“Does Don Luis own this side of Mexico, or this wing of the Mexican Army?” Tom inquired, with biting sarcasm.
“I cannot send the telegram, senor, except as I have stated.”
Whereupon the sergeant began firmly, though gently, to push Tom out of the room. Comparing the size and muscular development of the two, it looked almost humorous to see this effort. But Tom, who now realized how hopeless his errand was, allowed himself to be pushed out. Then the door was slammed to and locked behind him.
“Nothing doing!” muttered Reade, in chagrin and dismay. “In fact, much less than nothing! Harry and I will simply have to tramp fifty miles further and find the railway. Great Scott! I doubt if the conductor will even let us aboard his train without a pass signed by Don Luis. Hang the entire state of Bonista!”
Deep in thought, and well-nigh overwhelmed by the complete realization of his defeat, Tom stalked moodily back up among the rocks.
As he turned a sharp, jutting ledge, Tom suddenly recoiled, as a brisk military voice called:
“Para! Quien vive!” (Halt! Who goes there?)
Reade found a Mexican military bayonet pressing against his chest, behind the bayonet a rifle, and to the immediate rear of the rifle a ragged, barefooted young soldier, though none the less a genuine Mexican soldier!
Further back other soldiers squatted on the ground. In their centre sat the scowling Gato, handcuffed and therefore plainly a prisoner.
Harry and Nicolas were also there—not handcuffed, yet quite as plainly prisoners.
THE JOB OF BEING AN HIDALGO
“This must be a part of the army that Don Luis also owns!” flashed through Reade’s mind.
From behind the group stepped forth a boyish-looking young fellow at whose side dangled a sword. He was a very young lieutenant.
“Are these your men?” inquired Tom.
“Yes,” nodded the lieutenant.
“Why have they stopped me?” Tom demanded, calmly.
“On suspicion, senor.”
“Suspicion of what?” demanded Reade, his eyes opening wider. “Is it suspicious for a foreigner to be walking about in Mexico?”
“I am not here to answer questions, senor,” replied the young officer. “You will be good enough not to resist.”
“I haven’t any intention of resisting,” Tom retorted. “I know better than to think that I can thrash the whole Mexican Army that is behind you.”
“You are as sensible as I had hoped you would be, senor,” continued the lieutenant, with a slight bow.
“But I wish you would tell us why you are holding us,” Tom insisted.
“I am not obliged to tell you, senor, and I am not certain that it would be wise of me to do so,” the officer answered. “However, I will say that I found your party with a Mexican citizen as a prisoner.”