Philo found that traveling did nothing to quell the heartache brought on by his role in the death of Nelle. If anything, he was even more embittered by exposure to so many of the world's wonders which they could have enjoyed together.
After two years of sailing the globe with Duncan Cargo and concluding that his solitary wanderings ashore provided no answers, he finally took up residence in Paris. Only thirty-five, he hoped to find a new direction for his life among the cultural and social diversions of the "City of Light."
Throughout this time, however, he maintained regular communication with his family in Baltimore. From Japan, he shipped Annie a strand of large, perfectly matched pearls. He also sent her an assortment of exquisite Chinese, Japanese, Siamese, Burmese, and Indian silks - for which she developed a passion - as he visited each of those countries. After learning to read and discovering first-hand the literary glory of the Bible, she had often likened silk, in its full array of colors, to "the goodly wings" given "unto the peacocks" in the Book of Job.
When Ruth Heskitt's widowed granddaughter married a wealthy attorney from Pennsylvania in 1868, Annie charmed the guests not only with her singing, but also with one of her many-colored gowns. Bessie had spent a month painstakingly stitching the garment from some richly embroidered kimono silk Philo had dispatched from Kyoto.
Beth Heskitt, then seven, marched down the aisle as flower girl at her mother's wedding. When Annie rose to sing, the tiny blonde had chortled across the hushed congregation, "Oh, look, Miss Annie's hidin' in a rainbow!"
Everyone smiled, but the name stuck. Ever afterward, Annie was known as "Miss Rainbow." For years to come, she would occupy a place of honor at public celebrations and receptions in the city. They were not complete without Miss Rainbow's songs. To Annie herself, however, there was but one place of honor. That was Nelle's commodious chair near the fireplace, where she read the Bible each evening to her boys.
She also found joy in reading Philo's letters aloud while the boys spun a globe placed between them to pick out the countries from which he wrote.
"It's like havin' you home, Pa," Ardie would say, glancing at his father's portrait above the mantel.
Annie would look up at the painting and smile, "Master Angel Hair, you will always be the tall young cap'n up there on the wall, but pretty soon now, these boys are going to catch up!" She was confused by Philo's absenting himself from his family, but, wisely, she kept her own counsel.
Ardie and Little Bart scrambled to pass each other's measuring marks on a doorjamb in the kitchen. At the age of eighteen, they faced off nose-to-nose at six-foot-one and declared a tie.
Only in height were they alike.
No longer "little," chestnut-haired Bart was outgoing and strong-willed. Blond Ardie, always the first to yield, inclined toward introspection. Whereas he was the better student, Bart was the better athlete. Where Ardie moved cautiously, Bart reacted impulsively.
Surprisingly, they were seldom at odds. They shared respect and profound brotherly love.
A fad for oriental furnishings and objects of art swept across Europe in the 1870's. Treasures from the most artistic dynastic periods of China, India, and Japan were suddenly in demand by the royal and the rich from St. Petersburg to Biarritz.
On the scene in Paris, Philo perceived a great opportunity for the Duncan Cargo Line. Although he had traveled around the world principally to heal his wounded conscience and broken heart, he had not neglected to appoint new commissionaires in every port where the company had not been represented. He turned the company into a global operation.
Even as the craze for oriental wares became fashionable in the United States, Philo's ships were already plying the high seas laden with the most sought after Asian merchandise. They anchored in North and South American ports on the Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mexico. The black-and-gold ensign of Baltimore, fluttering on the Duncan masts alongside the American flag, became a familiar sight in all the major ports of Europe, as well.
Simon Shirley in Boston and Tom LeMay in Rio managed the operation in their parts of the world, while Philo directed the European interests.
Philo achieved the status of an international celebrity during those years, becoming the most recognized purveyor of magnificent oriental works of arts to royalty and the ruling class in Europe. He also formed relationships with American merchant princes from New York to San Francisco.
Beautiful and titled women sought him out in the salons and courts of the Continent, but he remained an unwed widower seemingly impervious to the wiles of marriage brokers. Viewed publicly as a titan of commerce, little was known of him privately except that he lived in the heart of Paris in a stately old house within the confines of the fashionable Place Dauphine on the Île de la Cité.
To society, he was a man of mystery. Indeed, there was an element of his life in Paris he chose not to speak of for intensely personal reasons. Only one other living person knew of it, and she had been sworn to silence.
Likewise, he had become an enigma to his family.
For nine years, he had communicated with them only by means of letters and cablegrams. All his business with Simon and Tom had been conducted in the same way. They knew as little as the world at large of his life in Europe.
Annie never felt it her place to protest Philo's absence. Long ago, he had earned her unquestioning and eternal gratitude. She rightfully understood that he had given her and Bart an even greater gift than home and comfort. He had given her his trust. This realization strengthened her resolve to rear the boys according to her highest sense of right.
Then, in 1876, Annie was invited to sing Maryland, My Maryland at the opening ceremony of Baltimore's celebrations of the first hundred years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. She was to be seated on the podium beside the President of the United States, Ulysses Simpson Grant, who would be en route to Philadelphia for an appearance at the International Centennial Exposition.
The President headed an administration which had brought great tribulation to the South with punitive Reconstruction policies. In civil rights, however, Grant was progressive. He was responsible for important legislation to the benefit of black Americans.
Grant cabled Philo a request to join him on the podium in Baltimore as an outstanding representative of America's importance in the international community. Philo and the President had been introduced by Abraham Lincoln. Upon election to a second term in 1872, Grant had offered him the ambassadorship to France, an honor Philo might have relished had he considered himself no more than a private person.
He had, however, refused, giving the sound and truthful reason that official involvement with the government in Washington could be construed among his royal and political European clientele as a damning conflict of interest for Duncan Cargo.
He therefore now felt obligated to accept the President's invitation to go to Baltimore.