A Woman Intervenes by Robert Barr
If any man more miserable and dejected than John Kenyon existed in the broad dominion of Canada, he was indeed a person to be pitied. After having sent his cablegram to Wentworth, he returned to his very cheerless hotel. Next morning when he awoke he knew that Wentworth would have received the message, but that the chances were ten thousand to one that he could not get the money in time, even if he could get it at all. Still, he resolved to stay in Ottawa, much as he detested the place, until the hour the option expired. Then, he thought, he would look round among the mines, and see if he could not get something to do in the management of one of them. This would enable him to make some money, wherewith to pay the debts which he and Wentworth would have incurred as a result of their disastrous speculation. He felt so depressed that he did what most other Englishmen would have done in his place--took a long walk. He stood on the bridge over the Ottawa River and gazed for a while at the Chaudiere Falls, watching the mist rising from the chasm into which the waters plunged. Then he walked along the other side of the river, among big saw-mills and huge interminable piles of lumber, with their grateful piny smell. By-and-by he found himself in the country, and then the forest closed in upon the bad road on which he walked. Nevertheless, he kept on and on, without heeding where he was going. Here and there he saw clearings in the woods, and a log shanty, or perhaps a barn. The result of all this was that, being a healthy man, he soon developed an enormous appetite, which forced itself upon his attention in spite of his depression. He noticed the evening was closing around him, and so was glad to come to a farmhouse that looked better than the ordinary shanties he had left behind. Here he asked for food, and soon sat down to a plentiful meal, the coarseness of which was more than compensated for by the excellence of his appetite. After dinner he began to realize how tired he was, and felt astonished to hear from his host how far he was from Ottawa.
'You can't get there to-night,' said the farmer; 'it is no use your trying. You stay with us, and I'll take you in to-morrow. I'm going there in the afternoon.'
And so Kenyon remained all night, and slept the dreamless sleep of health and exhaustion.
It was somewhat late in the afternoon when he reached the city of Ottawa. Going towards his hotel, he was astonished to hear his name shouted after him. Turning round, he saw a man, whom he did not recognise, running after him.
'Your name is Kenyon, isn't it?' asked the man, somewhat out of breath.
'Yes, that is my name.'
'I guess you don't remember me. I am the telegraph operator. We have had a despatch waiting for you for some time, a cablegram from London. We have searched all over the town for you, but couldn't find you.'
'Ah,' said Kenyon, 'is it important?'
'Well, that I don't know. You had better come with me to the office and get it. Of course, they don't generally cable unimportant things. I remember it said something about you keeping yourself in readiness for something.'
They walked together to the telegraph-office. The boy was still searching for Kenyon with the original despatch, but the operator turned up the file and read the copy to him.
'You see, it wants an answer,' he said; 'that's why I thought it was important to get you. You will have plenty of time for an answer to-night.'
John took a lead pencil and wrote the cable despatch which Wentworth received. He paid his money, and said:
'I will go to my hotel; it is the ---- House. I will wait there, and if anything comes for me, send it over as soon as possible.'
'All right,' said the operator, 'that is the best plan; then we will know exactly where to find you. Of course, there is no use in your waiting here, because we can get you in five minutes. Perhaps I had better telephone to the hotel for you if anything comes.'
'Very well,' said Kenyon; 'I will leave it all in your hands.'
Whether it was the effect of having been in the country or not, John felt that the cablegram he had received was a good omen. He meditated over the tremendous ill-fortune he had suffered in the whole business from beginning to end, and thought of old Mr. Longworth's favourite phrase, 'There's no such thing as luck.'
Then came a rap at his door, and the bell-boy said:
'There is a gentleman here wishes to speak to you.'
'Ask him to come up,' was the answer; and two minutes later Von Brent entered.
'Any news?' he asked.
John, who was in a state of mind which made him suspicious of everything and everybody, answered:
'No, nothing new.'
'Ah, I am sorry for that. I had some hopes that perhaps you might be able to raise the money before twelve o'clock to-morrow. Of course you know the option ends at noon to-morrow?'
'Yes, I know that.'
'Did you know that Longworth was in Ottawa?'
'No,' said Kenyon; 'I have been out of town myself.'
'Yes, he came last night. He has the money in the bank, as I told you. Now, I will not accept it until the very latest moment. Of course, legally, I cannot accept it before that time, and, just as legally, I cannot refuse his money when he tenders it. I am very sorry all this has happened--more sorry than I can tell you. I hope you will not think that I am to blame in the matter?'
'No, you are not in the slightest to blame. There is nobody in fault except myself. I feel that I have been culpably negligent, and altogether too trustful.'
'I wish to goodness I knew where you could get the money; but, of course, if I knew that, I would have had it myself long ago.'
'I am very much obliged to you,' said Kenyon; 'but the only thing you can do for me is to see that your clock is not ahead of time to-morrow. I may, perhaps, be up at the office before twelve o'clock--that is where I shall find you, I suppose?'
'Yes; I shall be there all the forenoon. I shall not leave until twelve.'
'Very good; I am much obliged to you, Mr. Von Brent, for your sympathy. I assure you, I haven't many friends, and it--well, I'm obliged to you, that's all. An Englishman, you know, is not very profuse in the matter of thanks, but I mean it.'
'I'm sure you do,' said Von Brent, 'and I'm only sorry that my assistance cannot be something substantial. Well, good-bye, hoping to see you to-morrow.'
After he had departed, Kenyon's impatience increased as the hours went on. He left the hotel, and went direct to the telegraph-office; but nothing had come for him.
'I'm afraid,' said the operator, 'that there won't be anything more to-night. If it should come late, shall I send it to your hotel?'
'Certainly; no matter at what hour it comes, I wish you would let me have it as soon as possible. It is very important.'
Leaving the office, he went up the street and, passing the principal hotel in the place, saw young Longworth standing under the portico of the hotel as dapper and correct in costume as ever, his single eyeglass the admiration of all Ottawa, for there was not another like it in the city.
'How do you do, Kenyon?' said that young man.
'My dear sir,' replied Kenyon, 'the last time you spoke to me you said you desired to have nothing more to say to me. I cordially reciprocated that sentiment, and I want to have nothing to say to you.'
'My dear fellow,' cried Longworth jauntily, 'there is no harm done. Of course, in New York I was a little out of sorts. Everybody is in New York--beastly hole! I don't think it is worse than Ottawa, but the air is purer here. By the way, perhaps you and I can make a little arrangement. I am going to buy that mine to-morrow, as doubtless you know. Now, I should like to see it in the hands of a good and competent man. If a couple of hundred pounds a year would be any temptation to you, I think we can afford to let you develop the mine.'
'Thank you!' said Kenyon.
'I knew you would be grateful; just think over the matter, will you? and don't come to any rash decision. We can probably give a little more than that; but until we see how the mine is turning out, it is not likely we shall spend a great deal of money on it.'
'Of course,' said John, 'the proper answer to your remark would be to knock you down; but, besides being a law-abiding citizen, I have no desire to get into gaol to-night for doing it, because there is one chance in a thousand, Mr. Longworth, that I may have some business to do with that mine myself before twelve o'clock to-morrow.'
'Ah, it is my turn to be grateful now!' said Longworth. 'In a rough-and-tumble fight I am afraid you would master me easier than you would do in a contest of diplomacy.'
'Do you call it diplomacy? You refer, I suppose, to your action in relation to the mine. I call it robbery.'
'Oh, do you? Well, that is the kind of conversation which leads to breaches of the peace; and as I also am a law-abiding subject, I will not continue the discussion any further. I bid you a very good evening, Mr. Kenyon.'
The young man turned on his heel and went into the hotel. John walked to his own much more modest inn, and retired for the night. He did not sleep well. All night long, phantom telegraph-messengers were rapping at the door, and he started up every now and then to receive cablegrams which faded away as he awoke. Shortly after breakfast he went to the telegraph-office, but found that nothing had arrived for him.
'I am afraid,' said the operator, 'that nothing will come on before noon.'
'Before noon!' echoed John. 'Why?'
'The wires are down in some places in the East, and messages are delayed a good deal. Perhaps you noticed the lack of Eastern news in the morning papers? Very little news came from the East last night.' Seeing John's look of anxious interest, the operator continued: 'Does the despatch you expect pertain to money matters?'
'Yes, it does.'
'Do they know you at the bank?'
'No, I don't think they do.'
'Then, if I were you, I would go up to the bank and be identified, so that, if it is a matter of minutes, no unnecessary time may be lost. You had better tell them you expect a money-order by cable, and, although such orders are paid without any identification at the bank, yet they take every precaution to see that it does not get into the hands of the wrong man.'
'Thank you,' said Kenyon. 'I am much obliged to you for your suggestion. I will act upon it.'
And as soon as the bank opened, John Kenyon presented himself to the cashier.
'I am expecting a large amount of money from England to-day. It is very important that, when it arrives, there shall be no delay in having it placed at my disposal. I want to know if there are any formalities to be gone through.'
'Where is the money coming from?' said the clerk.
'It is coming from England.'
'Is there anyone in Ottawa who can identify you?'
'Yes; I know the telegraph operator here.'
'Ah!' said the cashier somewhat doubtfully. 'Anybody else?'
'Mr. Von Brent knows me very well.'
'That will do. Suppose you get Mr. Von Brent to come here and identify you as the man who bears the name of Kenyon. Then the moment your cablegram comes the money will be at your disposal.'
Kenyon hurried to Von Brent's rooms and found him alone.
'Will you come down to the bank and identify me as Kenyon?'
'Certainly. Has the money arrived?'
'No, it has not; but I expect it, and want to provide for every contingency. I do not wish to have any delay in my identification when it does come.'
'If it comes by cable,' said Von Brent, 'there will be no need of identification. The bank is not responsible, you know. They take the money entirely at the sender's risk. They might pay it to the telegraph operator who receives the message! I believe they would not be held liable. However, it is better to see that nothing is left undone.'
Going over to the bank, Von Brent said to the cashier: 'This is John Kenyon.'
'Very good,' replied the cashier. 'Have you been at the telegraph-office lately, Mr. Kenyon?'
'No, I have not--at least, not for half an hour or so.'
'Well, I would go there as soon as possible, if I were you.'
'That means,' said Von Brent, as soon as they had reached the door, 'that they have had their notice about the money. I believe it is already in the bank for you. I will go back to my rooms and not leave them till you come.'
John hurried to the telegraph-office.
'Anything for me yet?' he said.
'Nothing as yet, Mr. Kenyon; I think, however,' he added with a smile, 'that it will be all right. I hope so.'
The moments ticked along with their usual rapidity, yet it seemed to Kenyon the clock was going fearfully fast. Eleven o'clock came and found him still pacing up and down the office of the telegraph. The operator offered him the hospitality of the private room, but this he declined. Every time the machine clicked, John's ears were on the alert, trying to catch a meaning from the instrument.
Ten minutes after eleven!
Twenty minutes after eleven, and still no despatch! The cold perspiration stood on John's brow, and he groaned aloud.
'I suppose it's very important,' said the operator.
'Well, now, I shouldn't say so, but I know the money is in the bank for you. Perhaps if you went up there and demanded it, they would give it to you.'
It was twenty-five minutes past the hour when John hurried towards the bank.
'I have every belief,' he said to the cashier, 'that the money is here for me now. Is it possible for me to get it?'
'Have you your cablegram?'
'No, I have not.'
'Well, you know, we cannot pay the money until we see your cablegram. If time is of importance, you should not leave the telegraph-office, and the moment you get your message, come here; then there will be no delay whatever. Do you wish to draw all the money at once?'
'I don't know how much there is, but I must have twenty thousand pounds.'
'Very well, to save time you had better make out a cheque for twenty thousand pounds; that will be----'
And here he gave the number of dollars at the rate of the day on the pound. 'Just make out a cheque for that amount, and I will certify it. A certified cheque is as good as gold. The moment you get your message I will hand you the certified cheque.'
John wrote out the order and gave it to the cashier, glancing at the clock as he did so. It was now twenty-five minutes to twelve. He rushed to the telegraph-office with all the speed of which he was capable, but met only a blank look again from the chief operator.
'It has not come yet,' he said, shaking his head.
Gradually despair began to descend on the waiting man. It was worse to miss everything now, than never to have had the hope of success. It was like hanging a man who had once been reprieved. He resumed his nervous pace up and down that chamber of torture. A quarter to twelve. He heard chimes ring somewhere. If the message did not come before they rang again, it would be for ever too late.
Fourteen minutes--thirteen minutes--twelve minutes--eleven minutes--ten minutes to twelve, and yet, no--
'Here you are!' shouted the operator in great glee, 'she's a-coming--it's all right--"John Kenyon, Ottawa."' Then he wrote as rapidly as the machine ticked out the message. 'There it is; now rush!'
John needed no telling to rush. People had begun to notice him as the man who was doing nothing but running between the bank and the telegraph-office.
It was seven minutes to twelve when he got to the bank.
'Is that despatch right?' he said, shoving it through the arched aperture.
The clerk looked at it with provoking composure, and then compared it with some papers.
'For God's sake, hurry!' pleaded John.
'You have plenty of time,' said the cashier coolly, looking up at the clock and going on with his examination. 'Yes,' he added, 'that is right. Here is your certified cheque.'
John clasped it, and bolted out of the bank as a burglar might have done. It was five minutes to twelve when he got to the steps that led to the rooms of Mr. Von Brent. Now all his excitement seemed to have deserted him. He was as cool and calm as if he had five days, instead of so many minutes, in which to make the payment. He mounted the steps quietly, walked along the passage, and knocked at the door of Von Brent's room.
'Come in!' was the shout that greeted him.
He opened the door, glancing at the clock behind Von Brent's head as he did so.
It stood at three minutes to twelve.
Young Mr. Longworth was sitting there, with just a touch of pallor on his countenance, and there seemed to be an ominous glitter in his eyeglass. He said nothing, and John Kenyon completely ignored his presence.
'There is still some life left in my option, I believe?' he said to Von Brent, after nodding good-day to him.
'Very little, but perhaps it will serve. You have two minutes and a half,' said Von Brent.
'Are the papers ready?' inquired John.
'All ready, everything except putting in the names.'
'Very well, here is the money.'
Von Brent looked at the certified cheque. 'That is perfectly right,' he said, 'the mine is yours.'
Then he rose and stretched his hand across the table to Kenyon, who grasped it cordially.
Young Mr. Longworth also rose, and said languidly 'As this seems to be a meeting of long-lost brothers, I shall not intrude. Good-day, Mr. Von Brent.'
Then, adjusting his eyeglass in a leisurely manner, he walked out of the room.