“Beyond a doubt,” smiled Don Luis, “and it will give me great pleasure. But I, myself own many mines, and I am seeking to locate more. If you are suited with my employment, and if we agree, I shall be able, undoubtedly, to keep you both engaged for many years to come. Indeed, if you display sufficient resourcefulness in handling mines I do not believe it will be long ere I shall be able to pay you each fifty thousand dollars a year. I have plenty of money, and I pay generously when I am pleased and well served.”
“The scoundrel is fishing for something,” thought Tom Reade, swiftly. “I must not let him beat me in craft.”
So he exclaimed, aloud:
“Fifty thousand dollars a year, Don Luis? You are jesting!”
“I beg to assure you that I am not,” replied Montez, smiling and bowing.
“But fifty thousand a year is princely pay!” cried Reade.
“Such pay goes, of course, only to the most satisfactory of employes,” declared Don Luis.
“At such pay,” Tom said, “Harry and I ought to be satisfied to remain in Mexico all our lives.”
“We shall see,” nodded Montez. “But the sunlight is growing too strong for my eyes. Suppose, caballeros, that we move into the office?”
The others now rose and followed Don Luis.
“What on earth is Tom driving at?” Harry wondered. “He’s stringing Don Luis, of course, but to what end?”
Montez stood at the door of his office, indicating that the young engineers pass in ahead of him. The instant they had done so Montez turned to his secretary, whispering:
“Send my daughter here.”
Dr. Tisco vanished, though he soon reappeared and entered the office.
Don Luis, after indicating seats to the young Americans, crossed to a ponderous safe, toyed with the combination lock, threw open the door and then brought out a ledger that he deposited on one of the flat-top desks. Five minutes later his daughter Francesca entered the room.
“Now, what part is the girl to play here?” wondered Tom, instantly. “If I know anything of human nature she’s a sweet and honest girl. She is no rascal, like her father. Yet he has sent for her to play some part!”
DON LUIS SHOWS HIS CLAWS
Senorita Francesca greeted her guests with extreme courtesy.
“She’s a fine young woman,” thought Harry, with a guilty feeling. “Blazes, but it’s going to come hard to show her father up as a scoundrel.”
“Chiquita,” (pet) called her father, “it has not been the custom of this country to train our women in the ways of business. But you are my only child. Every peso (dollar) that I earn and save is for you one of these days. I have much money, but I crave more, and it is all for you, chiquita. It is my wish to see you, one of these days, a very queen of wealth, as you are already a queen of goodness and tenderness. Since you must handle the great fortune that I am building for you I have concluded to override the customs of our people for generations. In other words, I am going to begin to train you, chiquita, in business.”