Francesca was by no means stupid. While she did not understand business matters, she was sufficiently keen to note, from her father’s very insistent manner, and from Tom’s equally firm refusal to sign, that some point of honor was in dispute between the two. She flushed deeply, glanced wonderingly from one to the other, and then her gaze fell to the floor.
“Chiquita,” said Don Luis, tenderly, “I have been thoughtless, and have given you too long a lesson in business. Besides, Senor Reade is not yet ready to serve us in this matter. You may go to your room, my daughter.”
Without a word Francesca rose and left the room.
As soon as the door had closed Don Luis broke forth bitterly:
“You have done well to insult me before my daughter. She understands only enough to realize that you have doubted my honor, and she certainly wonders why I permitted you to live longer. Senor Reade, whether or not your American ideas of courtesy enable you to understand it, you have grievously insulted me in my own house, and have intensified that insult by delivering it before my daughter. There is now but one way in which you can retrieve your conduct.”
Don Luis Montez rose, dipped the pen freshly in ink, and thrust it into Reade’s hand.
“Sign that report!” ordered the Mexican.
Tom rose to his feet. So did Harry.
“Don Luis,” spoke Reade calmly, though he was inwardly raging. “I always like to do business like a gentleman. I feel very certain that I must have made it very clear to you yesterday that I could not possibly sign any such report at the present time. I still prefer to keep our talk within the limits of courtesy if that be also your wish.”
“Sign that report!”
“I won’t do it!”
Tom accompanied his response by tossing the pen across the room.
“Don Luis, I don’t believe that you are a fool,” continued the young chief engineer, calming down again. “If you consider that I am utterly a fool, either, then you are doing your own intelligence an injustice. I refuse to sign this report until I have gained the knowledge for myself that every word in it is true. Further, I don’t believe that I would sign it after I had made the fullest investigation. I am aware that, last night, mule-trains brought ore down over the hills from another mine, and that ore was sent down by the ore hoists into El Sombrero.”
“That’s a lie!” cried the Mexican, hoarsely.
“I am describing what I saw with my own eyes,” Tom insisted.
“You will sign this report, and at once!” quivered Don Luis Montez, a deadly look glittering in his eyes.
“I am quite satisfied that I shall never sign it,” Tom retorted.
“That goes for me, too,” put in Harry, stolidly.
“I feel that we have finished our work here, since we can do nothing more for you, Don Luis,” Tom went on. “I therefore ask you to consider our engagement at an end. If you are disinclined to furnish us with transportation to the railway, then we can travel there on foot.”