Runnels grasped the outstretched hand.
“Say, Anthony,” he said, “we’re young and we have a start. I have what you lack, and you have what I lack; if we stick together, we’ll own a railroad some day. Is it a go?”
With a warm glow in his breast, the new Master of Transportation plunged into his duties. He really was making a success, it seemed, although it was a bit disappointing to learn that he owed so much of it to Edith Cortlandt. At the same time he couldn’t help thinking that his efforts had entitled him to reasonable success, and, anyhow, it was pleasant to feel that at no point in his scramble up the ladder had he elbowed off some other man more deserving, perhaps, than he. This last advancement, too, was very timely, for it would surely have its effect upon Andres Garavel.
But his new work brought new troubles and worries. Runnels helped him whenever he could, yet Kirk was left largely to his own devices, and learned for the first time what real responsibility was like. He began to sleep shorter hours; he concentrated with every atom of determination in him; he drove himself with an iron hand. He attacked his task from every angle, and with his fine constitution and unbounded youthful energy he covered an amazing quantity of work. He covered it so well, moreover, that Runnels complimented him.
This stress of labor served one purpose for which he was very grateful; it separated him from Edith Cortlandt and took his mind from that occurrence in the jungle. Ever since the day of his last ride with her, he had been tortured with the most unpleasant thoughts. He confessed to forgetting himself briefly that night at Taboga, but he had believed that she understood—that she regarded him only as a chum and a companion. Therefore her open surrender, coming so unexpectedly had dumfounded him. As he looked back upon the incident now, it seemed inconceivable, yet her words, her expression, her reckless abandon at that moment, were too significant to allow of misunderstanding. Still, by dint of determination and stern attention to his tasks, he was able to put the matter almost wholly from his mind.
Soon after his promotion he received from Andres Garavel a warmly worded note of congratulation, and some few days later an invitation to dine, which he accepted eagerly.
The dinner proved to be another disappointing ordeal, for again he was allowed no opportunity of speaking with Gertrudis, and had to content himself with feasting his eyes upon her. But although the family were present en masse, as on the former occasion, they unbent to a surprising degree, and he found them truly gracious and delightful. He realized, nevertheless, that he was under the closest scrutiny and upon the strictest probation. The Garavels still held him at a noticeable distance, and he was far from feeling wholly at ease.
Later in the evening he found himself alone with Chiquita and the old Spanish lady, and, knowing that the latter could not understand a word of his tongue, he addressed himself to the girl with some degree of naturalness.