Charley Russell sat before a table in the workshop in his father’s back yard. In front of him were the shining instruments of his wireless outfit—his coupler, his condenser, his helix, his spark-gap, and the other parts, practically all of which he had made with his own hands. Ordinarily he would have looked at them fondly, but now he gave them hardly a thought. He was waiting for his chum, Lew Heinsling, and his mind was busy with the problem of his own future. Charley was a senior in high school and was pondering over the question of what the world had in store for him. While he sat meditating, Lew arrived. In his hand was a copy of the New York Sun and Herald. He held it out to Charley and pointed to the marine news.
“The Lycoming reaches New York to-day,” he said. “Roy will send us a wireless message to-night. Gee! I wish we had a battery strong enough to talk back.”
But Charley paid slight heed to the suggestion. Instead he said: “Roy Mercer’s a lucky dog. Think of being the wireless man on a big ocean steamer when you’re only nineteen. I wish I knew what I am going to do after I graduate from high school.”
Roy Mercer, like Charley and Lew, was a member of the Camp Brady Wireless Patrol. With his fellows he had taken part in the capture of the German spies who were trying to dynamite the Elk City reservoir and so wreck a great munitions centre during the war; and with three other members of the Wireless Patrol, especially selected for their skill in wireless, he had later gone to New York with their leader, Captain Hardy, to assist the government Secret Service in its search for the secret wireless that was keeping the German Admiralty informed of the movements of American vessels.
His fellows both envied and loved him. Roy warmly returned their affection, and his vessel never came into port that he did not, regularly at nine o’clock in the evening, flash out some message of greeting to his former comrades of the Wireless Patrol. It was always a one-sided conversation, however, because none of the boys in the Wireless Patrol owned a battery powerful enough to carry a message from Central City to New York. Just now each lad was engaged in trying to earn money so that the club could buy a battery or dynamo strong enough for this purpose. So each boy was working at any job he could pick up after school, and saving all he earned. Both Charley and Lew had already earned more than their share of the purchase money.
“You never can tell what will happen,” said Lew presently. “Who ever expected Roy to get the job he has? You may land in another just as good. You stand pretty near the head of your class, and everybody knows you’re a corking good wireless operator.”
“I can tell well enough what will happen, Lew. The minute I’m out of high school, I’ll have to go to work with Dad in Miller’s factory. Gee! How I hate the place! Think of working nine hours a day in such a dirty, smoky, noisy old hole, where you can’t get a breath of fresh air, or see the sky, or hear the birds. Just to think about it is enough to make a fellow feel blue.”