“Look here, Anthony,” he said, “I’m partly selfish in this, for I believe you’re the sort I’m going to want within the next year. The superintendent has had an offer from a big system in the States, and he’s going to quit when his vacation comes. He likes me, and he says I’ll probably step into his shoes. Do you understand what that means? I’ll need fellows I can count on— fellows who won’t double-cross me to make a dollar for themselves, or knife me when my back is turned. I’ve got to have an efficient, noiseless organization. Otherwise we’ll all go under, for we’ll be into politics up to our necks. I think you’re my sort, so if you’ll stick to me I’ll help you, and for every step I take I’ll drag you up one.”
“It’s a go!” The two young men clasped hands heartily. Runnels had struck the right note. Beside his former desire to prove himself a man, Kirk now felt a strong sense of loyalty to the one who had recognized his worth. This was no mere matter of promotion. He and Runnels would work shoulder to shoulder. A sense of responsibility descended upon him. For the first time he thoroughly understood the spirit of the ardent toilers who were giving their best to the Big Job. He was really one of them now, and the thought electrified him.
When he told his good news to Mrs. Cortlandt, her surprise was so cleverly simulated that he never dreamed that she had been at great pains to bring this thing about. Not that Runnels was indisposed to act upon his own initiative, but the circumstances that had made his action possible had been due to her. It was hard to help a man against his will; but she profited by experience, and took the line of least resistance.
The young man himself did not inquire too closely into the occasion of his advancement, and Edith Cortlandt was but little in his mind. He was consumed with the thought of Chiquita. He hoped that his new work would allow him more control of his time, and perhaps put him in the way of learning her name. He could move in better society now. Meanwhile he laid other plans. He took Allan into his confidence, and told him frankly that he was in love with a woman he did not know.
Of course his faithful follower was delighted, and made extravagant promises of aid.
“Now that the dry season has come,” said Kirk, “people must be living at the Savannas, and I want you to haunt the region round that swimming-pool until you discover who she is. You must be my detective.”
“Oh, boss, I would—”
“Don’t tell me you’d die and kill yourself for me. I want you to live and find this girl for me. I’ll take you out to-day, after office hours, and show you the place; then you’ll have to do the rest. You talk Spanish, you know. But, above all, don’t tip off.”
“Tip h’off? What shall I be climbing, sar?”
“I mean you mustn’t tell a soul.”
“Never fear, boss. H’Allan will discover your female.”