Van Shaw looked at Walter savagely. Then he sauntered across the room.
"Come out in the hall, fellows, and I'll finish there. This air is too pious for my health."
Some of the boys laughed, and three or four fellows followed Van Shaw out. The rest stayed. When the door shut on Van Shaw, one of the older students, who had been silent throughout, walked up to Walter and shook hands with him. Then the rest of the group followed. Not a word was said by anyone. These youths, some of them already hardened by dissipation, had at least the native good sense not to mar the occasion by any silly attempt at words. They simply shook Walter's hand and went out. And when the last one was gone, Walter turned the key in his door and went into his bedroom adjoining, and flung himself down on the bed and cried.
I don't know that he could have given any real reason for his emotion. But he was somewhat unstrung by the event. And a number of tumultuous feelings were stirring deeply in him. He turned hot and cold at the thought of his own possible cowardice. And then he felt a reaction of shame in the thought that after this, Van Shaw and all his set would cut him dead. He was ashamed to feel, even after all he had done, that he still shrank from the possibility of social scorn, even from a set of men who had no more moral standing than Van Shaw had.
But, on the whole, having stood by his rights as he had, and having the pleasant consciousness of being true to his own principles, he was disposed to feel a glow of commendation, and later in the evening as Helen's splendid picture looked at him almost as if she was present, Walter said to himself: "I'm glad I spoke out. I'm glad."
And then, because he had been brought up from a small boy to confide in his mother, he found great relief for his feelings that same night in writing to her. He mentioned no names, simply said that curiously soon after his mother had written as she did about guarding his own room from evil talk he had had an opportunity to do it. He did not dwell upon the matter at all, and did not take any special credit to himself for his action, but simply reminded his mother again of the difference in standards and conduct. He expressed gratitude that some of the fellows had at least silently stood by him. And he ended his letter by saying that he was almost on the edge of discovery of the arc light, although it still eluded him.
For the next two weeks Walter was completely absorbed in his studies. Every spare hour he could get he pored and worked over his original problem. There were points about it which perplexed and exasperated him. Felix Bauer was as hard at work on the same problem as himself, and said one evening with a good-natured laugh that he believed he had mastered it. "All I lack is that one thing necessary what we call the 'Beduerfniss' the 'einege gewolite,'" said Bauer, as he took off his shop cap and thoughtfully ran a lead pencil back and forth through the short curly hair over his ear.
"That's all I lack," said Walter. "If I could get your 'einege gewolite,' I would have my answer."
"Hope you will get it," said Bauer, pleasantly, as he closed up his locker and went out to meet another class period.
After he had gone, Walter worked on until he was the only person left in the workroom. He had the entire afternoon and evening, as it happened, and was so absorbed in his experiments that he was hardly aware of his being alone until he looked up and saw that the big room was empty, and that it was dusk. Without any thought of supper he turned on the light over his table and made some mathematical calculations. Then he ran out of paper and looked about over the litter of stuff in front of him for another piece, but not finding any, glanced naturally over to Bauer's table, which was next his own.
There was a folded bit of paper there, and Walter reached out for it, took it, and opened it up. It was covered on one side with some drawings and diagrams, and as Walter looked at them, not paying much attention at first, as he worked a high power formula over in his head, a little at a time it dawned on him as he continued to stare at Bauer's drawings, that without having realised it himself, perhaps, Bauer had actually suggested in his own drawing the key to the arc light Walter had been puzzling over for several months without success.
"Yes! yes!" Walter was saying, excitedly, to himself. "I see it! I see it! What a dummy I was. The electrodes can be fitted with teeth at equal distances. Let the tooth rest on the porcelain plate. It will gradually soften and melt under the heat of the arc. Then—then. I see! I see—the electrode will, or it ought to, drop down of its own weight upon the next tooth. Then that will melt and the electrode will drop again. The two electrodes can be coupled together with a scissors coupling, so the teeth will have to be made in only one of them. I see the whole thing! Hurrah!" He said the last word out loud. The echo of it in the big, empty shop startled him. The glow of the discoverer, of the inventor, was on him and within him. Then he received a distinct reaction. That was Bauer's paper, not his! He had left it out of the locker when he went away! It was Bauer's discovery, not his, even if Bauer did not yet realise the real value and meaning of his diagram. He was on the road to the discovery.
Walter stared at the paper again and wished he had never seen it. For he was face to face with a real temptation, one of the hardest and most alluring his young manhood had ever confronted, and he was afraid, as he continued to stare at the diagram made by Felix Bauer.
IT was ten o'clock at night when Walter finally went out of the shop and up to his room. He did not turn on the light at once, but went over by his table and sat down.
The temptation he still faced had assumed alluring shapes. In the first place, he was saying to himself, "Bauer's drawings differ only a trifle from my own and I had practically gone as far as he, only one or two points were suggested to me by his diagram of the electrodes resting at an angle on the porcelain plate. The cutting of the teeth in the soft metal was also suggested by him. But I had thought out other points that were essential."
Then, again, Walter kept going over the great advantage it would be to him if this discovery were made by him first. He knew that the commercial value of any real improvement in city lighting was very large. There was money for him in this discovery. And Walter was growing more and more restless over his stewardship and the burdens it involved. He hated the drudgery and the time it took, and of late he began to feel quite certain that the same attitude displayed in other schools was creeping into Burrton, an attitude of contempt for the working student, nothing very pronounced, but enough to make him feel disagreeable and annoyed, for he was a finicky youth, sensitive to a great degree and with the taste of an aristocrat at heart.
"I don't see that I do Bauer any harm if I go ahead and make a model. I'll do that anyhow," he said out loud at last, as he got up and turned on his light. And then he saw under the edge of his door a note which had been slipped in there.
He went over, picked it up, opened it, and found it was a note from
"My Dear Douglas:—Within an hour after leaving the shop to-night I had a telegram calling me home. I do not know how soon I shall be able to return to Burrton, if at all. Will you kindly see if I left any of my apparatus or papers on my table and return them to my locker? I enclose the key with this note. Thank you. "FELIX BAUER."
So Bauer was going to be away indefinitely. He might not come back at all. He had not given any reason for the call to come home, but Walter remembered one remark the German student had made one day which led him to believe that Bauer's home life was unhappy and the relations between his father and mother were unpleasant. Suppose he never came back. Suppose he never finished his investigation of the lamp? Suppose—there was a number of possibilities to suppose. Why, then the field would be open to him and he could go ahead with a clear conscience. But could he? In spite of all sophistry and special pleading with himself Walter knew he had caught the idea of the electrodes from Bauer's drawing, which suggested the secret. How did he know but that Bauer had discovered it as indicated in his own diagram and was making that preliminary to the finished lamp?
There was one honest and plain way out for Walter. He could write to Bauer and frankly tell him that he had seen his drawings and had received from them a hint for the discovery and ask him if he were willing to share with him, Walter, in the result if the lamp proved worth while financially. But here was Walter's weak point. He was proud