A Woman Intervenes by Robert Barr
When the business of transferring the mine to its new owner was completed, John Kenyon went to the telegraph-office, and sent a short cable-message to Wentworth. Then he turned his steps to the hotel, an utterly exhausted man. The excitement and tension of the day had been too much for him, and he felt that, if he did not get out of the city of Ottawa and into the country, where there were fewer people and more air, he was going to be ill. He resolved to leave for the mine as soon as possible. There he would get affairs in as good order as might be, and keep things going until he heard from the owner. When he reached his hotel, he wrote a letter to Wentworth, detailing briefly the circumstances under which he had secured the mine, and dealing with other more personal matters. Having posted this, he began to pack his portmanteau, preparatory to leaving early next morning. While thus occupied, the bell-boy came into his room, and said:
'There is a gentleman wants to see you.'
He imagined at once that it was Von Brent, who wished to see him with regard to some formality relating to the transfer, and he was, therefore, very much astonished--in fact, for the moment speechless--when Mr. William Longworth entered and calmly gazed round the rather shabby room with his critical eyeglass.
'Ah,' he said, 'these are your diggings, are they? This is what they call a dollar hotel, I suppose, over here. Well, some people may like it, but, I confess, I don't care much about it, myself. Their three or four dollars a day hotels are bad enough for me. By the way, you look rather surprised to see me; being strangers together in a strange country, I expected a warmer greeting. You said last night, in front of the Russell House, that it would please you very much to give me a warm greeting; perhaps you would like to do so to-night.'
'Have you come up here to provoke a quarrel with me?' asked Kenyon.
'Oh, bless you, no! Quarrel! Nothing of the sort. What should I want to quarrel about?'
'Perhaps you will be good enough to tell me why you come here, then?'
'A very reasonable request. Very reasonable indeed, and perfectly natural, but still quite unnecessary. It is not likely that a man would climb up here into your rooms, and then not be prepared to tell you why he came. I came, in the first place, to congratulate you on the beautiful and dramatic way in which you secured the mine at the last moment, or apparently at the last moment. I suppose you had the money all the time?'
'No, I had not.'
'Then you came in to Von Brent just as soon as you received it?'
'Well, now, I don't see that it is the business of anyone else but myself. Still, if you want to know, I may say that I came to Mr. Von Brent's room at the moment I received the money.'
'Really! Then it was sent over by cable, I presume?'
'Your presumption is entirely correct.'
'My dear Kenyon,' said the young man, seating himself without being asked, and gazing at John in a benevolent kind of way, 'you really show some temper over this little affair of yours. Now, here is the whole thing in a nutshell----'
'My dear sir, I don't wish to hear the whole thing, in a nutshell. I know all about it--all I wish to know.'
'Ah, precisely; of course you do; certainly; but, nevertheless, let me have my say. Here is the whole thing. I tried to--well, to cheat you. I thought I could make a little money by doing so, and my scheme failed. Now, if anybody should be in a bad temper, it is I, not you. Don't you see that? You are not acting your part well at all. I'm astonished at you!'
'Mr. Longworth, I wish to have nothing whatever to say to you. If you have anything to ask, I wish you would ask it as quickly as possible, and then leave me alone.'
'The chief fault I find with you, Kenyon,' said Longworth, throwing one leg over the other, and clasping his hands round his knee--'the chief fault I have to find is your painful lack of a sense of humour. Now, you remember last night I offered you the managership of the mine. I thought, certainly, that by this time to-day I should be owner of it, or, at least, one of the owners. Now, you don't appear to appreciate the funniness of the situation. Here you are the owner of the mine, and I am out in the cold--"left," as they say here in America. I am the man who is left----'
'If that is all you have to talk about,' said Kenyon gravely, 'I must ask you to allow me to go on with my packing. I am going to the mine to-morrow.'
'Certainly, my dear fellow; go at once and never mind me. Can I be of any assistance to you? It requires a special genius, you know, to pack a portmanteau properly. But what I wanted to say was this: Why didn't you turn round, when you had got the mine, and offer me the managership of it? Then you would have had your revenge. The more I think of that episode in Von Brent's office, the more I think you utterly failed to realize the dramatic possibilities of the situation.'
Kenyon was silent.
'Now, all this time you are wondering why I came here. Doubtless you wish to know what I want.'
'I have not the slightest interest in the matter,' said Kenyon.
'That is ungracious, but, nevertheless, I will continue. It is better, I see, to be honest with you, if a man wants to get anything from you. Now, I want to get a bit of information from you. I want to know where you got the money with which you bought the mine?'
'I got it from the bank.'
'Ah, yes, but I want to know who sent it over to you?'
'It was sent to me by George Wentworth.'
'Quite so; but now I want to know who gave Wentworth the money?'
'You will have a chance of finding that out when you go to England, by asking him.'
'Then you won't tell me?'
'I can't tell you.'
'You mean by that, of course, that you won't.'
'I always mean, Mr. Longworth, exactly what I say. I mean that I can't tell you. I don't know myself.'
'Yes, really. You seem to have some difficulty in believing that anybody can speak the truth.'
'Well, it isn't a common vice, speaking the truth. You must forgive a little surprise.' He nursed his knee for a moment, and looked meditatively up at the ceiling. 'Now, would you like to know who furnished that money?'
'I have no curiosity in the matter whatever.'
'Have you not? You are a singular man. It seems to me that a person into whose lap twenty thousand pounds drops from the skies would have some little curiosity to know from whom the money came.'
'I haven't the slightest.'
'Nevertheless, I will tell you who gave the money to Wentworth. It was my dear friend Melville. I didn't tell you in New York, of course, that Melville and I had a little quarrel about this matter, and he went home decidedly huffy. I had no idea he would take this method of revenge; but I see it quite clearly now. He knew I had secured the option of the mine. There was a little trouble as to what our respective shares were to be, and I thought, as I had secured the option, I had the right to dictate terms. He thought differently. He was going to Von Brent to explain the whole matter; but I pointed out that such a course would do no good, the option being legally made out in my name, so that the moment your claim expired mine began. When this dawned upon him, he took the steamer and went to England. Now, I can see his hand in this artistic finish to the affair. It was a pretty sharp trick of Melville's, and I give him credit for it. He is a very much shrewder and cleverer man than I thought he was.'
'It seems to me, Mr. Longworth, that your inordinate conceit makes you always underestimate your friends, or your enemies either, for that matter.'
'There is something in that, Kenyon; I think you are more than half right, but I thought, perhaps, I could make it advantageous to you to do me a favour in this matter. I thought you might have no objection to writing a little document to the effect that the money did not come in time, and consequently, I had secured the mine. Then, if you would sign that, I would take it over to Melville and make terms with him. Of course, if he knows that he has the mine there will not be much chance of coming to any arrangement with him.'
'You can make no arrangements with me, Mr. Longworth, that involve sacrifice of the truth.'
'Ah, well, I suspected as much; but I thought it was worth trying. However, my dear sir, I may make terms with Melville yet, and then, I imagine, you won't have much to do with the mine.'
'I shall not have anything to do with it if you and Melville have a share in it; and if, as you suspect, Melville has the mine, I consider you are in a bad way. My opinion is that, when one rascal gets advantage over another rascal, the other rascal will be, as you say, "left."'
Longworth mused over this for a moment, and said:
'Yes, I fear you are right--in fact, I am certain of it. Well, that is all I wanted to know. I will bid you good-bye. I shan't see you again in Ottawa, as I shall sail very shortly for England. Have you any messages you would like given to your friends over there?'
'None, thank you.'
'Well, ta-ta!' And John was left to his packing. That necessary operation concluded, Kenyon sat down and thought over what young Longworth had told him. His triumph, after all, had been short-lived. The choice between the two scoundrels was so small that he felt he didn't care which of them owned the mine. Meditating on this disagreeable subject, he suddenly remembered a request he had asked Wentworth to place before the new owner of the mine. He wanted no favour from Melville, so he wrote a second letter, contradicting the request made in the first, and, after posting it, returned to his hotel, and went to bed, probably the most tired man in the city of Ottawa.