The house of which the broad veranda was a part, was a low, two-story affair in stone, painted white. Through the middle of the house extended the drive-way leading into a large court in which a fountain played. Around the upper story of the house a balcony encircled the court and around the windows there were also small balconies.
Many servants, most of them male, ministered to the wants of those in the house. There were gardeners, hostlers, drivers, chauffeurs and other employs, making a veritable colony of help that was housed in small, low white houses well to the rear.
Some thirty acres of grounds had been rendered beautiful by the work of engineers, architects and gardeners. Nature, on this estate, had been forced, for the natural soil was stony and sterile, in keeping with the mountains and the shallow valleys in this part of the little and seldom-heard-of state of Bonista.
To the eastward lay, at a distance of some two miles, one of the sources of Senor Montez’s wealth El Sombrero Mine, producing some silver and much more gold. At least so the owner claimed.
It was Senor Luis Montez himself who had gone to the nearest railway station, seventy miles distant, and there had made himself known, that forenoon, to the two young engineers from the United States.
Tom and Harry had come to El Sombrero at the invitation of Montez. After many careful inquiries as to their reputation and standing in their home country, Montez had engaged the young men as engineers to help him develop his great mine. Nor had he hesitated to pay the terms they had named—one thousand dollars, gold, per month, for each, and all expenses paid.
Over mountain trails, through the day, much of the way had of necessity been made slowly. Wherever the dusty, irregular roads had permitted greater speed, the swarthy Mexican who had served Senor Montez as chauffeur on the trip had opened wide on the speed. At the end of their long automobile ride Tom and Harry fairly ached from the jolting they had received.
“There are other beautiful features of this gr-r-rand country of mine,” the Mexican mine owner continued, lighting his second cigar. “I am a noble, you know, Senor Tomaso. In my veins flows the noble blood of the hidalgos of good old Spain. My ancestors came here two hundred and fifty years ago, and ever since, ours has been truly a Mexican family that has preserved all of the most worthy traditions of the old Spanish nobles. We are a proud race, a conquering one. In this part of Bonista, I, like my ancestors, rule like a war lord.”
“You don’t have much occupation at that game, do you, senor?” Tom asked, with an innocent smile.
“That—that—game?” repeated Senor Montez, with a puzzled look at his young guest.
“The game of war lord,” Reade explained. “Mexico is not often at war, is she?”
“Not since she was forced to fight your country, Senor Tomaso, as you help to remind me,” pursued Montez, without a trace of offense. “Though I was educated in your country, I confess that, at times, your language still baffles me. What I meant to say was not ‘war lord,’ but—but—”