Widening Circles

In Paris, Ardie anxiously awaited their return from Farnborough Hill. That evening after dinner, the family group gathered in the parlor.
Ardie stood before them, a slender and dapper figure, his blond hair having darkened considerably from the use of a heavy brilliantine in an effort to make his thinning hair appear thicker. He sported an elegantly trimmed an waxed mustache perfectly suited to his quite handsome face.
Bart could not suppress a grin.
"Ardie," he said, "do you remember that night in Baltimore when the Cap'n came home from the war, when Annie dressed us up in black and gold? The spit curls she made on our cheeks? How we yelled! Well, just look at you now. That mustache! Those spit curls have come back to haunt you!"
The trace of a pout pursed Ardie's lips. "Irene thinks it's very smart. She says it gives me a distinguished air."
"So it does," Annie jumped in, shaking her head at Bart. "A man in your position must look the part. I like it! Irene is right. It truly is distingué , as the French say. It goes with the high Eton collar and silken cravat you're wearing tonight. Ardie, you've become an extremely handsome gentleman. I'm proud of you!
"So am I," echoed Philo. "Ardie's made a great success of himself. Did I tell you, dear boy, that I ran into George Washington Vanderbilt in London? He spoke so highly of you I fairly burst with pride!"
Ardie beamed. "Really, Pa? G.W.? That will thrill Irene. She's a great admirer of the Vanderbilts, except, of course, she considers it frivolous to go out in society. Irene is very much a homebody. She says it's more important to be with Brad. She is a wonderful mother! Yes, she is quite the most wonderful woman in the world! I dearly wish you had the opportunity to know her as I do. Indeed, that is why I have come to Paris."
He clasped his hands behind him and assumed a determined stance.
"We want Romelle. Irene wants her to come to us."
He paused for a moment while the startling announcement sank in.
"Pa, when you wrote to us about Annie and Pierre, the first thing Irene said was, 'Our Annie is deserving of this great happiness, and surely she will want to go to her new family in Martinique. Little Romelle must come to us. She will be like a sister to Brad, and Kathy is here. That makes three children. Oh, Ardie,' Irene said to me, 'please go to Paris and beg Bart to let her come!' I wept for joy, folks, when I saw how much my dear wife wanted our little motherless girl to come home."
Ardie removed a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his eyes.
Bart rose and embraced his brother. "I appreciate the offer more than you could ever know, Ardie, but I want to give it a try here in Paris for awhile."
"Wait a minute, Bart," Annie interjected. "Beth confided to me in Johnstown that she hoped you would agree to the baby's starting school in the States. She was going to ask you to consider taking a position with the new Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore. She made me promise to help convince you it was the right thing to do. Bart, Beth wanted Romelle to be an American girl, not a French one."
Arms linked, Bart and Ardie listened as respectfully as they had when little boys.
Philo joined in on Annie's side. "It has occurred to me that Duncan Cargo might do well to return its headquarters to Baltimore. The South is recovering magnificently. There are millions to be made in helping to reestablish the Southern cotton trade. Also, our new President, Benjamin Harrison, is supportive of Duncan Cargo. I met him at the end of the war when he was a brigadier general, a veteran of the Atlanta Campaign. He may be coming to Paris soon to arbitrate a dispute between Great Britain and Venezuela. He intends also to explore the relationships of South American countries with the United States. He has even expressed an interest in Tom LeMay's operation of Duncan Cargo in Rio. It could mean a great advantage to us to be just outside Washington again. Ardie, you could move back to Baltimore!"
Ardie frowned. "Well, I don't know if Irene....."
Annie perceived an opportunity to strengthen her case. "I'll just bet Irene would love to run that big old house in Baltimore! It's the kind of place to impress people like the Vanderbilts. Why, she'd feel like a queen!"
Ardie looked thoughtful. "The North Charles Street house is quite something....."
"You could keep the house in Louisburg Square," suggested Philo, "and I'll ask Bridget and Michael Foley to move to Baltimore with little Kathleen."
Bart drew away from Ardie and threw up his hands. "First, I lose Beth. Now, Ardie and Irene want me to give up my daughter. Annie wants me to sacrifice my important work with Dash and leave Pasteur, the greatest doctor in the world, for some nebulous position at the untried Johns Hopkins!"
He sat down with a brooding look. "I have to think. Give me a few days."
"Yes, think about it," Philo agreed, "but consider the possibility of establishing your own research institute at Johns Hopkins, even as an American extension of the Pasteur Institute. Think of tapping the American field of medicine for the benefit of all mankind. Talk it over with Dash. He could go, too."  

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