“We hain’t had a dollar’s worth of them things, and you know it,” Dollard exclaimed surlily, looking up suddenly, as he read.
“Of course you haven’t,” Thayor smiled in return, “and yet you censure me for terminating my business relations with Bergstein—a man you men unanimously chose.”
There was an awkward pause and a sheepish look on the faces of the men as they craned their corded, bronzed necks over the shoulders of those who held the accounts.
“Wall, I swan!” drawled one.
“Reg’lar damned skin!” muttered another.
“I need not explain to you further,” Thayor resumed, “that the statements are pure forgeries. You will readily see that it was Bergstein’s method to open a small account at these reputable houses and add the rest.”
“I tink he been one beeg rascal—hein!” grinned Le Boeuf.
There were others present who were still unconvinced.
“Anything further, Mr. Dollard?” asked Thayor sharply.
“About this ’ere grub,” returned the spokesman; “it ain’t fit, I tell ye, for a dog.”
“It will be fit enough by to-morrow night,” answered Thayor. “I have attended to that by telegraph.” There was a slight murmur of approval.
“See here, Mr. Thayor,” resumed Dollard, gaining courage over the promise of good food. “Maybe the food’ll git so’s we kin git along, but you hain’t been treatin’ us no whiter ’n you’re a mind to. We ain’t gittin’ paid no more’n keep us out the poor-house.”
“I goll, you’re right, Shank Dollard,” came from somewhere in the back row.
“Ah!” exclaimed Thayor, “I was waiting for that. Where, may I ask, have you received as high wages as I have paid you? Not even on a river drive,” he went on coolly—“dangerous work like that, I know, commands a just reward.”
“When we was to work for Morrison,” interrupted a round-shouldered lumber jack, “we—”
“You need not enlighten me with figures,” resumed Thayor; “I have them here,” and he turned to a yellow pad. “When, I say, have you been paid as much and as steadily?”
“That may be, but we ain’t as satisfied over what we git as you be,” retorted Shank Dollard.
“Then let me tell you plainly—and I wish you to understand me clearly once for all,” returned Thayor, glancing quickly into the faces of the men before him, “you’ll stay at Big Shanty for the wages you are getting or you’ll go. Moreover, the man that leaves my employ leaves for good.”
Again there was an awkward silence. Thayor turned, seated himself promptly at his desk and began methodically filing away the forged accounts in a pigeon hole. The men moved toward the open door leading on to the veranda, muttering among themselves. Shank Dollard shot a vicious glance at the man seated at his desk. To exit thus, beaten by the truth, was not easy—a gentleman is always a difficult opponent.
“Good mornin’,” he sneered as he started to follow the last man through the door; “a hell of a lot you done for us.”