A Woman Intervenes by Robert Barr
John Kenyon walked along Cheapside feeling very much downhearted over his rebuff with Longworth. The pretended forgetfulness of the young man, of course, he took at its proper value. He, nevertheless, felt very sorry the interview had been so futile, and, instead of going back to Wentworth and telling him his experience, he thought it best to walk off a little of his disappointment first. He was somewhat startled when a man accosted him; and, glancing up, he saw standing there a tall footman, arrayed in a drab coat that came down to his heels.
'I beg your pardon, sir,' said the footman, 'but Miss Longworth would like to speak to you.'
'Miss Longworth!' cried Kenyon, in surprise; 'where is she?'
'She is here in her carriage, sir.'
The carriage had drawn up beside the pavement, and John Kenyon looked round in confusion to see that Miss Longworth was regarding him and the footman with an amused air. An elderly woman sat in the carriage opposite her, while a grave and dignified coachman, attired somewhat similarly to the footman, kept his place like a seated statue in front. John Kenyon took off his hat as he approached the young woman, whom he had not seen since the last day on the steamer.
'How are you, Mr. Kenyon?' said Edith Longworth brightly, holding out her hand to the young man by her carriage. 'Will you not step in? I want to talk with you, and I am afraid the police will not allow us to block such a crowded thoroughfare as Cheapside.'
As she said this, the nimble footman threw open the door of the carriage, while John, not knowing what to say, stepped inside and took his seat.
'Holborn,' said the young woman to the coachman; then, turning to Kenyon, she continued: 'Will you not tell me where you are going, so that I may know where to set you down?'
'To tell the truth,' said John, 'I do not think I was going anywhere. I am afraid I have not yet got over the delight of being back in London again, so I sometimes walk along the streets in rather a purposeless manner.'
'Well, you did not seem delighted when I first caught sight of you. I thought you looked very dejected, and that gave me courage enough to ask you to come and talk with me. I said to myself, "There is something wrong with the mica-mine," and, with a woman's I curiosity, I wanted to know all about it. Now tell me.'
'There is really very little to tell. We have hardly begun yet. Wentworth is to-day looking over the figures I gave him, and I have been making a beginning by seeing some people who I thought might be interested in the mine.'
'And were they?'
'No; they were not.'
'Then, that was the reason you were looking so distressed.'
'I suppose it was.'
'Well, now, Mr. Kenyon, if you get discouraged after an interview with the first person you think will be interested in the mine, what will you do when a dozen or more people refuse to have anything to do with it?'
'I'm sure I do not know. I am afraid I am not the right person to float a mine on the London market. I am really a student, you see, and flatter myself I am a man of science. I know what I am about when I am in a mine, miles away from civilization; but when I get among men, I feel somehow at a loss. I do not understand them. When a man tells me one thing to-day, and to-morrow calmly forgets all about it, I confess it--well, confuses me.'
'Then the man you have seen to-day has forgotten what he told you yesterday. Is that the case?'
'Yes; that is partly the case.'
'But, Mr. Kenyon, the success of your project is not going to depend upon what one man says, or two, or three, is it?'
'No; I don't suppose it is.'
'Then, if I were you, I would not feel discouraged because one man has forgotten. I wish I were acquainted with your one man, and I would make him ashamed of himself, I think.'
Kenyon flushed as she said this, but made no reply.
The coachman looked round as he came to Holborn, and Miss Longworth nodded to him; so he went on without stopping into Oxford Street.
'Now, I take a great interest in your mine, Mr. Kenyon, and hope to see you succeed with it. I wish I could help you, or, rather, I wish you would be frank with me, and tell me how I can help you. I know a good deal about City men and their ways, and I think I may be able to give you some good advice--at least, if you would have the condescension to consult me.'
'You are making game of me now, Miss Longworth. Of course, as you said on board ship, it is but a very small matter.'
'I never said any such thing. When did I say that?'
'You said that fifty thousand pounds was a small matter.'
'Did I? Well, I am like your man who has forgotten; I have forgotten that. I remember saying something about its being too small an amount for my father to deal with. Was not that what I said?'
'Yes, I think that was it. It conveyed the idea to my mind that you thought fifty thousand pounds a trifling sum indeed.'
Edith Longworth laughed.
'What a terrible memory you have! I do not wonder at your City man forgetting. Are you sure what you told him did not happen longer ago than yesterday?'
'Yes, it happened some time before.'
'Ah, I thought so; I am afraid it is your own terrible memory, and not his forgetfulness, that is to blame.'
'Oh, I am not blaming him at all. A man has every right to change his mind, if he wants to do so.'
'I thought only a woman had that privilege.'
'No; for my part I freely accord it to everybody, only sometimes it is a little depressing.'
'I can imagine that; in fact, I think no one could be a more undesirable acquaintance than a man who forgets to-day what he promised yesterday, especially if anything particular depends upon it. Now, why cannot you come to our house some evening and have a talk about the mine with my cousin or my father? My father could give you much valuable advice with reference to it, and I am anxious that my cousin should help to carry this project on to success. It is better to talk with them there than at their office, because they are both so busy during the day that I am afraid they might not be able to give the time necessary to its I discussion.'
John Kenyon shook his head.
'I am afraid,' he said, 'that would do no good. I do not think your cousin cares to have anything to do with the mine.'
'How can you say that? Did he not discuss the matter with you on board ship?'
'Yes; we had some conversation about it there, but I imagine that--I really do not think he would care to go any farther with it.'
'Ah, I see,' said Edith Longworth. 'My cousin is the man who "forgot to-day what he said yesterday."'
'What am I to say, Miss Longworth? I do not want to say "Yes," and I cannot truthfully say "No."'
'You need say nothing. I know exactly how it has been. So he does not want to have anything to do with it. What reason did he give?'
'You will not say anything to him about the matter? I should be very sorry if he thought that I talked to anyone else of my conference with him.'
'Oh, certainly not; I will say nothing to him at all.'
'He gave no particular reason; he simply seemed to have changed his mind. But I must say this: he did not appear to be very enthusiastic when I discussed it with him on board ship.'
'Well, you see, Mr. Kenyon, it rests with me now to maintain the honour of the Longworth family. Do you want to make all the profit there is to be made in the mica-mine--that is, yourself and your friend Mr. Wentworth?'
'How do you mean--"all the profit"?'
'Well, I mean--would you share the profit with anyone?'
'Certainly, if that person could help us to form the company.'
'Very well; it was on that basis you were going to take in my cousin as a partner, was it not?'
'Then I should like to share in the profits of the mine if he does not take an interest in it. If you will let me pay the preliminary expenses of forming this company, and if you will then give me a share of what you make, I shall be glad to furnish the money you need at the outset.'
John Kenyon looked at Miss Longworth with a smile.
'You are very ingenious, Miss Longworth, but I can see, in spite of your way of putting it, that what you propose is merely a form of charity. Suppose we did not succeed in forming our company, how could we repay you the money?'
'You would not need to repay the money. I would take that risk. It is a sort of speculation. If you form the company, then I shall expect a very large reward for furnishing the funds. It is purely selfishness on my part. I believe I have a head for business. Women in this country do not get such chances of developing their business talents as they seem to have in America. In that country there are women who have made fortunes for themselves. I believe in your mine, and I am convinced you will succeed in forming your company. If you or Mr. Wentworth were capitalists, of course there would be no need of my assistance. If I were alone, I could not form a company. You and Mr. Wentworth can do what I cannot do. You can appear before the public and attend to all preliminaries. On the other hand, I believe I can do what neither of you can do; that is, I can supply a certain amount of money from time to time to pay the expenses of forming the company--because a company is not formed in London for nothing, I assure you. Perhaps you think you have simply to go and see a sufficient number of people and get your company formed. I fancy you will find it not so easy as all that. Besides this business interest I have in it, I have a very friendly interest in Mr. Wentworth.'
As she said this, she bent over towards John Kenyon, and spoke in a lower tone of voice:
'Please do not tell him so, because I think that he is a young man who has possibilities of being conceited.'
'I shall say nothing about it,' said Kenyon dolefully.
'Please do not. By the way, I wish you would give me Mr. Wentworth's address, so that I may communicate with him if a good idea occurs to me, or if I find out something of value in forming our company.'
Kenyon took out a card, wrote the address of Wentworth upon it, and handed it to her.
'Thank you,' she said 'You see, I deeply sympathized with Mr. Wentworth for what he had to pass through on the steamer.'
'He is very grateful for all you did for him on that occasion,' replied Kenyon.
'I am glad of that. People, as a general thing, are not grateful for what their friends do for them. I am glad, therefore, that Mr. Wentworth is an exception. Well, suppose you talk with him about what I have said, before you make up your own mind. I shall be quite content with whatever share of the profits you allow me.'
'Ah, that is not business, Miss Longworth.'
'No, it is not; but I am dealing with you--that is, with Mr. Wentworth--and I am sure both of you will do what is right. Perhaps it would be better not to tell him who is to furnish the money. Just say you have met a friend to-day who offers, for a reasonable share of the profits, to supply all the money necessary for the preliminary expenses. You will consult with him about it, will you not?'
'Yes, if it is your wish.'
'Certainly it is my wish; and I also wish you to do it so diplomatically that you will conceal my name from him more successfully than you concealed my cousin's name from me this afternoon.'
'I am afraid I am very awkward,' said John, blushing.
'No; you are very honest, that's all. You are not accomplished in the art of telling what is not true. Now, this is where we live; will you come in?'
'Thank you, no; I'm afraid not,' said John. 'I must really be going now.'
'Let the coachman take you to your station.'
'No, no, it is not worth the trouble; it is only a step from here.'
'It is no trouble. Which is your station--South Kensington?'
'Very well. Drive to South Kensington Station, Parker,' she said to the coachman; and then, running up the steps, she waved her hand in good-bye, as the carriage turned.
And so John Kenyon, feeling abashed at his own poverty, was driven in this gorgeous equipage to the Underground Railway station, where he took the train for the City.
As he stepped from the carriage at South Kensington, young Mr. Longworth came out of the station on his way home, and was simply dumfounded to see Kenyon in the Longworths' carriage.
John passed him without noticing who he was, and just as the coachman was going to start again, Longworth said to him:
'Parker, have you been picking up fares in the street?'
'Oh no, sir,' replied the respectable Parker; 'the young gentleman as just left us came from the City with Miss Longworth.'
'Did he, indeed? Where did you pick him up, Parker?'
'We picked him up in Cheapside, sir.'
'Ah, indeed;' and with that, muttering some imprecations on the cheek of Kenyon, he stepped into the carriage and drove home.