The Radio Boys Series
THE RADIO BOYS AT THE SENDING STATION
Making Good in the Wireless Room
Author of The Radio Boys' First Wireless, The Radio Boys at Ocean Point Ralph of the Roundhouse, Ralph on the Army Train
With Foreword by Jack Binns
New York Grosset & Dunlap Publishers
Made in the United States of America
* * * * * *
BOOKS FOR BOYS
BY ALLEN CHAPMAN
12mo. Cloth. Illustrated.
THE RADIO BOYS SERIES
THE RADIO BOYS' FIRST WIRELESS Or Winning the Ferberton Prize
THE RADIO BOYS AT OCEAN POINT Or The Message that Saved the Ship
THE RADIO BOYS AT THE SENDING STATION Or Making Good in the Wireless Room
THE RADIO BOYS AT MOUNTAIN PASS Or The Midnight Call for Assistance
THE RADIO BOYS TRAILING A VOICE Or Solving a Wireless Mystery
THE RAILROAD SERIES
RALPH OF THE ROUNDHOUSE Or Bound to Become a Railroad Man
RALPH IN THE SWITCH TOWER Or Clearing the Track
RALPH ON THE ENGINE Or The Young Fireman of the Limited Mail
RALPH ON THE OVERLAND EXPRESS Or The Trials and Triumphs of a Young Engineer
RALPH THE TRAIN DESPATCHER Or The Mystery of the Pay Car
RALPH ON THE ARMY TRAIN Or The Young Railroader's Most Daring Exploit
GROSSET & DUNLAP, Publishers, New York
COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY
GROSSET & DUNLAP
The Radio Boys at the Sending Station
* * * * * *
FOREWORD BY JACK BINNS
Since this volume was written an epoch making invention has been announced to the radio world. It is the super-regenerative system developed by E. H. Armstrong, the wizard of Columbia University. This system is bound to revolutionize the art of wireless communication in every branch, and is in itself the most important discovery since Marconi put into operation the first crude form of wireless apparatus.
I am mentioning this fact because there is the romance of youth overcoming every obstacle placed before it tied up in the history of Armstrong's remarkable achievements, and the story of this romance should stand forward as an incentive to American boyhood.
Fifteen years ago when radio amateurs first began to send out wireless telegraph messages, the federal authorities in Washington were at a loss to devise some means that would regulate them. It was then that a bright official conversant with radio said: "Put 'em down below 200 meters, and they'll soon die out."
He knew perfectly well that it was almost impossible to operate on those low wave-lengths with the apparatus in existence at that time—hence his sardonic proposal. The amateurs, however, refused to "die out." Faced with the inexorable regulation, they set to work to devise apparatus which would operate successfully. Among them was E. H. Armstrong, a youth who at that time was attending Columbia.
It was a really lucky thing for the world that the official in Washington thought of his clever scheme to kill the amateurs, because it provided just the incentive needed to set Armstrong to work. The result has been that within ten years he has produced three epoch-making inventions, any one of which would have been a remarkable life achievement in itself.
Such, briefly is the story of one radio boy overcoming difficulties, but of course in this case it is a real story. It emphasizes the fact that even in these highly developed and organized times there is always an opportunity for boys to improve upon existing conditions, and since this is the theme of the adventures of "The Radio Boys," I am very glad to write the foreword to the series.
[Signature: Jack Binns]
CHAPTER PAGE I The Collision 9 II To the Rescue 19 III At the Wireless Station 31 IV Radio Plans 46 V Back from the Beach 55 VI Radio's Long Arm 62 VII Learning to Send 69 VIII A Rattling Fight 77 IX Larry Reappears 85 X A Terrible Accident 94 XI Light Out of Darkness 102 XII A Glad Announcement 113 XIII Full of Promise 119 XIV An Impromptu Feast 125 XV Getting a Trial 135 XVI Speed 144 XVII Vaulting Ambition 151 XVIII New Hope 160 XIX Listening In 166 XX The Wonderful Science 173 XXI The Vanishing Crooks 178 XXII Broadcasting Marvels 185 XXIII The First Venture 197 XXIV Winning Out 204 XXV Solving the Mystery 215
THE RADIO BOYS AT THE SENDING STATION
"Isn't it a grand and glorious feeling?" exclaimed Bob Layton, a tall stalwart lad of fifteen, as he stretched himself out luxuriously on the warm sands of the beach at Ocean Point and pulled his cap a little further over his eyes to keep out the rays of the sun.
"I'll tell the world it is," agreed Joe Atwood, his special chum, as he burrowed lazily into the hollow he had scooped out for himself. "You don't have to put up any argument to prove it, Bob. I admit it from the start."
"Same here," chimed in Herb Fennington, sprawled out in a fashion which if certainly inelegant was quite as certainly comfortable. "Take it from me, it's great. I could die loafing like this."
"Seems to be unanimous," remarked Bob, "although I haven't heard Jimmy's musical voice mixing into the conversation and he's usually right there with the talk. I wonder——"
Just then he was interrupted by a vigorous snore proceeding from a fourth member of the group, a fat round-faced boy slightly younger than the others, who was lying on his back a few feet away.
The boys broke into a laugh.
"There's the answer," chuckled Herb. "Trust Jimmy to go to sleep on the slightest provocation. There's only one thing he can do better, and that is eating."
"He sure is no slouch at either," laughed Joe. "The seven sleepers of Ephesus had nothing on Jimmy. And if he went into a doughnut-eating contest, I'd back him to my last dime."
"It's no wonder that's he's tired," said Bob, coming to the defense of the unconscious Jimmy. "If either of you fellows had had the tussle he had with the waves that night when he was hanging on to the broken bridge expecting every minute to be his last, you wouldn't be feeling any too lively, you can bet your boots."
"Right you are," admitted Herb. "That was a tough fight. It makes the cold chills run up and down my back now when I think of it. I don't think there'll be many times in Jimmy's life when he'll come so near death and yet side-step it."
"You were pretty close to it yourself, Bob," put in Joe. "Your chances of getting by didn't seem to be worth a plugged nickel. Of course you're stronger than Jimmy and could have kept up longer if you'd been swept away, but I don't believe there's any one living that could have bucked that torrent."
"I'll admit that I felt mighty good when I got my feet on solid ground again," said Bob. "There's no denying that that was a pretty strenuous night, what with fighting the waves and Dan Cassey too. But we beat them both and came through all right."
"Talking of Cassey," said Joe, "I saw the rascal this morning when I went into the town to attend to a little business for my father. I wasn't far from the jail and I dropped in to see just what arrangements had been made for his trial. The warden was glad to see me—you know he's been pretty strong for us since we saved the police the work of getting their claws on Cassey—and as he was just about to make the rounds he asked me to go along. So I had a chance to see Cassey behind the bars."
"I suppose he was glad to see you?" remarked Bob, with a grin.
"Tickled to death," laughed Joe. "I'm just as popular with him as poison ivy. He got just purple with rage and shook the bars of his cell as though he were trying to break them to get at me. He tried to tell me what he thought of me, but he stuttered so much that he couldn't get it out. I suppose he's stuttering yet."
"It's not surprising that he's sore at us," said Bob. "That's twice we've put a spoke in his wheel; once when he tried to swindle Miss Berwick in the matter of that mortgage and again when he blackjacked Harvey and looted his safe. We sure have been a jinx for him."
"And he isn't the only one who has it in for us," said Joe, as he caught sight of three boys of about their own age who were passing by, and who in passing cast looks of dislike on the little group on the sands. "There's a sweet bunch—I don't think."
The others followed the direction of Joe's glance and had no trouble in agreeing with him.
"That Buck Looker is sure bad medicine," remarked Bob. "And Lutz and Mooney who hang out with him are just about as bad. They're all tarred with the same brush."
"They're a blot on the landscape—or perhaps I should say seascape," put in Herb.
"Where every prospect pleases, And only man is vile,"
chanted Joe. "Do you notice how everybody steers clear of them? Outside of each other, not one of them has a friend in the whole colony."
"It's a wonder we haven't had a run in with them before this," ruminated Herb.
"I guess Buck doesn't want any of our game," Joe rejoined. "He's already had one licking from Bob, and it was only the butting in of Mr. Preston that saved him from getting another one from me. But I have a hunch that he'll get it yet. My knuckles are itching, and that's a bad sign—for Buck."
"You'll get the chance all right," predicted Herb. "Ten to one they're framing up some low-down game to play on us whenever they find an opening. Maybe they'll try to put our radio set out of commission, just as they stole Jimmy's set and tried to wreck Bob's aerial."
"They're welcome to try," said Bob carelessly. "Though they ought to be cured of that idea when they remember how they flivvered the other times. But talking of radio reminds me that we ought to get busy with that lightning arrester we were talking about."
"What has lightning done that it ought to be arrested?" joked Herb.
For answer, Bob scooped up a handful of sand and threw it at the scoffer. Herb ducked adroitly and the sand passed over his head and fell full on Jimmy's mouth, which at the moment happened to be open.
There was a terrific coughing and sputtering, as Jimmy came up to a sitting posture with a quickness that was quite foreign to his nature.
"Who—who the mischief did that?" he demanded, as soon as he could speak, glaring indignantly from one to the other of his comrades, who at first had been alarmed for fear he would choke but now were convulsed with laughter.
"I did," confessed Bob, as he tried to restrain his untimely mirth. "But I didn't mean to, old scout. Herb here had just gotten off one of his horrible jokes, and I was trying to make the punishment fit the crime. I'm awfully sorry."
"You look it," snorted Jimmy, still trying to get the remainder of the sand out of his mouth. "You look as though your heart was broken, sitting there and grinning like a monkey."
"Cross my heart and hope to die, I didn't mean to," declared Bob. "I wouldn't have disturbed your innocent slumbers for anything in the world."
"Never mind, Jimmy," put in Herb. "They say that every one has got to eat a peck of dirt before they die, and you might as well start in early."
"I guess I got my whole peck then," grumbled Jimmy, as he rubbed his mouth vigorously with his handkerchief. "I feel like a chicken with sand in its craw."
"You ought to feel pretty good then," replied Herb, "for they eat it because they like it."
"You're the cause of it all," said Jimmy. "When you try to be funny again, do it when I'm not around. I'll bet the joke was a rotten one, anyway."
"Shall I tell it to you?" asked Herb hopefully.
"Not unless you're prepared to die," replied Jimmy, and Herb forebore to add insult to injury.
"Now as to this lightning arrester," resumed Bob, leaving Jimmy to regain his equanimity. "We've got to put it up, for the regulations require it and we ought to have done it before."
Jimmy pricked up his ears but said nothing.
"I don't think there's really much need of it," objected Joe. "It's too nice an afternoon to work. We've got a lightning rod on the cottage anyway."
"It isn't so much for the cottage as the set," said Bob. "If the lightning got into the receiving set it would make short work of it. Now here's the kind of lightning switch we'll have to have," and he launched into an earnest discussion of a type that was required by the radio regulations.
Jimmy took no part in the discussions, but they attributed this to a touch of grouchiness and gave him time to get over it. Bob after a while glanced at him, and saw that he wore a broad grin on his face.
"What's the joke, Jimmy?" he asked, a little suspiciously.
For only answer Jimmy broke into a peal of laughter.
"Of all the boobs," he chortled.
They looked at him and then at each other in bewilderment.
"Do you think the sun has affected his brain?" asked Herb, with affected anxiety.
"It might have, if he had any brain to be affected," replied Joe, in the same strain.
"Let us in on it, Jimmy," pleaded Bob. "Don't be selfish and keep it all to yourself."
"Why, you thick heads," replied Jimmy, with more force than politeness, "don't you know that you don't have to have a lightning arrester with a loop aerial?"
There was a moment's silence while they let this sink in, and then a sheepish grin stole into their faces.
"Sure enough," owned up Bob. "I knew that too, but I had forgotten it for the time. I was thinking of the outdoor aerial. Of course on an indoor aerial there's no need of a lightning arrester. Jimmy, I take off my hat to you. As the leader of the lynching party said to the widow, after they had lynched the wrong man, the joke's on us."
"I guess that evens things up," crowed Jimmy gleefully, his usual good-humor completely restored. "To think of all that waste of good chin music over nothing," he added mockingly.
"Don't rub it in," admonished Joe. "We'll admit that we're boobs and let it go at that. Serves us right for thinking of working on a day like this, anyway. Those people out there have the right idea," he continued, pointing to a party in a rowboat some distance out from the shore.
"Wish we were out there with them," remarked Herb enviously, as his eyes followed the boat, which had in it three persons, two boys and a girl.
"A sailboat would be good enough for me," put in Jimmy. "Rowing is too much like work."
"Or better yet a motor boat like that one coming over from the right," said Herb. "In that thing the engine does all the work."
"Those fellows in the rowboat seem to be laboring pretty hard at the oars," remarked Bob. "They don't seem to be any too expert, and the waves are pretty rough since that wind sprang up."
"The reason they're pulling so hard is to get out of the way of that motor boat," declared Joe. "It looks almost as though they were going to run them down."
"There wouldn't be any excuse for that with the whole broad ocean to maneuver in," commented Bob. "But, Great Scott!" he cried, jumping to his feet. "That's just exactly what it's doing. Look! It's right on top of them!"
The four boys watched with breathless interest the unfolding before their eyes of what promised to be a tragedy.
The young men in the smaller boat were pulling like mad to get out of the way of the motor boat bearing down upon them with undiminished speed. The girl in the stern of the boat was wringing her hands and screaming.
Whether the two men in the motor boat failed to see the rowboat in their path, or whether they were simply reckless and heartless, it was impossible to tell. In any event, there was no shifting of the helm, no slackening of speed. Swift and relentless as doom the motor craft drove into the rowboat and crushed it like an eggshell.
TO THE RESCUE
There was a gasp of horror from the boys as they saw the three forms struggling in the water amid the debris of the shattered rowboat.
"They'll be drowned!" shouted Bob, in an agony of apprehension.
"If they can only keep afloat until the motor boat picks them up," ejaculated Joe.
But to the consternation of the boys they saw that the motor boat occupants had no intention of going to the rescue. It was not that the men on the boat were not aware of the damage they had done. The boys could see the figures of two men looking backward from the stern towards the people struggling in the waves. But there was no halting of the speed of the craft and it kept on like an arrow, as though it were a criminal bent only on getting away from the scene of his crime.
A cry broke from the boys when this conviction was forced upon them. They clenched their fists and shook them toward the retreating craft, while fierce exclamations broke from their lips.
But there was no time for indulging in vain objurgations. Bob as usual took the lead.
"Come along, fellows!" he shouted, as he set off like a deer towards a rowboat that was pulled up on the beach. "We've got to save those people, and every second counts. Hustle's the word!"
His companions were close on his heels, and without loss of time they had reached the boat. In it were two pairs of oars. They pushed the boat down the shelving beach into the surf and jumped aboard.
"Each one take an oar," commanded Bob. "Now pull, fellows, with all your strength. Don't mind about the steering. I'll tend to that. Pull! Pull!"
They did not need any urging, and the boat, yielding to the impetus of four pairs of arms, made rapid headway and had soon got beyond the breakers. But the tide was setting toward the shore and the waves were running high, while the wind was strong and against them. Filled with anxiety as they were, it seemed to them that the boat was only creeping, though they were putting their arms and their backs into the work and pulling with every ounce of strength that they possessed.
Bob used his oar both for pulling and steering, and ever and again cast a glance behind him to make sure of his course. He could see that the two men had caught hold of a fragment of the boat and were trying to keep afloat. The girl seemed to have fainted and was supported by the arm of one of the men. As the waves rolled toward them, they tried to rise with them, but often they were entirely submerged, and there was danger that at any moment their hold might be torn from the slight fragment that alone kept them afloat.
The need for haste was urgent, and Bob urged his comrades on with frantic adjurations.
"Pull harder," he cried, himself setting the example. "Harder yet. Put all you've got into each stroke. Harder! Harder!"
It seemed as though their hearts were being pulled out of their bodies, but they summoned up all their strength for a final spurt that carried them into the floating debris of the boat.
"Easy now," cried Bob, as he shipped his oar. "You, Herb and Jimmy, just row enough to keep her head on. Joe, give me a hand."
He reached out and caught the arm of the lad who was supporting the girl. While Bob held him fast, Joe reached over, took his helpless burden from his arms, and lifted her into the boat. That done, they reached over and helped the nearly exhausted youths into the boat with what aid they themselves were able to render. They were too used up to talk, but their eyes showed their gratitude.
"Well, that's that!" exclaimed Bob, heaving a sigh of heartfelt relief, as he again took up his oar. "Now, fellows, it's us for the shore as soon as we can get there. These people are all in and need first aid, especially the girl. Let's go."
With tired arms and bodies but vastly lighter hearts, they bent to the oars.
And while they are speeding over the waves with their burden, it may be well, for the benefit of those who have not read the previous volumes of this series, to tell who the radio boys were and what had been their adventures up to the time this story opens.
Bob Layton was the son of a prosperous chemist living in the town of Clintonia, a thriving community of about ten thousand population, situated on the Shagary River in an Eastern state, about seventy-five miles from New York. Bob had been born and brought up there, and was a general favorite with the people of the town, especially the boys of his own age, because of his sunny nature and frank, straightforward character. He was a natural leader in all wholesome sports and a crack player on the school baseball and football teams.
His special chum was Joe Atwood, a boy of about his own age and the son of a leading doctor of the town. While both were tall, Joe was of a fair complexion while Bob was dark, and the dissimilarity extended to other things than mere appearance. Joe was impulsive and quick-tempered, and apt to act on the spur of the moment, while Bob, although never shirking trouble or a fight if it came his way, was more self-controlled. But their points of likeness were more numerous than their points of difference, and they were the warmest of friends. Where one was to be found the other was usually not far off.
Closely associated with them were Herb Fennington and Jimmy Plummer, slightly younger but nearly enough of an age to be good comrades. Jimmy was round and fat and fond of good living, a trait which had earned him the nickname of "Doughnuts." Herb was rather easy-going and fond of telling jokes, of which he always had a stock in store.
In one way or another the four friends frequently came into conflict with Buck Looker, the bully of the town, and his two boon companions, Carl Lutz and Terry Mooney, who were of the same stripe, though they deferred to Buck as their leader.
Ever since the wonderful new science of radio had come into such worldwide prominence, Bob and his friends had been intensely interested in it. That interest had been fostered by the stimulating advice and information given them by Dr. Amory Dale, the pastor of the old First Church of Clintonia. How they had made their own receiving sets in competition for the prize offered by the member of Congress for their district; the difficulties they surmounted and the triumphs they achieved; how Buck and his gang sought to wreck and steal their sets and the thrashing Buck received in consequence; how by the agency of the radio they were able to detect a swindler, one, Dan Cassey, and force him to make restitution to Nellie Berwick, an orphan girl he had tried to cheat; all this and many more exciting adventures are told in the first book of this series, entitled: "The Radio Boys' First Wireless; Or, Winning the Ferberton Prize."
The winning of the prizes, the first by Bob and the second by Joe, with honorable mention for Jimmy, was a spur to fresh efforts in mastering the wonders of radio. This they carried out at Ocean Point, a seashore resort, at which they spent their vacation. How they advanced to the use of the vacuum tube receiving set from their first crystal set; their experiences in the wireless room of a seashore station; their narrow escape from death on the night of a roaring gale; how, under the stress of need, they were able to send a message to the ship on which relatives and friends were voyaging and bring other ships to their aid; how they tracked down and captured the rascal Cassey after he had assaulted and robbed their friend Brandon Harvey, the wireless operator; these things are narrated in the second volume of this series entitled: "The Radio Boys at Ocean Point; Or, The Message That Saved the Ship."
With the radio boys pulling hard at the oars, it was only a matter of a few minutes before they had made their way through the breakers and reached the shore. There they jumped out and shoved the rowboat up on the beach.
The youths whom they had rescued and who seemed only little older than themselves had by this time partially recovered from their exhaustion and were able to get out themselves, although they were very shaky on their legs. The girl had regained consciousness, but was not able to walk, and the boys debated just what they should do.
Quite a crowd that had watched the rescue from the beach were on hand to greet and congratulate them and offers of help were plentiful. But Dr. Atwood, Joe's father, who had taken a day off from his extensive practice to spend it with his family at the Point, solved the problem.
"Bring the girl up to my cottage," he directed. "I'll give her the necessary treatment and then Mrs. Atwood can take charge of her until she's sufficiently recovered to be taken home. I'll give you boys something too that will counteract the effects of the shock and strain you've been under, and you'll be all right in a little while."
The boys picked up the girl and carried her to the Atwood cottage that was only a little distance away. Rose Atwood together with Agnes and Amy Fennington, who had come over and were all interest and attention, recognized her as Mary Rockwell, a girl whom they had met at the dance which the radio boys had given, getting the music over the radio set from a broadcasting station. Together with Mrs. Atwood, they gave her all possible care after the doctor had given her a sedative, and word was sent over to her people assuring them of her safety.
In the meanwhile the rescued lads, after they had been looked over by the doctor and given a slight stimulant, had been borne off bodily by Bob and the other radio boys to the cottage of Bob's parents, where they sat on the veranda while supper was being prepared, for Bob had given them a cordial invitation to take supper and spend the evening with them.
As they were about the size of Bob and Joe, the latter had furnished them with extra suits of their own clothes while their drenched garments were taken in charge by Mrs. Layton to be dried and pressed.
And now for the first time the new acquaintances were able to take a good look at each other. What they saw pleased them mutually.
One of the boys was slender and agile, with frank, honest eyes and a friendly smile that was almost constantly in evidence. His hair was brown and wavy and his complexion naturally fair, though it was at the moment tanned by the sun and sea air. There was not an ounce of superfluous flesh on his body, and he gave the impression of being a trained athlete.
The other had a humorous face that betrayed Irish ancestry, which was emphasized by the merest touch of a brogue when he talked. His hair was red and his face freckled, and there was something about him that was extremely likable and made the boys warm to him at once.
"We haven't had a chance to learn each other's names yet," said Bob, with a smile, as the party settled comfortably into the veranda seats. "And that's not surprising either," he added, "for we've been pretty busy since the first moment we met. This is the first chance we've had to draw our breaths. My name is Bob Layton, and these pals of mine are Joe Atwood, Herb Fennington and Jimmy Plummer, the latter the greatest doughnut eater in captivity."
"And our handles are Larry Bartlett and Tim Barcommon," said the taller of the two newcomers, as they laughingly acknowledged the introductions. "And before we do anything else we want to tell you fellows how grateful we are for the way you came to our help. It would have been all up for us if you hadn't."
"Yes," chimed in Tim, "we'll never forget it as long as we live. It was a mighty plucky thing for you fellows to pull out in the sea that was running. The sight of you coming was the only thing that helped me to hold on. I was just about all in when you reached us. You certainly sent that old boat spinning along."
"Oh, that was nothing," disclaimed Bob. "We just happened to be on the spot. Any one else would have done the same thing."
"But you notice nobody else did do it," replied Larry. "There were lots of other people on the beach that saw the accident, but you were the only ones that did the hustling. It was a case of quick thinking as well as plucky acting, and we owe our lives to you. I only hope that some time we'll be able to do something that will show you how we appreciate it."
"What gets me," put in Joe, "was the heartless way those fellows in the motor boat acted. They were simply brutes. They ought to have their necks wrung."
"Yes," said Herb. "There was no excuse for their running you down in the first place. But after they'd done it, the least they could have done was to turn their boat around and pick you up. We took it for granted that that was what they would do, and we couldn't believe our eyes when we saw them keep on. Those fellows are nothing less than murderers."
"I guess you're about right," replied Larry. "We counted, too, on their picking us up, and our only thought was to hold on to any floating thing we could grab until they could get to us. And when we saw that they weren't going to, we just about gave up hope. Both Tim and I are pretty good swimmers, and if we'd been alone might have reached the shore. But there was the girl, and with the water as rough as it was we had a pretty slim chance of bringing her in, so it was a case of living or dying together. And it would have been dying sure enough, if you hadn't happened to be on the beach this afternoon.
"It would have been especially hard," he continued, "if the girl had been drowned when she was out on our invitation and under our protection. As for ourselves, it would not have mattered so much. She is an awfully nice girl, and her family and mine have been acquainted for years. My mother and hers used to go to school together. I hadn't any idea she was down here when I decided to spend a couple of weeks at Ocean Point, but you can imagine how surprised and delighted I was to find that she and her folks were stopping at the same hotel I had picked out. She was a little afraid of the water, but yielded when we urged her to come out for a row, and we were all having a dandy time until that motor boat come along and spoiled everything."
"And think of what the world would have lost if we'd been among the missing," said Tim, with a grin. "No more exhibitions of the Canary Bird Snake, otherwise known as Larry Bartlett."
"Or of the famous buck wing and clog dancer, otherwise known as Tim Barcommon," laughed Larry.
The radio boys looked at each other in some perplexity.
"I don't quite get you," said Bob.
AT THE WIRELESS STATION
"Why, it's this way," explained Larry. "We are vaudeville performers. Tim's specialty is dancing, and I can tell you, because he's too modest to say it himself, that he's a peach. Whenever he appears, he just knocks them off their seats. He's a riot."
"Cut it out," protested Tim. "Leave that to the press agent."
"It's straight goods, just the same," declared Larry. "As for little me, I've got a knack of twisting myself into knots, and then, too, I do a little whistling. And because of that they call me on the posters and in the theater programs the Canary Bird Snake. Kind of mixed up, isn't it?"
The radio boys were tremendously interested. The stage had for them the touch of mystery and glamour that appeals to youth, and it was an unusual treat for them to be talking on familiar terms with characters such as they had only seen hitherto in the glare of the footlights.
"It must be great," said Bob, "to go all over the country as you do and see all there is to be seen."
"Oh, like everything else, theatrical life has its ups and downs," replied Larry. "It's all right when they hand you applause, but not such fun when they throw eggs, especially if the eggs are old. We've never had that experience yet though, and here's hoping that we never shall. There's lots of hard work connected with it, and Tim and I have to work a good many hours each day to keep ourselves in trim. Then, too, when you're playing one night stands and have to get up before daylight to catch a train, which in rube towns often turns out to be just a caboose attached to a freight, it isn't any fun. And it's less fun when you happen to get snowed in for a day or two, as has happened to us several times. But you get paid for all that when your turn goes big and the audience is friendly and gives you a good hand. Oh, it isn't all peaches and cream, but take it altogether we have a pretty good time."
"That is, when we're working," put in Tim. "It isn't much fun though when the ghost doesn't walk every Saturday night."
The boys looked a little puzzled and Larry undertook to enlighten them.
"Tim means when the pay check doesn't happen to come along," he said. "In other words, when we're out of a job. You see we're both pretty young in the profession and we aren't as well known as we hope to be later on. We have to take what we can get on the small-time circuits, and we know that if we make good there we'll get on the big-time circuit sooner or later. Just now things are slack in the theatrical line as they always are in summer. We've got our lines out for a job in the fall, but nothing definite has come of it yet. So we thought we'd come down to the seashore for a few weeks and get a little of the sea air into our lungs."
"But we didn't figure on getting as much sea water into our stomachs as we did this afternoon," laughed Tim. "I can taste it yet. I don't think I'll want any salt on my victuals for a month to come."
Just then Mrs. Layton appeared and announced that supper was ready, and they all obeyed the call with alacrity, Bob's chums being included in the invitation.
The meal was excellent, as Mrs. Layton's always were, and there was a great deal of jollity as it progressed. Larry was very droll and kept the boys in roars of laughter as he told of some of the funny incidents in his experience, and Tim was not far behind him.
After the meal was over, nothing would do but that Larry and Tim should go through some of their performances for the entertainment of the company. This they did, and though they were handicapped by the absence of the usual stage properties, Larry not having his stage suit with him and Tim being without his clog dancing pumps, the spectators were delighted. Larry tied himself into a mystifying tangle of knots, and his whistling was so sweet and melodious that it roused his audience to the heights of enthusiasm. And Tim's graceful dancing was a revelation of the possibilities of the Terpsichorean art.
Then the radio boys took their turn and gave their visitors a radio concert that was wonderful in its variety and beauty. The night happened to be unusually free of the annoying static that is the bugbear of the wireless, and every note of the music was as clear and sweet as though the performers were only a few yards away. Tim and Larry listened as though they were entranced, and when the concert was finished they were as enthusiastic "fans" as the radio boys themselves.
"It's simply wonderful!" exclaimed Larry. "It's the first time I've ever had the chance to 'listen in,' but you can bet it won't be the last."
"I'll tell you what," proposed Bob. "We're going over to the wireless sending station to-morrow morning to see the operator there, Mr. Harvey. He's the finest kind of a fellow, and he'll be glad to see you. Suppose you and Tim come along with us."
"Surest thing you know!" ejaculated Larry, and Tim acquiesced with equal enthusiasm.
They parted for the night with a feeling on both sides of warm liking and esteem and a looking forward to a most enjoyable time on the following day.
The next morning the radio boys set out shortly after breakfast, met Larry and Tim at a point previously agreed upon, and together took their way toward the wireless station.
Mr. Harvey was alone when they entered, and jumped to his feet with hands extended in greeting and a face beaming with welcome.
"What good wind blew you over here?" he exclaimed, as he shook their hands heartily.
"We came because we wanted to see you, and also because we wanted to show our friends here something of the way the wireless works," said Bob.
He introduced Larry and Tim and Mr. Harvey welcomed them so warmly that they felt at once at home.
"So these are the young men you boys pulled out of the water yesterday," he said. "It's mighty lucky for them that you happened to be around."
"I'll say it was," agreed Larry, and Tim nodded vigorously.
"How did you happen to hear of it?" asked Bob.
"Hear of it?" Brandon Harvey repeated. "All the beach is ringing with it. All the hotels are buzzing with it. If you'll look at the morning papers from the city, you'll find they all have a full account of it with comments on the pluck and presence of mind of the fellows who did it. You can't get away with that stuff without having it known, no matter how modest you are."
"Making lots of fuss about a trifle," muttered Bob.
"Trifle," laughed Harvey. "Just the same kind of a trifle as that you pulled off the night you saved the ship and captured the man who had knocked me out. Have they told you about that?" he asked, turning to Larry and Tim.
"Not a word," replied Larry.
"Never breathed it," declared Tim.
"Just like them," asserted Brandon Harvey, and then went on to tell them of that dreadful night when the storm was raging; how they had found him knocked senseless on the floor and the safe looted; how they had sent the signals that had saved the ship from destruction; how they had pursued the robber and captured him after a hand to hand tussle and recovered the loot.
"Well, now about the wireless," interposed Bob, anxious to change the subject. "These friends of ours are a new addition to the army of fans and we want to put them next to some of the wonders of radio."
"It's a great army all right," laughed Harvey, "and we're always glad to welcome new recruits. They're coming into the ranks by thousands every day. Nobody can keep count of them, but they must run into the millions.
"And they're great in quality as well as quantity," he continued, warming to his favorite subject. "The President of the United States has a radio receiving set on his desk. There's one in the office of every one of the ten Cabinet members. The Secretary of the Navy is sending out wireless messages every day to vessels scattered in all parts of the globe. The head of the army is keeping in touch by radio with every fort and garrison and corps area in the United States. On last Arbor Day the Secretary of Agriculture talked over the radio to more people than ever heard an address in the history of the world. But there," he said, breaking off with a laugh, "if I once get going on this line I'll never know when to stop. So I'll say it all in one sentence—the radio is the most wonderful invention ever conceived by the mind of man."
"You don't need to prove it to us," laughed Bob. "It's simply a miracle, and we become more convinced of that every day. I'm mighty glad I was born in this age of the world."
The boys crowded around Mr. Harvey as he explained to Larry and Tim in as simple a way as possible the radio apparatus of the station.
"When I press this key," he said, "an electrical spark is sent up into the antenna, the big wire that you see suspended from the mast over the station, and is flung out into space."
"Travels pretty fast, doesn't it?" asked Larry, to whom all this was new.
"Rather," laughed Mr. Harvey. "It can go seven and a half times around the world while you are striking a match."
"What!" exclaimed Larry incredulously. "Why, the circle of the earth is about twenty-five thousand miles."
"Exactly," smiled Harvey. "And that spark travels at the rate of one hundred and eighty-six thousand miles a second."
"You're sure you don't mean feet instead of miles?" suggested Tim dubiously.
"It's miles all right," laughed Harvey. "Electricity travels at the same rate as the light that comes to us from the sun and stars."
"What becomes of this electrical impulse after it gets started on that quick trip?" asked Larry. "How does the fellow on the other end get what you're trying to tell him."
"That fellow or that station has another antenna waiting to receive my message," replied Harvey. "The signal keeps on going through the ether until it strikes that other antenna. Then it climbs along it until it reaches the receiving set and registers the same kind of dot or dash as the one I made at this end. It's like the pitcher and catcher of a baseball battery. One pitches the ball and the other receives the same ball. At one instant it's in the pitcher's hand and the next it has traveled the space between the two and is resting in the catcher's hand. Sounds simple, doesn't it?"
"Sounds simple when you put it that way," laughed Larry. "But I have a hunch that it isn't as simple as it sounds."
"Well, to tell the truth, it isn't quite as simple as that," confessed Harvey. "There's a whole lot to learn about receiving and transmitting and detectors and generators and condensers and vacuum tubes and all that. But my point is that there's nothing of the really essential things that are concerned in getting entertainment and instruction from radio that can't be learned with a little application by any one of ordinary intelligence."
"I wonder if I'm in that class," said Larry quizzically, and there was a general laugh.
Another half hour was spent with great profit and interest in the sending station and then the boys arose to go.
"How are you getting along with that regenerative set?" asked Mr. Harvey of Bob.
"Pretty well, thank you," answered Bob. "It's the proper adjusting of the tickler that's giving me the most trouble."
"Be careful not to increase it too far," warned Harvey. "If you do, the vacuum tube oscillates and becomes a small generator of high frequency current and in that way will interfere with other near-by stations. Then, too, the speeches and music will be mushy instead of being clear. Drop in again when you have time and we'll talk the matter over a little further."
The visitors bade their host farewell and trooped out into the bright sunshine. Larry and Tim were enthusiastic over the new world into which they had been introduced.
"The most wonderful thing in the world," was their verdict.
They spent the rest of the morning on the beach, and before they parted, Larry had secured a promise from the radio boys to come over to a dance that was to be held the next night at the hotel where he and Tim were stopping.
"Jolliest kind of fellows, aren't they?" said Joe.
"They sure are," agreed Herb. "I should think that free and easy life of theirs would be just one round of enjoyment."
"I wouldn't exactly say that," remarked Bob. "Two or three times I have noticed a look of worry in Larry's eyes as though something were weighing on his mind."
This arrow, shot at a venture, was indeed correct, for Larry was far from being as care free as the boys imagined. The fact that he was out of work at present worried him, naturally. But this would have but little weight with him had it not been for his sick mother at home. That mother had worked for years in his behalf, following the death of his father, whose affairs were so involved at his death that there was little money left to support his wife and child. The mother had kept up a brave heart, however, and done the best she could for herself and her idolized son. The strain of being both bread-winner and mother had told, however, and now she was in ill health. Larry, since he had entered upon a profession, had sent to her all that he possibly could in order to maintain her in comfort, but just now the source of supply had stopped and there was no knowing at what time it would be resumed. He knew that his mother had very little money on hand at the time, and her condition of health made Larry her only resource.
The radio boys kept their engagement, and the dance was a jolly affair at which they enjoyed themselves thoroughly. The only drawback to a perfect evening was the fact that Buck Looker and Carl Lutz were there also, but this did not bother them much in the early part of the evening.
The last dance had just been concluded and the ardent dancers were clamoring for one more encore, when a disturbance rose at one end of the room that attracted general attention. The radio boys hurried to the spot in question to find Buck and Lutz talking excitedly while Larry and Tim were standing near them with flushed and indignant faces. The manager of the hotel and a house detective were also in the group.
"I tell you that those are the fellows who did it," Buck was vociferating, while he pointed to Larry and Tim. "They were the ones closest to me when I missed my watch and stickpin, and I had just looked at my watch the minute before. If you search them you'll find the goods on them. My friend here lost his at the same time."
"It's false!" cried Larry.
"If there weren't ladies here, I'd cram the story down your throat!" exclaimed Tim, his eyes blazing.
"That's a serious charge you're making, young man," said the manager to Buck.
"They've got them," said Buck sullenly. "Search them and you'll find I'm right."
"See here," cried Larry. "If this fellow were the only one concerned I wouldn't condescend to satisfy him. But I have some friends here," indicating the radio boys, "and for their sakes I'm going to establish my innocence beyond any doubt. Come right in to one of the private rooms here and search me thoroughly. As for this fellow," glaring at Buck, "I'll settle with him at another time."
The party adjourned to a room, and a thorough search resulted in showing that none of the missing articles was on Larry or Tim.
"Now I'll settle with you," cried Larry, making a rush at Buck. But he was restrained by the house detective who held him while Buck and his crony slunk away.
The radio boys gathered around their new friends and condoled with them over the unfounded accusation.
"He'll pay me for that yet," declared Larry, who had been wrought up to a high pitch of excitement.
"Here's hoping you'll get a hack at him," said Joe. "Did you notice that there wasn't a word of apology for having made a false charge against you?"
"Did you ever know him to do a decent thing?" asked Bob scornfully. "That's Buck Looker to a dot."
The next morning Bob was over at Joe's bungalow when Mr. and Mrs. Rockwell called with Mary to thank the Atwoods for the care they had given Mary when she was brought from the water, and also to express their gratitude to the boys, whose quickness and resource had saved her life.
Mary, a pretty girl, had entirely recovered, and was profuse in her thanks to Bob and Joe, which were echoed by her parents, who laid so much stress upon their bravery that the boys blushed to the ears.
"You are making altogether too much of it," Bob protested, and Joe agreed.
"It is impossible to do that," said Mr. Rockwell, and Mrs. Rockwell nodded her head vigorously.
"The only thing I am sorry about," said Bob, "is that we have not been able to catch the fellows in the motor boat who ran the rowboat down. They ought to be sent to jail on the double quick."
"It turns out," said Mr. Rockwell, "that they were not only heartless brutes, but thieves as well. We found out yesterday that the boat had been stolen from Mr. Wentworth, who is one of the guests at the hotel where we are stopping. They left an old rowboat in its place. Mr. Wentworth has put the police on the track of the thieves, but as yet nothing has been heard of them. I am afraid they have made good their escape."
"I only hope," declared Bob, "that I may live long enough to get my hands on the throat of one or both of them."
"I'd like that privilege," returned Mr. Rockwell warmly, "but I am afraid the chances are slim. They may be hundreds of miles away by this time."
"Well," said Joe, "the arm of the law is long and it may reach them yet."
"Here's hoping," said Bob.
Shortly after the unfortunate affair at the dance Larry and Tim came to the Layton bungalow, overjoyed at a letter they had just received.
"Bob, our streak of bad luck must be broken at last," exulted Larry. "It was beginning to look like the bread line for ours, but now maybe we'll be able to eat heartily again."
"You don't look very hungry just at present," grinned Bob. "But what does it say in that letter that you're waving around, anyway?"
"We've got an engagement, at last," put in Tim. "And, oh, boy! make out it doesn't seem like money from home!"
"Well, that's certainly fine," said Bob, heartily.
"It's with Chasson's vaudeville show," explained Larry. "It's a traveling show, and we probably won't show more than one or two nights in a town. Of course, it isn't as swell an outfit as we would like to connect up with, but it will keep the wolf from the door for a little while."
"It will tide us over until we can hook up with something classier, anyway," said Tim. "The chances are we'll play in all the towns around this part of the country, and if we land in the one you fellows live in, we'll expect you to applaud our act harder than any of the others, no matter how bad we are." And he grinned.
"If you come to Clintonia, you can bet we'll give you the glad hand, all right," promised Bob. "I suppose we all get free passes, don't we?" with a twinkle in his eye.
"You'd get all you want if Tim and I had the say-so," said Larry, "but the manager probably won't be able to see it that way."
"Some day we'll have a show of our own, maybe," said Tim. "Then we'll give you all passes, you can bet your boots on that."
"Don't try to hold your breath until then, though," said Larry. "The way things are breaking for us lately, we'll be more likely to be inviting our friends to come and visit us in the poorhouse."
"Over the hills to the poorhouse, It's not so far away, We may get there to-morrow, If we don't get there to-day,"
chanted Tim, immediately afterward breaking into a lively jig to express his indifference to that mournful possibility.
"Well, if you ever do land in that cheerful place, you'll be very popular," laughed Bob. "But now that you've both got an engagement, you won't have to worry about that for some time to come. I know the other fellows will be glad to hear about it, too. They went down to town this morning, but they ought to be back pretty soon now. Stick around till they come, and we'll tell them the glad news."
"Surest thing you know," acquiesced Larry. "We don't have to report to Chasson until day after to-morrow, anyway. How's the wireless coming along these days?"
"Fine and dandy," responded Bob. "After we get back to Clintonia we intend to build some big sets so that we can receive signals from all over the country."
"But where do you get all the money to buy that stuff?" asked Larry. "Some of it must be pretty expensive, isn't it?"
"Not as expensive as you might think, although some of the apparatus, like audion bulbs, certainly run into money," replied Bob. "But we can easily sell the apparatus that we already have, and make enough on that to buy the new things with. There are plenty of people ready and anxious to buy our sets, because we can sell them for less than the store would charge, and they work as well or better than some store sets."
"Who's talking of selling our sets?" broke in a well-known voice, as Joe, Herb and Jimmy came, pellmell, into the room.
"I was," said Bob, in answer to Jimmy's question. "I was thinking of selling your set to the junkman, for what it would bring."
"Huh!" exclaimed Jimmy, indignantly. "I'll bet a junkman wouldn't even buy yours. He'd expect you to pay him to take it away."
"Say, you fellows must have a high opinion of each other's radio outfits," broke in Tim, laughing. "But if you want to give one away, here's Tiny Tim, ready and waiting."
"No chance," said Jimmy, positively. "I worked too many hot nights on mine to give it away now, and I guess Bob thinks he'd like to keep his, too, even though it isn't really much good."
"It was good enough to take the Ferberton prize, anyway, which is more than some people can say of theirs," Bob replied, grinning. "How about it, Doughnuts?"
"That was because the judges didn't know any better," said his rotund friend. "They should have made me the judge, and then there's no doubt but what my set would have won that hundred bucks."
"We can believe that easily enough," laughed Larry. "But you radio bugs forget your hobby for a few minutes and listen to the glad news," and then he told them about the engagement he and Tim had secured.
All the boys congratulated them on their good fortune, and after some further conversation the two actors departed, first promising to drop in for a visit before going away to start their engagement.
"I like those two fellows first rate, and would be mighty glad to see them succeed," said Bob, after they had gone. "It seems to me they ought to make a big hit, too. They're a regular riot all the time they're with us."
"Yes, they're certainly funny," agreed Joe. "What were you telling them about selling our sets, just as we came in?"
"Oh, I was just saying that we could get money to buy new apparatus, audion bulbs, and that sort of expensive stuff, by selling one or two of the sets we've got now, and whacking up the proceeds," said Bob. "My dad spoke of that last evening, and it struck me as a mighty good idea. I know of several people in Clintonia who would like nothing better than to have a good set, and having made them ourselves, we can sell them cheaper than the stores, and still make money on them."
"Say, that's a pretty good stunt," said Joe. "I was trying to figure out the other day where we could get the necessary cash. The cheapest audion bulb you can buy costs about three dollars."
The other boys, also, were pleased with this idea, and said so. They agreed to sell two of their sets as soon as they got back to Clintonia. This was their last week at Ocean Point, for the fall term of the high school started the following Monday, and they were to leave Ocean Point on Saturday.
"It will be pretty hard to bone down to lessons again, after a summer like this, but I suppose there's no help for it," said Jimmy, mournfully. "I feel as though I'd forgotten all I ever knew."
"That isn't much, so you don't need to worry about it," said Joe, with pleasing frankness.
"I suppose you think you're a regular Solomon, don't you?" retorted Jimmy. "Nobody else does, though, I can tell you that."
"Quit your scrapping," admonished Herb. "You don't either of you know a single good joke, while I'm just full of wit and humor. Why, here's a joke I thought up just the other day, and I don't mind admitting that it's a pippin, not to say peacherino. I thought it up while I was watching some fellows play tennis, and I just know you're all crazy to hear it."
"We'd have to be crazy to want to hear it," said Bob. "But probably you'll feel better after you get it out of your system, so fire ahead, and we'll do our best to stand the strain."
"This won't be any strain; it will be a pleasure," said Herb. "Now, this joke is in the form of a humorous question and an even more humorous answer. Oh, it's a wonder, I'll say."
"We'll say something, too, if you don't hurry up and get the agony over with," threatened Joe. "Make it snappy, before we weaken under the strain and throw you out the window."
"Well, then," said Herb: "Why does the tennis ball? And the answer is: Because the catgut on the racquet." And he broke into a peal of laughter, in which, however, his friends refused to join.
"Well, what's the matter?" asked Herb, cutting short his laughter as he saw that the others only shook their heads despondently. "Why in the name of all that's good don't you laugh? Wasn't that a peach of a joke?"
"Herb, the only reason we don't kill you right away is because you will be punished more by being allowed to live and suffer," said Bob. "That was a fierce joke."
"Oh, get out!" exclaimed Herb, in an injured tone. "You fellows don't know a clever joke when you hear it."
"Likely enough we don't," admitted Joe. "We don't get much chance to hear clever jokes while you're around."
"Oh, well, if you don't like my jokes, why don't you think up some of your own?" asked Herb, in an aggrieved tone. "There's no law against it, you know."
"There ought to be, though," put in Jimmy.
"Oh, what do you know about it?" asked Herb, incensed at the laughter that followed this thrust. "All you can think of, Doughnuts, is what you're going to get to eat when the next meal time comes around."
"Well, I enjoy thinking of that so much, that I'd be foolish to think of anything else," said Jimmy, serenely.
"You win, Jimmy," said Bob, as he and Joe shouted with laughter at Herb's discomfiture. The latter was inclined to be sulky at first, but he soon forgot his ill humor, and was as gay as the others as they discussed their plans for the fall and winter months.
Contrary to the predictions of some of their neighbors in Clintonia, their enthusiasm for radio work had increased rather than diminished, and they were anxious to become the possessors of sets capable of hearing any station in the United States, and perhaps even the large foreign stations. Of course, this meant that their apparatus would have to be much more intricate and expensive than any they had constructed hitherto, but the realization of this did not deter them. On the contrary, the thought that the task would be one to tax their skill and knowledge to the utmost only served to make them more eager to begin. They examined numberless catalogues and circulars in an effort to determine where and at what cost they could obtain their necessary supplies, jotting down notes as they went along. By supper time they had acquired a pretty good idea of what their new equipment would cost, and were pleased to find that it came within the amount that they thought they could get by selling two of their present complete sets.
"Well, then," said Bob, in conclusion, as they heard the supper bell ring, "the first thing we do when we get back home will be to sell the two sets, and then we'll get busy on making the new ones."
With this the others agreed.
BACK FROM THE BEACH
"Good-bye, old bungalows, we hate to leave you. Here's hoping we see you again next summer."
It was Herb speaking, as the radio boys and their families left the group of cottages where all had spent such an eventful and pleasant summer. Brilliant sunlight beat down on the yellow sand, but its heat was very different from the torrid rays that had kept them running to the ocean to cool off all that summer. There was a clear and sparkling appearance to the air and sky, and the wind that came sweeping over the level sands had a nip in it that made even Jimmy walk fast to keep warm.
They were to return home by train instead of automobile, and all the ladies had gone to the station in the big motor omnibus, but the boys had preferred to walk, as the distance was not great and there was still plenty of time before the train was due.
"We've had a wonderful time here, there's no doubt of that," said Bob, commenting on Herb's apostrophe to the bungalows. "But it will seem nice to get home again, too. I've almost forgotten what the old town looks like."
"It will seem good to see the old bunch at High once more, too," added Joe. "I'll bet there aren't many of them have had the fun that we've had ever since we landed at Ocean Point."
"Not only that, but we've learned a lot, too," said Bob. "We were running in luck when we met Mr. Harvey and had the run of that big station. It was a wonderful opportunity."
"You bet it was," agreed Herb. "It's a wonderful place to think up jokes in, too. I don't think I ever thought of so many good ones in a single summer before."
"I didn't know you thought of any good ones," said Joe. "All those that we heard were punk. Why didn't you tell us some of the good ones for a change?"
"So I did, you poor boob," retorted Herb. "My one regret here was that we didn't have a sending set. Then I could have broadcasted some of those jokes, and everybody could have had the benefit of them free of charge."
"It would have to be free of charge," said Jimmy, cruelly. "You don't suppose anybody would pay real money to hear that low brand of humor, do you?"
"Chances are they'd pay real money not to hear them," put in Joe, before Herb could answer. "But I suppose if Herb ever started anything like that the Government would take away his license before he could do much harm."
"Never mind," said Herb resignedly. "You can knock all you want now, but when I get to be rich and famous, like Mark Twain, for instance, you'll be sorry that you were so dumb that you couldn't appreciate me sooner."
"Well, we won't have to worry until you are rich and famous, and that probably won't be for a year or two yet," said Bob. "But here we are at the station. They all look glad to see us. I'll bet they were afraid we wouldn't get here in time."
This was indeed the case, as was evidenced by much gesturing and waving of parasols and handkerchiefs by the feminine members of the party. They had heard the whistle of the train in the distance, and had firmly persuaded themselves that the boys would be delayed and lose the train. As it turned out, however, the boys had plenty of time, and were on the platform and waiting as the engine puffed into the station.
As the train pulled out, they all gazed back regretfully at the little village that had become so familiar to them. Many of the shops were closed and shuttered for the season, and the main street wore a deserted air. However, as the train rounded a curve and the village was lost to view, they regained their usual spirits.
"It's a wonder you boys didn't miss the train altogether," said Agnes, Herb's sister. "I don't see why you didn't hurry a little. We were on pins and needles all the time until you showed up."
"Aw, what's the use of standing on an old station platform for an hour and spending your time wondering why the train doesn't show up?" said Herb. "We could have left the bungalows ten minutes later and still caught the train. I don't enjoy riding on a train unless I've had to run to get it, anyway."
"If this train had been on time, you would have had a fast run to get it, I can tell you," said Amy, Agnes' younger sister. "It was about fifteen minutes late, and that's the only reason you got it at all."
"Oh, we could run almost as fast as this train goes, anyway," boasted her brother. "And speaking of slow trains, that reminds me of a good story I read the other day."
"Oh, please tell us about it," said Agnes, with mock enthusiasm. "You know we always love to hear your jokes, brother dear."
Herb glanced suspiciously at her, but was too glad of an opportunity to tell his story to inquire into her sincerity.
"It seems there was a man traveling on a southern railroad——" he began, but Jimmy interrupted him.
"Which railroad?" he inquired.
"It doesn't matter which railroad," said Herb, glaring at his friend. "It was a railroad, anyway, and a slow one, too. Well, this man was in a hurry, it seems, and kept fidgeting around and looking at his watch. Finally the train stopped altogether, and a moment later the conductor came through the car.
"'What's the matter, Conductor?' asked the traveler.
"'There's a cow on the track,' answered the conductor.
"Well, pretty soon the train started on again, but it hadn't gone very far before it stopped once more. 'Say, Conductor, why in blazes have we stopped again?' asked the traveler. 'Seems to me this is the slowest train I ever rode on.'
"'It can't be helped, sir,' answered the conductor. 'We've caught up with that pesky cow again.'"
They all laughed at this anecdote, which pleased Herb immensely.
"I know lots more, any time you want to hear them," he ventured, hopefully.
"Better not take a chance on spoiling that one, Herb," advised Joe. "That was unusually good for you, I must admit."
"Herb's jokes wouldn't be so bad if he'd stick to regular ones," said Bob. "It's only when he starts making them up himself that they get so terrible."
"Yes, and just think of his poor sisters," sighed Agnes. "In the summer it isn't quite so bad, because he's out of the house most of the time, but in winter it's simply terrible."
"Well, this winter I won't have much time to waste on you and Amy, trying to develop a sense of humor in you," said Herb. "I'm going to build a radio set of my own that will be a cuckoo."
"Hurrah for you!" exclaimed Bob. "That's a better way to spend your time, and what a relief it will be for all of us."
"I suppose you think you're kidding me, but you're not," said Herbert. "I'll make a set this winter that will make you amateurs turn green with envy. You see if I don't!"
"It will be fine if you do," said Bob. "There's no reason why you shouldn't if you really want to."
The time passed quickly, and before they realized it they heard the conductor call the name of their own town.
"Goodness gracious!" exclaimed Agnes, "are we really there so soon? And I haven't got any of my things together yet!"
There was great bustle and confusion for a few moments, and then the whole party found themselves on the familiar platform of the Clintonia station. Several taxicabs were requisitioned, and they were all whisked away to their respective homes, after the radio boys had agreed to meet at Bob's house that evening.
RADIO'S LONG ARM
"Well, fellows," said Bob, when they were together that evening, according to agreement, "this is the last evening we'll have without lessons for some time to come, so we'd better make the most of it."
"Don't mention lessons, Bob," implored Jimmy. "Oh, my, how I hate 'em!" and he groaned dismally.
"You'll soon be doing them, old timer, whether you like them or not," said Joe. "It's going to be a tough term for me, too. I'll be taking up geometry this term, and they say that's no cinch."
"Nothing's a cinch for me, worse luck," said Jimmy, dolefully. "Everything I do seems to be hard work for me."
"That's tough luck, too," said Bob, gravely, "because you hate work so much, Doughnuts."
"There isn't anybody in the world hates it more," confessed Jimmy, shamelessly. "But that's all the good it ever does me. Why wasn't I born rich instead of good looking?"
"Give it up," said Bob. "You'll have to ask me easier ones than that, Jimmy, if you expect to get an answer. But as far as I can see, people that are rich don't seem to be especially happy, anyway. Look at old Abubus Boggs. He's probably the richest man in Clintonia, but nobody ever accused him of being happy."
"I should say not!" exclaimed Joe. "He goes around looking as though he had just bitten into an especially sour lemon. Everybody hates him, and I don't suppose that makes any one happy."
"Maybe that does make old Abubus happy, there's no telling," said Jimmy, reflectively. "But I know I wouldn't change places for all his money."
"There you are!" exclaimed Bob, triumphantly. "You don't realize how well off you are, Doughnuts."
"Maybe not," conceded Jimmy. "School isn't so bad after you once get started, but I hate to think of settling down to the old grind after that wonderful summer at Ocean Point."
"But we'll have the radio just the same," Joe pointed out. "That's one of the good things about it; you can take it with you wherever you go."
"Yes, I was reading an article in one of the radio magazines a little while ago about that," said Bob. "The article was written by a trapper in the northern part of Canada. He told how he had set up his outfit in the center of a howling wilderness and had received all the latest news of the world in his shack, not to mention music of every kind. He said that the natives and Indians thought it must be magic, and were looking all over the shack for the spirit that they supposed must be talking into the headphones. That trapper was certainly a radio fan, if there ever was one, and he wrote a mighty interesting letter, too."
"I should think it would be interesting," said Herb. "I'd like to read it, if you still have it around."
Bob rummaged around in a big pile of radio magazines and finally found what he was looking for. The boys read every word of the letter, and were more than ever impressed by the wonderful possibilities of radiophony.
No longer would it be necessary for an exploring expedition to be lost sight of for months, or even years. Wedged in the Arctic ice floes, or contending with fever and savage animals in the depths of some tropical jungle, the explorers could keep in touch with the civilized world as easily as though bound on a week end fishing trip. The aeroplane soaring in the clouds far above the earth, or the submarine under the earth's waters, could be informed and guided by it. Certainly of all the wonders of modern times, this was the most marvelous and far-reaching.
Something of all this passed through the boys' minds as they sat in ruminative silence, thinking of the lonely man in the wilderness with his precious wireless.
"I suppose we should feel pretty lucky to be around just at this stage of the earth's history," said Bob, thoughtfully. "We're living in an age of wonders, and I suppose we're so used to them that most of the time we don't realize how wonderful they really are."
"That's true enough, all right," agreed Joe. "When you step into an automobile these days, you don't stop to think that a few years ago the fastest way to travel was behind old Dobbin. The old world is stepping ahead pretty lively these days, and no mistake."
"It can't step too fast to suit me," said Herb. "Speed is what I like to see, every time."
"Oh, I don't know," said Jimmy, lazily. "Why not take things a little easier. People had just as much fun out of life when they weren't in such a rush about everything. I take things easy and get fat on it, while Herb is always rushing around, and it wears him down until he has the same general appearance as a five and ten cent store clothespin."
"I wouldn't want to look like a three and nine cent store pin-cushion, anyway," said Herb, indignantly. "That's about your style of beauty, Doughnuts."
"Well, I never expect to take any prizes in a beauty show, so that doesn't make me mad," said Jimmy, calmly.
"If you weren't so blamed fat, I'd have half a mind to throw you out the window, you old faker," said Herb, threateningly.
"Couldn't do it," said Jimmy, briefly. "In the first place, I'm too heavy; and in the second place, Bob wouldn't let you."
"I'll bet Bob would be glad to see you thrown out. How about it, Bob?" and Herb appealed to his friend.
"I wouldn't want you to throw him out of either of these windows," answered Bob, seriously. "There are valuable plants on the lawn below, and I'd hate to see them damaged. But if you want to take him out and drop him from the hall window, I'm sure nobody will have any objections."
"Oh, I can't be bothered carrying him that far," said Herb. "Guess I might as well let him live a while longer, after all."
"That's very nice of you," said Jimmy, sarcastically. "But you know you couldn't do it, anyway. All I'd have to do would be to fall on you, Herb, and it would be curtains for little Herbert."
"I think they're both afraid of each other, Joe," said Bob, turning to his friend. "What's your opinion?"
"Looks that way to me, too. They remind me of a couple of cats that stand and yell at each other for an hour, and then walk off without mixing it after all."
"Well, we're not going to go to mauling each other just to amuse you two Indians, that's certain," said Herb. "Let's shake hands and show the world we're friends, Jimmy."
"Righto!" agreed his good-natured friend, and they laughingly shook hands.
"We'd better save our scrapping for Buck Looker and his friends," said Bob. "I suppose they'll be up to some kind of mischief as soon as we get back to school again. They seem never to learn by experience."
"They're too foolish and conceited to learn much," observed Joe. "They probably think they know all there is to know already."
"In spite of that, we may be able to teach them a trick or two," said Herb. "But whether you fellows know it or not, it's getting pretty late, so I think I'll go and hit the hay. Who's coming my way?"
"I suppose we might as well all beat it," returned Joe, rising. "If we don't see each other to-morrow, I suppose we'll all meet at the dear old high school on Monday morning. Three silent cheers, fellows."
"Consider them given," laughed Bob. "But we'll have plenty of fun, too, so why mind a little hard work?"
After hunting in odd corners for their caps, the boys finally found them all and departed gayly on their way, only slightly depressed by the imminence of the fall term at high school.
LEARNING TO SEND
"I've got two customers for those sets we wanted to sell," announced Bob, a few evenings later, when the radio boys had congregated at his house as usual. "It was so easy, that I'll bet we could sell all we make, if we wanted to."
"Who's going to buy them?" asked Joe.
"Dave Halley, who runs the barber shop near the station, wants one, and there's a big novelty store on the next block whose owner will take the other. I promised that we'd set the outfits up and show them how to work them."
"That's quick work, Bob," laughed Herb. "How did you come to land two customers so quickly?"
"I was getting a haircut in Dave's shop, and he told me that he was thinking of buying a good set, but hated to spend the money. So I told him that I could sell him a good practical set for quite a little less than it would cost him in a store, and he jumped at the offer. Then he told me about Hartmann, the owner of the new variety store. Hartmann wants to get one because he thinks it will draw trade. I went to see him as soon as Dave got through telling me how much dandruff I had and how much I needed some of his patent tonic. Mr. Hartmann was a little doubtful at first about buying a home made set, but I told him if he wasn't pleased with it he didn't need to pay us for it and we'd take it back. That seemed to satisfy him, so he said he'd buy it. It was dead easy."
"Well, that's certainly fine," said Joe, admiringly. "That will help a lot toward getting apparatus for the new sets."
"You're a hustler, Bob," said Jimmy. "I'd like to be one, but I guess I'm not built that way."
"It was more luck than anything else," disclaimed Bob. "Let's go down to the store after school to-morrow and pick out what we need. I want a couple of audion bulbs, and I suppose you fellows do, too. I want to price variable condensers like the one Doctor Dale brought us at Ocean Point last summer, too."
"We've got to keep busy if we want to keep ahead of some of the other fellows in this town," said Joe. "Lots of the fellows at High have got the radio fever bad, and are out to beat us at our own game. I guess we can show them where they get off, all right, but we may have to hustle some to do it. I heard Lon Beardsley at noon to-day boasting that he was going to be the first fellow in Clintonia to receive signals from Europe. I asked him what kind of set he intended to do it with, and he said he had been working on one all summer, and was putting the finishing touches to it now."
"He ought to have something pretty good, if he's been working on it that long," commented Herb. "If one of us had been working on a set all summer, I think we'd have had it done before this."
"Probably we would. But you've got to remember that we've had more experience at the game than Lon," Bob reminded him.
"It seems to me that we'd do better all to work on one big, crackerjack set than each to make a separate long distance set," said Herb. "In the first place, it's more fun working together. And then we could put our money together and get better equipment than we could the other way. What do you think?"
"I think it's a pretty good idea," said Jimmy. "You can hear just as much over one set as you can over four, as far as that goes."
"I was thinking of something like that myself," said Bob, slowly. "It would certainly cost us less, and, as Herb says, we'd probably have a better set in the end."
"It suits me all right," added Joe. "This is going to be a tough term at High, and with so much home work I don't know where I'd get the time to build a complicated set. It looks as though we'd be better off every way, doesn't it?"
"You always will be better off, if you follow my advice," said Herb, with his customary modesty. "You don't usually have sense enough to do it, though."
"We have too much sense, you mean," said Jimmy, scornfully. "This suggestion of yours was only an accident, Herb. Chances are you won't make another as good for the next year."
"I don't know that you're very famous for bright ideas, Jimmy, so where do you get off to criticize?" asked Herb.
"Huh! I've got an idea in my noddle right now that's worth half a dozen of yours."
"Prove it!" replied Herb, promptly. "What is this bright idea?"
"Well, you know that just about this time they cook nice, hot doughnuts down at Mattatuck's bakery. Delicious doughnuts! Um, yum!" and Jimmy's round countenance assumed a rapturous expression.
"And the idea was, that you'd go down there and blow the crowd to hot doughnuts, was it?" queried Joe.
"Blow, nothing!" exclaimed Jimmy. "We'll all chip in. But I don't mind going after them."
"The trouble is—can we trust you not to eat them all on the way back?" Bob laughed.
"Anybody that doesn't think so can go for his own doughnuts," replied Jimmy. "Kick in there, you hobos, and I'll be on my way. I'm getting hungrier every minute."
His friends, thus adjured, "kicked in," and Jimmy set off at a rate of speed much above his usual leisurely gait. The bakery was three or four blocks away, but Jimmy returned in a surprisingly short time with a large bag of tender doughnuts, still warm from the bakery.
"Wow!" exclaimed Joe, as Jimmy tore open the bag. "The sight of those doughnuts certainly makes a fellow feel hungry."
"Dig into them, fellows," was Jimmy's only comment, as he reached for one himself.
They all followed this example, and the pile of crisp brown doughnuts dwindled with surprising rapidity.
"Likely enough these will keep me awake half the night, but it's worth it," said Jimmy, with a sigh of contentment, as he finished the last crumb of his fourth doughnut. "I don't feel near as hungry as I did, anyway."
"I should hope that you didn't feel hungry at all, old greedy," laughed Joe. "I'm beginning to think that it's impossible to fill you up any more."
"Oh, lay off!" retorted Jimmy. "You Indians ate your full share, I notice."
"I guess we're all in the same boat," agreed Bob. "But now that we're fed up and feeling strong, how would you like to practice sending for awhile? I was just beginning to work up a little speed while we were at Ocean Point, but now I suppose I'm getting rusty again. Who's game to send? I'll bet nobody can send faster than I can receive."
"I'm willing to try it, anyway," said Joe, picking up a magazine. "I'll send right out of this magazine, so when you say 'stop' we'll be able to check up how much you've caught."
"All right, that's fair enough," agreed Bob. "Just wait a minute until I get a paper and pencil, then shoot as fast as you can."
Seating himself at the table, with a blank sheet of paper before him, Bob made ready to scribble at high speed, while Herb held a watch to time him. As for Jimmy, he was content to curl up on a sofa and act the part of self-appointed judge.
"Start sending as soon as you like, Joe," said, Jimmy. "I'm all ready for you. I'll bet I can fall asleep before you can send fifty words."
"I wouldn't take that bet, because I believe you can," replied Joe. "I'd be betting against your specialty, and there's no percentage in that, you know."
"Don't forget me, though, will you?" said Bob, in a resigned tone. "I don't want to hurry you, but any time you're both through that interesting conversation I'm waiting to begin."
"All right, then, here goes!" said Joe, and started sending as rapidly as he could with the practice key and buzzer.
Bob's pencil fairly flew over the paper, and for five minutes there was no sound in the room save the strident buzz of the sender and the whisper of Bob's pencil as it moved rapidly over the paper.
Then, "Time," called Herb, and Bob threw down the pencil.
"Whew!" he exclaimed, reaching for a handkerchief. "That's pretty hot work, if any one should ask you. Count 'em up, Herb, will you, and see how many there are? Seems to me there must be a million words there, more or less."
"Quite a little less," laughed Herb, after he had counted the words as requested. "But you've written ninety-one, which is mighty good."
"That's a little over sixteen a minute," said Bob. "It's not near as fast as I want to get, but it's fast enough to get a license, anyway."
"You bet it is!" exclaimed Herb. "And there are very few mistakes," he added, as he compared what Bob had written with the magazine text.
"Joe's getting to be some bear at sending, too," remarked Bob.
"Oh, the sending is a lot easier than receiving," said Joe. "But now, if you don't mind, Bob, you can send me something, and I'll see how fast I can take it. I'm afraid I can't come up to your record, though."
Joe did very well, however, averaging about fourteen words a minute.
Then Herb took a turn at sending and receiving, as did Jimmy, and they both did well. The boys found it all very fascinating, as well as useful, and discussed many plans for the future, although they did not intend to go in much for sending until they had perfected a first-class receiving set. They agreed before parting for the night that they would meet the following day after school at the radio supply store, where they could buy some audion bulbs and whatever other apparatus they might need.
A RATTLING FIGHT
"Hello, Bob! what kept you so late?" called Joe. He and Herb and Jimmy had been waiting some time for their friend, and were beginning to think that he must have forgotten the appointment made the previous night.
"It's a wonder I got here as soon as I did," replied Bob. His face was flushed, and there was an angry gleam in his eyes. "I thought I'd have to lick Carl Lutz before I could get here; but he didn't have quite nerve enough to start anything, as he was all alone. I only wish he had."
"What happened?" asked Joe. "Tell us about it."
"When I came out this afternoon, Carl was standing just outside the schoolyard gate, teasing that little Yates kid, whose brother was killed in the Argonne fighting. If Bill had been alive, you can bet Carl would have left the kid brother alone, but as it was, he was bullying him and trying to make him carry a big package for him."
"Just like the big coward!" exclaimed Joe, indignantly.
"You said it!" replied Bob. "Well, of course, I wasn't going to stand for anything like that, and I made him quit. He got so mad that I really thought he was going to swing at me, but he didn't quite have the nerve. He went off muttering something about getting the gang after me, and I took the Yates kid with me for a few blocks to make sure that he would get home all right."
"Good for you!" said Joe. "That's just like Carl, to pick on a kid that has nobody to fight his battles for him and is too small to fight his own. I'm glad you were around to take the kid's part."
"I suppose Carl will run right to Buck, now, and they'll hatch up some scheme to get even with you," remarked Herb.
"I don't care what they do," returned Bob. "It's too bad there's a bunch like that in this town. They're a regular nuisance."
"We've done all we could to teach them manners," said Joe. "I guess the trouble is, they don't want to learn."
"Don't let's bother even thinking about them," said Bob. "Come on in and we'll buy the stuff we need."
The four friends went on into the store, where they found several of their schoolmates, bent on the same mission as themselves. All exchanged greetings, and many good-natured jokes were bandied back and forth as they made their purchases.
"You fellows will have to step lively to get ahead of me," said Lon Beardsley, who was older than any of the radio boys and was in the senior class at High School. He was one of the brightest boys in his class, and the others knew that competition from him was not to be despised.
"Stepping fast is one of the best things we do," said, Bob, in answer to this friendly challenge. "You may be some speed, but we're not such slouches, either."
"Do your worst! We defy you!" cried Herb, striking a melodramatic attitude.
"All right," said Lon, laughing. "Remember, though, I've given you fair warning. I see you're buying vacuum tubes," he added, curiously. "You must be going in pretty deep, aren't you?"
"Ask us no questions and we'll tell you no lies," parried Bob. "Besides, we're not the only radio fans in this town, Lon. Maybe some one else will beat us all out."
"Oh, I'm not worrying," said the other, as he prepared to leave with his purchases. "Are you fellows going my way?"
"You'd better not wait for us," replied Bob. "We've got a few things to get yet. See you at school to-morrow."
"Righto!" said Lon, and departed, whistling cheerfully.
The radio boys started home soon afterward, The days were getting very short, and by the time they left the store the autumn evening was rapidly fading into night. There was a crisp tang in the air which, together with the smell of burning leaves, gave warning that winter was close at hand. The last gorgeous colors of an autumn sunset still tinged the western rim of the sky as the boys set out for home at a rapid pace.
Not far from their homes they struck off from the street through a vacant lot, following a path that served as a short cut. The lot was overgrown with weeds and high sunflower stalks, but the idea of an ambush never entered the boys' heads until suddenly they were assailed by a shower of stones, which sang viciously past their ears. Fortunately, it was too dark for their assailants to throw the missiles with any accuracy, although the boys were struck more than once.