A Woman Intervenes by Robert Barr
Kenyon's luck, as he said to himself, had turned. The second year was even more prosperous than the first, and the third as successful as the second. He had a steady market for his mineral, and, besides, he had the great advantage of knowing the rogues to avoid. Some new swindles he had encountered during his first year's experience had taught him lessons that he profited by in the second and third. He liked his home in the wilderness, and he liked the rough people amongst whom he found himself.
Notwithstanding his renunciation of London, however, there would now and then come upon him a yearning for the big city, and he promised himself a trip there at the end of the third year. Wentworth had been threatening month after month to come out and see him, but something had always interfered.
Taking it all in all, John liked it better in the winter than in the summer, in spite of the extreme cold. The cold was steady and could be depended upon; moreover, it was healthful and invigorating. In summer, John never quite became accustomed to the ravages of the black fly, the mosquito, and other insect pests of that region. His first interview with the black fly left his face in such a condition that he was glad he lived in a wilderness.
At the beginning of the second winter John treated himself to a luxury. He bought a natty little French Canadian horse that was very quick and accustomed to the ice of the river, which formed the highway by which he reached Burntpine from the mine in the cold season. To supplement the horse, he also got a comfortable little cutter, and with this turn-out he made his frequent journeys between the mine and Burntpine with comfort and speed, wrapped snugly in buffalo robes.
If London often reverted to his mind, there was another subject that obtruded itself even more frequently. His increased prosperity had something to do with this. He saw that, if he was to have a third of the receipts of the mine, he was not to remain a poor man for very long, and this fact gave him a certain courage which had been lacking before. He wondered if she remembered him. Wentworth had said very little about her when he wrote, for his letters were largely devoted to enthusiastic eulogies of Jennie Brewster, and Kenyon, in spite of the confession he had made when his case seemed hopeless, was loath to write and ask his friend anything about Edith.
One day, on a clear sharp frosty winter morning, Kenyon had his little pony harnessed for his weekly journey to Burntpine. After the rougher part of the road between the mine and the river had been left behind, and the pony got down to her work on the ice, with the two white banks of snow on either side of the smooth track, John gave himself up to thinking about the subject which now so often engrossed his mind. Wrapped closely in his furs, with the cutter skimming along the ice, these thoughts found a pleasant accompaniment in the silvery tinkle of the bells which jingled around his horse's neck. As a general thing, he met no one on the icy road from the mine to the village. Sometimes there was a procession of sleighs bearing supplies for his own mine and those beyond, and when this procession was seen, Kenyon had to look out for some place by the side of the track where he could pull up his horse and cutter and allow the teams to pass. The snow on each side of the cutting was so deep that these bays were shovelled out here and there to permit teams to get past each other. He had gone halfway to the village, when he saw ahead of him a pair of horses which he at once recognised as those belonging to the hotel-keeper. He drew up in the first bay and awaited the approach of the sleigh. He saw that it contained visitors for himself, because the driver, on recognising him, had turned round and spoken to the occupants of the vehicle. As it came along, the man drew up and nodded to Kenyon, who, although ordinarily the most polite of men, did not return the salutation. He was stricken dumb with astonishment on seeing who was in the sleigh. One woman was so bundled up that not even her nose appeared out in the cold, but the smiling rosy face of the other needed no introduction to John Kenyon.
'Well, Mr. Kenyon,' cried a laughing voice, 'you did not expect to see me this morning, did you?'
'I confess I did not,' said John, 'and yet--.' Here he paused; he was going to say, 'and yet I was thinking of you,' but he checked himself.
Miss Longworth, who had a talent for reading the unspoken thoughts of John Kenyon, probably did not need to be told the end of the sentence.
'Are you going to the village?' she asked.
'I was going. I am not going now.'
'That's right. I was just about to invite you to turn round with us. You see, we are on our way to look at the mine, and, I suppose, we shall have to obtain the consent of the manager before we can do so.'
Miss Longworth's companion had emerged for a moment from her wraps and looked at John, but instantly retired among the furs again with a shiver. She was not so young as her companion, and she considered this the most frightful climate she had ever encountered.
'Now,' said John, 'although your sleigh is very comfortable, I think this cutter of mine is even more so. It is intended for two; won't you step out of the sleigh into the cutter? Then, if the driver will move on, I can turn, and we will follow the sleigh.'
'I shall be delighted to do so,' said the young woman, shaking herself free from the buffalo robe, and stepping lightly from the sleigh into the cutter, pausing, however, for a moment, before she did so, to put her own wraps over her companion. John tucked her in beside himself, and, as the sleigh jingled on, he slowly turned his pony round into the road again.
'I have got a pretty fast pony,' he said, 'but I think we will let them drive on ahead. It irritates this little horse to see anything in front of it.'
'Then we can make up speed,' said Edith, 'and catch them before they get to the mine. Is it far from here?'
'No, not very far; at least, it doesn't take long to get there with a smart horse.'
'I have enjoyed this experience ever so much,' she said; 'you see, my father had to come to Montreal on business, so I came with him, as usual, and, being there, I thought I would run up here and see the mine. I wanted,' she continued, looking at the other side of the cutter and trailing her well-gloved fingers in the snow--'I wanted to know personally whether my manager was conducting my property in the way it ought to be conducted, notwithstanding the very satisfactory balance-sheets he sends.'
'Your property!' exclaimed John, in amazement.
'Certainly. You didn't know that, did you?' she replied, looking for a moment at him, and then away from him. 'I call myself the Mistress of the Mine.'
'Then you are--you are----'
'Mr. Smith,' said the girl coming to his rescue.
There was a moment's pause, and the next words John said were not at all what she expected.
'Take your hand out of the snow,' he commanded, 'and put it in under the buffalo robe; you have no idea how cold it is here, and your hand will be frozen in a moment.'
'Really,' said the girl, 'an employee must not talk to his employer in that tone! My hand is my own, is it not?'
'I hope it is,' said John, 'because I want to ask you for it.'
For answer Miss Edith Longworth placed her hand in his.
Actions speak louder than words. The sleigh was far in advance, and there were no witnesses on the white topped hills.
'Were you astonished?' she said, 'when I told you that I owned the mine?'
'Very much so indeed. Were you astonished when I told you I wished to own the owner of the mine?'
'Not in the slightest.'
'Because your treacherous friend Wentworth sent me your letter applying for a situation. You got the situation, didn't you, John?'