“Ah, indeed,” said Thayor with a nod. “I trust we are all mistaken in the fellow. You know, my boy,” he said turning suddenly about, “we must all learn to be tolerant of others—of their ignorance. I’ve found in life a true philosophy in this. It’s my creed, Billy—’Be tolerant of others, even of those who at times seem intolerable to you.’”
Holcomb was not the man to censure another without the strength of his conviction. He had been frank in giving his opinion of Bergstein, since Thayor had put the question point blank to him. Their talk before the fire had been a genial one, save for this somewhat unpleasant subject, yet despite Thayor’s kindly optimism in regard to Bergstein, owing purely to his excellent recommendation, Holcomb felt a distrust of the mysterious stranger who had wormed his way into Big Shanty. He could not help being personally convinced that the vice-president of the Canadian company was either a rascal or a man of poor judgment. It was also possible that the said vice-president had never seen Bergstein at all.
Two nights later Holcomb again bade Thayor good-night in the square room with its heavy-beamed ceiling. All the accounts had now been gone over—even to the minutest detail, and Billy felt supremely happy and relieved at his employer’s enthusiastic approval of all he had done, so much so that even the one discordant note—Bergstein—seemed of vague importance.
He crossed the clearing on his way to his cabin cautiously, feeling his way with his feet to avoid tripping over an unseen root. The night was intensely dark—so dark that as he neared his cabin he was forced to stop and feel for his card of matches. At that instant someone in the pitch darkness ahead of him coughed.
“Is that you, Freme?” called Holcomb, watching the sputtering sulphur blaze into flame.
“No,” answered a hard nasal voice to the right, and within a rod of him; “it’s me—Bergstein. Got any gin in your place? the nigh hoss on Jimmy’s team is took bad with the colic.”
“Come inside,” said Holcomb.
“Bad luck,” muttered Bergstein, as he followed Holcomb into the cabin; “there ain’t a better work hoss on the place. Must have catched cold drawin’ them heavy loads on the mountain.”
Holcomb lighted a candle, extracted a bunch of keys, unlocked a cupboard, and handed Bergstein a black bottle.
“I thought you were in Canada,” he said, eyeing Bergstein closely.
“I jest got back—I didn’t wait for the funeral.”
“Well, keep that horse covered,” Holcomb added; “you’ll find some extra heavy blankets back of the feed bin.” After his door was closed, Holcomb stood thinking for some moments, his eyes fastened on the candle flame.
“That nigh horse seemed all right this fore-noon,” he said to himself. “That’s the second horse with colic.”