HotFreeBooks.com
Ted and the Telephone
by Sara Ware Bassett
Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

He got no further for there was a stir outside, a sound of voices, and a snapping of dry twigs; and as Ted glanced through the broad frame of the doorway he saw to his amazement Mr. Clarence Fernald wheel up the incline just outside a rubber-tired chair in which sat Laurie.

"I declare if here isn't my grandson now!" exclaimed Mr. Fernald, bustling toward the entrance of the shack.

Ah, it needed no great perception on Ted's part to interpret the pride, affection, and eagerness of the words; in the tones of the elder man's voice rang echoes of adoration, hope, fear, and disappointment. The millowner, however, speedily put them all to rout by crying heartily:

"Well, well! This seems to be a Fernald reunion!"

"Grandfather! Are you here?" cried the boy in the chair, extending his thin hand with the vivid smile Ted so well remembered.

"Indeed I am! Young Turner and I were just speaking of you. I told him you were coming to see him some day."

Laurie glanced toward Ted.

"It is nice of you to let me come and visit you," he said, with easy friendliness. "What a pretty place you have and how gay the flowers are! And the river is beautiful! Our view of it from Pine Lea is not half so lovely as this."

"Perhaps you might like to sit here on the platform for a while," suggested Ted, coming forward rather shyly and smiling down into the lad's eyes. Laurie returned the smile with delightful candor.

"You're Ted Turner, aren't you?" inquired he. "They've told me about you and how many things you can do. I could not rest until I had seen the shack. Besides, Dad says you have some books on electricity; I want to see them. And I've brought you some of mine. They're in a package somewhere under my feet."

"That was mighty kind of you," answered Ted, as he stooped to secure the volumes.

"Not a bit. My tutor, Mr. Hazen, got them for me and some of them are corking—not at all dry and stupid as books often are. If you haven't seen them already, I know you'll like them."

How easily and naturally it all came about! Before they knew it, Mr. Fernald was talking, Mr. Clarence Fernald was talking, Laurie was talking, and Ted himself was talking. Sitting there so idly in the sunshine they joked, told stories, and watched the river as it crept lazily along, reflecting on its smooth surface the gold and azure of the June day. During the pauses they listened to the whispering music of the pines and drank in their sleepy fragrance. More than once Ted pinched himself to make certain that he was really awake. It all seemed so unbelievable; and yet, withal, there was something so simple and suitable about it.

By and by Mr. Clarence rose, stretched his arms, and began boyishly to skip stones across the stream; then Ted tried his skill; and presently, not to be outdone by the others, Grandfather Fernald cast aside his dignity and peeling off his coat joined in the sport.

How Laurie laughed, and how he clapped his hands when one of his grandfather's pebbles skimmed the surface of the water six times before it disappeared amid a series of widening ripples. After this they all were simply boys together, calling, shouting, and jesting with one another in good-humored rivalry. What use was it then ever again to attempt to be austere and unapproachable Fernalds? No use in the world!

Although Mr. Fernald, senior, mopped his brow and slipped back into his coat with a shadow of surprise when he came to and realized what he had been doing, he did not seem to mind greatly having lapsed from seventy years to seven. The fact that he had furnished Laurie with amusement was worth a certain loss of dignity.

Ah, it would have taken an outsider days, weeks, months, perhaps years to have broken through the conventionalities and beheld the Fernalds as Ted saw them that day. It was the magic of the sunshine, the sparkle of the creeping river, the mysterious spell of the pines that had wrought the enchantment. Perhaps, too, the memory of his Vermont boyhood had risen freshly to Grandfather Fernald's mind.

When the shadows lengthened and the glint of gold faded from the river, they went indoors and Mr. Laurie was wheeled about that he might inspect every corner of the little house of which he had heard so much. This he did with the keenest delight and it was only after both his father and his grandfather had promised to bring him again that he could be persuaded to be carried back to Pine Lea. As he disappeared among the windings of the trees, he waved his hand to Ted and called:

"I'll see you some day next week, Ted. Mr. Hazen, my tutor, shall bring me round here some afternoon when you have finished work. I suppose you don't get through much before five, do you?"

"No, I don't."

"Oh, any time you want to see Ted I guess he can be let off early," cried both Mr. Fernald and Mr. Clarence in one breath.

Then as Mr. Clarence pushed the wheel-chair farther into the dusk of the pines, Mr. Fernald turned toward Ted and added in an undertone:

"It's done the lad good to come. I haven't seen him in such high spirits for days. We'll fix things up with Wharton so that whenever he fancies to come here you can be on hand. The poor boy hasn't many pleasures and he sees few persons of his own age."



CHAPTER VII

MR. LAURIE

The visits of Laurie during the following two weeks became very frequent; and such pleasure did they afford him that orders were issued for Ted Turner to knock off work each day at four o'clock and return to the shack, where almost invariably he found his new acquaintance awaiting him. It was long since Laurie Fernald had had a person of his own age to talk with. In fact, he had never before seen a lad whose friendship he desired. Most boys were so well and strong that they had no conception of what it meant not to be so, and their very robustness and vitality overwhelmed a personality as sensitively attuned as was that of Laurie Fernald. He shrank from their pity, their blundering sympathy, their patronage.

But in Ted Turner he immediately felt he had nothing to dread. He might have been a Marathon athlete, so far as any hint to the contrary went. Ted appeared never to notice his disability or to be conscious of any difference in their physical equipment; and when, as sometimes happened, he stooped to arrange a pillow, or lift the wheel-chair over the threshold, he did it so gently and yet in such a matter-of-fact manner that one scarcely noticed it. They were simply eager, alert, bubbling, interested boys together, and as the effect of the friendship showed itself in Laurie's shining eyes, all the Fernalds encouraged it.

"Why, that young Turner is doing Laurie more good than a dozen doctors!" asserted Grandfather Fernald. "If he did no work on the farm at all, Ted would be worth his wages. Money can't pay for what he has done already. I'm afraid Laurie has been missing young friends more than we realized. He never complains and perhaps we did not suspect how lonely he was."

Mr. Clarence nodded.

"Older people are pretty stupid about children sometimes, I guess," said he sadly. "Well, he has Ted Turner now and certainly he is a splendid boy for him to be with. Laurie's tutor, Mr. Hazen, likes him tremendously. What a blessing it is that Wharton stumbled on him and brought him up here. Had we searched the countryside I doubt if we could have found any one Laurie would have liked so much. He doesn't care especially for strangers."

With the Fernald's sanction behind the friendship, and both Laurie's tutor and his doctor urging it on, you may be sure it thrived vigorously. The boys were naturally companionable and now, with every barrier out of the way, and every fostering influence provided, the two soon found themselves on terms of genuine affection.

If Laurie went for a motor ride Saturday afternoon, Ted must go, too; if he had a new book, Ted must share it, and when he was not as well as usual, or it was too stormy for him to be carried to the shack, nothing would do but Ted Turner must be summoned to Pine Lea to brighten the dreariness of the day. Soon the servants came to know the newcomer and understand that he was a privileged person in the household. Laurie's mother, a pretty Southern woman, welcomed him kindly and it was not long before the two were united in a deep and affectionate conspiracy which placed them on terms of the greatest intimacy.

"Laurie isn't quite so well this afternoon, Ted," Mrs. Fernald would say. "Don't let him get too excited or talk too much." Or sometimes it was, "Laurie had a bad night last night and is dreadfully discouraged to-day. Do try and cheer him up."

Not infrequently Mr. Hazen would voice an appeal:

"I haven't been able to coax Laurie to touch his French lesson this morning. Don't you want to see if you can't get him started on it? He'll do anything for you."

And when Ted did succeed in getting the lesson learned, and not only that but actually made an amusing game out of it, how grateful Mr. Hazen was!

For with all his sweetness Laurie Fernald had a stubborn streak in his nature which the volume of attention he had received had only served to accentuate. He was not really spoiled but there were times when he would do as he pleased, whether or no; and when such a mood came to the surface, no one but Ted Turner seemed to have any power against it. Therefore, when it occasionally chanced that Laurie refused to see the doctor, or would not take his medicine, or insisted on getting up when told to lie in bed, Ted was made an ally and urged to promote the thing that made for the invalid's health and well-being.

After being admitted into the family circle on such confidential terms, it followed that absolute equality was accorded Ted and he came and went freely, both at Aldercliffe and Pine Lea. He read with Laurie, lunched with him, followed his lessons; and listened to his plans, his pleasures, and his disappointments. Perhaps, too, Laurie Fernald liked and respected him the more that he had duties to perform and therefore was not always free to come at his beck and call as did everybody else.

"I shan't be able to get round to see you to-day, old chap," Ted would explain over the telephone. "There is a second crop of peas to plant in the further lot and as Mr. Stevens is short of men, I'm going to duff in and help, even if it isn't my job. Of course I want to do my bit when they are in a pinch. I'll see you to-morrow."

And although Laurie grumbled a good deal, he recognized the present need, and becoming interested in the matter in spite of himself, wished to hear the following day all about the planting. That he should inquire greatly delighted both his father and his grandfather who had always been anxious that he should come into touch with the management of the estates. Often they had tried to talk to him of crops and gardens, plowing and planting, but to the subject the heir had lent merely a deaf ear. Now with Ted Turner's advent had come a new influence, the testimony of one who was practically interested in agricultural problems and thought farming anything but dull. The boy was genuinely eager that the work of the men should be a success and therefore when he hoped for fair weather for the haying and it seemed to make a real difference to him whether it was pleasant or not, how could Laurie help being eager that it should not rain until the fields were mowed and the crop garnered into the great barns? Or when Ted was worrying about the pests that invaded the garden, one wouldn't have been a true friend not to ask how the warfare was progressing.

Before Laurie knew it, he had learned much about the affairs of the estates and had become awake to the obstacles good farmers encounter in their strife with soil and weather conditions. As a result his outlook broadened, he became less introspective and more alive to the concerns of those about him; and he gained a new respect for his father's and grandfather's employees. One had much less time to be depressed and discouraged when one had so many things to think of.

Sometimes Ted brought in seeds and showed them; and afterward a slender plant that had sprouted; and then Mr. Hazen would join in and tell the two boys of other plants,—strange ones that grew in novel ways. Or perhaps the talk led to the chemicals the gardeners were mixing with the soil and wandered off into science. Every topic seemed to reach so far and led into such fascinating mazes of knowledge! What a surprising place the world was!

Of course, had the Fernalds so desired they could have relieved Ted of all his farming duties, and indeed they were sorely tempted at times to do so; but when they saw how much better it was to keep the boy's visits a novelty instead of making of them a commonplace event, and sensed how much knowledge he was bringing into the invalid's room, they decided to let matters progress as they were going. They did, however, arrange occasional holidays for the lad and many a jolly outing did Ted have in consequence. Had they displayed less wisdom they might have wrecked the friendship altogether. As it was they strengthened it daily and the little shack among the pines became to both Ted and to Laurie the most loved spot in the world. Frequently the servants from Pine Lea surprised the boys by bringing them their luncheon there; and sometimes Mrs. Fernald herself came hither with her tea-basket, and the entire family sat about before the great stone fireplace and enjoyed a picnic supper.

It was after one of these camping teas that Mr. Clarence Fernald bought for Laurie a comfortable Adirondack canoe luxuriously fitted up with cushions. The stream before the boathouse was broad and contained little or no current except down toward Pine Lea, where it narrowed into rapids that swept over the dam at Freeman's Falls. Therefore if one kept along the edges of the upper part of the river, there was no danger and the canoe afforded a delightful recreation. Both the elder Fernalds and Mr. Hazen rowed well and Ted pulled an exceptionally strong oar for a boy of his years. Hence they took turns at propelling the boat and soon Laurie was as much at home on the pillows in the stern as he was in his wheel-chair.

He greatly enjoyed the smooth, jarless motion of the craft; and often, even when it was anchored at the float, he liked to be lifted into it and lie there rocking with the wash of the river. It made a change which he declared rested him, and it was through this simple and apparently harmless pleasure that a terrible catastrophe took place.

On a fine warm afternoon Mr. Hazen and Laurie went over to the shack to meet Ted who usually returned from work shortly after four o'clock. The door of the little camp was wide open when they arrived but their host was nowhere to be seen. This circumstance did not trouble them, however, for on the days when Laurie was expected Ted always left the boathouse unlocked. What did disconcert them and make Laurie impatient was to discover that through some error in reckoning they were almost an hour too early.

"Our clocks must have been ahead of time," fretted the boy. "We shall have to hang round here the deuce of a while."

"Wouldn't you like me to wheel you back through the grove?" questioned the tutor.

"Oh, there's no use in that. Suppose you get out the pillows and help me into the boat. I'll lie there a while and rest."

"All right."

With a ready smile Mr. Hazen plunged into the shack and soon returned laden with the crimson cushions, which he arranged in the stern of the canoe with greatest care. Afterward he picked Laurie up in his arms as if he had been a feather and carried him to the boat.

"How's that?" he asked, when the invalid was settled.

"Fine! Great, thanks! You're a wonder with pillows, Mr. Hazen; you always get them just right," replied the lad. "Now if I only had my book——"

"I could go and get it."

"Oh, no. Don't bother. Ted will be here before long, won't he? What time is it?"

"About half-past three."

"Only half-past three! Great Scott! I thought it must be nearly four by this time. Then I have quite a while to wait, don't I? I don't see why you got me over here so early."

"I don't either," returned Mr. Hazen pleasantly. "I'm afraid my watch must have been wrong."

Laurie moved restlessly on the pillows. He had passed a wretched night and was worn and nervous in consequence.

"I guess perhaps you'd better run back to the house for my book," remarked he presently. "I shall be having a fit of the blues if I have to hang round here so long with nothing to do."

"I'm perfectly willing to go back," Mr. Hazen said. "But are you sure——"

"Oh, I'm all right," cut in the boy sharply. "I guess I can sit in a boat by myself for a little while."

"Still, I'm not certain that I ought to——"

"Leave me? Nonsense! What do you think I am, Hazen? A baby? What on earth is going to happen to me, I'd like to know?"

"Nevertheless I don't like to——"

"Oh, do stop arguing. It makes me tired. Cut along and get the book, can't you? Why waste all this time fussing?" burst out the invalid fretfully. "How am I ever going to get well, or think I am well, if you keep reminding me every minute that I am a helpless wreck? It is enough to discourage anybody. Why can't you treat me like other people? If you chose to sit in a boat alone for half an hour nobody'd throw a fit. Why can't I?"

"I suppose you can," retorted the tutor unwillingly. "Only you know we never do——"

"Leave me? Don't I know it? The way people tag at my heels drives me almost crazy sometimes. You wouldn't like to have some one dogging your footsteps from morning until night, would you?"

"I'm afraid I shouldn't," admitted Mr. Hazen.

For an interval Laurie was silent; then he glanced up with one of his swift, appealing smiles.

"There, there, Mr. Hazen!" he said with winning sincerity. "Forgive me. I didn't mean to be cross. I do get so fiendishly impatient sometimes. How you can keep on being so kind to me I don't see. Do please go and get the book, like a good chap. It's on the chair in my room or else on the library table. You'll find it somewhere. 'Treasure Island,' you know. I had to leave it in the middle of a most exciting chapter and I am crazy to know how it came out."

Reluctantly Mr. Hazen moved away. It was very hard to resist Laurie Fernald when he was in his present mood; besides, the young tutor was genuinely fond of his charge and would far rather gratify his wishes than refuse him anything. Therefore he hurried off through the grove, resolving to return as fast as ever he could.

In the meantime Laurie threw his head back on the pillows and looked up at the sky. How blue it was and how lazily the clouds drifted by! Was any spot on earth so still as this? Why, you could not hear a sound! He yawned and closed his eyes, the fatigue of his sleepless night overcoming him. Soon he was lost in dreams.

* * * * *

He never could tell just what it was that aroused him; perhaps it was a premonition of danger, perhaps the rocking of the boat. At any rate he was suddenly broad awake to find himself drifting out into the middle of the stream. In some way the boat must have become unfastened and the rising breeze carried it away from shore. Not that it mattered very much now. The thing that was of consequence was that he was helplessly drifting down the river with no means of staying his progress. Soon he would be caught in the swirl of the current and then there would be no help for him. What was he to do?

Must he lie there and be borne along until he was at last carried over the dam at his father's mills?

He saw no escape from such a fate! There was not a soul in sight. The banks of the river were entirely deserted, for the workmen were far away, toiling in the fields and gardens, and they could not hear him even were he to shout his loudest. As for Mr. Hazen, he was probably still at Pine Lea searching for the book and wouldn't be back for some time.

The boy's heart sank and he quivered with fear. Must he be drowned there all alone? Was there no one to aid him?

Thoroughly terrified, he began to scream. But his screams only reechoed from the silent river banks. No one heard and no one came.

He was in the current of the stream now and moving rapidly along. Faster and faster he went. Yes, he was going to be swept on to Freeman's Falls, going to be carried over the dam and submerged beneath that hideous roar of water that foamed down on the jagged rocks in a boiling torrent of noise and spray. Nobody would know his plight until the catastrophe was over; and even should any of the mill hands catch sight of his frail craft as it sped past it would be too late for them to help him. Before a boat could be launched and rescuers summoned he would be over the falls.

Yes, he was going to die, to die!

Again he screamed, this time less with a thought of calling for help than as a protest against the fate awaiting him. To his surprise he heard an answering shout and a second later saw Ted Turner dash through the pines, pause on the shore, and scan the stream. Another instant and the boy had thrown off his coat and shoes and was in the water, swimming toward the boat with quick, overhand strokes.



"Keep perfectly still, Laurie!" he panted. "You're all right. Just don't get fussed."

Yet cheering as were the words, they could not conceal the fact that Ted was frightened, terribly frightened.

The canoe gained headway with the increasing current. It seemed now to leap along. And in just the proportion that its progress was accelerated, the speed of the pursuer lessened. It seemed as if Ted would never overtake his prize. How they raced one another, the bobbing craft and the breathless boy! Ted Turner was a strong swimmer but the canoe with its solitary occupant was so light that it shot over the surface of the water like a feather.

Was the contest to be a losing one, after all?

Laurie, looking back at the wake of the boat, saw Ted's arm move slower and slower and suddenly a wave of realization of the other's danger came upon him. They might both be drowned,—two of them instead of one!

"Give it up, old man!" he called bravely. "Don't try any more. You may go down yourself and I should have to die with that misery on my soul. You've done your best. It's all right. Just let me go! I'm not afraid."

There was no answer from the swimmer but he did not stop. On the contrary, he kept stubbornly on, plowing with mechanical persistence through the water. Then at length he, too, was in the current and was gaining surely and speedily. Presently he was only a length away from the boat—he was nearer—nearer! His arm touched the stern and Laurie Fernald caught his hand in a firm grip. There he hung, breathing heavily.

"I've simply got to stop a second or two and get my wind," said he. "Then we'll start back."

"Ted!"

"There are no oars, of course, but I can tie the rope around my body or perhaps catch it between my teeth. The canoe isn't heavy, you know. After we get out of the current and into quiet water, we shall have no trouble. We can cut straight across the stream and the distance to shore won't be great. I can do it all right."

And do it he did, just how neither of the lads could have told.

Nevertheless he did contrive to bring the boat and Laurie with it to a place of safety. Shoulder-deep in the water stood the frenzied Mr. Hazen who had plunged in to meet them and drag them to land. They had come so far down the river that when the canoe was finally beached they found themselves opposite the sweeping lawns of Pine Lea.

Ted and the tutor were chilled and exhausted and Laurie was weak from fright and excitement. It did not take long, you may be sure, to summon help and bundle the three into a motor car which carried them to Pine Lea. Once there the invalid was put to bed and Mr. Hazen and Ted equipped with dry garments.

"I shall get the deuce from the Fernalds for this!" commented the young tutor gloomily to Ted. "If it had not been for you, that boy would certainly have been drowned. Ugh! It makes me shudder to think of it! Had anything happened to him, I believe his father and grandfather would have lynched me."

"Oh, Laurie is going to take all the blame," replied Ted, making an attempt to comfort the dejected young man. "He told me so himself."

"That's all very well," rejoined Mr. Hazen, "but it won't help much. I shouldn't have left him. I had no right to do it, no matter what he said. I suppose the boat wasn't securely tied. It couldn't have been. Then the breeze came up. Goodness knows how the thing actually happened. I can't understand it now. But the point is, it did. Jove! I'm weak as a rag! I guess there can't be much left of you, Ted."

"Oh, I'm all right now," protested Ted. "What got me was the fright of it. I didn't mind the swimming, for I've often crossed the river and back during my morning plunge. My work keeps me in pretty good training. But to-day I got panicky and my breath gave out. I was so afraid I wouldn't overtake the boat before——"

"I know!" interrupted the tutor with a shiver. "Well, it is all over now, thank God! You were a genuine hero and I shall tell the Fernalds so."

"Stuff! Don't tell them at all. What's the use of harrowing their feelings all up now that the thing is past and done with?"

"But Laurie—he is all done up and they will be at a loss to account for it," objected Mr. Hazen. "Besides, the servants saw us come ashore and have probably already spread the story all over the place. And anyhow, I believe in being perfectly aboveboard. You do yourself, you know that. So I shall tell them the whole thing precisely as it happened. Afterward they'll probably fire me."

"No, they won't! Cheer up!"

"I deserve to be fired, too," went on the young tutor without heeding the interruption. "I ought not to have left Laurie an instant."

"Perhaps not. But you won't do it again."

"You bet I won't!" cried Mr. Hazen boyishly.

It subsequently proved that Mr. Hazen knew far more of his employers than did Ted, for after the story was told only the pleas of the young rescuer availed to soften the sentence imposed.

"He's almighty sorry, Mr. Fernald," asserted Ted Turner. "Don't tip him out. Give him a second try. He won't ever do it again."

"W—e—ll, for your sake I will," Mr. Clarence said, yielding reluctantly to the pleading of the lad who sat opposite. "It would be hard for me to deny you anything after what you've done. You've saved our boy's life. We never shall forget it, never. But Hazen can thank you for his job—not me."

And so, as a result of Ted's intercession, Mr. Hazen stayed on. In fact, as Mr. Clarence said, they could deny the lad nothing. It seemed as if the Fernalds never could do enough for him. Grandfather Fernald gave him a new watch with an illuminated face; and quite unknown to any one, Laurie's father opened a bank account to his credit, depositing a substantial sum as a "starter."

But the best of the whole thing was that Laurie turned to Ted with a deeper and more earnest affection and the foundation was laid for a strong and enduring friendship.



CHAPTER VIII

DIPLOMACY AND ITS RESULTS

Laurie, Ted, and Mr. Hazen were in the shack on a Saturday afternoon not long after the adventure on the river. A hard shower had driven them ashore and forced them to scramble into the shelter of the camp at the water's edge. How the rain pelted down on the low roof! It seemed as if an army were bombarding the little hut! Within doors, however, all was tight, warm, and cosy and on the hearth before a roaring fire the damp coats were drying.

In the meantime the two boys and the young tutor had dragged out some coils of wire and a pair of amateur telephone transmitters which Ted had concocted while in school and for amusement were trying to run from one end of the room to the other a miniature telephone. Thus far their attempts had not been successful and Ted was becoming impatient.

"We got quite a fair result at the laboratory after the things were adjusted," commented he. "I don't see why we can't work the same stunt here."

"I'm afraid we haven't put time enough into it yet," replied Mr. Hazen. "Don't you remember how long Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, experimented before he got results?"

Laurie, who was busy shortening a bit of wire, glanced up with interest.

"I can't for the life of me understand how he knew what he wanted to do, can you?" he mused. "Think of starting out to make something perfectly new—a machine for which you had no pattern! I can imagine working out improvements on something already on the market. But to produce something nobody had ever seen before—that beats me! How did he ever get the idea in the first place?"

The tutor smiled.

"Mr. Bell did not set out to make a telephone, Laurie," he answered. "What he was aiming to do was to perfect a harmonic telegraph, a scheme to which he had been devoting a good deal of his time. He and his father had studied carefully the miracle of speech—how the sounds of the human voice were produced and carried to others—and as a result of this training Mr. Bell had become an expert teacher of the deaf. He was also professor of Vocal Physiology at Boston University where he had courses in lip reading, or a system of visible speech, which his father had evolved. This work kept him busy through the day so whatever experimenting he did with sounds and their vibrations had to be done at night."

"So he stole time for electrical work, too, did he?" observed Ted.

"I'm afraid that his interest in sound vibration caused him a sorry loss of sleep," said the tutor. "But certainly his later results were worth the amount of rest he sacrificed. One of the first agencies he employed to work upon was a piano. Have you ever tried singing a note into this instrument when the sustaining pedal is depressed? Do it some time and notice what happens. You will find that the string tuned to the pitch of your voice will start vibrating while all the others remain quiet. You can even go farther and try the experiment of uttering several different pitches, if you want to, and the corresponding strings will give back your notes, each one singling out its own particular vibration from the air. Now the results reached in these experiments with the piano strings meant a great deal more to Alexander Graham Bell than they would have meant to you or to me. In the first place, his training had given him a very acute ear; and in the next place, he was able to see in the facts presented a significance which an unskilled listener would not have detected. He found that this law of sympathetic vibration could be repeated electrically and, if desired, from a distance by means of electromagnets placed under a group of piano strings; and if afterward a circuit was made by connecting the magnets with an electric battery, you immediately had the same singing of the keys and a similar searching of each for its own pitch."

"I'd like to try that trick some time," exclaimed Ted, leaning forward eagerly.

"So should I!" echoed Laurie.

"I think we could quite easily make the experiment if Laurie's mother would not object to our rigging up an attachment to her piano," Mr. Hazen responded.

"Oh, Mater wouldn't mind," answered Laurie confidently. "She never minds anything I want to do."

"I know she is a very long-suffering person," smiled the tutor. "Do you recall the white mice you had once, Laurie, and how they got loose and ran all over the house?"

"And the chameleons! And the baby alligator!" chuckled Laurie. "Mother did get her back up over that alligator. She didn't like meeting him in the hall unexpectedly. But she wouldn't mind a thing that wasn't alive."

"You call an electric wire dead then," said Ted with irony.

"Well, no—not precisely," grinned Laurie. "Still I'm certain Mater would be less scared of it than she would of a mouse, even if the wire could kill her and the mouse couldn't."

"Let's return to Mr. Bell and his piano strings," Ted remarked, after the laughter had subsided.

Mr. Hazen's brow contracted thoughtfully and in his leisurely fashion he presently replied:

"You can see, can't you, that if an interrupter caused the electric current to be made and broken at intervals, the number of times it interrupted per second would, for example, correspond to the rate of vibration in one of the strings? In other words, that would be the only string that would answer. Now if you sang into the piano, you would have the rhythmic impulse that set the piano strings vibrating coming directly through the air, while with the battery the impulse would come through the wire and the electromagnets instead. In each case, however, the principle involved would be the same."

"I can see that," said Ted quickly. "Can't you, Laurie?"

His chum nodded.

"Now," continued Mr. Hazen, "just as it was possible to start two or more different notes of the piano echoing varying pitches, so it is possible to have several sets of these make-and-break or intermittent currents start their corresponding strings to answering. In this way one could send several messages at once, each message being toned to a different pitch. All that would be necessary would be to have differently keyed interrupters. This was the principle of the harmonic telegraph at which Mr. Bell was toiling outside the hours of his regular work and through which he hoped to make himself rich and famous. His intention was to break up the various sounds into the dots and dashes of the Morse code and make one wire do what it had previously taken several wires to perform."

"It seems simple enough," speculated Laurie.

"It was not so simple to carry out," declared Mr. Hazen. "Of course, as I told you, Mr. Bell could not give his entire time to it. He had his teaching both at Boston University and elsewhere to do. Nor was he wholly free at the Saunders's, with whom he boarded at Salem, for he was helping the Saunders's nephew, who was deaf, to study."

"And in return poor Mrs. Saunders had to offer up her piano for experiments, I suppose," Ted observed.

"Well, perhaps at first—but not for long," was Mr. Hazen's reply. "Mr. Bell soon abandoned piano strings and in their place resorted to flat strips of springy steel, keying them to different pitches by varying their length. One end of these strips he fastened to a pole of an electromagnet and the other he extended over the other pole and left free."

"And the current interrupters?" queried Ted.

"Those current interrupters are the things which have since become known as transmitters," explained Mr. Hazen. "Those Mr. Bell made all alike except that in each one of them were springs kept in constant vibration by a magnet or point of metal placed above each spring so that the spring would touch it at every vibration, thus making and breaking the electric current the same number of times per second that corresponded to the pitch of the piece of steel. By tuning the springs of the receivers to the same pitch with the transmitters and running a wire between them equipped with signalling keys and a battery, Bell reasoned he could send as many messages at one time as there were pitches."

"Did he get it to work?" Laurie asked.

"Mr. Bell didn't, no," replied the tutor. "What sounded logical enough on paper was not so easy to put into practise. The idea has been carried out successfully, however, since then. But Mr. Bell unfortunately had no end of troubles with his scheme, and we all may thank these difficulties for the telephone, for had his harmonic telegraph gone smoothly we might not and probably would not have had Bell's other and far more important invention."

"The discovery of the telephone was a 'happen,' then," Ted ventured.

"More or less of a happen," was the reply. "Of course, the intelligent recognition of the law behind it was not a happen; nor was the patient and persistent toil that went into the perfecting of the instrument a matter of chance. Alexander Graham Bell had the genius to recognize the value and significance of the truth on which he stumbled and turn it to practical purposes. Many another might perhaps have heard the self-same sounds that came to him over that reach of wire and, detecting nothing unusual in the whining vibrations, have passed them by. But to Mr. Bell they were magic music, the sesame to a new country. Strangely enough, too, it was the good luck of a boy not much older than Ted to share with the discoverer the wonderful secret."

"How?" demanded both Laurie and Ted in a breath.

"I can't tell you that story to-day," Mr. Hazen expostulated. "It would take much too long. We must give over talking and put our minds on this telephone of our own which does not seem to be making any great progress. I begin to be afraid we haven't the proper outfit."

As he spoke, a shadow crossed the window and in another instant Mr. Clarence Fernald poked his head in at the door.

"What are you three conspirators up to?" inquired he. "You look as if you were making bombs or some other deadly thing."

"We are making a telephone, Dad, and it won't work," was Laurie's answer.

Mr. Fernald smiled with amusement.

"You seem to have plenty of wire," he said. "In fact, if I were permitted to offer a criticism, I should say you had more wire than anything else. How lengthy a circuit do you expect to cover?"

"Oh, we're not ambitious," Laurie replied. "If we can cross the room we shall be satisfied, although now that you mention it, perhaps it wouldn't be such a bad thing if it could run from my room at home over here." He eyed his father furtively. "Then when I happened to have to stay in bed I could talk to Ted and he could cheer me up."

"So he could!" echoed Mr. Fernald in noncommittal fashion.

"It would be rather nice, too, for Mr. Wharton," went on the diplomat with his sidelong glance still fixed on his father. "He must sometimes wish he could reach Ted without bothering to send a man way over here. And then there are the Turners! Of course a telephone to the shack would give them no end of pleasure. They must miss Ted and often want to speak with him."

He waited but there was no response from Mr. Fernald.

"Ted might be sick, too; or have an accident and wish to get help and——"

At last the speaker was rewarded by having the elder man turn quickly upon him.

"In other words, you young scoundrel, you want me to install a telephone in this shack for the joy and delight of you two electricians who can't seem to do it for yourselves," said Mr. Fernald gruffly.

"Now however do you suppose he guessed it?" exclaimed Laurie delightedly, as he turned with mock gravity to Ted. "Isn't he the mind reader?"

It was evident that Laurie Fernald thoroughly understood his father and that the two were on terms of the greatest affection.

"Did I say I wanted a telephone?" he went on meekly.

"You said everything else," was the grim retort.

"Did I? Well, well!" commented the boy mischievously. "I needn't have taken so much trouble after all, need I? But every one isn't such a Sherlock Holmes as you are, Dad."

Mr. Fernald's scowl vanished and he laughed.

"What a young wheedler you are!" observed he, playfully rumpling up his son's fair hair. "You could coax every cent I have away from me if I did not lock my money up in the bank. I really think, though, that a telephone here in the hut would be an excellent idea. But what I don't see is why you don't do the job yourselves."

"Oh, we could do the work all right if there wasn't danger of our infringing the patent of the telephone company," was Laurie's impish reply. "If we should get into a lawsuit there would be no end of trouble, you know. I guess we'd much better have the thing installed in the regular way."

"I guess so too!" came from his father.

"You'll really have it put in, Dad?" cried Laurie.

"Sure!"

"That will be bully, corking!" Laurie declared. "You're mighty good, Dad."

"Pooh! Nonsense!" his father protested, as he shot a quick glance of tenderness toward the boy. "A telephone over here will be a useful thing for us all. I may want to call Ted up myself sometimes. We never can tell when an emergency may arise."

Within the following week the telephone was in place and although Ted had not minded his seclusion, or thought he had not, he suddenly found that the instrument gave him a very comfortable sense of nearness to his family and to the household at Pine Lea. He and Laurie chattered like magpies over the wire and were far worse, Mrs. Fernald asserted, than any two gossipy boarding-school girls. Moreover, Ted was now able to speak each day with his father at the Fernald shipping rooms and by this means keep in closer touch with his family. As for Mr. Wharton, he marvelled that a telephone to the shack had not been put in at the outset.

"It is not a luxury," he insisted. "It's a necessity! An indispensable part of the farm equipment!"

Certainly in the days to come it proved its worth!



CHAPTER IX

THE STORY OF THE FIRST TELEPHONE

"I am going down to Freeman's Falls this afternoon to get some rubber tape," Ted remarked to Laurie, as the two boys and the tutor were eating a picnic lunch in Ted's cabin one Saturday.

"Oh, make somebody else do your errand and stay here," Laurie begged. "Anybody can buy that stuff. Some of the men must be going to the Falls. Ask Wharton to make them do your shopping."

"Perhaps Ted had other things to attend to," ventured Mr. Hazen.

"No, I hadn't," was the prompt reply.

"In that case I am sure any of the men would be glad to get whatever you please," the tutor declared.

"Save your energy, old man," put in Laurie. "Electrical supplies are easy enough to buy when you know what you want."

"They are now," Mr. Hazen remarked, with a quiet smile, "but they have not always been. In fact, it was not so very long ago that it was almost impossible to purchase either books on electricity or electrical stuff of any sort. People's knowledge of such matters was so scanty that little was written about them; and as for shops of this type—why, they were practically unknown."

"Where did persons get what they wanted?" asked Ted with surprise.

"Nobody wanted electrical materials," laughed Mr. Hazen. "There was no call for them. Even had the shops supplied them, nobody would have known what to do with them."

"But there must have been some who would," the boy persisted. "Where, for example, did Mr. Bell get his things?"

"Practically all Mr. Bell's work was done at a little shop on Court Street, Boston," answered Mr. Hazen. "This shop, however, was nothing like the electrical supply shops we have now. Had Alexander Graham Bell entered its doors and asked, for instance, for a telephone transmitter, he would have found no such thing in stock. On the contrary, the shop consisted of a number of benches where men or boys experimented or made crude electrical contrivances that had previously been ordered by customers. The shop was owned by Charles Williams, a clever mechanical man, who was deeply interested in electrical problems of all sorts. In a tiny showcase in the front part of the store were displayed what few textbooks on electricity he had been able to gather together and these he allowed the men in his employ to read at lunch time and to use freely in connection with their work. He was a person greatly beloved by those associated with him and he had the rare wisdom to leave every man he employed unhampered, thereby making individual initiative the law of his business."

The tutor paused, then noticing that both the boys were listening intently, he continued:

"If a man had an idea that had been carefully thought out, he was given free rein to execute it. Tom Watson, one of the boys at the shop, constructed a miniature electric engine, and although the feat took both time and material, there was no quarrel because of that. The place was literally a workshop, and so long as there were no drones in it and the men toiled intelligently, Mr. Williams had no fault to find. You can imagine what valuable training such a practical environment furnished. Nobody nagged at the men, nobody drove them on. Each of the thirty or forty employees pegged away at his particular task, either doing work for a specific customer or trying to perfect some notion of his own. If you were a person of ideas, it was an ideal conservatory in which to foster them."

"Gee! I'd have liked the chance to work in a place like that!" Ted sighed.

"It would not have been a bad starter, I assure you," agreed Mr. Hazen. "At that time there were, as I told you, few such shops in the country; and this one, simple and crude as it was, was one of the largest. There was another in Chicago which was bigger and perhaps more perfectly organized; but Williams's shop was about as good as any and certainly gave its men an excellent all-round education in electrical matters. Many of them went out later and became leaders in the rapidly growing world of science and these few historic little shops thus became the ancestors of our vast electrical plants."

"It seems funny to think it all started from such small beginnings, doesn't it," mused Laurie thoughtfully.

"It certainly is interesting," Mr. Hazen replied. "And if it interests us in this far-away time, think what it must have meant to the pioneers to witness the marvels half a century brought forth and look back over the trail they had blazed. For it was a golden era of discovery, that period when the new-born power of electricity made its appearance; and because Williams's shop was known to be a nursery for ideas, into it flocked every variety of dreamer. There were those who dreamed epoch-making dreams and eventually made them come true; and there were those who merely saw visions too impractical ever to become realities. To work amid this mecca of minds must have been not only an education in science but in human nature as well. Every sort of crank who had gathered a wild notion out of the blue meandered into Williams's shop in the hope that somebody could be found there who would provide either the money or the labor to further his particular scheme.

"Now in this shop," went on Mr. Hazen, "there was, as I told you, a young neophyte by the name of Thomas Watson. Tom had not found his niche in life. He had tried being a clerk, a bookkeeper, and a carpenter and none of these several occupations had seemed to fit him. Then one fortunate day he happened in at Williams's shop and immediately he knew this was the place where he belonged. He was a boy of mechanical tastes who had a real genius for tools and machinery. He was given a chance to turn castings by hand at five dollars a week and he took the job eagerly."

"Think how a boy would howl at working for that now," Laurie exclaimed.

"No doubt there were boys who would have howled then," answered Mr. Hazen, "although in those days young fellows expected to work hard and receive little pay until they had learned their trade. Perhaps the youthful Mr. Watson had the common sense to cherish this creed; at any rate, there was not a lazy bone in his body, and as there were no such things to be had as automatic screw machines, he went vigorously to work making the castings by hand, trying as he did so not to blind his eyes with the flying splinters of metal."

"Then what happened?" demanded Laurie.

"Well, Watson stuck at his job and in the meantime gleaned right and left such scraps of practical knowledge as a boy would pick up in such a place. By the end of his second year he had had his finger in many pies and had worked on about every sort of electrical contrivance then known: call bells, annunciators, galvanometers; telegraph keys, sounders, relays, registers, and printing telegraph instruments. Think what a rich experience his two years of apprenticeship had given him!"

"You bet!" ejaculated Ted appreciatively.

"Now as Tom Watson was not only clever but was willing to take infinite pains with whatever he set his hand to, never stinting nor measuring his time or strength, he became a great favorite with those who came to the shop to have different kinds of experimental apparatus made. Many of the ideas brought to him to be worked out came from visionaries who had succeeded in capturing the financial backing of an unwary believer and convinced themselves and him that here was an idea that was to stir the universe. But too many of these schemes, alas, proved worthless and as their common fate was the rubbish heap, it is strange that the indefatigable Thomas Watson did not have his faith in pioneer work entirely destroyed. But youth is buoyed up by perpetual hope; and paradoxical as it may seem, his enthusiasm never lagged. Each time he felt, with the inventor, that they might be standing on the brink of gigantic unfoldings and he toiled with energy to bring something practical out of the chaos. And when at length it became evident beyond all question that the idea was never to unfold into anything practical, he would, with the same zealous spirit, attack another seer's problem."

"Didn't he ever meet any successful inventors?" questioned Ted.

"Yes, indeed," the tutor answered. "Scattered among the cranks and castle builders were several brilliant, solid-headed men. There was Moses G. Farmer, for example, one of the foremost electricians of that time, who had many an excellent and workable idea and who taught young Watson no end of valuable lessons. Then one day into the workshop came Alexander Graham Bell. In his hand he carried a mechanical contrivance Watson had previously made for him and on espying Tom in the distance he made a direct line for the workman's bench. After explaining that the device did not do the thing he was desirous it should, he told Watson that it was the receiver and transmitter of his Harmonic Telegraph."

"And that was the beginning of Mr. Watson's work with Mr. Bell?" asked Ted breathlessly.

"Yes, that was the real beginning."

"Think of working with a man like that!" the boy cried with sparkling eyes. "It must have been tremendously interesting."

"It was interesting," responded Mr. Hazen, "but nevertheless much of the time it must have been inexpressibly tedious work. A young man less patient and persistent than Watson would probably have tired of the task. Just why he did not lose his courage through the six years of struggle that followed I do not understand. For how was he to know but that this idea would eventually prove as hopeless and unprofitable as had so many others to which he had devoted his energy? Beyond Mr. Bell's own magnetic personality there was only slender foundation for his faith for in spite of the efforts of both men the harmonic telegraph failed to take form. Instead, like a tantalizing sprite, it danced before them, always beckoning, never materializing. In theory it was perfectly consistent but in practise it could not be coaxed into behaving as it logically should. Had it but been possible for those working on it to realize that beyond their temporary failure lay a success glorious past all belief, think what the knowledge would have meant. But to always be following the gleam and never overtaking it, ah, that might well have discouraged prophets of stouter heart!"

"Were these transmitters and receivers made from electromagnets and strips of flat steel, as you told us the other day?" asked Ted.

"Yes, their essential parts comprised just those elements—an electromagnet and a scrap of flattened clock spring which, as I have explained, was clamped by one end to the pole of the magnet and left free at the other to vibrate over the opposite pole. In addition the transmitter had make-and-break points such as an ordinary telephone bell has, and when these came in contact with the current, the springs inside continually gave out a sort of wail keyed to correspond with the pitch of the spring. As Mr. Bell had six of these instruments tuned to as many different pitches—and six receivers to answer them—you may picture to yourself the hideousness of the sounds amid which the experimenters labored."

"I suppose when each transmitter sent out its particular whine its own similarly tuned receiver spring would wriggle in response," Laurie said.

"Exactly so."

"There must have been lovely music when all six of them began to sing!" laughed Ted.

"Mr. Watson wrote once that it was as if all the miseries of the world were concentrated in that workroom, and I can imagine it being true," answered the tutor. "Well, young Watson certainly did all he could to make the harmonic telegraph a reality. He made the receivers and transmitters exactly as Mr. Bell requested; but on testing them out, great was the surprise of the inventor to find that his idea, so feasible in theory, refused to work. Nevertheless, his faith was not shaken. He insisted on trying to discover the flaw in his logic and correct it, and as Watson had now completed some work that he had been doing for Moses Farmer, the two began a series of experiments that lasted all winter."

"Jove!" ejaculated Laurie.

"Marvels of science are not born in a moment," answered Mr. Hazen. "Yet I do not wonder that you gasp, for think of what it must have meant to toil for weeks and months at those wailing instruments! It is a miracle the men did not go mad. They were not always able to work together for Mr. Bell had his living to earn and therefore was compelled to devote a good measure of his time to his college classes and his deaf pupils. In consequence, he did a portion of his experimental work at Salem while Watson carried on his at the shop, fitting it in with other odd jobs that came his way. Frequently Mr. Bell remained in Boston in the evening and the two worked at the Williams's shop until late into the night."

"Wasn't it lucky there were no labor unions in those days?" put in Ted mischievously.

"Indeed it was!" responded Mr. Hazen. "The shop would then have been barred and bolted at five o'clock, I suppose, and Alexander Graham Bell might have had a million bright ideas for all the good they would have done him. But at that golden period of our history, if an ambitious fellow like Watson wished to put in extra hours of work, the more slothful ones had no authority to stand over him with a club and say he shouldn't. Therefore the young apprentice toiled on with Mr. Bell, unmolested; and Charles Williams, the proprietor of the shop, was perfectly willing he should. One evening, when the two were alone, Mr. Bell remarked, 'If I could make a current of electricity vary in intensity precisely as the air varies in density during the production of sound, I should be able to transmit speech telegraphically.' This was his first allusion to the telephone but that the idea of such an instrument had been for some time in his mind was evident by the fact that he sketched in for Watson the kind of apparatus he thought necessary for such a device and they speculated concerning its construction. The project never went any farther, however, because Mr. Thomas Saunders and Mr. Gardiner Hubbard, who were financing Mr. Bell's experiments, felt the chances of this contrivance working satisfactorily were too uncertain. Already much time and money had been spent on the harmonic telegraph and they argued this scheme should be completed before a new venture was tried."

"I suppose that point of view was quite justifiable," mused Ted. "But wasn't it a pity?"

"Yes, it was," agreed Mr. Hazen. "Yet here again we realize how man moves inch by inch, never knowing what is just around the turn of the road. He can only go it blindly and do the best he knows at the time. Naturally neither Mr. Hubbard nor Mr. Saunders wanted to swamp any more money until they had received results for what they had spent already; and those results, alas, were not forthcoming. Over and over again poor Watson blamed himself lest some imperceptible defect in his part of the work was responsible for Mr. Bell's lack of success. The spring of 1875 came and still no light glimmered on the horizon. The harmonic telegraph seemed as far away from completion as ever. Patiently the men plodded on. Then on a June day, a day that began even less auspiciously than had other days, the heavens suddenly opened and Alexander Graham Bell had his vision!"

"What was it?"

"Tell us about it!" cried both boys in a breath.

"It was a warm, close afternoon in the loft over the Williams's shop and the transmitters and receivers were whining there more dolefully than usual. Several of them, sensitive to the weather, were out of tune, and as Mr. Bell had trained his ear to sounds until it was abnormally acute, he was tuning the springs of the receivers to the pitch of the transmitters, a service he always preferred to perform himself. To do this he placed the receiver against his ear and called to Watson, who was in the adjoining room, to start the current through the electromagnet of the corresponding transmitter. When this was done, Mr. Bell was able to turn a screw and adjust the instrument to the pitch desired. Watson admits in a book he has himself written that he was out of spirits that day and feeling irritable and impatient. The whiners had got on his nerves, I fancy. One of the springs that he was trying to start appeared to stick and in order to force it to vibrate he gave it a quick snap with his finger. Still it would not go and he snapped it sharply several times. Immediately there was a cry from Mr. Bell who rushed into the hall, exclaiming, 'What did you do then? Don't change anything. Let me see.'

"Watson was alarmed. Had he knocked out the entire circuit or what had he done in his fit of temper? Well, there was no escape from confession now; no pretending he had not vented his nervousness on the mechanism before him. With honesty he told the truth and even illustrated his hasty action. The thing was simple enough. In some way the make-and-break points of the transmitter spring had become welded together so that even when Watson snapped the instrument the circuit had remained unbroken, while by means of the piece of magnetized steel vibrating over the pole of the magnet an electric current was generated, the type of current that did exactly what Mr. Bell had dreamed of a current doing—a current of electricity that varied in intensity precisely as the air within the radius of that particular spring was varying in density. And not only did that undulatory current pass through the wire to the receiver Mr. Bell was holding, but as good luck would have it the mechanism was such that it transformed that current back into a faint but unmistakable echo of the sound issuing from the vibrating spring that generated it. But a fact more fortunate than all this was that the one man to whom the incident carried significance had the instrument at his ear at that particular moment. That was pure chance—a Heaven-sent, miraculous coincidence! But that Mr. Bell recognized the value and importance of that whispered echo that reached him over the wire and knew, when he heard it, that it was the embodiment of the idea that had been haunting him—that was not chance; it was genius!"

The room had been tensely still and now both boys drew a sigh of relief.

"How strange!" murmured Ted in an awed tone.

"Yes, it was like magic, was it not?" replied the tutor. "For the speaking telephone was born at that moment. Whatever practical work was necessary to make the invention perfect (and there were many, many details to be solved) was done afterward. But on June 2, 1875, the telephone as Bell had dreamed it came into the world. That single demonstration on that hot morning in Williams's shop proved myriad facts to the inventor. One was that if a mechanism could transmit the many complex vibrations of one sound it could do the same for any sound, even human speech. He saw now that the intricate paraphernalia he had supposed necessary to achieve his long-imagined result was not to be needed, for did not the simple contrivance in his hand do the trick? The two men in the stuffy little loft could scarcely contain their delight. For hours they went on repeating the experiment in order to make sure they were really awake. They verified their discovery beyond all shadow of doubt. One spring and then another was tried and always the same great law acted with invariable precision. Heat, fatigue, even the dingy garret itself was forgotten in the flight of those busy, exultant hours. Before they separated that night, Alexander Graham Bell had given to Thomas Watson directions for making the first electric speaking telephone in the world!"



CHAPTER X

WHAT CAME AFTERWARD

"Was that first telephone like ours?" inquired Ted later as, their lunch finished, they sat idly looking out at the river.

"Not wholly. Time has improved the first crude instrument," Mr. Hazen replied. "The initial principle of the telephone, however, has never varied from Mr. Bell's primary idea. Before young Watson tumbled into bed on that epoch-making night, he had finished the instrument Bell had asked him to have ready, every part of it being made by the eager assistant who probably only faintly realized the mammoth importance of his task. Yet whether he realized it or not, he had caught a sufficient degree of the inventor's excitement to urge him forward. Over one of the receivers, as Mr. Bell directed, he mounted a small drumhead of goldbeater's skin, joined the center of it to the free end of the receiver spring, and arranged a mouthpiece to talk into. The plan was to force the steel spring to answer the vibrations of the voice and at the same time generate a current of electricity that should vary in intensity just as the air varies in density during the utterance of speech sounds. Not only did Watson make this instrument as specified, but in his interest he went even farther, and as the rooms in the loft seemed too near together, the tireless young man ran a special wire from the attic down the two flights of stairs to the ground floor of the shop and ended it near his workbench at the rear of the building, thus constructing the first telephone line in history.

"Then the next day Mr. Bell came to test out his invention and, as you can imagine, there was great excitement."

"I hope it worked," put in Laurie.

"It worked all right although at this early stage of the game it was hardly to be expected that the instrument produced was perfect. Nevertheless, the demonstration proved that the principle behind it was sound and that was all Mr. Bell really wanted to make sure of. Watson, as it chanced, got far more out of this initial performance than did Mr. Bell himself for because of the inventor's practical work in phonics the vibrations of his voice carried more successfully than did those of the assistant. Yet the youthful Watson was not without his compensations. Nature had blessed him with unusually acute hearing and as a result he could catch Bell's tones perfectly as they came over the wire and could almost distinguish his words; but shout as he would, poor Mr. Bell could not hear him. This dilemma nevertheless discouraged neither of them for Watson had plenty of energy and was quite willing to leap up the two flights of stairs and repeat what he had heard; and this report greatly reassured Mr. Bell, who outlined a list of other improvements for another telephone that should be ready on the following day."

"I suppose they kept remodelling the telephones all the time after that, didn't they?" inquired Ted.

"You may be sure they did," was Mr. Hazen's response. "The harmonic telegraph was entirely sidetracked and the interest of both men turned into this newer channel. Mr. Bell, in the meantime, was giving less and less energy to his teaching and more and more to his inventing. Before many days the two could talk back and forth and hear one another's voices without difficulty, although ten full months of hard work was necessary before they were able to understand what was said. It was not until after this long stretch of patient toil that Watson unmistakably heard Mr. Bell say one day, 'Mr. Watson, please come here, I want you.' The message was a very ordinary, untheatrical one for a moment so significant but neither of the enthusiasts heeded that. The thrilling fact was that the words had come clear-cut over the wire."

"Gee!" broke in Laurie.

"It certainly must have been a dramatic moment," Mr. Hazen agreed. "Mr. Bell, now convinced beyond all doubt of the value of his idea, hired two rooms at a cheap boarding-house situated at Number 5 Exeter Place, Boston. In one of these he slept and in the other he equipped a laboratory. Watson connected these rooms by a wire and afterward all Mr. Bell's experimenting was done here instead of at the Williams's shop. It was at the Exeter Place rooms that this first wonderful message came to Watson's ears. From this period on the telephone took rapid strides forward. By the summer of 1876, it had been improved until a simple sentence was understandable if carefully repeated three or four times."

"Repeated three or four times!" gasped Laurie in dismay.

The tutor smiled at the boy's incredulousness.

"You forget we are not dealing with a finished product," said he gently. "I am a little afraid you would have been less patient with the imperfections of an infant invention than were Bell and Watson."

"I know I should," was the honest retort.

"The telephone was a very delicate instrument to perfect," explained Mr. Hazen. "Always remember that. An inventor must not only be a man who has unshaken faith in his idea but he must also have the courage to cling stubbornly to his belief through every sort of mechanical vicissitude. This Mr. Bell did. June of 1876 was the year of the great Centennial at Philadelphia, the year that marked the first century of our country's progress. As the exhibition was to be one symbolic of our national development in every line, Mr. Bell decided to show his telephone there; to this end he set Watson, who was still at the Williams's shop, to making exhibition telephones of the two varieties they had thus far worked out."

"I'll bet Watson was almighty proud of his job," Ted interrupted.

"I fancy he was and certainly he had a right to be," answered Mr. Hazen. "I have always been glad, too, that it fell to his lot to have this honor; for he had worked long and faithfully, and if there were glory to be had, he should share it. To his unflagging zeal and intelligence Mr. Bell owed a great deal. Few men could so whole-heartedly have effaced their own personality and thrown themselves with such zest into the success of another as did Thomas Watson."

The tutor paused.

"Up to this time," he presently went on, "the telephones used by Bell and Watson in their experiments had been very crude affairs; but those designed for the Centennial were glorified objects. Watson says that you could see your face in them. The Williams's shop outdid itself and more splendid instruments never went forth from its doors. You can therefore imagine Watson's chagrin when, after highly commending Mr. Bell's invention, Sir William Thompson added, 'This, perhaps, greatest marvel hitherto achieved by electric telegraph has been obtained by appliances of quite a homespun and rudimentary character.'"

Both Ted and Laurie joined in the laughter of the tutor.

"And now the telephone was actually launched?" Ted asked.

"Well, it was not really in clear waters," Mr. Hazen replied, with a dubious shrug of his shoulders, "but at least there was no further question as to which of his schemes Mr. Bell should perfect. Both Mr. Hubbard and Mr. Saunders, who were assisting him financially, agreed that for the present it must be the telephone; and recognizing the value of Watson's services, they offered him an interest in Mr. Bell's patents if he would give up his work at Williams's shop and put in all his time on this device. Nevertheless they did not entirely abandon the harmonic telegraph for Bell's success with the other invention had only served to strengthen their confidence in his ability and genius. It was also decided that Mr. Bell should move from Salem to Boston, take an additional room at the Exeter Place house (which would give him the entire floor where his laboratory was), and unhampered by further teaching plunge into the inventive career for which heaven had so richly endowed him and which he loved with all his heart. You can picture to yourselves the joy these decisions gave him and the eagerness with which he and Watson took up their labors together.

"They made telephones of every imaginable size in their attempts to find out whether there was anything that would work more satisfactorily than the type they now had. But in spite of their many experiments they came back to the kind of instrument with which they had started, discovering nothing that was superior to their original plan. Except that they compelled the transmitter to do double duty and act also as a receiver, the telephone that emerged from these many tests was practically similar in principle to the one of to-day."

"Had they made any long-distance trials up to this time?" questioned Laurie.

"No," Mr. Hazen admitted. "They had lacked opportunity to make such tests since no great span of wires was accessible to them. But on October 9, 1876, the Walworth Manufacturing Company gave them permission to try out their device on the Company's private telegraph line that ran from Boston to Cambridge. The distance to be sure was only two miles but it might as well have been two thousand so far as the excitement of the two workers went. Their baby had never been out of doors. Now at last it was to take the air! Fancy how thrilling the prospect was! As the wire over which they were to make the experiment was in use during the day, they were forced to wait until the plant was closed for the night. Then Watson, with his tools and his telephone under his arm, went to the Cambridge office where he impatiently listened for Mr. Bell's signal to come over the Morse sounder. When he had heard this and thereby made certain that Bell was at the other end of the line, he cut out the sounder, connected the telephone he had brought with him, and put his ear to the transmitter."

The hut was so still one could almost hear the breathing of the lads, who were listening intently.

"Go on!" Laurie said quickly. "Tell us what happened."

"Nothing happened!" answered the tutor. "Watson listened but there was not a sound."

"Great Scott!"

"The poor assistant was aghast," went on Mr. Hazen. "He was at a complete loss to understand what was the matter. Could it be that the contrivance which worked so promisingly in the Boston rooms would not work under these other conditions? Perhaps an electric current was too delicate a thing to carry sound very far. Or was it that the force of the vibration filtered off at each insulator along the line until it became too feeble to be heard? All these possibilities flashed into Watson's mind while at his post two miles away from Mr. Bell he struggled to readjust the instrument. Then suddenly an inspiration came to his alert brain. Might there not be another Morse sounder somewhere about? If there were, that would account for the whole difficulty. Springing up, he began to search the room and after following the wires, sure enough, he traced them to a relay with a high resistance coil in the circuit. Feverishly he cut this out and rushed back to his telephone. Plainly over the wire came Bell's voice, 'Ahoy! Ahoy!' For a few seconds both of them were too delighted to say much of anything else. Then they sobered down and began this first long-distance conversation. Now one of the objections Mr. Bell had constantly been forced to meet from the skeptical public was that while the telegraph delivered messages that were of unchallenged accuracy telephone conversations were liable to errors of misunderstanding. One could not therefore rely so completely on the trustworthiness of the latter as on that of the former. To refute this charge Mr. Bell had insisted that both he and Watson carefully write out whatever they heard that the two records might afterward be compared and verified. 'That is,' Mr. Bell had added with the flicker of a smile, 'if we succeed in talking at all!' Well, they did succeed, as you have heard. At first they held only a stilted dialogue and conscientiously jotted it down; but afterward their exuberance got the better of them and in sheer joy they chattered away like magpies until long past midnight. Then, loath to destroy the connection, Watson detached his telephone, replaced the Company's wires, and set out for Boston. In the meantime Mr. Bell, who had previously made an arrangement with the Boston Advertiser to publish on the following morning an account of the experiment, together with the recorded conversations, had gone to the newspaper office to carry his material to the press. Hence he was not at the Exeter Place rooms when the jubilant Watson arrived. But the early morning hour did not daunt the young electrician; and when, after some delay, Mr. Bell came in, the two men rushed toward one another and regardless of everything else executed what Mr. Watson has since characterized as a war dance. Certainly they were quite justified in their rejoicings and perhaps if their landlady had understood the cause of their exultations she might have joined in the dance herself. Unluckily she had only a scant sympathy with inventive genius and since the victory celebration not only aroused her, but also wakened most of her boarders from their slumbers, her ire was great and the next morning she informed the two men that if they could not be more quiet at night they would have to leave her house."

An appreciative chuckle came from the listeners.

"If she had known what she was sheltering, I suppose she would have been proud as a peacock and promptly told all her neighbors," grinned Ted.

"Undoubtedly! But she did not know, poor soul!" returned Mr. Hazen.

"After this Mr. Bell and Mr. Watson must have shot ahead by leaps and bounds," commented Laurie.

"There is no denying that that two-mile test did give them both courage and assurance," responded the tutor. "They got chances to try out the invention on longer telegraph wires; and in spite of the fact that no such thing as hard-drawn copper wire was in existence they managed to get results even over rusty wires with their unsoldered joinings. Through such experiments an increasingly wider circle of outside persons heard of the telephone and the marvel began to attract greater attention. Mr. Bell's modest little laboratory became the mecca of scientists and visitors of every imaginable type. Moses G. Farmer, well known in the electrical world, came to view the wonder and confessed to Mr. Bell that more than once he had lingered on the threshold of the same mighty discovery but had never been able to step across it into success. It amused both Mr. Bell and Mr. Watson to see how embarrassed persons were when allowed to talk over the wire. Standing up and speaking into a box has long since become too much a matter of course with us to appear ridiculous; but those experiencing the novelty for the first time were so overwhelmed by self-consciousness that they could think of nothing to say. One day when Mr. Watson called from his end of the line, 'How do you do?' a dignified lawyer who was trying the instrument answered with a foolish giggle, 'Rig-a-jig-jig and away we go!' The psychological reaction was too much for many a well-poised individual and I do not wonder it was, do you?"

"It must have been almost as good as a vaudeville show to watch the people," commented Ted.

"Better! Lots better!" echoed Laurie.

"In April, 1877, the first out-of-door telephone line running on its own private wires was installed in the shop of Charles Williams at Number 109 Court Street and carried from there out to his house at Somerville. Quite a little ceremony marked the event. Both Mr. Bell and Mr. Watson attended the christening and the papers chronicled the circumstance in bold headlines the following day. Immediately patrons who wanted telephones began to pop up right and left like so many mushrooms. But alas, where was the money to come from that should enable Mr. Bell and his associates to branch out and grasp the opportunities that now beckoned them? The inventor's own resources were at a low ebb; Watson, like many another young man, had more brains than fortune; and neither Mr. Hubbard nor Mr. Saunders felt they could provide the necessary capital. Already the Western Union had refused Mr. Hubbard's offer to sell all Mr. Bell's patents for one hundred thousand dollars, the Company feeling that the price asked was much too high. Two years later, however, they would willingly have paid twenty-five million dollars for the privilege they had so summarily scorned. What was to be done? Money must be secured for without it all further progress was at a standstill. Was success to be sacrificed now that the goal was well within sight? And must the telephone be shut away from the public and never take its place of service in the great world? Why, if a thing was not to be used it might almost as well never have been invented! The spirits of the telephone pioneers sank lower and lower. The only way to raise money seemed to be to sell the telephone instruments outright and this Mr. Bell, who desired simply to lease them, was unwilling to do. Then an avenue of escape from this dilemma presented itself to him."

"What was it?" asked Laurie.

"He would give lectures, accompanying them with practical demonstrations of the telephone. This would bring in money and banish for a time, at least, the possibility of having to sell instead of rent telephones. The plan succeeded admirably. The first lecture was given at Salem where, because of Mr. Bell's previous residence and many friends, a large audience packed the hall. Then Boston desired to know more of the invention and an appeal for a lecture signed by Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and other distinguished citizens was forwarded to Mr. Bell. The Boston lectures were followed by others in New York, Providence, and the principal cities throughout New England."

"It seems a shame Mr. Bell should have had to take his time to do that, doesn't it?" mused Ted. "How did they manage the lectures?"

"The lectures had a checkered existence," smiled Mr. Hazen. "Many very amusing incidents centered about them. Were I to talk until doomsday I could not begin to tell you the multitudinous adventures Mr. Bell and Mr. Watson had during their platform career; for although Mr. Watson was never really before the footlights as Mr. Bell was, he was an indispensable part of the show,—the power behind the scenes, the man at the other end of the wire, who furnished the lecture hall with such stunts as would not only convince an audience but also entertain them. It was a dull, thankless position, perhaps, to be so far removed from the excitement and glamor, to be always playing or singing into a little wooden box and never catching a glimpse of the fun that was going on at the other end of the line; but since Mr. Watson was a rather shy person it is possible he was quite as well pleased. After all, it was Mr. Bell whom everybody wanted to see and of course Mr. Watson understood this. Therefore he was quite content to act his modest role and not only gather together at his end of the wire cornet soloists, electric organs, brass bands, or whatever startling novelties the occasion demanded, but talk or sing himself. The shyest of men can sometimes out-Herod Herod if not obliged to face their listeners in person. As Watson had spoken so much over the telephone, he was thoroughly accustomed to it and played the parts assigned him far better than more gifted but less practically trained soloists did. It always amused him intensely after he had bellowed Pull for the Shore, Hold the Fort or Yankee Doodle into the transmitter to hear the applause that followed his efforts. Probably singing before a large company was about the last thing Tom Watson expected his electrical career would lead him into. Had he been told that such a fate awaited him, he would doubtless have jeered at the prophecy. But here he was, singing away with all his lung power, before a great hall full of people and not minding it in the least; nay, I rather think he may have enjoyed it. Once, desiring to give a finer touch than usual to the entertainment, Mr. Bell hired a professional singer; but this soloist had never used a telephone and although he possessed the art of singing he was not able to get it across the wire. No one in the lecture hall could hear him. Mr. Bell promptly summoned Watson (who was doubtless congratulating himself on being off duty) to render Hold the Fort in his customary lusty fashion. After this Mr. Watson became the star soloist and no more singers were engaged."

A ripple of amusement passed over the faces of the lads listening.

"Ironically enough, as Mr. Watson's work kept him always in the background furnishing the features of these entertainments, he never himself heard Mr. Bell lecture. He says, however, that the great inventor was a very polished, magnetic speaker who never failed to secure and hold the attention of his hearers. Of course, every venture has its trials and these lecture tours were no exception to the general rule. Once, for example, the Northern Lights were responsible for demoralizing the current and spoiling a telephone demonstration at Lawrence; and although both Watson and a cornetist strained their lungs to bursting, neither of them could be heard at the hall. Then the sparks began to play over the wires and the show had to be called off. Nevertheless such disasters occurred seldom, and for the most part the performances went smoothly, the people were delighted, and Mr. Bell increased not only his fame but his fortune."

Mr. Hazen stopped a moment.

"You must not for an instant suppose," he resumed presently, "that the telephone was a perfected product. Transmitters of sufficient delicacy to do away with shouting and screaming had not yet made their appearance and in consequence when one telephoned all the world knew it; it was not until the Blake transmitter came into use that a telephone conversation could be to any extent confidential. In its present state, the longer the range the more lung power was demanded; and probably had not this been the condition, people would have shouted anyway, simply from instinct. Even with our own delicately adjusted instruments we are prone to forget and commit this folly. But in the early days one was forced to uplift his voice at the telephone and if he had no voice to uplift woe betide his telephoning. And apropos of this matter, I recall reading that once, when Mr. Bell was to lecture in New York, he thought what a drawing card it would be if he could have his music and other features of entertainment come from Boston. Therefore he arranged to use the wires of the Atlantic and Pacific Telegraph Company and to this end he and Watson planned a dress rehearsal at midnight in order to try out the inspiration. Now it chanced that the same inflexible landlady ruled at Number 5 Exeter Place, and remembering his former experience, Mr. Watson felt something must be done to stifle the shouting he foresaw he would be compelled to do at that nocturnal hour. So he gathered together all the blankets and rolled them into a sort of cone and to the small end of this he tied his telephone. Then he crept into this stuffy, breathless shelter, the ancestor of our sound-proof telephone booth, and for nearly three hours shouted to Mr. Bell in New York—or tried to. But the experiment was not a success. He could be heard, it is true, but not distinctly enough to risk such an unsatisfactory demonstration before an uninitiated audience. Hence the scheme was abandoned and Mr. Watson scrambled his things together and betook himself to a point nearer the center of action."

Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse