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   Chapter 24 CONCLUSION

The Young Engineers in Mexico; Or, Fighting the Mine Swindlers By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 14645

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02

"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."

"Why, it was like this," said Tom, seating himself on the railing of the porch, and facing the assemblage. "Harry and I began to roam all over this property, as though to kill time. Out in Nevada, as it happens, we two and a friend of ours own a mine that seemed almost worthless. Almost by accident we discovered that we were working the mine just a little off from the real vein. Now, we didn't find that El Sombrero was being worked off the vein. What we did find was in that big strip of forest over to the east of El Sombrero-"

Tom turned, for an instant, to point to the forest that he meant.

"You will remember, Mr. Haynes, that we had Don Luis include that forest tract in the title of the El Sombrero purchase. That forest is really a jungle. One has the greatest time forcing his way through it. When you open it up on a big scale you'll have to send hundreds of men in there with machetes to chop paths through and clear off the tangled brush. We spent days in that jungle, at first because we had nothing better to do. Mr. Haynes, and gentlemen, if we know anything about mining, then that forest land is worth an immense fortune in the minerals it will yield. You paid two and a half millions of dollars for the entire property. That great forest stretch, in our opinion as engineers, is worth as much and perhaps more than that."

"That's right!" leered Don Luis. "Jest with them, Senor Reade, to your heart's content."

"I'm telling these countrymen of mine the truth, fellow," retorted Tom Reade, casting a look of withering scorn at Don Luis Montez. "Had you been square and decent with us, we would have told you of the mineral wealth in yonder forest. As it is, we've punished your conduct by beating you at your own game."

"If I believed you, Senor Reade-" began Don Luis, bending his head low as he thrust it forward and gazed piercingly at Tom's face.

"I don't care anything about your believing me," retorted Tom. "But Harry and I will prove to these real men every word that we've been saying."

"You have robbed me!" hissed Don Luis, now believing.

His hand flew to a rear pocket. He drew a pistol. But two soldiers had crept up behind Montez at a sign from Senor Honda. Now, one of the barefooted soldados struck the weapon down. It clattered on the porch, and the other soldier picked it up.

There was a struggle between Don Luis and the soldiers. Two other soldiers came to their aid, and-Click! snap! Montez was securely handcuffed.

"Take them off!" screamed Montez, paling like one about to die.

"Senor Honda, this is an outrage, and you shall-"

"Peace, fellow! Hold your tongue!" ordered Honda. "Do you not understand? You are a prisoner, nor are you ever likely to be much better off than that. A complaint of the treatment of these Americans, Reade and Hazelton, was forwarded to our government by the American minister in Mexico City. The complaint mentioned that the governor of Bonista was a confederate of yours in more than one underhanded bit of business. On account of the urgings of the American minister to this country, I was despatched here to investigate, and with authority to arrest the governor of Bonista, if necessary, and any other rogues."

"That's a lie!" snarled Don Luis. "How could the American minister learn what was going on in this country? These mountains of Bonista have never told my secrets."

"They did, for this one time," Tom broke in, gleefully. "And I can tell you how it happened. Harry, do you remember the day that Nicolas was gone so long that you were uneasy about him? Well, I knew where Nicolas was, for I had sent him off. He thought he had found a messenger who would have more success in getting our letters mailed than had fallen to the lot of the messengers with our first two letters. Nicolas's messenger, from to-day's developments, must have got through. While I was sending one letter I thought it as well to send two. One letter was to our home offices, directing that the matter contained in my letter be taken on the jump to the government at Washington. The other letter, Mr. Haynes, was directed to you, sir, for I did not then know that you were one of the Americans expected here. I thought, Mr. Haynes, that your active hustling with the Washington government might help in rushing matters. For some unknown reason, my letter to our offices must have gotten through before the letter did that was sent to Arizona. Your private secretary, Mr. Haynes, must have opened my letter addressed to you. He realized that he could not with safety to us send you more than the telegraphic code warning to keep out of the deal. I never told Hazelton, until just now, in the presence of you all, that I had ordered Nicolas to send off more letters by a messenger whom Nicolas felt that he could trust. But you remember the day well enough, Harry?"

"I do," nodded Hazelton. "I was fussing about the long absence of

Nicolas just before you turned up with that stranger whom we nursed."

"And speaking of strangers," muttered Reade, glancing off down the driveway, "there's the identical stranger, at this moment talking with the soldiers halted by the gate."

Almost as though he had heard himself called the stranger glanced up at the group on the porch, then came forward. He walked briskly, despite his lean, wasted frame.

"How? So this fellow is in irons?" queried the stranger, halting as he saw the handcuffs on Don Luis's wrists. "Justice is sometimes very tardy, though in this instance she has not failed. Handcuffs become this felon; they are his natural jewelry!"

"Then you know Don Luis?" questioned Tom, after an instant's silence.

"I should know Don Luis well," boasted the stranger, drawing himself up proudly. "Also I know this fellow!"

"My father!" cried a startled feminine voice from the doorway. Then Francesca, her eyes filled with fright, hastened across the porch. She would have thrown her arms around the neck of the manacled man had not the stranger caught her by one arm and held her back.

"How dare you, senor?" panted the girl, turning upon the stranger.

"And who are you?"

"Do not touch this felon with your clean hands," warned the stranger, with a sternness that was tempered with gentleness.

"Who are you, senor?" the girl insisted.

"Can't you guess?" broke out Tom Reade, wonderingly. "Senorita Francesca, I helped take care of this man while he was i

ll in our cook tent. In his fever I heard some words fall from his lips that started me to wondering. But the other day I beheld this gentleman gazing upon you from a distance. In his eyes, as he looked at you, Senorita, I saw a light that I had never seen in the eyes of this manacled brute. Then my guess was turned to knowledge!"

"Then, Senor Reade," begged the girl, "who is this man who would hold me back from my-"

"Tell her, sir," Tom urged the stranger.

"Child," said the latter, with wonderful gentleness and tenderness,

"I am the real Don Luis Montez-your father!"

"Then who is he?" cried Francesca, pointing to the handcuffed

Mexican, who had sunk upon a chair looking more dead than alive.

"His true name," said the stranger, "is Paulo Rabasco. He was born of good family, but was always dissolute and criminal. Once he was my friend, I am ashamed to say; at least, I believed myself his. We traveled, once, in a part of Mexico in which we were both strangers. While there Rabasco became engaged in a budding revolution, that was quickly nipped by the central government. In my efforts to shield my supposed friend from the consequences of supposed rebellion, I myself became suspected. In the night Rabasco stole my papers, putting his own in my pocket. When the police came they searched us both. I was believed to be Rabasco, and this scoundrel insisted that I was. The papers in our respective pockets seemed to prove it. The papers in mine connected me with the intended rebellion. A swift military trial, and within a few hours I was on my way to serve a life sentence of imprisonment in Yucatan.

"Rabasco, the self-asserted Don Luis, was turned loose. We looked not unlike in those days. Rabasco, as I have since learned, grew a beard. Then he went back to my home. My wife had died within a few days. Most of the old servants had gone. Rabasco, the unutterable scoundrel, set himself up as Don Luis Montez. He imposed on the nurse, and took her away with my infant child whom I had never seen after she was three months old. Rabasco went to the United States as soon as he had established a flimsy title to my modest property. In after years he returned, an older and more successful impostor. Yet he feared to live on my estate, dreading that some day his treachery might be discovered. So, still calling himself Don Luis Montez, this scoundrel sold my estate and took my child away to other parts of Mexico. My estate was a modest one. On that foundation this fellow has been building a larger fortune-but fate has overtaken him at last. There are still friends of mine alive who will help me to unmask this scoundrel and prove him Paulo Rabasco. He never would have been known, had I not, after many years, escaped from Yucatan. I did not dare proclaim myself at once, for fear of being arrested as Paulo Rabasco and sent back to Yucatan. But now I no longer fear. I am Don Luis Montez. I shall prove it without difficulty at last."

"Then, if this be so, we haven't bought this mining property of the rightful owner," interposed Mr. Haynes. "I imagine that the real Don Luis will establish full claim to a property that was founded on his stolen fortune. We shall recover our money from the sham Don Luis, but I fear we shall not be able to obtain this rich mineral property."

"Tell me the particulars," begged the real Don Luis.

Tom Reade stated the case fully, though in the fewest words that would accomplish the telling.

"You shall have the property by transferring the purchase price to me after I have recovered this estate at law," promised the real Don Luis simply.

"But, my dear sir," objected Mr. Haynes, honestly, "do you realize that we paid two and a half millions for the property, and that our trusted engineers assure us that it may be worth more."

"That makes no difference, Senor," replied the new Don Luis. "The money you were first willing to pay is far more money than I shall ever need. I crave only life and my child. If you journeyed down into Mexico, expecting to buy a property at a certain figure, and if you did do it, acting in perfectly good faith, then that is enough. I will ratify the bargain."

"But that would hardly be good business," smiled Mr. Haynes.

"Business is a word that will interest me but little after I have established my rights in the world," remarked Don Luis, mildly.

The true Don Luis Montez did establish his rights. He secured the estate built by Rabasco on the looted Montez fortune. The money paid Rabasco for the mining property was easily recovered through the courts and turned over to the rightful Don Luis. Then the Americans secured the property at the original figure. Don Luis soon won the affection of his daughter, and the two were wonderfully happy together.

Rabasco, the impostor, was sentenced to twenty years of penal servitude. On his way to begin serving his sentence he broke away from the military guard, and was shot to death.

Dr. Carlos Tisco died, of fever, within six months of the time of the real Don Luis's arrival. The governor of Bonista was discovered guilty of so much corruption in office that he died, while serving a sentence in prison.

Pedro Gato became an avowed outlaw. Senor Honda, while acting for the government in Bonista, sent the troops in pursuit of the outlaw. He was caught and shot by the soldiers.

As for Tom Reade and Harry Hazelton, they were happy indeed when they found themselves wholly reestablished in the respect of Mr. Haynes and his friends. The young engineers had played a most daring game throughout, and would have gone to their deaths at the hands of the sham Don Luis sooner than to have betrayed their own honor.

Tom and Harry spent days showing the American investors through that forest stretch. It proved an amazingly wonderful mineral claim, and has since paid enormous dividends.

"Mr. Haynes," Tom asked, anxiously, one day, "would you have done the same as we did, had you been in our place?"

"I don't know, my boy," replied the railway president, with a frank smile. "I'd hope that I would have done the same, but I don't know that I would have had the same magnificent courage that you two displayed throughout. It isn't every man who has the courage to back his conscience with his life."

Tom Reade and Harry Hazelton remained some three months longer in the mountains of Bonista. Finally, when they could be spared from the task of superintending the start of this rich mineral claim they returned to the United States.

"And what is to become of me, caballeros?" Nicolas mournfully inquired, the day before their departure.

"Do you think you could stand life with us, in the United States?" asked Tom.

"Could I?" exclaimed the poor fellow, clasping his hands. "Senor, do not jest with me! Can it be that you mean it?"

"I certainly do," nodded Tom.

Ambition's lure led the young engineers back to the home country. We shall speedily find them engaged again in the great fields of their calling, and we shall find them, too, in a setting of truly extraordinary adventure. All that happened to them will be stirringly told in the next volume of this series, which is published under the title, "The Young Engineers On The Gulf; Or, The Dread Mystery of the Million-dollar Breakwater."

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