« Good morning, » said the little prince.
« Good morning, » said the railway switchman.
« What do you do here? » the little prince asked.
« I sort out travelers, in bundles of a thousand, » said the switchman. « I send off the trains that carry them: now to the right, now to the left. »
And a brilliantly lighted express train shook the switchman’s cabin as it rushed by with a roar like thunder.
« They are in a great hurry, » said the little prince. « What are they looking for? »
« Not even the locomotive engineer knows that, » said the switchman.
And a second brilliantly lighted express thundered by, in the opposite direction.
« Are they coming back already? » demanded the little prince.
« These are not the same ones, » said the switchman. « It is an exchange. »
« Were they not satisfied where they were? » asked the little prince.
« No one is ever satisfied where he is, » said the switchman.
And they heard the roaring thunder of a third brilliantly lighted express.
« Are they pursuing the first travelers? » demanded the little prince.
« They are pursuing nothing at all, » said the switchman. « They are asleep in there, or if they are not asleep they are yawning. Only the children are flattening their noses against the windowpanes. »
« Only the children know what they are looking for, » said the little prince. « They waste their time over a rag doll and it becomes very important to them; and if anybody takes it away from them, they cry . . . »
« They are lucky, » the switchman said.