Straight down the hallway, to their rooms, Tom marched, Harry following. Barefooted Nicolas sprang forward, bowing, then swinging open the door. He bowed again as the young engineers stepped inside. Then Nicolas pulled the door shut.
“Are you going to stay, Tom, and have any further talk with this thief?” sputtered Harry, who had held in about as long as was safe for him.
“What do you think?” Tom asked, grimly, as he knelt upon his trunk and tugged at the strap.
“I reckon I think about the same as you do,” rejoined Hazelton, closing his own trunk and strapping it.
“One—two hoist!” ordered Reade, settling his own trunk upon his shoulder.
Harry followed suit. In Indian file they moved across the room.
“Nicolas,” called Tom, “be good enough—the door!”
The barefooted servant swung the barrier open.
“Thank you,” said Tom, marching out. Then he dumped the trunk, noiselessly, to the floor. Going into an inner pocket he produced a five dollar bill.
“Nicolas,” said the young chief engineer, “you have certainly done all in your power to make us comfortable. I am sorry that we are not longer to have the comfort of your services. Will you do me the favor of accepting this as a remembrance? It is American money, but you can easily get it changed. And now, let us shake hands.”
Nicolas appeared dazed, both by the money and by Tom’s desire to shake hands with him. The hand that Tom clasped trembled.
“Same here,” murmured Harry, also producing a five-dollar bill. “Nicolas, you’re a Mexican, but I wish they produced more of your kind on the American side of the Rio Grande.”
“The caballeros have been too generous with me,” protested the poor fellow, in a husky voice. “I have not deserved this. And, though I have been a stupid servant, you have not once beaten me with your canes.”
“If you can find the canes you may keep them, then, as a souvenir of what you didn’t get,” laughed Reade. “And now, Nicolas, we must hasten, or we shall lose our trains.”
The Mexican would have said more, but he was too dazed. In his left hand he held ten dollars in American money, about the same thing as twenty in Mexican coin. It was more money than he had ever held of his own before—it was almost a fortune. Surely, these Americanos must suddenly have taken leave of their senses! Then, too, Senor Reade had just spoken of missing the train. Did they not realize that the nearest railway train was seventy miles away? Assuredly, they must be mad!
In the meantime Tom and Harry, having once more shouldered their trunks, kept on down the broad hallway and out on to the porch. There was no one there to oppose them, though Don Luis was secretly regarding them through the crack of a nearly closed door. There was an evil, leering smile on the face of the Mexican mine owner.