Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, Chapter Twenty Two (The Signalman)

“Good morning,” said the little prince.

“Good morning,” said the railway signalman.

“What do you do here?” asked the little prince.

“I sort out the travellers, in bundles of a thousand,” said the signalman. “I shunt the trains carrying them, now to the right, now to the left.”

And a brilliantly lit-up express train, roaring like thunder, shook the signal-box as it rushed by.

“They are in a great hurry,” said the little prince. “What are they looking for?”

“The locomotive driver doesn’t even know himself,” said the signalman.

And a second brilliantly lit express train thundered by in the opposite direction.

“Are they already coming back?” asked the little prince.

“Those are not the same ones,” said the signalman. “It is an exchange.”

“They were not satisfied where they were?”

“No one is ever satisfied where he is,” said the signalman.

And they heard the roaring thunder of a third brilliantly lit express train.

“Are they pursuing the first travellers?” asked the little prince.

“They are pursuing nothing at all,” said the signalman. “They sleep in there, or they yawn. Only the children press their noses against the window-panes.”

“Only children know what they are looking for,” said the little prince. “They dote on a rag doll and it becomes very important to them, and if it is taken away from them, they cry…”

“They are lucky,” said the signalman.

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