PINING FOR THE GOOD OLD U.S.
“You will have to be very careful that Gato does not get another chance to shoot at you, mi caballero,” Nicolas went on. “He does not believe that you are unarmed, or he would speedily settle with you. But he will shoot at you frequently, from ambush, if you give him the chance.”
“Then I hope he’ll do it frequently,” grimaced Reade. “The need of frequent shooting indicates bad marksmanship.”
“Senor,” begged Nicolas, “I would not joke about Gato. He means to kill you, or worse.”
“Worse?” queried Tom, raising his eyebrows. “How could that be?”
The Mexican servant made a gesture of horror.
“It is worse when our Mexican bandits torture a man,” he replied, his voice shaking. “They are fiends—those of our Mexicans who have bad hearts.”
“Then you believe that Gato plans something diabolical, just because I walloped him in a fair fight—or in a fight where the odds were against me?”
“It matters not as to the merits of the fight,” Nicolas went on. “Gato will never be satisfied until he has hurt you worse than you hurt him.”
“And perhaps Don Luis may be behind the rascal, urging him on and offering to protect him from the law? What do you think about that, Nicolas?”
“I cannot say,” Nicolas responded, with a slight shrug. “I am Don Luis’s servant.”
“Pardon my forgetting that,” begged Harry. “I should not have spoken as I did.”
“For more than one reason,” Tom muttered, “we shall do well to get out of this unfriendly stretch of country. Harry, we’re pining for the good old U.S., aren’t we?”
“Just a glimpse of the American side of the border—that’s all we want,” laughed Hazelton.
“And, if we’re to be killed, we’ll at least be killed while trying to reach the border,” Reade proposed.
“Do you intend starting now, senor?” asked Nicolas, in a low voice.
“Not before dark,” Tom murmured.
“Then why do you two not sleep for a while?” begged the servant. “You will need some strength if you are to travel through these mountains all night. Sleep! You can trust me to keep awake and to warn you if danger gets close.”
“Thank you, old fellow; I know we can trust you,” Tom replied. He stretched himself out on the ground, pulling his hat down over his eyes. Within two minutes he was sound asleep. Not more than a minute after that Harry, too, was dozing.
It was still daylight when Tom awoke. He sat up. Harry was sleeping soundly, and Nicolas was not in sight.
“Abandoned?” thought Reade. “No; that’s hardly likely. Nicolas rings true. Hiding close to here, undoubtedly, that he may keep better watch. A call will bring him here.”
Tom rose, to look about.
“Be cautious, senor,” came the whispered advice from an unseen speaker. “If you expose yourself you may invite a bullet.”