During the weeks leading into summer, Philo tried to devote himself to the boys.
When a certain small, silvery carp appeared in larger numbers than usual to spawn that spring, Ardie burst into the house with a traditional Baltimorean cry, "The gudgeon are running!"
The next day Philo took his sons out of town to camp on the Patapsco River. All afternoon they fished, using worms as bait on fly hooks tied to sapling rods cut by Little Bart with his whittle knife.
That evening, they cooked the day's catch - a string of three dozen five-inchers - in bacon fat after Ardie rolled the gudgeon in corn meal.
"I reckon I never et better in all my born days!" belched Little Bart after dinner, leaning back on a rock, his forage cap pulled down over his eyes.
"Me, too," Ardie agreed, sitting cross-legged next to his father on the opposite side of the fire. "How 'bout you, Pa? Was that supper a good'un or not?"
Philo lit up a pipe with a blazing twig. The light sparkled in his eyes, lending them a cheerful luster seldom seen since his return.
"Yes, son, I reckon it was," he agreed.
"I bet it was a whole lot better than the Rebs fed you in that Carolina jail, Pa!" Ardie went on.
"Yessir, I bet it surely was!" Little Bart chimed in enthusiastically. "Tell us again how Tom LeMay saved your life, Cap'n!"
Philo shook his head. "Boys, I've already told you a hundred times."
"Fiddle sticks, Pa," Ardie groused, "make it a hunnert an' one!"
Philo smiled. "Well, just one more time."
He told them how Tom went to General Hardee and convinced him that Philo was more valuable alive than dead. "Captain Duncan's a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln's, General," the lieutenant had revealed, "and might know things of great value to us. Put him in my hands, sir, and I'll get him to talk." General Hardee had agreed to let Philo live a few days more. Then, in the confusion of the hasty retreat from Savannah, Tom had managed to shuffle Philo into the ranks of ordinary prisoners moved northward for reconfinement at Charleston. After Appomattox, Tom had personally set him free.
"So where's Tom now, Cap'n?" Little Bart asked. "Gone to Savannah," Philo replied, "to find his Sarah."
"Will we ever know what happened to him?" queried Ardie, his eyes wide with expectation.
"I'm sure we will," answered his father, "and now it's time for little boys to go to bed!"
"Oh, no, Pa, your stories are so good!" wheedled Ardie. "Tell us how you went to Washington when you got out of jail and got sent to Ford's Theater to report to President Lincoln....."
"Yes," interjected Little Bart, "an' how you saw him get shot and how Miz Lincoln screamed an' how John Wilkes Booth....."
"And that's all for tonight, young fellows," Philo interposed sternly. "To bed!"
Sleepy and tired despite their show of bravado, they put up no further argument, crawled into the tent, and fell asleep in minutes.
Philo sat alone while the fire died down, his careworn face looking older than his thirty-one years. He stared at a ribbon of moonlight in the river, lost in an agony of self-recrimination, as he had been every night since coming home.
Can you forgive me, Nelle? How selfish I was at Winter's Run! Were it not for me, you would be alive today. I killed you, dear. Tom did me no favor...He should have let them shoot me at Savannah. Truly, my darling, I belong in Hell for what I did to you!
His guilt only grew, all summer long.
The boys were busy preparing to return to F. Knapp's German and English School in the autumn. Philo had decided, with Annie, that social exposure to other boys was as important as scholastic achievement.
Gradually, as life developed a normal routine, he spent more time at the office with Simon Shirley and less time at home.
His relationship with Simon suffered no strain despite what had taken place. The two men shared a sense of grief over their wives. Nelle was gone forever, and, for Simon, nearly the same applied to Jane.
"I didn't know what to do with her, Philo, nor did I know what to do for her. She changed so, you see, after the birth of Irene. What was it? She was different, that's all. Sometimes she was my Jane. Other times she was someone else. And then, when Nelle...oh, it was a terrible time."
When he first told Philo the tale, Simon had burst into tears. "I was afraid...for the baby. That's why I sent Jane to Squirrel Island in Maine. Her aunt lives in a Gothic pile up there, a monster of a house. The lady is getting old, so I hired a couple to help her look after Jane. I feel so guilty about sending my wife away, but what else could I do? I couldn't watch her day and night. She was behaving like...a madwoman!"
Philo had touched him on the shoulder, his heart moved by pity. "My friend," he had said, "why don't you go and see her now that I'm home. Take Irene. Perhaps that will help. God willing, this will pass."
Simon had refused. "Irene is well cared for here by her Irish nanny. My little girl is the only light in my life. If anything should happen to her....."
They plunged together into the work that occupied their minds.
Philo discovered that Captain Sam's wartime contraband had earned a fortune on the European market. Several hundred thousand pounds sterling had been banked in Switzerland by Sam's comissionaires. As the sole heir of the Ardmore family, through Nelle, these funds, along with Ruth's properties at Savannah, accrued to Philo.
The Duncan Cargo Line, under Simon's management, had likewise earned a fortune transporting matériel for the Federal armed forces from Europe, returning abroad with American-manufactured goods. Although Philo had made arrangements not to charge the United States government for the inbound service, Duncan Cargo had rightfully accepted payment from the civilian sector for shipments outbound. Simon had also built up a lively trade in cotton from Jamaica, much needed in the cloth factories of the North after the war cut off supplies from the South.
Good news came from Savannah in late autumn of 1865. Tom and Sarah were to be married under the new laws of Reconstruction. In gratitude for all they had done, Philo presented them with Ruth's properties as a wedding gift. The deeds were conveyed under a power of attorney assigned to Bessie who went South for the ceremony. They offered Sarah's mother a home with them, but Bessie returned to Baltimore in time for the Christmas holidays.
"This is where I belong now," she explained when she returned. "Miz Ruth once said Miz Nelle was married to the North. So, too, you might say, am I!"
A year later, when Sarah bore Tom a son, they asked Philo's permission to sell out. They wished to expatriate themselves.
"Captain," wrote Tom, "life here is not what we had hoped. As difficult as it has been socially for Sarah, there can be no comparison to the problems that will confront my racially mixed son. My family, who, as you know, weathered the storm of occupation and defeat, were unable to cope with the politics of Reconstruction. They have already become emigrés, along with many other Southerners, and are living in Rio de Janeiro. They will accept Sarah and want their new grandson near them."
"My dear friends," Philo wrote back, "the properties are yours to do with as you please. I wholeheartedly endorse your estimable plan. Go build a new life, but do not forget us. We are your family, too."
As happy as he was for Sarah and Tom, it served mostly to sharpen a nagging ache in his heart.
After writing that letter to Savannah, he went alone to the bedroom that had been his and Nelle's. He had not slept there since his return from the war, choosing the sofa in his study over any other bedroom in the house.
Her mirrored dressing table was still neatly laid out with her favorite set of hair brushes and combs finely crafted of tortoise shell from the famous diamondback terrapin of Baltimore.
He stood before it imagining her brushing the long, shimmering hair, lifting its strands across her face like a veil to gaze at him with sweet promise in her smile. In the mirror, she could see him lying abed behind her, waiting impatiently for love. He imagined the fragrance of her flesh, its softness, her sighs when finally she sank down beside him.
The memory was more than he could bear.
He fell to his knees at the table, his forehead coming to rest on his arms, his thoughts awhirl.
Oh, God, what have I done? How can I go on living in this house? How can I go on living at all? What am I to do? Where am I to go?
He looked up at himself in the mirror, his eyes red, his hair disheveled, his complexion pallid.
"Get out of this room!" he cried aloud to his reflection. "Never come back in here again!"
Everyone noticed the change in him during the months that followed. He became taciturn and disagreeable, short-tempered even with the boys. Annie could not reach him. Too often she found him alone after dark in his study, lost in thought, silhouetted against the moonlight beyond the window.
No one could understand.
One day Ardie went to him in his study. The boy entered without knocking, unusual for him, and crossed the spacious room to where his father sat brooding at the desk, slumped down in his chair, hands clasped at his chest, chin resting on his folded fingers.
"Pa," Ardie asked sorrowfully, "Pa, why don't you love us anymore?"
Without raising his head, Philo gazed over the desk at his son.
"Is that what you think," he replied, "that I don't love you? Does Little Bart feel that way? Annie? Bessie?" "We all do, sir," Ardie stated without hesitation, "and we'd like to know what we can do about it."
Philo's chin trembled with emotion. "Come to me, son." He swiveled his chair and held out his arms. Ardie raced around the desk and let himself be lifted to his father's lap. Philo pressed the lad's head to his chest.
"Ardie," Philo said, "I love you. I love Little Bart. I love everyone in this house. But, Ardie, your poppa is...well...what you might call ill right now. I think I may have to go away, and it troubles me to think of leaving you, even if only for awhile. So if I don't seem to pay much attention, it's not because I don't love you. It's because I love you so much it grieves me to think of not being able to see you every day."
Mollified, Ardie patted him on the cheek.
"Oh, Pa, don't be sad," the ten-year-old comforted him. "We're 'most grown now. If you have to go away, we'll get along. When are you comin' back? Pretty quick, I hope!"
Feeling more peaceful now that his scattered thoughts had been gathered into a decision, Philo grinned. "Pretty quick, you bet!" he answered.
Later that day, he spoke his thoughts to Annie: "I need a change of scene to heal me, Annie, if healing can be done. I have decided to take a trip around the world, leaving the boys in your care. I shall move the American headquarters of Duncan Cargo to Boston with Simon at its head. Trade with Japan is on the horizon. Asia will be supplying exotic furnishings and art objects to fascinate Europe's aristocrats, not to mention America's rich industrial class. I may stop off in Brazil and talk to Tom LeMay about expanding around the southern hemisphere. Annie, I pray I'll find whatever it takes to bring me back to life, for the sake of you all."
Annie smiled and touched his hand. "Cap'n, we love you, troubled heart and all. Go, if you must. We'll be waiting."
Thus, in the spring of 1867, Philo set sail as the captain of Duncan Cargo's flagship, and left Baltimore behind.

Table of Contents · Chapter 4