At the Pasteur Institute the next morning, Bart approached Dash about joining him in Baltimore if he were to decide to send Romelle to the States.
Dash grew deeply thoughtful. "It gives me great sadness to tell you that I cannot. A letter was delivered to me this morning. I must go back to my country. I shall not even get the chance to stop off in England to see Dayan before I depart. I had planned to bring him to Paris during the Christmas holiday from school. He begins a term at Harrow next week. At least he has the Empress Eugénie to look after him while I am away."
"How long will you be gone?" asked Bart.
"I do not know," Dash replied, walking away from his microscope to gaze out the window at the sunny sky. "I have no time to waste. The weather is grand, but in a few weeks early winter may set in up North. I could go by sea to China, then overland to the Mongolian plateau. But if I leave now, I can cross Russia by rail to Lake Baikal in Siberia. From there I can travel by caravan over the Kupetski Trace, a fur trappers' route, to the Mongolian frontier. That is the faster way."
Bart joined him at the window. With a start he noticed a bed of wood violets in the garden next door.
"Is it so urgent, then, that you must leave at once?" he queried.
Dash sighed. "I shouldn't tell you, but we are, in a way, brothers, so I shall. The Manchus have taken my wife, Dayan's mother. She has been made a hostage to ensure my immediate return. They are frightened that Dayan and I are together in Europe. They fear that I may have had him brought here to plan rebellion. When the Manchus give with one hand, they take with the other."
Bart drew back in consternation. "They actually do such things? Is she in any real danger?"
Dash turned to him with a rueful look. "Oh, my friend, sometimes I marvel at your innocence! You have lived a life so divorced from political intrigue that you have no true idea of the ways of the world. Is my wife in danger? Why, no mere Emperor in Peking or faraway Tsar in St. Petersburg could prevent her captors from slashing her throat if I were not to obey. 'A tragic accident,' they would say. Then, they would dispatch hatchet men halfway around the world to fling me from the Eiffel Tower and track down my son to drown him in the Thames. 'Tsk, tsk!' they would say. 'That family foundered in a sea of bad luck!' Yes, I must return, and I must leave tonight." His voice shook with emotion.
Bart took him by the arm, and gestured toward the flowers below. "Do you see those wood violets?" he pointed out. "They have helped me make a decision. I understand such symbols now. These flowers are a sign that Beth would want me to do what I have decided to do. Had you not been there when I heard she was gone, I would have leapt to my death. I owe you my life. This is a debt I am obligated to repay. Romelle will go to America for awhile so she will know her family and her country. I will go to Outer Mongolia with you. It is my duty to help you save your wife. Beth would want it so."Dash waved his hands in disagreement. "No! I cannot allow you to get mixed up in this. The Manchus are too cruel. God knows what might happen!"
Bart stood before him with his legs apart, crossing his arms defiantly on his chest. He had the look of Philo in the old Civil War portrait."You don't know me, Dash, when my mind is made up...I don't turn back. Besides, how many times have you said you want to take me to your country, that there are things in Outer Mongolia more wonderful than I can imagine? Somehow, we'll work this out. Together, we can do it."
Dash heaved a sigh. "You will have it your way, won't you? It is said that red hair signifies fiery temper and rabid determination. You prove to me that Oriental axioms are not the only ones that deal with truth! You are as stubborn as Hell! Very well. We go together. But your family will never forgive me for taking you away."
"Nonsense!" Bart grinned in triumph. "You are my family, too, and haven't all of us begun to spread around the world?"
The two men agreed that no one should know of their goal except Philo.
They told him very late that night in his study.
"Captain, it may become necessary at some point to utilize your international connections on our behalf," explained Dash. "I pray it does not come to that, but the people who have taken my wife are resentful that the request to send out my son originated with the Tsar. They could make things difficult. My father is the one who has written to me of my wife's kidnaping. He used our private code as the Manchus have an extensive censorship network. Their agents read everything that leaves the country.
"Remember, please, that their empire is the most populous in the world. They govern four hundred million people in China alone, not to mention tributary kingdoms in Northern and Southeast Asia. There are also 'China Towns' scattered among the major cities on the globe. I assure you that wherever there is a Chinese wearing the long queue of hair symbolizing subservience to the Dragon Throne, there are Manchu spies close at hand. Those of us who live in Europe and have defiantly clipped our queues are under special observation. The European capitals play host to countless bands of East Asian revolutionaries. London and Paris are hotbeds nurturing seeds of rebellion against Manchu rule. This is why our masters have become so upset at the prospect of my son's being in England, while I, at the same time, am in France."
"Cap'n, it grieves me that I won't be able to say goodbye to Ardie and Annie," interjected Bart, "but it is for their protection. If this turns out to be a messy business, it is better that they know nothing."
"The longer it takes for the Manchus to discover that I have left Paris, the better," added Dash. "I ask some favors of you, Captain."
Philo gave the Mongol his full attention.
"My clever father has supplied me with two perfect reasons for a hasty return. The Manchu censors will have read the letter, of course. Interwoven with the information were code phrases giving me the news about my wife.
"Firstly, my father wrote that he has decided to retire from the world and accept a position as Da Lama , or 'High Priest,' of a remote Lamaist monastery which was mysteriously associated with Marco Polo hundreds of years ago. I know little about it. I do not know if my father actually intends to do this, or if he wrote it only for the benefit of the censors, but the story is a good one. I am, therefore, officially called home to replace him as the Khan, or King, of our clan."
Bart clicked his tongue. "That sounds impressive: Dash-Lyn Khan!"
Dash shook his head. "Frankly, I prefer the title I have earned. In my heart, I shall always be Doctor Dash. My first request of you, Captain, is that you convey only this information to the Empress Eugénie and to my son. If it does take place, and then something happens to me, my boy will succeed me as Dayan-Lyn Khan. Even so, I beg the Empress to see to it that he continues here at least until he is graduated from Cambridge with an Engineering degree.
"Secondly, my father suggested that my medical knowledge can be of great service to our nation if I return with Doctor Pasteur's rabies vaccine. Rabies is a major medical problem in Siberia and Outer Mongolia among the fur trappers. It appears to be on the increase. Rabid sables, minks, foxes, lynx, and the like are a constant danger. Furs are endemic to our culture. The climate can be bitterly cold in the winter. Our babies are born on them and swaddled in them. We wear furs in layers. We walk on them. We sleep on them. We insulate our tents and our boots with them. We saddle our horses with them. Furs will be an important export industry to compete on the world market when we finally win our independence from the Manchus!
"Please tell Doctor Pasteur that I alone am responsible for the raid on his files. I have all the information I need now to process the vaccine and to vaccinate."
"Ah, no!" objected Bart. "I'm guilty, too! Tell him it was I who forced my way into the files! Pasteur has said that he wishes to make this knowledge a gift to the world. We have simply taken him at his word."
"It isn't a question of guilt, gentlemen," Philo insisted. "Pasteur will understand and applaud your humanitarian efforts. I am going to take the liberty of making a generous donation to the Institute in both your names."
"Thank you, Cap'n," smiled Bart. "Tell Doctor Pasteur that I'll be back when I can, and perhaps Dash will return, as well. Kiss Annie for me, and tell Ardie my heart is full of gratitude for his guardianship of Romelle. Now, I'd like to take one last peek at my daughter."
Romelle was sleeping with Adrienne that night. The housekeeper did not waken when Bart came in.
Full moonlight streamed through the window and flowed across the bed. Wide awake, Romelle sat up when she saw her father. Without a word, she threw her arms out to him. He tiptoed to the bedside and lifted her. Her coppery curls shimmered as he kissed them tenderly.
He carried her to the window. She lay her head against his chest and sighed. He looked up at the moon.
Is there light enough to see us, Beth? We love you, dear. You have gone away, and now I must, too. I can come back to our precious child, as you cannot, but please watch over her. If you are with your prince, I pray you make him as happy as you made me. I shall never love another woman, Beth. If I should come to Heaven soon, my love, will you still have a place in your heart for me?
Not until he felt Romelle's tiny finger trace a wet pattern on his cheek did he realize he was crying.
Replacing her gently at the sleeping housekeeper's side, Bart backed away slowly. Pressing his lips against his palm, he blew the kiss to her before closing the door.
At the street as they said farewell, Bart presented Philo with Beth's gold chain. Suspended from it was the whistle.
"Cap'n," he said, "please keep this safely for Romelle. If anything should happen to me, tell her the story behind it....."
Philo nodded his understanding and embraced his adopted son. He turned to Dash and embraced him, as well. "God go with you. I shall safeguard the chain until your return, which I pray will be in good time."