A Woman Intervenes by Robert Barr
One morning, when Kenyon went to his state-room on hearing the breakfast-gong, he found the lazy occupant of the upper berth still in his bunk.
'Come, Wentworth,' he shouted, 'this won't do, you know. Get up! get up! breakfast, my boy! breakfast!--the most important meal in the day to a healthy man.'
Wentworth yawned and stretched his arms over his head.
'What's the row?' he asked.
'The row is, it's time to get up. The second gong has sounded.'
'Dear me! is it so late? I didn't hear it.' Wentworth sat up in his bunk, and looked ruefully over the precipice down the chasm to the floor. 'Have you been up long?' he asked.
'Long? I have been on deck an hour and a half,' answered Kenyon.
'Then, Miss What's-her-Name must have been there also.'
'Her name is Miss Longworth,' replied Kenyon, without looking at his comrade.
'That's her name, is it? and she was on deck?'
'I thought so,' said Wentworth; 'just look at the divine influence of woman! Miss Longworth rises early, therefore John Kenyon rises early. Miss Brewster rises late, therefore George Wentworth is not seen until breakfast-time. If the conditions were reversed, I suppose the getting-up time of the two men would be changed accordingly.'
'Not at all, George--not at all. I would rise early whether anybody else on board did or not. In fact, when I got on deck this morning, I expected to have it to myself.'
'I take it, though, that you were not grievously disappointed when you found you hadn't a monopoly?'
'Well, to tell the truth, I was not; Miss Longworth is a charmingly sensible girl.'
'Oh, they all are,' said Wentworth lightly. 'You had no sympathy for me the other day. Now you know how it is yourself, as they say across the water.'
'I don't know how it is myself. The fact is, we were talking business.'
'Really? Did you get so far?'
'Yes, we got so far, if that is any distance. I told her about the mica-mine.'
'Oh, you did! What did she say? Will she invest?'
'Well, when I told her we expected to form a company for fifty thousand pounds, she said it was such a small sum, she doubted if we could get anybody interested in it in London.'
Wentworth, who was now well advanced with his dressing, gave a long whistle.
'Fifty thousand pounds a small sum? Why, John, she must be very wealthy! Probably more so than the American millionairess.'
'Well, George, you see, the difference between the two young ladies is this: that while American heiresses are apt to boast of their immense wealth, English women say nothing about it.'
'If you mean Miss Brewster when you speak in that way, you are entirely mistaken. She has never alluded to her wealth at all, with the exception of saying that her father was a millionaire. So if the young woman you speak of has been talking of her wealth at all, she has done more than the American girl.'
'She said nothing to indicate she was wealthy. I merely conjectured it when I discovered she looked upon fifty thousand pounds as a triviality.'
'Well, the fault is easily remedied. We may raise the price of the mine to one hundred thousand pounds if we can get people to invest. Perhaps the young lady's father might care to go in for it at that figure.'
'Oh, by the way, Wentworth,' said Kenyon, 'I forgot to tell you, Miss Longworth's father is one of the London Syndicate.'
'By Jove! are you sure of that? How do you know? You weren't talking of our mission out there, were you?'
'Certainly not,' replied Kenyon, flushing. 'You don't think I would speak of that to a stranger, do you? nor of anything concerned with our reports.'
Wentworth proceeded with his dressing, a guilty feeling rising in his heart.
'I want to ask you a question about that.'
'About what?' said Wentworth shortly.
'About those mines. Miss Longworth's father being a member of the London Syndicate, suppose he asks what our views in relation to the matter are: would we be justified in telling him anything?'
'He won't ask me as I don't know him; he may ask you, and if he does, then you will have to decide the question for yourself.'
'Would you say anything about it if you were in my place?'
'Oh, I don't know. If we were certain it was all right--if you are sure he is a member of the syndicate, and he happens to ask you about it, I scarcely see how you can avoid telling him.'
'It would be embarrassing; so I hope he won't ask me. We should not speak of it until we give in our reports. He knows, however, that you are the accountant who has that part of the business in charge.'
'Oh, then you have been talking with him?'
'Just a moment or two, after his daughter introduced me.'
'What did you say his name was?'
'John Longworth, I believe. I am sure about the Longworth, but not about the John.'
'Oh, old John Longworth in the City! Certainly; I know all about him. I never saw him before, but I think we are quite safe in telling him anything he wants to know, if he asks.'
'Breakfast, gentlemen,' said the steward, putting his head in at the door.
After breakfast Edith Longworth and her cousin walked the deck together. Young Longworth, although in better humour than he had been the night before, was still rather short in his replies, and irritating in his questions.
'Aren't you tired of this eternal parade up and down?' he asked his cousin. 'It seems to me like a treadmill--as if a person had to work for his board and lodging.'
'Let us sit down then,' she replied; 'although I think a walk before lunch or dinner increases the attractiveness of those meals wonderfully.'
'I never feel the need of working up an appetite,' he answered pettishly.
'Well, as I said before, let us sit down;' and the girl, having found her chair, lifted the rug that lay upon it, and took her place.
The young man, after standing for a moment looking at her through his glistening monocle, finally sat down beside her.
'The beastly nuisance of living on board ship,' he said, 'is that you can't play billiards.'
'I am sure you play enough at cards to satisfy you during the few days we are at sea,' she answered.
'Oh, cards! I soon tire of them.'
'You tire very quickly of everything.'
'I certainly get tired of lounging about the deck, either walking or sitting.'
'Then, pray don't let me keep you.'
'You want me to go so you may walk with your newly-found friend, that miner fellow?'
'That miner fellow is talking with my father just now. Still, if you would like to know, I have no hesitation in telling you I would much prefer his company to yours if you continue in your present mood.'
'Yes, or in any mood.'
'I did not say that; but if it will comfort you to have me say it, I shall be glad to oblige you.'
'Perhaps, then, I should go and talk with your father, and let the miner fellow come here and talk with you.'
'Please do not call him the miner fellow. His name is Mr. Kenyon. It is not difficult to remember.'
'I know his name well enough. Shall I send him to you?'
'No. I want to talk with you in spite of your disagreeableness. And what is more, I want to talk with you about Mr. Kenyon. So I wish you to assume your very best behaviour. It may be for your benefit.'
The young man indulged in a sarcastic laugh.
'Oh, if you are going to do that, I have nothing more to say,' remarked Edith quietly, rising from her chair.
'I meant no harm. Sit down and go on with your talk.'
'Listen, then. Mr. Kenyon has the option of a mine in Canada, which he believes to be a good property. He intends to form a company when he reaches London. Now, why shouldn't you make friends with him, and, if you found the property is as good as he thinks it is, help him to form the company, and so make some money for both of you?'
'You are saying one word for me and two for Kenyon.'
'No, it would be as much for your benefit as for his, so it is a word for each of you.'
'You are very much interested in him.'
'My dear cousin, I am very much interested in the mine, and I am very much interested in you. Mr. Kenyon can speak of nothing but the mine, and I am sure my father would be pleased to see you take an interest in something of the sort. I mean, you know that if you would do something of your own accord--something that was not suggested to you by him--he would like it.'
'Well, it is suggested to me by you, and that's almost the same thing.'
'No, it is not the same thing at all. Father would indeed be glad if he saw you take up anything on your own account and make a success of it. Why can you not spend some of your time talking with Mr. Kenyon discussing arrangements, so that when you return to London you might be prepared to put the mine on the market and bring out the company?'
'If I thought you were talking to me for my own sake, I would do what you suggest; but I believe you are speaking only because you are interested in Kenyon.'
'Nonsense! How can you be so absurd? I have known Mr. Kenyon but for a few hours--a day or two at most.'
The young man pulled his moustache for a moment, adjusted his eyeglass, and then said:
'Very good. I will speak to Kenyon on the subject if you wish it, but I don't say that I can help him.'
'I don't ask you to help him. I ask you to help yourself. Here is Mr. Kenyon. Let me introduce you, and then you can talk over the project at your leisure.'
'I don't suppose an introduction is necessary,' growled the young man; but as Kenyon approached them, Edith Longworth said:
'We are a board of directors, Mr. Kenyon, on the great mica-mine. Will you join the Board now, or after allotment?' Then, before he could reply, she said: 'Mr. Kenyon, this is my cousin, Mr. William Longworth.'
Longworth, without rising from his chair, shook hands in rather a surly fashion.
'I am going to speak to my father,' said the girl, 'and will leave you to talk over the mica-mine.'
When she had gone, young Longworth asked Kenyon:
'Where is the mine my cousin speaks of?'
'It is near the Ottawa River, in Canada,' was the answer.
'And what do you expect to sell it for?'
'Fifty thousand pounds.'
'Fifty thousand pounds! That will leave nothing to divide up among--by the way, how many are there in this thing--yourself alone?'
'No; my friend Wentworth shares with me.'
'Share and share alike?'
'Of course, you think this mine is worth the money you ask for it--there is no swindle about it, is there?'
Kenyon drew himself up sharply as this remark was made. Then he answered coldly:
'If there was any swindle about it, I should have nothing to do with it.'
'Well, you see, I didn't know; mining swindles are not such rarities as you may imagine. If the mine is so valuable, why are the proprietors anxious to sell?'
'The owners are in Austria, and the mine in Canada, and so it is rather at arm's-length, as it were. They are mining for mica, but the mine is more valuable in other respects than it is as a mica property. They have placed a figure on the mine which is more than it has cost them so far.'
'You know its value in those other respects?'
'Does anyone know this except yourself?'
'I think not--no one but my friend Wentworth.'
'How did you come to learn its value?'
'By visiting the mine. Wentworth and I went together to see it.'
'Oh, is Wentworth also a mining expert?'
'No; he is an accountant in London.'
'Both of you were sent out by the London Syndicate, I understand, to look after their mines, or the mines they thought of purchasing, were you not?'
'And you spent your time in looking up other properties for yourselves, did you?'
Kenyon reddened at this question.
'My dear sir,' he said, 'if you are going to talk in this strain, you will have to excuse me. We were sent by the London Syndicate to do a certain thing. We did it, and did it thoroughly. After it was done the time was our own, as much as it is at the present moment. We were not hired by the day, but took a stated sum for doing a certain piece of work. I may go further and say that the time was our own at any period of our visit, so long as we fulfilled what the London Syndicate required of us.'
'Oh, I meant no offence,' said Longworth. 'You merely seemed to be posing as a sort of goody-goody young man when I spoke of mining swindles, so I only wished to startle you. How much have you to pay for the mine--that is the mica-mine?'
Kenyon hesitated for a moment.
'I do not feel at liberty to mention the sum until I have consulted with my friend Wentworth.'
'Well, you see, if I am to help you in this matter, I shall need to know every particular.'
'Certainly. I shall have to consult Wentworth as to whether we require any help or not.'
'Oh, you will speedily find that you require all the help you can get in London. You will probably learn that a hundred such mines are for sale now, and the chances are you will find that this very mica-mine has been offered. What do you believe the mine is really worth?'
'I think it is worth anywhere from one hundred thousand pounds to two hundred thousand pounds, perhaps more.'
'Is it actually worth one hundred thousand pounds?'
'According to my estimate, it is.'
'Is it worth one hundred and fifty thousand pounds?'
'Is it worth two hundred thousand pounds?'
'I think so.'
'What percentage would it pay on two hundred thousand pounds?'
'It might pay ten per cent., perhaps more.'
'Why, in the name of all that is wonderful, don't you put the price at two hundred thousand pounds? If it will pay ten per cent and more on that amount of money, then that sum is what you ought to sell it for. Now we will investigate this matter, if you like, and if you wish to take me in with you, and put the price up to two hundred thousand pounds, I will see what can be done about it when we get to London. Of course, it will mean somebody going out to Canada again to report on the mine. Your report would naturally not be taken in such a case; you are too vitally interested.'
'Of course,' replied Kenyon, 'I shouldn't expect my report to have any weight.'
'Well, somebody would have to be sent out to report on the mine. Are you certain that it will stand thorough investigation?'
'I am convinced of it.'
'Would you be willing to make this proposition to the investors, that, if the expert did not support your statement, you would pay his expenses out there and back?'
'I would be willing to do that,' said Kenyon, 'if I had the money; but I haven't the money.'
'Then, how do you expect to float the mine on the London market? It cannot be done without money.'
'I thought I might be able to interest some capitalist.'
'I am much afraid, Mr. Kenyon, that you have vague ideas of how companies are formed. Perhaps your friend Wentworth, being an accountant, may know more about it.'
'Yes, I confess I am relying mainly on his assistance.'
'Well, will you agree to put the price of the mine at two hundred thousand pounds, and share what we make equally between the three of us?'
'It is a large price.'
'It is not a large price if the mine will pay good dividends upon it; if it will pay eight per cent. on that amount, it is the real price of the mine, while you say that you are certain it will pay ten per cent.'
'I say I think it will pay that percentage. One never can speak with entire certainty where a mine is concerned.'
'Are you willing to put the price of the mine at that figure? Otherwise, I will have nothing to do with it.'
'As I said, I shall have to consult my friend about it, but that can be done in a very short time, and I will answer you in the afternoon.'
'Good; there is no particular hurry. Have a talk over it with him, and while I do not promise anything, I think the scheme looks feasible, if the property is good. Remember, I know nothing at all about that, but if you agree to take me in, I shall have to know full particulars of what you are going to pay for the property, and what its peculiar value is.'
'Certainly. If we agree to take a partner, we will give that partner our full confidence.'
'Well, there is nothing more to say until you have had a consultation with your friend. Good-morning, Mr. Kenyon;' and with that Longworth arose and lounged off to the smoking-room.
Kenyon waited where he was for some time, hoping Wentworth would come along, but the young man did not appear. At last he went in search of him. He passed along the deck, but found no trace of his friend, and looked for a moment into the smoking-room, but Wentworth was not there. He went downstairs to the saloon, but his search below was equally fruitless. Coming up on deck again, he saw Miss Brewster sitting alone reading a paper-covered novel.
'Have you seen my friend Wentworth?' he asked.
She laid the book open-faced upon her lap, and looked quickly up at Kenyon before answering.
'I saw him not so very long ago, but I don't know where he is now. Perhaps you will find him in his state-room; in fact, I think it more than likely that he is there.'
With that, Miss Brewster resumed her book.
Kenyon descended to the state-room, opened the door, and saw his comrade sitting upon the plush-covered sofa, with his head in his hands. At the opening of the door, Wentworth started and looked for a moment at his friend, apparently not seeing him. His face was so gray and ghastly that Kenyon leaned against the door for support as he saw it.
'My God, George!' he cried, 'what is the matter with you? What has happened? Tell me!'
Wentworth gazed in front of him with glassy eyes for a moment, but did not answer. Then his head dropped again in his hands, and he groaned aloud.