“Have you any further questions that you wish to ask me at present?” Montez demanded, suddenly.
Though he had kept himself rather calm up to the present, the rascal felt that he must soon vent the spite and hate welling up within him, or explode from the pent-up force of his own emotions. The late mine owner, though he could not penetrate the mysteries of the present situation, was now sure that Tom Reade and Harry Hazelton must be in some way behind it. No matter what happened to him afterwards, Don Luis was now furiously bent on getting the young engineers off on the lonely mountain trail where Gato and his comrades were lying in wait for the two young Americans.
“I shall have no more questions for you, for the present,” Senor Honda replied. “Just now I wish to have some conversation with these Americans.”
“Then come, senores,” cried Don Luis, with forced gayety, as he thrust a hand under the arms of Tom and Harry. “Come, we will have our ride and our talk. We will be back here in half an hour and then we shall hear this affair through. Come!”
Tom Reade threw off the fellow’s arm, exclaiming, warningly:
“If you touch me again, you snake in the grass, I’ll reduce you to powder with a fist that’s fairly aching to hit you!”
The vehemence of Tom’s declaration made every one within hearing gasp with astonishment.
“What does this mean, Reade?” gasped President Haynes, looking thunderstruck.
“It means, sir,” reported Tom, wheeling about, “that this fellow, Montez, threatened us with death if we did not sign a glaringly false report concerning El Sombrero Mine. We were also to be killed if we did not stand by our report to the fullest degree after you and your friends arrived.”
“Then El Sombrero Mine is worthless?” cried Mr. Haynes, his face turning a ghastly white.
“As far as I know, sir, or as far as Hazelton knows,” Tom Reade made prompt answer. “El Sombrero isn’t worth the cost even of filling up the shaft.”
“And you, Reade—and you, Hazelton—the men we trusted implicitly—you stood by and saw us robbed!”
“I don’t blame you for being angry,” Tom answered, quickly. “However, you may safely go a bit slow on the idea that we stood by to see you robbed, merely to save our lives. We had tried to escape from here. We even sent out two letters by secret messengers, these letters to be mailed at points distant from here. The letters would have told our friends in the United States what was up. But, in some way of his own, Don Luis managed to catch the messengers and get hold of the letters.”
“Then,” added Harry Hazelton, “we thought we were doomed if we didn’t yield to Don Luis’s commands. Even at that, we were prepared to accept death sooner than sell ourselves out. Death would have been the cheapest way out of the scrape. But at last we found a way of helping Don Luis in the way he wanted, and of getting square with the rascal at the same time. Tell them what I mean, Tom.”