Grace and Skeets were given little odd jobs during the very few hours of their insistent helping. They varnished, polished, oiled, cleaned copper wire, unpacked material, even swept up the debris left by the carpenters; at least, they did until Skeets managed to fall headlong down about one-half of the unfinished stairway and to sprain her ankle. Then Grace’s loyalty compelled her attention to her friend.
Mr. Hooper breezed in from time to time, but never to take a hand; to do so would have seemed quite out of place, though the old gentleman laughingly made an excuse for this:
“Lads, I ain’t no tinker man; never was. Drivin’ a pesky nail’s a huckleberry above my persimmon. Cattle is all I know, an’ I kin still learn about them, I reckon. But I know what I kin see an’ hear an’, b’jinks, I’m still doubtin’ I’m ever goin’ to hear that there Eddy’s son do this talkin’. But get busy, lads; get busy!”
“Oh, fudge, Dad! Can’t you see they’re dreadfully busy? You can’t hurry them one bit faster.” Grace was ever just.
“No,” said Skeets, who had borrowed Bill’s crutch to get into the shop for a little while. “No, Mr. Hooper; if they were to stay up all night, go without eats and work twenty-five hours a day they couldn’t do any—” And just then the end of the too-much inclined crutch skated outward and the habitually unfortunate girl dropped kerplunk on the floor. Gus and Grace picked her up. She was not hurt by her fall. Her very plumpness had saved her.
“For goodness’ sake, Skeets, are you ever going to get the habit of keeping yourself upright?” asked Grace, who laughed harder than the others, except Skeets herself; the stout girl generally got the utmost enjoyment out of her own troubles.
Quiet restored, Mr. Hooper returned to his subject.
“I reckon you lads, when you git this thing made that’s goin’ to hoodoo the air, will be startin’ in an’ tryin’ somethin’ else; eh?” he ventured, grinning.
“Later, perhaps, but not just yet,” Bill replied. “Not until we can manage to learn a lot more, Gus and I. Mr. Grier says that the competition of brains nowadays is a lot sharper than it was in Edison’s young days, and even he had to study and work a lot before he really did any big inventing. Professor Gray says that a technical education is best for anyone who is going to do things, though it is a long way from making a fellow perfect and must be followed up by hard practice.”
“And we can wait, I guess,” put in Gus.
“Until we can manage in some way to scrape together enough cash to buy books and get apparatus for experiments and go on with our schooling.”
“We want more physics and especially electricity,” said Gus.
“And other knowledge as well, along with that,” Bill amended.