For the first time in his life he was a prey to fear. A thousand panics clamored at him, his mind began working with the exaggerated speed of a person in dire peril. Once more, as upon that night when he had first called at her father’s house, he turned abruptly at the corner to stare at her window, and again he surprised a figure skulking after him. Without a moment’s hesitation he made after it at a run, but the fellow dodged into the Plaza and disappeared among the shrubbery. Not caring to pursue the chase into those lurking shadows Kirk desisted, certain only of one thing—that he was not Allan who was trailing him. He recalled the oft-repeated threats of Ramon Alfarez, and returned to his quarters by way of the lighted thoroughfares.
A BUSINESS PROPOSITION
Edith Cortlandt’s interview with the rival candidates for the Panamanian Presidency formed but a part of her plan. She next held a long conversation with Colonel Jolson, to the end that on Friday morning Runnels heard a rumor that threw him into the greatest consternation. It was to the effect that instead of his succeeding to the office of Superintendent, he was to retain his old post, and that Colonel Jolson’s brother-in-law was to supersede him. Although the word was not authoritative, it came with sufficient directness to leave him aghast. If true, it was, of course, equivalent to his discharge, for it meant that he could not even continue in his former position without putting himself in a light intolerable to any man of spirit. Since he was entitled to the promotion, had been promised it, in fact, and had made his plans accordingly, there was no course open except resignation. If he did not resign voluntarily, he knew that his new superior would eventually force him to do so, for Blakeley would build up an organization of his own, and in it there would be no place for one who had aspired to the highest office.
Inasmuch as his assistant was concerned in this threatened calamity, Runnels made haste to lay the matter before him. At first Kirk was inclined to take it as a joke, but his friend quickly brought him to a more serious frame of mind.
“No,” he said, “Blakeley has finally put it over. He’s wanted this position for a long time, and I guess the Cortlandts weren’t strong enough to prevent it—or else they have broken with the Colonel.”
“Didn’t he promise you the job?”
“Sure! But what are promises? I’ve been double-crossed, that’s all. It means I must quit.”
“Of course. I’m trying to figure out what it will mean to me.”
Runnels smiled grimly. “The same thing it would mean to me if I stayed, I’d go back to my desk; in a month I’d have a row with Blakeley, no matter what I did; then I’d be fired and have a tough time getting a job with another railroad. Of course, the Cortlandts might do more for you than they would for me, and you might be able to hang on.”