Thayor’s first meeting with Bergstein occurred the next morning. It was brief and business-like, but it left a good impression on Thayor’s mind. What little he had seen of the man, he told Holcomb, had convinced him of his honesty and ability; that the nigh horse had died was no fault of Bergstein’s, since he and the boys at the lower shanty had evidently done everything that could be done. What pleased him most was Bergstein’s humane and untiring efforts to save the poor beast, adding that he had decided to order him to leave for Montreal at once with instructions to purchase another horse, together with some other things, amounting to over three thousand dollars in all, which were badly needed. He liked, too, his quick return from Canada—this showed his interest in his work.
An hour later the two, with Bergstein, stood on the veranda before the latter’s departure.
“Is there anything else you can think of that we need, Billy?” Thayor asked.
“That’s about all I can think of,” returned Holcomb, glancing over the long list that Bergstein held in his hand.
“He was a hard-working man,” Bergstein casually remarked, referring to the uncle who had so suddenly succumbed. There was nothing to lead up to it, but that was a way with Bergstein. As he spoke he folded the list and tucked it into his black portfolio.
“Married?” asked Thayor.
“Yes, and to as nice a little woman as you ever see, Mr. Thayor. He ain’t left her much, not more than will keep her out of the poor-house.” Bergstein’s voice had grown as soft as an Oriental’s. “I buried him at my own expense. It’s hard on her—she’s got a little girl who was always ailin’—sickly from the first.” He fumbled at his scrubby black beard, his rat-like eyes focussed on the ground.
“One moment, Mr. Bergstein,” said Thayor, suddenly turning on his heel and going into the house. Presently he returned and handed Bergstein an unsealed white envelope. “Will you kindly give this to the mother and the little girl,” he said. “You will oblige me by not saying whom it is from.”
“Well, now, that’s mighty good of you, Mr. Thayor,” Bergstein faltered; “she’ll—”
“I trust you will have a pleasant journey,” returned Thayor and with a nod to Billy the two disappeared through the door of Thayor’s den, before the man with the scrubby beard could finish his sentence.
Bergstein tucked the envelope within the black portfolio and went down the steps to the buckboard waiting to take him out to the railroad. The boy Jimmy drove, Bergstein taking the back seat. He waited until they were well into the stretch of wood between the camp and the lower shanty, then he hurriedly extracted the envelope and glanced within. It contained a new one-hundred-dollar bill.
That night Bergstein put up at the best hotel in Troy.
* * * * *