband both work for the corporation. Michael was just doing what I had done years before. He was breaking away, and we wanted to make it easy for him to come home again, always.”

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