Read CHAPTER XVI - TWO VICTIMS OF ROSY THOUGHTS of The Young Engineers in Mexico, free online book, by H. Irving Hancock, on

“There is one thing about it,” remarked Reade, as he rose and stood at the doorway of the tent.  “We’re not being overworked.”

“Nor are we getting awfully rich, as the weeks go by, either,” smiled Harry.

“No; but we’re puppets in a game that interests me about as much as any that I ever saw played,” Tom smiled back.

“This game ­interests you?” queried Harry, looking astonished.  “That is a new idea to me, Tom.  I never knew you to be interested, before, in any game that wasn’t directly connected with some great ambition.”

“We have a great ambition at present.”

“I’d like to know what it is,” grumbled Harry.  “It’s three weeks since that scoundrel, Don Luis, brought us back in triumph.  We refused to enter his house as guests, and started to camp in the open in these two old tents that Nicolas secured for us.  In all these three weeks we haven’t done a tap of work.  We haven’t studied, or read because we have no books.  We sleep, eat, and then sleep some more.  When we get tired of everything else we go out and trudge over the hills, being careful not to get too far, lest we run into the guns of Gato and his comrades, for undoubtedly Gato was turned loose as soon as he was lost to our sight.  We don’t do anything like work, and we’re not even arranging any work for the future.  Yet you say that you’re boosting your ambitions.”

“I am,” Tom nodded solemnly.  “Harry, isn’t it just as great an ambition to be an honest engineer as it is to be a highly capable one?”

“Of course.”

“Don’t capitalists usually invest large sums on a favorable report from engineers?”


“And, if the engineers were dishonest the capitalists would lose their money, wouldn’t they?”


“Then here’s our ambition, and we’re working it out ­finely, too,” Tom went on, with much warmth.  “Don Luis has a scheme to rob some people of a large sum of money by selling them a worthless mine in a country where there are several good ones.  If he could get us to help him, to our own dishonor, Don Luis Montez would succeed in swindling this company of men.  Harry, we’re just lying around here, day after day, doing no hard work, but we’re blocking Don Luis’s game and saving money for honest men.  Don Luis doesn’t care to have us assassinated, for he still hopes to break down our resistance.  He can’t bring the capitalists here to meet us until we do give in, and so the game lags for Don Luis.  He can’t bring in other engineers, for they’d meet us and we would post them.  The American engineer must be a serious problem for Don Luis.  He thought he could buy almost any of us.  Our conduct has made him afraid that American engineers can’t be bought.  Evidently he must have his report signed by American engineers of repute, which means that he is trying to sell his worthless mine to Americans.  Harry, we’re teaching Don Luis to respect the honesty of American engineers; we’re saving some of our countrymen from being swindled, probably out of thousands of dollars; we’re proving that the American engineer is honest, and we’re discouraging rascals everywhere from employing us in crooked work.  Now, honestly, isn’t all that ambition enough to hold us for a few weeks?”

“I suppose so,” Harry agreed.  “But what is the end of all this to be.  Won’t Don Luis merely have us assassinated in the end, if we go on proving stubborn?”

“He may,” Tom answered, pressing his lips grimly.  “But, if he does, he’ll pay heavily for his villainy.”


“Every man has to pay for his sins.”

“That’s what we were taught in Sunday school,” Harry nodded, “and I’ve always believed it.  Yet here, in these remote mountains of the state of Bonista, if anywhere, Don Luis would appear to be safe.  If a few of his men crept up here, late some night, with pistols or knives, and finished us before we had time to wake up, do you imagine that any one hereabouts would dare to make any report of the matter?  Would our fate ever reach the outside world?”

“It would be sure to, in time, I believe,” Tom answered, thoughtfully.


“That I can’t tell.  But I believe in the invariable triumph of right, no matter how great the odds against it may seem.”

“Let right triumph, after we’re buried,” continued Harry, “and what good would it do us?”

“None, in any ordinary material sense.  Yet good would come to the world through our fate, even if only in proclaiming, once more, the sure defeat of all wicked plans in the end.”

Harry said no more, just then.  Tom Reade, who ordinarily was intensely practical, was also the kind of young man who could perish for an ideal, if need be.  Tom went outside, stretching himself on the grass under a tree.  He sighed for a book, but there was none, so he lay staring off over the valley below.

Twenty minutes later Harry, after trying vainly to take a nap on a cot in the tent, followed his chum outside.

“Odd, isn’t it, Tom?” questioned Hazelton.  “We’re living what looks like a wholly free life.  Nothing to prevent us from tramping anywhere we please on these hills, and yet we know to a certainty that we wouldn’t be able to get twenty miles from here before soldiers would have us nabbed, and marching away to a prison from which, very likely, no one in the outside world would ever hear of us again.”

“It is queer,” agreed Tom, nodding.  “Oh, just for one glimpse of Yankee soil!”

“Twice,” went on Harry, “we’ve even persuaded Nicolas to bribe some native to take a letter from us, to be mailed at some distant point.  After two or three days Don Luis, in each instance, has come here, and, with a smile, has shown us our own intercepted letter.  Yet Nicolas has been honest in the matter, beyond a doubt.  It is equally past question that the native whom Nicolas has trusted and paid has made an honest attempt to get away and post our letter; but always the cunning of a Montez overtakes the trusted messenger.”

“And one can only guess what has happened to the messengers,” Tom said, soberly.  “Undoubtedly both of the two poor fellows are now passing the days incommunicado.  It makes a fellow a bit heartsick, doesn’t it, chum, to think of the probable fates of two men who have tried to serve us.  And what, in the end, is to be the fate of poor little Nicolas?  Don Luis Montez is not the sort of man to forgive him his fidelity to us.”

“And where’s Nicolas, all this time?” suddenly demanded Harry, glancing at his watch.  “Why, the fellow hasn’t been here for three hours!  Where can he be?”

Quien sabe?” responded Reade, using the common Spanish question, given with a shrug, which means, “Who knows!  Who can guess?”

“Can Nicolas have fallen into any harm?” asked Hazelton, a new note of alarm in his voice.  “The poor, faithful little fellow!  It gives me a shiver to think of his suffering an injury just because he serves us so truly.”

“I shall be interested in seeing him get back,” Tom nodded thoughtfully.

“And I’m beginning to have a creepy feeling that he won’t come back!” cried Harry.  “He may at this moment be past human aid, Tom, and that may be but the prelude to our own craftily-planned destruction.”

Tom Reade sat up, leaning on one elbow, as he regarded his chum with an odd smile.

“Harry,” Tom uttered, dryly, “we certainly have no excuse for being blue when we have such rosy thoughts to cheer us up!”

“Hang Mexico!” grunted Hazelton.