A Woman Intervenes by Robert Barr
Wentworth had written to Kenyon that Mr. Smith absolutely refused to take more than one-third of the profits of the mine. It was true that the offer had been declined, but Wentworth never knew how much tempted the Mistress of the Mine had been when he made it. Her one great desire was to pay back the thirty thousand pounds to her father, and she wanted to do it as speedily as possible. At the end of the second year her profits from the mine, including the return of the five thousand pounds which had been sent to Ottawa as working capital, was still about five thousand pounds under the thirty thousand pounds. She looked forward eagerly to the time when she would be able to pay the thirty thousand pounds to her father. Old Mr. Longworth had never spoken a word to his daughter about the money. She had expected he would ask her what she had done with it, but he had never mentioned the subject. Her conscience troubled her very frequently about the method she had taken to obtain that large amount. She saw that her father had changed in his manner towards her since that day. He had given her the money, but he had given it, as one might say, almost under compulsion, and there was no doubt that, generous as he was, he did not like being coerced into parting with his money. Edith Longworth had paid more for the mine than the amount of cash she had deposited in Ottawa. She had paid for it by being cut off from her father's confidence. Now he never asked her advice about any of his business ventures, and, for the first time in many years, he had taken a long sea-voyage without inviting her to accompany him. All this made the girl more and more anxious to obtain the money to pay back her indebtedness, and, if Wentworth had made the same offer at the end of the second year which he had made at the close of the first, she would have accepted it. The offer, however, was not made, and Miss Longworth said nothing, but took her share of the profits and put them into the bank.
The plan of placing all one's eggs into the same basket is a good one--until something happens to the basket! It is said that lightning never strikes twice in the same place, and, as the small boy remarked, 'it never needed to.' In Mr. Longworth's affairs lightning struck in three places, and in each of those strokes it hit a large basket. A new law had been passed in one part of the world that vitally affected great interests he held there. In another part of the world, at the same time, there occurred a revolution, and every business in that country stopped for the time being. In still another part of the world there had been a commercial crisis; and, in sympathy with all these financial disasters, the money market in London was exceedingly stringent.
Everybody wanted to sell, and nobody wished to buy. This unfortunate combination of circumstances hit old Mr. Longworth hard. It was not that he did not believe all his investments were secure, could he only weather the gale, but there was an immediate need of ready money which it seemed absolutely impossible to obtain. Day by day his daughter saw him ageing perceptibly. She knew worry was the cause of this, and she knew the events that were happening in different parts of the world must seriously embarrass her father. She longed to speak to him about his business, but one attempt she made in this direction had been very rudely rebuffed, and she was not a woman to tempt a second repulse of that kind. So she kept silent, and saw with grief the havoc business troubles were making with her father's health.
'The old man,' said young Longworth, 'seems to be in a corner.'
'I do not want you ever again to allude to my father as "the old man"--remember that!' cried the girl indignantly.
Young Longworth shrugged his shoulders, and said:
'I don't think you can insist on my calling him a young man much longer. If he isn't an old man, I should like to know who is?'
'That doesn't matter,' said Edith. 'You must not use such a phrase again in my hearing. What do you mean by saying he is in a corner?'
'Well,' returned the young man, 'I don't know much about his business. He does not take me into his confidence at all. In fact, the older he grows, the closer he gets, and the chances are he will make some very bad speculation before long, if he has not done so already. That is the way with old men, begging your pardon for using the phrase. It is not levelled against your father in this instance, but at old men as a class, especially men who have been successful. They seem to resent anybody giving them advice.'
One day Edith received a telegram, asking her to come to the office in the City without delay. She was panic-stricken when she read the message, feeling sure her father had been stricken down in his office, and was probably dying--perhaps dead. She had feared some such result for a long time, because of the intense anxiety to which he had been subjected, and he was not a man who could be counselled to take care of himself on the plea that he was getting old. He resented any intimation that he was not as good a business man as he had ever been, and so it was extremely difficult to get him to listen to reason, if anyone had the courage to talk reason to him.
Edith, without a moment's delay, sprang lightly into a hansom, and went to the District Railway without waiting for her carriage. From the Mansion House Station another cab took her quickly to her father's office.
She was immensely relieved, as she passed through, to see the clerks working as if nothing particular had happened. On entering her father's room, she found him pacing up and down the apartment, while her cousin sat, apparently absorbed in his own affairs, at his desk. Her father was evidently greatly excited.
'Edith,' he cried the moment she entered, 'where is that money I gave you two years ago?'
'It is invested,' she answered, turning slightly pale.
Her father laughed--a hoarse, dry laugh.
'Just as I thought,' he sneered--'put in such shape that a person cannot touch a penny of it, I suppose. In what is it invested? I must have that money.'
'How soon do you need it, father?
'I want it just now, at this moment; if I don't have that money I am a ruined man.'
'This moment. I suppose, means any time to-day, before the bank closes?'
Her father looked at her for a moment, then said:
'Yes that is what it means.
'I will try and get you the money before that time.'
'My dear girl,' he said bitterly, 'you don't know what you are talking about. If you have that money invested, even if your investment is worth three times now what it was then, you could not get a penny on it. Don't you know the state of the London money market? Don't you know how close money is? I thought perhaps you might have some portion of it yet, not sunk in your silly investment, whatever it is. I have never asked you what it was. You told me you would tell me, but you never have done so. I looked on that money as lost. I look on it still as lost. If you can get me a remnant of it, it will help me now more than the whole amount, or double the amount, would have done at the time I gave it to you. What have you done with the money? What is it invested in?'
'It is invested in a mine.'
'A mine. Of all things in the world in which to sink money, a mine is the worst. Just what a woman or a fool would do! How do you expect to raise money on a mine in the present state of the market? What, in the name of wonder, made you put it into a mine? Whose mine did you buy?'
'I do not know whose it was, father, but I was willing to tell you all I knew at the time you asked me and if you ask me now what mine I bought, I will tell you.'
'Certainly I ask you. What mine did you buy?'
'I bought the mine for which John Kenyon was agent.'
The moment these words were said, her cousin sprang to his feet and glared at her like a man demented.
'You bought that mine--you? Then Wentworth lied to me. He said a Mr. Smith had given him the money.'
'I am the Mr. Smith, William.'
'You are the Mr. Smith! You are the one who has cheated me out of that mine!'
'My dear cousin, the less we say about cheating, the better. I am talking to my father just now, and I do not wish to be interrupted. Will you be so kind as to leave the room until my interview with him is over?'
'So you bought the mica-mine, did you! Pretending to be friendly with me, and knowing all the time that you were doing your best to cheat----'
'Come, come!' interrupted the old gentleman; 'William, none of this. If anyone is to talk roughly to Edith, it will be me, not you. Come, sir, leave the room, as she has asked you to do. Now, my daughter,' he continued, in a much milder tone of voice, after young Longworth had left the office, 'have you any ready money? It is no use saying the mine is worth a hundred thousand pounds, or a million, just now, if you haven't the ready money. Edith, my child,' he cried, 'sit down with me a moment, and I will explain the whole situation to you. It seems to me that ever since I stopped consulting you things have gone wrong. Perhaps, even if you have the money, it is better not to risk it just now; but one pound will do what two pounds will not do a year hence, or perhaps six months from now, when this panic is over.'
Edith sat down beside her father and heard from him exactly how things stood. Then she said:
'All you really need is about fifteen thousand pounds?'
'Yes, that would do; I'm sure that would carry me over. Can you get it for me, my child?'
'Yes, and more. I will try to get you the whole amount. Wait for me here twenty minutes or half an hour.'
George Wentworth was very much surprised when he saw Edith Longworth enter his office. It had been many months since she was there before, and he cordially held out his hand to the girl.
'Mr. Wentworth,' she began at once, 'have you any of the money the mica mine has brought you?'
'Yes. I invested the first year's proceeds, but, since I got the last amount, things have been so shaky in the City that it is still at the bank.'
'Will you lend me--can you lend me five thousand pounds of it?'
'Of, course I can, and will; and very glad I am to get the chance of doing so.'
'Then, please write me out a cheque for it at once, and whatever papers you want as security, make them out, and I will see that you are secured.'
'Look here, Miss Longworth,' said the young man, placing his hands on his hips and gazing at her, 'do you mean to insult me? Do you not know that the reason I am able to write out a cheque for five thousand pounds, that will be honoured, is entirely because you trusted your money to me and Kenyon without security? Do you think I want security? Take back the word, Miss Longworth.'
'I will--I will,' she said; 'but I am in a great hurry. Please write me out the cheque, for I must have it before the bank closes.'
The cheque was promptly written out and handed to her.
'I am afraid,' she said, 'I am not very polite to-day, and rather abrupt; but I will make up for it some other time.'
And so, bidding the young man good-bye, she drove to the bank, deposited the cheque, drew her own for thirty thousand pounds, and carried it to her father.
'There,' she said, 'is thirty thousand pounds, and I still own the mine, or, at least, part of it. All the money is made from the cheque you gave me, or, rather, two-thirds of it, because one-third was never touched. Now, it seems to me, father, that, if I am a good enough business woman to more than double my money in two years, I am a good enough business woman to be consulted by my father whenever he needs a confidant. My dear father, I want to take some of the burden off your shoulders.'
There were tears in her father's eyes as he put his arm round her waist and whispered to her:
'There is no one in all London like you, my dear--no one, no one. I'll have no more secrets from you, my own brave girl.'