A Woman Intervenes by Robert Barr
John Kenyon did not take a cab. He walked so that he might have time to think. He wanted to arrange in his mind just what he would say to Mr. Longworth, so he pondered over the coming interview as he walked through the busy streets of the City.
He had not yet settled things satisfactorily to himself when he came to the door leading to Mr. Longworth's offices.
'After all,' he said to himself, as he paused there, 'Mr. Longworth has never said anything to me about the mica-mine; and, from what his daughter thought, it is not likely that he will care to interest himself in it. It was the young man who spoke about it.'
He felt that it was really the young man on whom he should call, but he was rather afraid of meeting him. The little he had seen of William Longworth on board the Caloric had not given him a very high opinion of that gentleman, and he wondered if it would not have been better to have told Wentworth that nothing was to be expected from the Longworths. However, he resolved not to shirk the interview, so passed up the steps and into the outer office. He found the establishment much larger than he had expected. At numerous desks there were numerous clerks writing away for dear life. He approached the inquiry counter, and a man came forward to hear what he had to say.
'Is Mr. Longworth in?'
'Yes, sir. Which Mr. Longworth do you want--the young gentleman or Mr. John Longworth?'
'I wish to see the senior member of the firm.'
'Ah! have you an appointment with him?'
'No, I have not; but perhaps if you will take this card to him, and if he is not busy, he may see me.'
'He is always very busy, sir.'
'Well, take the card to him; and if he doesn't happen to remember the name, tell him I met him on board the Caloric.'
'Very good, sir.' And with that the clerk disappeared, leaving Kenyon to ponder over in his mind the still unsettled question of what he should say to Mr. Longworth if he were ushered into his presence. As he stood there waiting, with the host of men busily and silently working around him, amid the general air of important affairs pervading the place, he made up his mind that Mr. Longworth would not see him, and so was rather surprised when the clerk came back without the card, and said, 'Will you please step this way, sir?'
Passing through a pair of swinging doors, his conductor tapped lightly at a closed one, and then opened it.
'Mr. Kenyon, sir,' he said respectfully, and then closed the door behind him, leaving John Kenyon standing in a large room somewhat handsomely furnished, with two desks near the window. From an inner room came the muffled click, click, click of a type-writer. Seated at one of the desks was young Longworth, who did not look round as Kenyon was announced. The elder gentleman, however, arose, and cordially held out his hand.
'How are you, Mr. Kenyon?' he said. 'I am very pleased to meet you again. The terror of our situation on board that ship does not seem to have left an indelible mark upon you. You are looking well.'
'Yes,' said John; 'I am very glad to be back in London again.'
'Ah, I imagine we all like to get back. By the way, it was a much more serious affair than we thought at the time on board the Caloric.'
'So I see by the papers.'
'How is your friend? He seemed to take it very badly.'
'Take what badly?' asked John in astonishment.
'Well, he appeared to me, at the time of the accident, to feel very despondent about our situation.'
'Oh yes, I remember now. Yes, he did feel a little depressed at the time; but it was not on account of the accident. It was another matter altogether, which, happily, turned out all right.'
'I am glad of that. By the way, have you made your report to the directors yet?'
'Yes; we were at a meeting of the directors to-day.'
'Ah, I could not manage to be there. To tell the truth, I have made up my mind to do nothing with those Ottawa mines. You do not know what action the Board took in the matter, do you?'
'No, they merely received our report; in fact, they had had the report before, but there were some questions they desired to ask us, which we answered apparently to their satisfaction.'
'Who were there? Sir Ropes McKenna was in the chair, I suppose?'
'Yes, sir, he was there.'
'Ah, so I thought. Well, my opinion of him is that he is merely a guinea-pig--you know what that is? I have made up my mind to have nothing more to do with the venture, at any rate. And so they were pleased with your report, were they?'
'They appeared to be. They passed us a vote of thanks, and one or two of the gentlemen spoke in rather a complimentary manner of what we had done.'
'I am glad of that. By the way, William, you know Mr. Kenyon, do you not?'
The young man looked round with an abstracted air, and gazed past, rather than at, John Kenyon.
'Kenyon, Kenyon,' he said to himself, as if trying to recollect a name that he had once heard somewhere. 'I really don't----'
'Tut, tut!' said the old man, 'you remember Mr. Kenyon on board the Caloric?'
'Oh, ah, yes; certainly--oh, certainly. How do you do, Mr. Kenyon? I had forgotten for the moment. I thought I had met you in the City somewhere. Feeling first-rate after your trip, I hope.' And young Mr. Longworth fixed his one eyeglass in its place and flashed its glitter on Kenyon.
'I am very well, thanks.'
'That's right. Let me see, your business with the London Syndicate is concluded now, is it not?'
'Yes, it is done with.'
'Ah, and what are you doing? Have you anything else on hand?'
'Well, that is what I wish to see you about.'
'Yes; I--you remember, perhaps, we had some talk about a mica-mine near the Ottawa River?'
'On my soul, I don't. You see, the voyage rather--that was on board ship, I suppose?'
'Yes,' said John, crossing over to the young man's desk and taking a chair beside him. The old gentleman now turned to his own papers, and left the two young men to talk together.
'Do you mean to say you don't remember a talk we had on deck once about a mica-mine?'
Young Longworth looked at him with a puzzled expression, as if he could not quite make out what he was talking about.
'I remember,' he said, 'your telling me that you had been sent over by the London Syndicate to see after certain mines there; but I don't remember anything being said in reference to them.'
'It was not in reference to them at all; it was in reference to another mine, of which I have secured the option. You will, perhaps, recollect that your cousin introduced me to you. You seemed to think at the time that the price at which we were going to offer the mine was too low.'
'By Jove, yes! now I do recollect something about it, when you mention that. Let me see, how much was it? A million, was it not?'
'No, no' said Kenyon, mopping his brow. He did not at all like the turn the conversation had taken. 'Not a million, nor anything like that amount.'
'Ah, I am sorry for that. You see, my uncle and myself rarely touch anything that is not worth while; and anything under a million would be hardly worth bothering with, don't you know.'
'I don't think so; it seems to me that something below a million would be worth spending a little time on; at least, it would be worth my while.'
'That may be very true; but, you see, my uncle takes large interests only in large businesses.'
'If you remember, Mr. Longworth, your uncle was not mentioned in connection with this at all. Your cousin seemed to think you might take some interest in it yourself. You told me, when I said the price at which we wished to offer the mine was fifty thousand pounds, that the sum was altogether too small; at least, it left too little margin to divide amongst three.'
'Well, I think I was perfectly correct in that.'
'And you further said that, if we increased the capital to two hundred thousand pounds, you would take a share in it with us.'
'Did I say that?'
'Yes. It rested with my partner then. I said I would speak to him about it, and, if he were willing, I should be. Circumstances occurred which made it impossible for me to go into details with him on board the ship; but I have spoken to him to-day at his own office, and he is quite willing to offer the mine at two hundred thousand pounds, provided the figures which I have given him show that it will pay a handsome dividend on that sum.'
'Well, it seems to me that, if the mine is really worth two hundred thousand pounds, it is a pity to offer it at fifty thousand pounds. Doesn't it strike you that way?'
'Yes, it does; so I called to see you with reference to it. I wanted to say that Wentworth will go carefully over the figures I have given him, and see if there is any mistake about them. If there is not, and if we find that the mine will bear inflation to two hundred thousand pounds, we shall be very glad of your aid in the matter, and will divide everything equally with you. That is to say, each of us will take a third.'
'If I remember rightly, I asked you a question which you did not answer. I asked you how much you paid for the mine.'
Kenyon was astonished at this peculiar kind of memory, that could forget a whole conversation, and yet remember accurately one detail of it. However, he replied:
'Of course, at that time you had not said you would join us. I recognise that, if you are to be a partner, it is your right to know exactly what we pay for the mine. I may say that we have not paid for it, but have merely got an option on it at a certain price, and of course, if we can sell it for two hundred thousand pounds, we shall have a large amount to divide. Now, if you think you will go in with us, and do your best to make this project a success, I will tell you what our option is on the mica-mine.'
'Well, you see, I can hardly say that I will join you. It is really a very small matter. There ought not to be any difficulty in floating that mine on the London market, except that it is hardly worth one's while to take it up. Still, I should have to know exactly what you are to pay for the property before I went any further in the matter.'
'Very well, then, I tell you in confidence, and only because I expect you to become a partner with us, that the amount the mine is offered to us for is twenty thousand pounds.'
Young Longworth arched his eyeglass.
'It cannot be worth very much if that is all they ask for it.'
'The price they ask for it has really nothing at all to do with the value of the mine. They do not know the value of it. They are not working it, even now, so as to bring out all there is in it. They are mining for mica, and, as I told you, the mineral which they are throwing away is very much more valuable than all the mica they can get out of the mine. If it were worked rightly, the mica would pay all expenses, as well as a good dividend on fifty thousand pounds, while the other mineral would pay a large dividend on one hundred and fifty thousand pounds, or even two hundred thousand pounds.'
'I see. And you feel positive that there is enough of this mineral to hold out for some time?'
'Oh, I am positive of that. There is a whole mountain of it.'
'And do you get the mountain as well as the mine?'
'We get three hundred acres of it, and I think there would be no difficulty in buying the rest.'
'Well, that would seem to be a good speculation, and I am sure I hope you will succeed in forming your company. How much money are you prepared to spend in floating the mine?'
'I have practically nothing at all. My asset, as it were, is the option I have on the mine.'
'Then, how are you going to pay the preliminary fees, the advertising in the newspapers, the cost of counsel, and all that? These expenses will amount to something very heavy in the formation of a company. Of course you know that.'
'Well, you see, I think that perhaps we can get two or three men to go into this and form our company quietly, without having any of those heavy expenses which are necessary in the forming of some companies.'
'My dear sir, when you have been in this business a little longer, you will be very much wiser. That cannot be done--at least, I do not believe it can be done. I do not know of its having been done, and if you can do it, you are a very much cleverer man than I am. Companies are not formed for nothing in the City of London. You seem to have the vaguest possible notion about how this sort of thing is managed. I may tell you frankly I do not think I can go in with you; I have too much else on hand.'
Although Kenyon expected this, he nevertheless felt a grim sense of defeat as the young man calmly said these words. Then he blurted out:
'If you had no idea of going in with us, why have you asked me certain questions about the property which I would not have answered if I had not thought you were going to take an interest in it?'
'My dear sir,' said the other blandly, 'you were at perfect liberty to answer those questions or not, as you chose. You chose to answer them, and you have no one to blame but yourself if you are sorry you have answered them. It really doesn't matter at all to me, as I shall forget all you have said in a day or two at furthest.'
'Very well; I have nothing more to say except that what I have told you has been said in confidence.'
'Oh, of course. I shall mention it to nobody.'
'Then I wish you good-day.'
Turning to the elder gentleman, he said:
'Good-day, Mr. Longworth.'
The old man raised his eyes rather abstractedly from the paper he was reading, and then cordially shook hands with Kenyon.
'If I can do anything,' he said, 'to help you in any matter you have on hand, I shall be very pleased to do it. I hope to see you succeed. Good-day, Mr. Kenyon.'
'Good-day, Mr. Longworth.'
And with that the young man found himself again in the outer office, and shortly afterwards in the busy street, with a keen sense of frustration upon him. His first move in the direction of forming a company had been a disastrous failure; and thinking of this, he walked past the Mansion House and down Cheapside.