A Woman Intervenes by Robert Barr
When John Kenyon entered the office of his friend next morning, Wentworth said to him:
'Well, what luck with the Longworths?'
'No luck at all,' was the answer; 'the young man seemed to have forgotten all about our conversation on board the steamer, and the old gentleman takes no interest in the matter.'
Wentworth hemmed and tapped on the desk with the end of his lead pencil.
'I never counted much on that young fellow,' he said at last. 'What appeared to be his reason?'
'I don't know exactly. He didn't give any reason. He merely said that he would have nothing to do with it, after having got me to tell him what our option on the mine was.'
'Why did you tell him that?'
'Well, it seemed, after I had talked to him a little, that there was some hope of his going in with us. I told him point-blank that I didn't care to say at what figure we had the option unless he was going in with us. He said of course he couldn't consider the matter at all unless he knew to what he was committed; and so I told him.'
'And what excuse did he make for not joining us?'
'Oh, he merely said he thought he would have nothing to do with it.'
'Now, what do you imagine his object was in pumping you if he had no intention of taking an interest in the mine?'
'I'm sure I don't know. I do not understand that sort of man at all. In fact, I feel rather relieved he is going to have nothing to do with it. I distrust him.'
'That's all very well, John, you are prejudiced against him; but you know the name of Longworth would have a very great effect upon the minds of other City men. If we can get the Longworths into this, even for a small amount, I am certain that we shall have very little trouble in floating the company.'
'Well, all I can say is, my mission to the Longworths was a failure. Have you looked over the papers?'
'Oh yes, and that reminds me. The point on which the whole scheme turns is the availability of the mineral for the making of china, isn't it?'
'That is so.'
'Well, look at this letter; it came this morning.'
He tossed the letter over to Kenyon, who read it, and then asked:
'Who's Adam Brand? He doesn't know what he is talking about.'
'Ah, but the trouble is that he does. No man in England better, I should imagine. He is the manager and part owner of the big Scranton china works. I went to see Melville of that company yesterday. He could tell me nothing about the mineral, but kept the specimen I gave him, and told me he would show it to the manager when he came in. Brand is the manager of the works, and if anybody knows the value of the mineral, he ought to be the man.'
'Nevertheless,' said Kenyon, 'he is mistaken.'
'That is just the point of the whole matter--is he? The mineral is either valueless, as he says, or he is telling a deliberate lie for some particular purpose; and I can't see, for the life of me, why a stranger should not only tell a falsehood, but write it on paper. Now, John, what do you know about china manufacture?'
'I know very little indeed about it.'
'Very well, then, how can you put your knowledge against this man's, who is a practical manufacturer?'
Kenyon looked at Wentworth, who was evidently not feeling in the best of humours.
'Do you mean to say, George, that I do not know what I am talking about when I tell you that this mineral is valuable for a certain purpose?'
'Well, you have just admitted that you know nothing about the china trade.'
'Not "nothing," George--I know something about it; but what I do understand is the value of minerals. The reason I know anything at all about china manufacture is simply because I learned that this mineral is one of the most important components of china.'
'Then why did that man write such a letter?'
'I'm sure I don't know. As you saw the man, you can judge better than I whether he would tell a deliberate falsehood, or whether he was merely ignorant.'
'I didn't see Brand at all; I saw Melville. Melville was to submit this mineral to Brand, and let me know what he thought about it. Of course, everything depends upon the value of it in the china trade.'
'Very well then, I took the only way that was open to me to find out what practical men say about it. If they say they will have nothing to do with it, then we might as well give up our mining scheme and send back our option to Mr. Von Brent.'
Kenyon read the letter again, and pondered deeply over it.
'You see, of course,' said George once more, 'everything hinges on that, don't you?'
'I certainly see that.'
'Then, what have you to say?'
'I have to say this--that I shall have to take a trip among the china works of Great Britain. I think it would be a good plan if you were to write to the different manufacturers in the United States and find out how much they use of it. There is no necessity for sending the mineral. They have to use that, and nothing else will do. Find out from them, if you can, how much of it they need, what price they will pay for pure material, and what they pay for the impure material they use now.'
'How do you know, John, that there are not a dozen mines with that material in them?'
'How do I know? Well, if you want to impugn my knowledge of mineralogy, I wish you would do so straight out. I either know my business or I do not. If you think I do not, then leave this matter entirely alone. I tell you that what I say about this mineral is true. What I say about its scarcity is true. There are no other mines with mineral so pure as this.'
'I am perfectly satisfied when you say that, but you must remember those who are going to put their money in this company will not be satisfied. They must have the facts and figures down before them, and they are not going to take either your word or mine as to the value of the mineral. Your proposal about seeing the different manufactories is good. I would act upon it at once, if I were you. We must have the opinions of practical men set forth clearly before we can make a move in the matter. Now, how much of this mineral have you got?'
'Only the few lumps I took with me in my portmanteau. The barrel full of it which we got at Burntpine has not arrived yet. I suppose it came by slow steamer and is probably on the ocean still.'
'Very good. Take what specimens you have, go to the North, and see those manufacturers. Get, in some way or another, whether from the principals or from the subordinates, the price they pay for it, and the cost of removing the adulteration from the stuff they employ now; because that is really the material we come into competition with. It is not with their first raw material, but with their material as cleared from the deleterious foreign substances, that we have to deal. Find out exactly what it costs to do this purifying, and then, when you get your facts and figures, I will arrange them for you in the best order. Meanwhile, as you suggest, I will learn what manufactories there are in the States. Nothing can be done except that until you come back, and, if I were you, I should leave at once.'
'I am quite ready. I don't want to lose any further time.'
So John Kenyon departed, and was soon on his way to the North, with a list of china manufactories in his note-book.
That afternoon Wentworth got the letters off by the American mail, and he felt that they were doing business as rapidly as could be expected. Next morning there was a letter for John Kenyon addressed to the care of Wentworth, and by a later mail there came a letter to Wentworth himself from John, who had reached his first district and had had an interview already with the manager of the works. He found the mineral was all he had expected, and they would be glad to take a certain quantity each year at a specified rate. This letter Wentworth filed away with a smile of satisfaction, and then he began again to wonder why Adam Brand, representing such a well-known manufactory, should have written a deliberate falsehood. Before he had time to fathom this mystery, the office-boy announced that a gentleman wished to see him, and handed Wentworth a card which bore the name of William Longworth. Wentworth arched his eyebrows as he looked at it.
'Ask the gentleman to step in, please,' he said; and the gentleman stepped in.
'How are you, Mr. Wentworth? I suppose you remember me, although I did not see much of you on board the steamer.'
'I remember you perfectly,' replied Wentworth. 'Won't you sit down?'
'Thank you. I did not know where to find Mr. Kenyon, and so, being aware that both of you were interested in this mica-mine, I called to see you with reference to it.'
'Indeed! I understood Mr. Kenyon to say that he had called upon you, and that you had decided to have nothing to do with it.'
'I hardly think he was justified in saying anything quite so definite. I got from him such particulars as he cared to give. He is not a very communicative man at the best, but he told me something about it, and I have been thinking over his proposal. I have now concluded to help you in this matter, if you care to have my aid. Perhaps, however, things have got to such a stage that you do not wish any assistance?'
'On the contrary, we have done very little. Mr. Kenyon is just now among the china manufactories in the North, finding out what demand there will be in England for this mineral.'
'Ah, I see. Have you had reports from him yet?'
'Nothing further than a letter this morning, which is very satisfactory.'
'There is no question, then, about the mineral being useful in the china trade?'
'No question whatever.'
'Well, I am glad of that. Now, Mr. Kenyon spoke to me on the steamer of going in share and share alike; that is, you taking a third, he taking a third, and I taking a third. We did not go very minutely into particulars, but I suppose we each share the expense in the same way--the preliminary expenses, I mean?'
'Yes,' said Wentworth; 'that would be the arrangement, I imagine.'
'Well, have you the authority to deal with me in the matter, or would it be better for me to wait until Kenyon comes back?'
'We can settle everything here and now.'
'Very good. Would you have any objection to my seeing the papers that relate to the mine? I should like to get the figures of the output as nearly as possible, and any other particulars you may have that would enable me to estimate the value of the property. Also I should like to see a copy of the option, or the original document by which you hold the mine.'
'Certainly; I shall be very pleased to give you all the information in my power.' Wentworth turned to his desk and wrote for a few moments, then blotted the paper he had been writing, and handed it to Longworth. 'You have no objection, before this is done, to signing this document, have you?'
Longworth adjusted his one eyeglass and looked at the paper, which read: 'I hereby agree to do my best to form a limited liability company for the purpose of taking over the Ottawa Mica-mine. I agree to pay my share of the expenses, and to accept one-third of the profits.'
'No, I don't object to sign this, though I think it should be a little more definite. I think it should state that the liability I incur is to be one-third of the whole preliminary expenses, the other two-thirds to be paid by Kenyon and yourself; and that, in return, I am to get one-third of the profits, the other two-thirds going to yourself and Kenyon. I think it should also state the amount of the capital of the new company; two hundred thousand pounds was suggested, if I remember rightly.'
'Very well,' answered Wentworth; 'I will rewrite that in accordance with your wishes.'
This he did, and Longworth, again adjusting his eyeglass, read it.
'Now,' he said, 'as we are so formal about the matter, perhaps it would be as well for you to give me a note which I can keep, setting forth these same particulars.'
'Undoubtedly,' said Wentworth, 'I shall do that. Probably it would be better for you to write the document to suit your own views, and I will sign it.'
'Oh no, not at all. Write whatever is embodied there, so that you will have one paper and I the other.'
This was done.
'Now then,' said Longworth, 'when does your option run out?'
Wentworth named the date.
'Who is the owner of the mine?'
'It is owned by the Austrian Mining Company, headquarters at Vienna, and the option is signed by a Mr. Von Brent, of Ottawa, who is manager of the mine and one of the owners.'
'You are perfectly certain that he has every right to sell the mine?'
'Yes; Mr. Kenyon's lawyer saw to that while he was in Ottawa.'
'And you are sure, also, that your option is a thoroughly legal instrument?'
'We are sure of that.'
'Has it been examined by a London solicitor?'
'It has been submitted to a Canadian lawyer. The bargain was made in Canada, and it will have to be carried out in Canada, under the laws of Canada.'
'Still, don't you think it would be just as well to get the opinion of an English lawyer on it?'
'I think that would be an unnecessary expense. However, if you wish to have that done, we will do it.'
'Yes; I think we shall need to have the opinion of a good lawyer upon it before we submit it to the stockholders.'
'Very well, I will have it done. Is there anyone whom you wish to give an opinion on it?'
'Oh, it is a matter of indifference to me; your own solicitor would do as well as anyone else. Perhaps, however, it will be better to have a legal adviser for the Mica Mining Company, Limited--we shall have to have one as we go on--and it might be as well to submit the document to whomever we are going to place in that position. It will not increase the legal expenses at all, or at least by only a very trifling amount. Have you anyone to suggest?'
'I have not thought about the matter,' said Wentworth.
'Suppose you let me look up a firm who will answer our purpose? My uncle is sure to know the right men, and that will be something towards my share of forming the company.'
'Very good,' said Wentworth; 'that will be satisfactory to me.'
'Now, there is a good deal to be done in the forming of a company, and it is going to take three men a good deal of time, besides some expense. What do you say to letting me look up offices?'
'Do you think it is necessary to have offices?'
'Oh, certainly. A great deal depends, in this sort of thing, on appearances. We shall need to get offices in a good locality.'
'To tell the truth, Mr. Longworth, Kenyon and I have not very much money, and we do not want to enter into any expense that is needless.'
'My dear sir, it is not needless. This business is one of those things into which, if you go boldly, you win; while if you go gingerly, on the economical plan, you lose everything. Of course, if there is to be a scarcity of cash, I shall have nothing to do with the scheme, because I know how these half-economically worked affairs turn out. I have seen too much of them. We are making a strike for sixty thousand pounds each. That is a sum worth risking something for, and, if you will believe me, you will not get it unless you venture something for it.'
'I suppose that is true.'
'Yes, it is very true. Of course I've had more experience in matters of this kind than either of you, and I know we shall have to get good offices, with a certain prosperous look about them. People are very much influenced by appearances. Now, if you like, I will see to getting the offices and to engaging a solicitor. Every step must be taken under legal advice, otherwise we may get into a very bad tangle and spend a great deal more money in the end.'
'Very well,' said Wentworth. 'Is there anything else you can suggest?'
'Not just at present; nothing need be done until Kenyon comes back, and then we can have a meeting to see what is the best way to proceed.'
Longworth then looked over the papers, took a note of some things mentioned in the option, and finally said:
'I wish you would get these papers copied for me, I suppose you have someone in the office who can do it?'
'Then just have duplicates made of each of them. Good-morning, Mr. Wentworth.'
Wentworth mused for a few moments over the unexpected turn affairs had taken. He was very glad to get the assistance of Longworth; the name itself was a tower of strength in the City. Then, Kenyon's letter from the North was encouraging. Thinking of the letter brought the writer of it to his mind, so he took a telegraph-form from his desk, and wrote a message to the address given on the letter.
'Everything right. Longworth has joined us, and signed papers to assist in forming company.'
'There,' he said, as he sent the boy out with the message, 'that will cheer up old John when he gets it.'