“I think he is still in hiding, sir,” replied Holcomb in an evasive tone. The least said about Dinsmore the better—the better for Dinsmore. His safety was in being entirely forgotten.
“And you haven’t seen him?”
“No, not since we began work.”
For some seconds Thayor drummed with his fingers on the arm of his chair; then he said in a strangely serious tone—as if to himself:
“Dinsmore had to kill him, perhaps. That’s the only way out sometimes, and that’s what would happen every time if I had my way.”
Holcomb made no reply. No good could come to the hide-out by stirring up his case. All his friends said he was dead; that is, to strangers—some of whom might be sheriffs.
The talk now entered another channel—one more to Holcomb’s liking. “By the way, before I forget it”—here Thayor drew from his pocket a package of letters—“how about this Mr. Steinberg, the dealer who sold us the horses?” he inquired.
“Yes, this Mr. Bergstein, as you call him. I gather from your last letter—I thought I had it with me,” he said, searching hurriedly among the packet of correspondence, “but I have evidently left it—I gather,” he resumed, “from your last letter that he did not make a very favourable impression. I can’t understand it,” he went on seriously, “for he was recommended by one of the vice-presidents of one of our Canadian companies, a man whom I have had dealings with by letter for years. I should hesitate to believe he would recommend anyone to us whom he did not thoroughly know about—who, shall we say, was sharp in his dealings.”
Holcomb for a moment did not reply. Then suddenly he looked straight into the eyes of his employer.
“I know a man may sometimes be wrong in sizing up another,” he began, “but Bergstein seems to me to have considerable of the peddler in him.”
“And yet you say, Billy, the horses he sent were sound, and the price fair.”
“The price he asked was not,” replied Holcomb. “I gave him what I knew they were worth—he wasn’t long in taking it. That’s where the peddler part of it struck me.”
Thayor made no attempt to reply; he was listening as calmly as a lawyer to a defence.
“There are a lot of the boys here who think Bergstein is all right,” Holcomb continued, “but neither Freme, Hite, nor myself liked his looks from the first. He’s too mysterious in his movements—whanging off at night to catch a train and turning up again—sometimes before daylight.”
“Yet you say he is a good worker,” interrupted Thayor, settling in his chair.
“There isn’t a lazy bone in him,” confessed Holcomb. “He’s all hustle, and smarter than a steel trap—that’s why I put him in charge of the gang in the lower shanty—besides, I saw the boys wanted him.”
“I must see Mr. Bergstein in the morning,” was Thayor’s reply.
“He left day before yesterday,” said Holcomb. “He told me an uncle of his had died in Montreal; he’ll be back, he said, in three or four days.”