“Food of your own kind, from your own country, caballeros,” the Mexican announced proudly.
“Canned baked beans,” chuckled Harry, after glancing at the label. “Hurry and get the stuff open.”
Nicolas opened two tins of the beans, then produced a package of soda biscuits.
“This will be enough for one meal, caballeros?” he asked.
“Oh, plenty,” nodded Tom.
“And then I have some of our Mexican beans, dried,” Nicolas continued. “They will do when we are not so near a food supply. I have also a little dish in which to boil them over a fire. Oh, we shall get along excellently, caballeros.”
Shortly the very simple meal was ready and eaten in record time.
“And here is something else that we shall drink in the morning,” Nicolas announced, presently as he held up a package. “It is chocolate.”
As Tom and Harry both detested this beverage, they were forced to feign their enthusiasm.
“Now, I feel as though we ought to do some walking,” Tom declared, rising and stretching.
“Walking?” queried Nicolas. “Where?”
“Over the hills to the nearest telegraph station. There is one within twenty miles, is there not?”
“There is, caballero,” Nicolas assented, gravely, “but it will be impossible for us to reach it.”
“Impossible? Why?” Reade demanded.
“On my way back I kept my eyes open,” the Mexican explained. “As a result I discovered who is in these hills about us.”
“Who, then?” Harry asked.
“Pedro Gato,” Nicolas affirmed solemnly.
“Who?” said Tom. “Oh, Gato? Only he?”
“Only he and some of his worthless, criminal companions,” the servant went on, solemnly. “Senor Reade, at no greater distance than this from Don Luis you may be safe from Gato. Yet, if you stroll but a few miles from here Pedro Gato will not so greatly fear the hidalgo. Then Gato will work his own will with you.”
“He will, oh?” Tom demanded grimly.
“Of a surety, senor!”
“If I should see Pedro Gato first, he would be likely to come in for another walloping,” Tom laughed, dryly.
“But you would not see him, senor. You would hear him only, and Gato’s message would be a bullet.”
“Can Gato shoot any better than he fights?” smiled Reade.
Bang! An unseen rifle spoke. Judged by the sound the marksman was not more than three hundred yards away.
“Sz-z-z-zz!” the leaden missile sang through the air. It flattened against a rock in front of which the young chief engineer was standing.
“You are answered, mi caballero!” cried Nicolas, throwing himself flat on the earth. “Drop to the earth, senor, before the second shot is fired!”
NICOLAS DOES AN ERRAND