"Louis is doing very well now at school. His headaches trouble him some. I am giving him a course of careful training. He was much interested in the set of models you sent him. It was good of you to remember him. He admires you vastly. Don't forget that, boy, will you?
"You must come home for the holidays. We want the family all together then. Make your plans accordingly.
"All send love, and most of all, your Mother."
Paul finished the letter and laid it down. He sat there for a while in
silence. Walter did not venture to break it. Finally Paul said: "Walter,
I've been thinking over this affair and perhaps I have a new look at it.
I want to tell you about it."
A light came into Walter's face which had been fixed and dogged and he got up from in front of his trunk where he had been kneeling and came up to the table.
"Sit down there," said Paul gravely. Walter sat down opposite his father, and the two, father and son, looked at each other earnestly across the table.
PAUL DOUGLAS was trying to think of his own boyhood and his temptations as he faced his own son on that memorable afternoon. His anger at the boy had almost subsided. The feeling that remained was a feeling of grief and fear mingled at the anticipation of a failure on Walter's part to realise the grave nature of the crisis through which he was passing.
"I've been thinking over all this, Walter," Paul began slowly, "and I am willing you should remain here on certain conditions."
"Oh, father, I'll do anything," Walter began impulsively.
"Let me state them," his father went on gravely. "They may seem hard to you. But I'm older than you and have a right to expect obedience if the terms are just.
"In the first place I shall expect you to earn the amount you have incurred with your gambling and repay me. Is that fair?"
"Yes," Walter spoke, wincing at his father's use of the word. "I wish you would not say 'gambling' father. It was a friendly wager. It is the regular college custom."
"I do not care what you call it or what the custom is here," said Paul, his anger beginning to flame up. "The wager, the custom, the whatever you call it, is gambling. It is gambling as much as any custom at Monte Carlo or any of the gambling halls of Europe. The principle is the same always; it is the desire and the hope of getting something for nothing, a thing totally contrary to every divine law of life. Don't you see it, Walter? Do you think I would be so much disturbed about the matter if it were of little account?"
"No, I suppose not."
Paul looked at the boy with growing earnestness. It was not reassuring to consider the possibility of his boy growing up with blunted ideals, with feeble convictions and a faint sense of the eternal difference between sharp cut right and wrong. The most sorrowful experience in Paul Douglas's life might be coming to him at this time if he should find his own son lacking in the real essentials of moral earnestness.
"Then," he went on, "another condition of your remaining here is that you promise me never to bet on anything again."
Walter interrupted eagerly, "You don't need to worry over that. I've learned my lesson. You don't think I feel especially drawn towards that sort of thing, do you?"
"I hope not," said Paul with a feeling of relief. There was a pause. Then Paul said as he picked up Esther's letter, "You will write mother. I'll leave it to you to tell her what you think you ought. But she is building great castles on your estate, my boy. Don't disappoint her, will you?"
"No, father, I won't," Walter replied in a low voice. There was another pause and then Paul said cheerfully, "I must go back on the night train. It's only fair to you to say that President Davis paid you a fine compliment speaking of your rank in the engineering department. We all expect great things of you in that line." Walter coloured with pleasure at the statement.
"They've got a great equipment here, father. That was the first reason I felt awfully bad to leave. I don't believe there is another school like Burrton for electrical engineering."
Paul rose to go and Walter went with him down to the station. Paul's parting word was affectionate and hopeful.
"Do your best, boy, and don't forget to pray."
Walter remembered that brief but serious appeal a long time. His father had not often talked religious matters with him. At the same time Walter had grown up with a strong impression of his father's own religious character and without much having been said he had always had the deepest respect for his father's splendid Christian character. That same evening he wrote home to his mother. Under the influence of his father's treatment of his conduct he made a full and frank confession of his actions but at one point he could not help saying, "I told father I did not feel as if the bet was such an awful thing on account of it being a regular custom here at Burrton. You know I've written before about the Standard being different. But father was all upset by it. Mother, I don't think I have any temptation to gamble as a regular thing, and I have promised never to bet again, but you know I like nice things and I wanted the money so I wouldn't have to bone quite so hard. Father is good to me to let me stay on. I don't know what I would have done if he had taken me out. There is no other school quite up to this for equipment and I'm not fit for anything else. I'm working on a new lamp for city street lighting. We are allowed so many hours a week for original study and research. I can't describe my work and you would not understand it if I did. But my problem is to find a way of making an electric arc light which will go without an expensive mechanism and be self-regulating without machinery. There is a German student in my class by the name of Felix Bauer who is working at the same problem. Bauer is a good friend of mine and we have our laboratory tables in the same number. Now, mother, you won't think I am altogether depraved, will you? I am planning to stick close to work from now on. I don't want to disappoint you and father and I don't believe I shall. But you will remember, won't you, that the Standard here is different from the one at home in many ways. For example, mother, most of the fellows talk very freely and even coarsely about girls, and a good many of the rich set have pictures of actresses in their rooms and tell stories about them that I can't repeat. All that disgusts me and I have never heard anyone utter any protest in a crowd where the stories are going around. You see the Standard is different here. And I told father of a number of other customs that are different from those we are used to at home. There is a different atmosphere about everything. I can't describe it exactly, but I can feel the difference. I don't believe there is very much of what we know at home as 'spiritual life.' There are some fine fellows here and some high ambitions, but the chapel service is all voluntary, and only a handful of fellows ever go unless some big gun comes to give a chapel talk, and then the president allows only fifteen minutes for the whole service.
"What you wrote about Helen having a beau was funny. I can't imagine what Helen will do when the callers begin to come. Well, mother, I want you to think of me as too busy with my work to get into any more trouble. I am awfully interested, especially in the original problem—I believe I almost stumbled on the making of a successful arc light, without a regulating mechanism, a few days ago. I have been dreaming over it ever since and I am quite confident it can be done. Felix Bauer said the other day he thought he had it all right, but the plan escaped him. It's exciting, mother, to keep trying different combinations, not knowing any minute when you may hit on a new discovery. I hope Louis is behaving himself in his studies. I am sending him by mail a time switch that he asked me about.
"Much love to all. Your affectionate son
Esther read this letter over carefully twice, and then, as her habit was, answered it almost immediately. It was a part of her training of her children that she had frankly taken them into her confidence when they were little and had had the wisdom and courage to discuss with them the questions that were