The Ne'er-Do-Well eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 342 pages of information about The Ne'er-Do-Well.

“When Panama seceded.  She manipulated that, or at least Steve Cortlandt did under her direction.  She was the brains of the whole affair, however, and those New York lawyers merely did what she told them.  It was one of the cleverest exploits on record.  Colombia wouldn’t let us build the Canal, so Panama seceded.  War was declared, but the United States interfered in time to prevent bloodshed.  One Chinaman was killed, I believe, by dropping a flat-iron on his toe, or something, and by the time the excitement had died out we had begun digging.  She knows Central America like the palm of her hand.  When she says Kirk Anthony wants a position, we hirelings jump about and see that he gets it.  Oh, you’ll have any job you want.”

“Well!” The recipient of this good news congratulated himself silently.  “I wish you’d tell me something more about her.”

“There isn’t time just now; our motor is waiting.  But we have the whole afternoon ahead of us.”

The two passed through the railroad gates and took their places in the little car.  When they were under way, Runnels went on:  “I’m supposed to show you this end of the work and tell you what it all means.”

“Then please start at the beginning.  You see, I probably know less about it than anybody living.”

“Of course you know the general lay-out?”

“I tell you I don’t know a thing.  There’s no use four-flushing.”

Runnels smiled at this candor.  “Well, the ditch will be about fifty miles long, and, roughly speaking, the work is in three parts—­the dredging and harbor-building at sea-level on each end of the Canal, the lock-work, and the excavations on the upper levels.  That dam you saw building at Gatun will form a lake about thirty miles long—­quite a fish-pond, eh?  When a west-bound ship arrives, for instance, it will be raised through the Gatun locks, three of them, and then sail along eighty-five feet above the ocean, across the lake and into a channel dug right through the hills, until it reaches the locks at Pedro Miguel.  Then it will be lowered to a smaller lake five miles long, then down again to the level of the Pacific.  An east-bound ship will reverse the process.  Get the idea?”

“Sure.  It sounds easy.”

“Oh, it’s simple enough.  That’s what makes it so big.  We’ve been working at it five years, and it will take five years more to complete it.  Before we began, the French had spent about twenty years on the job.  Now a word, so you will have the general scheme of operation in your head.  The whole thing is run by the Isthmian Canal Commission—­six men, most of whom are at war with one another.  There are really two railroad systems—­the I. C. C., built to haul dirt and rock and to handle materials in and out of the workings, and the Panama Railroad, which was built years ago during the California gold rush and bought by our government at the time of that terrible revolution I told you about.  The latter is a regular system, hauls passengers and freight, but the two work together.  You will start in with the P. R. R., Mr. Anthony, under my despotic sway.”

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The Ne'er-Do-Well from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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