‘Hello there,’ said the little prince.
‘Hello,’ said the railway signalman.
‘What do you do?’ the little prince asked.
‘I sort travellers into groups of a thousand,’ said the signalman. ‘Then I send the trains carrying them either to the right or to the left.’
Just then a brightly lit express train thundered by, making the signal box shake.
‘Why are they in such a great hurry?’ asked the little prince.
‘Even the travellers don’t know why,’ said the signalman.
A second express train roared by, in the opposite direction.
‘Are they back already?’ the little prince wanted to know.
‘They are not the same lot,’ said the signalman. ‘It is an exchange.’
‘Were they unhappy where they were?’ asked the little prince.
‘Nobody is really happy where they are,’ said the signalman.
Now a third express train bellowed past.
‘Are they following the first group of travellers?’ said the little prince.
‘They are following nothing,’ said the signalman. ‘They are fast asleep in there, or they may be yawning. Only the children press their faces against the windows.’
‘Only children know what they are looking for,’ said the little prince. ‘They amuse themselves with a rag doll for hours and it becomes really important to them. If someone takes it away from them, they cry.’
‘Aren’t they lucky,’ said the signalman.