A Woman Intervenes by Robert Barr
This chapter consists largely of letters. As a general rule, letters are of little concern to anyone except the writers and the receivers, but they are inserted here in the hope that the reader is already well enough acquainted with the correspondents to feel some interest in what they have written.
It was nearly a fortnight after the receipt of the cablegram from Kenyon that George Wentworth found, one morning, on his desk two letters, each bearing a Canadian postage-stamp. One was somewhat bulky and one was thin, but they were both from the same writer. He tore open the thin one first, without looking at the date stamped upon it. He was a little bewildered by its contents, which ran as follows:
'MY DEAR GEORGE,
'I have just heard that Melville is the man who has bought the mine. The circumstances of the case leave no doubt in my mind that such is the fact; therefore, please disregard the request I made as to employment in the letter I posted to you a short time ago. I feel a certain sense of disappointment in the fact that Melville is the owner of the mine. It seems I have only kept one rascal from buying it in order to put it in the hands of another rascal.
'Melville the owner!' cried Wentworth to himself. 'What could have put that into John's head? This letter is evidently the one posted a few hours before, so it will contain whatever request he has to make;' and, without delay, George Wentworth tore open the envelope of the second letter, which was obviously the one written first.
It contained a number of documents relating to the transfer of the mine. The letter from John himself went on to give particulars of the buying of the property. Then it continued:
'I wish you would do me a favour, George. Will you kindly ask the owner of the mine if he will give me charge of it? I am, of course, anxious to make it turn out as well as possible, and I believe I can more than earn my salary, whatever it is. You know I am not grasping in the matter of money, but get me as large a salary as you think I deserve. I desire to make money for reasons that are not entirely selfish, as you know. To tell you the truth, George, I am tired of cities and of people. I want to live here in the woods, where there is not so much deceit and treachery as there seems to be in the big towns. When I reached London last time, I felt like a boy getting home. My feelings have undergone a complete change, and I think, if it were not for you and a certain young lady, I should never care to see the big city again. What is the use of my affecting mystery, and writing the words "a certain young lady"? Of course, you know whom I mean--Miss Edith Longworth. You know, also, that I am, and have long been, in love with her. If I had succeeded in making the money I thought I should by selling the mine, I might have had some hopes of making more, and of ultimately being in a position to ask her to be my wife; but that and very many other hopes have disappeared with my recent London experiences. I want to get into the forest and recover some of my lost tone, and my lost faith in human nature. If you can arrange matters with the owner of the mine, so that I may stay here for a year or two, you will do me a great favour.'
George Wentworth read over the latter part of this letter two or three times. Then he rose, paced the floor, and pondered.
'It isn't a thing upon which I can ask anyone's advice,' he muttered to himself. 'The trouble with Kenyon is, he is entirely too modest; a little useful self-esteem would be just the thing for him.' At last he stopped suddenly in his walk. 'By Jove!' he said to himself, slapping his thigh, 'I shall do it, let the consequences be what they may.'
Then he sat down at his desk and wrote a letter.
'DEAR Miss LONGWORTH' (it began),
'You told me when you were here last that you wanted all the documents pertaining to the mine, in every instance. A document has come this morning that is rather important. John Kenyon, as you will learn by reading the letter, desires the managership of the mine. I need not say that I think he is the best man in the world for the position, and that everything will be safe in his hands. I therefore enclose you his letter. I had some thought of cutting out a part of it, but knowing your desire to have all the documents in the case, I take the liberty of sending this one exactly as it reached me, and if anyone is to blame, I am the person.
'I remain, your agent,
He sent this letter out at once, so that he would not have a chance to change his mind.
'It will reach her this afternoon, and doubtless she will call and see me.'
It is, perhaps, hardly necessary to say she did not call, and she did not see him for many days afterwards; but next morning, when he came to his office, he found a letter from her. It ran:
'DEAR MR. WENTWORTH,
'The sending of Mr. Kenyon's letter to me is a somewhat dangerous precedent, which you must on no account follow by sending any letters you may receive from any other person to Mr. Kenyon. However, as you were probably aware when you sent the letter, no blame will rest on your shoulders, or on those of anyone else, in this instance. Still, be very careful in future, because letter-sending, unabridged, is sometimes a risky thing to do. You are to remember that I always want all the documents in the case, and I want them with nothing eliminated. I am very much obliged to you for forwarding the letter.
'As to the managership of the mine, of course I thought Mr. Kenyon would desire to come back to London. If he is content to stay abroad, and really wants to stay there, I wish you would tell him that Mr. Smith is exceedingly pleased to know he is willing to take charge of the mine. It would not look businesslike on the part of Mr. Smith to say that Mr. Kenyon is to name his own salary, but, unfortunately, Mr. Smith is very ignorant as to what a proper salary should be, so will you kindly settle that question? You know the usual salary for such an occupation. Please write down that figure, and add two hundred a year to it. Tell Mr. Kenyon the amount named is the salary Mr. Smith assigns to him.
'Pray be very careful in the wording of the letters, so that Mr. Kenyon will not have any idea who Mr. Smith is.
When Wentworth received this letter, being a man, he did not know whether Miss Longworth was pleased or not. However, he speedily wrote to John, telling him that he was appointed manager of the mine, and that Mr. Smith was very much pleased to have him in that capacity. He named the salary, but said if it was not enough, no doubt Mr. Smith was so anxious for his services that the amount would be increased.
John, when he got the letter, was more than satisfied.
At the time Wentworth was reading his letters, John had received those which had been sent when the mine was bought. He was relieved to find that Melville was not, after all, the owner; and he went to work with a will, intending to put in two or three years of his life, with hard labour, in developing the resources of the property. The first fortnight, before he received any letters, he did nothing but make himself acquainted with the way work was being carried on there. He found many things to improve. The machinery had been allowed to run down, and the men worked in the listless way men do when they are under no particular supervision. The manager of the mine was very anxious about his position. John told him the property had changed hands but, until he had further news from England, he could not tell just what would be done. When the letters came, John took hold with a will, and there was soon a decided improvement in the way affairs were going. He allowed the old manager to remain as a sort of sub-manager; but that individual soon found that the easy times of the Austrian Mining Company were for ever gone.
Kenyon had to take one or two long trips in Canada and the United States, to arrange for the disposal of the products of the mine; but, as a general rule, his time was spent entirely in the log village near the river.
When a year had passed, he was able to write a very jubilant letter to Wentworth.
'You see,' he said, 'after all, the mine was worth the two hundred thousand pounds we asked for it. It pays, even the first year, ten per cent. on that amount. This will give back all the mine has cost, and I think, George, the honest thing for us to do would be to let the whole proceeds go to Mr. Smith this year, who advanced the money at a critical time. This will recoup him for his outlay, because the working capital has not been touched. The mica has more than paid the working of the mine, and all the rest is clear profit. Therefore, if you are willing, we will let our third go this year, and then we can take our large dividend next year with a clear conscience. I enclose the balance-sheet.'
To this letter there came an answer in due time from Wentworth, who said that he had placed John's proposal before Mr. Smith; but it seemed the gentleman was so pleased with the profitable investment he had made that he would hear of no other division of the profits but that of share and share alike. He appeared to be very much touched by the offer John had made, and respected him for making it, but the proposed rescinding on his part and Wentworth's was a thing not to be thought of. This being the case, John sent a letter and a very large cheque to his father. The moment of posting that letter was, doubtless, one of the happiest of his life, and this ends the formidable array of letters which appears in this chapter.