THE RADIO BOYS' FIRST WIRELESS
OR WINNING THE FERBERTON PRIZE
BY ALLEN CHAPMAN
BY JACK BINNS
It is very appropriate at this moment when radio has taken the country by storm, and aroused an enthusiasm never before equaled, that the possibilities for boys in this art should be brought out in the interesting and readable manner shown in the first book of this series.
Radio is still a young science, and some of the most remarkable advances in it have been contributed by amateurs—that is, by boy experimenters. It is never too late to start in the fascinating game, and the reward for the successful experimenter is rich both in honor and recompense.
Just take the case of E. H. Armstrong, one of the most famous of all the amateurs in this country. He started in as a boy at home, in Yonkers, experimenting with home-made apparatus, and discovered the circuit that has revolutionized radio transmission and reception. His circuit has made it possible to broadcast music, and speech, and it has brought him world-wide fame.
He had no elaborate laboratory in which to experiment, but he persevered and won out. Like the Radio Boys in this story, he was confronted with all kinds of odds, but with true American spirit he stuck to his task and triumphed.
The attitude of the government toward the wireless amateur is well illustrated by the expressions of Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, and is summed up in his declaration, "I am for the American boy."
No other country in the world offers such opportunities to boy experimenters in the radio field. The government realizes that there is always a possibility of other important discoveries being made by the boy experimenters, and that is the reason it encourages the amateur.
Don't be discouraged because Edison came before you. There is still plenty of opportunity for you to become a new Edison, and no science offers the possibilities in this respect as does radio communication.
Jack Binns March 30th 1922
I. THE AUTO CRASH II. TAKING CHANCES III. WONDERS OF WIRELESS IV. MYSTERIOUS FORCES V. CROOKED WORK VI. A PRACTICAL OBJECT LESSON VII. IN THE DARK VIII. GETTING A START IX. WORK AND FUN X. A STEALTHY RASCAL XI. CLEVER THINKING XII. FORGING AHEAD XIII. THRASHING A BULLY XIV. ON THE VERGE XV. THE FINISHING TOUCH XVI. SWEETS OF VICTORY XVII. THE FERBERTON PRIZE XVIII. FRIENDLY RIVALS XIX. A SPLENDID INSPIRATION XX. THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES XXI. THE VOICE THAT STUTTERED XXII. THE STOLEN SET XXIII. BATTERING IN THE DOOR XXIV. ON THE TRAIL XXV. THE PRIZE
THE RADIO BOYS' FIRST WIRELESS
THE AUTO CRASH
"How about it, Joe?" asked Bob Layton of his chum, Joe Atwood, as they came out of school one afternoon, swinging their books by straps over their shoulders. "Going up to Dr. Dale's house to-night?"
"You bet I am," replied Joe enthusiastically. "I wouldn't miss it for a farm. I'm keen to know more about this wireless business, and I'm sure the doctor can tell us more about it than any one else."
"He sure does get a fellow interested," agreed Bob. "He isn't a bit preachy about it, either. Just talks to you in words you can understand. But all the time you know he's got a lot back of it and could tell you ten times as much about it if you asked him. Makes you feel safe when you listen to him. Not a bit of guesswork or anything like that."
"What are you fellows chinning about?" asked Jimmy Plummer, one of their schoolmates, who came up to them at that moment. "You seem all worked up about something."
"It's about that talk Dr. Dale is going to give us to-night on the wireless telephone," answered Bob, as he edged over a little to give Jimmy room to walk beside them. "You're going, aren't you? The doctor said he wanted all the boys to come who could."
"Do you suppose there'll be any eats?" asked Jimmy, who was round and fat, and who went by the nickname of "Doughnuts" among his mates because of his fondness for that special delicacy.
"Always thinking of that precious stomach of yours!" laughed Bob. "Jimmy, I'm ashamed of you. You're getting so fat now that pretty soon you won't have to walk to school. You can just roll there like a barrel."
"You string beans are only jealous because I get more fun out of eating than you do," declared Jimmy, with a grin. "But eats or no eats, I'm going to hear what the doctor has to say. I got a letter the other day from a cousin of mine out in Michigan, and he told me all about a set that he'd made and put up himself. Said he was just crazy about it. Wanted me to go into it so that he and I might talk together. Of course, though, I guess he was just kidding me about that. Michigan's a long way off, and it takes more than a day to get there on a train."
"Distance doesn't make much difference," declared Bob. "Already they've talked across the Atlantic Ocean."
"Not amateurs?" objected Joe incredulously.
"Yes, even amateurs," affirmed Bob. "My dad was reading in the papers the other night about a man in New Jersey who was talking to a friend near by and told him that he was going to play a phonograph record for him. A man over in Scotland, over three thousand miles away, heard every word he said and heard the music of the phonograph too. A ship two thousand miles out on the Atlantic heard the same record, and so did another ship in a harbor in Central America. Of course, the paper said, that was only a freak, and amateur sets couldn't do that once in a million times. But it did it that time, all right. I tell you, fellows, that wireless telephone is a wonder. Talk about the stories of the Arabian Nights! They aren't in it."
There was a loud guffaw behind the lads, accompanied by snickers, and the friends turned around to see three boys following them.
One of them, who was apparently the leader of the trio, was a big, unwieldy boy of sixteen, a year older and considerably larger than Bob and Joe. His eyes were close together, and he had a look of coarseness and arrogance that denoted the bully. Buck Looker, as he was called—his first name was Buckley—was generally unpopular among the boys, but as he was the son of one of the richest men of the town he usually had one or two cronies who hung about him for what they could get. One of these, Carl Lutz, an unwholesome looking boy, somewhat younger than Buck, was walking beside him, and on the side nearer the curb was Terry Mooney, the youngest of the three, a boy whose, furtive eyes carried in them a suggestion of treachery and sneakiness.
"What's the joke, Buck?" asked Bob coldly, as he looked from one to the other of the sniggering faces.
"You're the joke," answered Buck insolently; "that is, if you believe all that stuff I heard you pulling off just now. You must be easy if you fall for that."
"I wasn't talking to you," replied Bob, restraining himself with some difficulty. "But since you've butted in, perhaps you'll tell me just what it is that's so funny about the wireless telephone."
"The whole thing is bunk, if you ask me," replied Buck with the confidence that so often goes with ignorance. "Telephoning without wires! You might as well talk of walking without legs."
This argument seemed to him so overpowering that he swelled out his chest and looked triumphantly at his two companions, whose faces instantly took on the same expression.
"You made a ten strike that time, Buck," declared Lutz, clapping him on the shoulder.
"Hit the target right in the bull's-eye," chimed in Terry, with a smirk.
Bob and Joe and Jimmy looked at each other, and, despite their resentment, had all they could do to keep from breaking into laughter.
Buck noticed their amused expression, and his coarse face grew red and mottled.
"Well," he demanded, "what have you got to say to that? Am I right or ain't I?"
"You're wrong," replied Joe promptly. "Dead wrong. You're so far from the truth that you couldn't see it with a telescope. You're talking like a ham sandwich."
"Look out what you're saying, Joe Atwood, or I'll make you sorry for it," threatened Buck, as he clinched his fist, an ugly look coming into his eyes.
"I apologize," said Joe. "That is, I apologize to the ham sandwich."
Bob laid a restraining hand on his friend's arm.
"Easy, Joe," he counseled. "Listen, Buck," he went on. "Did you ever hear of Marconi?"
"Sure, I did," replied Buck. "He's the fellow that had the fight with Julius Caesar. The one that Cleopatra was dippy about."
"No," said Bob patiently. "You're thinking of Mark Antony. He's been dead for more than eighteen hundred years. The man I mean is a very live one. He's the inventor of wireless telegraphy."
"Never heard of him," muttered Buck sullenly.
"Well, since you never heard of him, we'll mention some one else," continued Bob. "I was only going to say that he's a pretty brainy fellow, and he believes in the wireless telephone. Then there's Edison. Perhaps you've heard of him?"
"Of course I have," blurted Buck furiously. "Say, what are you trying to do? Make a fool of me?"
"Nature's done that already," Joe put in, but Bob checked him.
"I'm simply trying to show," Bob explained, "that if we're 'easy,' as you call it, in 'falling for that stuff,' there are a lot of able men in the United States who are in the same boat with us. In fact there isn't a man of brains and education in the country who doesn't believe in it."
"Do you mean to say that I haven't any brains?" cried Buck in a fury.
"Not exactly that," replied Bob. "But perhaps you don't use what brains you have. That happens sometimes, you know."
"I guess a fellow's got a right to his own opinions," blustered Carl Lutz, coming to the rescue of his discomfited leader.
"Of course he has," retorted Joe. "But when it's that kind of opinion he ought to put on the soft pedal. Any one has a right to have a club foot or a hunched back or cross eyes, but he doesn't usually go round boasting of them."
"You're a wise bunch, I'll tell the world," sneered Buck in lieu of a more stinging retort.
"Not at all," replied Joe. "It's you that claim to be wiser than Edison and the rest of them. But you mustn't think because you have water on the brain that you're the whole ocean."
The air was full of electricity and matters were tense between the two groups when a diversion came in the form of a halloo from the other side of the street, and Herb Fennington, a special friend of Bob and Joe, came running over to greet them. They stopped for a moment, and Buck and his cronies passed on, favoring Bob, Joe and Jimmy with malignant scowls as they did so.
"Hello, Herb!" called Bob, as the latter came up to them, a little breathless from running.
"Hello, fellows!" returned Herb, as he looked after Buck and his companions. "What's up with Buck and his gang? Looked as if there was going to be a fight about something."
"Not so bad as that, I guess," replied Bob, with a laugh, "though Buck did look as though he'd like to take a swing at us."
"I only wish he had," grunted Joe. "That fellow certainly gets me mad, and I wouldn't mind at all having some excuse for pitching into him."
"What was it all about?" asked Herb, with lively curiosity.
"He heard us talking about the wireless telephone and butted in," explained Bob. "Practically told us we were fools for believing that there is such a thing."
Herb laughed outright.
"Sounds like Buck," he commented. "What he doesn't know would fill a book."
"A whole library you mean," corrected Joe.
"A library then," agreed Herb, as the boys resumed their walk, which had now brought them close to the business part of the town. "But say, fellows, forget about Buck and listen to this. It's a good one that I heard yesterday. Why is—"
He was interrupted by a shout from Bob.
"Look," he cried, "look at that auto! It's running wild!"
Their startled eyes followed the direction of Bob's pointing finger.
An automobile was describing curious antics in the middle of the street. It made short dashes here and there, hesitated, zigzagged. Then it turned suddenly toward the curb, dashed on the sidewalk and amid a crash of broken glass plunged through the plate glass windows of a store.
There was a moment of stupefaction on the part of the boys at the suddenness of what promised to be a tragedy. Then in a flash they came to life.
"There was a girl in that auto!" cried Bob, as he dashed toward the store, the others following close on his heels. "Hurry up, fellows. She may be badly hurt."
"More likely killed," muttered Joe. "Don't see how any one could live through that."
The store through whose windows the car had dashed was the largest paint and hardware store in the town. The crash had resounded far and near, and people were rushing toward it from all directions. The boys reached the place first, however. They opened the door and raced in, only to be greeted with a heavy volume of smoke, through which flickered tongues of fire.
In the midst of a mass of debris was standing the wrecked auto. The gasoline tank had been smashed by the impact, and the contents, luckily a small amount, had been scattered over the place and come in contact with a stove. The flames had spread to a large part of the paints and oils and other inflammable materials that the store contained. One of the clerks in the place had been hit and stunned by the car, while two others, together with the proprietor and a customer, were making desperate attempts to beat out the flames.
Bob's quick eye caught sight of a case of hand grenades standing near the entrance, and his qualities of leadership came into play at once.
"Grab those grenades, you, Herb, and, you, Jimmy," he cried, "and throw them where they're most needed. Come with me, Joe, and get that girl out of the car. Quick!"
In a twinkling, Herb and Jimmy were hurling the grenades at the points where the fire seemed to have gained most headway, while Bob and Joe worked their way over the mass of boxes and wrecked fixtures to the place where the runaway automobile had ended its mad rush.
The plate glass windows had reached almost to the ground, so that the automobile with its great momentum had easily surmounted the sills and reached nearly the middle of the store. One wheel had been torn off, the windshield was shattered into fragments, and the front of the machine had been crushed in.
In the driver's seat, still with her hand on the wheel, was the figure of a girl. No sound came from her, and from the way her body drooped forward, limp and motionless, it was evident that she was either unconscious or dead. The boys feared the worst, especially when they saw a stream of blood trickling down from a wound near her temple.
They worked at top speed, trying to reach her and draw her out from the driver's seat. But the bent and tangled mass of wreckage held her captive, and it was only after other willing hands had come to their assistance that they were able to lift her from the car.
They bore her to a point just outside the door, and laid her on some boxes that were hurriedly placed side by side. Her eyes were closed and she was deadly pale, the whiteness of her face being accentuated by the blood that dripped from her wound. She was a young girl, apparently no more than twenty, and was quietly though tastefully dressed. It was evident that she still breathed, and a slight fluttering of the eyelids indicated that she was returning to consciousness. Directly across the street was the Sterling House, named after its proprietor, and Mrs. Sterling, a motherly looking woman, who was among those who crowded around to look and help, recognized the girl at once.
"Why, she's one of our guests!" she exclaimed. "Her name is Berwick— Miss Nellie Berwick—and she's been staying with us for the last three days. Some of you bring her across to her room, and some one else hurry and get a doctor. Oh, there's Dr. Ellis now!" she exclaimed with great relief, as she descried a tall figure in the crowd hurrying to the side of the injured girl.
Under the doctor's directions, Bob and Joe, assisted by two others, lifted the girl and carried her across to the hotel. And while they are engaged in this work of helpfulness, it may be well for a better understanding of our story to sketch briefly the careers of Bob and Joe and their friends and the surroundings in which they had been brought up.
Bob Layton was the son of Henry Layton, the leading druggist and chemist of the town. Bob had been born and brought up in Clintonia, which was a thriving town of about ten thousand inhabitants in an Eastern state, about seventy-five miles from New York City. It was located on the Shagary river, a stream that afforded abundant opportunities for boating, fishing, and swimming, and was a source of endless pastime and recreation for the boys.
Bob, at the time this story opens, was fifteen years old, of rather dark complexion, and was tall and well-developed for his age. He was vigorous and athletic and a lover of outdoor sports. His magnetism and vitality made him a "live wire," and he was the natural leader among the boys with whom he associated. His nature was frank and friendly, and he was extremely popular with all those who were worth while. With that he had a quick temper, which he had learned, however, to keep under control. He never looked for trouble, but at the same time he never side-stepped it, and any one who tried to bulldoze and impose on him speedily found that he had picked out the wrong person.
Joe Atwood, Bob's special chum, was a boy of about the same age and was the son of Dr. Atwood, a prominent and respected physician of the town. Between him and Bob a warm friendship existed, and where one was found the other was certain to be not very far off. He had a fair complexion with merry blue eyes, that, however, could flash fire on occasion. As has already been seen in his interchanges with Buck Looker, he had a "quick trigger" tongue, and was likely to say a thing first and regret it afterward, because he had gone perhaps too far. Bob, as the more self controlled of the chums, served as a sort of check on the impulsiveness of his friend, and had many times kept him out of trouble. Joe shared Bob's fondness for athletic sports, and, like him, was a leading spirit in the baseball and football teams of the town.
Another thing that drew the boys together was their keen interest in anything pertaining to science. Each had marked mechanical ability, and would at any time rather put a contrivance together by their own efforts than to have it bought for them ready made. It was this quality that had made them enthusiastic regarding the wonders of the wireless telephone.
Herbert Fennington was a year younger than the others and the son of one of the principal merchants of Clintonia. He was lively, full of fun and jokes and an all-around "good fellow."
Jimmy Plummer was fourteen, round, fat, lazy, and good-natured, and a great lover of the good things of life. His father was a carpenter, thrifty, respected and a good citizen.
As the boys all lived on West Main Street, a pleasant, shaded street about a quarter of a mile from the business center of the town, and within a few doors of each other, they were naturally thrown much together both in the daytime and when in the evenings they foregathered at each other's homes to study together the lessons for the next day or to indulge in a few hours of fun and recreation.
The boys reached the hotel with their helpless burden and carried the girl upstairs to her room, where Mrs. Sterling had everything in readiness for her reception. Then the doctor took her in hand and the boys withdrew to the lobby of the hotel, where they planned to wait for a few minutes until the results of the doctor's examination could become known.
Now for the first time since the excitement began they had time to think of themselves, and when they looked at each other they could hardly forbear from laughing outright at the picture they presented. They were begrimed with smoke and grease, their clothes were rumpled and soiled, and Bob's sleeve had been split from shoulder to elbow, where it had been caught by a jagged strip of the material of the wrecked car.
"You look like a stoker from the hold of an ocean steamer," gibed Joe, as he looked at the unkempt figure of his friend.
"It's dollars to doughnuts that you look just as bad," responded Bob, with a grin, as he made a break for the washroom, followed by his chum. In the work of washing themselves, they found that it was not only their clothes and appearance that had suffered. Each had a number of scratches and blisters that they had not felt during the stirring period of rescue but that now made their presence known. But these, after all, were trifles, and they took them as simply a part of the day's work.
They had only a few minutes to wait before the tall figure of the doctor emerged from the sick room and descended the stairs. The expression on his face reassured them, as they hurried forward to hear his verdict.
"There's no danger," he declared, as soon as he came within speaking distance, "though how she got off as easily as she did is almost a miracle. The crushed front and top of the machine acted as a sort of protection for her. The cut on the side of the face must have been made by a splinter of flying glass from the windshield. What she is suffering principally from is shock, and that's no wonder. Even one of you rough and ready youngsters," he added with a smile, "would find it a shock to go flying through a plate glass window."
"Sure thing," said Bob in reply. "I'm mighty glad to know that things aren't any worse with her. I didn't think when we rushed in that we'd find her alive at all."
"You boys deserve great credit for the quickness and decision with which you acted," the doctor said gravely. "The fire might have reached her in a few seconds more. I'm told that the auto caught fire just after you got her out.
"By the way," he added, as he started to leave the hotel, "she has been told of the way you rescued her, and she is very grateful. She wanted me to let you come in so that she could thank you in person, but in her present weakened state I didn't think it advisable. I told her, though, that I would speak to you about it, and that if you so desired you could call on her tomorrow."
"We'll be glad to," answered Bob, and Joe nodded his assent as the doctor with a wave of the hand went down the steps.
The boys followed him a moment later and went across the street to view the scene of the wreck. The fire had been put out, and the local fire company, which had been summoned to the scene, was rolling up the hose and getting ready to depart. The proprietor and clerks of the store, with the aid of volunteers, had drawn the wreck of the partly burned automobile from the store, and it stood in the street, a melancholy ruin. It was clear that as an auto its day of usefulness was over.
A large crowd still lingered about the spot, discussing the accident, which by its unique features had thoroughly stirred up the town. It was not often that an auto took a flying leap into a store and the story of why and how it happened was sure to furnish a topic of discussion for many days to come.
Bob and Joe, as two of the principal figures in the event, were surrounded at once and besieged with questions. Many were the commendations also that were showered upon them for their courage and presence of mind.
"Oh, that wasn't much," protested Bob. "We just happened to be close at hand when the auto went crazy. Anybody else would have done the same."
"Of course they would," broke in Buck Looker, who with his cronies was standing close by. "People are making an awful fuss about a little thing, it seems to me. How about the work we did in helping to put out the fire?"
"Did you?" asked Jimmy Plummer. "That's news to me. Look at your hands and clothes. They haven't got a mark on them. I saw you standing around outside, and you didn't lift a finger."
"You keep your mouth shut or I'll shut it for you," cried Buck angrily. "You're getting altogether too fresh."
Jimmy was about to retort, but just then there came an interruption.
WONDERS OF WIRELESS
"How are you, boys?" asked a pleasant voice, and the lads looked up to see Dr. Amory Dale, the pastor of the "Old First Church" of Clintonia, standing beside them.
Most of them responded cordially, for they liked and respected him. There was no stiffness or professionalism about him to make them feel that they were being held at a distance. He was comparatively young, somewhere in the early thirties, and had the frame and bearing of an athlete. There were rumors that he had been a star pitcher on his college baseball nine and a quarterback on a football eleven whose exploits were still cherished in the memory of his institution. He was a lover of the out-of-doors and there was a breeziness and vitality that radiated from him and made him welcome wherever he went. He kept in touch with modern science, and it was said that he would have embraced a scientific career if he had not felt it his duty to enter the pulpit.
"You boys seem to have had a strenuous time of it," he said, as he looked with an amused smile at the torn and soiled clothes of Bob and Joe as well as the scratches and blisters that marked them. "I hear that you covered yourself with glory. Tell me more about it."
They went into all the details they knew, passing over as rapidly as possible their own part in the affair, and Dr. Dale listened attentively.
"Good work," he commented. "The occasion came and you were equal to it, and that's all that can be asked of anybody. I think I'll step over to the Sterling House now and see if I can be of any help to the poor girl who has had such a trying experience. By the way, boys, I hope you won't forget about that wireless talk up at my house to-night. I'm looking for you all to come if possible, and I'll do my best to see that you have a good time."
"We're sure of that," replied Bob, with a smile. "And we haven't been thinking of much else since you first asked us to come. In fact, we were talking about it just before the accident."
"That's good," replied the doctor. "You coming too, Buckley?" he asked, turning to Buck, who with his cronies was standing grouchily a little apart from the others.
Buck stammered something which could be hardly understood, but which was interpreted by the doctor as a negative. The minister did not press the matter, but with a pleasant wave of the hand that included them all he went across the street.
"He's a brick, isn't he?" remarked Bob, as he looked after him.
"You bet he is," agreed Joe emphatically.
"All wool and a yard wide," was Herb's tribute, as the boys, having gathered up their books, which in the excitement had been thrown wherever they happened to fall, resumed their walk toward their homes, leaving Buck and his mates glowering after them.
There was no lack of animated conversation around their supper tables that night. Bob's parents made no secret of the fact that they were proud of their son's part in the day's work. Joe, too, found himself made much of in the family circle, not only by his father and mother, but by his sister Rose, who hovered about him forestalling his wants and showing him a deference that would have been highly flattering if it had not been also somewhat embarrassing. Rose, a year or so younger than Joe, was all aflutter with the romantic possibilities of the affair. A young girl in distress! Joe to the rescue! What could be more interesting?
"Was she pretty, Joe?" she asked.
"Blest if I know," her brother answered briefly. "Pass me some more of that roast veal, Sis. It goes right to the spot."
With a sigh, Rose complied. Joe was so practical!
Herb and Jimmy came in for a modified share of applause because of the help they had rendered by their prompt and efficient handling of the fire grenades, which had held the flames under control until the fire department could get to the place and complete the job.
The minister's house adjoined the big stone church, which was on West Main Street and divided the business from the residential part of the street. It was a roomy, capacious structure, and at about eight o'clock that night it became a place of pilgrimage for a large number of the boys of the town. Buck Looker and his cronies were conspicuous by their absence, but this was a relief rather than a privation.
Bob and his friends were among the first comers. They were warmly greeted by Dr. Dale and ushered into the large living room of the parsonage. The portieres had been drawn back between the front and back rooms so that nearly the whole ground floor was thrown into one big room. Extra chairs had been brought in so that there were accommodations for a large number. There were no grown people in the gathering, for the doctor had especially confined his invitation to the boys, who, he knew, would feel more at ease in the absence of their elders.
"There's Talley's wagon," remarked Jimmy, as he noted the presence at the curb of a vehicle bearing the name of the leading caterer of the town. "I'll bet we're going to have some eats."
"And you've just come from the supper table!" exclaimed Bob.
"He's like a trolley car," chaffed Joe. "You can always crowd more into it."
"Don't you know the doctor's going to give you a feast of reason?" asked Herb with mock gravity.
"Reason's all right," admitted Jimmy, "but there isn't much nourishment in it."
"How about a flow of soul?" asked Bob.
"Nothing against it," Jimmy answered, "but a flow of lemonade has its good points too."
From the time the boys entered the room their eyes were fixed on a box-like contrivance that was placed on a table close up against the wall of the further room. It had a number of polished knobs and dials and several groups of wires that seemed to lead in or out of the instrument. Connected with it was a horn such as was common enough in the early days of the phonograph. There were also several pairs of what looked like telephone ear pieces lying on the table.
They eyed it with intense curiosity, not unmixed with awe. They had already heard and read enough of the wireless telephone to realize that it was one of the greatest marvels of modern times. It seemed almost like something magical, something which, like the lamp of Aladdin, could summon genii who would be obedient to the call.
The rooms were comfortably filled when Dr. Dale, with a genial smile, rose and took up his stand near the table.
"Now, boys," he said, "I've asked you to come here to-night so that we can talk together and get a little better idea of some of the wonders of the world we are living in. One of those wonders and perhaps the most wonderful of all is the wireless telephone," and here he laid his hand on the box beside him. "Most of you have heard of it and want to learn more about it. I'm going to try to explain it to you just as simply as I possibly can. And I'm not going to do all the talking either, for I want you to feel free to ask any questions you like. And before I do any talking worth mentioning, I'm going to give you a little idea of what the wireless telephone can do."
The boys watched him breathlessly as he handled two of the knobs at the side of the box. A moment later they heard the clear, vibrant notes of a violin playing a beautiful selection from one of the operas. The music rose and swelled in wonderful sweetness until it filled the room, with the delicious melody and held all the hearers entranced under its spell. It was evident that only the hand of a master could draw such exquisite music from the instrument.
The doctor waited until the last notes had died away, and smiled with gratification as he saw the rapt look on the faces of his visitors.
"Sounds as if it were in the next room, doesn't it?" he asked. "But that music came from Newark, New Jersey."
"Gee," whispered Jimmy to Bob, alongside whom he was sitting, "that's nearly a hundred miles from here."
"But there's no need of confining ourselves to any place as near as that," continued the doctor. "What do you say to listening in on Pittsburg? That's only a trifle of four hundred miles or so from here."
"He calls four hundred miles a trifle!" breathed Jimmy. "Pinch me, somebody. I must be dreaming."
Joe on his other side pinched him so sharply that Jimmy almost jumped from his chair.
"Lay off there," he murmured indignantly.
"S-sh," cautioned Bob, for by this time the doctor had made another adjustment.
Then into the room burst the stirring strains of the "Stars and Stripes Forever" played by a band that had a national reputation. The rhythm and dash and fire of the performance were such that the boys had all they could do to keep their seats, and, as it was, their feet half unconsciously beat time to the music.
"Hit you hard, did it?" smiled Dr. Dale, who, to tell the truth, had been keeping time himself. "Well, I don't wonder. I'd hate to see the time when music like that wouldn't shake you up. But now we'll go a few hundred miles farther and see what Detroit has to give us."
Jimmy was past speech by this time and could only look at his comrades in helpless wonder. Then the twang of a banjo sounded through the rooms and to the thrumming of the strings came a voice in rich negro dialect
"It rained all night the day I left, The next day it was dry, The sun so hot I froze to death Susanna, don't you cry."
The boys broke out in roars of laughter in which the doctor joined heartily.
"You see how it is," he said, as the song came to an end. "There's hardly anything you can think of that you can't hear over the wireless telephone. It takes you anywhere you want to go in a fraction of a second. In the last few minutes, we've covered quite a section of the United States, and with a still stronger instrument we could go right out to the Pacific coast and hear the barking of the sea lions at the Golden Gate."
"Wonder if we could hear the barking of the hot dogs at Coney Island," whispered the irrepressible Herb, who would have his joke.
Bob nudged him sharply and Herb subsided.
"And you can pick out any kind of entertainment you want," the doctor went on. "The great stations from which this music was sent out have programs which are published every day, together with the exact time that the selections will be given. At a given minute you can make your adjustment and listen to a violin solo, a band concert, a political speech, a sermon, or anything else that you want. If it doesn't please you, you can shut it off at once, which is much easier and pleasanter than getting up and going out from an audience.
"We'll have some more selections later on in the evening," he continued, "but now I want to explain to you how this thing is done. I can't hope to do much more than touch the surface of the subject to-night, for I don't want to tire you out, and there'll be plenty of other nights and days when I hope you boys will call upon me for any information that you want and I can give.
"Of course the whole thing is based on electricity, the most wonderful thing that perhaps there is in the whole physical world. Nobody knows what electricity is—Mr. Edison himself doesn't know. We only know that it is a wonderful fluid and that the ether is full of it. But though we don't know what it is, scientific men have learned how to develop and use its energy, and among other things they have harnessed it in the service of the wireless telephone.
"Take for instance a quiet lake. It may seem absolutely still, but if you throw a stone in it you start a number of ripples that keep spreading further and further out until they break on the shore. So if you hit a drum with a stick, sound waves are stirred up that keep spreading out very much like the ripples on the lake.
"Now electricity is something like that. It doesn't begin to act until you do something to it. The impulse to ripple is in the quiet lake all the time, but it doesn't ripple until you throw the stone in it. The sound quality is in the drum, but you don't hear it until you hit the drum with a stick. So you've got to put into the ether something that disturbs the electricity in it, something that stirs it up, and then this disturbance makes waves that travel on, just as the waves on the lake follow one another and just as the sound waves from the drum keep pushing each other along.
"A man named Hertz discovered a way of stirring up this energy, snapping it, you might say, as a man snaps a whip. It was found that these waves could be made long enough and strong enough to go all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, in fact to go around the world.
"Around the world!" murmured Jimmy, and again he was tempted to ask somebody to pinch him, but remembered his previous experience and stopped just in time.
"Now," continued the doctor, "you may ask what this has to do with the voice, for it is with the voice that one talks over the 'phone. The whole principle of the wireless telephone is based on the fact that sound can be transformed into electricity and then can be transformed back into sound again. I know," he said, with a smile, "that that sounds very much like saying that you can make eggs into an omelet and then get the omelet back into separate eggs again" —here there was an audible snicker from the boys—"but that is very much like what is done by the wireless, although it doesn't exactly fit the case.
"Now see what a wonderful increase in power you get the moment the sound waves are changed into electric waves. Sound goes at the rate of one thousand and ninety feet a second. Electrical energy travels at the rate of one hundred and eighty-six thousand miles a second. In other words it could go around the world more than seven times in a single second.
"When you speak into a telephone, unless you are greatly excited, you don't use more than a fiftieth part of the power of your voice. But by the time that sound has been caught up and churned, as it were, into electrical energy it is more than a hundred thousand times as loud and strong.
"Suppose now, just as an illustration, that you were going to telephone to Europe. You'd pick up the 'phone and give your message. That sound would go in the form of a tiny electrical impulse into one of the great sending stations on the Atlantic Coast, we'll say, and there it would be caught up by a powerful lot of electrical machines, amplifiers, alternators, and others, that would keep making it stronger and stronger until finally it was flung out into space from the ends of the great wires or antennae. Out and out it would go until it struck a lot of wires on the other side of the ocean. Then it would go through another process that would gradually change the electrical impulse back into sound again, and the man at the other end of the telephone would hear your voice, just as one does now when you 'phone to any one in this town."
He paused for a moment, and there was a long drawn breath on the part of his auditors that testified to the rapt attention with which they had followed him into this fairyland of science.
"So much for the theory and principle of the wireless," resumed the doctor. "Of course I've only scratched the surface, and if I talked to you all night there'd be still lots left to say. But we only need to know a little about it to put it to practical use. And it is the practical use of the wireless telephone that I'm especially interested in for the sake of you boys. I'm satisfied that there's hardly anything that could give you more pleasure or more benefit than for each of you to have one of these contrivances in your own home. It's a wonderful educator, it helps to develop your interest in science, and what will perhaps appeal to you most of all, you can have more fun with it than anything else I know of."
Here Bob put in a question that was in the minds of many of the others.
"Does it cost very much, Doctor?" he asked.
"Not very much," the doctor replied. "Of course, some of the more powerful ones with vacuum tubes and other high class improvements run into the hundreds of dollars. But some very good receiving sets—and that's all you could use at the start, for it takes considerable time and you have to get a license before you are permitted to transmit— can be bought for from twenty-five to seventy-five dollars."
There was a little gasp at this, some of which was due to a feeling of disappointment. It seemed beyond the range of what they could save up from their pocket money, and while the parents of some of them were well to do, others came from simple and frugal homes where every dollar had to be carefully counted.
The doctor was quick to note the expression on many faces, and took pains at once to remove any feeling of discouragement.
"But don't let that bother you at all," he said, "for with a little thought and planning any one of you will be able to build a telephone receiving set for himself at hardly any cost at all. In fact, I'd much rather have you build one than buy one, for in that way you'll get an understanding of the whole thing that otherwise you might not get at all. You'd be surprised perhaps if I told you that this set here was built by me and I wouldn't exchange the experience I've had in putting it together for a good deal of money."
"But you knew how to do it," put in Joe, "while we don't know the first thing about it. We wouldn't know how to start, even, let alone finish one."
"I was coming to that," returned Dr. Dale, smiling. "As some of you know, I've fitted up a workshop in the barn behind this house where I do a good deal of tinkering in my spare hours. Now I'm going to ask you boys to come out there next Saturday and see me build a wireless receiving set from A to Z. You'll be surprised to see how much can be done with a few things that cost very little money and with a lot of things that don't cost any money at all. How about it, boys?"
It was almost with a whoop that the invitation was accepted by his eager hearers, and the minister smiled with gratification at their enthusiasm.
"Now that's all the talking I'm going to do tonight," he said. "And as talking's rather dry work, I'm going to have a little refreshment. Will you boys join me?"
Would they join him? They would and they did, and the havoc they wrought on the sandwiches and cake and ice-cream that were brought in and passed around was something to be remembered. Jimmy in particular ate until his eyes bulged and fully sustained his previous reputation. And while they ate, the doctor turned on one lively selection after another, finishing with a selection from a jazz band that sent them into a frenzy of laughter.
They were still tingling with it as they finally said good-night to the doctor and started on their way home.
"Oh, you wireless telephone!" exclaimed Herb.
"Isn't it a wonder?" ejaculated Joe.
"Wonder!" repeated Bob. "It's a miracle!"
"We've got to get busy right away and rig up wireless telephones of our own," continued Bob. "Of course they won't be anything like the doctor's, but they ought to be good enough for us to get a lot of fun out of them."
"You bet we will," agreed Joe. "Gee, I can't wait to get at it! If it wasn't so late I believe I'd start in figuring on it to-night."
"Count me in on it too," chimed in Jimmy. "In a week or so we'll be sending messages everywhere. I'll be talking maybe to that cousin of mine in Michigan."
"Come out of your trance, Jimmy," laughed Bob, clapping him on the shoulder. "Things don't move so fast as that. It'll be a good long time before you'll be sending any messages. You'll have to learn all about receiving them first; and believe me there's a good deal to learn about that. Then before you can send any messages you have to pass an examination and get a license. But for quite a time we'll have our hands full and our ears full with attending to the receiving end of the game. One step at a time is the rule in radio, as well as in anything else that's worth while."
"I didn't know that," replied Jimmy, somewhat dashed by the information. "I had an idea that we could send just as soon as we got our sets made."
"How about you, Herb?" asked Bob. "You're in it with the rest of us too, aren't you?"
"With both feet," replied Herb. "I think that the wireless is the greatest thing that ever happened. But I don't know about making one for myself. I'm all thumbs when it comes to doing any mechanical work. You fellows are handy with tools, but I have all I can do to keep out of my own way. I guess I'll ask my dad to buy me a set and let it go at that."
"That's what you think now," replied Joe, "but I'll bet when you see the rest of us getting busy, you'll pitch in too and make your own machine. Besides, from what the doctor says, it doesn't take a genius to put the thing together."
They separated for the night with their heads still full of the wonders they had heard and seen, and the enthusiasm, was still with them when they woke the next morning.
At the breakfast tables the conversation was divided between their experience of the night before and the newspaper account of the auto accident. A good deal of space was devoted to the latter, and it was gratifying to learn that although the damage to the store had been considerable the loss was covered by insurance and that the young lady whose automobile had crashed into the store had not been seriously injured and was expected to be around again in a few days. The coolness and courage with which Bob and Joe had acted and the part played by Herb and Jimmy in checking the spread of the flames were not overlooked. The comment that went with it was warm and appreciative, so much so in fact that, while the boys were not wholly displeased with it, they felt, as Joe expressed it, that the reporter was "spreading it on too thick" and feared that they would have to undergo no end of "joshing" from their mates.
Their lessons in school that day did not receive all the attention that was due them, for their minds were taken up pretty fully by the events of the last twenty-four hours. But three o'clock came at last, and with it came the reminder that they were to call on their way home at the Sterling House, in order to see Miss Berwick, in accordance with her request of the day before.
Bustling, motherly Mrs. Sterling greeted Bob and Joe with a smile, as they made known their errand.
"So here are the young heroes that the paper has been making so much fuss about," she said mischievously, and Bob and Joe blushed to their ears. "Just wait a minute until I run up and see if Nellie is ready to receive you."
"If it's too late, we can wait until another day," said Bob.
"Oh, no," replied Mrs. Sterling. "She's been looking forward to your coming all day and has spoken about it a number of times. She is very anxious to thank you both, and I'm sure it will do her good to see you. The doctor was here this morning and said it would be all right. Of course, it won't do to stay too long, for the poor lamb is still rather nervous after her accident, and no wonder. Just wait here a minute."
She disappeared, but a moment later was at the head of the stairs motioning to them to come up.
They were ushered into a bright, sunny room, where they found Miss Berwick resting in an easy chair, propped up with pillows.
She was a pretty girl with blue eyes and brown hair and regular features. Her age appeared to be about twenty. Her face was pale, as was natural under the circumstances, but it lighted up with a friendly and grateful smile as the party, entered.
She extended her hand to the boys in turn, as Mrs. Sterling introduced them.
"You must excuse my not rising," she said, "but I've had a rather nerve-racking experience, as no one knows better than yourselves. I want to thank you with all my heart for the way you came to my help when I was unable to help myself."
"Oh, you make too much of it, Miss Berwick," Bob replied, and Joe assented with a nod of his head. "We just had the good luck to be close at hand, and if we hadn't done it, somebody else would."
"That doesn't change the fact that you did it," replied the girl. "And you took a chance of losing your lives. The gasoline tank might have exploded and killed us all."
"We're mighty glad that you came out of it as well as you did," said Bob warmly.
"It's almost a miracle that you weren't killed," added Joe.
"I suppose I deserve a severe scolding for having caused all this excitement and damage," was the response. "I don't know what on earth caused the accident. There seemed to be something the matter with the steering gear. Then I got excited and dizzy and tried to stop the machine. What I think happened was that I put my foot on the accelerator when I meant to put it on the brake. Then when I saw that the car was plunging toward the window, I either fainted or was made unconscious later from the shock. After the first awful crash I didn't know anything more until I woke in this room and found the doctor bending over me."
"You're a stranger to this town, aren't you?" asked Bob, with an idea of getting her mind off the subject, which he could see was beginning to excite her. "Mrs. Sterling was telling us that you had only been here for a few days."
"Yes," responded the girl. "I live in the town of Lisburn, about ten miles from here. I'm all alone in the world"—here a shade of sadness passed over her expressive face. "My father and mother are dead and I live with an aunt of mine. I never had any brothers or sisters. My father died some months ago and left me some property, and it was in connection with that matter that I came to Clintonia. This is the county seat, you know, and I wanted to consult the records in the office of the County Clerk. There seems to be a terrible tangle about the whole thing. Perhaps it was because I became so nervous over the matter that things went wrong yesterday."
"I'm sorry, that you've had so much trouble," said Bob sympathetically, "and I hope that it will all come out right in a little while."
"If it were just a little confusion or mistake, it probably would," replied Miss Berwick, with a touch of despondency in her manner. "But there's dishonesty involved. I know there is, but I don't see how I'm going to prove it."
"Do you mean that somebody's trying to cheat you out of your property?" asked Bob, with quickened interest.
"It must be the meanest kind of a rascal that would swindle an orphan," put in Joe indignantly.
"I'm afraid there are only too many of that kind in the world," replied the girl, with a faint smile in which there was no trace of mirth. "You see I've never had the least bit of business training and I suppose I would be easy prey. But I'm afraid I'm boring you with my troubles," she added, catching herself up suddenly.
"Not at all," replied Bob, as Joe also made a gesture of dissent. "In fact I hope you'll go right ahead and tell us all about it. Of course we don't know much about law, but our fathers have lived in this town for years and know almost everybody in the county, and they may be able to be of some service to you. Who is the rascal that you think is trying to cheat you out of your property?"
"I don't suppose you know him," replied the girl, visibly cheered by the sympathy and interest of the boys. "His name is Cassey—Dan Cassey, and he lives in the town of Elwood, only a few miles from Lisburn. He held a mortgage of four thousand dollars on my father's house. When father was taken with his last illness he was very anxious that the mortgage should be paid so that he could leave the house to me free and clear. He had enough money in the bank to pay it and he had me draw it out and keep it in the house. He intended to settle the matter himself, but death came to him before he could attend to it.
"I knew what his wishes were, and as soon as the funeral was over I went to see Cassey and told him that I wanted to pay off the mortgage. I saw his eyes glisten when I told him that I had the money at home to do it with. Of course, I realize now that I ought to have had a lawyer attend to the business for me, but, as I say, I have never had any experience in business and I had a general idea that most men were honest and that there'd be no trouble about it. Cassey made an appointment for me to come to his office the next day with the money. When I went there he was alone. He usually has a stenographer, but I suppose he had sent her away so that there would be no witnesses. I gave him the money in bills."
"Then of course you got a receipt for it," interrupted Bob.
"No, I didn't," replied the young girl, her face flushing. "Oh, don't think that I didn't have sense enough to ask for one," she said, as she saw the boys look at each other in surprise. "I did ask him for one, but he said that the mortgage itself would be a sufficient receipt and he would go over to the bank where he kept it in his safety deposit box and get it for me. Then he looked at his watch, and seemed surprised when he saw that it was past banking hours and too late to get it that day. He said he was awfully sorry, but that he would get it for me the next day and made an appointment for me to call and get it at his office. He seemed so sorry that he wasn't able to give it to me on the spot that I took it for granted that it would be all right and agreed to come the next day and get it.
"I did go about noon the following day, but he wasn't there. His stenographer said that he had been suddenly called away to Chicago by a telegram. I asked her when he would be back, and she said that she didn't know. Then I asked her if he had left any word or any papers for me and she said he hadn't. I told her of my having been there the previous day and of having paid him the money, and she looked at me in surprise and said she didn't know a thing about it. Then—"
Just at that moment Mrs. Sterling came in, and behind her was the tall form of Dr. Ellis.
"Time's up, boys," the physician said, with a genial smile. "This young patient of mine can't have company very long at a time just at present. It will be all right though to drop in some other time, if Miss Berwick so desires."
"Indeed I do," said the young girl, as the boys, in compliance with the doctor's suggestion, arose to go.
"And we surely will be glad to come," responded Bob for himself and his friend. "We are keen to hear the rest of that story."
They said good-bye and went downstairs and out into the street.
"Why didn't the doctor wait just five minutes more?" grumbled Joe. "He couldn't have picked out a worse minute to butt in. I'm just crazy to know how the thing came out."
"So am I," agreed Bob. "But I've heard enough already to feel sure that that fellow Cassey is a double-dyed crook. He simply saw that he had an inexperienced girl to deal with and he made the most of it."
"I'd like to punch his nose for him," growled Joe savagely, making a swing in the air at an imaginary opponent.
"Same here," agreed Bob, "but that wouldn't get back her four thousand. To think of a man turning a trick like that at the expense of a young girl who had just lost her father! It doesn't seem as though there could be such a mean fellow in the world!"
"Well, however it may seem, there is evidently one who is mean enough."
A PRACTICAL OBJECT LESSON
The chums were joined outside the hotel by Herb and Jimmy, who had waited for them during their interview. To them they narrated what they had learned of Miss Berwick's story. Their friends shared their own indignation and were quite as keen as themselves to hear the end of the story.
"What did you say the fellow's name was?" asked Herb, as the quartette walked along Main Street.
"Cassey, she said it was—Dan Cassey," replied Bob. "Ever hear of any one by that name?"
"It sounds rather familiar," replied Herb, knitting his brows as he tried to remember.
"Wait!" he said suddenly. "I've almost got it—Cassey! Cassey! Does the man stutter, do you know?"
"She didn't say anything about that," replied Joe. "Why do you ask that question?"
"Because," answered Herb, "I remember a man of that name a few weeks ago calling at dad's store to get a bill of goods. The reason I remember was the way he stuttered when dad was making out the bill. He tried and tried to say something, and his eyes bulged out and his cheeks got all puffed and red while he was trying to get it out. Then he stopped and whistled, and that seemed to help him, for then he went right on talking, only stopping once in a while to whistle again and get a fresh start. I had to get out of the store to keep from bursting out laughing. I remember I felt rather sorry for the fellow at the time, but if he's the fellow who's trying to do Miss Berwick out of her money, nothing's too bad for him."
"Suppose you ask your father what he knows about him," suggested Bob eagerly. "He may know something that may prove of some help to the girl, either in getting her money back or putting the fellow in jail."
"I'll do it," agreed Herb. "By the way, fellows, I dropped into Dave Slocum's place yesterday afternoon and found out that he had a whole stock of material for making wireless telephone sets. Said a salesman from New York talked him into it, and he was wondering how he was going to get rid of them. Thought he'd been stocked up with more than he could sell, all through the salesman's slick tongue. I told him not to worry, that the boys would be standing in line before long and would clean him out of stock. He seemed to think I was kidding him, but he brightened up just the same."
"Dave's got a pleasant surprise coming to him," grinned Joe. "Just our bunch alone will make quite a hole in his stock."
"You bet," agreed Bob, as, having reached his gate, he said good-bye to his mates and went in. "Don't forget to ask your dad about that Cassey fellow," he called out after Herb.
That Herb did not forget was proved when he overtook his friends the next morning on the way to school.
"I asked dad about Cassey," were his first words, after greetings had been exchanged. "He said he thought very likely the man was the one you had in mind, for this stuttering fellow came from Elwood and his first name was Daniel. It's hardly likely there'd be two men of the same name in that little town."
"Did your father know anything about what kind of fellow he was?" asked Joe.
"Dad said that he had the reputation of being tricky and hard-fisted," answered Herb. "But as far as he knew he hadn't been caught in anything yet that could put him in jail. He went up in the air when I told him about Miss Berwick, and said he'd like to get hold of the fellow and break his neck. He thinks Miss Berwick ought to get a good lawyer and bring the rascal into court. But at the same time he thinks she may have a hard time proving her case, as she hasn't any receipt or any witnesses. She could simply say she'd paid him and he could say she hadn't. All he'd have to do would be to stand pat and put it up to her to prove her case. And how is she going to do it?"
"Do you mean to say that he could get away with a thing as raw as that?" asked Joe, in a white heat.
"He might," declared Bob. "Things just as rank have been pulled off again and again. But at any rate she ought to get after him right away. She's a dead loser as things stand, and if she can only get the rascal in court she may have a chance. Perhaps he hasn't covered his trail as well as he thinks he has, and when a good lawyer gets to questioning him the truth may come out. In any case it's the only way that will give her a ghost of a chance."
The days passed by swiftly until Saturday came and with it the opportunity the boys had looked forward to of going to Dr. Dale's workshop and getting a few practical points on the making of a wireless telephone set.
They found the doctor at a bench that he had rigged up in his barn. On the wall was arranged a large variety of tools and on the bench were strewn several coils of wire and a number of objects the name and use of which the boys did not know.
The doctor, who was in his shirt sleeves, extended a hearty welcome to the boys, who ranged themselves about him, and whose numbers were constantly augmented by newcomers until the barn was well filled.
"What I want to do to-day, boys," he said, "is to show you how easy and simple it is to put up a wireless telephone receiving set without having to spend very much money.
"Now the first thing you have to get and put up is the aerial," he remarked, as he unwound a large coil of copper wire. "You want about a hundred or a hundred and twenty feet of that. You can extend it horizontally for about fifty feet, say, for instance, from the side or back of your house to the barn or the garage, and then have it go up as high as it can go. The upper end doesn't have to be in the outer air, for the sound will come along it if it's in the attic. Still it's better to have it outside if possible. The lower end of the wire has to be connected with the ground in some way, and you can fix that by attaching it to a water pipe or any other pipe that runs into the ground. A good way is to let it down the side of the house and put it through the cellar window and fasten it to a pipe.
"After you have your aerial you want to get the rest of the apparatus together. The first thing to do is to get a baseboard which will serve as the bottom of the receiving box. Something like this," and he put his hand on a board about eighteen inches long, twelve inches wide, and about an inch thick. "This is the platform, as it were, on which the different parts of the apparatus are to rest.
"Now since your ear alone can't detect the waves that are coming to and along your aerial, you have to have a sort of electrical ear that will do this for you. Here it is," and he picked up a piece of crystal and a wire of phosphor bronze. "When this wire comes in contact with this bit of crystal the mysterious waves become audible vibrations.
"But this isn't enough. You've got to get in tune with the sending station in order to understand the sounds you hear. When your vibration frequency is the same as that from which the message is sent, you can hear as clearly as though the voice or instrument were in the next room. Now here's a piece of a curtain pole that's about a foot and a half long. You see that I've wound around its entire length, except for about a half inch at either end, a coil of wire. This is called the inductance coil. You will notice that the wire is covered with cotton except for this little strip of wire extending lengthwise where I've scraped the cotton off with sandpaper so as to accommodate the sliding contacts. These sliding contacts can be made from curtain rings with holes punched in them, through which are passed copper rivets. These rivets press against the bare path of the coil and can be moved to and fro until you find the exact point where your set is in tune with the sending station."
IN THE DARK
"Now," continued Dr. Dale, as he glanced round the circle of eager faces, alight with interest in the subject, "we're getting pretty close to the time when one picks up the receiver and begins to listen in.
"But as the electric vibrations, if left alone, would have a good deal of trouble in passing through the telephone receiver, we must have a condenser to help them out. This is very easily made by gluing a piece of tinfoil about one and a half inches square to each side of a sheet of mica. Then you must have two strips of tinfoil, one extending from each side of the mica. If you haven't any mica, a sheet of ordinary writing paper will do, though the mica is better.
"The telephone receiver you will have to buy, as a satisfactory one can't very well be made by an amateur. The receiver ought to have a high resistance to get the best results.
"There," he said, as he laid the telephone receiver on the bench, "those are the essential things you have to have in order to make a set of your own. With these things only, it will of course be a simple set and have a limited range. There are a hundred improvements of one kind or another that you'll learn about as you get more expert, and these can be added from time to time. But the special thing I wanted to prove to you to-day was that it would take only a very small expenditure of money to get this material together. You see how many things I've used that any one of you can find about the house, such as tinfoil, curtain poles, curtain rings, wood for the box, and so on. The wire needed for your tuning coil and your aerial can be obtained for less than a dollar. The detector, including the crystal, can be got for another dollar. An excellent receiver can be bought for two dollars. A few minor things will be needed at perhaps five or ten cents each. Altogether the cost of the set can be brought within five dollars."
This was good news to the boys, many of whom began at once a mental calculation as to the amount of their pocket money, while others began to figure on odd jobs that might bring them in the required amount, in the event that their parents would not supply the money.
With a few deft movements the doctor attached the various parts of the apparatus to their proper places on the baseboard. There was not time that day to put up the aerial, but he gave them practical illustrations of how to use the detector by pressing the point of the wire firmly against the crystal, how to slide the rings back and forth until they found the point of greatest loudness and clearness, and all other points essential to using the set successfully. Not all the boys caught on to all that was involved, but to the majority it was made reasonably clear. To Bob and Joe, who had followed every point of the demonstration with the keenest attention, the operation of the receiving set was made as clear as crystal, and they had no doubt of their ability to construct a set for themselves. Herb's attention had wandered somewhat, because in the back of his mind there still lurked the idea of buying a set ready made. Jimmy had been somewhat distracted by looking about in various parts of the barn to see if he could detect the presence of any "eats," and his ideas were somewhat hazy in consequence.
"Well, boys," at last said the doctor, with a smile, "I guess we'll call it a day. But remember that if at any time you are puzzled and want more information all you have to do is to come and ask me. I'll gladly lay aside my work any time to help you youngsters out."
The boys thoroughly appreciated the doctor's cordiality and the demonstration that he had given them, and most of them took occasion to tell him so as they said good-bye to him and filed out of the extemporized workshop.
"He certainly does make things clear," said Bob enthusiastically, as he and his friends made their way toward their homes.
"Not only that, but he makes you want to do them," said Joe. "After seeing and hearing him this afternoon, I'd ten times rather make a set than buy one."
Jimmy agreed with them, and even Herb seemed ready to reconsider the idea of getting one ready made, though he was not yet quite prepared to surrender.
"All of you come over to my house to-night," said Bob, as they neared their homes. "We haven't got the materials yet, but we can go over again what the doctor told us to-day and make sure that we've got it all straight in our minds. What one forgets, the other may remember. Then when we do get the stuff we can put a little snap and speed into making the set."
"That will be bully," replied Joe, and the others agreed with him. "For my part," Joe continued, "I count every day lost that we have to go without it. I sure am becoming a radio fan."
It turned out that Herb was prevented from coming by unexpected company but the others were there. Their talk that night was animated and enthusiastic, so much so in fact that the time passed more quickly than they imagined, and they were surprised when the clock struck eleven.
"By the way," said Jimmy, as he was preparing to leave with the rest, "I had a run in with Buck Looker when I was coming here to-night, and he said he was going to lay for me and do me up."
"He did, did he?" asked Bob. "What was he sore about?"
"Oh, he's had a grouch ever since the day of the fire," replied Jimmy. "You remember that when he spoke of the work he'd been doing to help put out the fire, I spoke up and said that he hadn't done a thing. He's had it in for me ever since. He bumped against me on purpose to-night just as I was coming in the gate, and when I called him down for it he said he was going to lay for me and change my face."
"The big bully!" exclaimed Bob. "Just wait here a minute while I go into the next room."
The adjoining room was dark and commanded a view of the street in front, while Bob himself could look out of the window without being seen. Some large shade trees were on the other side of the street, and as Bob's eyes became accustomed to the darkness, he could dimly descry three forms lurking in the shadows. One of them he felt sure was Buck, and he felt reasonably certain that the others were Carl Lutz and Terrence Mooney, Buck's boon companions.
"I guess Buck and his gang are hanging around all right," he announced, as he returned to the other room and reported his discovery. "But he's going to get a little surprise party. I tell you what we'll do. You go out of the front door alone, Jimmy. Joe and I will stand there in the light from the hall lamp and say good-night. Then we'll close the door, and you stand on the stoop a minute, buttoning your coat, and then go slowly down the walk. That will give Joe and me a chance to slip around through the back in the darkness and get behind the bushes near the gate. Leave the rest to us."
"And what we'll do will be a plenty," added Joe.
Jimmy thought well of this plan, and agreed to do his part.
They followed out this program to the letter. As Jimmy came down the walk, the lurking figures across the street came out from the shadow of the trees and over toward him.
"I've got you now, Jimmy Plummer," snarled the voice of Buck Looker. "I told you I was going to take some of the freshness out of you, and now I'm going to tan your hide."
"Does it take three of you to do it?" asked Jimmy.
"None of your lip now," growled Buck, as he clenched his fist. "I'm going to have the fun of doing it myself."
With one spring Bob vaulted over the low fence.
"You've got another guess coming, Buck Looker," he said coolly.
The bully started back in surprise and consternation, which was not diminished when Joe followed his friend's example and stood at his side.
"What are you butting in for?" Buck snapped, as soon as he recovered his breath.
"Because I choose to," answered Bob. "Because I won't stand by and see you hit a fellow half your size. If it's fighting you're looking for, I'll give you all the fighting you want right here and now. If your gang want to mix in, Joe will take care of Lutz and Jimmy can look after Mooney. But I'll take you on myself. How about it? Is it a go?"
He advanced on Buck, and before his flashing eyes those of the bully wavered and fell.
"I—I'll settle with you some other time," he stammered, retreating toward the middle of the street.
"No time like the present," challenged Bob, but as Buck, muttering threats, still continued to retreat, while his cronies slunk away with him, Bob gave a little laugh and came back to his friends.
"All right, Jimmy," he chuckled. "I guess your face won't be changed to-night. Buck seems to have changed his mind."
GETTING A START
The idea of having their own radio outfit and being able to hear all the wonderful things going on in the air about them so fascinated the boys that they could talk or think of little else. Even Jimmy Plummer became so excited that his mother declared he was actually forgetting to eat, a statement that his father flatly refused to believe at first, until he escorted his rotund son to the nearest scale and discovered the astonishing fact that he had really lost two pounds.
"You see how it is, Dad," said Jimmy, mournfully. "If you don't give me the money to get some wireless stuff I'll just pine away and die."
"It wouldn't hurt you to pine away about twenty pounds, anyway," said his father, with a twinkle in his eye. "But I suppose if you've set your heart on it I might as well come across now as later and save myself from being pestered to death. How much do you suppose you'll need to get started?"
"The other fellows are figuring that about five dollars apiece will buy most of the things we'll need—at first, anyway," he added, with a careful eye to the future.
"All right, here it is," said Mr. Plummer. "And I suppose the next thing we know you'll be breaking your neck falling off the roof while you're trying to put up aerials, or whatever it is they call the contraptions."
"Leave that to me," said Jimmy. "And I'll bet you'll get lots of fun out of this too, Dad, when we get it going."
"Well, maybe so," said his father. "But I don't take much stock in the whole business. Some wonderful things happen these days, though, and you may be able to change my mind."
"I'm sure I will," said Jimmy, with conviction. "And if you had heard what I did at Doctor Dale's house, I'll bet you'd want a radio outfit as much as I do."
"Well, go ahead and see what you can do, Son. If you can really get the thing working, so much the better."
The next day Jimmy lost no time in hunting up his friends and telling them of his good fortune. He found that the others had not been far behind him in procuring the necessary cash. That afternoon they all descended on the hardware store, whose proprietor had laid in a stock of the materials that would be likely to be needed in the construction of simple radio outfits. The hardware merchant was glad to see them, but somewhat surprised also.
"Gosh!" he exclaimed, when he learned what the boys had come for. "When that salesman from New York talked me into stocking up with all that stuff, I never thought I'd get a sale for it in the next ten years. And now here's all you youngsters coming in here after it with money in your fists."
"Yes, and you'd better lay in a whole lot more of it, Dave," said Bob Layton. "It won't be long before everybody in this town will be wanting a wireless radio outfit."
"Well, I guess I've got enough in the store now to start you fellows on your way," said Dave Slocum, the proprietor. "Now, what all do you need?"
There followed a time of much consultation and anxious questioning before all the enthusiastic young experimenters were satisfied that they were getting the most useful things their limited amount of capital would buy. Dave Slocum sold more feet of copper wire in that one afternoon than he had in the previous five years, not to mention insulators, resistance wire, detectors, head sets, and all the other paraphernalia necessary to the beginner. At last all the various purchases were tied into neat bundles, and the excited boys swarmed out into the street.
"Let's go to my house and get started right away," proposed Bob. "It will be quite a job to get the aerial strung, and the sooner we do it the better it will suit me."
The others were of the same mind, and they made the distance to the Layton home "on the jump" with Jimmy puffing valiantly in the rear in a desperate endeavor to keep up with his more active comrades.
"Gee!" he exclaimed, staggering up the steps to the cool veranda, "you fellows must think I'm a candidate for Marathon runner at the next Olympic games, the way you hit it up coming here."
"I don't know about the Marathon race," said Joe, "but I do think we could enter you in the long distance pie-eating contest, without having any doubts of your winning away out in front of the field."
"Well, I don't want to boast, but I think I could do myself proud," admitted Jimmy. "I don't think I ever really got enough pie to satisfy me yet."
"Never mind about pies now," said Herb. "The question before the house is to get an aerial strung from Bob's house to the barn. What's the best way to get up on the roof, Bob?"
"There's a trap door in the roof not far from the chimney," replied Bob. "I was thinking that we could make a mast and lash it to the chimney. That would give us one secure anchorage for the aerial, and the other we can fasten to the roof of the barn easily enough."
"What are we going to make the mast out of?" inquired Joe.
"There's a nice piece of four by four lumber out in the barn," replied Bob. "I was thinking that we could leave it square at the bottom and plane it off round at the top, so as to look better. I don't see why that won't fill the bill all right."
"Sounds all right," said Herb, and, with Bob leading, all four boys piled out to the big barn back of the house. Bob produced his scantling and hunted up a big plane. Then the boys set to with a will, and in a short time had the rough timber nicely smoothed off, with a slight taper toward the top. Then they screwed in a large hook, bought for the purpose, and after providing themselves with a generous length of rope, repaired to the roof of the house.
As Bob had told them, there was a large scuttle leading from the attic onto the roof, and one after another they clambered out through this. The roof sloped gently at this point, and while they found it necessary to be careful, they had little difficulty in reaching the chimney. Before erecting the mast they fastened one end of the aerial over the hook in it. The aerial consisted of a single, number fourteen, hard drawn copper wire, insulated at each end by an earthenware insulator having two hooks embedded in it. One of these hooks went over the hook in the mast, while the other had the end of the wire attached to it. A similar insulator was provided at the other end of the wire, thus preventing its becoming grounded to the house or barn.
Having hooked up one end of their aerial, the boys erected the mast against the chimney, and lashed it firmly in position with the rope they had brought up.
"There!" exclaimed Bob, when everything was fixed to his liking, "that mast looks as though it might stay put a while. Now let's rig up one on the barn, and we'll have the first part of our job done, anyway."
Clambering back to the scuttle, the boys dropped through to the attic floor and hurried downstairs. It was beginning to get dark, and as they wanted to get the aerial up while daylight lasted, everything went with a rush. Poor Jimmy thought more than once of his father's prophecy that he would lose weight in such strenuous activities, but he was as anxious to receive the first radio signals as any of the others, so he followed the headlong pace the others set without a murmur.
Of course there was no convenient chimney on the barn to act as a support for the mast, but they finally rigged up a mast at one end of the barn, nailing it securely to the siding boards. Then they drew the copper wire through the hook in the insulator until there was just a little slack, cut off the wire, and wound it securely. Then they all gazed with pride at their handiwork, and had the comfortable feeling that comes of work well done.
"Hooray!" shouted Jimmy. "That's what I call a good job, and it didn't take us such a long time, either."
"Yes, but that's only the beginning," said Joe. "I only wish we had more time to-night. I feel as though I'd like to keep right on now and not stop until we're actually receiving."
"You'd be pretty hungry if you tried to do it," remarked Jimmy. "To hear you talk, you'd think making a receiving set was about as hard as taking a run around the block."
"It isn't much harder than for you to take a run around the block," laughed Herb. "You were puffing like a steam engine while we were coming up from the store this afternoon. If you don't cut down on the eats, Doughnuts, you'll have to get around in a wheel chair. You won't even be able to walk, let alone run."
"There you go," complained Jimmy, in an aggrieved tone. "Just because I'm not as skinny as you fellows, you think that I eat more than you do. Nobody could eat more than you do, Herb, and live to tell the story."
"I don't have to tell any stories along that line," retorted Herb, with a laugh. "My friends do that for me."
"I'll bet they do," grumbled Jimmy. "I get some result out of what I eat, anyway, and that's more than you can say."
"Oh, I can say it, all right, but probably nobody would believe me," admitted Herb.
"Right you are, Herb, old boy!"
"When you two fellows are all through arguing, maybe we can go up and hook on our leading-in wire to the aerial," said Joe, impatiently. "We ought to get that much done before dark, anyway."
"I don't know about that, Joe," objected Bob. "It's almost dark now, and we could do it better and easier in the daylight. What do you say if you all come around after supper and we'll dope out a wiring diagram and maybe make a start on building the tuning coil."
Joe reluctantly consented to this, and the four companions separated for the time being, after promising to return to Bob's house that evening. And true to their promise, the boys had all returned to the Layton home by eight o'clock that evening, full of enthusiasm for the task that lay before them. Mr. Layton was mildly interested in the radiophone project, but after a few questions he retired to the library with the evening paper, leaving the boys to their own devices.
WORK AND FUN
"Well, fellows," said Bob, "here we are, all set for a busy evening. What shall we do first?"
"What I'd suggest," said Jimmy, "would be for everybody to have a little milk chocolate, just to start things off right," and he produced a huge bar of that toothsome confection and passed it around, with an earnest invitation to everybody to "help himself."
"It isn't such a bad idea, at that," admitted Bob, breaking off a chunk that made Jimmy gasp. The others imitated his example, and by the time the bar of chocolate got back to Jimmy it had shrunken so greatly that the last named individual gazed at it mournfully.
"Gee whillikins!" he exclaimed, "you fellows certainly do like chocolate, though, don't you?"
"I do, anyway," said Herb, laughing at the rueful expression on his friend's face. "Have you got any more when that's gone, Doughnuts?"
"No, I haven't. But if I had you can bet I'd hold on to it," said Jimmy. "How do you expect me to work if I don't have anything to keep my strength up?"
"Who said we expected you to work?" demanded Joe. "I'm sure we wouldn't be so foolish, would we, fellows?"
"Oh, I don't know," retorted Jimmy. "You're foolish enough for anything else, so why not that?"
"Well, if you say so, I suppose that settles it," said Joe. "But, anyway, as long as Jimmy was so careless as not to bring more candy along, I suppose we'd better get to work."
"Shall we get the tuning coil started?" suggested Bob. "It will take us quite some time to do that, but we might get the core wound to-night, anyway."
As there was no objection to this, they all went down to the cellar, where Bob had rigged up a work bench and had a pretty complete stock of tools. Jimmy's father had made them a wooden form on which to wind the wire. This core was nothing but a plain cylinder of wood, about three inches in diameter and ten inches long. For Christmas, the year before, Mr. Layton had given Bob a small but accurately made bench lathe, operated by a foot pedal, and Bob mounted the roller between the lathe centers, holding one end in the chuck jaws. Then he produced a narrow roll of stout wrapping paper, such as is used for winding around automobile tires, and a bottle of shellac, together with a small, fine-haired brush.
"First thing," he said, "we want to wind a few layers of shellacked paper on this core. Suppose I turn the core, you let the paper unwind onto it, Joe, and you can shellac the paper as it unrolls, Herb."