ranch house on Malibu was a low-roofed adobe with a porch across
the front from corner to corner. A door and two windows opened
on the porch, both windows showing evidence of being enlarged
at some time in the past.
The two large ollas that hung from the porch beams contained
water kept cool by wind and shade. A gourd dipper was next to
To the left of the house, about a hundred and fifty feet away,
was a pole corral. Near the corral there was a long watering trough
made of rough planks and a lean-to stable.
Shading part of the dooryard was a valley sycamore, a huge
old tree with mottled bark, and nearby stood several cottonwoods
and another sycamore. Behind the house were several pin oaks.
Cottonwoods grew near the door.
The hills around were brush-covered and scattered with huge
boulders or sandstone outcroppings. From the porch there was a
good view down the winding trail and a glimpse of the blue sea
Eileen Mulkerin came to the door. The mother of two grown
sons, she looked young enough to be their sister, a strikingly
beautiful woman, as Irish as her name. "Are they coming, Michael?"
"They'll not be long, you can be sure of that. It's the day
Zeke Wooston has been waiting for ever since your father gave
him that whipping for beating his horse."
"He's shrewd . . . and dangerous."
"He is that. It was the Valdez note that surprised me. When
he bought it I knew we were in trouble," she said.
"You must not blame Valdez. He did not know Wooston as we
know him, and times are hard. He needed the money."
I do not blame him. He is a good man who thinks ill of no
one. He is sure of the goodness of the world."
They stood together in the late morning sun, looking down
the trail. Eileen Mulkerin and her son in his brown monk's robe.
"I wish Sean was here," she said.
"He is much like his father," she said, "and so are you. But
there are things he can do that would not be fitting for a man
of the church."
He shook his head. "Now, Senora. You are not thinking of violence?
It would do no good, and besides, there is the law."
"Sean would think of something."
"What is there to think? Win Standish and I have both thought,
but unless you have some money--"
"I have none."
"Then they will take the place, and we had better think of
what we can do, of where you can go."
"This is my place. It was given to your father by the presidente
for your father's service in the Army of Mexico. I shall not see
it taken from us."
"Senora, that president is dead. I do not know if the president
we have now knows of our existence. Win and I have written and
there has been no answer."
"As for the governor . . . Micheltorena is their friend, not
ours. If it was Alvarado--"
"He is a man," Michael said.
"Agreed. But he is also a man out of office."
"He is a smuggler. He wants to use Paradise Cove, as they
used to, in the dark of night."
"It is not only that. He has heard stories of the gold."
Michael glanced at her. "If there is gold, why don't we get
some of it now?"
She shrugged. "Only your father knew where it was. He was
killed when he fell from his horse and had no chance to tell anyone."
"He must have said something, left some clue, some idea of
where it came from?"
"No . . . nothing. All I know is that he would ride off and
be gone for several days, in the desert, I think. He always rode
out on a different route, but I do know that the place the gold
came from was somewhere to the north. I say `always' but he actually
brought gold back on only two occasions."
"Why did he go then?"
"To explore. Your father was a soldier in the Army of Mexico
for more than twenty years, and he had the gift of tongues. He
could talk to almost any Indian we ever met, and he made friends
"You know how it is here. Most of the Californios will not
leave the missions or the pueblos. They like company and they
are not adventurous. It was not so with Jaime. He loved the mountains
and the desert, and was forever riding off to some lonely canyon
or along some ancient trail he had found. I know how it was because
I often went with him. But there is one clue."
"When he went for the gold, he told of the trip, of the hard
riding, the rough country . . . that sort of thing, But he always
said `we.' There was someone with him."
"No, he always left Jesus here. Your father trusted him because
Jesus was a sergeant in the old army when your father was a colonel.
No, it had to be somebody we do not know."
"Look!" Michael got to his feet, indicating a dust cloud about
the trail. "Someone is coming!"
"It's Win. Even when he is in a hurry your cousin rides like
a soldier on parade."
"Eileen Mulkerin put her hand on her son's shoulder. "You've
been a good son, Michael, although sometimes I wish you had not
become a monk. You were a fine hand with a rope or gun."
"Father was good. Very good."
She smiled. "He was at that.
Win Standish rode in, his horse dusty. He was a compact, solid
young man of medium height, with a serious expression. He looked
exactly like what he was, a rising young businessman.
"They are coming Senora. I could not stop them. They would
not listen and, of course, they have the law."
"Let them come."
Far down the road, the riders appeared. There were three of
"They'll get nothing. Nothing at all."
"There must be no violence now," Michael warned. "I cannot
"Nor I," Win added.
"Would you have me lose the place then?"
"You could not save it, Senora. They have the strength, and
they have the law. You owe the money, and the debt is due."
"Yes, but we have the ranch, and we shall keep it. I lost
a home in Ireland once, and I won't lose another."
The pace of the three riders slowed as they neared the ranch
house. It was obvious that trouble was expected.
Zeke Wooston was a large, untidy man. Only a few years before
he had come to California by the Panama route and had been involved
in several doubtful business ventures.
Jorge Fernandez, who rode with Wooston, was a lean, whiplash
of a man known for his savage cruelty to horses, Indians, and
women. Tomas Alexander owned a cantina on the road to Los Angeles.
He was a gambler, smuggler, and bad man with a gun. It was said
that he had many friends among the outlaws who hid in the canyons
of the Santa Monica mountains.
Wooston started to dismount.
"No need to get down," Eileen Mulkerin said. "If you have
business, state it."
"Senora, we have ridden far, if--"
"My door is open to friends and to strangers. You are neither."
"So that's how it is? All right, Senora, we'll make it plain.
You pay up today or get out tomorrow. Go now and you may take
your horses and personal belongings. Stay until tomorrow and you
"We will pay."
"With what, Senora? With burned crops? With a few bales of
hides? You have nothing, and nothing can come from nothing."
"The road lies there. Take it. You shall have your money."
Zeke Wooston leaned on the pommel. "Ma'am, we'll be back tomorrow
with our men. If you ain't gone, we'll throw you off." His smile
was not pleasant. "And ma'am, I won't care what happens to you
when you get throwed off. I'll just leave you to my men."
"That rabble? You call them men ?"
Turning their horses they rode back down the trail. Win Standish
watched them go, his expression indicating his worry. "Nothing
is solved, Senora. You have only angered them."
"It gives us a little time, just a little more."
"Haven't you a clue about the gold?"
"It was Jaime's secret, and he died with it."
"I can talk to Pio," Win said after a minute, "but he is out
of power and has troubles of his own. He and the governor do not
"Pio is only Pio. He is a good man, a very good man, and he
is our friend, but at this moment our enemies have more strength."
Eileen Mulkerin looked toward the sea. From the porch only
a narrow triangle of blue water could be seen, and it was empty.
"Sean will come," she said, at last. "He will find a way."
"If there was a way we would have found it," Win said, somewhat
irritated. "I am afraid the place it lost."
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