The beginning of the Centennial summer was marked for the boys by completion of their freshman year at Harvard College. They looked forward to their first job as clerks in the offices of Duncan Cargo on State Street near Long Wharf, the anchorage that had made Boston a hub of world commerce. Ardie professed an inclination toward a career with the shipping line, knowing how much it would please Philo if he were to join the family enterprise. Bart, however, was torn between a sense of responsibility to Philo as his mentor and a vague feeling that his destiny lay along another path as yet unrevealed. Both having turned only nineteen that spring, neither was ready yet to make a final decision.
They relocated to Simon's brownstone mansion on fashionable Beacon Hill.
At dinner the first evening, served on fine Sèvres china by a pretty Irish maid, they asked Simon about the violet-tinted windowpanes in all the bays on the front of the house.
"Papa, I'd like to tell Ardie and Bart about that!" interjected Irene.
As pretty as her mother had been in youth, she addressed her father with an upper-class Bostonian stress on the second syllable of "papa." Everything about her was prim and ladylike. She seldom leaned back in a chair. She handled her sterling cutlery in a most elegant fashion and issued orders to the maid in imperious tones. Only thirteen, she looked older and seemed to have nothing of childhood left in her. Ardie thought her highly intelligent and extremely pleasant. Bart was less effusive.
"Of course you may tell the boys, my darling," smiled Simon indulgently.
"A nun at the convent school said that God turned the panes violet to show His anger at the Puritans for leaving the Church!" Irene announced with ostentatious pride in the knowledge. "She said there's even a law that forbids anyone but direct descendants of the Puritans to use them or to live in houses that have them!"
Bart laughed. "Come, come, Irene, you're not a descendant of the Puritans, and you live here! I believe you stem from a long line of French-Canadian fur trappers, don't you?" he remarked in a jovial manner.
Simon, taking no notice of the sudden frown creasing his daughter's pale brow, echoed Bart's laughter. "That's an interesting story, darling, but it's strictly wishful thinking on the part of the good nun! The truth is that a glazier in Boston ordered some glass sent out from England about fifty years ago. It was cut and installed as windowpanes in several houses from here to Beacon Street. Then, when exposed to sunlight, a stray chemical in its composition reacted by tinting the glass violet!"
"And how about the law?" asked Bart, his scientific mind interested more in fact than fantasy.
"An old nun's tale worthy of Chaucer!" smiled Simon. "No such law exists. You young men don't have to be Puritanical to live here this summer!"
The pretty maid serving the dessert of wild strawberries could not suppress a giggle at Simon's joke. She spilled a drop of cream on Bart's shoulder.
"Really, Papa, what a thing to say!" Irene decried exactly as her mother might have done. "And you, Bridget, get below stairs! Shame!"
"Oh, no, Irene, it's my fault, really," Bart chimed in. "I shifted in my chair."
The maid cast him a grateful look and hurried from the room.
Ardie leaned toward Irene with a smile. "I like your story better. It's very romantic. Don't you give it up."
To him, it seemed that she softened, but to Bart she appeared no less rigid than before.
The boys saw little of her in the next two weeks. They left for the office early each day with Simon and returned home late each night. Ardie did not have an aptitude for figures, so Simon turned him over to an administrative assistant to break him in on the management side of Duncan Cargo. Simon noticed, however, that Bart had a special gift. He could glance at a column of as many as twenty six-digit numbers and mentally calculate them with certitude in seconds.
"It's the accounting department for you, my man," Simon suggested.
"To tell you the truth, sir," Bart said, reluctant to disappoint him, "I'd hoped to join the stevedores or maybe even do some work on the ships in dry dock. I know I have a knack for numbers, but I'm also what you might call a physical person. I like to work with my body and my hands as much or more than with my mind."
Simon thought it over. "I don't want to waste your real talent, son, so why don't we compromise. Suppose you work the docks in the mornings, and then devote the afternoons to the accounting office?"
The idea suited Bart. It worked fine. His energy never flagged, and he quickly made himself indispensable in both areas.
With equal finesse, Ardie also found a niche in the firm. He uncovered in himself a heretofore unrecognized capacity for reducing complex problems to comprehensible parts which made them simple. This engendered in him a determination to succeed at Duncan Cargo.
Ardie now knew that he had the soul of a businessman.
Conversely, Bart discovered that business would never be his metier. What he enjoyed most was the physical activity on the docks.
One afternoon a heavy crate being hoisted to the deck of a ship with a davit burst its restraints. It crashed to the dock, seriously injuring a loader. He lay in excruciating pain for half an hour, his leg caught beneath the crate. When the stevedore was extricated, his limb had to be amputated immediately.
The attending physician, hastily summoned, found that of those in the crowd, only Bart had the stomach for assisting in the emergency. He demonstrated a stalwart presence of mind coupled with solicitous concern for the victim. The doctor turned to him when the gruesome chore was done, and said: "You have the makings of a healer, my boy. You don't belong on the docks. You belong in the surgical theater."
Unable to sleep that night, Bart quietly left his rooms and made his way up to the servants' garret where a door led to the roof. Outside, he looked to the sky. There was no moon, but the stars danced for him in rhythmic shimmers of light.
Gazing upward, he felt a stirring within the depths of his mind until suddenly a memory burst forth to color the night with a glory none but he could have seen. A figure seemed to ascend before him, rising higher toward the light until it paused and turned to him. The phantasm was Doctor Will.
"Pa!" Bart cried aloud. "Oh, Pa!"
He gripped the railing of the roof with all his might to keep from leaping skyward into his father's outstretched arms. Then, as quickly as they came, the illumination and the specter were gone.
Bart was left in darkness, staring in a daze at the stars.
"You ought not to stand so close to the edge, sir," admonished a feminine voice behind him. "That railin', it isn't strong enough to hold the likes o' you! It's a tall an' strappin' young man you are!"
He turned. It was Bridget, the pretty Irish maid.
"Forgive me, sir, fer bein' so forward," she said, her lilting brogue rolling like music from her tongue, "but that's my room right there, and I couldn't help but notice you." She gestured toward the window of a tiny shed perched like a bird against an eave.
Rendered speechless by surprise, Bart felt his cheeks redden with embarrassment. He wondered if she had heard him cry aloud to his father when he thought himself alone.
"You mustn't mind me, sir," she continued. "On a clear night like this, I can't resist lookin' at the stars. I like to think of how they're shinin' on my family across the sea. Sometimes, like you, I talk out loud to my people, hopin' that maybe they'll hear me on the wind."
He noticed that she wore a nightdress with a dark shawl drawn about her. Her red hair, brushed upward under a cap when she was on duty downstairs, hung loosely about her shoulders. As pretty as she had seemed then, she was absolutely ravishing now. She was, perhaps, his age.
Stepping to the railing, she brushed against him lightly. Her touch was like a flame. Still he could say nothing, his fingers wrapped around the metal bar.
"I've never thanked you properly, sir, fer comin' to my rescue that first evening with Miss Irene," she said softly, her small hand coming to rest atop his. "It was a kind thing fer a fine gentleman such as yerself to do."
Her fingers settled warmly, insistently, between his. Bart became aware that his palms were moist, his throat dry. He, who knew nothing of women, felt taller than he had ever felt before, with this small girl by his side. His finely toned body, which usually moved with athletic grace, had never felt so awkward. His embarrassment grew when he heard his own heart beating. He wondered if she could hear it, too.
Her fingers had now entwined themselves tightly with his and were lifting his hand from the railing. Only half aware, he sensed himself gently pulled across the roof in her wake to the tiny shed, through the door and to the bed. He fell across it backward when she pressed her fingers to his chest. Dreamily, he watched her lift the nightdress over her head .and saw it fall to the floor.
She stood naked before the window to shake the long mane of red hair down her back, her firm breasts arching proudly in the starlight. She turned full face to him, expectantly, her arms raised toward him as if the erstwhile vision of his father, with arms outstretched, had presaged this extraordinary adventure that lay just ahead in time.
He took on a sense of life apart from life, of life apart from reality. His thoughts blended in a churning cacophony of unvoiced sounds.
There was only the sense of touch, devoid of the sense of feeling. Their bodies touched. Their lips touched. Their brows touched. Their fingers touched. Their knees touched. Touching passed from without to within, with still no feeling.
Finally, spent, they lay panting together, uttering not a word.
No words were spoken when he rose and left her. No cogent thoughts articulated themselves until he lay alone in his own bed. And then feeling returned.
First came a feeling of awe: My God, I have become a man!
Then came a feeling of triumph: I know now what it is to be a man!
Next came a feeling of fulfillment: Bridget has revealed my manhood to me!
Last came a feeling of purpose: Now that I am truly a man, I must know the way that I should go. My father came tonight to lead me to my destiny. I must follow in his footsteps. I have the makings of a healer!