A Woman Intervenes by Robert Barr
Although the steamship that took Kenyon to America was one of the speediest in the Atlantic service, yet the voyage was inexpressibly dreary to him. He spent most of his time walking up and down the deck, thinking about the other voyage of a few weeks before. The one consolation of his present trip was its quickness.
When he arrived at his hotel in New York, he asked if there was any message there for him, and the clerk handed him an envelope, which he tore open. It was a cable despatch from Wentworth, with the words:
'Longworth at Windsor. Proceed to Ottawa immediately. Get option renewed. Longworth duping us.'
John knitted his brows and wondered where Windsor was. The clerk, seeing his perplexity, asked if he could be of any assistance.
'I have received this cablegram, but don't quite understand it. Where is Windsor?'
'Oh, that means the Windsor Hotel. Just up the street.'
Kenyon registered, told the clerk to assign him a room, and send his baggage up to it when it came. Then he walked out from the hotel and sought the Windsor.
He found that colossal hostelry, and was just inquiring of the clerk whether a Mr. Longworth was staying there, when that gentleman appeared at the desk, took some letters and his key.
Kenyon tapped him on the shoulder.
Young Longworth turned round with more alacrity than he usually displayed, and gave a long whistle of surprise when he saw who it was.
'In the name of all the gods,' he cried, 'what are you doing here?' Then, before Kenyon could reply, he said: 'Come up to my room.'
They went to the elevator, rose a few stories, and passed down an apparently endless hall, carpeted with some noiseless stuff that gave no echo of the footfall. Longworth put the key into his door and opened it. They entered a large and pleasant room.
'Well,' he said, 'this is a surprise. What is the reason of your being here? Anything wrong in London?'
'Nothing wrong, so far as I am aware. We received no cablegram from you, and thought there might be some hitch in the business; therefore I came.'
'Ah, I see. I cabled over to your address, and said I was staying at the Windsor for a few days. I sent a cablegram almost as long as a letter, but it didn't appear to do any good.'
'No, I did not receive it.'
'And what did you expect was wrong over here?'
'That I did not know. I knew you had time to get to Ottawa and see the mine in twelve days from London. Not hearing from you in that time, and knowing the option was running out, both Wentworth and I became anxious, and so I came over.'
'Exactly. Well, I'm afraid you've had your trip for nothing.'
'What do you mean? Is not the mine all I said it was?'
'Oh, the mine is all right; all I meant was, there was really no necessity for your coming.'
'But, you know, the option ends in a very short time.'
'Well, the option, like the mine, is all right. I think you might quite safely have left it in my hands.'
It must be admitted that John Kenyon began to feel he had acted with unreasonable rashness in taking his long voyage.
'Is Mr. Melville here with you?'
'Melville has returned home. He had not time to stay longer. All he wanted was to satisfy himself about the mine. He was satisfied, and he has gone home. If you were in London now, you would be able to see him.'
'Did you meet Mr. Von Brent?'
'Yes, he took us to the mine.'
'And did you say anything about the option to him?'
'Well, we had some conversation about it. There will be no trouble about the option. What Von Brent wants is to sell his mine, that is all.' There was a few moments' silence, then Longworth said: 'When are you going back?'
'I do not know. I think I ought to see Von Brent. I am not at all easy about leaving matters as they are. I think I ought to get a renewal of the option. It is not wise to risk things as we are doing. Von Brent might at any time get an offer for his mine, just as we are forming our company, and, of course, if the option had not been renewed, he would sell to the first man who put down the money. As you say, all he wants is to sell his mine.'
Longworth was busy opening his letters, and apparently paying very little attention to what Kenyon said. At last, however, he spoke:
'If I were you--if you care to take my advice--I would go straight back to England. You will do no good here. I merely say this to save you any further trouble, time, and expense.'
'Don't you think it would be as well to get a renewal of the option?'
'Oh, certainly; but, as I told you before, it was not at all necessary for you to come over. I may say, furthermore, that Von Brent will not renew the option without a handsome sum down, to be forfeited if the company is not formed. Have you the money to pay him?'
'No, I have not.'
'Very well, then, why waste time and money going to Ottawa?' Young Mr. Longworth arched his eye-brows and gazed at John through his eyeglass. 'I will let you have my third of the money, if that will do any good.'
'How much money does Von Brent want?'
'How should I know? To tell you the truth, Mr. Kenyon--and truth never hurts, or oughtn't to--I don't at all like this visit to America. You and Mr. Wentworth have been good enough to be suspicious about me from the very first. You have not taken any pains to conceal it, either of you. Your appearance in America at this particular juncture is nothing more nor less than an insult to me. I intend to receive it as such.'
'I have no intention of insulting you,' said Kenyon, 'if you are dealing fairly with me.'
'There it is again. That remark is an insult. Everything you say is a reflection upon me. I wish to have nothing more to say to you. I give you my advice that it is better for you, and cheaper, to go back to London. You need not act on it unless you like. I have nothing further to say to you and so this interview may be considered closed.'
'And how about the mine?'
'I imagine the mine will take care of itself.'
'Do you think this is courteous treatment of a business partner?'
'My dear sir, I do not take my lessons in courtesy from you. Whether you are pleased or displeased with my treatment of you is a matter of supreme indifference to me. I am tired of living in an atmosphere of suspicion, and I have done with it--that is all. You think some game is being played on you--both you and Mr. Wentworth think that--and yet you haven't the "cuteness," as they call it here, or sharpness, to find it out. Now, a man who has suspicions he cannot prove to be well founded should keep those suspicions to himself until he can prove them. That is my advice to you. I wish you a good-day.'
John Kenyon walked back to his hotel with more misgivings than ever. He wrote a letter to Wentworth detailing the conversation, telling him Melville had sailed for home, and advising him to see that gentleman when he arrived. He stayed in New York that night, and took the morning train to Montreal. In due time he arrived at Ottawa, and called on Von Brent. He found that gentleman in his chambers, looking as if he had never left the room since the option was signed. Von Brent at first did not recognise his visitor, but after gazing a moment at him he sprang from his chair and held out his hand.
'I really did not know you,' he said; 'you have changed a great deal since I saw you last. You look haggard, and not at all well. What is the matter with you?'
'I do not think anything is the matter. I am in very good health, thank you; I have had a few business worries, that is all.'
'Ah, yes,' said Von Brent; 'I am very sorry indeed you failed to form your company.'
'Failed!' echoed Kenyon.
'Yes; you haven't succeeded, have you?'
'Well, I don't know about that; we are in a fair way to succeed. You met Longworth and Melville, who came out to see the mine? I saw Longworth in New York, and he told me you had taken them out there.'
'Are they interested with you in the mine?'
'Certainly; they are helping me to form the company.'
Von Brent seemed amazed.
'I did not understand that at all. In fact, I understood the exact opposite. I thought you had attempted to form a company, and failed. They showed me an attack in one of the financial papers upon you, and said that killed your chances of forming a company in London. They were here, apparently, on their own business.'
'And what was their business?'
'To buy the mine.'
'Have they bought it?'
'Practically, yes. Of course, while your option holds good I cannot sell it, but that, as you know, expires in a very few days.'
Kenyon, finding his worst suspicions confirmed, seemed speechless with amazement, and in his agony mopped from his brow the drops collected there.
'You appear to be astonished at this,' said Von Brent.
'I am very much astonished.'
'Well, you cannot blame me. I have acted perfectly square in the matter. I had no idea Longworth, and the gentleman who was with him, had any connection with you whatever. Their attention had been drawn to the mine, they said, by that article. They had investigated it and appeared to be satisfied there was something in it--in the mine, I mean, not in the article. They said they had attended a meeting which you had called, but it was quite evident you were not going to be able to form the company. So they came here and made me a cash offer for the mine. They have deposited twenty thousand pounds at the bank here, and on the day your option closes they will give me a cheque for the amount.'
'It serves me right,' said Kenyon. 'I have been cheated and duped. I had grave suspicions of it all along, but I did not act upon them. I have been too timorous and cowardly. This man Longworth has made a pretence of helping me to form a company. Everything he has done has been to delay me. He came out here, apparently, in the interests of the company I was forming, and now he has got the option for himself.'
'Yes, he has,' said Von Brent. 'I may say I am very sorry indeed for the turn affairs have taken. Of course, as I have told you, I had no idea how the land lay. You see, you had placed no deposit with me, and I had to look after my own interests. However, the option is open for a few days more, and I will not turn the mine over to them till the last minute of the time has expired. Isn't there any chance of your getting the money before then?'
'Not the slightest.'
'Well, you see, in that case I cannot help myself. I am bound by a legal document to turn the mine over to them on receipt of the twenty thousand pounds the moment your option is ended. Everything is done legally, and I am perfectly helpless in the matter.'
'Yes, I see that,' said John. 'Good-bye.'
He went to the telegraph-office and sent a cablegram.
Wentworth received the message in London the next morning. It read:
'We are cheated. Longworth has the option on the mine in his own name.'