“But the woman is aiding me,” he replied, warmly. “She’s doing it all. You have started me moving, and I’ll never be able to thank you.” Then, as her eyes flashed to his with a look he had never seen before, he added: “Understand, though, I am going to work only because I must. I detest it.”
THE TRUTH ABOUT MRS. CORTLANDT
Edith Cortlandt was not the sort to permit delay. At lunch she introduced Kirk to the Master of Transportation of the Panama Railroad, saying:
“Mr. Runnels has offered to take you out through the Cut this afternoon, and explain the work to you.”
Runnels, a straight, well-set-up, serious young man, bent a searching look upon Kirk, as he said, “Mrs. Cortlandt tells me you’re going to be one of us.”
The Master of Transportation took in the applicant fully, then nodded his head as if pleased with his inspection.
Anthony was drawn to the speaker instantly, for there was no affectation about him. He was straightforward and open, little given to the kind of small talk that serves in so many cases to conceal character. He produced the effect of a busy and forceful man; one could feel energy radiating from him, and his voice had a ring of authority. Like every one down here who was doing something, he talked of little besides the Big Job, even when Mr. Cortlandt joined the trio. As the two younger men rose to leave, Edith playfully admonished him to teach his protege the entire detail of the railroad business and have him back in time for dinner, to which he agreed.
“She’s wonderful,” he remarked a moment later, as he and Kirk descended the hotel steps together. “She told Colonel Jolson he’d just have to find you a position, and I have been delegated to show you about.”
“You don’t say. I supposed there were plenty of openings.”
“Not good ones. However, she usually gets what she wants. If I’m not a good guide, you must put it down to inexperience.”
“The Cortlandts seem to have considerable influence for outsiders. I thought I’d have to begin at the bottom.”
Runnels glanced at his companion quickly.
“Outsiders! You don’t call them outsiders?”
“I never quite figured out who they are. Funny, by-the-way, how everybody says ‘they’ in referring to them.”
“Oh, she’s the whole team. Cortlandt’s a nice fellow—but—Did you really think that she’d let you start at the bottom?”
“I guess you don’t know her.”
“You’re right; I do not.”
“Well, she knows everybody and everything in this country. She’s the whole diplomatic service. Take the Colombian trouble, for instance—”