A Woman Intervenes by Robert Barr
Steamer friendships ripen quickly. It is true that, as a general thing, they perish with equal suddenness. The moment a man sets his foot on solid land the glamour of the sea seems to leave him, and the friend to whom he was ready to swear eternal fealty while treading the deck, is speedily forgotten on shore. Edith Longworth gave no thought to the subject of the innocent nature of steamer friendships when she reviewed in her own mind her pleasant walk along the deck with Kenyon. She had met many interesting people during her numerous voyages, but they had all proved to be steamer acquaintances, whose names she had now considerable difficulty in remembering. Perhaps she would not have given a second thought to Mr. Kenyon that night if it had not been for some ill-considered remarks her cousin saw fit to make at the dinner-table.
'Who was that fellow you were walking with today?' young Longworth asked.
Edith smiled upon him pleasantly, and answered:
'Mr. Kenyon you mean, I suppose?'
'Oh, you know his name, do you?' he answered gruffly.
'Certainly,' she replied; 'I would not walk with a gentleman whose name I did not know.'
'Really?' sneered her cousin. 'And pray were you introduced to him?'
'I do not think,' answered Edith quietly, 'any person has a right to ask me that question except my father. He has not asked it, and, as you have, I will merely answer that I was introduced to Mr. Kenyon.'
'I did not know you had any mutual acquaintance on board who could make you known to each other.'
'Well, the ceremony was a little informal. We were introduced by our mutual friend, old Father Neptune. Father Neptune, being, as you know, a little boisterous this morning, took the liberty of flinging me upon Mr. Kenyon. I weigh something more than a feather, and the result was--although Mr. Kenyon was good enough to say he was uninjured--that the chair on which he sat had not the same consideration for my feelings, and it went down with a crash. I thought Mr. Kenyon should take my chair in exchange for the one I had the misfortune to break, but Mr. Kenyon thought otherwise. He said he was a mining engineer, and that he could not claim to be a very good one if he found any difficulty in mending a deck-chair. It seems he succeeded in doing so, and that is the whole history of my introduction to, and my intercourse with, Mr. Kenyon, Mining Engineer.'
'Most interesting and romantic,' replied the young man; 'and do you think that your father approves of your picking up indiscriminate acquaintances in this way?'
Edith, flushing a little at this, said:
'I would not willingly do what my father disapproved of;' then in a lower voice she added: 'except, perhaps, one thing.'
Her father, who had caught snatches of the conversation, now leaned across towards his nephew, and said warningly:
'I think Edith is quite capable of judging for herself. This is my seventh voyage with her, and I have always found such to be the case. This happens to be your first, and so, were I you, I would not pursue the subject further.'
The young man was silent, and Edith gave her father a grateful glance. Thus it was that, while she might not have given a thought to Kenyon, the remarks which her cousin had made, brought to her mind, when she was alone, the two young men, and the contrast between them was not at all to the advantage of her cousin.
The scrubbing-brushes on the deck above him woke Kenyon early next morning. For a few moments after getting on deck he thought he had the ship to himself. One side of the deck was clean and wet; on the other side the men were slowly moving the scrubbing-brushes backward and forward, with a drowsy swish-swish. As he walked up the deck, he saw there was one passenger who had been earlier than himself.
Edith Longworth turned round as she heard his step, and her face brightened into a smile when she saw who it was.
Kenyon gravely raised his steamer cap and bade her 'Good-morning.'
'You are an early riser, Mr. Kenyon.'
'Not so early as you are, I see.'
'I think I am an exceptional passenger in that way,' replied the girl. 'I always enjoy the early morning at sea. I like to get as far forward on the steamer as possible, so that there is nothing between me and the boundless anywhere. Then it seems as if the world belongs to myself, with nobody else in it.'
'Isn't that a rather selfish view?' put in Kenyon.
'Oh, I don't think so. There is certainly nothing selfish in my enjoyment of it; but, you know, there are times when one wishes to be alone, and to forget everybody.'
'I hope I have not stumbled upon one of those times.'
'Oh, not at all, Mr. Kenyon,' replied his companion, laughing. 'There was nothing personal in the remark. If I wished to be alone, I would have no hesitation in walking off. I am not given to hinting; I speak plainly--some of my friends think a little too plainly. Have you ever been on the Pacific Ocean?'
'Ah, there the mornings are delicious. It is very beautiful here now, but in summer on the Pacific some of the mornings are so calm and peaceful and fresh, that it would seem as if the world had been newly made.'
'You have travelled a great deal, Miss Longworth. I envy you.'
'I often think I am a person to be envied, but there may come a shipwreck one day, and then I shall not be in so enviable a position.'
'I sincerely hope you may never have such an experience.'
'Have you ever been shipwrecked, Mr. Kenyon?'
'Oh no; my travelling experiences are very limited. But to read of a shipwreck is bad enough.'
'We have had a most delightful voyage so far. Quite like summer. One can scarcely believe that we left America in the depth of winter, with snow everywhere and the thermometer ever so far below zero. Have you mended your deck-chair yet, sufficiently well to trust yourself upon it again?'
'Oh!' said Kenyon, with a laugh, 'you really must not make fun of my amateur carpentering like that. As I told you, I am a mining engineer, and if I cannot mend a deck-chair, what would you expect me to do with a mine?'
'Have you had much to do with mines?' asked the young woman.
'I am just beginning,' replied Kenyon; 'this, in fact, is one of my first commissions. I have been sent with my friend Wentworth to examine certain mines on the Ottawa River.'
'The Ottawa River!' cried Edith. 'Are you one of those who were sent out by the London Syndicate?'
'Yes,' answered Kenyon with astonishment. 'What do you know about it?'
'Oh, I know everything about it. Everything, except what the mining expert's report is to be, and that information, I suppose, you have; so, between the two of us, we know a great deal about the fortunes of the London Syndicate.'
'Really! I am astonished to meet a young lady who knows anything about the matter. I understood it was rather a secret combination up to the present.'
'Ah! but, you see, I am one of the syndicate.'
'Certainly,' answered Edith Longworth, laughing. 'At least, my father is, and that is the same thing, or almost the same thing. We intended to go to Canada ourselves, and I was very much disappointed at not going. I understand that the sleighing, and the snowshoeing, and the tobogganing are something wonderful.'
'I saw very little of the social side of life in the district, my whole time being employed at the mines; but even in the mining village where we stayed, they had a snowshoe club, and a very good toboggan slide--so good, in fact, that, having gone down once, I never ventured to risk my life on it again.'
'If my father knew you were on board, he would be anxious to meet you. Doubtless you know the London Syndicate will be a very large company.'
'Yes, I am aware of that.'
'And you know that a great deal is going to depend upon your report?'
'I suppose that is so, and I hope the syndicate will find my report at least an honest and thorough one.'
'Is the colleague who was with you also on board?'
'Yes, he is here.'
'He, then, was the accountant who was sent out?'
'Yes, and he is a man who does his business very thoroughly, and I think the syndicate will be satisfied with his work.'
'And do you not think they will be satisfied with yours also? I am sure you did your work conscientiously.'
Kenyon almost blushed as the young woman made this remark, but she looked intently at him, and he saw that her thoughts were not on him, but on the large interests he represented.
'Were you favourably impressed with the Ottawa as a mining region?' she asked.
'Very much so,' he answered, and, anxious to turn the conversation away from his own report, he said: 'I was so much impressed with it that I secured the option of a mine there for myself.'
'Oh! do you intend to buy one of the mines there?'
'No, I am no capitalist seeking investment for my money, but I saw that the mine contained possibilities of producing a great deal of money for those who possess it. It is very much more valuable, in my opinion, than the owners themselves suspect; so I secured an option upon it for three months, and hope when I reach England to form a company to take it up.'
'Well, I am sure,' said the young lady, 'if you are confident that the mine is a good one, you could see no one who would help you more in that way than my father. He has been looking at a brewery business he thought of investing in, but which he has concluded to have nothing to do with, so he will be anxious to find something reliable in its place. How much would be required for the purchase of the mine you mention?'
'I was thinking of asking fifty thousand pounds for it,' said Kenyon, flushing, as he thought of his own temerity in more than doubling the price of the mine.
Wentworth and he had estimated the probable value of the mine, and had concluded that even selling it at that price--which would give them thirty thousand pounds to divide between them--they were selling a mine that was really worth very much more, and would soon pay tremendous dividends on the fifty thousand pounds. He expected the young woman to be impressed by the amount, and was, therefore, very much surprised when she said:
'Fifty thousand pounds! Is that all? Then I am afraid my father would have nothing to do with it. He only deals with large businesses, and a company with a capitalization of fifty thousand pounds I am sure he would not look at.'
'You talk of fifty thousand pounds,' said Kenyon, 'as if it were a mere trifle. To me it seems an immense fortune. I only wish I had it, or half of it.'
'You are not rich, then?' said the girl, with apparent interest.
'No,' replied the young man. 'Far otherwise.'
At that moment the elder Mr. Longworth appeared in the door of the companion-way, and looked up and down the deck.
'Oh, here you are,' he said, as his daughter sprang from her chair.
'Father,' she cried, 'let me introduce to you Mr. Kenyon, who is the mining expert sent out by our syndicate to look at the Ottawa mines.'
'I am pleased to meet you,' said the elder gentleman.
The capitalist sat down beside the mining engineer, and began, somewhat to Kenyon's embarrassment, to talk of the London Syndicate.