“’Young man, I would like to settle with you for your inventions here. How much do you want for them?”
“Edison had thought it all over and had come to the conclusion that, on account of the hard night-and-day work he had been doing, he really ought to have five thousand dollars, but he would be glad to settle for three thousand, if they thought five thousand was too much. But when asked point-blank, he hadn’t the courage to name either sum—thousands looked large to him then—so he hesitated a bit and said:
“‘Well, General, suppose you make me an offer.’
“‘All right,’ said the president. ’How would forty thousand dollars strike you?’
“Young Edison came as near fainting then as he ever did in his life. He was afraid the ‘General’ would hear his heart thump, but he said quietly that he thought that amount was just about right. A contract was drawn up which Edison signed without reading.
“Forty thousand dollars was written in the first check Thomas A. Edison ever received. With throbbing heart and trembling fingers he took it to the bank and handed it in to the paying teller, who looked at it disapprovingly and passed it back, saying something the young inventor could not hear because of his deafness. Thinking he had been cheated, Edison went out of the bank, as he said, ’to let the cold sweat evaporate.’
“Then he hurried back to the president and demanded to know what it all meant. The president and his secretary laughed at the green youth’s needless fears and explained that the teller had probably told him to write his name on the back of the check. They not only showed him how to endorse it, but sent a clerk to the bank to identify him—because of the large amount of money to be paid over.
“Just for a joke on the ‘jay,’ the teller gave him the whole forty thousand dollars in ten- and twenty-dollar bills. Edison gravely stowed away the money till he had filled all his pockets including those in his overcoat. He sat up all night in his room in Newark, in fear and trembling, lest he be robbed. The president laughed next day but said that joke had gone far enough; then he showed Thomas A. Edison how to open his first bank account.”
Again the lecturer’s voice ceased to be heard; again another voice announced that the fourth talk would be given on a certain date a few days later. A negro song with banjo accompaniment followed and the radio entertainment was over.
Everyone was talking, laughing and voicing pleasure in the increasingly wonderful demonstration of getting sounds out of the air, from hundreds of miles away. Only Gus and Bill remained and the two—as Billy always referred to their confabs—went into “executive session.” This radio receiver was altogether absorbing, much too attractive to let alone easily. The boys were proud of their very successful construction and they could neither forget that fact, nor pass up the delight of listening in.