Chapter XXV.
 

When Wentworth dropped in to see if anything had happened, Kenyon told him that young Longworth was not in the North at all, but in Paris. Wentworth pondered over this piece of information for a moment, and said:

'I have written him, but have received no answer. I have just been to see the solicitors, and have told them that time was pressing; that we must do something. They quite agreed it was desirable some action should be taken at once, but, of course, as they said, they merely waited our instructions. They are willing to do anything we ask them to do. However, they advised waiting until Longworth got back, and then they proposed we should have a meeting at the offices here. They said, moreover, that, if Longworth had five or six men who would go at work with a will, the whole affair would be finished in a week at most. They did not appear to be at all alarmed at the shortening time, but said everything depended upon the men Longworth was going to bring with him. If they were the right men, there would be no trouble. So, all in all, they advised me not to worry about it, but to communicate with Longworth, if I could, and get him to come as soon as possible. I had to admit myself that this was the only thing to do, so I called round to see if you had heard anything from him.'

'I have heard nothing about him,' said Kenyon, 'except that he has lied, and has gone to Paris instead of going North.'

'Well,' mused Wentworth, 'I don't know that that is a very important point. He may have business in Paris, and he may have thought it was no affair of ours where he went, in which he was partly right and partly wrong. He thought, no doubt, that if he said he was going North, to see some men who could not be seen without his going there, it would relieve our minds, and make us imagine we were going on all right.'

'That is just what I object to, Wentworth. His whole demeanour seems to show that he wants us to think things are all right when they are not all right.'

'Well, John, as I said before, you've got to do one thing or the other. You have to trust Longworth or to go on without him. Now, for Heaven's sake make up your mind which it is to be, and don't grumble.'

'I am not grumbling. A man that is really honest will not say what is false, even about a small thing.'

'Oh, you are too particular. Wait till you have been in the City ten years longer, and you won't mind a little thing like that.'

'Little things like that, as you call them, are indicative of general character.'

'Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. You mustn't take things too seriously. I do not see that anything can be done until Longworth chooses to exhibit himself. If you can suggest anything better, as I said before, tell me what it is, and I am ready to do my part.'

'I confess I don't see what we can do. We might wait a day or two longer yet, and then, if we hear nothing more from Longworth, dismiss those solicitors he has chosen, and take the gentlemen who act for you.'

'The people Longworth has engaged do not bear a very good reputation; still, I must admit they talk in a very straightforward manner. As you say, it is perhaps better to let matters rest for a day or two.'

And so the days passed. Wentworth wrote again to Longworth at his office, and said they would wait for two days, and if he did not put in an appearance, before that time, they would go on forming the company as if he did not exist.

To this no answer came, and Kenyon and Wentworth again held consultation in the sumptuous offices which had been chosen for them.

'No news yet, I suppose?' said Kenyon.

'None whatever,' was the answer.

'Very well; I have made up my mind what to do----'

But before John Kenyon could say what he had resolved to do, the door opened, and there entered unto them Mr. William Longworth, with his silk hat as glossy as a mirror, a general trim and prosperous appearance about him, a flower in his buttonhole and his eyeglass in its place.

'Good-morning, gentlemen,' he said. 'I thought I should find you here, and so I did not call at your office, Wentworth. Ah,' he cried, looking round, 'this is the proper caper! These offices look even better than I thought they would. I just got back this morning,' he added, turning to his partners.

'Indeed,' said Wentworth, 'we are very glad to see you. How did you enjoy your trip to Paris?'

The young man did not appear in the least abashed by this remark. He merely elevated his eyebrows, shrugged his shoulders, and said:

'Ah, well, as both of you are doubtless aware, Paris is not what it used to be. Still, I had a very good time there.'

'I'm glad of that,' said Wentworth; 'and did you see the gentlemen you expected to meet?'

'I must confess I did not. I did not think it was necessary. I have five or six men interested already, practically pledged to furnish all the capital.' And, saying this, he walked round the desk at which they stood, and sat down, throwing the right leg across the left and clasping his knee in his hands.

'Well, what has been done during my absence? The mine floated yet?'

'No,' said Wentworth; 'the mine is not yet floated. Now, Mr. Longworth, the time has come for plain speaking. You have gone off to Paris without a word of warning to us at a very critical time, and you have not answered any of the letters I sent to you.'

'Well, my dear boy, the reason was that I expected every day to get back here, and each day was detained a little longer.'

'Very good; the point I want to impress upon you is this--time is getting short. If we are going to form this company, we have to set about it at once.'

'My dear fellow,' said Longworth, in an expostulating tone of voice, 'that is exactly what I told myself. The time is getting short, as you say. Of course, as I said when I joined you, I cannot give my whole time to this. We are equal partners, and the fact that I had to leave for a few days should not interrupt the business we have on hand. What did you expect to do if I had not been a partner at all?'

'If you were not a partner,' replied Wentworth with some heat, 'we should have gone on and formed our company, or failed; but the very fact that you are a partner is just what now retards us. We do not feel justified in doing anything until it has your approval, or until we know that it does not run counter with something you have already done.'

'Well, gentlemen, if you feel like that about it, I am quite willing to withdraw. I am ready to give up the paper I hold from you, and receive back the paper you hold from me. Of course we cannot work together if there are to be any recriminations. I have done my best; I have done everything that I promised to do--even more than that; but if you think for a moment you can get on better without me, I am ready at any time to retire.'

'It is easy to say that, Mr. Longworth, now that the time of the option has only a month further to run. You must remember that a great deal of time has been lost, and not through our fault.'

'Ah! do you mean it has been lost through my fault?'

'I mean that if we had been alone something would have been done, whereas we are now in the same position as when we started. We are in a worse position than we were at the beginning, because we have not only spent our money, but are deeply in debt into the bargain.'

'Well, Mr. Wentworth, I did not propose to withdraw until you, as a matter of fact, almost suggested it. I am quite willing and anxious to help, but if I do stay with you it must be understood that we have no such recriminations as these. You must do your best, and I must do my best.'

'Very well, then,' said Wentworth; 'your leaving us at this time is entirely out of the question. Now, will you give me the names of those gentlemen who have offered to go in with us?'

'Certainly.'

And Longworth pulled out a note-book from his inside pocket, while Wentworth took up a pen from the desk and pulled a sheet of paper towards him.

'First, Mr. Melville.'

'Is that the Melville I saw in relation to this mineral?'

'I am sure I do not know. He is at the head of the Scranton China Company.'

'Has he spoken of going in with us?'

'Yes, he seems to think the scheme is a good one. Why do you ask?'

'Well, merely because I took a specimen of the mineral to him and his manager wrote to me that it was of no value. It seems rather remarkable that he should go in for the mine if his manager believes it to be worthless.'

'Oh, he goes in entirely in his own private capacity. He is not at all affected by what the manager says. The manager has nothing to do with Melville's private affairs.'

'Still, it seems very strange, because, when Kenyon saw the manager in the North, he claimed they did not use this material, and said it would be of no benefit whatever to him.'

'That is very singular,' mused Longworth. 'Well, all I can say is, Melville has intimated that he should like to have a share in this mine, so, I take it, he and the manager do not agree as to the value of the mineral. You can set down Mr. Melville's name with perfect confidence. I know him very well, and I know that he's a thorough man of business. Besides, it will be a great advantage to have a man connected with the china trade in with us.'

There was no denying this point, so Wentworth said nothing more. Longworth named five other persons, none of whom Wentworth knew. Then he closed his note-book and put it in his pocket.

'The question now is: Have these gentlemen stated how much they will subscribe?' asked Wentworth.

'No, they have not. Of course, everything will depend on how they are impressed with what we can tell them. The great thing is to get men who are willing even to listen to you. The rest depends on the inducements you offer.'

'Do you expect to get any more men interested?'

'I don't think any more are needed. The best thing to do now is to get those we have together and summon our solicitors here. Then our friend Kenyon, who is a fluent speaker, can lay the case before them.'

Kenyon, who had not spoken at all during the interview, did not even look up, and apparently did not hear the satirical allusion to his eloquence.

'Very well; when would be a good time to call this meeting?'

'As soon as possible, I think,' said Longworth. 'What do you say to Monday, at three o'clock? Men come from lunch about that hour, and are in a good humour. If you send out a letter saying a meeting will be held here in the directors' room at three o'clock, prompt, on Monday, I will see the men and get them to come. Of course they are generally busy, and may have other appointments; still, we must do something, and nothing can be done until we get them together.'

'Right; the invitations to the meeting shall be sent out at once.'

Longworth rose, went to the desk and picked up a paper.

'What is this?' he said.

Kenyon looked up suddenly.

'That,' he said, flushing slightly, 'is our first subscription.'

'Who wrote the name of Miss Edith Longworth here?'

'The young lady herself.'

'Has she been here?'

'She called, and desired to be the first subscriber.'

'Nonsense!' cried Longworth, with a frown; 'we don't want any women in this business;' and, saying that, he tore the paper in two.

Kenyon clenched his fist and was about to say something, when Wentworth's hand came down on his shoulder.

'I don't think I would refuse ten thousands pounds,' said Wentworth, 'from anybody who offered it, woman or man. Perhaps we had better see whether your men will subscribe as much before we throw away a subscription already received.'

'But she hasn't the ten thousand pounds.'

'I fancy,' said Wentworth, 'that whatever Miss Longworth puts her name to, she is ready to stand by;' and with that he placed the two pieces of paper in a drawer. 'Now, I think that is all,' he added; 'we will call the meeting for Monday, and see what comes of it.'