A Woman Intervenes by Robert Barr
The stormy interview with Wentworth disturbed the usual serenity of Mr. Longworth's temper. He went home earlier than was customary with him that night, and the more he thought over the attack, the more unjustifiable it seemed. He wondered what his nephew had really done, and tried to remember what Wentworth had charged against him. He could not recollect, the angrier portions of the interview having, as it were, blotted the charges from his mind. There remained, however, a very bitter resentment against Wentworth. Mr. Longworth searched his conscience to see if he could be in the least to blame, but he found nothing in the recollections of his dealings with the young men to justify him in feeling at all responsible for the disaster that had overtaken them. He read his favourite evening paper with less than his usual interest, for every now and then the episode in his office would occur to him. Finally he said sharply:
'Yes, father,' answered his daughter.
'You remember a person named Wentworth, whom you had here the evening William went away?'
'Very well. Never invite him to this house again.'
'What has he been doing?' asked the young woman in rather a tremulous voice.
'I desire you also never to ask anyone connected with him--that man Kenyon, for instance,' continued her father, ignoring her question.
'I thought,' she answered, 'that Mr. Kenyon was not in this country at present.'
'He is not, but he will be back again, I suppose. At any rate, I wish to have nothing more to do with those people. You understand that?'
Mr. Longworth went on with his reading. Edith saw her father was greatly disturbed, and eagerly desired to know the reason, but knew enough of human nature to understand that in a short time he would relieve her anxiety. He again appeared to be trying to fix his attention on the paper. At length he threw it down, and turned towards her.
'That man, Wentworth,' he said bitterly, 'behaved to-day in a most unjustifiable manner to me in my own office. It seems that William and he and Kenyon embarked in some mine project. I knew nothing of their doings, and was not even consulted with regard to them. Now it appears William has gone to America and done something Wentworth considers wrong. Wentworth came to me and demanded twenty thousand pounds--the most preposterous thing ever heard of--said I owed it to clear the good name of Longworth. As if the good name were dependent on him, or anyone like him! I turned him out of the office.'
Edith did not answer for a few moments, while her father gave expression to his indignation by various ejaculations that need not be here recorded.
'Did he say,' she spoke at length, 'in what way William had done wrong?'
'I do not remember now just what he said. I know I told him to come again when my nephew was present, and then make his charges against him if he wanted to do so. Not that I admitted I had anything to do with the matter at all, but I simply refused to listen to charges against an absent man. I paid no attention to them.'
'That certainly was reasonable,' replied Edith. 'What did he say to it?'
'Oh, he abused me, and abused William, and went on at a dreadful rate, until I was obliged to order him out of the office.'
'But what did he say about meeting William when he returned, and making the charges against him then?'
'What did he say? I don't remember. Oh yes! he said it would be too late then; that they had only a few days to do what business they have to do, and that is why he made the demand for twenty thousand pounds. It was to repair the harm, whatever the harm was, William had done. I look on it simply as some blackmailing scheme of his, and I am astonished that a man belonging to so good a house as he does should try that game with me. I shall speak to the elder partner about it to-morrow, and if he does not make the young man apologize in the most abject manner he will be the loser by it, I can tell him that.'
'I would think no more about it, father, if I were you. Do not let it trouble you in the least.'
'Oh, it doesn't trouble me, but young men nowadays seem to think they can say anything to their elders.'
'I mean,' she continued, 'that I would not go to his partner for a day or two. Wait and see what happens. I have no doubt, when he considers the matter, he will be thoroughly ashamed of himself.'
'Well, I hope so.'
'Then give him the chance of being ashamed of himself, and take no further steps in the meantime.'
Edith shortly afterwards went to her own room; there, clasping her hands behind her, she walked up and down thinking, with a very troubled heart, of what she had heard. Her view of the occurrence was very different from that taken by her father. She felt certain something dishonourable had been done by her cousin. For a long time she had mistrusted his supposed friendship for the two young men, and now she pictured to herself John Kenyon in the wilds of Canada, helpless and despondent because of the great wrong that had been done him. It was far into the night when she retired, and it was early next morning when she arose. Her father was bright and cheerful at breakfast, and had evidently forgotten all about the unpleasant incident of the day before. A good night's sleep had erased it from his memory. Edith was glad of this, and she did not mention the subject. After he had gone to the City, his daughter prepared to follow him. She did not take her carriage, but hailed a hansom, and gave the driver the number of Wentworth's offices. That young man was evidently somewhat surprised to see her. He had been trying to write to Kenyon an account of his interview with old Mr. Longworth; but after he had finished, he thought John Kenyon would not approve of his zeal, so had just torn the letter up.
'Take this chair,' he said, wheeling an armchair into position. 'It is the only comfortable one we have in the room.'
'Comfort does not matter,' said Miss Longworth. 'I came to see you about the mica-mine. What has my cousin done?'
'How do you know he has done anything?'
'That does not matter. I know. Tell me as quickly as you can what he has done.'
'It is not a very pleasant story to tell,' he said, 'to a young lady about one of her relatives.'
'Never mind that. Tell me.'
'Very well, he has done this: He has pretended he was our friend, and professed to aid us in forming this company. He has delayed us by every means in his power until the option has nearly expired. Then he has gone to Canada and secured for himself, and a man named Melville, the option of the mine when John Kenyon's time is up--that is to say, at twelve o'clock to-morrow, when Kenyon's option expires, your cousin will pay the money and own the mine; after which, of course, Kenyon and myself will be out of it. I don't mind the loss at all--I would gladly give Kenyon my share--but for John it is a terrible blow. He had counted on the money to pay debts which he considers he owes to his father for his education. He calls them debts of honour, though they are not debts of honour in the ordinary sense of the words. Therefore, it seemed to me a terrible thing that----' Here he paused and did not go on. He saw there were tears in the eyes of the girl to whom he was talking. 'It is brutal,' he said, 'to tell you all this. You are not to blame for it and neither is your father, although I spoke to him in a heated manner yesterday.'
'When did you say the option expires?'
'At twelve o'clock to-morrow.'
'How much money is required to buy the mine?'
'Twenty thousand pounds.'
'Can money be sent to Canada by cable?'
'Yes, I think so.'
'Aren't you quite sure?'
'No, I am not. It can be sent by telegraph in this country, and in America.'
'How long will it take you to find out?'
'Only a few moments.'
'Very well. Where is Mr. Kenyon now?'
'Kenyon is in Ottawa. I had a cablegram from him yesterday.'
'Then, will you write a cablegram that can be sent away at once, asking him to wait at the telegraph-office until he receives a further message from you?'
'Yes, I can do that; but what good will it do?'
'Never mind that; perhaps it will do no good. I am going to try to make it worth doing. Meanwhile remember, if I succeed, John Kenyon must never know the particulars of this transaction.'
'He never will--if you say so.'
'I say so. Now, there is six hours' difference of time between this country and Canada, is there not?'
'About that, I think.'
'Very well; lose no time in getting the cable-message sent to him, and tell him to answer, so that we shall be sure he is at the other end of the wire. Then find out about the cabling of the money. I shall be back here, I think, as soon as you are.'
With that she left the office, and, getting into her cab, was driven to her father's place of business.
'Well, my girl,' said the old man, pushing his spectacles up on his brow, and gazing at her, 'what is it now--some new extravagance?'
'Yes, father, some new extravagance.'
His daughter was evidently excited, and her breath came quickly. She closed the door, and took a chair opposite her father.
'Father,' she said, 'I have been your business man, as you call me, for a long time.'
'Yes, you have. Are you going to strike for an increase of salary?'
'Father,' she said earnestly, not heeding the jocularity of his tone, 'this is very serious. I want you to give me some money for myself--to speculate with.'
'I will do that very gladly. How much do you want?'
The old man turned his chair round and pulled out his cheque-book.
'I want thirty thousand pounds,' she answered.
Mr. Longworth wheeled quickly round in his chair and looked at her in astonishment.
'Thirty thousand what?'
'Thirty thousand pounds, father; and I want it now.'
'My dear girl,' he expostulated, 'have you any idea how much thirty thousand pounds is? Do you know that thirty thousand pounds is a fortune?'
'Yes, I know that.'
'Do you know that there is not one in twenty of the richest merchants in London who could at a moment's notice produce thirty thousand pounds in ready money?'
'Yes, I suppose that is true. Have you not the ready money?'
'Yes, I have the money. I can draw a cheque for that amount, and it will be honoured at once; but I cannot give you so much money without knowing what you are going to do with it.'
'And suppose, father, you do not approve of what I am going to do with it?'
'All the more reason, my dear, that I should know.'
'Then, father, I suppose you mean that whatever services I have rendered you, whatever comfort I have given you, what I have been to you all my life, is not worth thirty thousand pounds?'
'You shouldn't talk like that, my daughter. Everything I have is yours, or will be, when I die. It is for you I work; it is for you I accumulate money. You will have everything I own the moment I have to lay down my work.'
'Father!' cried the girl, standing up before him, 'I do not want your money when you die. I do not want you to die, as you know; but I do want thirty thousand pounds to-day, and now. I want it more than I ever wanted anything else before in my life, or ever shall again. Will you give it to me?'
'No, I will not, unless you tell me what you are going to do with it.'
'Then, father, you can leave your money to your nephew when you die; I shall never touch a penny of it. I now bid you good-bye. I will go out from this room and earn my own living.'
With that the young woman turned to go, but her father, with a sprightliness one would not have expected from his years, sprang to the door and looked at her with alarm.
'Edith, my child, you never talked to me like this before in your life. What is wrong with you?'
'Nothing, father, except that I want a cheque for thirty thousand pounds, and want it now.'
'And do you mean to say that you will leave me if I do not give it to you?'
'Have you ever broken your word, father?'
'Never, my child, that I know of.'
'Then remember I am your daughter. I have said, if I do not get that money now, I shall never enter our house again.'
'But thirty thousand pounds is a tremendous amount. Remember, I have given my word, too, that I would not give you the money unless you told me what it was for.'
'Very well, father, I will tell what it is for when you ask me. I would advise you, though, not to ask me; and I would advise you to give me the money. It will all be returned to you if you want it.
'Oh, I don't care about the money at all, Edith. I merely, of course, don't want to see it wasted.'
'And, father, have you no trust in my judgment?'
'Well, you know I haven't much faith in any woman's wisdom, in the matter of investing money.'
'Trust me this time, father. I shall never ask you for any more.'
The old man went slowly to his desk, wrote out a cheque, and handed it to his daughter. It was for thirty thousand pounds.