THE FORBIDDEN TRAIL
By HONORE WILLSIE
"The Heart of the Desert," "Still Jim," "Lydia of the Pines," etc.
A. L. Burt Company Publishers—New York Published by arrangement with Frederick A. Stokes Company
Copyright, 1919, by Frederick A. Stokes Company
All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign languages
Printed in the United States of America
I. THE DREAMER 1 II. HOPES DEFERRED 32 III. THE NEW DAY 52 IV. CHARLEY 81 V. VON MINDEN 105 VI. THE LETTER FROM WASHINGTON 130 VII. THE RUNAWAY 151 VIII. THE LONELY HUNTER 176 IX. GUSTAV 186 X. DEATH IN THE DESERT 206 XI. DICK'S SICKNESS 228 XII. DICKY'S LAST BOUT 249 XIII. THE GREAT DIVIDE 265 XIV. WASHINGTON 275 XV. RABBIT TAIL'S GANG 295 XVI. THE RIVER RANGE 314 XVII. THE BLACK BOX 345 XVIII. PAPA WOLF 358
THE FORBIDDEN TRAIL
Roger was only seven. He was tall for his age and very thin. He had a thick crop of black hair and his eyes were large and precisely the color of the summer sky that lifted above the Moores' back yard. These were the little boy's only claims to beauty, for even at this time Roger's face was too much of the intellectual type to be handsome. Beauty is seldom intelligent. Roger's long, thin jaw, his thin, thoughtful mouth, his high forehead, were distinctly of the thinking, dreaming type.
It was midsummer and Roger's tanned legs and feet were bare and scratched and mosquito bitten. He wore a little blue gingham sailor suit, which was much rumpled and soiled.
Charlotte was five. She was tall for her age too. In fact at five she was nearly as tall as Roger. But she was not as thin as he. She had large brown eyes of astounding depth and softness and bronze brown hair that was short and curly. There were lovely curves in her scarlet, drooping lips and a fine arch to her head above the ears. There was a dimple in her round chin. She sat in front of Roger who was astride one end of a great plank that was up-ended on a barrel.
"You go over and get Ernie and Elschen, Charley," commanded Roger in a deep, boyish voice.
"I won't!" returned Charley, succinctly, crowding closer to Roger, as she spoke.
"Well now, do you think I'm going to play alone all the afternoon with a baby?" roared Roger. "You're too little to work this teeter-tauter with me. I'm not going to stand it, I'm not. You get off!"
"I won't," repeated Charley, none the less firmly that the red lips trembled. "I runned away from our house to play with you and I'm going to play, I am."
"You ain't going to play alone and Mamma says I gotta take you home in half an hour if nobody doesn't come for you."
"I won't go home." Charley ended this time with a sob.
"Now don't bawl!" exclaimed Roger, in alarm, twisting the little girl's head around so that he could peer into her face. He kissed her in a paternal manner. "Don't bawl! I'll take care of you."
Charley wiped the kiss off on the sleeve of her checked gingham dress and smiled. Roger left the see-saw and climbed to the top of the board fence.
"Ernie!" he shouted in a tone that sounded through the quiet village like a siren horn. "Ernie! You and Elschen come on over!"
Mrs. Wolf appeared at the back door of the house next door.
"Ernie and Elschen are doing the dishes. When they finish they will be over."
"Will it take 'em long?" asked Roger. "I got all my chores done."
"They're nearly done. Here's Elschen ready to go now."
"It was my turn to wipe, so I got through quick. Ernie's awful mad," cried a small girl, scrambling hastily over the fence.
Elsa was six. She was short and plump, an almost perfect miniature of her pretty mother, who stood smiling in the doorway. Her hair was true gold. While it was not curly it was full of a vitality that gave it the look of finely spun wire as it stood out over her head in a bushy mass. She was red of cheek and blue of eye, a jolly, plucky little girl, much more enterprising and pugnacious than Ernie, who followed her shortly over the fence.
Ernest was Roger's age and he looked so much like Elsa that a stranger might have thought them to be twins.
He landed with a thud. "Where'd you get the teeter-tauter, Roger?" he cried.
"Don't you see, you old ninny? I heaved up the plank Papa put down for the walk to the clothes-reel, and the barrel, I sort-of—now I kind of borrowed that out of the Sauters' barn. I guess they wouldn't care. I left a penny on the barn floor to pay for it. It's the strongest barrel I most ever saw. You go on the other end and Charley and I'll stay here. Elschen, you can be candlestick."
"I ain't going to be candlestick very long, I ain't. Not for you old boys," said Elsa, climbing, however, to the place assigned her, where the board balanced on the barrel.
The children see-sawed amicably for perhaps five minutes when Roger roared—
"Hey! All of you get off! I got to fix this better."
"I'm not agoing to move," replied Elsa.
"I ain't agoing to move," agreed Charley.
"Come on, you girls, get off," cried Ernie. "What you going to do, Roger?"
"I'll show you! If you girls don't get off, I'll dump you," suiting action to words, as he tilted the plank sidewise. Elsa got a real bump, from the barrel to the ground. Charley's end of the see-saw was on the ground so she scrambled up laughing. Not so Elschen. She was red with anger. She flew at Roger and slapped him in the face.
Roger turned white, and struck back, the blow catching Elsa in the stomach. She doubled up and roared. Roger's voice rose above hers.
"I'll kill you next time! I'll kill you, you low down old German pig, you."
Slow moving little Ernie ran to put his arm round Elsa.
"Don't you hit my sister again, Rog Moore!"
Roger jumped up and down and kicked the barrel. "You get out of my yard! I hate you all!"
"Not me, Roger?" cried Charley, anxiously, running up to take his hand.
Curiously enough even in his blind passion, the boy clung to the childish fingers, the while he continued to kick the barrel and to roar,
"I'll kill you, Elsa!"
The screen door clicked and Mrs. Moore hurried down the back steps. She was very tall and slender, with Roger's blue eyes and a mass of red hair piled high on her head. She carried one of Roger's stockings with a darning ball in the toe in her left hand and the thimble gleamed on the middle finger of her right hand as she put it on Roger's shoulder.
"Roger! Roger! You're rousing the whole neighborhood!"
Roger struck the slender hand from his shoulder. "I hate you too. Let me alone!"
Mrs. Moore turned to the others. "Children, take Charley over in your yard for a little while. Roger is being a very bad boy and I must punish him."
Roger hung back, still roaring, but his mother dragged him into the kitchen. Here she sat down in a rocker and attempted to pull him into her lap, but he would have none of her. He threw himself sobbing on the floor and Mrs. Moore sat looking at him sadly.
"I don't know what we're going to do about your temper, Roger. This is the third spell you've had this week. I don't see why the children play with you. Some day you will murder some one, I'm afraid. I used to have a temper when I was a child but I'm certain it was nothing like yours. One thing I'm sure of, I never struck my dear mother. Thank heaven, I haven't that regret."
Roger wept on.
"I've tried whipping and I've tried scolding. Perhaps I'm the wrong mother for you—" A long pause, during which Roger's slender body did not cease to writhe in sobs. Then his mother continued: "Poor little Elschen, that was an awful knock you gave her! I shall have to apologize to Mrs. Wolf again. She's always sweet about your badness."
She began work on the stocking once more. Roger's sobs lessened and his mother rose to wet a towel-end and bathe his face. But when she returned from the sink, the child was asleep, his head pillowed on his arm. It was thus that his temper storms always ended. Mrs. Moore had observed that when she had whipped him for one of his explosions, he always slept much longer than when she merely allowed him to sob himself quiet. So though his father still advocated whipping, she had concluded that whipping led only to further nerve exhaustion and she had stopped that form of punishment.
Half an hour later Roger rolled over on his back and stared for a moment wide eyed, at the ceiling. Then he got up quickly and running over to his mother, he threw his arms about her neck and kissed her passionately.
"Oh, Mother! Mother! I love you so! I'm so sorry I slapped your hand. I will be good! Oh, I will be good!"
He took the hand which he had struck in both his own and kissed it.
"Poor hand," he half sobbed, "poor hand!"
"All right, dear," said his mother, freeing her hand gently. "Now, go make up with the other children."
Roger darted out the door and his mother heard him shouting to his playmates.
It was an hour later that she went to the back door, to send Roger home with Charley. What she saw there sent her flying once more to interfere with the children's play. Fastened by bits of rope and twine to the plank were her three choicest sofa cushions, of white silk which she herself had embroidered. A child lay on its stomach on each of these, wildly gesticulating with legs and arms while Roger played the garden hose on them.
The four culprits in a sodden row before her, Mrs. Moore sought counsel from Mrs. Wolf, who had come hurrying at her neighbor's call.
"What shall I do with him? It was his idea, he says."
"Sure it was," exclaimed Roger stoutly. "We were shipwrecked sailors. The tempest had raged for three days like in 'Swiss Family Robinson.'"
"But why did you get the sofa cushions?" asked Mrs. Wolf.
"Oh, that was my invention to make the teeter-tauter more comfortable. Then they made nice waves for us to rest our stomachs on when we swam."
"You knew how I prize those cushions. That one with the roses took me all last winter to do," said Roger's mother sternly.
"I—I—yes, I kind of knew, but I forgot. I always forget when I'm inventing. Don't I, Ern?"
Ern nodded and put his arm over Roger's shoulder.
"I must try to help you to remember, little son." Mrs. Moore sighed. "For three days you cannot play with Ernie and Elschen."
Instantly a howl rose from the two little Wolfs. "We can't play without Roger! It was our fault too!"
"Indeed, that's too hard on all of them, Mrs. Moore. We'll have bedlam for three days," protested Mrs. Wolf.
"But he's always losing his temper and hurting your children," exclaimed Mrs. Moore.
"But he keeps them interested, anyhow," replied the little German mother. "They never ask to go away when Roger is with them. There's something so lovable about him in spite of his temper."
"He hit me in my poor little belly—" began Elschen.
"Elschen!" shrieked her mother.
"Stomach," Elschen substituted hastily. "My poor little stomach. But I don't care, I love him anyhow."
"But how about my sofa pillows?" asked Mrs. Moore.
"We'll give you the money out of our banks," said Ernie.
Elsa jumped up and down. "So we will! And you too, Roger!"
"Sure I will. And I'll iron the roses out for you."
The two mothers looked at each other with a glimmer of a smile in light and dark blue eyes.
"You can each put a quarter in the Sunday School contribution box next Sunday and we'll call it square. Do you agree, Mrs. Wolf?" Then as her little neighbor nodded, Roger's mother went on. "Go change your wet suit, Roger, and take Charley home. Lend me some of Elschen's little things for her, Mrs. Wolf. The child is soaked."
"Mamma! That's a mile out to Prebles'," roared Roger.
His mother looked at him, completely out of patience. "Well, Roger! after this afternoon's various performances!"
"Oh, I'll go!" cried Roger hastily. "I was just talking, that was all!" and he fled to the house.
Roger and Charley, hand in hand, trailed up the street in the haphazard manner of childhood. The Prebles lived on a farm half a mile beyond the limits of the town of Eagle's Wing. The board walk ended not far beyond the Moores' house and the children automatically chose the center of the road where the dust was deepest. By scuffling their bare feet continuously they managed to travel most of the distance to the farm in a cloud of dust which Roger explained was a deep sea fog.
Dick Preble met them at the door of the farm house. Dick was a stocky boy of ten with a freckled face surmounted by a thatch of sandy hair.
"Charley! Where have you been? We thought you were asleep upstairs. Mamma was just getting scared. And whose clothes have you got on?"
Charley rushed headlong past her brother, shrieking for her mother, while Roger struggled with his explanation of certain of the afternoon's complications.
"Gee!" was Dick's comment, "I'll bet Charley gets the paddle whacks for running away."
"You weren't thinking of driving into town, were you?" asked Roger.
"Naw, lazy bones! You can just foot it, after half drowning my sister."
"You better keep your old sister home then," replied Roger, starting for the gate.
It was a long walk for seven-year legs. Roger was considerably less active on the return trip than he had been plowing through the sea fog on his way out. But his mind was hard at work.
"It would be nice to have a railroad all the way out to Prebles'. One that just us children could use—under the road. And I'd have little doors that would open up in the road and we'd peek out. And if we saw any grown ups coming we'd close the door quick. I'd be the engineer and Ernie the fireman. And we wouldn't have that old Dick at all. He's too big and cross. The girls could ride if they'd behave and run errands for us. Let's see. We'd have to dig it out first. Then we'd want ties and rails and a little engine. I wonder how much it would cost. But it would be very useful. 'Specially if we let Mr. Preble send his corn to town on it. He wouldn't have so much trouble with his hired men if they could ride on my engine, I bet."
This delectable dream, with infinite variations, carried Roger home. Supper was on the table and Mr. Moore was already in his place. A thin man, Roger's father, with a deeply lined face and good gray eyes, under a thatch of iron gray hair. He was a master mechanic, now owner of a little factory which turned out plowshares. Moore had devised machinery which enabled him to turn out plowshares of a superior quality, in greater quantity and at a cheaper rate than any of his larger competitors in neighboring states. His was only a small concern, employing twenty-five or thirty men, but even this made Moore the chief manufacturer of the town of Eagle's Wing, whose only other glory was that it housed the state university. The members of the college faculty did not recognize many of the town people socially. But Dean Erskine, the young new dean of the School of Engineering, had visited the plow factory and had been so enthusiastic over Moore and his work that he had come a number of times to the house, bringing Mrs. Erskine with him. Factory management was a new theme in these days and Dean Erskine found Roger's father open minded to his theories.
"Well, old son, have you been a good boy to-day?" asked Mr. Moore as Roger slid into his place at the table.
"No, sir. I've been pretty bad. Say, Papa, how much would it cost to build a railroad, under the ground, from our house to Prebles'?"
"A good deal of money. What way were you bad, Rog?"
"Oh, about every way, temper and all. Papa, I guess I'll build that railroad. I got a big piece of pipe and a gauge that might work. Guess I might begin to make a engine. Aren't I a pretty good inventor, Papa?"
"I don't know, Son. Nothing you've ever said or done makes me think you're one yet. In the first place an inventor is the most patient animal in the world. An inventor just can't lose his temper. Why don't you begin by inventing a way to control your temper, Son?"
Roger subsided into his bowl of bread and milk.
Mr. Moore was smoking on the front porch when Mrs. Moore joined him after putting Roger to bed. She sat down on the steps beside him while she told him of Roger's day.
"He's so contrite and so sweet, after one of his passions!" she said. "And yet, well, maybe it's his age, but he's so sort of casual about his temper. To-night, for instance, after he'd said the Lord's Prayer, he added, 'And please God, help me to find some pipe to make that engine and some rails too. And bless Charley, she's so little. And bless Mamma and Papa. And Lord, you might do something about my temper if you have time. Amen.'"
The father and mother laughed together, then Mr. Moore said, "I do hope the boy will keep up his interest in mechanics. It's the coming game for real he-men. The world's going to turn into a big machine. The way things are going now with me, I'll have a real place for the boy when he finishes school. Dean Erskine's about persuaded me to let him go to college. I've been dead set against a college engineer until I met Erskine. He's made me feel as I'd have had less of an uphill pull if I'd gone to engineering school, and he says I've made him feel as if he never had enough shop practice."
Moore stopped to chuckle. Then he went on, after refilling his pipe, "Yes, machinery is the greatest thing in the world. I took on five more men to-day, Mamma. All union men. I've decided to give in on that point and have a strictly union shop."
"I think you're right," said Mrs. Moore. "After all the union is the working man's only protection."
Moore grunted. "I don't care so much about the right of it as I do the expediency. And I haven't time to buck the union."
"You've changed a lot since you left off working with your hands," commented his wife, noncommittally.
"A man has to change his point of view when he becomes an employer instead of an employee. Old girl, we're on our way up the ladder and nothing but old Grim, himself, can stop us. And when I came in from the old farm, when I was twelve years old, I had only my two hands and the clothes I stood in."
"You've been wonderful!" murmured Mrs. Moore. "Do you know, Mr. Wolf has done well too. His wife said he couldn't speak a word of English when he came to this country—at just twelve, too, and now he's manager of the Grand Dry Goods Company."
"He's a nice fellow with a mighty pretty wife."
It was Mrs. Moore's turn to grunt, which she did, in the manner of a wifely sniff. And the two sat in silence, hands clasped in the lovely summer night.
After all, Roger did not get beyond a first attempt at the railroad building. He began the tunnel the next day, he and the two little Wolfs digging vigorously until a hole as large as a bath tub was completed. While resting from this toil, Roger conceived the idea of making a wading pool, with the aid of the hose. Some vague lesson won from previous experience made him ask permission of his mother and this given, the three children spent an ecstatic, though muddy, day in the improvised pond.
Roger's father suggested that evening that the pool be gradually enlarged to make a swimming pool. He enlisted Mr. Wolf's aid for the summer evenings and in a couple of weeks a very creditable pool, brick and concrete lined, made a summer heaven of the back yard for the little friends.
It was the pool that made this summer perhaps the most memorable one of Roger's childhood. It was the one, anyway, to which in after years his mind harked back with the most pleasure and with the greatest frequency.
Even little Charley learned to swim. Roger never was to forget her slender beauty, as she stood ready for her dive on the pool edge. This was his last memory of the little girl, for the Prebles gave up farming that fall and moved away. Somebody said that Mr. Preble drank up his farm, which at the time seemed mere nonsense to Roger.
Roger's tenth summer was memorable too. But he ceased to think of himself as a child then, because that was the summer his mother had typhoid fever and all summer long he was practically his own man. His father could give him no time, for there was a strike in the factory that lasted during the six weeks that Mrs. Moore was the sickest. The night that his mother was passing through her crisis, men threw stones in the kitchen windows.
Mrs. Moore believed that she was going to die. One day when her mind was clear, despite her deathly weakness, she made them leave the little boy alone with her while she told him of her consuming anxiety over his temper. And she talked to him too about a motherless young manhood and how he must try to keep clean and straight. She made him promise that if any of the facts of life puzzled him, he would go to his father and not let naughty minded little boys tell him bad stories. Then while Roger sobbed, she fell asleep and when she woke she was definitely better. But Roger never felt like a child again. He felt that he knew all that men knew about life, and death as well.
Mrs. Moore never was really strong again. Their keeping a servant dated from that summer and so did a little electric car, the first one in Eagle's Wing. Yes, perhaps this was as memorable a summer as Roger's seventh. Yet it lacked the magic and the beauty that made imperishable the joy of the swimming pool summer.
And then came his fourteenth summer.
Roger was a strapping big lad at fourteen. He was as tall as his father, who was five feet ten, and was still growing rapidly. He was thin but hard-muscled, with good shoulders that were not as awkward as they looked. After a year of pleading, his father agreed to let him spend his vacation in the plow factory; and Roger in overalls, his dinner pail in hand, was his father's pride and his mother's despair. She did like to see her only child well dressed.
Ernest's father wanted Ernie to come into the store that summer. But after his years under Roger's tutelage, Ernie was all for mechanics, so he too acquired overalls and a dinner pail and went into the plow factory. Elschen was broken hearted because there was no way in which she also could become a wage earner.
The university lay at the south end of the little town. The plow factory, now employing two hundred men, lay at the north end. Jim Hale, the chief engineer, blew the whistle every morning at seven o'clock and again at five o'clock. There was an hour off for dinner pails at twelve. A nine hour day, a few years ago, was not considered a long day, that is, not by employers of labor. That the employees were beginning to feel differently, Roger was to learn that summer in a manner that was to shape his whole life.
The workmen were of a type little known now in our big industrial centers. Without exception they were North Europeans: Germans, Norwegians, Swedes and Danes. About fifty per cent. of them were foreign born. The rest of them were American born. A good many of the German born had not taken out first citizenship papers, but the Norwegians and Swedes had done so, so had the Danes. Enough of them had a certain amount of pride in their work to make the factory an interesting and profitable place for a boy to serve his first apprenticeship in. Practically all married men in the factory wanted to settle permanently in Eagle's Wing and send their children through the town's splendid schools. A majority of them planned to send their sons through the State University.
John Moore had a good eye for men. He had built up an apparently solid and permanent organization. Yet for all his keen eye, the more successful he became, and the larger his business, the more incapable he grew of winning his men's liking. He had worked unbelievably hard from his boyhood up. He had given himself to his work without stint. He had no sympathy with any of his employees who would do less. His wage, as a mechanic, had never exceeded two seventy-five a day. He bitterly resented any man's wanting more.
Moore was the entire brains of his factory. He was his own manager, his own superintendent, his own purchasing and sales agent—a man of splendid mind, hidebound by the egotism and prejudices of the self-made man. At fifty, he was going at his highest speed, every nerve taut, ready to break at the least disturbance of the load.
Roger admired his father with a blind idolatry that was quite foreign to his ordinary mental attitude. He was naturally critical of men and things. To be a forge boy in his father's factory was to Roger to be touching the skirts of real greatness.
"Father," he said one night at supper, "I had a row with Ole Oleson to-day."
"Which Ole Oleson?" asked his father. "There are nine of them in the factory."
"The second forge foreman. His girl Olga is in my grade at school."
His father nodded. "What was the row about? As I warned you, Rog, if I catch you with the lid off that temper of yours, I'll treat you exactly as I would any other employee."
"But you didn't catch me, this time!" Roger grinned. He had fine white teeth and his eyes were still the wonderful sky blue of his childhood. "Ole said you were as hard as one of the plowshares and that some day the men would soften you like they take temper out of steel and that then you'd never be any good again."
John Moore snorted. "And you let the fool get a rise out of you, of course!"
"I knocked him down."
"And what did he do?"
"He knocked me down."
"Then what?" asked Moore.
"We shook hands and went to work again." Roger grinned at his mother's horrified face.
"I'd have fired you both if I'd seen it," said his father. "You were late again this morning, Son. Remember you're docked for that."
"Anyhow," Roger went on without noting apparently his father's warning, "he got confidential, while we were eating dinner, and told me that if you didn't give them an increase they were going on a strike that would make you sit up and take notice. He says you won't give the increase so the strike's due about the middle of July."
"Oh, the fools!" exclaimed John Moore. "I can't have a strike now with that big Russian order to fill. That order makes or mars me."
"Then you'll give 'em the raise! That's good!" Roger gave a sigh of relief.
"Raise nothing! Why, I can't raise them! Roger, you're old enough to begin to understand these things. The only way I'm able to compete with the trust is by working on such a narrow margin of profit that it makes their overhead look like Standard Oil profits. So far they've let my patents alone, chiefly, I suppose, because my machinery is efficient only for the comparatively small output. I never have been able to accumulate much working capital. A protracted strike would put me out of business. On the other hand a material increase in wage would kill that Russian contract and I've already borrowed money on it."
"Roger, you shouldn't have told your father that when he was tired," said Mrs. Moore, handing her husband his third cup of tea.
"Don't be a goose, Alice," returned Roger's father. "What are they going to ask for, Son?"
"A minimum of three dollars a day and eight hours."
"Then I'm finished!" exclaimed Moore, setting his lips.
"Why don't you tell them when they come to you just what you've told me?" asked Roger. "They'll understand."
"They won't believe a word of it. Nobody knows so much about a business as one of the workmen. And the poorer the workman the more he knows. I think I'll go up to see the Dean."
Roger and his mother sat late on the porch, while Mr. Moore conferred with his friend. Mrs. Moore summed up her own feelings on the matter of the strike when she said just as Roger started for bed:
"Well, as far as I'm concerned, I've never been so happy as I was when your father was just a plain mechanic, earning his two and a half or so a day and with no responsibility except to do his work well. Ever since he's been his own boss, he's been changing. I don't feel as if he were the same man I married. And what does he get out of it? Worry, worry, fuss, fuss. I tell you, Roger, my dear, I've come to the conclusion that the more complicated life gets, the less happiness there is in it."
Roger bent and kissed his mother. "Maybe I'll feel like that when I'm older," he said, "but I don't now. And I guess Father likes the worry. It's like playing a game. I'm going to get into it, you bet, just as soon as I get through school."
His mother made no reply.
On the morning of July fifteenth, a delegation of three workmen waited on John Moore in his office. They made exactly the demands that Roger had reported and they received the same reply that Roger had received, with just about the same amount of detail as to the running of the business. The strike was scheduled to begin on the first day of August.
Roger and Ernest, plugging away at the forge, heard the men's side constantly. At night Roger heard his father's. At first, naturally enough, both boys' sympathies were all with Roger's father. Then, because he was now a working man himself, Roger began to notice that his father had brutal ways with the men. Three or four times a day Moore always went through the factory. A careless mechanic would receive a cursing that, it suddenly occurred to Roger, no real man ought to endure. The least infringement of the factory rules was punished to the limit by a system of fines. Moore drove the men as relentlessly as he drove himself. This aspect of his father Roger naturally never discussed with his chum, but he spoke of it to his father on the morning of the first of August as they made their way to the factory.
"They think you feel to them just like you do to a machine and it makes them sore, all the time," said the boy.
"Heavens! what do they want? Must I kiss them good morning?" exclaimed Moore.
Roger laughed. "No, but I know what they mean. I've seen you when you talked as though you owned them—and not that either. It's sort of like if you could recollect their names, you'd hate 'em."
"Shucks, Rog! You're getting beyond your depth!" said his father.
The seven o'clock whistle did not blow that hot August morning. All the neighborhood of the factory was full of lounging men with clean faces and hands. It was like Sunday. Ernest went to work in his father's store. Roger spent the morning in the office with his father. In the afternoon he circulated among the men. At first many of them resented this. Naturally enough they looked on the boy as his father's spy.
But Moore had nothing to conceal nor had the men. Roger was intelligent and thoughtful far beyond his years, and little by little the men got in the habit of debating with him the merits of the case.
Roger forgot that summer that he was a boy. Even at Saturday afternoon baseball, his mind was struggling with a problem whose ramifications staggered his immature mind.
Ole Oleson, the forge boss, talked more intelligibly, Roger thought, than any of the others. There was a bench outside the picket fence that surrounded Ole's house, and Ole's house was not a stone's throw from the forge shed. Here nearly every afternoon Ole, with some of the strike leaders, would gather, and when not throwing quoits in front of the shed, they would talk of the strike.
Roger, his heavy black hair tossed back from his face, his blue eyes thoughtful, his boyish lips compressed in the effort to understand, seldom missed a session. The strike had lasted nearly a month when he said to Ole.
"My father says that if the strike isn't over in two weeks, he's ruined."
"That's a dirty lie!" exclaimed a German named Emil.
Before Roger's ready fist could land, Ole had pulled the boy back to the bench.
"What's the good of that!" said Ole. "Emil, this kid's no liar. Don't be so free with your gab."
There was silence for a few moments. The group of men on the bench stared obstinately at the boy Roger and Roger stared at the group of factory buildings. Unpretentious buildings they were, of wood or brick, one-story and rambling. John Moore had bought in marsh land and as he slowly reclaimed it by filling with ashes from his furnaces, he as slowly added to the floor space of his factory. Roger could remember the erection of every addition, excepting the first, which was made when he was only a baby. He knew what the factory meant to John Moore and with sudden bitterness he cried,
"I don't see what good it will do you to ruin my father!"
"'Twon't do us no good," returned Ole. "He ain't going to be ruined. Look here already, Rog. I got a girl, your age. She goes in your class. What kind of girl is she?"
"She's a smart girl. Smart as lightning," answered Roger.
Ole nodded. "Sure she is. Now Emil, he's got two boys and three girls. Canute, over there, you've got three little girls, ain't you? Yes—and Oscar, you got one boy, and John Moore, he's got one boy. Now, listen once, Rog. I tell you about myself and that tells you about all of us here.
"I am born in Norway, the youngest of nine, and when I am ten years my folks come to America. They come to give their children a chance to live comfortable and not have to work like dogs all the time, just to keep alive. All right. They come here to this town. My father gets a job and my big brothers get a job and we all do fine. They put me into school and my father says I can go clean through the University. Then he dies and my brothers all marry and when I have just one year in the High School I have to quit and go to work.
"All right! I get a job in a machine shop where a fellow named John Moore has a machine next to mine. He's a good smart fellow. We're good friends, many years. But he has a good education."
"He has not!" interrupted Roger, flatly. "He's never been in school since he was twelve and he's supported himself ever since he was twelve."
"He's educated all the same," insisted Ole.
"He taught himself everything he knows," Roger cried.
"All right! All right! Anyhow, he makes a new kind of a machine and takes his savings and starts to make plowshares, ten a day, over in that little brick house, there. And he works like the very devil. Why? Why, so that little Roger Moore that's come along can have it easier than he had. Same as I'm working for my little Olga and same as Canute and Emil and Oscar is working."
"That's only part of it, with father, anyhow," Roger exclaimed. "Of course, he's ambitious for me, but, you see, he has these ideas inside of him that have to come out. He'd have done it if I'd never been born."
"He does it so's his children gets ahead. Every married man's that way. Otherwise, why work?" This was Emil's contribution.
"All right," Ole pushed on. "Anyhow first thing I know I'm working for John Moore and he's getting ahead while I'm staying in the same old place, same old pay. And now listen. Already, when he gets ahead he changes. He gets bossy and ugly. Seems like a man can't be a boss without changing, without getting so he curses the fellow he bosses. And Emil and Oscar and Canute and I and all of us say, 'Here's Moore getting ahead. His boy goes through the university on what Moore makes us earn him. He has a hired girl for his wife. Now our children can't go to the university on what Moore pays us. And our wives can't keep a hired girl. Moore couldn't earn a cent without us. He's got to give us enough of what we earn him so's we can live easy as he does.'"
"He don't live easy," retorted Roger. "You ought to see him. He works harder than any of you, day and night, he never stops. My mother's always complaining that she's lost him. And if he's your age, Ole, he looks ten years older. I tell you carrying that factory is an awful load. None of you folks could run it. You haven't got the brains. Father ought to be the big earner. He's got the big brains."
"He can be the big earner," said Canute, a thin, slow speaking Dane, "if he gives us a chance to save and enough time to enjoy a little every day the sunshine and make gardens or bowl or play with our children. That's what we came to America to get and, by God, we're going to get it."
"He doesn't get it." Roger spoke with an unboyish sadness in his voice. "That factory has him body and soul. I don't see what's the use."
Again there was silence. Then Ole said, "I guess the thing that makes me hate him is how he's changed already. Look, Rog, I'm an American citizen. I can't have any man curse me like I was a slave. No money can pay for it. And one reason this strike's going to hang on till your father gives in is because he don't know how to boss men. And they all hate him."
"And envy him!" cried Roger.
"Sure," agreed Emil. "Envy him, we do. That's why we're striking."
"And supposing the factory goes out of business?" Roger asked. "You'll all have to move away or take any old job. This is the only factory in this town."
Ole laughed. "Your father's got you bluffed too, Rog."
"You'll see!" returned Roger, through his white teeth. "You'll see." And he started abruptly for home.
The first week of September slipped into the second. The night of the fourteenth, John Moore said at the supper table, "I bought the old Preble place, to-day. Traded in this place for it, so we'll have that free and clear out of the wreck."
"What do you mean?" faltered Mrs. Moore.
"What I say," he snapped. "The Russian contract has been canceled. Money never was so tight in thirty years as it is now. Wolf says he thinks there's a panic coming, and so does the bank. I can't borrow a cent more. I'm through with my fling, Alice, and I'm going back to a farm."
Roger choked a little on his tea. His mother said, unsteadily, "John dear, if going back to the farm brings you back to me, I shall thank God for the strike."
Roger's father scowled at his wife for a moment, then suddenly something, perhaps the gentleness of her voice and the sweetness of her eyes, caused him to push his chair back and going around to her side to kneel with his head against her shoulder.
Roger slipped out of the room, blowing his nose. He went into the back yard and sat scowling at the swimming pool until he heard the front door click on his father, then he went to bed.
The following day when Roger went into the office, his father's coat was hanging on the accustomed hook, but his father was not there. Vaguely alarmed, Roger started a search through the factory. His alarm proved unfounded, for he discovered his father in the little building that had been the original factory. He looked up when Roger came in.
"Look, Rog," he said. "I'd like to take this old machine up to the farm with us. We could store it somewhere. It's the first machine—the one I started business with."
Roger nodded but could not speak. Moore looked around the room.
"Well, I've had a good run for my hard work," he said, bitterly. "An old man at fifty and a worn out farm to spend my old age on."
"You've got Mother and me. And why don't you start again, Father? I'd help."
"I'm too old, Roger. I've lost my vim. We'll close the shop, to-day. A man's coming up from Chicago to buy in the machinery."
A half hour later, Moore posted a great sign on the office door. "This factory goes out of business to-day." Then with the various keys of the buildings in his pocket, he went home. Roger hung about to see how the men took the news.
By noon, the two hundred employees of the factory with many of their wives and children were gathered in the factory yard. At first they seemed cynically amused by what they called Moore's bluff. By mid-afternoon, however, after repeated assurances from Roger that his father was going to be a farmer, the crowd became surly. A strange man got up and made a speech. He said that capitalists like Moore should be destroyed, that men such as he were a menace to America. Roger, standing by Ole's side, saw suddenly in his inner mind his father's gray head on his mother's shoulder.
"You lie, you dirty anarchist!" he roared, and heaved a brick at the speaker's head.
There was an uproar. Some one helped the speaker wipe the blood out of his eyes and tied his head up, while Ole pinned both Roger's arms behind him.
"They say that's Moore's boy threw that brick," cried the speaker. "Come up here, you hell cat, and show yourself to these downtrodden workmen."
"Let me go, Ole," said Roger, with sudden calm. "I want to say something."
Ole looked into Roger's blue eyes. "All right," he said, after a moment, "only if you get mad again, I can't answer for this crowd. They're sore."
"I'm all right," muttered Roger, and he pushed his way to the office steps where the speaker stood. "Here I am," he cried; "what about it?"
"Here he is," roared the stranger, pulling Roger round to face the crowd. "If he tries murder now, what'll he do when he has a factory of his own?"
Roger thrust his trembling hands into his trousers pockets. "Don't you think it!" he shouted. "What do I want of a factory? To let a crowd of ignoramuses like you ruin me—just out of ignorance and envy? Not on your life! My father's going onto a farm and I'm going with him. I hope you're all satisfied."
"Farm!" sneered the stranger. "Why, he'll have a bunch of scabs up here to-morrow. I know Moore!"
What Roger might have said, one cannot know, for at that moment a man drove up in an automobile and shouldered his way up to the office door. He pulled a bunch of keys from his pocket as he mounted the steps.
"Who are you?" asked Roger. "I'm Mr. Moore's son!"
"I'm Mr. Wrench of Chicago. Trouble serious?"
"No," replied the boy. "Just a lot of hot air."
"One moment please," said the strange speaker. "There'll be serious trouble here if some questions aren't answered. What is your business here?"
"I'm to see to the dismantling of the factory," answered Mr. Wrench, indifferently.
A long breath seemed to rise from the listening crowd. Automatically it broke up into little groups and the best efforts of the strike leaders could not pull it together again. Roger felt that the excitement was all over and he made his way slowly home.
At midnight that night a terrific explosion shook the little town of Eagle's Wing. Roger had not finished pulling on his clothes when the fire bells began to ring. He caught his father rushing out of the front door. Ernie and his father joined them and they followed other hurrying groups toward the factory.
It was all ablaze, as well as several of the workmen's houses, which with the main factory building had been demolished by the explosion. Everybody asked questions at once and a hundred pairs of hands tried to help unreel the hose and bring it to bear on the main blaze.
"Turn on the water!" shouted a fireman.
"No! No!" roared a voice, and a man in his undershirt rushed up and tried to tear the hose away from those that directed it. It was Oscar.
"No! Let her burn! Let her burn! We'll show that infernal hound of a Moore if he can take our chances away from us!"
"Oh, then 'twas you!" cried Moore, and he leaped for Oscar.
A dozen men sprang to pull them apart, but Roger was there first. He hung onto his father in desperate silence, while others pulled Oscar away. Mr. Wolf and Ernest followed the Moores as Roger led the way to a seat on a heap of debris.
"There, old friend, there!" said Wolf. "Don't take it so hard! I know! I know! If it was my store it would break the heart of me. But we cannot break. We cannot."
Roger kept his hand on his father's shoulder. Moore rested his head on his hand and said nothing.
"It's all right, Daddy! You walloped him a good one," said Roger.
"His old snoot was all over his face," added Ernest in a cheerful voice.
"Hush, boys, come away for a little bit," said Mr. Wolf. And he led the two back toward the hose. But Roger would not go far. He loitered behind lest some one should molest that silent figure on the heap of debris. All the vicinity was brilliant with firelight. And standing waiting thus he saw a sight that he never was to forget. It was his father, bowing his head on a piece of the twisted, wrecked machinery—the machinery into which he had put the passionate hopes and dreams of his manhood. And moving nearer lest some one else should see, Roger saw that his father was sobbing as if indeed his heart was broken.
That picture was to direct the entire course of Roger's life. For it never left him. And at first it filled his boyish mind with such bitterness that he could not hear of labor and its strivings and troubles without seeing red.
But as the years on the farm slipped by and the atmosphere of competition and of feverish ambition gave place to the sweet silences, the quiet plodding, the placid sureness of farm living, the bitterness gave way to a dream.
Gradually Roger ceased to blame the factory workmen who had destroyed his father, or to blame his father for the egotism and selfishness that had driven his employees into reckless stubbornness. He saw behind both the urge of the inevitable, unquenchable desire of human beings for happiness; for the happiness that comes only when men have sufficient leisure in which to expand their minds and souls.
And as he grew older and read deeper it seemed to him that the solution lay only indirectly in any system of government. It seemed to him that until man had learned how to use directly and freely the power sources of nature, inequalities of wealth would always persist. And he had learned in one bitter lesson that unhappiness and economic inequality go hand in hand.
And so Roger dreamed his dream. For many years it was such a mad seeming dream that he was ashamed to speak of it, even to Ernest. And yet it was simple enough in its first outlines.
This was, Roger told himself, a machine age. The more perfect became man's use of machinery, the more leisure could he have and the more wealth. Ultimately man's efforts must concentrate on the effort to find power with which to drive the world's machinery. Coal was disappearing, water power was coming into its own. Was there not, however, some universal source of power that could be harnessed and given to the use of man? Some power that capital could not control nor labor misuse and destroy?
It was thus that Roger came to study the possibilities of Solar Heat utilization. It was thus that he became the world's first and greatest pioneer in a new field of engineering—a field so mighty that it was to become the dean of all other fields of power engineering.
He dreamed a dream of solving the problem of labor versus capital. He was to learn through years of heart breaking endeavor that neither capital nor labor has use for a dreamer of dreams no matter how practical the dreams may be, unless the dreamer is selfish enough, is grasping and ruthless enough to trample over other men to the top.
Roger was to learn, before he achieved success, that a man's genius can go no higher than his character permits it to go. He was to learn that only out of a man's will to conquer himself can come the finest accomplishment of his work. And he was to learn that for most of us fate works with curious indirection. So that the story of Roger's dream deals not with a struggle between capital and labor, but with a man's struggle with solitudes; it deals not so much with machinery as with nature; and not so much with scientific facts as with human passions.
Thus for most of us, if we could but see it so, life is not a matter of colorless and naked straight lines but is a rich mosaic made up of a thousand seemingly unimportant items.
Although John Moore never became reconciled to the failure of his factory, still he was not really unhappy on the farm. There is something too normal, something too entirely natural about a return to the soil after middle age, to permit a man broken and worn, as was Roger's father, really to be discontented when working in his own fields.
The farm never paid very well. After the first year or so they were obliged to mortgage it, and sometimes the interest was hard to meet. But after the stormy factory years, these anxieties seemed innocuous enough and Roger and his mother, anyway, were deeply happy.
Roger made an old corn crib over into a laboratory. During his High School period, with his faithful henchman, Ernest, he spent all his free moments on various and mysterious experiments in the patched-up little shack. Many were the vile smells and the outrageous noises that floated out over the farm, but nobody complained, except Roger's mother, and she only mildly. No startling results were forthcoming from these experiments, but John Moore encouraged the boys in their attempts.
"Chemistry was my weak point," he would say. "Get all you can of it, Rog. Perhaps you'll succeed where I failed."
"All the chemistry in the world couldn't have run Ole Oleson for you," Roger would reply.
"No, but it would have made a real engineer of me," his father would say thoughtfully.
When Roger was a freshman and sophomore in college, he suffered a complete relapse from his interest in experimental work, and his father was very much depressed, but both his mother and Dean Erskine laughed at Mr. Moore's fuming.
"Let the poor child have his play time," said Alice Moore. "Between the farm work and that nasty laboratory the boy hasn't known anything but work since we came out here. If you'd had more chance to play, John dear, your nerves would be in better shape now. I'm glad he's learned to dance, bless him."
"Give him his fling, Moore," said the Dean. "He was getting one sided, and he's way ahead of his class now, as a result of all his corn crib grinding. Football and girls won't hurt him at all for a year or so. I'll see to it that he doesn't neglect his work. If I'm any judge of men at all, that boy of yours is going far. You've no cause to worry."
So Roger was not nagged at home. Somehow his father raised the money to pay a hired man so that except in the long summer vacations Roger was relieved from farm work. Until well into his junior year, he merely carried the required work in college and devoted all his excess energy to football and girls. He was notably successful in both fields. He was six feet tall, lean and muscular and a splendid half back. He was eager and chivalrous and had a charming smile and was a famous schemer of things to do, and places to go. The University was co-educational and Roger had no rival with the girls except perhaps Ernest. Ernest was whimsical and sweet and very musical, and he took the girls seriously, which Roger refused to do.
But all the playing came to an end in Roger's junior winter. A venomous epidemic of La Grippe swept over the world that year and Roger's mother succumbed to it. A month after her death, John Moore gave in to pneumonia and early in February Roger found himself alone in the world.
Roger escaped with only a mild attack of the disease, but the shock of his loss left him for a time, it seemed, spiritually and physically bankrupt. There was nothing left. The worn out farm was eaten up by mortgages. The stock and implements would only just pay food bills, the doctor, the funeral expenses.
One cold gray afternoon Roger closed the gate for the last time and, suitcase in hand, started down the road to town. He had not covered half the distance when he met Ernest.
"Hey, Rog, old man, I was just coming up. Where are you going?"
"To Mrs. Winkler's. Got my room there for taking care of the furnace, walks, and any old thing."
"Forget it!" exclaimed Ernest. "You're coming home with me until you get braced up. Mother and Dad said so."
"That'll make it harder when I do get back. Besides, old lady Winkler might not hold the place for me." Roger spoke firmly. Nevertheless he allowed Ernest to help him with the suitcase and made no objection when his chum turned off Main Street toward the Wolf home.
Mrs. Wolf kissed him and put him to bed, while Elsa brought a hot water bottle and a cup of hot milk. He hung about the house for several days, dreading the return to college and Mrs. Winkler. But Mrs. Wolf knew Roger almost as well as his own mother had known him. She left him alone until one snowy afternoon, after a prolonged absence in his room, he came into the kitchen with traces of tears about the eyes. Mother Wolf was paring apples for mince meat. Papa Wolf would eat no food not prepared by hers or Elsa's hands.
"Help me with these nut meats, Roger, there's a good boy," she said.
Roger sat down by the table with a long sigh and began to pick at the hickory nuts.
"Elsa's gone to Choral Union practice," volunteered Mother Wolf. "Ernie is doing some laboratory work he said he was behind in. You must be getting somewhat behind, too, Roger."
"I guess so," agreed Roger, indifferently.
"Papa met Dean Erskine in the Post Office yesterday. The Dean said you were the most promising man in your class."
"What good does that do," asked Roger, "when they're gone and can't know?"
"How do you know they can't know?" asked the little woman sharply. "Older and wiser people than you believe otherwise. One thing is sure, that the only real thing you can do for your parents now is to carry on what they began. Life is short and there's no time to waste, Roger dear, no time to waste."
"Are you getting tired of me here?" asked Roger quickly.
Mother Wolf's pretty blue eyes filled with tears. "Do you have to be unkind, Roger?" she asked.
"Forgive me!" he exclaimed. "I know you'd let me live here if you thought it would be good for me."
There was silence. The coal range glowed and the snow without sifted endlessly past the window. Suddenly Roger rose and putting on his overcoat and cap went out into the storm.
Dean Erskine was in the little office off the junior laboratory. Roger had not seen him since the day of his father's funeral, but he kept his voice and manner casual.
"Good afternoon, Dean Erskine. How many hours am I behind in lab work?"
The Dean too was off hand. "I've lost count, Roger."
"It's sort of sniveling baby work, anyhow," said Roger. "I did it all once; up in the corn crib."
"I know that," said Erskine. "That's why I've let you neglect it so outrageously. I had hopes too that you'd wake up and ask to do other things. But it seemed that you preferred experimenting with Welsh rarebits at Hepburn Hall and marshmallow sundaes at Allen's."
Roger had the grace to blush. He grinned sheepishly, then said soberly: "I'm through with all that now."
"Oh, it has its place in a normal man's life! Only you seem to have crowded several years of it into two. If you're not in training I don't mind if you smoke. Only close that door into the classroom."
The Dean pulled out an outrageous old pipe. Roger closed the door, then lighted a cigarette. The two smoked in the silence of old friendship for a while, then Roger said,
"Dean, what do you know about solar heat?"
The Dean looked at him suspiciously. "The usual things. Why?"
"I'm not trying to trip you," exclaimed Roger. "I've read all I can find on it, and that's darned little. You know those arrangements of mirrors in an umbrella-like frame, focussing the sun's rays on a point at the center, where the steam boiler is located?"
"Yes," said the Dean.
"Well, I don't believe the fellows that are working along that idea are right. The mechanism is hopelessly complicated, unwieldy and expensive."
Erskine nodded, his gaze on Roger's dreaming eyes.
"Ever since I was a kid," said the boy, slowly, "in fact ever since the factory went to pieces, I've had a pipe dream. It's sort of nutty, you know, and I suppose you'll think it's childish, but—"
"Let's have it. I accept your apologies," said the Dean, smiling.
And so Roger was launched for the first time on the telling of his dream. He was a little halting and incoherent at times, but his old friend listened attentively. When Roger had finished, he said,
"It's a good dream, Roger, and sound in its general premises. Have you ever got down to brass tacks with it and tried to design a solar engine?"
"No, I've only a lot of notes and sketches. It always seemed to cost so much that I never had courage to go any farther."
Erskine refilled his pipe. "I have a dream too. Only mine is in pretty good working shape. My dream has been to turn out of this school men who were practical engineers but who also had ideas. Men who were never satisfied with a bridge, a motor, a gas engine after they had finished it, but would be forever trying to improve it. Such men, of course, are rare, but in the fifteen years I've been here, I've sent out five or six lads who have given American engineering a real lift. I haven't come across a fellow before though who had any concrete vision of the world's labor problems in relation to the inventing game."
He fell to brooding and Roger waited patiently. Erskine finally looked up. "It's a big dream, boy. Too big for you or any other man to put over in a single generation. But we'll do what we can toward giving it a start. You cut out junior laboratory and get to work on your designs. When you finally get one that seems workable, we'll have the shops make a model." He paused, then rose and Roger rose too while the Dean put a hand on his broad young shoulder. "You've launched on the finest, most thankless, most compelling, most discouraging, most heart thrilling game in the world, Roger. You'll probably be poverty stricken all your life, but Lord! Lord! what riches of the mind will be yours!"
Roger flushed and lifted his head in a gesture that was infinitely young.
"I'm used to poverty, sir."
"I know you are and so am I. Good night, Roger!"
"Good night, Dean! Thank you!" and Roger, in spite of his grief, returned to the Wolfs' with his face set triumphantly toward the future.
The next morning he deposited his suitcase in old lady Winkler's most meager and coldest bedroom and after he had stoked the furnace and shoveled the walks he bolted for the college drafting room.
It was not until the fall of his senior year that Roger completed a design of a solar engine which Dean Erskine was willing to turn over to the University shops, that a model might be made. Roger had taken Ernest into his confidence and that faithful friend undertook to make all drawings for him. Ernest had no originality of mind, but he was an excellent workman and a first class mathematician and laboratory man. Early in January, the model was completed, and on a cold Saturday afternoon, the test was made. Roger and Ernest came home to the Wolfs' for supper deeply discouraged.
"But why wouldn't it work?" asked Elsa, as the boys wiped the supper dishes for her.
"If I knew that, I wouldn't be blue, would I?" grunted Roger.
"I wish I understood the stuff you talk," Elsa went on. "I don't see how on a cold day like this you'd expect to run an engine with heat from the sun."
"We didn't try to," said Ernest.
"Didn't try to!" echoed Elsa. Then she banged the tea kettle angrily back on the stove. "I do think you boys are disgusting! Here I'm so interested in your work and you treat me as if I were a baby! And I'd like to know who does more for you two great hulks than I do. You simply disgust—"
"Hold on, Elsa," roared Roger. "For the love of Mike! I'll confide the inmost secrets of my being to you if you'll stop jawing. Now listen! You can see that we can't get as high temperatures out of the sun's rays as we can out of burning coal or gasolene?"
Elsa, much mollified, leaned against the sink and fastened her violet eyes on Roger's face.
"I understand that," she said.
"Wonderful!" murmured Ernest.
Elsa made a face at her brother and Roger went on with a grin. "So I'm trying first of all to develop a practical, efficient engine that will run with the temperatures I'm able to get from Sun Heat."
"And won't the model work at all? Not a bit?" asked Elsa.
"She just sits and looks at me without moving a muscle," replied Roger.
"Can't the Dean tell you what's the matter?" Elsa ventured.
"The Dean!" snorted Ernest. "Isn't that just like a girl? Why, Roger knows more about low pressure engines in a minute than the Dean'll know in his whole life. Come on, Rog, if you've finished your kindergarten. Let's go up to see Florence King and her bunch at the Beta house. It will rest our brains."
"Not for me," replied Roger. "I've done enough girling to last me a spell. I'll stay here and educate Elsa till she goes to choir practice, then I'm going home and bone on that design."
"Sorry for you," sniffed Ernest, and was off.
Roger deposited Elsa at the church door, then returned to Mrs. Winkler's. The light burned in his cold little room nearly all night. But when he went to bed, sketches for the complete redesigning of the engine lay on his table. And it was this changed design which he kept through all the vicissitudes of struggling to market his dream.
During his senior year, Roger, with Ernest and other promising men of the graduating class, had several jobs offered him by different manufacturing and engineering concerns. In the earlier days of the University, a young graduate of the School of Engineering had been looked on with contempt by the business men of the state. He was a "book" engineer to them, just as a graduate of the School of Agriculture was a "book" farmer to the farmers of the state.
But, as the years had gone on, it was observed that the minor jobs, obtained with difficulty by the men whom Dean Erskine had trained and recommended, nearly always became jobs of fundamental importance. The observation bore fruit. Little by little "Dean Erskine men" were scattered across the continent until even as early as Roger's graduating year, it was the custom of engineering concerns and manufacturers to watch the Dean's laboratories closely and to bespeak the services long before commencement of every promising lad in the class.
By the Dean's advice, however, Roger did not accept any of these positions. He decided to take an instructorship in the University and keep on with his experiments in solar engineering. Both he and Erskine felt that in a couple of years, at most, Roger would have something practical to offer the world. Ernest also took an instructorship, working toward his doctor's degree. His father was delighted. He was immensely proud of Ernest's work in college, and a full professorship for Ernest would have meant as much to Papa Wolf as the national presidency for his boy.
The two years flew rapidly. The summer that he was twenty-five, Roger, armed with letters of introduction from the Dean, and a roll of drawings, went to Chicago. He was about to market his dream and he proposed to give the two summer months to the job. After that—well, the possibilities staggered even Roger's imagination, which was an active one.
Haskell and Company, makers of Gas-Engines! The sign was as inconspicuous as the firm was famous in the middle West. Roger, after two days of waiting, was staring at the faded gilt letters until the moment of his interview with Mr. Haskell arrived. He was a little uncertain about the knees, but very sanguine for all that. Mr. Haskell, a small man with a grizzled beard, sat behind a desk in a room that was small and dingy. The desk seemed to Roger an unnecessarily long way from the door, as he advanced under Mr. Haskell's eyes.
"Well, Sir, so you're one of Erskine's men. Ought to be good. Solar engine, though, doesn't sound cheerful. What's the idea?"
Roger unrolled his drawings and began his explanations. Haskell listened with keen interest, asking questions now and again. When Roger, flushed of cheek, had finished, Haskell lighted his cigar, which had gone out.
"Very clever! Very clever! A nice little experiment. What do you want to do with it?"
"I want you to manufacture and sell these solar heat plants," replied Roger boldly.
"I see. But are you sure such a plant is practicable?"
"Where have you had one working?"
"At the University."
"You mean in the laboratory."
Roger nodded. Haskell cleared his throat and looked over Roger's black head for a minute, then he said:
"My dear fellow, I am a business man, not a philanthropist. When you can come to me and say, 'I've got a plant in Texas and one in Mississippi and one in Egypt and they've worked for, say two years, and the folks want more,' why, then you'll interest me. But I don't see putting a hundred thousand dollars into a laboratory experiment, however clever."
Roger's clear blue eyes, still unsophisticated despite his twenty-five years, did not flinch. There was a perceptible pause, however, before he said:
"But, Mr. Haskell, how am I going to get a dozen plants into use unless some one manufactures and installs them for me?"
"Some one will have to do just that. But you'll have to pay for it."
"But I thought great concerns like yours," persisted Roger, "were constantly looking for new developments."
"We are. But frankly, Mr. Moore, your whole idea is too visionary. Some day, undoubtedly, we shall have solar engineering. But that day is several generations away. We have coal and all its by-products and water power is just beginning to come into its own."
"Coal would have to retail at a dollar a ton to compete with my solar device in a hot climate," interrupted Roger.
"Very interesting if true! But you've erected no plant in a hot climate. I'll tell you what I will do though, Mr. Moore. I could very well use your unusual knowledge of heat transmission in my concern. I'll give you three thousand a year to begin with."
Roger got slowly to his feet, rolling up his drawings. "Thank you, Mr. Haskell. But I think I'll stick to my solar engine."
Haskell rose too. "An inventor's life is hell, my boy. Better come in out of the rain."
"But why should it be hell?" asked Roger. "The inventor is the very backbone of the industrial life of the world."
"I know it. But for every good invention offered there are a thousand poor ones. We who pay the piper have to be careful."
"I'm much obliged to you for giving me so much time," said Roger, picking up his hat.
"Not at all. And remember that my offer to you is a permanent one."
Roger grinned, and left the office.
Outside the building he drew a long breath, stared abstractedly at the passing crowd, then drew out his second letter of introduction. James Howe and Sons Company, Marine Engines. Roger decided to walk to his second meeting. It would give him time to collect his thoughts. The walk was a long one and by the time he had covered the distance his hopes had soared again.
James Howe and Sons Company did not seem overjoyed by the letter of introduction and for some time it seemed as if Roger could not pass the young woman who guarded the main office door. He was finally admitted, however, to the office of Mr. Hearn, the general manager. Hearn was a man of forty, full faced and ruddy.
"I get the idea! I get the idea!" he said impatiently when Roger was about half way through his explanations.
Roger flushed. "You can't possibly, Mr. Hearn. I haven't reached the main idea yet."
"I've got enough to convince me that you're hopelessly impractical. Give it up, young man! Give it up and get into something that'll pay the bill at the corner grocery. Solar power is about as practical as wave power. Fit merely for the dreams of poets. Sorry not to be able to give you more time. Good day! Miss Morris, call in the foundry boss."
Roger found himself in the street before he had finished rolling up his drawings. "Well, I'll be hanged!" he muttered. Then he suddenly smiled. "I think I came down here with an idea that we'd be turning out machines in a couple of months! Gee, if I'm landed by Christmas, I'll be lucky." He pulled out the third letter of introduction, and his head lifted defiantly, started off to present it.
The Dean had been generous with his letters, but by the end of the first week in Chicago, Roger had presented them all. Curiously enough, in all this week of meeting with manufacturers Roger told but one of them his ultimate dream. John McGinnis, maker of kerosene engines, was elderly and Irish and immensely interested in Roger and his idea.
He slapped Roger on the back. "It's a grand idea, me boy! If I wasn't just about to retire, hanged if I wouldn't help you to build one plant. How come you ever to take up solar heat though, with the world all howling for a real kerosene engine?"
They were sitting in McGinnis' pleasant office, the windows of which overlooked Lake Michigan. The old man had cocked his feet up on his mahogany desk and had about him an air of leisurely interest. He gave Roger the mate to the long brown cigar he himself was smoking and after a few minutes Roger said, hesitatingly:
"When I was a kid of fourteen, labor difficulties ruined my father. He owned a little plow factory, employing a couple of hundred men. I got a good deal of the men's side for I worked as a forge boy that summer, but after the crash, for a long time, I was all for father's side of the matter. Gradually though, I began to think differently.
"I began to be sorry for the men as well as for my father. They were hardworking, ambitious chaps who wanted to get ahead, just as my father did. They took the only way they saw for getting ahead. They didn't believe that just because father was the brain of the concern, he should be well-to-do and they poor.
"I couldn't find any system of government that I was convinced would remove the economic inequalities that were the root of the trouble. So I began to think about sources of wealth. You can see how my mind fastened first on machinery, then on power, then on quantity and accessibility of power; then solar heat."
McGinnis nodded, then smiled. "You're a damn queer inventor. What do you expect to get out of it?"
"All any man can get on the physical side out of anything is a living," replied Roger. "What I am getting and expect to have more of, is some great adventures."
McGinnis smoked for a while and said, "If I were twenty-five instead of seventy, I'd look at it as you do. Being seventy I have to say to you, me boy, that though some day you may work out a practical plant for hot countries, you'll never solve the labor problem. As long as human nature exists we'll have social inequalities. But, after all, as long as you contribute something real to the world in the way of a power idea, devil a bit does it matter what motive put you at the job."
Roger smoked in silence.
"Had any encouragement in Chicago?" asked the older man.
"Not a bit," replied Roger, cheerfully. "But the trip has done me good. I've learned that I can't sell an idea. I've got to sell a working plant."
"Right you are! And with the patent situation fully covered. Those drawings of yours are full of interesting suggestions for makers of any kind of engines. Philanthropic of you to show them about Chicago."
"By Jove!" exclaimed Roger, with a startled air. "I guess I'd better beat it back to Eagle's Wing until I get out of swaddling clothes. I supposed the firm that would take this up would take care of the patents. I don't know anything about patents myself."
"Better learn," said McGinnis. "Many of your ideas are clever and need protection."
Roger laughed ruefully. "I thought," he confessed, "that I'd have the thing marketed in a couple of months."
"Listen," said the old man. "On the average the man who has an invention that is of fundamental significance gives his life to perfecting and marketing it, then dies hungry. Do you get me?"
"But there are exceptions, aren't there?" insisted Roger.
"Yes, but no such pipe dream as you have there," pointing to the drawings, "could be an exception."
"Would you advise me to give it up?" Roger asked curiously.
"I would not. That's your job. Civilization owes its existence to chaps like you."
Roger, face flushed, black hair rumpled, blue eyes glowing, rose to go.
"I can't exactly thank you," he mumbled. "Only," his voice strengthening, "if I hadn't met you, I'd have gone back home discouraged and almost as ignorant as I left. As it is, I feel in bully fighting trim."
Old John McGinnis got to his feet. "God bless you, my lad. When I'm twanging a harp, up above, I'll be having an interested eye on you."
Roger started back to Eagle's Wing that evening. Ernest and Dean Erskine were both deeply interested in Roger's report, which he gave in the Dean's library the night he reached home.
"Pshaw! I should have told you a lot of things that would have helped you," exclaimed the Dean when Roger had finished. "But one forgets up here in the classroom how the war rages out in the industrial world."
"Will patents cost a lot?" inquired Ernest. "You know I don't use all my salary. Draw at will, old man."
"Thanks, old top," replied Roger. "Since I cut out girls and golf, I've been saving a bit myself."
"The patents won't cost a great deal, if you do the work yourself, Roger," said the Dean. "But it's going to take time to learn the patent game."
"Well," said Roger, with a sigh, "if I've got to become a patent attorney in order to patent my ideas, I suppose I can. But gee, I am glad I don't want to get married. You were wise in not letting me give up that instructorship, Dean, as I wanted to."
Dean Erskine smiled ruefully. "Seems to have been about the only sane advice I've given you."
"Don't you think it, sir!" exclaimed Roger. "If I ever do get away with this, yours will be the credit."
"And Ernest's," added the Dean.
"You bet, Ernest! And now, I'm going out to the University library and read up on patents," said Roger, with the familiar squaring of the shoulders.
He had need to square his shoulders: a greater need than either he or his two devoted friends could dream. For as the months slipped into years, it seemed more and more obvious that either Roger's ideas were utterly impractical or else that he was actually several generations ahead of his time. In his brilliant, yet thoroughgoing way, Roger studied patent law and registered two years after his trip to Chicago as a patent attorney in Washington. He worked constantly on the development of his plant, improving here, discarding there, until he had reached the point, he felt, where he could do no more until he had funds for a practical plant, in a hot climate.
He and the Dean and Ernest estimated that not less than fifty thousand dollars would be essential for such an initial plant. The sum might have been fifty million for all its accessibility to Roger. Most of the wealthy men whom Roger was able to reach admitted the cleverness and the interest of his ideas. None of them could be persuaded that the idea would be a good investment. Once in desperation Roger went to Chicago to a firm whose letter heads read "Bankers, Stocks and Bonds, Promoters, Investments." Roger was turned over to a young man who wore a garnet ring and who was at the head of the Engineering Investments Department. The two had several long sessions. Then the man of the garnet ring proposed that a company be organized for half a million dollars and that his company undertake to sell the stock. Roger was much encouraged.
"That's fine," he said. "How long would it take to raise fifty thousand dollars?"
"Not long," replied the young promoter, whose name was Eaton. "Of course, you understand that the first money will have to go for office expenses and salaries."
"Whose salaries?" asked Roger. "I don't want any and I need only a few day laborers."
"You don't get me." Eaton was patient. "I'm speaking of the Solar Company's Chicago office."
"Shucks! We don't want an office in Chicago. What we want is a plant in Arizona."
"If you think we can sell stock in a nutty scheme like this without plenty of mahogany furniture and high sounding titles on glass doors, you're even greener than I thought you were," said Eaton.
Roger looked at him thoughtfully. "Oh, I see!" he said after a moment. "When would you want to begin on this work?"
"As soon as you can raise a little preliminary expense money for us, say $1500."
"Oh," said Roger again. "Of course, you realize that the only thing that will give that stock any value is building plants with the money we get from selling it."
"Why, certainly! But we must make a right start. An office in your bedroom may go in Eagle's Wing but not in Chicago."
"Oh!" said Roger for a third and last time. And the conference adjourned sine die.
Something about this interview depressed Roger profoundly.
He went home, locked up his drawings and threw an old canvas over the model of the solar engine that had stood for so many years in a corner of the graduate laboratory. It was six months before he could induce himself to touch his work again. And it dawned on him that his twenties were slipping by and that he was becoming unsociable and grave. But there seemed no remedy for the matter. His dream had become the most vital part of his life, and would not let him lead a normal existence. Such is the price that a dreamer pays for his vision.
THE NEW DAY
Roger, climbing the steps to the Science Building on the day that he was thirty years old, wondered if his working life was to end as it had begun within its ugly walls.
The building stood at the western edge of the campus. It was a Gothic, Jacobean, Victorian composite, four stories high, built of yellow sandstone, marble and brick. It boasted a round dome, rising from a Gothic main roof and a little pagoda-like tower on each of the mansard roofs that crowned the two wings. There had been a time when to Roger the Science Building had been beautiful. But he saw its ugliness now and laughed about it with Ernest.
On this December afternoon, Roger stayed late in the laboratory with twenty seniors who for some weeks had been carrying on strength tests of varying mixtures of concrete. The sun was low in the west and the corners of the huge old room were dark. But a red glow from the west window filled its center, turning the concrete briquettes piled on the table in the middle of the room to gold.
Roger stood by the table, examining the students' reports on the fractured briquettes. His black hair, with the sunset full upon it, was like molten bronze. Roger's face had changed in the years since his undergraduate days. His figure was the same, six feet of lean muscle; his eyes were as blue and his face as thin and intellectual as when as a small boy he had dreamed of an underground railway. But there had grown subtly into his face a look of grimness and unhappiness that robbed it of the youth it still should have retained.
A shock headed student came to the table with a briquette.
"How does the thesis go, Hallock?" asked Roger.
"Slow, just now, Mr. Moore."
"What's the trouble?"
"Oh, the best of the information is in German and I'm rotten at scientific German."
"You've taken the required work in German, haven't you, Hallock?"
"Squeezed through by a hair's breadth," the boy answered with a grin.
Roger grunted. "Neglected it, of course, when you've been told time and time again that a reading knowledge of scientific German is essential to research success. I wonder why an undergraduate has to be a fool?"
"I'm not a fool," contradicted Hallock flatly.
"Any man's a fool who's working his way through college and fails to get the most he can out of every course offered him. I know, because I worked my way through my last two years, neglected my German and had to make it up after I graduated. That thesis will make or mar you as far as your first job goes. Who'd you have your second year German with? If I were you, I'd take a semester of it over again."
"I'd rather never get a diploma than go back to old Rosenthal."
"Mr. Rosenthal," corrected Roger sharply. "Speak respectfully of an instructor."
"Aw," exclaimed Hallock, now evidently angry, "why should I speak respectfully of a beer-guzzling Dutchman who sneers at the girls in the class every time they recite?"
There was sudden silence in the room. Hallock was evidently relieving an accumulation of irritation. "If I had been Miss Anderson this morning I'd have slapped his fat face for him."
"Be careful, Hallock! I can't permit you to talk this way to me about a member of the faculty."
"Then you're no better than he!" shouted Hallock. "The damned Dutch run this college and I'm sick of it."
There was a sudden murmur of agreement from the highly edified audience now grouped behind Hallock. This was an old sore that had existed in Roger's own days under Rosenthal.
"Pshaw, I know all about Mr. Rosenthal's peccadillos, Hallock," he said. "But he's a teacher and scholar of the first water. Girls always take general remarks personally. Miss Anderson had better forget it, whatever it was. Girl hysteria, probably."
Hallock suddenly began to cry with rage. "Hysteria, damn you, don't you insult her too!" Then, as an angry sneer appeared on Roger's face, he unexpectedly leaned over the table and punched Roger on the nose.
Roger vaulted over the table and with a rapid clip laid Hallock flat. The boy was on his feet in a moment, crying, but game. The edified audience held the two apart.
"You don't know what the Dutch slob said! You don't know," sobbed Hallock.
Roger did not speak. In fact he could not. He stood white and trembling for some time, a scarlet trickle of blood running from one nostril. His struggle for control was so obvious that even Hallock perceived it and was silent. With the other lads he stood in embarrassment while the laboratory clock ticked and the end of the winter sunset filled the room.
It seemed to Roger that the fight was as difficult now as it had been years before, when he had struck his mother's soothing hand from his shoulder and later had kissed that same hand and had wept his heart out with his cheek upon it. In the brief moment as he stood with clenched fists and bowed head, waiting for the red mist to give way to his normal vision it seemed as if all his life passed in review before him tinged with the hot glare of his mental and spiritual tempests. Then, as many, many times before, he seemed to feel the gentle hand, that he had struck, laid softly on his forehead. He heaved a great sigh and looked up.
"The class is dismissed," he said. "Hallock, hold a snowball to your chin as you go home."
When the class had left the room, Roger washed his face at the sink in the corner, wiping his hands on a towel that was gray with age. Then, he dropped the towel and stood leaning against the table, head bowed, arms folded.
The gloaming increased. A cheerful whistle sounded in the hall and Ernest came in.
"Well, old top? Ready to go home?"
"Ern, do you know a girl named Anderson?"
"Yes, very pretty. Engaged to young Hallock, they say. What about her? Don't tell me you've begun to be interested again in petticoats."
"I had the deuce of a row with Hallock, just now," said Roger.
"Change your clothes as you tell me about it," suggested Ernest. "It's late."
Roger obediently started for the closet, talking from the door as he dressed. Ernest lighted his pipe and listened thoughtfully under the electric light he had turned on. He was a shorter man than Roger and stockily built. He was still very fair, with soft yellow hair already receding from a broad forehead. His eyes were beautiful, a deep violet, soft dreaming eyes that men as well as women trusted instinctively.
"I'm sure you've seen Miss Anderson," he said when Roger had finished. "She's a funny foolish little thing. Just the kind to attract an unsocialized grind like Hallock. I guess there was a good deal of a row in Rosenthal's class this morning. One of the seniors told me. Rosenthal said to Miss Anderson—say, Rog, you're not listening."
Roger picked up his hat. "I don't care what Rosenthal said. He always was a boor. The point with me is that I've lost my temper in the classroom for the last time. Come on, Ern."
They were crossing the snowy campus before Ernest spoke. Then he laid his hand on his friend's arm.
"The fool kid brought it on himself. I can see how he got worked up. You can be exasperating and he gave you what he'd like to have given Rosenthal. Nevertheless, no man can take a crack on the chin with a thank you, Roger."
Roger did not reply. They turned into River Street where the street lights flashed through the bare branches of the elms. An occasional sleigh jingled by. Lights glowed from pleasant windows where children were silhouetted against the curtains. Ernest stopped before the big, comfortable Wolf house.
"Come in to supper, Roger."
"I'll not be good company, Ern," but Roger's voice was wistful.
"Come along! Mother doesn't mind your grouches, and I guess the rest of us can endure one more."
Roger turned up the brick path that led to the door.
"Hello, boys!" Elsa called, as the front door slammed. "You're late!"
Elschen at twenty-nine was still very pretty in an unobtrusive way. Her yellow hair was thick and curly. Her eyes were like Ernest's and her skin was fair, with a velvety flush in her delicately rounded cheeks.
"Supper's ready," she went on. "Papa just came in. Don't keep him waiting, children."
Roger and Ernest went quickly into the dining room where Papa Wolf was just sitting down. He nodded to them over his spectacles, then helped himself to a slice of meat.
"Where's Mamma?" asked Ernest, passing the bread to Roger.
"Here, liebchen!" Mamma Wolf came in, carrying a steaming coffee pot. She set it down, then hurried round the table to kiss first Ernest, then Roger.
"You know Rog can't eat without you, Muetterchen," laughed Ernest.
"He doesn't get his manners from the Germans," snapped Elsa.
"Never mind! I've gotten the only home life I've known in eight years from them," returned Roger. He and Mamma Wolf exchanged an affectionate glance.
"Pass the biscuits, Elsa," said Papa Wolf.
"Going anywhere to-night, Elsa?" asked Ernest.
"Yes, we have choir practice every night from now to Christmas."
"The carols are beautiful!" exclaimed Mamma Wolf. "I heard them last night when I stopped by the church for Elsa. Ernest, pass your papa the preserves and put the cake where he can reach it. It's fresh, Papa, never fear. I only finished frosting it as you came in." Mamma Wolf looked at her husband a little anxiously.
"That Smithsonian man telephoned you again this afternoon, Ernest," said Elsa. "He wanted to call this evening and I told him to come along."
"I wonder what he wants," mused Roger. "He's been hanging round for a long time."
"Pass the biscuits, Ernest," from Papa Wolf. "The cake is very bad, Mamma."
"Oh, Papa, is it? And I took such trouble!" The distress in the gentle voice made Roger scowl.
"In America, Papa," Elsa's voice was mocking, "where you have lived for some forty years, it is not considered courteous to criticize the food at the table."
"Hush, Elschen! Papa can say what he wishes, always, to me. Is it not so, Karl?"
Papa Wolf pushed away his plate, wiped his mustache and leaned back in his chair with a smile and a sigh of repletion.
"You spoil us all, Mamma!" he exclaimed. "Elsa, Uncle Hugo comes to-night and we will have a little music. You will give up choir practice, just for once."
Ernest glanced at his sister apprehensively. She flushed resentfully. "But I must go, Papa!" she cried. "I take the salary the church pays me. I must sing well."
"Laughing and flirting with the new bass is not practice," returned Papa. "You stay at home to-night, Elschen."
Elsa glanced at Ernest, who shrugged his shoulders. Then she gave a long look at her father with eyes that were black with anger.
"Papa, I'm going to choir practice," she insisted.
Her father brought his fist down on the table. "Am I or am I not master in my own house?" he shouted. "Elsa, what you have needed was a German upbringing. You will stay at home to-night and make music with Hugo and me."
"Papa," said Elsa slowly, "I am twenty-nine years old and I can't endure this sort of thing much longer. Mother and I are just unpaid servants for—"
"Elsa! Bitte! Bitte sehr!" exclaimed Mother Wolf.
Elsa's dark look went to her mother, then to Roger, who was still scowling. Her lips trembled. She shrugged her shoulders and rising began to clear the table.
The three men went into the library and lighted their pipes. Papa Wolf, having with much difficulty persuaded his meerschaum to draw, parted his coat-tails and settled himself on the piano stool. Then he threw his head back while he touched a few quiet chords. He had a beautiful, massive head. Roger, ensconced in a deep Morris chair, thought, as he had thought many times before, that it was a head that should have belonged to an artist rather than to a dry goods merchant. The chords merged into a quiet melody. Ernest buried his head in the evening paper. Roger let his pipe go out and his face settled into lines that added ten years to his age.
The subdued clatter of dishes from the kitchen finally ceased and Elsa came through the room. Her father stopped her as she passed and put his arm about her waist.
"Sweetheart, don't be cross with me," he said. "It's just that Papa so loves to have his little girl with him."
Elsa put her hand on his gray head and looked down into his face but said nothing.
"Come now," he went on, "sing a little song of forgiveness with me."
Still with his arm about her he played with one hand and sang as he played:
"Du, du! liegst mir im Herzen! Du, du! liegst mir im Sinn! Du! du! machst mir viel Schmerzen Weiss nicht wie gut ich dir bin."
There was a sudden ring at the doorbell and with a little laugh that was half a sob, Elsa hurried to let Uncle Hugo in. He was tall, thin and blonde, yet his resemblance to Mamma Wolf, his sister, was unmistakable.
"So! We make a little music to-night," he boomed in a rich bass, "and the audience is set," bowing ironically to Roger, still in the clouds, and Ernest, his head still in the paper. "Where is the Muetterchen?"
"Coming in a minute," called Mamma, from the dining room. "I can hear. Go ahead."
Elsa sat down at the piano. Papa Wolf opened his 'cello case. Uncle Hugo put his silver flute to his lips and played a tentative sweet note. In a moment the strains of Schubert's Serenade, exquisitely rendered, filled the quiet house. Roger relighted his pipe and let it go out. Whenever over her shoulder, Elsa cast a quick glance at him, his gaze was fastened intently on the ceiling.
For an hour the music continued without interruption. Then the doorbell rang again and Ernest went to answer it.
"Come into the den so we won't disturb the concert," Roger heard him say. "Rog, come in here, will you?"
Roger obediently made his way into a little room off the dining room, devoted to the men of the household. A short smooth-shaven, sandy-haired man was standing by the reading table. Roger and he shook hands.
"I've been talking to Dr. Austin a good deal about your solar heat apparatus, Rog," said Ernest, "and he's got a proposition to make. Let's sit down and talk it out."
He pushed a jar of tobacco toward Austin and the three men, eyeing one another with frank interest, settled themselves in the easy chairs which Ernest indicated with a nod.
"I think Ernest said that you represent the Smithsonian Institute," Roger said. "What do you want to do? Put my engine in your museum?" This with a short laugh.
Austin shook his head. "I see you are about as ignorant as the rest of the world as to the real nature of our work. Confess now!"
Ernest smiled. "I suppose I've been reading papers and reports from the Smithsonian for ten years, but until I met you, Mr. Austin, I was certainly vague about who or what the work represented. Go ahead and give Moore the explanation you gave me, will you?"
"Well," began Austin, "an Englishman named Smithson left his estate to his nephew named Hungerford with the stipulation that if Hungerford died without heirs, the state was to go to found the Smithsonian Institution in America. Hungerford obligingly died without issue. It was in 1835, I think, and after a great deal of red tape, about half a million dollars was turned over to the American Congress to go to work with.
"Of course, Congress did considerable false stepping but finally the Institution was organized with the avowed purpose of increasing and diffusing knowledge. Rather a large program, eh! It was proposed to carry this program out by stimulating talented men to make original researches by offering prizes, by appropriating every year a sum of money for particular researches and by every year publishing reports on the progress of difficult branches of knowledge.
"The original bequest has been increased until now the Institution has use of the income on a million dollars. You'll be surprised to know how much real work has been done by this very little advertised branch of our government. For example, out of the system of weather observation developed by the Institution grew the United States Weather Bureau. The United States Ethnological Research is all done by us—as witness the monumental studies of our American Indians. Powell's great explorations were fathered by the Smithsonian and so were Langley's experiments in flying machines as well as his studies of solar heat."
"My word!" exclaimed Roger, "so they were!"
"When I was in the northern part of the state, last summer, studying certain Indian mounds, I ran across one of your fellow instructors who mentioned your work in heat engineering. I've always been much interested in that line of research, so when I came West again I tried to get in touch with you."