The situation was certainly one to make Tom think hard. He was certain that Don Luis had engineered the whole situation, even to urging Gato on to a part in this grin drama.
“Well, you’ve got us!” sighed Tom.
“You will find me your best friend, always,” protested Montez.
“You have us,” Tom continued, “but you haven’t our signatures to the report on your mine. That is going to be more difficult.”
“Time heals all breaches between gentlemen who should be friends,” declared Don Luis, quite graciously.
After that it was a silent party that rode in the touring car. Though the road back to the estate was worthy of no such name as road, the big car none the less “ate up the miles.” It was not long before the young engineers caught sight of the big white house.
“Come, gentlemen,” begged Don Luis, alighting, and turning to the young engineers with a courtly grace that concealed a world of mockery. “You will find your rooms ready, and my household ready to minister to your comfort.”
Tom Reade, as he stepped upon the porch, drew himself up as stiffly as any American soldier could have done.
“We’ve had to come this far with you, Don Luis,” admitted the young engineer, dropping all his former pretense of dry good humor, “but you can’t make us live under your roof unless you go so far as to have us seized, tied and carried in.”
“I have no intention of being anything but a gracious friend and host,” murmured Montez.
“Then, while we probably must stay here,” Tom resumed, “we’ll leave your place and go to live somewhere in the open near you. We can accept neither your house nor your food.”
“Very good,” answered Montez, meekly, bowing again. “I will only suggest, caballeros, that you do not attempt to go too far from my house. If you do, the soldiers will surely find you. Then they will not bring you back to me, and you will learn what incommunicado means in our Mexican law. Adios, caballeros!”
“Am I still the servant of the American gentlemen, Don Luis?” asked Nicolas, humbly.
“You may go with them. They will need you, little Nicolas,” answered Don Luis, and watched the three out of sight with smiling eyes.
Montez could afford to be cheerful. He knew that he had triumphed.
TWO VICTIMS OF ROSY THOUGHTS
“There is one thing about it,” remarked Reade, as he rose and stood at the doorway of the tent. “We’re not being overworked.”
“Nor are we getting awfully rich, as the weeks go by, either,” smiled Harry.
“No; but we’re puppets in a game that interests me about as much as any that I ever saw played,” Tom smiled back.
“This game—interests you?” queried Harry, looking astonished. “That is a new idea to me, Tom. I never knew you to be interested, before, in any game that wasn’t directly connected with some great ambition.”