The Young Engineers in Mexico
H. Irving Hancock

Part 1 out of 4

E-text prepared by Jim Ludwig


or, Fighting the Mine Swindlers




I. The Land of Golden Eggs
II. The Wolf Who Showed His Teeth
III. Gato Strikes the Up Trail
IV. Tom Does Some Sampling
V. The Mine That Did and Didn't
VI. Watching the Midnight Lights
VII. Don Luis's Engineering Problem
VIII. Dangling the Golden Bait
IX. Don Luis Shows His Claws
X. The Spirit of a True Engineer
XI. A Piece of Lead in the Air
XII. Nicolas Does an Errand
XIII. Pining for the Good Old U.S.A.
XIV. Next to the Telegraph Key
XV. The Job of Being an Hidalgo
XVI. Two Victims of Rosy Thoughts
XVII. The Stranger in the Tent
XVIII. Craft--Or Surrender?
XIX. The Hidalgo Plans Gratitude
XX. Two Real Signatures
XXI. The Final Touch of Tragedy
XXII. Mr. Haynes Asks a Few Questions
XXIII. The Engineer Turns
XXIV. Conclusion



Luis Montez, mine owner, stood on the broad veranda in front of
his handsome home, looking out over the country sweeping away
to the eastward.

"Gentlemen, you are in a land of golden promise," began Senor
Montez, with a smile and a bow. "I should call it more than promise.
Why not? My beloved country, Mexico, has been shipping gold
to the world ever since the days of Montezuma."

"Yes; in a mineral sense Mexico has truly a golden history," nodded
Tom Reade, one of the engineers to whom Montez was speaking.

"And a golden history in every sense," added Senor Montez, with
a quick rush of patriotism. "Mexico is the finest country on
earth. And, though we are neither as numerous in population,
or as progressive as your own great country, still Mexico has
greater possibilities than the United States."

Tom was too polite to argue that point. And Harry Hazelton, whom
a seventy-mile ride in an automobile over dusty roads, that day,
had rendered very drowsy, didn't consider an argument worth while.

"Mexico has almost incredible natural wealth," Montez went on,
his voice soft and purring, his eyes glowing with something that
might have passed for pride. "Yet, through all the centuries
that white men have been here, I am confident that not one per
cent. of the country's natural resources has yet been taken from
the ground. Enough wealth lies at man's beck and call to change
the balance of power between the nations of the world. I have
been in your great city, New York. It is a place of tremendous
wealth. Yet, within ten years, gold enough can be taken from
the ground within a radius of twenty miles of here to buy the
whole great city of New York at any sane valuation."

"That purchase would require billions of dollars," broke in the
practical Hazelton.

"But the wealth is here," insisted Senor Montez, still smiling.
"Truly, _caballeros_, as I have told you, this is the land of

Again the Mexican paused, eloquently.

"The land of golden eggs?" suggested Harry.

For an instant there was a flash in the Mexican's eyes. Then
the friendly smile reappeared.

"Of course, you jest, senor," he replied, pleasantly.

"Not at all, Senor Montez," Hazelton assured him. "When gold
is so plentiful that it can be picked up everywhere, there must
be a goose at hand that lays golden eggs. Eggs are among the
most common things that we have. When gold nuggets are as large
and as abundant as eggs then we may properly call them golden

Senor Montez, flipped away the cigar that he had finished, and
reached for another. This he carefully cut at the end, lighting
it with graceful, elegant deliberation. The Mexican was a
distinguished-looking man above medium height. A little past forty
years of age, he possessed all the agility of a boy of twenty.
Frequently his sudden, agile movements indicated the possession of
unusual strength. Dark, like most of his countrymen, constant
exposure to the tropical sun had made his face almost the color of
mahogany. His carriage was erect, every movement instinctive with
grace. Clad in a white linen suit, with white shoes, he wore on his
head a Panama hat of fine texture and weave.

The house of which the broad veranda was a part, was a low, two-story
affair in stone, painted white. Through the middle of the house
extended the drive-way leading into a large court in which a fountain
played. Around the upper story of the house a balcony encircled
the court and around the windows there were also small balconies.

Many servants, most of them male, ministered to the wants of those
in the house. There were gardeners, hostlers, drivers, chauffeurs
and other employs, making a veritable colony of help that was
housed in small, low white houses well to the rear.

Some thirty acres of grounds had been rendered beautiful by the
work of engineers, architects and gardeners. Nature, on this
estate, had been forced, for the natural soil was stony and sterile,
in keeping with the mountains and the shallow valleys in this
part of the little and seldom-heard-of state of Bonista.

To the eastward lay, at a distance of some two miles, one of the
sources of Senor Montez's wealth _El Sombrero_ Mine, producing
some silver and much more gold. At least so the owner claimed.

It was Senor Luis Montez himself who had gone to the nearest railway
station, seventy miles distant, and there had made himself known,
that forenoon, to the two young engineers from the United States.

Tom and Harry had come to _El Sombrero_ at the invitation of Montez.
After many careful inquiries as to their reputation and standing
in their home country, Montez had engaged the young men as engineers
to help him develop his great mine. Nor had he hesitated to pay
the terms they had named--one thousand dollars, gold, per month,
for each, and all expenses paid.

Over mountain trails, through the day, much of the way had of
necessity been made slowly. Wherever the dusty, irregular roads
had permitted greater speed, the swarthy Mexican who had served
Senor Montez as chauffeur on the trip had opened wide on the speed.
At the end of their long automobile ride Tom and Harry fairly
ached from the jolting they had received.

"There are other beautiful features of this gr-r-rand country
of mine," the Mexican mine owner continued, lighting his second
cigar. "I am a noble, you know, Senor Tomaso. In my veins flows
the noble blood of the hidalgos of good old Spain. My ancestors
came here two hundred and fifty years ago, and ever since, ours
has been truly a Mexican family that has preserved all of the
most worthy traditions of the old Spanish nobles. We are a proud
race, a conquering one. In this part of Bonista, I, like my ancestors,
rule like a war lord."

"You don't have much occupation at that game, do you, senor?"
Tom asked, with an innocent smile.

"That--that--game?" repeated Senor Montez, with a puzzled look
at his young guest.

"The game of war lord," Reade explained. "Mexico is not often
at war, is she?"

"Not since she was forced to fight your country, Senor Tomaso,
as you help to remind me," pursued Montez, without a trace of
offense. "Though I was educated in your country, I confess that,
at times, your language still baffles me. What I meant to say
was not 'war lord,' but--but--"

"Over lord?" suggested Reade, politely.

"Ah, yes! Perhaps that better expresses what I mean. In Mexico
we have laws, senor, to be sure. But they are not for _caballeros_
like myself--not for men who can boast of the blood of Spanish
hidalgos. I am master over these people for many miles around.
Absolute master! Think you any judge would dare sign a process
against me, and send _peon_ officers of the law to interfere with
me? No! As I tell you, I, Luis Montez, am the sole master here
among the mountains. We have laws for the _peons_ (working class),
but I--I make my own laws."

"Does it take much of your time, may I ask?"

"Does what take much of my time?" repeated Senor Montez, again
looking puzzled.

"Law making," explained Tom Reade.

Montez shot a swift look at the young engineer. He wondered if
the American were making fun of him. But Reade's face looked
so simple and kindly, his eyes so full of interest, that the Mexican
dismissed the thought.

"I spend no time in making laws--unless I need them," the Mexican
continued. "I make laws only as the need arises, and I make them
to suit myself. I interpret the laws as I please for my own pleasure
or interests. Do you comprehend?"

"I think so," Tom nodded. "Many of the big corporations in my
country do about the same thing, though the privilege has not yet
been extended to individuals in the United States."

"Here," continued the mine owner, earnestly, "no man disputes
my will. That, of itself, is law. Here no man sues me, for if
he attempted to do so, he would go to prison and remain there.
If I tell a man to leave these mountains, he does so, for otherwise
he would never leave them. If a man annoys me, and I tell one
of my trusted servants to attend to my enemy--then that enemy
never troubles me further."

"That is interesting--it's so simple and effective!" cried Tom,
pretended enthusiasm glowing in his eyes. "Say, but that's practical!
A man annoys you, and you send a servant to tell him to stop.
Then he stops."

"Because my enemy also vanishes, you understand," smiled Senor
Luis, indulgently.

"But doesn't the governor of Bonista ever hear of the disappearances?"
suggested Reade, very casually.

"What if he does?" demanded Don Luis, snapping his fingers gayly.
"Are not his excellency, the governor, and I, the best of friends?
Would he give heed to rumors against me, brought by evil-tongued
men? Oh, no! _El gobernador_ (the governor) has, at times, even
kindly lent me his troops to make sure that an enemy of mine doesn't
travel too far. No! I tell you, Senor Tomaso, I am over lord
here. I am the law in these mountains."

"It must be a great comfort, Don Luis--if you have many enemies,"
suggested Tom Reade smilingly.

"Ah, no! I have no enemies to-day," cried the Mexican. "Why
should I? I am generous and indulgent, and the soul of honor.
No one has just reason to disagree with me. Here I give all
men the round trade--no, what in your country you call the square
deal. But you shall see. You are now associated with me in a
great, a gr-r-rand enterprise. You shall soon see how just and
generous I can be--am always. You shall understand why the son
of a noble house need have no foes. Senor Tomaso, I have taken
one great liking to you in the few hours that we have been together.
And as for you, Senor Henrico--"

With a courtly flourish Don Luis wheeled about to face young Hazelton.
But the sound of deep breathing was all that came from Harry.
Fatigued by the long, rough automobile ride, that young engineer
had dropped fast asleep in the broad porch rocker.

"Your friend is much fatigued," spoke Don Luis, with fine consideration.
"If you deem it best, Senor Tomaso, we will arouse him and he
shall go to his room for an hour's sleep before the evening meal."

"If his sleeping in the chair doesn't annoy you, Don Luis, my friend
will wake up, refreshed, in twenty minutes or so."

"So be it, then. Let him sleep where he is. But you, Senor Tomaso,
would you not like to step inside and lie down for a while?"

"No, I thank you," Reade answered. "Unlike Hazelton, I feel very
wide awake. When shall we go to the mine?"

"To-morrow, or the next day," replied the Mexican, with a gesture
which almost said that "any day" would do. "First, you must both
rest until you are wholly refreshed. Then you may want to stroll
about the country a bit, and see the odd bits of natural beauty
in these mountains, before you give too serious thought to work."

"But that is not our way, Don Luis," Tom objected. "When we are
paid a thousand dollars a month apiece we expect to do an honest
day's work six days in every week."

"Ah, then, to-morrow, perhaps we will talk about the work. And
now, if you will pardon me, I will go inside for a few minutes
in order to see about some business matters."

Readers of the "_Grammar School Boys Series_," the "_High School
Boys Series_" and of the preceding volumes in the present series,
will feel that they are already intimately acquainted with Tom
Reade and Harry Hazelton, a pair of young civil engineers who,
through sheer grit, persistence and hard study had already made
themselves well known in their profession.

In the first volume of the "_Grammar School Boys Series_," Dick
Prescott and his five boy chums, Greg Holmes, Dave Darrin, Dan
Dalzell, Tom Reade and Harry Hazelton, were introduced under the
name of Dick & Co. These six chums, standing shoulder to shoulder,
made a famous sextette in school athletics. Their start was made
during their grammar school days, when they had many adventures
and did much in the field of junior sport. Their high school
life, as set forth in the series of that name, was one of athletics,
mixed with much study and efforts to find their true paths in
life. In high school athletics the members of Dick & Co. won
a statewide reputation, as to-day members of winning high school
athletic teams are bound to do. It was during their high school
days that Dick & Co. determined on their professions through life.
Dick Prescott and Greg Holmes both secured competitive appointments
to the United States Military Academy, and their further doings
are set forth in the "_West Point Series_." Dave Darrin and Dalzell,
with a burning desire for naval life, obtained appointments to
the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. What befell them
is fully told in the "_Annapolis Series_." As for Tom Reade and
Harry Hazelton, while still in high school they became seized
with a strong desire for careers as civil engineers. They were
fortunate enough to secure their first practice and training in
a local engineering office in the home town of Gridley. Then,
with vastly more courage than training, Tom and Harry went forth
into the world to stand or fall as engineers.

Their first experiences are told in the opening volume of this
series, "_The Young Engineers In Colorado_." Joining a western
engineering force as "cub" engineers, at first the laughing-stock
of the older engineers on the staff of a new railroad then building
in Colorado, the two boys did their best to make good. How well
they succeeded is known to readers of that volume. Their adventures
in the Rocky Mountains were truly astounding; some of them, especially
those with "Bad Pete," a braggart and scoundrel of the old school,
were sometimes mirth-provoking and sometimes tragic. Other adventures
were vastly more serious. When the boys reached the crisis of
their work it seemed as though every tree in the mountains concealed
an enemy. All these and many more details are told in that first

In "_The Young Engineers In Arizona_," we found the pair engaged
in a wholly new task--that of filling up an apparently unfillable
quicksand in the desert so that a railway roadbed might be built
safely over the dangerous quicksand that had justly earned the
name of the "Man-killer." Here, too, adventures quickly appeared
and multiplied, until even the fearful quicksand became a matter
of smaller importance to the chums. How the two young engineers
persevered and fought pluckily all the human and other obstacles
to their success the readers of the second volume now know fully.

Then Tom and Harry, who had been putting in many spare hours,
days and weeks on the study of metallurgy and the assaying of
precious metals, went, for a "vacation," to Nevada, there further
to pursue their studies. Quite naturally they became interested
in gold mining itself, and all their adventures, their mishaps,
failures, fights and final successes were fully chronicled in
the third volume, entitled "_The Young Engineers in Nevada_." The
mine that finally proved a dividend payer was named "The Ambition
Mine." A staunch Nevadan, Jim Ferrers, by name, became their
partner in the Ambition. Jim, who was an old hand at Nevada mining,
was now managing the mine while Tom and Harry, after going East
and establishing an engineers' office in a large city not far
from New York, had traveled to other states, studying mines and
assay methods. Within the last few months, so rapid had been
their progress in mine engineering, that they had been consulted
by a number of mine owners. Articles that they had written had
appeared in journals devoted to mining and engineering, and the
fame of our two friends had been rapidly spreading.

Both scrupulously honest in all things, Reade and Hazelton had
also won a reputation as "square" mining men. With their skill
and honesty established, the opinions of the two partners on mining
problems were generally respected wherever they happened to be

So, in time, Luis Montez had heard of them, and had decided that
he needed their services at _El Sombrero_ (The Hat) Mine in the
Mexican state of Bonista. After some correspondence the two engineers
had been speedily engaged, and the opening of this volume deals
with the time of their arrival at the handsome country house of
Senor Montez.

After his host had gone inside, and Harry Hazelton slept on, Tom,
who had risen--to bow to Senor Montez, remained on his feet,
pacing slowly and thoughtfully up and down the porch.

"Now that I've seen my new employer," mused Tom, under his breath,
"I wonder just how much I really like him. He's a polished man,
and a charming fellow from the little that I've seen of him.
But his talk of ruling these hills, even in life and death--does
that speak well for him. Is he a knave, or only a harmless braggart?
Is he a man against whom one should be seriously on his guard?
Don Luis's manners, in general, I admire, but I don't quite like
the cruel expression about his month when he laughs. However,
that may be the way of the country, and I may be the victim of
prejudice. Anyway, as far as Harry and I are concerned, we needn't
worry much about the kind of man Don Luis is. The few thousands
of dollars that he will owe us as his engineers we are pretty
certain to get, for Don Luis is a very wealthy man, and he couldn't
afford to cheat us. For the rest, all he wants us to do is to
work hard as engineers and show him how to get more valuable ore
out of his mines. So, no matter what kind of man Don Luis may
be, we have nothing to fear from him--not even being cheated
out of our pay."

Having settled this in his mind, Tom Reade sank into one of the
roomy porch chairs, half closing his eyes. He was soon in danger
of being as sound asleep as was Harry Hazelton.

Certainly Reade would have been intensely interested had he been
able to render himself invisible and thus to step into one of
the rooms of the big, handsome house.

In a room that was half office, half library, Senor Luis Montez
was now closeted with another man, whom neither of the engineers
had yet met. This man was short, slight of build and nervous
of action and gesture--a young man perhaps twenty-six years of
age. Carlos Tisco was secretary to Don Luis. Tisco was a graduate
of a university at the capital City of Mexico, a doctor of philosophy,
no mean chemist, a clever assayer of precious metals and an engineer.
In a word Dr. Tisco had been so well trained in many fields of
science that it was a wonder that Don Luis should feel the need
of employing the two young American engineers.

"You have seen my new engineers, Carlos?" queried Don Luis, almost
in a whisper, as the two men, bending forward, faced each other
over a flat-top desk.

"Through the window shutters--yes, Don Luis," nodded the secretary,
a strange look in his eyes.

"Then what do you think of the Gringo pair, my good Carlos?" pursued
Don Luis.

"Gringo" is a word of contempt applied by some Mexicans to Americans.

"I--I hardly like to tell you, Don Luis," replied the younger
man, with an air of pretended embarrassment.

"Ah! Then no doubt you feel they are not as clever as they have
been rated--my two Gringos," smiled the mine owner. "Rest easy,
Carlos. It may be better if they be not too clever."

"It--it is that which I fear, Don Luis," replied the secretary,
in a still lower voice. "I have been studying their faces--especially
their eyes as they spoke. Don Luis, I much fear that they are
very clever young men."

"Ah! Then again that is not bad," laughed the master gayly.
"If they be clever, then they will not need so much explanation."

Now the secretary became bolder.

"Don Luis, though you have spent many years in the United States,
I fear you do not at all understand some traits of the Gringo
character," warned Dr. Tisco. "For example, you want these young
men for a special service, and you are willing to pay them
generously--lavishly in fact. Has it escaped you, Don Luis, that
some of these obstinate, mule-headed Gringos are guilty of an
especial form of ingratitude which they term honor?"

"I know that some Gringos make much bombastic use of that term,
while other Gringos scoff at the word 'honor,'" replied the mine
owner, thoughtfully. "But even suppose that these Gringos have
absurdly fanciful ideas of honor? They will never guess for what
I really want them. Their work will be done, to my liking, and
they will go away from here with never a suspicion of the kind
of service they have performed for me."

"Pardon me, Don Luis," murmured Dr. Tisco, "but to me they do not
look like such fools. They will suspect; they will even know."

"It matters little what they suspect, if they hold their tongues,"
replied the mine owner.

"You will have to appeal to their love of money, then," suggested
the secretary. "You will have to pay them extremely well. Even
then they may balk and refuse."

"Refuse?" repeated Don Luis opening his eyes wide. "Carlos, you
do not seem to understand how hopeless it would be for them to
refuse. I am master here. None knows better than you that I
hold life and death in my hand in these mountains. Do not all
men hereabouts obey my orders? Will _el gobernador_ ask any awkward
questions if two Gringos should stroll through these mountains
and never be heard from again? Who can escape the net that I
am able to spread in these mountains? The Gringos refuse me--betray
me? Are they such fools as to refuse me when they find that I
hold their lives in the palm of my hand?"

"They may even refuse your bait with death as the alternative,"
persisted the secretary. "Don Luis, you know that there are such
foolish men among the Gringos."

"Then let them refuse me," proposed Don Luis, jestingly, though
his white teeth shone in a savage smile. "If they are difficult
to manage--these two young Gringos--then they will quickly disappear,
and other Gringos shall come until I find those that will serve me
and be grateful for their rewards."

"I wish you good fortune with your great schemes, Don Luis," sighed
young Dr. Tisco.

"Carlos, you have not eaten for hours. You are so famished that
the whole world is colored blue before your eyes. Come, it is close
to the hour for the meal. You shall meet and talk with my Gringos.
You will then be able to judge whether I shall be able to tame them."



A rare host at table was Don Luis Montez. He possessed the manner,
even if not the soul, of a great nobleman.

His daughter, Francesca, reputed to be a beauty, did not appear
at table. So far the young engineers had not met her. They would
be presented, however, within a day or two, after the Mexican
custom, for Tom Reade and Harry Hazelton were to be guests in
the white palace during their residence in this part of Mexico.

Dr. Tisco, too, tried to be most entertaining, and succeeded.

"You are the surgeon at the mine?" Harry ventured.

"A _medico_?" suggested Dr. Tisco, with a bow of humility. "Ah,
no, senor, I have not that honor. I am a doctor of philosophy,
not of medicine."

"Then you may be a scientific expert," Harry hazarded. "You are
the expert here at the mine?"

"Not so," broke in Don Luis, gently. "It is true that Carlos has
some knowledge of chemistry, but he is not a mining expert. He is
my secretary, my man of affairs."

"Oh, really the manager of the mine, then?" pursued Harry. "Pardon
me if I ask too many questions. I do not mean to be impertinent.
But, as we are going to work here I wish to know who's who is
Senor Montez' representative."

"Carlos," broke in Don Luis, again, "is rather more than the mine
manager. He serves me in a variety of interests, and the mine
is only one of them."

"If you wish to know whether you are to be under my instructions,"
Dr. Tisco continued, "I can assure you that you are not. I seldom
give orders except as the direct--I might say the directed--mouthpiece
of Don Luis."

"I have a separate manager at the mine," added Don Luis. "You shall
meet him to-morrow. His name is Pedro Gato. You will find him a
self-opinionated fellow, and one used to having his own way. He has
to be somewhat turbulent, or he would never hold some of my _peons_
(laborers) in check. But under the surface you will find Pedro Gato
an excellent fellow if you do not rub him too hard the wrong way."

"Gato will not attempt to give us any orders, of course?" Tom
asked very quietly.

"Possibly not," dubiously replied Don Luis. "I really do not
know. That point has not before come up to me for consideration."

"Then I hope you will make it clear to Senor Gato, Don Luis, that
we are engineers, wholly in charge of our own work; that we have
been engaged as experts and that we manage our own work in the way
that appears to us best to serve our employer's interests."

"That can all be arranged very amicably, I am certain," replied
Don Luis, as though to dismiss the matter for the present.

Dr. Tisco, covertly, was intently watching the eyes and faces of the
young engineers. The secretary was most anxious to take an
accurate measure of these two young Americans, who were now highly \
important to his plans.

After the evening meal, Don Luis summoned a number of his home
retainers, who played mandolins and guitars. Some of them sang
with considerable sweetness and power. The full moon, soon to
wane, shed lustrous light over the tropical scene of beauty.
It was a delightful evening. Tom and Harry, when they retired,
found themselves ready to sleep instantly. Their bedrooms opened
into a common parlor. Early in the morning they were astir.

"What shall we wear, Tom?" inquired Hazelton, going toward his trunks.


"I wonder what people wear in Mexico," Harry continued. "I don't
want to make any mistake in my clothing."

"The best clothing for engineers about to go down into a mine will
be top-boots, khaki trousers and flannel shirts."

"But will that be suitable to go to breakfast in?" Harry asked.
"Will it be showing sufficient courtesy to our host? And suppose
the daughter should be at table?"

"That's so," Reade nodded. "I am sorry that we didn't fish for points
last evening."

A knock came at the door.

"Aqui!" (here) Tom answered.

The door opened slowly. A man servant of perhaps twenty-five years,
attired in clean white clothes, but bare-footed, stood in the
doorway, bowing very low.

"_Buenos dias_, _caballeros_!" (good morning, gentlemen) was his

Tom invited him to enter.

"_Caballeros_," announced the _peon_, "I am your servant, your
slave, your dog! My name is Nicolas."

"How do you do, Nicolas," responded Tom, holding out his hand,
which the Mexican appeared too dazed, or too respectful to take.
"We may find a servant useful. But we never kept slaves, and
we wouldn't dream of calling any man a dog."

"I am your dog, _caballeros_," Nicolas asserted. "I am yours to do
with as you wish. Beat me, if I do not perform my work well."

"But I wouldn't beat a dog. Almost any dog is too fine a fellow
to be served in that fashion," Tom explained.

"_Caballeros_, I am here to receive your pleasure and commands
concerning breakfast."

"Is it ready?" demanded Harry hopefully.

"The kitchen is open, and the cooks there," Nicolas responded.
"When your excellency's orders have been given the cooks will prepare
your meal with great dispatch."

"Has Don Luis come down yet?" Tom inquired.

"No; for his great excellency has not yet eaten," answered the _peon_.

"Oh! Then your master eats in his own room?" Tom asked.

"Don Luis eats always his breakfast in bed," Nicolas told them.

"Then I guess we were too fresh, Tom, in getting up," laughed Harry.

As this was spoken in English, Nicolas, not understanding, paid
no heed. Tom and Harry, on the other hand, had a conversational
smattering of Spanish, for in Arizona they had had a large force
of Mexican laborers working under them.

"Nicolas, my good boy," Tom went on, "we are quite new to the ways
of Mexico. We shall have to ask you to explain some matters to us."

"I am a dog," said Nicolas, gravely, "but even a dog may speak
according to his knowledge."

"Then of what does the breakfast here usually consist?"

"Of anything in Don Luis's larder," replied the _peon_ grandly.

"Yet surely there must be some rule about the meal."

"The only rule, excellency, is the pleasure of the host."

"What does Don Luis, then, usually order?"

"Chocolate," replied the servant.

"Nothing else?"

"And a roll or two, excellency."

"What does he eat after that?" Harry demanded, rather anxiously.

"Nothing, _caballero_, until the next meal."

"Chocolate and a roll or two," muttered Harry. "I am afraid that
wouldn't hold me through a day's work. Not even a forenoon's
toil. I never did like to diet on a plan of tightening my belt."

"Anything for which the _caballero_ will ask shall be brought,"
replied Nicolas, with another bow.

"How about a steak, Tom?" Harry asked, turning to his chum.

"Pardon, excellency, but we have no such thing here," Nicolas
interposed, meekly.

"Eggs?" Harry guessed.

"Excellency, we shall hope to have some eggs by to-morrow,"

"Harry, you idiot, why didn't you ask for mince pie and doughnuts,
too?" laughed Reade.

"Nicolas, my boy, the trouble with me," Harry explained, "is that
chocolate and rolls will never hold my soul and body together
for more than an hour at a time. Chocolate and rolls by all means,
but help us out a bit. What can we call for that is more hearty."

"There are _tortillas_ to be had sometimes," the servant answered.
"Also, sometimes, _frijoles_."

"They both sound good," Harry assented vaguely. "Bring us some."

"_Caballeros_, you shall be served with the speed at which the
eagle flies!" exclaimed the servant. With a separate bow to each
he withdrew, softly closing the door after him.

"Now Harry, let's hustle into some clothes," urged Tom. "Since we
are to eat here mine clothes will be the thing. Hustle into them!"

Bred in the ways of the camps, ten minutes later Tom and Harry
were washed, dressed and otherwise tidy in every respect.

"I've a mind to go outdoors and get some glimpses of the scenery
for a few minutes," Harry hinted.

"Don't think of it. You don't want to come back to a cold breakfast."

So both seated themselves, regretting the absence of morning newspapers.

Then the time began to drag. Finally the delay became wearisome.

"I wonder how many people Nicolas is serving this morning?" murmured
Hazelton, at last.

"Everyone in the house would be my guess," laughed Tom. Still time
dragged by.

"What on earth will Don Luis think of us?" Harry grunted.

"There is only one thing for it, if this delay lasts any longer,"
Tom answered. "If this delay lasts much longer we shall have
to put off breakfast until to-morrow and get to work."

"Put off breakfast until to-morrow?" Hazelton gasped. "That's
where I draw the line. Before I'll stir a step from here I must
have at least food enough to grubstake a canary bird."

Some minutes later, Nicolas rapped at the door. He then entered,
bearing a tray enveloped in snowy linen. This tray he put down,
then spread a tablecloth that he had brought over one arm.

"Will you be seated, _caballeros_?" he asked, respectfully, as
he took his stand by the tray. Then he whisked away the linen
cover. Gravely he set upon the table a pot of chocolate, two
dainty cups and saucers and a plate containing four rolls.

"Where's the butter, Nicolas?" asked Harry.

"Butter, _caballero_? I did not understand that you wished it.
I will get it. I will run all the way to the kitchen and back."

"Never mind the butter this morning, Nicolas," spoke up Tom, at
the same time kicking Harry gently under the table.

"Can I serve you further, now, _caballeros_" inquired Nicolas,
with great respect, "or shall I bring you the remainder of your

"Bring us the rest of the breakfast, by all means," begged Harry,
and the servant left them.

"Why did you tell him not to mind the butter?" grunted Hazelton.

"Because," Tom answered, "it struck me that, in Mexico, it may
not be customary to serve butter in the morning."

Harry took a bite of one of the rolls, finding it to be soft,
flaky and delicious. Then he removed another linen covering from
the pot and started to pour the chocolate. That beverage did
not come as freely as he had expected.

"What ails the stuff?" grunted Hazelton. "This isn't the first
of April."

Then Harry removed the lid from the pot, glancing inside, next
he picked up a spoon and stirred the contents of the pot.

"I wish Nicolas were here," said Hazelton.

"Why?" Tom wanted to know.

"I'm bothered about what's etiquette in Mexico. I don't know
whether it's right to eat this stuff with a knife, or whether
we're expected to spread the stuff on the rolls."

"It is pretty thick stuff," Tom agreed, after taking a look.
"But let me have the pot and the spoon. I think I can manage it."

After some work Tom succeeded in reducing the chocolate to a
consistency that admitted of pouring, though very slowly.

"It took you almost three minutes to pour two cups," said Harry,
returning his watch to his pocket. "Come on, now! We've got
to make up for lost time. What will Don Luis think of us? And
yet it is his household arrangements that are keeping us away
from our work."

Chocolate and rolls were soon disposed of. Then the two engineers
sat back, wondering whether Nicolas had deserted them. Finally,
both rose and walked to stretch their legs.

"No restaurant in New York has anything on this place for slow-march
service!" growled Hazelton.

As all things must come at last, so did Nicolas. He carried a
tray and was followed by a second servant, bringing another.

The _tortillas_ proved to be, as Harry put it, "a cross between
a biscuit and flapjack." The _frijoles_ were just plain boiled
beans, which had evidently been cooked on some other day, and
were now mushy. But it was a very solid meal that now lay before
them, and the young engineers ate heartily.

"Will the _caballeros_ have some more chocolate?" suggested Nicolas.

"Not now," said Hazelton. "But you might order some for to-morrow's
breakfast, and then we shan't have to wait for so long next time."

The additional servant had gone, noiselessly, but Nicolas hovered
about, silently.

At last the meal was finished. Tom had chewed his food thoroughly,
what he had eaten of it, but Harry, in his hunger, had eaten hurriedly.

"Now we'll have to find Don Luis and apologize," hinted Tom.
"Hereafter I can see that we shall have to rise much earlier.
Confound it, it's a quarter of nine, already."

The two youngsters hastened out to the veranda. A man servant
was lazily dusting and placing porch chairs.

"Has Don Luis gone to the mine?" asked Tom in Spanish.

"Don Luis?" repeated the servant, in evident astonishment. "Presently
his excellency will be dressing."

"Thank you," nodded Tom, and paced the veranda, leisurely. "Harry,
we didn't make such a bad break after all, then. Plainly Don Luis
didn't plan an early start."

"Is Dr. Tisco around?" asked Harry, of the servant.

"The learned doctor must be dressing by this time, _caballero_,"
replied the servant respectfully.

"Hm!" mused Harry. "Can it be that the people in Bonista do their
work at night?"

"Oh, I'll wager the poor _peons_ at the mine have been at work
for some time," Tom smiled. "Anyway, I'm glad we haven't kept
everyone else waiting."

At half-past ten o'clock Dr. Tisco appeared, immaculate in white.
He bowed low and courteously to the guests.

"I trust, _caballeros_, that you have enjoyed perfect rest."

"Yes," answered Harry. "And now we're fidgeting to get at work.
But, of course, we can't start for the mine until Don Luis gives
us the word, and we are at his pleasure."

"It is nearly time for Don Luis to appear," said Tisco gravely.

"Is he always as late as this?"

"Here, Senor Hazelton, we do not call eleven o'clock a late hour
for appearing."

Twenty minutes later Don Luis appeared, clad in white and indolently
puffing at a Mexican cigarette.

"You will smoke, gentlemen?" inquired their host, courteously, after
he had inquired concerning their rest.

"Thank you," Tom responded, pleasantly. "We have never used tobacco."

Don Luis rang and a servant appeared.

"Have one of my cars ordered," commanded Don Luis.

Ten minutes later a car rolled around to the entrance.

"You will come with us, Carlos?" inquired Don Luis.

"Assuredly, Don Luis," replied the secretary, in the tone of a man
who was saying that he would not for worlds miss an expected treat.

It was a seven-passenger car of late design. Into the tonneau
stepped the two Mexicans and the two young engineers.

"To the mines," ordered Don Luis.

"Do you wish speed, excellency?" inquired the chauffeur.

"No; we will go slowly. We may wish to talk."

Gravely, in military fashion, the chauffeur saluted, then allowed
the automobile to roll slowly away.

"It is not an attractive road, after we leave the _hacienda_,"
explained Don Luis Montez to Tom. "It is a dusty road, and a
somewhat hard one. The mining country is not a beautiful place
in which to live."

"It is at least more beautiful than the country in which our mine
is located," Tom replied.

"Are you gentlemen, then, mine owners as well as mine experts?"
inquired their host.

Tom told Don Luis briefly about their mine, the Ambition, in the
Indian Smoke Range, Nevada.

"And is your mine a profitable one?" inquired the Mexican.

"It hasn't made us millionaires," Tom rejoined, modestly, "but
it pays us more money, every month, than we really need."

Don Luis glanced covertly at his secretary, with a look that conveyed:

"If these young Gringos have all the money they want, and more,
then we may find it difficult to appeal to their avarice."

Dr. Tisco's return glance as much as said:

"I am all the more certain that we shall find them difficult."

Don Luis commented to the two young men on the country through
which they were passing. Finally the car drew up before the entrance
to _El Sombrero_ Mine. There was the shaft entrance and near it a
goodly-sized dump for ore. Not far from the entrance was a small
but very neat looking office building, and a second, still smaller,
which might have been a timekeeper's office.

"Hello, Pedro!" called Don Luis.

Out of the office building sprang a dark-featured Mexican, perhaps
forty years of age. He was truly a large man--more than six feet
in height, broad of shoulder and deep of chest, a splendid type
of manhood.

"My good Gato," purred Don Luis, "pay your respects to _Los Caballeros_
Reade and Hazelton."

Gato approached, without offering his hand. His big, wolfish
eyes looked over the young American pair keenly.

"So Don Luis has brought you here to show whether you are any good?"
said the mine manager, in a voice as big as his frame. "I shall
soon know."

Before the big, formidable manager Harry Hazelton remained silent,
while Don Luis and his secretary slid softly into the office building.

"Gato, just what do you mean by your remark?" asked Tom Reade, very

"I mean that I shall put you at work and find out what you can do,"
leered the mine manager.

"Mistake number one!" rejoined Tom coolly. "I do not understand that
you have any authority to give us orders."

"You shall soon learn, then!" growled the man. "I am the mine
manager here."

"And we are the engineers about to be placed in charge," Tom continued.
"If we stay, Gato, you will assist us in all ways that you can.
Then, when you have received our instructions you will carry them
out according to the best of your ability."

The two looked each other sternly in the eyes, Pedro Gato appearing
as though he enjoyed young Americans better than any other food in
the world. Indeed, he might have been expected to eat one of them
right then and there.

Behind a shade in the office building Dr. Tisco stirred uneasily.

"What did I say to you, Don Luis?" inquired the secretary. "Did
I not suggest that these Gringos would not be easily controlled?"

"Wait!" advised Don Luis Montez. "Wait! You have not yet seen what
my Gato will do. He is not a baby."

"These Gringos will balk at every hour of the day and night,"
predicted Dr. Tisco.

"Wait until you have seen my good Gato tame them!" chuckled Don
Luis, softly.



"When you speak to me, Gringo," bellowed Pedro Gato, "you will--"

"Stop, Greaser!" shot back Tom, sternly, though he did not even stir
or raise his hands.

"Greaser?" bellowed Pedro Gato. "That is foul insult!"

"Not more so than to call me a Gringo," Tom Reade went on coolly.
"So we are even, though I feel rather debased to have used such
a word. Gato, if you make the mistake, again, of using an offensive
term when addressing me, I shall--well, I may show a somewhat
violent streak."

"You?" sneered Gato. Then something in the humor of the situation
appealed to him. He threw back his head and laughed loudly.

"Gringo," he began, "you will--"

"Stop that line of talk, fellow," commanded Tom quietly. "When
you address me, be good enough to say either 'senor' or 'sir.'
I am not usually as disagreeable as this in dealing with my fellow
men, but you have begun wrong with us, Gato, and the first thing
you'll have to learn to do will be to treat us with proper courtesy."

From the shaft entrance showed the faces of four grinning, wondering
Mexicans of the usual type. The talk had proceeded in Spanish, and
they had been able to follow it.

As for the mine manager, his bronzed face was distorted with rage.
The veins near his forehead were swelling. With a sudden roar,
Pedro Gato sprang forward, aiming a blow with his open right hand
at Reade's face.

Bump! That blow failed to land. It was Gato, instead, who landed.
He went down on his back, striking the ground with jarring force.

"What did I say?" whispered Dr. Tisco.

"Wait!" responded Don Luis, with a shrug of his shoulders.

Well-nigh frothing at the mouth, Pedro Gato leaped to his feet.
All was red now before his eyes. He rushed forward bellowing
like a bull, intent on crushing the young American who had dared
to treat him thus.

Tom's left fist drove into the fellow's unguarded face. His right
followed, and Gato, big as he was, staggered back. Tom's right
foot performed a trip that sent the big Mexican bully to earth again.

"Now get up, Gato, like a man of intelligence, and behave yourself,"
advised Reade coolly. "Just because we have had a bad introduction
is no reason why we should continue enemies. You treat me with
proper respect and I'll do as much for you."

But Gato snarled like a wild beast. He was not armed. With every
man in these Bonista mountains afraid of him, Gato had never felt
the need of carrying weapons. But now he plunged to the doorway
of the shaft house, then came bounding back, flourishing a knife
that he had snatched from one of the _peons_.

"Back! Back, Gato!" shouted Dr. Tisco, rushing from the office

To the secretary Gato paid no heed. He was close to Tom now,
circling cautiously around the young engineer. Harry, though not
at all minded to bolt, had stepped back far enough to give Reade
elbow room.

"Stop, Gato!" shouted Don Luis. "It is I who command it--I, Don
Luis. Throw your knife on the ground."

Gato snarled, but he was cowed. The brutal manager held his employer
in awe. He was about to cast his weapon down when Tom Reade

"Don Luis, I ask you to let the fellow go on. This question will
have to be settled right before we can proceed. This fellow is
only a coward, or he wouldn't need a knife in fighting with a man
half his size."

"Better throw away your knife, my good Gato," purred Don Luis,
"or Senor Reade will shoot you."

"I won't," Tom retorted. "I couldn't, anyway. I am not armed.
I never was enough afraid of any one to carry weapons. But let
Gato go on with his knife. If he fails, then I shall hit him until
my arm aches."

"Stop, Senor Reade! I command it!" cried Don Luis, imperiously.
"And you, Gato, throw down your knife. I will not have fighting
here among men who must be friends."

But Gato, after hearing himself described as a coward, saw only
red before his eyes. He must have this Gringo's life, and that
quickly. Afterwards he would explain and seek Don Luis's pardon.

"If you prefer, Gato, we will shake hands and forget this," suggested
Tom Reade.

"Ah, so you are afraid?" sneered the mine manager.

"Try me and see, if you prefer that," Tom retorted.

With a snarl Gato circled closer. Don Luis Montez snatched from
one of his pockets a silver-mounted revolver, but Hazelton caught
the flash and in the next instant he had wrenched the pistol away
from the mine owner.

"This is Reade's fight, Don Luis," Harry explained.

"Hand back my pistol instantly," hissed Don Luis.

"Not until the fight is decided, Don Luis," Harry rejoined. Slipping
the weapon into one of his own pockets he retreated a few yards.

Suddenly Gato sprang, the knife uplifted. Tom Reade leaped in
the same fraction of a second. Tom's shoulder landed under Gato's
right shoulder, and the knife did not descend. Like a flash Tom
bent as he wheeled. Gripping the mine manager by the captured
arm, Tom threw him forcefully over his own shoulder. Pedro Gato
landed, half-dazed, on the ground. Tom, snatching the knife,
hurled it as far as he could throw it.

Snarling, the big fellow started to rise. As he did so Tom Reade's
fist landed, sending the Greaser bully to earth. The big fellow
made several efforts to rise, but each time Tom's fist sent him
flat again, until a final heavy blow silenced him.

"Don Luis," explained Tom, quietly, turning and bowing, "I can't
begin to tell you how much I regret this unavoidable scene. When
I encountered this big bully I was at once tempted to resign my
position here with you, for I realize, of course, that I cannot
hope to go on with any such man in a position where I would have
to depend so much upon his cheerful and friendly service. I would
have resigned, but I realize, Don Luis, how much expense you have
gone to in the matter of getting us here, and I know, also, that
there might be a good deal of delay in getting some one else to
take our places."

"Gato will not trouble you again," promised Don Luis, bowing charmingly.

"Of course not, sir," Tom rejoined. "I couldn't work here and
let him go on annoying me all the time. Don Luis, I shall have
to crave your indulgence to the extent of discharging this fellow
and securing another manager who is less of a wild beast and more
of a man."

"Oh, but I cannot let Pedro Gato go," protested Don Luis, quickly.
"He is too old an employ, too valuable a man. No other could
manage my _peons_ as he does."

"Let me go!" begged Gato, harshly. "Let me go, that I may have
all my time to myself that I may find the best way to avenge myself
on this miserable Gringo. Don Luis, do not think of attempting
to keep me penned in _El Sombrero_. I must be idle that I may
have the more time to think."

Tom remained silent. He had stated his case, and the decision must
be found by Don Luis.

"For many reasons," whispered Dr. Tisco, "let Gato go. For either
good or bad reasons it will be best to let him go."

"You are right, Carlos," nodded the mine owner quickly. Then,
raising his voice:

"My good Gato, you shall have your wish," he went on, in his purring
tone. "Yet do not think there is anger behind my words. I let
you go because it is your wish. I do not so decide that I may
humiliate you, but because you have served me well. When you
need a friend, Gatito, you will know to whom to send word. Go your
way in friendship."

Even Tom Reade, with his somewhat scant knowledge of Spanish,
was quick to note, mentally, the meaning of that term, "Gatito,"
which meant "little Gato," and was used as a term of affection.
It was a form of telegraphy that was not wasted on the departing
mine manager, either, for it told him that Don Luis had some excellent
reason for thus quickly falling in with the wishes of the new
American chief engineer.

With a grateful smile at Don Luis, then with a scowl of unutterable
hatred flung in Tom Reade's direction, Pedro Gato next turned on his
heel and strode up the path.

From his pocket Harry Hazelton drew forth the silver-mounted revolver
and approached the owner of the mine.

"Allow me to return this to you, Don Luis," urged Hazelton. "I
must also apologize for having snatched it from you so rudely.
I did not know what else to do, for I feared that you intended
to interfere in the quarrel."

"And what if I had so intended?" asked the Mexican mine owner,
with one of his puzzling smiles.

"Just this," Harry answered, candidly. "Mr. Reade never gets
into a fight if he can help it. When he does find himself in
one I have learned, from long experience, not to interfere unless
he calls for help. So I did not want any one to interfere between
him and Gato."

"It was a most unfortunate affair," said the Mexican. "Senor
Tomaso, I must warn you that Pedro Gato is one who never forgives
an injury. He will devote himself to thoughts of a revenge that
shall be terrible enough to satisfy his wounded feelings. You
will do well to be on your guard."

Tom smiled as he replied:

"Don Luis, I trust that I have seen the last of the fellow."

"Be assured that you have not seen the last of him, Senor Tomaso."

"Then it may go hard with Gato," smiled Tom, carelessly. "But
I trust I have not offended you in this matter, Don Luis. If
I have, I am willing to withdraw, and I will reimburse you for
the expense you have incurred in bringing us here."

"I shall not let you go," smiled the Mexican, "unless you feel that
you no longer wish to remain in the same country with Pedro Gato."

"That thought has not entered my mind, sir," Reade responded,
almost stiffly.

"Then we will say no more about the matter, and you will remain,"
nodded the Mexican. "And now we will go down into the mine and
give you your first chance to examine our problems there."

As they entered the shaft house it was discovered that the elevator
cage was at the foot of the shaft. While they waited for the
cage to come up, keen Dr. Tisco whispered to Tom:

"Senor Reade, night and day you must be unceasingly on your guard
against Gato. In these mountains a hundred men will follow his
beck and call."

"If they are all like him, then Gato should turn bandit," laughed
young Reade.

"It is not unlikely that he will do so," sighed Tisco, with a
slight shrug of his shoulders. "In Mexico, when a defeated man
seeks blood revenge it is no uncommon thing for him to turn bandit
until he has accomplished his hope of a terrible revenge. Then,
afterwards, if the bandit has annoyed the government enough, and
has repeatedly escaped capture, the bandit makes his peace with
the authorities and receives his pardon."

The cage arriving at this moment, the four men entered, and started
downward. Three hundred and sixty feet from the earth's surface
Don Luis led them from the car into a tunnel.

"I will now show you," promised Don Luis, "something of the problem
that confronts the engineers of this mine."

"Keep your eyes open, and your wits about you, Harry," whispered
Tom Reade. "I may be wholly wrong, yet, somehow, I can't quite
rid myself of a notion that Don Luis wants us for some piece of
rascally work, though of what kind I can't imagine."

"I shall watch these two Gringos like a cat," reflected Dr. Tisco.
"I half suspect that they will foolishly sacrifice their lives
sooner than serve us."



At sight of Don Luis's party a Mexican foreman came running forward.

"How runs the ore this morning?" asked Don Luis.

"Not quite as well as usual, excellency," replied the man, with
a shrug of his shoulders.

"How! Do you mean to tell me that the ore is running out for
a streak!"

"Oh, no, excellency. Yet it is the poorest ore that we have struck
for a fortnight. However, it will pay expenses and leave something
for profit, too, excellency."

"Show us what you have been doing," Don Luis directed.

Leading the way with a lantern that threw a brilliant light, the
foreman went on down the tunnel to the heading. As he neared
the end of the tunnel the man called loudly and a number of workmen
stepped aside.

As they reached the spot, Tom's quick eye saw that the morning's
blasts had loosened some eight tons or so of ore. Drillers stood
ready to drive through the rock for the next blast.

"Let us look at the ore, Senor Tomaso," suggested the mine owner.

Tom began to delve through the piles of shattered, reduced rock.
The foreman held the lantern close, that the young engineer might
have all the light he wanted, and called to miners to bring their
lights closer.

Then Harry, also, began to examine the rock. For some minutes
the two young engineers picked up specimens and examined them.

"What do you make of it?" inquired Don Luis Montez at last.

"Is this what you call a run of poor luck?" Tom asked the foreman,

"Yes, senor; rather poor," answered the foreman.

"Then it must be rather exciting here when the ore is running
well," smiled Tom. "At a guess I should say that this 'poor'
stuff before us will run thirty dollars to the ton."

"It usually runs fifty, senor," broke in Don Luis. "Sometimes,
for a run of a hundred tons, the ore will show up better than
seventy-five dollars per ton."

"Whew!" whistled Reade. "Then no wonder you call this the land
of golden promise."

"By comparison it would make the mines in the United States look
poor, would it not?" laughed the mine owner.

"There are very few mines there that show frequent runs of fifty
dollars to the ton," Harry observed.

"Are you going to clear out this ore, and send it to the dump"
Tom asked the foreman.


"Then I would be glad if you would do so at once," Tom remarked.

For answer the Mexican foreman stared at Tom in a rather puzzled

"I will do so as soon as I am ordered," he responded, respectfully.

"All right," returned Reade. "I'll give you the order. Clear
this stuff out and get it up in the ore cage. Clear this tunnel
floor with all the speed you comfortably can."

"Perhaps the senor will explain?" suggested the foreman.

"These _caballeros_ are the new engineers in charge of the mine,"
said Dr. Tisco.

"Ah! So? Then if Pedro Gato will only give the order--" began
the foreman.

"If Pedro Gato gives you any orders," Tom suggested, briskly, "you
will ignore them. Pedro Gato is no longer connected with the mine."

"Not connected?" gasped the foreman, who plainly doubted his ears.

"No," broke in Don Luis. "You will take no more orders from Gato.
These _caballeros_ are the engineers, and they are in charge. You
heard the order of Senor Reade. You will clean out this tunnel,
sending the ore above to the dump."

"It shall be done," cried the foreman, bowing low before the mine

"And now, Senor Tomaso, if it suits you, we will go to another
tunnel," proposed Don Luis.

"Very good, sir," Tom assented. "What had been in my mind was
to order the drillers at work here and see a blast made."

"We can be back long before the next blast can be prepared," replied
Montez. "Carlos, lead the way to tunnel number four."

The secretary turned, retracing his steps, Don Luis bringing up
the rear.

"Oho! I have dropped my cigar case," remarked Don Luis a minute
later. "I will go back and get it."

The others waited near the shaft. Tom wondered, slightly, why
Dr. Tisco had not volunteered to go back after his employer's
missing cigar case.

Presently Don Luis appeared.

"Now we will go to number four," he said.

The cage carried them to a lower level. Here another foreman came
forward to meet them and to conduct them to the heading. Here were
some five tons of rock. Tom and Harry found it to be about the same
grade of ore as that seen above.

"Is this ore as good as you usually find in this vein?" Tom inquired
of the second foreman.

"Not quite, senor, though to-day's blasts have turned out to be
very fair ore," responded the foreman.

"I should say it is good ore," Tom remarked dryly. "Now, will
you set the shovelers at work moving this stuff back a little
way? I want to see a new drilling made and watch the results
of the blast."

"If Pedro Gato--" began the foreman, reluctantly.

"Pedro Gato has nothing to do with this," Tom answered quickly.
"Mr. Hazelton and I are privileged to give such orders as we deem
best. Will you kindly tell the foreman so, Don Luis?"

"It is quite true," replied the mine owner. "Gato is no longer
with us, and these gentlemen are in charge."

"Then I will have the ore moved back at once," agreed the foreman.

"But first we will go back out of the dirt and out of the danger
from the blast," spoke Don Luis, using a good deal the tone of
an order.

"The rest of you may go back," suggested Reade. "But I wish to
see the drilling done."

"It is unnecessary, Senor Tomaso," smiled Don Luis, blandly.
"Come back with us."

"I must see the men work, Don Luis, if I am to understand the work
here," Tom rejoined, very quietly, though with a firmness that was
wholly apparent.

"Oh, very good then," smiled Montez, with a shrug of his shoulders.

Three of the inspecting party went back, but Tom remained close
behind the drillers. Twice he stopped them in their work, to
collect small samples of the pulverized stuff that the drills
turned back. These specimens he placed in sample envelopes and
stored in his pockets. From the ore that was being shoveled back
he chose other small specimens, labeling the envelopes in which
he stored them.

By the time that the ore had been shoveled well back the drillers
had completed their work. Now the "dope men" came forward, putting
the sticks of dynamite in place. Tom watched them closely.

"Do you call this last work well done?" Tom inquired of the foreman
of the tunnel.

"Yes, yes, senor, as well as I have been able to see," responded
the Mexican.

"Then come with me. Just look at the tamping. Hardly worthy
of the name of tamping, is it?" Tom asked, poking at the material
that had been forced in as tamping.

"Senor, my men must have been indolent, this time," admitted the

"Very indolent, or else indifferent," Tom smiled, grimly. "Here,
you men, come here and let me show you how to set dynamite and
tamp it. Perhaps I do not understand the job very well, but we
shall see."

Ten minutes later Tom Reade abandoned his work, rather well satisfied.

"Now, when we fire the blasts, we shall move some rock, I believe,"
he smiled.

The wires were attached, and all hands went back, most of them
going considerably to the rear of the man at the magneto battery.

A rocking explosion followed. Tom was among the first to run forward.
At the heading were heaps of rock.

"Get in and pry it loose. Shovel it back," Tom ordered, in Spanish.

Shortly after, Don Luis, Dr. Tisco and Harry appeared on the scene.
They found Tom turning over the ore as it came back. More than a
dozen samples he dropped into envelopes, labeled them and put them
away in his pockets.

"What ails this lot of ore?" inquired Harry, after looking at

"It is not running as well," said Tom briefly. "Go through the
stuff and see what you think of it."

"But we have much more to see, _caballeros_," interposed Don Luis.

"If you will be kind enough to indulge me here, for a few minutes
more, I shall be grateful," Tom informed him.

"Oh, very good," assented Don Luis, with a shrug of his shoulders.
"But it is not my purpose to tire you with too many observations
on our first trip through the mine."

With a fine sample of Castillian courtesy and patience, Don Luis
waited, smoking, until Reade had quite finished his inspection.

"I am now at your service, Don Luis," announced the young chief
engineer, rising and going toward his employer.

The remaining four tunnels of _El Sombrero_ Mine were visited. In
each tunnel was the same pile of ore awaiting them, and it all
looked good. That in number three was the richest ore of all.

"Now, I think we have seen enough for today," announced Don Luis,
when they had inspected number three tunnel.

"Then if you will go along and let me join you later, I shall
appreciate it," Tom suggested politely.

"You wish to linger?" queried Don Luis, looking amused.

"I wish to see a blast made here," Tom replied.

"I, too, would like to see one," Harry added.

"Then we will wait for you," agreed Don Luis, with a sigh that
contained just a trace of impatience.

A drilling and a blast were made. Again a lot of poor rock was
loosened. Tom and Harry collected specimens, labeling them.

"Now, we will return to the house," said Don Luis.

"I would really like to put in a long day here at the mine," proposed
Reade, reluctantly.

"To-morrow, then," nodded Don Luis. "But, for to-day, I am tired
of this place. There is much about which I wish to consult you,
_caballeros_, at my office."

Tom glanced swiftly, covertly at Harry, then responded:

"In that case, my dear Don Luis, we are wholly at your service."



At the head of the shaft, Nicolas, the servant, awaited them.

"Nicolas, you rascal!" exclaimed Don Luis, angrily. "You have
not been attending your _caballeros_."

"Your pardon, excellency, but the automobile moved too swiftly for
me," pleaded Nicolas. "All the way to the mine I ran, and here I
have waited until now."

"Keep pace with your duties hereafter, scoundrel," commanded Don
Luis, angrily.

Nicolas stepped meekly to the rear of the party. It was his business
to attend Tom and Harry everywhere. In Mexico one of the grade
of gentleman, if he wishes only a glass of water, does not go
for it; he sends the attending servant.

This time Nicolas slipped up on the front seat of the car beside the
chauffeur. The car traveled at a high rate of speed over the rough

"It must cost you a mint of money for tires and repairs, not to
speak of new cars," laughed Tom, after he had been bounced up
two feet in the air as the automobile ran over a rough place in
the road.

"Pouf! What does it matter, to a man who owns _El Sombrero_?"
smiled Don Luis Montez.

"I am answered," Tom agreed. "The price of a few imported cars
cannot matter much to you."

"How many better mines than _El Sombrero_ have you seen?" questioned
the mine owner, leaning forward.

"None," said Tom, promptly.

"If all days' indications are as good as those of to-day," Harry

"To-day has been but a poor day at the mine," murmured Dr. Tisco.

"Then _El Sombrero_ is indeed a marvel," Tom declared.

"It is a very rich mine," nodded Don Luis. "Yet there may be richer
ones, in these mountains, yet undiscovered."

"Where is the next best mine around here?" Tom inquired.

"Perhaps it is _El Padre_," murmured Don Luis, after a slight pause.

"Where is _El Padre_ (the Priest) located?" Tom wanted to know.

"It is about four miles from here, up over that road," Don Luis
rejoined, pointing out the direction.

"May I ask if _El Padre_ is one of your properties, Don Luis?"
Tom continued.

"No; why should I want it when I own _El Sombrero_?"

"Not unless you wish to own as many mines as possible."

"_El Sombrero_ should be enough for my greatest dreams of wealth,"
declared Don Luis, closing his eyes dreamily.

Then the car stopped before the house.

Don Luis alighted, Tom and Harry at his heels. A servant appeared
at the entrance to the court and informed him that the midday meal
was ready to serve.

"We will go to the table, then," exclaimed the Mexican. "After
having luncheon we shall be ready for an afternoon of hard work."

No sooner had the young engineers slipped into their seats at
table than Nicolas appeared behind their chairs. He served them
gravely and without a word.

For nearly an hour the luncheon lasted. Finally the dishes were
cleared away and several boxes of cigars were brought. Tom and
Harry both declined them. Dr. Tisco lighted a cigar at once;
Don Luis spent much time in selecting his cigar. This he lighted
with the same deliberation. At last the mine owner settled back
in his seat.

"_Caballeros_," he inquired, suddenly, "what did you think of
_El Sombrero_?"

"I would call it, Don Luis," Harry replied, with enthusiasm, "the
finest mine I have seen or heard of."

"You did not see the best of the ore to-day," Montez assured them.

"What ore we did see is as fine as any we would ever wish to see,"
Tom said.

"Then you were delighted with the mine?" inquired their host,
turning to Reade and speaking more eagerly.

"If the ore always runs as well," Tom rejoined, "it ought to be
one of the richest gold and silver properties in the world."

"Pouf! The ore usually runs much better--is worth much more
than that which you saw to-day," protested Don Luis.

"Then you are to be congratulated on possessing a treasure among
mines," Tom commented.

"I am delighted to hear you say that."

"But when we adjourn to your office," Reade continued, "there
are a few questions that I shall want to ask you."

"Why not ask them here, Senor Tomaso?" queried Don Luis, in his
purring, half affectionate voice.

"Here at your table?" protested Reade.

"But this is not dinner. This is a mere business luncheon," replied
Don Luis, with another smile.

"Yet I would like to discuss some of the samples with you, Don Luis,"
Tom explained. "Surely, you do not wish me to bring out dirty
samples to spread on your fine linen."

"It would matter not," declared the Mexican. "Still, if you have
scruples about the proprieties, then we will go to the office
within a few minutes."

The two who were smoking continued to do so. Don Luis started
to describe some of his experiments in raising Spanish mules.
The finest mules that come out of Spain, class, in price, with
blooded horses. Don Luis talked with the enthusiasm of one who
understood and loved mules.

Then, finally, they passed to the office.

"Now, I shall be glad to talk with you for hours," the Mexican
hidalgo assured the young engineers.

Dr. Tisco, as though to show that he took no personal interest in
the talk, retired to an armchair at the further end of the room.
Nevertheless, the secretary observed carefully all that was said.
Covertly he studied the faces of the young engineers at all times.

"Ask me what you will," begged Don Luis, as he sank into an easy
chair close to the table on which Tom began to arrange his envelopes
of specimens taken from the mine.

"First of all, Don Luis," Tom began, "you spoke of some problems
that you wished us to solve in the operation of your mine."

"Yes, Senor Tomaso."

"I would like to ask you what the problems are that we are to
consider," Tom announced.

"Did you not see some of the problems before you, while we were
going through the mine?" inquired Montez.

"At the risk, Don Luis, of appearing stupid, I must confess that
I did not."

"Ah, well, then we shall come to the problems presently. You
have other questions. Ask some of them."

For a moment or two Reade studied what he had written on the various
envelopes before him. Then he picked out two.

"Here, Don Luis," the young chief engineer went on, "are samples of
two lots of ore. The first is from the pile that we found pried
loose when we went into the first tunnel that we visited. It
is rich ore."

"It is good enough ore," Montez replied, with a polite shrug of
the shoulders.

"Now, from the second tunnel that we entered, and where we also
found a pile of loose ore, here is another sample. It is as rich
as the first sample."

"Certainly, Senor Tomaso."

"But in this second tunnel I had a drilling made and a blast fired.
Here," picking up a third envelope and emptying it, "is a sample
of the ore that we saw taken from that blast. If this sample
contains any gold or silver the quantity is so small, evidently,
as to render this kind of ore worthless."

"Yes?" murmured Don Luis, softly. "What is it that you have to say?"

"Why, sir, how does it happen that, right on top of such extra-fine
ore we run upon blank rock at the very next blasting."

"That sometimes happens in _El Sombrero_," Don Luis replied, smoothly,

"How often has it happened?" asked Tom, looking up from the table
and glancing keenly at Don Luis.

Dr. Tisco, though he appeared to be almost asleep, stirred uneasily.

"How often has it happened?" repeated Don Luis. "Oh, perhaps
a dozen times in a few months, taking all the tunnels together."

"How long have these streaks of blank rock been?" insisted Tom
Reade, while Harry wondered at what his chum was driving.

"How long?" echoed Montez, with a shrug of his shoulders. "Oh,
how should I know? Personally I am not interested in such things."

"But have you gone as much as a whole week drilling and blasting
through blank rock?" Tom pressed.

"A week? No; not for two days. Of that I am certain. But why
do you ask all this, Senor Tomaso?"

"In order that I may better understand the nature of the mine,"
Reade responded. "I want to know what the chances are, as based
on the record of the mine to date. Of course, Don Luis, you know
what it means, often, when pay ore fails to come out of a streak,
and a solid wall of blank rock is encountered."

By "blank rock" Tom meant rock that did not contain a promising
or paying amount of metal in the ore.

"What it means?" Montez asked. "No; I can't say that I do."

"The wall of blank rock, found at the end of a vein of gold, Don
Luis, often, if not usually, means that the vein has run out,
and that it is useless to dig further."

"I did not know that," murmured the Mexican, in a tone of merely
polite astonishment. "Then you believe that _El Sombrero_ will
not turn out much more profitable ore?"

"I didn't say that," Tom continued. "But I will admit that finding
the wall of blank rock ahead made me a bit nervous. Some great
mines have been started, Don Luis, as you must be aware. For
a few weeks they have panned out ore of the highest value. Much
capital has been put into such mines, and for a time men have
thought they owned a new Golconda. Then--suddenly--the blank
wall, and no more gold has ever come out of that mine. In other
words, it was but a pocket of rich gold that had been struck, and
nothing more. Hundreds of men have ruined themselves by investing
in such mines."

"I see," murmured Don Luis, thoughtfully.

"You did not know this before?" Tom asked, in some amazement.

"No, Senor Tomaso. I have been a good business man, I suppose,
for I have prospered; and much of my money has been made in mining.
Yet I have never had the assurance to consider myself a practical
mining man. Dr. Tisco, here, is--"

"An ignoramus on the subject of mining," declared the secretary,
who appeared just then to wake up.

"Carlos is modest," laughed Don Luis. "True, he is not a skilled
mining man, yet he knows so much on the subject that, compared
with him, I am an ignoramus. But that is what you are here for,
you two. You are the experts. Investigate, and then instruct

"Have you any record of the number of times that you have encountered
the blank rock, and the number of feet in thickness of the wall in
each case?" Tom asked.

"Oh, no."

"That is unfortunate," said Reade, thoughtfully. "Hereafter we
will keep such a record carefully. Don Luis, I will admit that
I am perplexed and worried over this blank rock problem. I know
Hazelton is, too."

"Yes, it is very strange," agreed Harry, looking up. Truth to
tell, he had hardly been following the talk at all. Harry Hazelton
was quite content to be caught napping whenever Tom Reade had
his eyes open.

"Now, I would like to go back to the mine and stay there until
some time in the night," Tom proposed. "I would like to take
Hazelton with me. Soon we will arrange it, if necessary, so that
Harry and I shall divide the time at the mine. Whenever, in any
of the tunnels, blank rock is struck, whichever one of us is in
charge will stay by the blank rock blasting, keeping careful record,
until pay ore is struck again."

"You two young engineers are too infernally methodical," grumbled
Dr. Tisco under his breath."

"That is a very excellent plan," smiled Montez, amiably. "We will
put some such plan into operation as soon as we are fairly under
way. But not to-day."

"I would like to start at once," Tom insisted.

"Not to-day," once more replied Don Luis, though without losing
patience. "Yet, if you are anxious to know how the blank rock is
coming I can telephone the mine and get all the information within
five minutes. That will be an excellent idea. I will do it now,
in fact."

Crossing the room, Don Luis rang and called for the mine.

"Our young engineers are very sharp--especially Senor Reade,"
murmured Dr. Tisco to himself, while the telephone conversation
was going on in Spanish. "Yet I wonder if our young engineer
does not half suspect that Don Luis has no man at the other end
of the wire?"

Tom did not suspect the telephone trick. In fact, the young chief
engineer had as yet no deep suspicion that Don Luis was a rogue
at heart.

"The report is excellent," called Don Luis, gayly, as he came
back. "In that tunnel where we saw the blasting done the blank
rock has been penetrated, and the rich ore is coming again."

"How I'd like to see it!" Tom glowed.

"Why?" asked Don Luis, quickly.

"Because I am anxious to know all the secrets, all the indications,
of fine old _El Sombrero_."

"It _is_ a fine mine, isn't it, Senor Tomaso?" demanded Don Luis,

"From all indications it ought to be," Reade answered. "Yet it's
a new formation of rock to me--this sandwich formation as I might
call it, with the alternate layers of rich ore and blank stuff."

"I have been drawing up a report on the mine," murmured Montez,
opening a drawer in his desk. "This report describes the operations
and the profits so far. Glance through it with me."

The report had been written in English, by either Dr. Tisco or
his employer.

Tom and Harry listened carefully to the reading.

"But why do you put so much enthusiasm into the report, Don Luis,
when the mine is not for sale and is not to be run as a stock
company property?"

"Of course, _El Sombrero_ is my sole property, and of course I
shall keep it so," smiled the Mexican. "But I like, even in a
report to myself, for my own use, to have the report set forth
all the truths concerning the mine."

"That is reasonable," Tom agreed.

"Now, Senor Tomaso, as you have seen, this report is couched in
my own English. I would be glad if you would write this out for
me, putting it into better English."

"It would seem like presumption in me to think that I could put
it into better English," Reade protested.

"Nevertheless, to please me, will you put this report into your
own English?" requested Don Luis.

"With all the pleasure in the world," Tom assented.

"Here are writing materials, then."

"But I see that you have a typewriting machine over in the corner,"
suggested the young chief engineer. "I can write the report much
better and more rapidly on the machine."

"Ah!" breathed the Mexican, looking highly pleased. "If you will
but do that! We will go outside so as not to disturb you."

The report, being a long one and containing several tables of
figures, Reade was occupied nearly three hours. During this time
Don Luis conducted Harry over the estate, pointing out many things
of interest. At last Tom, with a slight backache from bending
so long over the machine, leaned back and carefully read what
he had written.

"Do you wish anything, _caballero_?" inquired Nicolas, appearing
as though from hiding.

"You might be good enough to tell Don Luis that I have finished,
and that I await his pleasure."

Nicolas disappeared. Five minutes later Montez, his secretary
and Hazelton came in. Tom read through his typewritten draft
of the report.

"Excellent! gr-r-r-rand! glorious!" breathed Don Luis. "Ah,
you are a master of English, Senor Tomaso. Myself, I understand
Spanish better. And now one stroke of the pen for each of you,"
added the _hidalgo_, crossing the room to his desk. "As my new
engineers you shall both sign this report, and I shall have much
pleasure from reading this, many times, when I am an old man."

Don Luis dipped a pen in ink, then held it up. Harry was about
to take the pen when Tom Reade drawled:

"It wouldn't be quite right for us to sign this report, Don Luis."

"Why not?" queried the Mexican, wheeling like a flash.

"Just for the simple reason," Reade answered, "that to sign the
report would be to state all the facts contained in the report
as being of our personal observation. We haven't seen enough
of the mine, as yet, for it to be right for us to sign the report.
An engineer's signature to a report is his statement--ON HONOR--that
he personally knows such report to be true. So I am very certain
you will understand that it would be a breach of honor for us to
sign this document."

"Ah! He is clever--and now the real trouble must begin!" Dr.
Tisco told himself. "These engineers are not easily duped, but
in Don Luis's hands they will destroy themselves!"



Don Luis Montez laid down the pen. Outwardly he was as amiable as
ever; certainly he was all smiles.

"A thousand pardons, _caballeros_!" he murmured. "Of course, you
are quite right. It had not occurred to me in that light before.
True, the report was intended only for my own pleasure in later
years, but that does not alter the nice point of honor."

Tom Reade was deceived by Don Luis's manner. He did not suspect
that, at this very instant, the Mexican was consumed with demoniacal

"I shall not be patient another time," muttered Don Luis, between
his teeth and under his breath. Yet aloud he said:

"We have had too much of business to-day. We are tiring ourselves.
Until dinner time let us go outside and be gentlemen. Business
for to-morrow or next week. And my dear daughter. Brute! I


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