“But I haven’t any—” Kirk began. Then, catching her look, he exclaimed: “Oh, say! Will you help me? Really? That’s too good to be true.”
He shook her hand warmly, that being the natural outlet for his gratitude, and she smiled at him. “I wonder where I’d better start in,” he said.
“There’s not the slightest choice. All paths lead up the mountain, and if you go far enough you will reach the top. It would be quite easy if you knew something about the railroad business, for instance.”
“Oh, I do. I’ve had that drilled into me ever since I was a child. I grew up with it—was soaked in it. My father made me learn telegraphy before he gave me a motor-boat.”
“Why in the world didn’t you say so?”
“Well, I have forgotten most of it,” he confessed. “I had a railroad of my own, too, when I was twelve years old. I was president.”
“I suppose it was in my blood. We kids stole the lumber for a track, and I got a hand-car from dad. We formed a close corporation, and, when another boy wanted to join, we made him go forth and steal enough boards to extend the line. We finally had nearly two miles, altogether, with switches, sidings, yards, and everything; then the fences in that neighborhood gave out. It was a gravity road—yes, there was extreme gravity in every department—we’d push the car up and ride down. We had a telephone system and semaphores, and ran on orders just like a real train. Grown people heard about it, and paid us five cents a ride, so we began to declare dividends every Saturday. Oh, it was a great success. We had a complete organization, too; president, directors, conductors, section-hands—the section-hands did all the work and rode between times.”
“What happened to it?”
“One day we ran into a cow and broke the vice-president’s leg. The board of directors also had his ear cut, and the indignant neighbors began to reclaim their fences. We lost a mile of track in one afternoon, and father decided it would be better for me to go to boarding-school. It was safer.”
“I’ll warrant you learned the rudiments of railroading, just the same.”
“I learned everything,” Kirk announced, decisively.
“Unfortunately, the P.R.R. has a president, so we can’t start you in where you left off.”
“He might need an assistant.”
Mrs. Cortlandt laughed lightly. “While we are finding that out,” she said, “I think you had better go over the line in daylight and really see what this work is like. That glimpse you had at Gatun is only a small part. Now, will you trust me to manage this for you, Mr. Anthony?”
“I should say I would, and I can’t begin to tell you—”
“Oh, it’s nothing.” She rose to put her plans promptly into operation, this time extending her hands with the words: “Let me congratulate you. I really believe you are waking up, and without the woman’s aid.”