RADIO BOYS LOYALTY
BILL BROWN LISTENS IN
WAYNE WHIPPLE Author of "Radio Boys Cronies"
S. F. AARON Co-author of "Radio Boys Cronies"
MADE IN U. S. A.
M. A. DONOHUE & COMPANY CHICAGO NEW YORK
Copyright, 1922, by Hurst & Company
Printed in U. S. A.
BILL BROWN LISTENS IN
"They've got a splendid broadcasting station at the Tech, Bill."
"I know it; hence my general exuberance. And if we don't get at it once in a while, it'll be because we can't break in."
"What do you want to shout into it first off?"
"Why, I thought you knew, Gus. I've got it all fixed, date and time, for Professor Gray and Mr. Hooper to listen in. They're the chaps that are responsible for our getting into the Tech and they deserve our first message. I'll explain to President Field and I know he won't object."
"What's this you were telling me about hazing?" asked Gus, but as though really little interested.
"Terry Watkins was telling me; his cousin went there. Lost a new hat the third day, a pair of glasses the fourth and most of his clothes the fifth. His dad has a lot of dough, so he needn't have minded, but that won't be the case with us. I guess it's me for carrying a gun."
"If they're mean enough to pick on you, old scout, I'll carry one, too, but I think you'll be exempt. If I'm to be a victim, I reckon I'll have to grin and take——"
"No; you won't, either. We've come here to study—not to fool—and we haven't got money to spend on ruined duds just to gratify a lot of chumps. There are better things, too, than a gun; not so crude and not illegal."
"I can imagine," laughed Gus, and turned again to watch the fleeting landscape.
The chums journeyed in silence then, their minds busy conjecturing what their experiences and adventures were to be, after they became students of the Marshallton Technical School, which they were rapidly approaching and from which they held high hopes of gaining much knowledge. The institution, despite its modest name, was nothing less than a university of broad constructive teaching, with departments of engineering, electricity, chemistry, manual training and biology.
It was within the first two of these departments that William Brown and Augustus Grier were to concentrate their mental efforts. They had, as already related, earned this long-hoped-for opportunity to gain technical knowledge and training by showing what they could do along these lines. They had installed a small water-power plant and an electric lighting system for the Hooper estate, and had also won greater credit for constructing high-class radio receivers through which they had heard a no less personage than Thomas A. Edison speak. The boys had been saving their earnings to meet tech school expenses for at least a year. Their high school records, good common sense and scientific inclinations had been such as to receive the plaudits of their teacher, Professor Gray, and the members of their class.
Intense application and mental force characterized William Brown, who was called "Billy" by the high school girls—fine, bright-minded young women—and "Bill" by the boys. He was just Bill to nearly everyone. His friends referred to him as the school genius; and such he had proved to be on more than one occasion. Though compelled by a twisted leg to use a crutch and to abstain from strenuous physical participation in sports, he was a favorite. All saw his worth, and Professor Gray said of him that he possessed the mind of a philosopher and the expressiveness of a poet.
Cheerful, delighting in the strength of others, Bill's natural love of friendly contests and admiration for physical prowess impelled him to adopt as his best chum Gus Grier, who had much in common with him concerning mechanical matters. Gus was in many things almost the exact counterpart of the lame boy.
Gus was bright, shrewd, practical, reticent. He had the sort of mentality that made him a good follower, with enough native wit to discover his own limitations and to acknowledge Bill's superior characteristics. Both displayed that loyalty of friendship whose rare quality has made notable history. Sometimes their classmates called the boys David and Jonathan, or Damon and Pythias; sometimes, the head and body, the former referring to Bill and the latter, with no less admiration, to Gus because of his splendid athletic ability. The muscles of Gus were quite as remarkable in their way as Bill's brains; and both boys were modest, aiding one another in every time of need, doubling all their efforts with the term "we," which Bill used oftenest.
If Bill mastered a mental problem it was: "We did it by this method." If Gus entered upon a trial of strength or physical skill it was: "We'll do our best," and then: "Well, we won, but it was no cinch"—in deference to the efforts of a beaten opponent. All this was a matter of course. And now, regarding the present, either friend might have said, "We've passed our exams and we're going to Tech."
"Guilford! Guilford! All out for Marshallton!" shouted the brakeman, and in half a minute the boys were climbing into a taxi bound for the school; in half an hour they were facing the great buildings which stood for so much learning, and in half a day they had matriculated and were of the student body.
"Come here quick and watch this!"
"What's going on? I've got this letter——"
"This is some livelier than letter writing, Bill," Gus declared, and a moment later Bill was of the same mind.
The boys gazed out of the window of their room in the school dormitory to witness an upper-class reception of one of the freshmen, a lad of almost tender years, yet husky and of undoubted good nature. He was expensively dressed to begin with, a little foppish in appearance even, and it was known that his people were very wealthy. Such as he, then, could well afford the sacrifice demanded of him to become a member in high standing of the Marshallton student body. Whatever was done, short of actual physical injury, must contribute to the violently initiated youth's general glorification, at least this was the popular impression. It occurred to but few to make serious objections to that which was customary in the school.
Hazing, long since taboo or forbidden in many educational institutions, was still a part of Marshallton Tech, by reason of the belief that a high mentality and virile spirit demanded the extreme mental and physical show-down which hazing is wrongly supposed to bring out. Though severe enough, perhaps the initiations were not so terrible as to call for much complaint.
"By cracky, that's rotten!" exclaimed Gus, as he watched the progress of the affair.
"Worse than mean!" agreed Bill.
This comment was called forth as the victim, in his efforts to escape from his tormentors, had his coat and vest torn from him. In a little time his shirt was reduced to ribbons. A fine gold watch and its broken chain lay on the ground among the feet of the struggling boys, and an unsuspecting heel soon reduced the time-piece to little more value than the metal in the case. A wallet slid out of a pocket and disgorged from its folds considerable cash and paper, some of which the bystanders gathered up with much difficulty. The freshman's panama, kicked about in the dust, was not rescued until it resembled an uprooted weed.
"We wouldn't enjoy being treated that way," commented Gus, the sentimental.
"We couldn't afford it," amended Bill, the practical. "That sort of thing may be well enough for rich fellows, though I think it's rank foolishness at any time. But, Gus, we've got to dodge it in some way."
Gus made no reply. He was thinking that his chum was right, but, still interested in the excitement without, he left the usual whatever-it-must-be with Bill. When Bill spoke again, some few minutes after the well-hazed youth had made a get-away, Gus listened with interest.
"We can get the materials," Bill finished, "and it won't take long to do the work."
And it did not. Having procured a permit from the professor of physics—and no one could have refused Bill with his convincing tongue—the boys returned well loaded to their room. They took from a paper packing box, whose contents had been hidden from the curious, a lot of wire, some switches, some acid and a number of storage battery cells.
On their way from the central building the chums had been stopped by a number of upper classmen. It was mid-afternoon, an optional study or playtime, and just the hour for brewing mischief. This is what happened.
"Come on there, Freeporters! Put down those boxes; we have a little business to transact with you," the spokesman called.
Gus gazed calmly at the five militant youths in front of him. Without undue egotism, he possessed an easy confidence, and he knew that, barring some bumps and scratches, that bunch would need assistance in hazing him. He would have complied forthwith, had not Bill given an ultimatum. With a small box under his left arm, he shifted his crutch to his left fingers and slipped the free hand into his pocket, drawing forth about the wickedest-looking pistol that any thug would use. The five began backing away, the spokesman turning quite pale and the others, no doubt, feeling much as he looked.
"Would you Indians want to haze me?" Bill asked.
"Aw, no. You're exempt, of course. We don't bother with cripples, kids, old ladies nor natural criminals." This attempt to be witty trailed off weakly.
"Well, my friend here is carrying glass and we can't tarry now. Any interference with him will result in my turning criminal instanter, and I'm keen to do so. Go on, Gus."
Gus went on, and Bill, with weapon still in hand, followed after. He turned to call back to the flabbergasted five:
"You can find us in our room any time after to-day. Getting hazed is really great sport, and we won't pull any guns on you then!"
Hardly half an hour elapsed before there came a knock at the door of the room occupied by Bill and Gus. A moment before, Gus had been down to get a pair of pliers that had dropped out of the window and two wide-eyed lads in the hallway had hailed him:
"That crutch-thumper that rooms with you is in for the G. B.," one had said and the other had added:
"Say, he must be a blamed fool to carry a gun and pull it here. 'Prex' won't stand for that."
Bill called a "Come in" in answer to the knock, and no less than President Field and Professor Whitcomb, both looking very stern, entered.
"Brown and Grier, I have heard with real pain and very great surprise, after the letter from Professor Gray highly recommending you two lads, that you have so soon shown utter disregard for the rules, the standing, the decency of our institution by carrying and drawing a deadly weapon, a pistol, and on slight provocation. This is deserving of instant expul——"
"Sure is, Doctor Field, if it were so. But it isn't. And please, also, do not hold the idea that it was on slight provocation. They were going to haze us, or rather Gus here, Doctor. We had just seen something of this sort, with the result that Fleming, of Chicago, had a ruined suit and panama, a fine watch destroyed, and a lot of money and papers probably lost. We came here to study; our means are limited; if we met with such a disaster our finances wouldn't stand it and we'd have to go home; that's all there is to it. Now, I can't offer you a cigar, Doctor, because you don't and I don't smoke, but if I did I'd probably carry them in this case."
With that Bill drew forth the nickeled pistol again, snapped it open and disclosed a rather unique cigar case which he extended toward the men.
"Oh, you mean that this thing was——"
"Just that, Doctor. I hope we have respect for the institution to which we have come for a much needed and wanted education. But I saw no harm in fooling those chaps who think they have the right to compel us to lose a lot of time and money. Am I right?"
President Field was human; he tilted back his head and laughed most heartily, nudging the professor also, in quite a boyish way.
"We are greatly relieved, and I wish you had scared those young rascals more than you did. Professor, we shall simply have to put a stop to this hazing—stop it under pain of dismissal. And this joke, now—it should be mentioned at chapel, eh? I really want to thank you, young gentlemen, for doing the school a distinct favor."
"We hope to add to the joke somewhat by to-morrow, if you will kindly hold up that hazing ban for one day."
"And how is that, may I ask?"
"Would you mind if we keep it a small secret until then? We can promise to refrain from anything dreadful."
"But then we——"
"Please, Doctor. This, if you will trust us, will do more real good than anything the faculty can do in the way of verboten. Just twenty-four hours, Doctor."
"Well, well, we shall see. From what Gray wrote, I think we may trust you. Good evening, boys."
At the long supper table in the spacious basement of the dormitory, many curious glances were aimed at Bill and Gus, and many a terse remark was shot at them respecting their departure from the honorable ways and the rules of the school. Most pronounced were the expressions of wonder over the fact that the carrier of concealed weapons had not been expelled, or suspended at once. Finally a sophomore whose influence seemed to count most gave voice to the prevailing sentiment:
"Well, I must say if that gun had been pulled on me, I'd have made the cad use it."
"I'll bet you would, too, Siebold!" declared an admirer.
Bill got on his feet and there was an instant hush. There was something to expect from the daring and apparently successful gunman. He laughed, and that also charged the atmosphere. When he spoke he had undivided attention:
"You would have run like any other scared puppy," Bill said to Siebold. "We would have listened to you ki-yi-ing for about a mile. Say, look here, you hazers: You're a bunch of muts! Hear me? The whole lot of you couldn't haze anybody that puts up a fight, if you played anyway fair and gave a little notice. We'll give you a dare, Siebold, you and all your deputies, though I suppose you'll send them and hang back yourself. We'll be ready to take all the hazing you fellows can give to-morrow afternoon at about three o'clock; only there isn't one of you who will have the nerve to show up. Oh, 'no weapons?' That was only a cigar case I pulled on you to-day. It wouldn't shoot, but, by cracky, it worked!" And Bill laughed, with Gus and a few others who admired the boy's nerve.
There was a sensation at once. Never before in the history of the school had a freshman dared the upper classmen to haze him, or had named the time and place. Would such a plan hold out?
It would, and it did. The very novelty of the thing had assured it, as Bill expected. Some little time before the hour given, a number of would-be spectators began to gather in the hallway, as Bill and Gus, studying in their room, could tell from the tramping of feet outside their door. Then there was the louder tramp of feet coming nearer and without a preliminary call or knock the door flew open. The chums looked up from their books with well simulated surprise. In the doorway and crowding behind stood several upper classmen and easy confidence was written all over their eager faces.
"Come right in, gentlemen; we are at your service," said Bill.
"Ho, men! What's this? Wire entanglements?"
The question was opportune; flimsily stretched across in front of the attacking party and about shoulder high were some copper wires, and about equally spaced below were others. It could be seen that these offered no serious check, as anyone could spread them apart and push through. It was evidently with this intention that the hazers fairly struggled through the door in the effort of each to be first—at least half a dozen youths had their hands on the wires. Then Bill leaned back against the wall and his hand came in contact with a button.
Pandemonium! Cries of distress, yells of something more than discomfort, howls of dismay, calls for succor—the S O S in other than code signals. This was a very pretty chorus increased by some others who, hastily coming to the rescue, also became entangled. The rest, chiefly onlookers, refrained from too close acquaintance with the very apparent cause of all the trouble. But the truly crucial part of the crisis was due to the fact that those who suffered by contact with the wires found it impossible to get away from the source of distress.
GOOD WILL AND FIXTURES
Bill made another motion touching the wall button, and instantly, with a combined and very audible gasp, the seven youths relaxed, got away from the wires and stood up. There would probably have been a general retreat mixed with a volley of expletives hurled at Bill and Gus, had not Gus taken a hand in the prevention of this, as planned. A stream of water from a long syringe, aimed over the heads of the sufferers, had cleared the doorway of spectators. The jerk of a ceiling cord slammed the door shut and it was deadlatched, requiring a key to open it. The would-be hazers, thus trapped and fearful of attempting a further attack, turned, perforce, to face their captors.
But there was one fellow, Albert Shurtlief, who so deeply resented the electric shocking that his desire for instant retaliation robbed him of caution. He was coming right over the wires again and did get partly through before another touch of the wall button gave him a second siege of writhing. The others looked on in wonder, convinced that the best thing they could do was to remain quiescent. Gus said:
"Let up on him, Bill, and if he wants to come through——"
Again the button. The still furious sophomore did get past the wires and was going to make a rush at Bill when Gus stood in his way.
"Now, please. You ought to go a little slow." That was a way Gus had in making a protest against what might end in a scrap. But without further ado, Shurtlief, who was commonly known as "Scrapper Bert," let fly an angry fist right at Gus' exposed jaw.
If the electrically charged wires had surprised the mischief-making upper classmen, the sudden collapsing of their fistic champion shocked them even more. Scrapper Bert was rather noted for his prowess. No one cared to put on the gloves with him, nor to gain his displeasure. To see the new boy, a "measly freshman," not as tall, as heavy nor as old as Bert, catch the assailant's hard-driven fist in the palm of an instantly extended hand and then let drive with his own right a neat, short-arm uppercut that got Bert just where he had meant to get Gus, was a needed lesson to the smug conceit that too often goes with added school years. Bert, from a seat on the floor, which he had taken without choice of the spot, regarded his opponent through half-closed eyes with a certain nonchalance, his anger fled. He slowly got to his feet, climbed back through the wires without further thought as to their being charged, and stood with his companions, quite submissive and mute.
As usual on all occasions demanding words, Bill's tongue was loosened:
"Look here, fellows, we want to give you the right dope on this thing: You see we are here to study—to try and go through if our money holds out. Our people are not rich and, like Tom Edison when he was a boy, we've got to hustle on short allowance. And we really can't afford to be hazed, as you did that new chap yesterday. If we had to buy new clothes and watches and caps, we'd have to quit school—see? And we knew you never missed anybody much, so we naturally, asking your pardon, got up this nice little reception for you. Now to get right down to brass tacks, you see our position and respect it—everyone of you—and, putting yourselves in our position, you don't blame us, nor hold any grudges; isn't that so?"
Siebold, spokesman, made reply, after thinking a little.
"Oh, well, I suppose all is fair in war. You've had your innings now, of course, but we'll have ours later." And then he added: "We'll get you."
From what Doctor Field said, Bill and Gus knew better. Hazing would be broken up on pain of expulsion, as it should be in all schools where the attendance is for business purposes, the getting of a technical education as a means of livelihood. The boys felt that perhaps in a college art course, where education becomes much play on the part of well-to-do lads, class fracases, bowl fights, initiations and the like may not be amiss, but they did not intend to let open brutality rob them of their chance to study. And, however sure they felt that Siebold's threat was idle, there would be a satisfaction in winning their own fight.
"Now, that's just what we want to talk to you fellows about," Bill declared. "You don't want to think about 'getting' us. We want you to call this all off and for good; we want you to give your word on it; see?"
"No; we can't—" began Siebold.
"Won't, eh?" Bill's words came sharp and clear. "Well, then, take a little more treatment for your blamed foolishness." And Bill touched another button.
The contortions, the writhings, the shrieks and cries that followed quite surpassed the former exhibitions. The well-worn woolen rug that fitted from wall to wall across the end of the room where stood the seven seemed to be charged with red hot needles. Suddenly these ceased to leap and jump and burn; the old rug and the hidden wires under it were again quiescent. But the strident voices of the afflicted prisoners were not silenced, though the late lamentings were given over to a medley of condemnations, appeals and pleadings.
"Say, go a little slow on this!"
"Call it off, confound you!"
"Are you trying to electrocute us?"
"Say, Brown, please——"
"Let's call it quits, fellows!"
"We'll call it quits if you want. I suppose we've got to hand it to you two." This last from Siebold.
"Going to call it all off, then? Give us your word! We can't believe that any fellows in Marshallton Tech would go back on their word." Bill was smiling genially.
"That can't be called in question. All off. You're exempt." There was a general acquiescence to this. The door slowly and to the seven quite mysteriously swung open; the seven started to file out.
"Good-by, fellows, and no hard feelings. We were only having a little fun with you as you were going to have with us. You can't——"
"Well, but you two have still got to remember," said Siebold, shaking his finger at Bill and Gus, "that you are freshies and must keep in your places. You've got a little the better of us this time, but——"
"Golly, Dan," spoke up a fellow hazer, "a little the better? Strikes me we've all been good and licked and these chaps ought to get the credit for——" The voice died away along the hall and Bill turned to his chum.
"We don't want any credit, do we, Gus? But we will get it just the same when this gets out. I sort o' think our little stock has gone up about one thousand percentum, even though we are freshies."
This proved quite correct. In a few minutes a lot of freshmen had crowded into the room and there was a sprinkling of sophs also. Questioned eagerly, Bill explained quite freely the purpose of the encounter and its result. Whereupon a big, fat soph declared quite vehemently:
"Huh! They were easily licked. No pluck. You're lucky to have run into a bunch of quitters."
"You wouldn't have quit, eh, Jumbo?" ventured another, grinning.
"Huh! Nothing like this contraption—" began the husky fellow, advancing and laying his hand on the top cross wire.
"Not even for a little thing like this?" queried Bill, reaching the wall button.
"Ow! Blazes! Quit! Don't! Oh, darn! Stop! Turn—it—off! E-e-e-e-e-! Help!" And the instant the stabbing current ceased, Fatty fell back from it and glared at Bill.
"You really can't blame them for quitting, can you?" asked Bill, and for answer the husky soph turned and fled from the room, followed by the jeering laughter of the crowd.
And that ended it. After Bill had asked the crowd if any or all of them wanted to test the "convincer," as he called the electrical rigging, he bade the onlookers who filled the hallway a pleasant au revoir, and Gus again pulled the strings that closed the door.
FAME AND FINANCES
Nothing could have taken place to put the lads from Freeport on the pedestal of fame more noticeably than this experiment. They had easily and modestly staged a complete breakdown of the hazing habit at Marshallton Tech. Strangely perhaps there was no blame nor suspicion put upon Bill and Gus for the subsequent edict from the faculty forbidding it. That seemed to be considered a natural aftermath to the news of the electrical reception of the hazers.
The stunt did more than earn the boys a large share of fame. It made them so deservedly popular, even with most of the upper classmen, that they soon counted a good many friends and a considerable number of patrons for radio construction. It is a rather odd fact that methods already mastered by those of their own age appeal to boys more than the teachings of their elders. So, although the students were getting, or had got, the theory of radio activity and the practice of wireless fully stuffed into them, they turned often to Bill and Gus for help. There were a number of the well-to-do, even among the seniors, who wanted radio receivers made, or coaching in making their own, and to this Bill and Gus responded out of school hours, with the consent of the president, thus earning a good many dollars.
So as not to interfere in any way with the school-shop program, and not to crowd those lads who were finding the room in the shop and the tools to their advantage, Bill and Gus rented an unused storeroom in the basement of the dormitory. They cleared it out, sent for their own tools at Freeport, purchased others—a foot-power lathe, a jigsaw and a hand wall-drill—and put up some benches. Besides working therein themselves, they charged also the modest price of twenty-five cents an hour to others mechanically inclined.
The liberal-minded school faculty found no fault with an arrangement which could only mean a more thorough learning and a finer comradeship among the students. The professors, who often visited and even worked in the little shop—some of them paying their quota also—came to refer familiarly to the place as the "commercial and sales department."
Professor Grant, the very able teacher of physics, who possessed far more theoretical knowledge than practice, gave the boys many valuable ideas out of class, and got some himself, being also a deadhead. And Search, the manual-training teacher, who knew the use of tools as a bee knows honey, got a few ideas while imparting many, as he also was made welcome to tinker around the boys' shop.
These were truly strenuous days and weeks for Bill and Gus. They had little studying to do, for Bill grasped problems as a trout takes in minnows, and he needed but to coach Gus briefly. The latter spent only a quarter-hour each day in the gym, never indulging in contests, but content to work hard at the things that best kept him fit. He had elected not to put himself under the instructor, grudging the time. But one day when he went over and, with his bare, work-hardened fists, punched a lively rubber bag for several minutes, Professor LeRoy, who had been watching, came to Gus with almost a demand that he join the boxing class in view of the Marshallton Tech entering contests with other schools during the coming winter. But Gus declined.
"No; I haven't the speed and I am weak with my left, as you may have noticed. Hurt it once on a lathe in my father's shop; never will be any good for quick work."
"We will overcome that," said the instructor, "develop it."
"Also," declared the boy, "I have neither the time nor the inclination. Must work and nothing much else. But I thank you, Professor."
"Sorry, my boy; you've certainly got a wicked right and you can use the other."
"I'd want to use both," asserted Gus, laughing.
As for Bill, the hours each day and all of Saturday spent in the shop sufficed for exercise; the rest was spent in study, brief eating and no more sleep than he needed. And nearly every moment that could be spared found both boys in their shop.
They had under way the construction of five radio receivers of the finer type, for each of which they would get sixty dollars, the materials costing about fifteen dollars. These receivers were equal to more than a thousand miles, with strong, durable batteries and very wide amplification. As with their first radio and the one for their good old friend, Mr. Hooper, they made nearly all the parts themselves, even to the switch arms, contacts, buzzer and binding posts, cutting all threads with a fine set of standard taps and dies.
They also had two crystal sets to make, for which they charged twenty dollars each, and made a profit of seventeen dollars over the cost of the materials.
The most interesting was the making of four portable sets, with vacuum tube detectors and loop aerials not over six inches in diameter, each packed in small, neatly made wooden cases about the size of an ordinary paper shoe box, the lids when opened forming the upright panels and the loop aerials hinged to open out and upright. Being rather unique in design, and satisfying fads for unusual construction, the boys felt they should get at least fifty dollars for each of these sets, the materials costing about twelve dollars.
Earning enough in this way to help them along very nicely with their schooling, and being more deeply interested in their work than in anything else, it was not surprising that Bill and Gus found little time for play.
When they had finished one of the larger and two cheaper sets, that upon installation at fraternity and boarding houses were found to work most satisfactorily, the cash was quickly paid over. Bill divided it equally and handed half to Gus.
"No, you don't, old fellow!" Gus demurred. "You get this and you can pay me a sort of wages if you want to, or you needn't. You did all of the planning, the—" He got no further for Bill started in with this indignant tirade:
"You're a fatheaded, heterogeneous, quadrangular parallelepipedon! What are you trying to get through your topknot, anyway? Don't we always work together? Isn't it a partnership?"
"'Butter bill'? Sure. This will pay our bread bill, too, and our entire board bill for some time. And what we'll get out of these other sets will see us through all of next year nicely, without worrying. Then something will turn up for the third year. Now, then, will you write to Cotton & Staples for that additional wire, or shall I?"
"I will, of course, but this money——"
"Oh, shut up! If you say another word about it, I'll lam a battery coil at you—'b'gorry'—as Mr. Hooper says. Well, now, reckon I'd better turn up and thread some more binding posts."
It was in and over the work of the boys' shop that Bill and Gus first met the Italian student. Among the upper classmen they had noticed a small, olive-skinned, black-eyed chap, with a rather solemn face, who appeared to be very reticent. It was said that he was a close and a bright student who, though not lacking for money, took little interest in sports, belonging only to the "bruisers," as the boxing class was called. One afternoon, with Gandy, who was getting a radio set made, the stranger appeared and stood in the doorway, gazing at the busy workers. At first neither of the radio experts saw him. Then he advanced.
"I have the desire very much to make for myself complete a radio getter—ah—what you call? Yes, a receiver." He addressed Gus, who was laying out the hook-up for a crystal set.
"There's nothing very hard about it," Gus replied, looking up with his ready smile and scrutinizing the Italian boy.
"You pay the right here, the privilege; is that not so?"
"Yes, we rent the room," said Gus.
"Ah, so; but I mean—" The newcomer turned partly toward Bill who drew near at the moment and had overheard the question.
"You mean we charge those who work here? Yes, for the use of our tools and machines, but not for any hints and advice we can give. The school shop is at your mercy, too, without charge, as you know." Bill also sized up his questioner with a certain curiosity and was pleasantly impressed.
"I do not like the school shop. There are so very many con—con—what you call it? Yes, conflicting. I should like—prefer—choose to come here, if I may do so."
"Come along. You keep account of your own time here, and you can pay us when you like. You can get your own materials, or we can get them for you at the prices we pay. We bought up some old pieces of furniture cheap to cut up for bases and cabinets—enough walnut to make a hundred. No charge for it. Help yourself."
"You are, I wish to say it, veree liber—kind—generous. It is too little that you pay—charge, I mean it. I will ask for your materials and I will commence—begin—start, eh? on to-morrow. Will that be satisfy?"
"Any old time. If we are not here, walk in and go to it. Check your hours up on this pad, see? What is your name?"
"Anthony Sabaste it is. I am called Tony by most. My country it is Italy, but American I now am. My father is of the city—living there. Here, now, I will pay you five dollars on acc——"
"No, you won't," said Bill. "We'd rather have you pay after a while and you can see that the work goes all right. Here, I'll show you the ropes."
"Ropes? But I care not to make—build a ship. It is a radio——"
"Oh, sure, I get you; but that's only slang. You have been here long enough, I should guess from your talk, to get on to our American guff. Well, we're glad to know you, Mr.——"
"Sabaste, but I best like—I prefer calling me Tony. It means in your language, I get on to it, as fine, grand, fat—no—but swell out—somebody much, eh?"
"It does, sure! I'll introduce my partner, Augustus Grier; Gus for short, or he'll get mad. They call me Bill Brown, generally forgetting the Brown, even here at school, where 'most everyone gets his last name. First names are more friendly."
"I like it, too. In my native it is more mostly Signor, even to young—what you call it? Kids, as us, eh?" Tony smiled genially, his face lighting up most agreeably. "Some they call me 'Wop,' or 'Sphagetti'."
The boys learned that the intelligent young foreigner was in the graduating class which had escaped a lot of practical radio work; that he kept much to himself, either because of a real or fancied notion that social lines might be drawn against him, or because he was naturally unsocial. But after he began the making of a radio set and came in daily contact with Bill and Gus, the young Italian seemed to grow a little out of himself, becoming less reticent and secluded. The good fellowship of two lads a little younger than he, both giving him friendship and confidence, laughing at his errors of speech in perfect good nature and without ridicule, and at their own foibles as well, compelled the Italian boy to like the country of his adoption much better than he had before. This he expressed to Gus:
"You like me—no, I mean I you like. Yes, that is making to laugh, eh? Funny, very. Well, I mean to say it, you and Bill very much also. Why not? You love the live. You love the study. You make the happiness. You have the great—the large, eh? the big heart. All to you is nice and fine and it is equal to the doing, but you say it, it is worth the while. This makes good-will and kind thoughts to others, also by others—no; from others. You are like one dolce picture in my home. It is by two little birds fabricating their nest and all the time thus they are of song, singing, gay with living and working, helping so much always also to make all the country, this old world happy and satisfy—content. So, to my—to me, you are really it, eh? You are the real thing."
"If Bill had heard you say all this, Tony, he'd declare you're both an orator and a poet," said Gus, laughing.
"And neither am I. But of my country there are many of such, and of learning also, science, the great learning. Many large men of the yesterday and many of the to-day also. In this work, too, the first, for is not Marconi——"
"Say that name to Bill and hear him shout some praises."
"So? And will Bill speak good—noble—high of Signor Marconi? Then I, too, can speak noble of Signor Edison, the American. But what say now if I can tell it to you that my father, he is one sure and big friend of Signor Marconi. Our home, in Italia, what you call—the estate of us, it is not much a great distance from Signor Marconi of his estate. Often I have seen him. And so you understand?"
"By cracky! Radio must have been in the air over there and you caught it!" declared Gus. "Nobody could have it down any more pat than you have. Bill and I have got some dandy ideas from you."
"That we have," agreed Bill, thumping in. "What is it now, Gus, that our friend——"
"Why, Bill, Tony knows Marconi! Just telling me about it." And Gus went on briefly to repeat that which the Italian had related. Bill, to use a terse but slangy term, proceeded to go up in the air.
"Why, holy cats, Tony, you are from henceforth the cheese! This school has gone wireless mad,—you know that,—and the country is pretty much in the same fix, and for the reason that radio is about the biggest thing in the world. And, fellows, this just fits. We are doing things—everybody is—in radio and now we are going—this school is going—to honor the situation if we can start it that way. For, fellows, Marconi's yacht, the Elettra, is in New York Harbor, with Marconi on board most of the time. And Tony, we'll get Doctor Field to let us have a whack at the transmitter and you can talk to your friend, or telegraph your dad and have him come up and radiophone Marconi. And then we'll listen in for his reply, for I've read he's awfully fine and good-natured. Isn't that so?"
"It is so, sure and indeed!" declared the Italian youth. "I am overenjoyed; you say so, eh? that we shall do this. Let us now go, upon this moment, and talk to the good doctor. There will be no lecturing at this time over the casting abroad——"
"The broadcasting transmitter? No, we can surely get a whack at it."
Doctor Field, much interested, accompanied the boys to the school broadcasting room, and after determining from some data at hand the wave lengths that would be receivable on the Marconi yacht, Tony began talking earnestly, almost too rapidly, into the horn, the crack and buzzing of the battery charges making a sound like that of a rifle gallery. The president, Bill and Gus also had receiving 'phones clamped to their ears.
"If he doesn't mind, you might ask him to reply in English, please," requested the Doctor, and Tony nodded.
And presently a reply did come, though in Italian. Tony got it, at some little length; then with a gesture of disappointment he turned to the others:
"It is an attend—an assister. He informs me that the wireless wizard, Signor Marconi, whom I explain is a friend to me and my family and he know our name, that the signor is away on the earth—no, on land, you say it,—attends some occasion, or is entertain of American friends and he will not return this many hour. So that it is no value, or you say useless, to cast wide to him again now at this moment and I am, as you say, deject?"
They all laughed and cheered Tony with the assurance that there would be another occasion. Then Bill offered his idea to the president:
"Doctor, we have a notion that this radio business right now ought to have a sort of celebration 'most everywhere; and our school might set the example. Radio is getting to be an awfully big thing, nearly as big as the movies. And now here's Marconi. Couldn't we start a general hurrah for radio, bring the apparatus down to the assembly room, have a big concert, send out some messages and get Tony here, who knows Marconi, to give us a talk on the inventor of the wireless when he was a boy, and that sort of thing? Of course, if this would interfere with studies, or——"
"It need not, Brown, it need not in the least," agreed the president. "I like your idea immensely and I foresee some features that we can add. Suppose we fix it for the latter part of this week, handbill it in the town also and make it a gala occasion. It is another way of calling attention to the school and the kind of work we do here. You will all help Professor Grant and the janitor with the mechanical details, which should not take long. And if Sabaste will communicate with Marconi so as to make sure we can get a message from him, that will be the climax."
The idea proved immensely popular. There are many such plans for calling students together to instil interest in various things that prove "wet blankets" when put into operation, but radio, as elsewhere, had taken the school by storm. Separate departments had been organized this year for it. It was equally an interesting plaything and a source of mental gymnastics. It was a matter of curiosity, and not to be interested, was to be out of the swim.
Bill got busy, as hardly ever before in his strenuous career. Because of his uncertain English, Tony balked at giving an address on Marconi, so Bill copied facts and wrote the whole thing out for Tony to memorize, putting in many of the Italian's phrases, corrected. And getting the Elettra again, Marconi's former and youthful neighbor was able to make a date for a message from the wireless wizard on the evening of the radio celebration.
That night there was a crowd in the assembly room. Every student was there, half the town, many people from the country around and a few friends of the school from various distances. Doctor Field introduced the occasion briefly. Professor Grant gave a talk on the history and rapid growth of radio communication. Professor Judson, assistant in physics, talked on the "little bottles," as the vacuum tubes are often called. Professor Search talked on the possible future of radio. Then the Doctor arose again and said:
"We want to have members of our student body, also, express to you our interest in this great subject. We are fortunate to have this year a pupil who, though yet a freshman, has shown an unusual grasp of the technicalities of radio. I am going to ask Mr. William Brown to explain briefly some of the methods employed in building, or selecting, a radio receiving set, such as those he has been engaged in making here at the school. His associate, Mr. Augustus Grier, who is an artist, in mechanical matters at least, will aid Mr. Brown at the blackboard."
Bill laid aside his crutch and hobbled forward to the platform, followed by Gus, whose easy motions were in direct contrast. A round of applause greeted the boys. This was increased and a burst of laughter added when Gus took a piece of chalk and with a few quick strokes made what suggested a broadcasting station, with a rooster shouting "cock-a-doodle-doo" into the transmitter. Then he drew a lot of zigzag lines to indicate the Hertzian waves, and at the other end of the board, a hen listening in and registering horror when she hears the sounds translated into "quack, quack." Meanwhile, Bill had plunged headlong into his subject.
"A good many folks," said Bill, "get scared when they think about radio construction. The big words come at them all in a bunch like a lot of bees, and it is to dodge. And when they go to the dictionary they are lost for sure. Potentiometer, variometer, variocoupler, radio frequency, amplification, loop aerials, audion and grids—no, I am not saying these words to show off. They are only a part of radio terminology. And you've got to get 'em, or you might as well take radio theory and construction on faith and be satisfied simply to listen in.
"Anybody can commit these words to memory without a dictionary, and that's where my partner shines. He has heard the big words so much that he talks them in his sleep, and he ought to know all their meanings, but the one most his size is 'grid.'"
Here Gus drew a much scared boy, with hair on end and knees knocking together, surrounded by a lot of the words that Bill had pronounced. Then Bill, putting his hand to the side of his mouth and leaning toward his audience as though in confidence, said in a stage whisper:
"He's doing that to show that he knows how to spell these words.
"To be serious about it, if I'm allowed," continued Bill, "this subject of radio is a coiner in every way. Just think of someone saying something in San Francisco and someone else in Maine listening to it, and without any speaking tubes, nor wires to carry the sound along! A good many folks are wondering how it happens—how speech can be turned into electricity that goes shooting in all directions and how this is turned back into speech again.
"Well, it's done on the telephone, over wires. The voice in the receiver is turned into electric energy that passes over the wires and at the other end turns again into sounds exactly like the voice that started it. But somebody found out that this same energy could be shot into the air in all directions and carried any distance, maybe as far as the stars, and then when pretty much the same principles were applied to this as to the telephone, with some more apparatus to send and catch the energy, why, then, that was wireless.
"It is really too bad, with all the useless short syllables in our language going to waste, that the fellows who got up the terms for radio work couldn't have used words like 'grid,' for instance. They could have called a variocoupler a 'gol,' a potentiometer a 'dit,' an induction coil a 'lim,' (l-i-m) and a variable condenser would look just as pretty if it were written out as a 'sos'—but no! They forgot the good example set by the grid, the volt and the ohm and they went and used jawbreakers.
"I'll tell you another thing that makes this electro-motive force as used in wireless easier to understand. It is the sun and its light. A great scientist, Doctor Steinmetz, says that light and electric waves are the same thing. Perhaps they are, though they surely work differently under different conditions. But if the sun has an awful lot of heat it can't send it ninety-five million miles—not in reason! The heat only makes light and that light travels through space. It reaches the atmosphere of our earth and is converted into heat again. Perhaps light of the sun and stars and the reflected light of the planets do not shine through space as light, but as radio waves that either by our atmosphere, or by our electrical conditions here are converted into light again,—but this is hardly open to proof even."
Bill glanced at the blackboard; Gus had drawn a big sun, with radiating rays, a grinning face, a small body with one short leg and two gesturing hands and had labeled it "Bill Brown, radio radiator." Bill made a motion of his thumb toward the caricature, then spread his hands in mock despair, but not without a side glance expressing pride in his lieutenant's performance, all of which pleased the audience immensely.
Then Bill proceeded: "This electro-motive force which travels around and through our little earth is what we can actually experiment with. We do not know just what it is, but we are finding out pretty fast what it will do. Perhaps there is hardly any limit to what it will do. It is generated for power and light and heat, for carrying signals and sounds over wires and through the air. What next? Just now we have got all the thinking we can do about radio. It is the sixth wonder that electricity has sprung upon us. I guess we won't include electrocution.
"Now, there's no use going into technicalities about construction, that's a thing that must be studied out and thought over, not mussed up in a talk like this. I'll say this much, however, it is the vacuum or audion tube detector that gives results, and the application of a loud speaker is only possible with a vacuum or audion tube. It is as easy to build a vacuum tube set as a crystal set and only a very little more expensive. So, whether you are building or buying a set, make it a good set, something that you can hear with a good many hundred miles.
"Now, you can buy the parts and build a receiving set that will generally give more satisfaction than a bought set." (Bill stepped over to the blackboard and took up a pointer.) "I may need this for this partner of mine if he persists in caricaturing me instead of drawing what we want. We'll make things about four times as big as they ought to be. You can use an aerial outdoors, which everybody now understands, or, just as well and a lot handier, a loop aerial indoors, the bigger the better, but two feet in diameter is big enough.
"Here is your base and upright panel and this is the way to hook up or wire the parts. Here's your aerial and its ground, between which is placed your variable condenser and tuning coil, thus, off here between condenser and coil comes the wire to your vacuum tube, with its fixed condenser and grid leads, the wire being connected directly to the grid, while here the wire from the tube plate is connected with the six-volt storage battery and in turn with the phones, like this. Then, from the phones to the ground wire, the wire is carried thus through a secondary dry cell battery, on each side of which the wires are taken off to a rheostat, though my partner has sketched this to look more like a bird after a caterpillar.
"I am not going to tell you how to make all these parts—if I did you'd probably go to sleep, if you are not half way there already. So, if you can't find out how to make the parts, or contrive them in some way yourself, why, then, you'd better buy them. Only you can make the base and do the wiring, attaching and so forth. Even my partner can do that if he is watched pretty closely; it is almost as easy as making a sketch of it.
"If any of you really want to know how to build a radio set in a practical, get-there way, all you'll have to do is to get Doctor Field's consent and come round to our shop in the basement of the school dormitory and we won't soak you much. I thank you all for your attention."
Very warm applause indicated the approval of the audience, as Bill and Gus left the platform. Again the president arose to say:
"Another of our students has a message for us in regard to radio. Among the notable pioneers and probably one to give the subject its greatest practical impetus is William Marconi, whose name is familiar to you all. The great inventor is now an honored guest of this country, his yacht Elettra lying off our shores. It seems doubly fitting that more than special mention should be made of him, and as Mr. Antonio Sabaste was, in his native land, a neighbor of Marconi, his father being really a friend of the wizard, I think we shall listen with pleasure to what this student of the school has to say."
"My native country," said Tony, speaking very slowly in an effort to get the construction of his sentences in accordance with Bill's coaching and as per his written arrangement, "is Italy; my adopted country is America. I say both with pride, and therefore you can imagine with what delight I speak about one of the greatest of Italians and one of the greatest among the scientists of the world, to Americans who perhaps most appreciate and make use of his discoveries.
"Guglielmo Marconi lived not far from Bologna. His father's estate is called 'Villa Griffone.' Not far from these many acres was my former home, and my father, who is a little older than Signor Marconi, knew him well, as well indeed as anyone might know one who was from boyhood a rather shy, retiring fellow, with a mind given over largely to mechanical experiments and caring very little for playfellows.
"Signor Marconi, the elder, was proud of his son's tendencies and gave him mechanical toys when Guglielmo was only a little fellow. His mother was a beautiful English or Irish lady and she also encouraged her son in his tastes. Electricity had a strange fascination for the boy and as he grew older and began to grasp the theories and methods employed in its use he addressed himself more and more to electrical phenomena, never being content with mere performances, but being eager to know the precise methods of application and effect.
"At first Guglielmo had tutors and he led them a merry chase to keep up with his questions. Then, when still young, he was sent to an advanced school in Leghorn, later entering the University at Bologna. But with all that he learned of theory and practice concerning what had become his hobby, he obtained more knowledge at home, for his investigations were not along discovered routes, but in new fields.
"When Guglielmo was only sixteen his father had provided him with all the instruments and apparatus he could wish for and he knew no handicaps of this kind.
"In this country a poor boy, without social hindrances, has an equal chance with a rich lad. In my native land, in Europe I think, the lad with means has a better opportunity. Here you have many great men in every walk of life who have been poor, but over there that is a rare thing. Wealth brings opportunity and quick recognition. Guglielmo had this advantage, but if he had not also possessed an earnest, painstaking and brilliant mind he could have gained no distinction. Most of his acquaintances led pleasure-loving, easy, indolent lives and he could have done the same thing. Therefore, what credit is due Guglielmo for the great success he has achieved!
"While Guglielmo was still in his teens he turned his father's estate into a vast laboratory and experimenting station. His great success seemed to come from using all outdoors as his workshop.
"In this way he learned the magic of sound waves and vibrations, so that he could send his 'telegrams' without a wire. His first experiments were for only a few yards. Then he made the distance longer and longer, little by little, till at the end of five years of constant, persevering trial, with thousands of failures to be sure, he sent an air message two miles.
"Of course, people made fun of him. They thought he was a crank, if not downright crazy and said that his father was very foolish indeed to encourage him in wasting so much time and money in a way that every person with common sense could see was worse than merely simple.
"Guglielmo set his rude transmitting apparatus on a pole on one side of a field and on the other side a corresponding pole was set up and connected with a receiving apparatus.
"The young inventor's interest must have been keen and his hopes high as he sat and watched for the tick of his recording instrument, that he knew should come from the spark sent across the field. Weeks had been spent in the building of these instruments, now to be tested.
"Suddenly the Morse sounder began to record the distant transmission and the boy's heart gave an exultant bound—the first wireless message had been sent and received.
"Many experiments followed. Varying heights of poles were used and it was found that the distance could be increased in proportion to the altitude of the poles.
"In these first experiments of the young inventor he used practically the same methods that he employs to-day. The transmitting apparatus consisted of electric batteries, an induction coil by which the force of the current is increased, a telegrapher's key to make and break the circuit. Batteries were connected with the induction coil and the telegrapher's key was placed between the battery and the coil.
"One spark made a single dot, a stream of sparks the dash of the Morse telegraphic code, and with this crude apparatus, sometimes failing to record the signals, Marconi labored with growing faith. He knew he was on the right track and persevered. When he had succeeded in sending a message two miles through the air, Guglielmo determined that it could be two hundred, or two thousand miles, but he chose a shorter distance to prove his theory. He went to the English Channel and before long the world was astounded to learn that this young stranger and experimenter had sent a wireless message over thirty miles. A little later dispatches were sent through the air across the English Channel and received from the Isle of Wight to Land's End, more than one hundred and eighty miles distant.
"This youth, twenty-one years old, had succeeded in accomplishing a feat the possibilities of which can hardly yet be conceived. Then Marconi came to London to upbuild and link nation to nation more closely. He was well received in England and began his further work with all the encouragement possible. A series of tests followed that were astounding. Messages were sent through walls, houses, through hill and dale, proving beyond a doubt that the electric waves penetrate everything.
"A few years later, when Marconi was twenty-four, he made wireless reports of the Kingston regatta for evening papers in Dublin, Ireland. This attracted Queen Victoria's attention at her summer residence at Osborne House, also on the Isle of Wight. At this time the Prince of Wales, who afterward became King Edward the Seventh, was ill on his yacht. This was soon connected with the Queen's summer castle and one hundred and fifty messages passed between the suffering prince and his royal mother.
"All these wireless marvels—they seemed miracles then—made William Marconi world-famous before he finished his twenty-fifth year.
"But Guglielmo—I like the Italian pronunciation of his name better," continued Tony, "for I am afraid, if I did geeve the English form, I should turn it into Beel." He smiled at our hero who had come down from the platform to a front seat and sat listening intently, and Bill Brown shook his head deprecatingly.
"Guglielmo did not cease with these triumphs. No, not he. He saw success only in greater distances and he went at this problem with his usual quiet determination. He made no announcements, but sailed for the Island of Newfoundland and there he set up his instruments in an old barracks at the mouth of the harbor near St. Johns. In a few days his preparations were made, quite secretly. His plans were communicated to no one, except his assistants, for he knew there would be the general skepticism concerning his effort to send wireless messages across the Atlantic Ocean, but he felt assured of success. A transmitting station had been established near Poldhu, Cornwall, the southwestern point of England. The aerial wires were on masts two hundred and ten feet high.
"As an aerial Guglielmo sent up a large kite made of bamboo and silk, flown on a wire, of course; the wind increased, snapping the wire and blowing the kite into the ocean. Thereupon Guglielmo used a balloon filled with hydrogen gas and sent it up when the weather was clear, but the balloon broke away and disappeared.
"It was on December 12, 1901 that he sent up another kite. This held at an elevation of nearly four hundred feet, and then, after having cabled his assistants to begin sending certain signals previously agreed upon, at a certain hour in the afternoon and continuing until night, Guglielmo made allowance for the difference in time and sat with the telephone receiver at his ear, listening, wondering, hopeful. It must have been a moment of almost painful expectation. He looked out from his position high on the cliff and could see the dim, rocky outlines of Cape Spear, the most eastern point of the North American continent. Beyond this rolled the blue Atlantic, two thousand miles across which was the coast of the British Isles. Only two persons were present in the old barrack-room besides the inventor. There were no reporters—no one had been apprised of the attempt. Marconi's faith in the success of his experiment was unshaken. He believed from the first that he would get signals across the great stretch of ocean.
"Suddenly there was the sharp click of the instrument that could only come from some electric disturbance; but it was not the signal. Marconi, without excitement, asked Mr. Kemp, the assistant, to take the telephone receiver connected with the instrument and listen for a time. A moment later, faintly, yet distinctly and unmistakably, came the three clicks indicating the dots of the letter S, according to the Morse code, the signal that had been agreed upon with the assistants on the English coast. A few minutes later more signals came and the inventor and his assistant assured themselves again and again that there could be no mistake. Thus was tested successfully one of the great scientific discoveries.
"Then the achievement was given to the public, after two days of repeated signaling. The honors that were at once heaped upon Marconi would have turned the head of anyone less modest and sane. From every quarter of the world came plaudits. The cable company, fearing injury to its business, demanded that he cease operations in its territory, which was a high compliment, indeed. The people of the Colony of Newfoundland honored him, wondering at his youth; he was then only twenty-seven, but an experimenter of wide knowledge.
"Such was the practical achievement upon a great discovery reached by Marconi the Italian and now, more correctly, the cosmopolitan. Though he still makes his home in his native land, he belongs to all countries, to all oceans, for it is everywhere now that his great discovery is made use of. No need for me to mention the present day uses of wireless telegraphy and radio communication aided greatly by the inventions of others. But it is to Marconi these owe their initial adoption."
A round of applause was given the Italian lad as he was about to leave the platform. Suddenly Tony stopped and held up his hand for silence.
"You must not—ah, applaud to me for this speaking. I have the inspire to do it, yes, but not the words entire. So it is my friend Brown who set me correct on the words and the speeching. We are then both equally the speechers, my friend Bill Brown and I."
The applause was continued now,—a goodly number appreciated the honesty of this declaration. Tony had taken his seat. The president arose and began to talk again, but could not be heard for some mischief-making students who kept up the racket.
Gus leaned over and spoke to Tony and then to Bill. Without more ado Bill got up, grabbed Tony's hand and the two got out on the floor, faced about and bowed. The clapping took a spasmodic leap and ceased.
Bill pushed Tony away from him and limped back several feet. Then he put his hollowed fist to his mouth and shouted into it:
"This is broadcasting station P D Q! I hope you are listening in!"
Tony caught the idea at once and put his hand to his ear. Bill continued:
"Strikes me this crowd here is crazy! A noisy bunch! Maybe they think we're candidates for mayor, or something! This radio business is some pumpkins; eh, boy? I'd radiophone you a message in Italian, only I've left my dictionary at home! Well, I guess they've looked at us long enough now, so let's switch off!"
Amid laughter, the boys returned to their seats.
"This is a gala occasion," said Doctor Field, "and you must bear with the exuberance of our youthful enthusiasts. We have one other interesting experience for you, demonstrating the wonders of radio. Now, then, Mr. Sabaste, if you will——"
Tony and Gus quickly left the room. Presently, through the open door and from above, sharp, cracking sounds something like miniature pistol shots were heard. There was also a droning buzz and the sound of a loud speaking voice, the words unrecognized. The president added:
"Mr. Sabaste is now broadcasting a message, in Italian, to the yacht Elettra, outside New York harbor. He previously appointed this hour to send such a communication to none other than Signor William Marconi, asking him for a message to our school. We hope Sabaste may be successful."
In a few moments the sounds from the transmitter in the broadcasting room ceased. There came a brief period of expectant silence, some of the audience staring about uncertainly, others more intelligently looking at the big horn of the receiver on the platform table. The time lengthened. It threatened to grow a little tedious. Then as Tony and Gus hastily appeared in the doorway, the sound of a human voice and good, clear English words emanated from the horn.
"The yacht Elettra, Marconi speaking. My young friend, the son of my friend Sabaste, now a citizen of America, has asked me to send a word of greeting to the Marshallton Technical College,—I hope I have the name correctly. I confess my being called on seems rather unusual, but yet I am glad to be able to communicate with an American educational institution, especially one devoted to physical knowledge, mechanics and electricity.
"It is not unlikely you have among your students some future great inventors—perhaps some Edison, Bell or Morse—time will only determine this. America is a nation of inventors—the leaders in this mechanical age. Study, close application, the not too stringent adherence to formulae and old methods are bound to win. Inspiration, vision, the seizing of opportunities to improve, the wish to gain something desired—these are the keynotes to success in the field of mechanical endeavor and scientific discovery. In the words of one of the greatest Americans who had visions and did things: 'It is up to you.' I wish your school and its students every success."
The voice in the horn ceased to be heard. There was a moment of breathless silence, as everyone in the audience, with attention riveted on the radio receiver, listened for other words to follow. Then once again the Doctor was on his feet.
"We shall later radio our gratitude to Mr. Marconi for this kind and helpful message which is a fitting climax to our wireless celebration. We feel that our students have been benefited and inspired and we hope you have all been entertained. Good night."
There seemed to be a dissatisfying influence, a feeling perhaps akin to envy, or at least as offending class pride in the sentiment that arose among a certain clique concerning Bill Brown. The boy had become popular and it was thought by some unduly, or somewhat undeservedly so. Bill's classmates had not shown this tendency, or if so individually it was not made evident. But to certain older fellows, that a mere freshman should so shine both in the opinion of teachers and the student body generally, seemed most inconsistent.
Siebold, the moving spirit of wholesome mischief among the upper classmen, seemed to be the chief instigator of the tendency to belittle Bill, aided by one Luigi Malatesta, a Sicilian. Siebold never had forgiven Bill and Gus for the electrical trap sprung on his hazing party. He had a certain following that shared most of his opinions and plans.
Malatesta was also a soph, with a very decided penchant for getting into trouble and showing temper. It might have been expected that between the only two natives of Italy in the school there would be at least some fraternal feeling, but these lads appeared instinctively to avoid each other, and Tony's being a senior, made this easily possible on his part. Malatesta, seeing that Bill and Gus were both exceedingly friendly with Tony, seemed to take especial pleasure in making contemptuous remarks concerning all three, or in making offensive, insulting gestures that they could not help seeing. At first this was altogether puzzling because the motive was not apparent. It became more evident, however, following an incident.
Bill and Tony were coming from the school library, to be followed later by Gus, who remained to add some notes. The subject with which they were all wrestling covered voltmeter tests and relative amperage, principally with regard to battery construction. The boys were building their own batteries and must make no mistakes.
Bill was thumping along, talking, and Tony listening, as usual. They came through the double swinging doors of the dormitory on the way to the shop and passed a small group of upper classmen in the hallway, Malatesta among them, holding forth. The two went down the basement stairway, a door closed behind them and they were alone. Tony stopped.
"I may ask you, mio amico, you did see that fellow, my countryman, up there?"
Bill nodded, wondering.
"Well, it is so," continued Tony, "that he watches us—you because of me, and me because of—to tell you it is something, shall I? Yes, it will give me satisfy. That Malatesta—Luigi his name it is—why you think he comes on this school? I will say he comes to spy to me. Perhaps you think this is absurd quite, but not so. In Italy his people and my people are at fighting—no, you call it 'scrap,' eh? We make war, by family. My mother's people, one of the years long ago, kill one of this fellow's people at the town festa and they seek to kill all her people and my father's people take no part—know nothing. But when my father meet my mother and they are declared to marry, then the Malatesta fight with him and his people. Is it not strange and very ridiculo?
"And now I am come to the family war because no more longer a little child and this Luigi he swear he look after me here in America, and already I see the poniard lifted to strike at my breast, but I shall dodge and then maybe use my own, though hating the vendetta—feuds. Why shall all this be? How have I made anger and strife with these assassins? But to reason with them is to invite a more insult than death. You understand my telling?"
"Sure I do," said Bill. "It is what we call in this country a feud, but it is rotten. Why don't you go to the Doctor and——"
"Oh, no! My friend Bill, you cannot intend so. That would be poltrone—coward! We fight without people stopping—to end, if must be."
"But a fellow like that—to come to school here just——"
"Oh, but he is smart, Luigi Malatesta, and to him learning is also good, though some of his people are low and many years ago they were of the banditti. And some were of the boat builders and some were rich."
The boys had reached the shop and were still alone. Bill forgot his loved problems in trying to comprehend this state of affairs.
"But I can't understand how such a thing could really be," he said. "We have the black hand, it is true, but——"
"Ah, no, this the black hand is never!" declared Tony. "This is of families—not to rob, though maybe they do rob in time and ask of ransoms. Such was done by some Malatesta of my mother's cousin and he was lost to us, never returning."
"But, confound it, Tony, here he wouldn't dare——"
"Here he will dare more than in Italy, because there all who make family wars are suspect and many such quit and have become friends when time goes, but other forgetta never. This Luigi he forgetta never, and maybe you will see. We—my father thought we had left behind this fighting, but to this country also come Malatesta, for small is the world and large is hate."
Bill pondered this and turned to his work, but dropped his tools in a moment, explaining to Tony that there were other figures they must have for calculating the strength of the battery and he would go back and tell Gus.
Bill reached the basement stairs, and in an alcove, alone, as though seeking to hide, was the fellow Luigi. He turned sharply, facing Bill and glaring in evident resentment at the latter's broad, curious stare. Then the Sicilian spoke:
"Well, you see me. I it is, freshman. Stare at me some more as if I were something to step on and I will give you more reason to stare."
"What's the matter with you, you, you—" demanded Bill, stopping short and much incensed.
"Ah! Wop? Guinea? Dago? Sphagett—so I am insulta—is it? And by a short-leg!"
"I'd rather have short legs than short brain."
"I like you so well I smash you in the face!"
Suiting the action to the word Luigi advanced upon Bill, who turned and swung his crutch menacingly.
What then would have occurred it is impossible to surmise, for the crippled boy was handy with the familiar implement that so readily could be used as a weapon, though the Italian was sturdier, heavier and much older—in fact, although small, he was almost a man.
But just at the moment there was a quick, descending footfall on the stair and the door opened. Gus, with wide eyes, stared at the near and unequal combatants.
"Hold on!" said the big fellow, glaring. The Italian hesitated, though but for a moment. "You wouldn't really hit a fellow who is lame, would you?"
"Ah, get away! Go off!" snarled Malatesta, attempting to thrust Gus aside as the strapping youth stepped in front of him. But the thrust was futile and then Luigi, growing furious, struck at Gus a powerful blow. The fellow was muscular and quick, but there was no thought behind the blow. And there was in contrast a smile on the face of the easy, athletic American.
The Italian's fist was clutched by a ready hand, much as a baseball would have been caught, and then a very differently directed fist shot out and came in contact with Luigi's upper stomach—he got that generally final solar plexus blow. Luigi gave a soft, aching grunt and sank to his knees, then to his elbows and rolled over on his side, in a half-minute more sitting up and gazing around, but still in pain. He was again alone.
"I suppose now we'll all get blown up, or poisoned, or something," Bill said to Tony, after telling of the eclipse of Luigi Malatesta.
"Oh, no; the Malatesta are foemen worthy of our steel, to agree by an English poet; is it not?"
"'Foeman worthy of a steal,' I guess you mean," laughed Gus.
"Yes, that's more like it. I wouldn't trust that pig-faced villain across a ten-acre lot with a ten-cent piece!" declared Bill.
"The soul of honor doesn't dwell in a husky guy who'd strike a cripple," said Gus. "And I bet a cow he's going to stir up more trouble around here before he quits maneuvering."
Tony made no reply, but stood for a long time, gazing at the floor. Presently only the sound of tools and machines was heard in the shop.
It is not probable that Luigi told of the precise outcome of his clash with Bill and Gus, though he may have said enough to influence sophomore sentiment against Bill's standing in the school. At any rate, the feeling grew in strength and spread until it became a subject of comment among freshmen and seniors who were inclined to sympathize with the brainy and keen-witted lame boy. At least he had many friends, both high and low, and most of the teachers admired him openly.
So far the sentiment had been rather more doubtful and erratic than determined. There had been nothing to warrant the assumption that Bill thought himself more intelligent than the sophomores, or members of his own class. His radio knowledge was somewhat a thing apart and in that he shared with the less obtrusive Gus.
And then the lightning struck, suddenly and hard. Once each week an outsider from the engineering department of some big industrial plant, or large university, lectured to the entire student body of the Marshallton Tech in the assembly-room, and there were some of these talkers who got much pleasure out of it. Not only was it interesting to hold forth to a lot of eager, responsive boys on subjects that elicited their curiosity, as the building of great dams and bridges, the tunneling under mountains, the erection of mighty machines, but it was also diverting to hear their various comments which also led to a comparative estimate of their understanding.
Davidson, chief mechanical engineer of a great mill building corporation, was especially interested in the personal equation concerning the students, particularly after Bill Brown bad asked him a lot of questions, some of which he had replied to rather lamely. Even more as a matter of getting back at this young investigator who sat with a crutch held before him and regarded these replies with a smile than for the desire to measure minds, Davidson gathered a few catch problems that were stumpers, and upon his third visit, after talking awhile he switched off on the subject of problems, short cuts to solutions and then put a question, looking hard at Bill, as though uttering a challenge.
"Now, how would you go about it," he shot at his audience, "if you were asked to measure the cubic contents of an electric light bulb?"
A number of smiles greeted the question; these may have been from lads mostly in the advanced courses who knew the trick. The lecturer asked for hands to be raised by those who thought they could do it, and noting with satisfaction that the crippled boy was not among the number who responded, he began hearing them, one at a time.
"Measure it outside and allow for the thickness of the glass," said one fellow.
"But how about the carbon inside?" asked Davidson.
"Break the glass and measure the loop," called out a soph.
"How many of you would go at it in that way?"
A number of hands went up, some rather reluctantly, as though their owners scented a trick.
Davidson still eyed the cripple. "How would you do it?" he asked.
Bill shook his head and said, "It is that old trick of Edison's and it's dead easy. I guess a good many of our fellows know about it. You simply punch a hole in the bulb, fill it with water, pour it back and measure the water."
"Yes; that's right. It is really the only sure way," said the man, his manner showing disappointment.
"Oh, no; it isn't, begging your pardon. Oh, no, not the only way," said Bill.
"Well, now, how else——"
"Put water in a graduated glass, stick the bulb in up to the plaster seal and note the increase. Then break the glass and the carbon and put that in separately, deducting the last amount from the first."
Davidson scratched his head. "Yes; that would do it, of course, too, but——"
"But you said the other was the only way," insisted Bill.
"Oh, well, the only quick and sure way. Of course, there are other methods."
"I'm sorry to have to disagree with you, but my method is just as sure and quicker."
"It might do—it might do! You seem to be ready with short cuts in mechanics. How would you quickly divide a board seventeen and three-eighths inches wide into five equal parts? Can anyone here do it?"
"That's easy," said Bill.
"Well, then, how about this one? If a pint cup——"
"Your question about dividing the board is too interesting to pass over so hastily," interrupted Professor Search. "If you will pardon me, I would suggest that Brown go to the board and demonstrate it."
"Will you let Grier do it? He knows that old trick, and he is handier with the chalk than I."
Gus went forward, took a two-foot rule from his pocket and laying off two parallel lines seventeen and three-eighths inches apart, laid the rule diagonally across them so that the space would measure twenty inches. Then he ticked off at the figures four, eight, twelve and sixteen. Laying the rule straight across from an outer line to the first tick he turned and announced:
"Each space is practically three and fifteen-thirty-seconds inches."
This brought forth something like applause, along with many very audible remarks, such as: "Pretty cute." "Handy." "Where'd he get it?" "Can't fool either of 'em, can you?" "Those fellows are practical, that's sure."
Mr. Davidson smiled sort of absently. He had to give approval, but dropped the question rather abruptly, going back to his last problem.
"Now, see if you can tell me this: I have a half-pint cup even full of water, the liquid exactly level with the edge of the glass. About how many one-inch brads must I drop into the cup before the water overflows? Water, you understand—not oil, nor molasses. This is an old experiment and it concerns a well-known physical law. If anyone has seen it done he will kindly remain silent. Now, who will make a guess as to the number of nails?"
Every brow was wrinkled, except those of a few conclusion jumpers of whom there must be some in every crowd. One of these latter fellows shouted at once: "About a half dozen and it'll slop over!"
"It'll take only one or two," said another.
"Not more than a dozen, anyway."
But the others, mostly lads capable of real mental exercise, were all cudgeling their brains. It was a subject which had much to be taken into consideration. Presently one senior spoke up:
"It ought to take more than an ounce of them."
"Nearly as much, anyway."
"More. That'll fool you mightily."
"It looks as though a few brads would do it, but it will take a lot."
"And why?" asked Mr. Davidson. "Come, what do you say about this?" He again appealed to Bill, turning then also to Gus.
"Well, sir, I think I can see that it will take nearly all of that box of brads, perhaps a hundred. It is a matter of cohesion and even water possesses that, so that to overflow, it will have to rise a good deal above the rim. The area of the glass plus the rise that will be required for the overflow will be, in solid contents, easily as much as that box of loosely filled brads; if they were melted down they wouldn't be greater than the water area. It is a good deal like the loading of a boat: the displacement is a uniform, compact mass; the load is a jumble with more air space than material. And it is like the floating of a heavy iron pot."
For answer the lecturer turned and drew a half-pint of water in a glass, brought from his pocket a box of brads and began dropping, one at a time and counting, them into the water. There was profound silence. As the number increased, reaching above two score of the small nails, there began to be heard comments here and there.