“I will hand the letter to him in person.”
“You—go to Gato?”
“Yes. Why not?”
“Gato would kill you!”
“Kill a poor peon?” smiled Nicolas. “Oh, no; I am not worth while. I am not a fighting man.”
“Do you mean to tell me,” demanded Tom, astonished, “that you could go openly and safely to Gato?”
“Assuredly,” declared Nicolas, composedly. “Gato would not harm me. I am one of his own people, a Mexican, and have not the courage to fight. So he would only disgrace himself in the eyes of his countrymen if he tried to do me harm.”
“Is that the truth?” Reade persisted.
“Certainly, Senor Reade. If there were a priest here I would swear to it as the truth.”
“And you have the courage to try to hand a note to Gato?”
“Under the circumstances it does not require courage, since I am safe,” replied Nicolas, steadily and easily.
“Hanged if I don’t think I will write a note to Pedro Gato!” chuckled Tom.
“Do so, mi caballero; at your convenience.”
Tom tore a page out of a notebook, and with his fountain pen wrote the following note in Spanish:
“Pedro Gato: If you had half the courage of a rabbit you would not go skulking through the hills, shooting at me without giving me any chance to tell you or show you what I think of you. A shot has just struck near my head, yet no glimpse was to be had of the man who fired the shot. If you did that, then you are a coward of a low, mean type. If you do not feel like accepting my opinion of you, then will you meet me and explain your conduct as one real man talks with another? If you will not give me this explanation, and persist in trying to shoot at me, then I warn you that I will and must pummel you with my fists if I ever have the pleasure of meeting you face to face.”
Harry glanced through the note and smiled. “That ought to scare the bold, bad man,” said he.
“Read this, Nicolas, and see if you think the note will shame the scoundrel,” laughed Tom.
“Pardon, mi caballero,” objected Nicolas, “but I am no scholar. I do not know how to read or write.”
“Oh!” said Tom simply. “Then let me read it to you.”
Tom repeated what he had written, then asking:
“Do you think, Nicolas, that it will be safe for you to take this to Pedro Gato?”
“And you are sure you can find the scoundrel?”
“I think so, though it may take considerable time.”
Nicolas took the note, holding it tight in his left hand. He was visible for a few steps, after which he dodged down behind a rock and was seen no more.
Moving stealthily over the hillsides, Nicolas spent a full hour in obtaining the first glimpse of Gato. That worthy was seated on the ground, smoking and chatting in low tones with his desperate-looking companions. Suddenly Pedro caught sight of the servant and started up. He beckoned, and Nicolas approached.