The High Calling/Chapter 6

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"DIDN'T you know that this lamp has already been made and patent applied for by Gambrich of New York?"

"No! When?"

"Within the last week. Wait. I'll show you."

Anderson went over to his own desk at the end of the shop. In the few minutes he was gone, Walter and Bauer exchanged questions.

"Do you suppose that's true?"

"Doesn't seem possible, does it? If it is, our cake is dough."

"Anderson seemed pleased when he announced the fact, if it is one," said Walter bitterly.

"It may not be true, you know," said Bauer hopefully.

Anderson had come back in time to hear the last sentence.

"It is true, though, young man. See."

He had the last copy of the _Electrical News_, and it was open at an illustrated page.

He laid it down on Walter's bench and he and Bauer eagerly bent over it.

Almost the first glance revealed the fact that the lamp described in the paper was identical with their own and application for a patent had been made within ten days. The account of the discovery, moreover, made the date earlier than the discovery made by Walter.

"You see, don't you," said Anderson. "Gambrich has exactly the same device of metal teeth coupled to one electrode. It's an ingenious device and you fellows have certainly great credit for thinking it out almost simultaneously with Gambrich."

"According to this account, our lamp was made before Gambrich's. Does that give him priority of invention?" asked Walter eagerly.

Anderson shrugged his shoulders.

"Priority of manufacture does not legally cut any figure by the side of priority of invention. You might be able to prove that you had made the lamp before Gambrich made his, but that would not help you any if he invented his arrangement first, long before you made your lamp."

"Is that really strict justice?" said Bauer slowly.

"It is law," said Anderson grimly, "and you must remember that law and justice are not in every case synonymous. I'm sorry for you fellows. There's a lot of money in that invention for the manufacturers of the lamp, and considerable for the inventor if he knows how to make terms."

"Do you mean," asked Walter gloomily, "that really we have no right at all with what we have made?"

"Don't you see you haven't? What can you do? Ask any lawyer, if you don't believe me."

Anderson spoke somewhat testily as he started to go away.

"I believe you're glad we missed this opportunity," said Walter angrily. He was tremendously discouraged over the event and could not control his feelings.

Anderson grew very red and turned on Walter in a rage.

"I don't mind saying I am glad your pride has had a tumble. You have been unbearable for some time. Maybe this will teach you a lesson. There are people in the world who know a little about electricity as well as yourself."

All of which was not calculated to sweeten Walter's sense of defeat or make him more friendly to Anderson, who, after glaring at Bauer, who had not said a word, abruptly went out of the shop.

The lamp was working all this time, with an exasperating smoothness and precision that spoke eloquently of its financial possibilities. There were a few workers in the other parts of the shop who, realising that some unusual event was on, began to gather around Walter and Bauer and ask questions. Among the group was Van Shaw.

In a few moments everyone knew the story of the lamp, and Walter and Bauer came in for congratulations over the invention and sympathy for its uselessness to them.

"I could have told everybody about that lamp two months ago," said Van Shaw, speaking with an indirect manner peculiarly offensive to Walter. "I have had advices from a near friend in New York that Gambrich was at work on this device. It's a pity some Burrton man can't have the credit and the cash that are going to Gambrich."

Walter's fingers closed around one of the tools on his bench and he felt mad enough at that moment to throw it either at Van Shaw or the lamp. He did not do either, but when the crowd had finally gone away, he sat down at his bench and said to Bauer: "What chumps we were not to apply for a patent weeks ago. We might have contested it. We have let a fortune slip out of our hands through our stupidity."

"It's because we did not take anyone into confidence. I never thought of a patent. I was too much absorbed in the lamp itself to think anything about anything else."

"Whom could we have taken into confidence? Van Shaw or Anderson? But I don't feel like giving up. Why can't we contest our rights? There are cases in the courts every day over patents and inventions."

"But it takes a lot of money to hire a lawyer and go to law," said Bauer with real Teutonic caution. "And I haven't a dollar to spare. According to Anderson, it's as good as settled that Gambrich has the legal right to the lamps."

Walter stared at the arc gloomily. He felt the disappointment with deep bitterness. Not only was his pride smitten at the thought of others who were working out his ideas, but the thought of the money he might have made, and the relief that money might have brought him, rankled deepest in his mind.

Bauer took the affair more philosophically. He went over to Walter and put a hand on his shoulder.

"When we are beaten we might as well accept it and make something else. I don't like to see you take the thing so hard."

"What else can we make?" Walter said after a moment. "I've lost my ambition."

"Oh, no you haven't; not for good and all. Why, we might invent a typewriter telegraph."

"It's too late, that's already been done."

"I'll tell you what would bring us fame and money," said Bauer with his usual slow manner and his friendly smile. "What the world needs is a letter writer that will take letters at dictation, first hand."

Walter stared at Bauer gloomily. "What's that?"

"A direct letter writer," said Bauer. "A machine that the business man and the minister and the college professor and the politician and the railroad man and the lover could talk into. As fast as he talked, it would make a visible mark on the paper and when the person was through dictating his letter he could pull it out all typewritten ready to send. Just think what a blessing this would be to the busy letter writer."

Walter stared at Bauer as if his friend was crazy. Then, after a moment of doubt, he burst into a great laugh.

"Well, of all the--It's the first time I ever knew a German could be out and out funny. Do you know what your letter writing machine would have to do? It would have to know how to spell right."

"No, it wouldn't. All it would have to do would be to spell phonetically. Every machine would spell and print just as the person talked."

"Yes, and what will become of the great army of stenographers and typewriter girls who make their living now at taking dictation? I don't want to invent something that is going to deprive thousands of people of a living."

"You could marry one of them and I would marry another. That would take care of two of 'em," said Bauer solemnly.

Walter looked up at him a moment, and then he roared. It was what Bauer wanted him to do. And when they finally went to their rooms Walter was feeling somewhat better, although he did not get a good night's sleep. His dreams had in them fitful glimpses of Van Shaw and Anderson and a red hot arc lamp that glared and flamed at him with a diabolical grin that rejoiced in his defeat.

It was two days before he could bring himself to write home a full account of the matter. Both his father and his mother replied to this and each wrote in full sympathy with him and a knowledge of what his disappointment would be to him.

"Of course," Paul said, at the close of his letter, "if it is true that the New York man really invented the idea of the lamp before you did and then patented it before you did, that settles it, even if you were first to make an actual model. The patent laws recognise priority of invention where no unreasonable delay has followed the invention and the application for patent. Looking up the subject in the _Electrical News_ and consulting with Alvord, our best patent lawyer here in Milton, I am afraid you are too late to do anything, and a contest, Alvord thinks, would result in nothing but expense for you and your friend. If I thought there was any legal right you possessed and ought to have I would be willing to help you contest for it. But that seems to be out of the question.

"Don't let this defeat mean too much to you. It is not a defeat. You did your best and actually made a very important discovery, you and Bauer. If you can do that, you can do other things as well. The unknown, undiscovered world of electricity is boundless. You have as much right to enter in as anybody, and far more probabilities than most persons that you will find something worth while. We are all anticipating your home coming for holidays and expect Bauer to come with you. Affectionately your father.

                               "PAUL DOUGLAS."

Walter's mother wrote in much the same way and cheerfully urged him to take all the disappointing things with hopeful equanimity.

"The longer I live, the more I find the real joy of life consists in doing our best with God's help and leaving the results with Him. Of course we all like to get results out of our efforts. But we forget that results always do follow honest effort, only they are not always the results we expected and wanted. No doubt, boy, you feel like saying to us at home, 'Yes, it's easy for you to sit there at your ease and deal out calm chunks of sympathy to me and tell me not to worry or feel bad, but if you had worked as hard as I did you wouldn't find it quite as easy to be happy over this disappointment.'

"Well, we confess all that, but your mother doesn't want to see her son give up and go down to defeat from one or two or a dozen or even a hundred blows. You have had the joy of making the lamp (after you cleared your soul by confession to Bauer), and you know that your brain works at its best along inventive lines and you know the field of invention, especially in electricity, is limitless. Your mother says to you, we feel proud of you and we will feel doubly proud if you will learn to take this disappointment cheerfully. Don't be a baby over it. Be a man. The tests of manhood are not found in the easy, but in the difficult things of life.

"The great thing after all, is to live up to the high calling. I don't care much, Walter, whether you ever invent anything or not, although I wish you could find out how to make a machine that will take off a woman's hat and hold it in church so that she can take care of her hymn book, her Bible, her gloves, her pocket book, her fan, her umbrella and her handkerchief, but if you never discovered a single secret of nature and discover the secret of a useful life, I would be and shall be the happiest of all women, for that is my ambition for you and always will be.

"Be sure and bring Bauer home with you. We are all interested to see him.


Helen also wrote to Walter at this time. She was not much of a letter writer but she wanted to add her word of sympathy with the rest and Walter felt especially pleased that she exerted herself on this occasion.

"Dear Bub," Helen wrote, using the name she had always given him in her childhood. "We all feel awfully sorry about the way the lamp came out. It didn't seem fair to you and I hope you will invent something better that will throw that lamp in the shade, so to speak. We all believe in you and I have never for a moment doubted that in time you would be another Edison. I'm enjoying my school this year more than ever. Since our new gymnasium director was appointed I have found favor in her eyes and she has turned over one of the academy classes to me by consent of President Bruce. I did plan to study for a position as professor of domestic science, but since this appointment work opened up I feel as if I could like to be a physical director in a college or a Y. W. C. A. I love the gymnasium work immensely and Miss Rhodes says I am her best pupil.

"We are all wondering what sort of an individual your Felix Bauer is. Does he speak broken English very badly? Will it be difficult to talk to him without a German grammar? I have an idea I shall not like him very well, from what you have written about him. But I don't suppose that will make any difference to him.

"Father has got into politics all right and as he and mother have written you, he has been elected senator and will begin his term in January when the legislature meets. Father is very hopeful about doing things. Mother says he will have lots of opposition from the machine. I don't understand all this political discussion, but you know father. He is dead in earnest as you know and now that he is elected he is going to make the machine, whatever that is, 'sit up and take notice.' This is what my teacher in English would call a disjointed metaphor.

"Father is working over a dozen bills calculated to reform the state. The word 'reform' is a household word in the Douglas family. But you know father. Isn't he the dearest man that ever lived? It makes me mad to read what the papers have been saying about him ever since he was nominated. Anyone who didn't know father would think from reading these papers that he was an out and out villain. And we all know, and Milton people know, that if ever a man lived who had a pure and earnest desire to help make a better world, father is that man. I hate politics. It seems to me it is the meanest thing there is. I don't know anything else so mean as to take a man like father and question his motives and call him all sorts of names and try to blacken his character. Mother says she doesn't mind, but I believe she can't help feeling it some. It just makes me mad.

"Well, bub, don't be discouraged. We believe in you just as much as ever. We are looking for you home next week.

"Oh, by the way, does your friend Bauer have to have his beer regularly? And must we lay in an extra supply of sauer kraut and pretzels? I am sitting up nights studying my German exercises so I can say 'Eine Schwalbe macht noch Keinen Sommer' and other interesting topics of conversation. Lovingly your sister.

                               "HELEN DILLINGHAM DOUGLAS."

Walter laughed over this letter, but rather resented the tone Helen displayed about Bauer. "I hope Bauer won't make any bad breaks and I don't believe he will." But Walter had a little talk with Bauer that same evening in which Bauer expressed a little nervousness about his approaching visit at Walter's home.

"I haven't ever been anywhere to speak of, you know," he said a little doubtfully. "And I begin to feel a little afraid of meeting your folks."

"Afraid? Why, you can't even look at mother without falling in love with her. And as for father he will take to you right off. I know he will, for several reasons."

"But your sister?" Bauer looked up at the photograph of Helen on Walter's dresser. "Somehow I feel a little afraid of her. I don't believe I'll get along very well. Does she talk German? I feel a little more at my ease if I can talk what you call small talk in my own language."

"No, I don't believe Helen knows enough German to talk it intelligently. But you needn't be afraid of her. She is interested in your coming as all the family are and she has asked me several questions about you," said Walter, not venturing to tell Bauer what the questions were.

"Is that so?" said Bauer, looking pleased. Then after a moment he added, "It's awfully good of you to ask me to your home. I won't forget it."

And indeed, Felix Bauer, you never will.

The two friends reached Milton three days before Christmas and were met at the station by Paul and Louis. Paul took to Bauer from the moment he first saw him. You know how that is, that indescribable attraction you feel towards certain people even without an introduction, and Bauer had the same feeling for Walter's father. At the dinner table that night Bauer soon forgot his timidity because everyone was so kind. There was any number of questions to ask. Walter did a large share of the talking. Mrs. Douglas looked proud and Helen was on her best behavior and in less than ten minutes Bauer had lost his fear of her and was in danger of entertaining the opposite feeling. Walter Darcy and Louis Darcy, Esther's brothers, were present, and helped to make the meal a lively and entertaining occasion. And Felix Bauer said to himself when the evening was over that it was the pleasantest evening of his life.

The next morning Paul asked Bauer to go down to the office with him, The _News_ was installing a recently invented linotype and Paul wanted Bauer to see it.

They looked over the mechanism and then came back to Paul's office room. Bauer was looking over some specimen type Paul had on his table when three men came in.

Paul looked up, his face changed colour for a moment and he asked the visitors to be seated. He knew two of the men and they introduced the third.

"Senator Douglas, this is Judge Livingston of Camford. We want a talk, a private talk with you on political business," said the speaker, the Hon. George Maxwell, as he looked at Bauer.

"This young man is a friend of mine, spending the holidays with us," said Paul quietly, and he introduced Bauer to the three visitors.

There was a pause, and then Mr. Maxwell said, "We want a private conference with you, Mr. Douglas, if you don't mind." Bauer started to go out and Paul said to him, "You don't have to go unless you prefer."

"I'll go back to the house, Mr. Douglas," Bauer said, and immediately went out.

Maxwell started to shut the door after him.

"Mr. Maxwell, that is not necessary," said Paul very distinctly. "I think I know what you have come to see me about. Let me say, gentlemen, once for all, that I have no secrets, and no use for any in my political life. I do not believe in all this private conference and closed doors in connection with any action of mine in the coming legislature. I am not going to do a single thing that will require me to whisper or retire behind any closed doors. So, seeing this is my office, and it is the regular custom to leave the door open, we will leave it open."

The Hon. Maxwell looked doubtfully at Paul and the other visitors did the same. They finally went over to a corner of the office and whispered together. Then they came back, drew their chairs close up to Douglas's desk and Maxwell said:

"Mr. Douglas, we have come to see you about some of these proposed bills of yours. This Reform business is being run into the ground. We are tired of it. The people are getting tired of it. You are going to have a great influence in the legislature. We concede that fact. Now, what we want to do is to talk over some of these bills and get your influence to modify or change in some ways."

Paul listened thoughtfully and when Maxwell was through he said, "Will you mention the particular bills you have in mind? I am not certain I know after all just what your business with me is."

Maxwell coughed and drew up his chair nearer. The other two men did the same. The hum of the presses was beginning to pervade the building as Maxwell, in reply to Paul's request, continued.