A Woman Intervenes by Robert Barr
When John Kenyon returned from the North and entered the office of his friend Wentworth, he found that gentleman and young Longworth talking in the outer room.
'There's a letter for you on my desk,' said Wentworth, after shaking hands with him. 'I'll be there in a minute.'
Kenyon entered the room and found the letter. Then he did a very unbusinesslike thing. He pressed the writing to his lips and placed the letter in his pocket-book. This act deserves mention because it is an unusual thing in the City. As a general rule, City men do not press business communications to their lips, and the letter John had received was entirely a business communication, relating only to the mine, and to William Longworth's proposed connection with it. He wondered whether he should write an answer to it or not.
He sat down at Wentworth's desk, and came upon an obstacle at the very beginning. He did not know how to address the young woman. Whether to say 'My dear Miss Longworth,' or 'My dear madam,' or whether to use the adjective 'dear' at all, was a puzzle to him; and over this he was meditating when Wentworth came bustling in.
'Well,' said the latter, as John tore into small pieces a sheet of notepaper and threw the bits into the waste-basket, 'how have you got on? Your letters were very short indeed, but rather to the point. You seem to have succeeded.'
'Yes, I have succeeded very well. I have got all the figures and prices and everything else that it is necessary to have. I succeeded with everybody except Brand, who wrote that letter to you. I cannot make him out at all. He would give me no information, and he managed to prevent everyone else in his works from giving me any. He pooh-poohed the scheme--in fact, wouldn't listen to it. He said it was not usual for men to give away information regarding their business, and in that, of course, he was perfectly justified; but when I tried to argue with him as to whether this mineral was used in his manufactory or not, he would not listen. I asked him what he used in place of it, but he would not tell. All in all, he is a most extraordinary man, and I confess I do not understand him.'
'Oh, it doesn't matter about him in the least. I was speaking with Longworth just now about that curious letter of his, and he agrees with me that it makes no difference. He says, what is quite true, that in every business you find some man with whom it is difficult to deal.'
'Yes, that is so; but, still, he either uses this substance or he does not. I can understand a man who says, "We have no need for that, because we use another material." But that is one of the things Brand does not say.'
'Well, it is not worth while talking about him. By the way, you have all your figures and notes with you, I suppose?'
'Yes, I have everything.'
'Very well. Leave them with me, and I will get them into some sort of shape. Longworth says we shall have to have everything printed relating to this--your statements and all.'
'That will cost a great deal of money, will it not?'
'Oh, not very much. It is necessary, it seems. We must have printed matter to give to those who make application for information. It would be impossible to explain personally to everybody who inquires, and to show them these documents.'
'Yes, I suppose so.'
'Longworth was just now speaking to me about offices he has seen, and he is anxious to secure them at once. He is attending to that matter.'
'Do you think we need an office? Why could not the business be transacted here; or perhaps a room might be had on this floor that would do perfectly well; then we should be close together, and able to communicate when necessary.'
'Longworth seems to think differently. He says you must impress the public, and so he is going in for fine offices.'
'Yes, but who is to pay for them?'
'Why, we must, of course--you and Longworth and myself.'
'Have you the money?'
'I have a certain amount. I think we shall have enough to see it through, and if not, we can easily get it, and settle up when we finish the business.'
'Well, you know I have no money to spare.'
'Oh, I know that well enough. Perhaps Longworth will see us through, for, as he says, this sort of thing can be spoilt by niggardliness. He has known, and so have I, many a business go to pieces because of false economy.'
'But it seems to me all this is needless expense. We only want to get a few moneyed men interested in our project, and if they are sensible men, they will look to the probability of getting a good dividend, not at fine offices.'
'Very well, John; you get the men, and I shall be satisfied. I am sure I am as anxious to do this cheaply as you are. If you think you can go out and interest a dozen or twenty-four men in the City, and persuade them to go in for our mine, I will cry "Halt!" on our part until you do it. Will you try that?'
Kenyon pondered for a few minutes, and then said: 'I suppose that would be rather a difficult thing to do.'
'Yes, that is the way it strikes me. I do not know to whom I could go. Longworth is a good man, and we have gone to him. Now it seems to me, having got his assistance, the least we can do, unless we are prepared to produce the men ourselves forthwith, is to act as he wishes.'
'Yes, I quite appreciate that, and I also grasp the fact that too close economy is not the best thing; but, on the other hand, George, how are we to perform our part with Longworth? His ideas of economy and yours may be vastly different. What is a mere trifle to him would bankrupt us!'
'I know that. Well, he is coming here this afternoon at three. Suppose you manage to be in then, and talk with him. Meanwhile, I will go over the papers and get them into tabulated form.'
'Very well; I shall be here at three o'clock.'
It will hardly be credited that a business man like John Kenyon spent most of the time between that hour and three o'clock trying to compose a business letter in answer to the business communication he had received that morning. Yet such was the astonishing fact, and it showed, perhaps more than anything else, how utterly unfit Mr. John Kenyon was to join in a commercial undertaking in a city of hard-headed people. At last, however, the letter was posted, and Kenyon hurried away to be in time for his three-o'clock appointment. He found Wentworth and young Mr. Longworth together, the latter looking more like a young man from the West End than a typical City business man. His monocle was in his eye, and it shone on Kenyon as he entered. It was evident something was troubling Wentworth, and it was equally evident that the something, whatever it was, was not troubling young Longworth.
'You are late, John,' was Wentworth's greeting.
'A little,' he answered. 'I was detained.'
There was silence for a few moments, and Wentworth appeared to be waiting for Longworth to speak. At last Longworth said:
'I have succeeded in getting very nice offices indeed, and I was telling Mr. Wentworth about them. You see, it is not very easy to engage offices in a good part of the City by the week. They do not care to let them in that way, because, while a weekly tenant is occupying them, somebody else, who wants them for a longer time, might have to be sent away.'
'Yes,' said Kenyon in a non-committal manner.
'Well, I have got just the offices we need, and have now set the men at putting gilt lettering on the windows. I have taken the offices in the name of "The Canadian Mica Mining Company, Limited," which I shall have on the plate-glass windows in a very short time. Now, Mr. Wentworth here seems to think the offices rather expensive. I have told him before what my ideas are in the matter of expense. Perhaps, before anything more is said on the subject, we ought to go and look at the rooms.'
'How much are they a week?' asked Kenyon.
Young Mr. Longworth did not answer, because at that moment his monocle fell out of its place and had to be adjusted again; but Wentworth jerked out the two words, 'Thirty pounds.'
'A week?' cried John.
'Yes,' said Longworth, after having succeeded in replacing the round bit of glass--'yes; Mr. Wentworth seems to think that is rather high, but I defy him to get as fine offices in the City for anything less in price. It is merely ten pounds a week for each of us. However, before you can judge of their dearness or cheapness, you must see them. If you ask me, I think they are a bargain.'
'Very well,' said Kenyon. 'Have you the time, George?'
Wentworth, without answering, shoved the papers into his desk and closed it. The three young men went out together, and after a short walk came to large plate-glass windows, where a man on a ladder was chalking the words 'The Canadian Mica Mining Company, Limited,' in a semicircle.
'You see,' said Longworth, 'this is one of the very best situations in the City. As I said before, I doubt if you could get anything like it for the price.'
They could not deny the excellence of the position, or that the plate-glass looked very imposing and the gilt letters exceedingly fine; but the cost of this running on perhaps for two or three months seemed to appal them.
'Come inside,' said young Longworth suavely; 'I am sure you will be pleased with the rooms we have. You see,' he said, entering and nodding to the carpenters who were at work there, 'this will be the front office, where the public is received. Here you have room for an accountant or two and your secretary. The back-room, which you see is also well lighted, is just the spot for our people to meet. We will get in a large long table here, and a number of chairs, and there we are--capital directors' room.'
'Does the thirty pounds a week include the furnishing of the place?' asked Kenyon.
'Oh, bless you, no! You surely couldn't expect that? We shall have to put in the furniture, of course.'
'And do you intend to put in desks and counter and everything of that sort here?'
'Of course. Beside that, we will get in a large safe. There is nothing like a ponderous safe, with the name of the company in gilt letters on it, for impressing the general public.'
'And how much is the furnishing of this place to cost?'
'Really, I don't know that. The men I have engaged will do it very reasonably. They have done work for me before. You don't get it done any cheaper by haggling about the price beforehand--I've found that out.'
'I do not see how we are to pay our share of all this,' said Kenyon.
'Nothing easier, my boy; I've arranged all that. I will pay them my third in cash when it is finished, and, they have agreed to wait three months for the remainder. By that time you will have sixty thousand pounds each, and a little bill like this will be nothing to you.'
Kenyon looked grave.
'It's a little like counting your chickens,' he said.
'Ah, they'll hatch all right,' laughed Longworth. And then his eyeglass dropped out.