A Woman Intervenes by Robert Barr
On the big plate-glass windows of the new rooms there soon appeared, in gilt letters with black edges, the words, 'Canadian Mica Mining Company, Limited: London Offices.' But the workmen who were finishing the interior were not so quick as the painters and gilders. The new offices took a long time to prepare, and both Kenyon and Wentworth chafed at the delay, because Longworth said nothing could be done until the rooms were occupied.
'It is like this, Longworth,' said Wentworth to him: 'every moment is of value. Time is running on, and we have not for ever in which to form this company.'
'And you must remember,' replied young Mr. Longworth, gazing reproachfully at him through his glittering monocle, 'that I am equally interested in this project with you. It is just as much to my interest to save time as it is to yours. You must not worry about the matter, Mr. Wentworth; everything is all right. The men are doing a good job for us, and it will not be long before their work is completed. As I have told you time and again, a great deal depends on the appearance we present to the public. We have nearly the best offices in the City. The workmen have certainly taken longer than I expected they would, but, you see, they have a great deal of work on hand. When we get this started it will not take long. I, in the meanwhile, have not been idle. At least half a dozen moneyed men are ready to go in with us on this project. The moment the offices are finished we will have a meeting of the proposed shareholders. If they subscribe sufficiently large amounts--and I think they will--all the rest is a mere matter of detail which our solicitors will attend to. But if you imagine that you and Mr. Kenyon can manage everything better than I am doing, you are perfectly at liberty to go ahead. I am sure I have no desire to monopolize all the work. What have you done, for instance? What has Mr. Kenyon done?'
'Kenyon, as I think you know, has got all the facts in reference to the demand for the mineral, and I have arranged them. We have had everything printed as you suggested, and the papers are ready. They were delivered at my office to-day.'
'Very well,' answered young Longworth; 'we are getting on. That is so much done which will not have to be done over again. Perhaps it will be as well to send me some of the printed matter, so that I can give it to the men I was speaking of. Meanwhile, don't worry about the offices; they will be ready in good time.'
Wentworth and Kenyon visited the new offices time and again, but still the work seemed to drag. At last Wentworth said very sharply to the foreman:
'Unless this is finished by next Monday, we will have nothing to do with it.'
The foreman seemed astonished.
'I understood from Mr. Longworth,' he said, 'from whom we take our instructions, that there was no particular hurry about this job.'
'Well, there is a particular hurry. We must be in here by the first of next week, and if you have not finished by that time, we shall have to come in with it unfinished.'
'In that case,' said the foreman, 'I will do the best I can. I think we can finish it this week.'
And finished it was accordingly.
When Kenyon entered his new offices, he found them rather oppressive for so modest a man as himself. Wentworth laughed at his doleful expression as he viewed the general grandeur of his surroundings.
'What bothers me,' said John, 'is knowing that all this has to be paid for.'
'Ah, yes,' answered Wentworth; 'but by the time the debts become due I hope we shall have plenty of money.'
'I must confess I do not understand Longworth in this matter. He seems to be doing nothing; at least, he has nothing to show for what he has done, and he does not appear to realize that time is an object with us; in fact, that our company-forming has really become a race against time.'
'Well, we shall see very shortly what he is going to do. I have sent a messenger for him to meet us here--he ought to be here now--and we must certainly push things. There is no time to lose.'
'Has he said anything to you--he talks more freely with you than he does to me--about what the next move is to be?'
'No; he has said nothing.'
'Well, don't you see the situation in which we stand? We are practically doing nothing--leaving everything in his hands. Now, if he should tell us some fine day that he can have nothing more to do with our project (and I believe he is quite capable of it), here we are with our time nearly spent, deeply in debt, and nothing done.'
'My dear John, what a brain you have for conjuring up awful possibilities! Trust me, Longworth won't act in the way you suggest. It would be dishonourable, and he is, so far as I know, an honourable man of business. I think you take a certain prejudice against a person, and then can see nothing good in anything he does. Longworth told me the other day that he had five or six people who are ready to go into this business with us, and if such is the case he has certainly done his share.'
'Yes, I admit that. Did he give you their names?'
'No, he did not.'
'The thing that troubles me is our own helplessness. We seem, in some way or other, to have been shoved into the background.'
'So far from that being the case,' said Wentworth, 'Longworth told me that, if anything suggested itself to us, we were to go ahead with it. He asked what you had done and what I had done, and I told him. He seemed quite anxious that we should do everything we could, as he is doing.'
'Well, but, don't you see, the situation is this: if we make a move at all, we may do something of which he does not approve. Haven't you noticed that whenever I suggest anything, or whenever you suggest anything, for that matter, he always has something counter to it? And I don't like the solicitors he has engaged for this business. They are what is known as "shady"; you know that as well as I do.'
'Bless me, John! then suggest something yourself if you have such dark suspicions of Longworth. I'm sure I'm willing to do anything you want done. Suggest something.'
Before John could make the required suggestion, the messenger Wentworth had sent to young Longworth returned.
'His uncle says, sir,' began the messenger, 'that Master William has gone to the North, and will not be back for a week.'
'A week!' cried both the young men together.
'Yes, sir, a week was what he said. He left a note to be given to either of you if you called. Here is the note, sir.'
Wentworth took the envelope handed to him and tore it open. The contents ran thus:
'I have been suddenly called away to the North, and may be gone for a week or ten days. I am sorry to be away at this particular juncture, but as it is not likely that the men will have the offices finished before I come back, no great harm will be done. Meanwhile I shall see several gentlemen I have in my mind's eye, men that seldom come to London, who will be of great service to us. If you think of anything to forward the mica-mine, pray go on with it. You can send any letters for me to my uncle, and I shall get them. As there is no hurry in the matter of time, however, I should strongly advise that nothing be done until my return, when we can all go at the business with a will.
When Wentworth had finished reading this letter, the two young men looked at each other.
'What do you make of that?' said Kenyon.
'I'm sure I do not know. In the first place, he is gone for a week.'
'Yes; that one thing is certain.'
'Well now, John, one of two things has to be done. We have either to trust this Longworth, or we have to go on alone without him. Which is it to be?'
'I am sure I don't know,' answered Kenyon.
'But, my dear fellow, we have come to a point when we must decide. You are, evidently, suspicious of Longworth. What you say really amounts to this: that he, for some reason of his own, which I confess I cannot see or understand, desires to delay forming this company until it is too late.'
'I didn't say that.'
'You say what practically amounts to that. Either he is honest or he is not. Now, we have to decide to-day, and here, whether we are going to ignore him and go on with the forming of the company, or work with him. Unless you can give some good reason for doing otherwise, I propose to work with him. I think it will be very much worse if he leaves us now than if he had never gone into it. People will ask why he left.'
'Probably he wouldn't leave, even if you wanted him to do so. He has your signature to an agreement, and you have his.'
'I do not see how we can help ourselves.'
'Then I think these suspicions should be dropped, because you cannot work with a man whom you suspect of being a rascal.'
'I quite admit of the justice of that, so I shall say nothing more. Meanwhile, do you propose to wait until he comes back?'
'I shall write him to-night and ask him what he intends to do. I shall tell him, as I have told him before, that time is pressing, and we want to know what is being done.'
'Very well,' said John; 'I will wait till you get the answer to your letter. In the meantime, I do not see that there is anything to do but occupy this gorgeous office as well as I can, and wait to see what turns up.'
'That is my own idea. I think, myself, it is rather unfair to suspect a man of being a villain when he has really done nothing to show that he is one.'
To this John made no answer.
The next day Kenyon occupied the new offices, and set himself to the task of getting accustomed to them. The first day a few people dropped in, made inquiries about the mine, took some printed matter, and generally managed to ask several questions to which Kenyon was unable to reply. On the second day a number of newspaper men called--advertising canvassers, most of them, who left cards or circulars with Kenyon, showing that unless a commercial venture was advertised in their particular papers it was certain not to be a success. One very swell individual, with a cast of countenance that betokened a frugal, money-making, and shrewd race, asked Kenyon for a private interview. He said he belonged to the Financial Field, the great newspaper of London, which was read by every investor both in the City and in the country. All he wanted was some particulars of the mine.
Had the company been formed yet?
No, it had not.
When did they intend to go to the public?
That Kenyon could not say.
What was the peculiarity about the mine which constituted its recommendation to investors?
Kenyon said the full particulars would be found in the printed sheet he handed him, and with profuse thanks the newspaper man put it in his pocket.
How had the mine paid in previous years?
It had paid a small dividend.
On what amount?
That Kenyon was not prepared to answer.
How long had it been in operation?
For several years.
Had it ever been placed on the London market before?
Not so far as Kenyon was aware.
Who was at present interested in the mine?
That Mr. Kenyon did not care to answer, and he further stated, so far as giving out advertisements was concerned, he was not yet prepared to do any advertising. The visitor, who had taken down these notes, said his object was not to get an advertisement, but to obtain information about the mine. People could advertise in his paper or not, as they chose. The journal was such a well-known medium for reaching investors that everyone who knew his business advertised in it as a matter of course, and so they kept no canvassers, and made no applications for advertisements.
'The chances are,' said the newspaper man, as he took his leave, 'that our editor will write an editorial on this mine, and, in order that there may be no inaccuracy, I shall bring it to you to read, and shall be very much obliged if you will correct any mistakes.'
'I shall be glad to do so,' returned Kenyon, as the representative of the Financial Field took his leave.
The newspaper men were rather hard to please, and to get rid of; but John had a visitor on the afternoon of the second day who almost caused his wits to desert him. He looked up from his desk as the door opened, and was astonished to see the smiling face of Edith Longworth, while behind her came the old lady who had been an occupant of the carriage when John had taken his drive to the west.
'You did not expect to see me here among the investors who have been calling upon you, Mr. Kenyon, did you?'
Kenyon held out his hand, and said:
'I am very pleased indeed to see you, whether you come as an investor or not.'
'And so this is your new office?' she cried, looking round. 'How you have blossomed out, haven't you? These offices are as fine as any in the City.'
'Yes,' said John; 'they are too fine to suit me.'
'Oh, I don't see why you should not have handsome offices as well as anyone else. You have been in my father's place of business, of course. But it is not so grand as these rooms.'
'I think that helps to show the absurdity of ours. Your father's house is an old-standing one, and this gives us an air of new riches which, I must confess, I don't like, especially as we have not the riches.'
'Then, why did you agree to have such offices? I suppose you had something to say about them?'
'Very little, I must own. They were engaged while I was in the North, and after they had been engaged, of course I did not like to say anything against them.'
'Well, and how is the mine getting on? You have not applied to me yet to fulfil my offer, which I think was a very fair one.'
'I have not needed to do so,' said Kenyon.
'Ah, then, subscriptions are coming in, are they? Where is the list?'
'We have no list yet. We are waiting for your cousin, who is in the North.'
'In the North!' said Edith, with her eyes open wide. 'He is not in the North; he is in Paris, and we expect him home to-night.'
'Oh, indeed!' said John, who made no further comment.
'Now, where's your subscription-list? Oh, you told me you have none yet. Very well; this sheet of paper will do.' And the young woman drew some lines across the paper, heading it, 'The Canadian Mica-mine.' Then underneath she wrote the name Edith Longworth, and after it--'For ten thousand pounds.' 'There! I am the first subscriber to the new company; if you get the others as easily, you will be very fortunate.'
And, before John could thank her, she laughingly turned to her companion, and said:
'We must go.'