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RULED BY RADIO
by Robert L. Hadfield and Frank E. Farncombe
“I am sorry, Professor! But I am instructed to say that nothing can be done in the matter of your invention.”
“Impossible! Why, surely it is obvious that it must revolutionise radio!”
The suave official, deputed by the War Minister at Whitehall to interview Professor Calos, spread his hands with a deprecating gesture.
“Perhaps! Yes, undoubtedly! But—I regret—my instructions naturally come from higher up—nothing can be done for the moment. Of course, in the future it may be possible to reopen your application. Meantime—”
“Meantime!” snapped the Professor viciously, “I may go to the devil for all the Department cares. What a blind set of fools you all are, Cardew.”
The confidential secretary permitted himself to smile. Professor Calos was undoubtedly a crank, and therefore the best way was to humour and get rid of him. The chief had refused to see him; his plans for what he described as the “revolutionising of radio,” had been turned down by the experts, and there was little doubt the old fellow was mad, or at least a trifle “touched.”
Professor Calos got up and commenced to pace restlessly up and down the well-furnished room, with its suggestion of official opulence. He was tall and gaunt. It was difficult to guess his age, but his bald conical head, eyes concealed behind large goggle spectacles, and hairless parchment face, gave an impression of a man who had spent many years seeking knowledge. He was indeed a great scientific savant, but since the booming of wireless he had devoted his whole time to a close study of this fascinating wonder.
At last he pulled himself up with a jerk, and seized his shabby, wideawake hat which he had cast down on the desk before Cardew.
“Say no more! I know at least you have done what you can. But, man, let me tell you that your Department has thrown away the possibilities of an invention which will revolutionise warfare; aye, and almost everything in our daily life. Yes, you may smile, for all you officials are hidebound with ignorance and have no more imagination than a wood-louse. But the day is coming—sooner than you suspect—when wireless will absolutely dominate human life.”
“No doubt,” interrupted Cardew smoothly. “But you see, this idea of yours doesn’t appeal to the Department. It is too sketchy— too nebulous. Why not go to the Universal Broadcasting Company? They are always on the look-out for any bright ideas and suggestions. Anything that will improve radio will attract them.”
The Professor snorted. “ ‘Improve!’ Man, I’m thinking of a revolution. I’m thinking of the coming of the day when we shall have laid bare some of the secrets which are at present hidden from even those of us who may claim to be in the van of wireless discovery. Don’t you know that nobody can say exactly how the marvels of radio happen? We see the results, but the mystery remains. And I—yes, I—am to be the man to fathom and lay bare these secrets. I have done much. I have found—” He paused, conscious that the eyes of the Secretary were fixed upon him with eager scrutiny.
“You interest me, Professor. I am sorry that, officially, I cannot encourage you that the Department will give you any money or opportunity for experiments. But tell me more of your ideas.”
Professor Calos allowed his thin lips to assume the caricature of a smile.
“No, no!” he said at length. “If I am to be spurned and regarded as a harmless old crank, you need not expect me to strew pearls of information before you. Never mind. I’ll struggle on. But mark my word, Cardew, the day will come—and perhaps it is not so far distant—when the whole world will hear of the name of Professor Calos. I have power—power”—and he tapped his amazing conical cranium with a thin finger. “Radio calls me, and yet eludes me. I cannot get away from it. Sleeping and waking the mystery fascinates me.” He stopped abruptly and took up his ancient umbrella.
“Thank you, Cardew,” he said in a more natural voice. “You at least have been courteous and attentive.”
With a grave gesture the Professor bowed himself out of the room.
The Secretary sighed gently and touched his bell.
“I am ready to get on with the correspondence,” he said to the sleek young assistant who entered.
“Has the old fossil been making a scene, sir?” inquired the perky junior, complacently smoothing his glossy hair.
“No,” he said, shortly, endeavouring to imitate his chief’s method of conveying displeasure. “And please do not criticise departmental callers. It’s a habit which grows and may lead to difficulties. Professor Calos is a peculiar old man, and of course impossible from our point of view. But suppose there is something in what he says. Wireless! By Jove, what a hold it has upon everybody. In this year 1925 you may say that practically everybody is interested in it, and yet how little is really known of its working.”
“I didn’t know you were a wireless ‘fan,’ sir,” said the assistant with a grin.
A moment later and the two men were deep in official correspondence.
“Calos, the greatest scientist of all ages!”
The whispered words seemed to fill the laboratory with tremendous significance.
Professor Calos let the sentence float slowly from his lips. He was dazed, almost frightened by the greatness of his discovery.
Two months had passed since that day in April, 1925, when he had learned from the War Office that the Department would grant no funds for the carrying on of his investigations into the mysteries of wireless. And now—he had found success!
In this midnight hour, alone in his laboratory deep beneath the old house in lonely Tal-y-balch, Pembrokeshire, he knew that he held in his hand the secret which would make radio the all-potent power. Time would be needed for perfecting the various co-ordinating points, but the principle was plain.
Unstrung by excitement, the Professor padded up and down his laboratory. The searching light from a number of electric globes shone down upon his high bald head and was reflected in his huge glasses. The illumination revealed a bewildering variety of electrical instruments, complicated machines, mysterious devices connected with radiology as understood in 1925.
Then bending over a heavy safe, he manipulated the lock and swung open a massive door. Inserting a finger into the topmost drawer, he flicked out a bundle of papers. They were his plans—the fruit of years of toil. But one point was lacking, and this he could now supply.
Lovingly he spread out the rustling sheets and conned them over again, although he knew each detail without looking at them.
“Yes,” he mused aloud, “success at last! Now I shall be rich and honoured! Now Sylvia can have clothes and jewels and everything a woman loves. Ah! how the fools who have laughed and jeered at me will open their eyes and stare when they hear what I have done!” He chuckled softly and, after making a number of notes, carefully rolled up the papers, replacing them in their hiding place. “Barfleur and Rowlet—pompous asses, how I would love to see their faces when my discovery reaches them. And Silas Rant—ha! ha! what a row there will be!”
The Professor rubbed his hands gently and, as was his habit when abstracted, commenced to think aloud:
“I have power. Power beyond understanding! I can keep it to myself or give it to the world. Wireless is wonderful—now. But I can make it more marvellous than any brain yet conceived. The secret is mine! Mine! It is worth all the bitter years of struggling and poverty and discouragement. To-morrow I can tell Sylvia.”
Switching off the lights, Professor Calos left the laboratory.
The household at Tal-y-Balch house was a small one. Besides the Professor and his old housekeeper, Margaret, there was only his motherless daughter. But Sylvia made up for any deficiencies.
But nineteen years of age, she was the sun light of the Professor’s life. Like a butterfly she flitted about in the old house, which he had rented mainly because it was far from the “madding crowd.” Vivacious, gifted with an ever-flowing fund of high spirits, uncommonly handsome, with blue eyes and fair skin contrasting with her wealth of bright hair, she was a pretty picture as she sat at breakfast awaiting the coming of her father.
“Daddy, you are late again,” she cried, as she danced out of her chair to imprint a kiss on the bald head of the old man. “I suppose you were up late again in that horrid old laboratory. Now sit down,” and she affectionately pressed his spare form into a chair, “and try some of my special frizzled bacon.”
The Professor gazed lovingly at his daughter. She was indeed the apple of his eye. For her he had toiled, and now that success had come he rejoiced to think that he would be able to pour the benefits upon this radiant girl.
Absently he listened to her chatter as she told him all the latest gossip of the little village. Then arousing himself, he brushed aside her simple budget of news.
“Sylvia,” he said, “what day is this?
“Why, Daddy, didn’t I put a new calendar in your bedroom? But I suppose you have lost it long before this. Let me see”—and she wrinkled her pretty forehead—“to-day is the fourth of June, nineteen twenty-five.”
“Then it is a memorable day. A day of days,” said the Professor solemnly. Emotion seemed to stifle his words.
“Why, Daddy, what can it be? You look absolutely as grave as a judge. Try another bit of this lovely bacon and unburden your mind.”
“Ah, Sylvia,” he said fondly, his eyes drinking in her radiant beauty. “Yes, this is a day which will be long remembered, not only by us, but by the whole world.”
“Oh, you dear, silly old man, your brain has been turned by all that worrying and wondering about the wireless. Now, eat up your breakfast and tell me what all this mystery is.”
It was then the Professor, kindling anew with excitement, told something of the success that had attended his efforts. He gave no details; for clever though Sylvia was in wireless matters, indeed quite a “fan,” he felt that his discoveries were too scientific for her comprehension. But even her imagination took fire as he sketched out the revolution which was to be worked in radio, and the fortune which must come to them.
“And, Sylvia,” he cried, “this discovery means wealth beyond my dreams. There shall be nothing but what I will buy you. I know how you have been denied, dear little girl, and it has hurt me many times. But now—”
She sprang out of her chair and danced gaily round the room.
“Dear old Daddy, I knew you would win hands down at last! And fancy being able to buy frocks and pretty things without worrying about the price. When will all these wonders begin? Soon? Oh, I hope it will be soon! I feel as if I cannot wait much longer.”
A cloud seemed to settle on the Professor’s brow. The words of his daughter damped his sanguine spirits.
“It will take time,” he said. “There are many matters to be settled; and, then, I must get in touch with the right people to exploit it. That reminds me—have the letters arrived?”
“No, Daddy, I do not think so. But here is Margaret; perhaps she has news of the postman.”
The aged housekeeper, hobbling in, carried in her hand a letter, which she placed before the Professor.
“A letter for you,” she said grumblingly, “and from London, I see. Mark my word, it means worry and trouble. I read fate in the teacup this morning, and it was black—black!”
Sylvia burst out laughing.
“O Maggie, what an old raven you are! Like a chimney sweep always looking on the dark side of things. Now run away and I’ll join you in the kitchen in a few minutes.”
Meanwhile the Professor had opened his letter and sat lost in a perusal of it. Then he looked up.
“Karl Lunt is coming down this evening,” he said. “He will be here by the five o’clock train. See that everything is ready for him.”
Sylvia pouted her pretty lips into a vexed expression.
“Karl Lunt! O Daddy, I hate that man. I don’t know why, but— but sometimes he frightens me.”
The simple dinner had been dispatched, and Karl Lunt and the Professor sat together in the tiny den used by the latter as a smoking room.
Lunt was a striking-looking man—tall, broad, dominating, and radiating vigour. He had been born forty-five years before in Hamburg, the son of a wealthy German who had espoused a Roumanian woman of great beauty. He claimed to be a cosmopolitan, spoke many languages, and nourished secret ambitions which none shared.
In London he ostensibly controlled a large organisation for the sale of wireless parts manufactured in a factory he owned in his native land. When the Professor had left the War Office, sick with the rebuffs there encountered, he had accidentally met with Karl. The latter had listened with attention to the tale poured forth by the Professor, and had discerned that possibly there might be something in the wild claims put forward by the scientist whose whole energies were concentrated on the development of wireless. Finally, he had offered to finance the Professor for a stated period. It was thus that the house at Tal-y-Balch had been secured through the help of Karl, whose money had kept the experiments going, it being understood that whatever results there were should be shared between the inventor and the financial backer.
The Professor was talking. His excitement made him restless, and as he poured forth his stream of words, he moved up and down, now coming back to the chair of Karl and stooping to point out some details on the papers spread out on the table. Then drawing up his spare frame, he waved his thin arms and painted pictures of the glowing future. Karl listened in silence, except that occasionally he took his cigar from his lips and shot out a direct question.
“I tell you, Lunt, dreams have become realities.” It was the Professor speaking. “I hold the secret of the immediate development of radio from a vague blundering knowledge to absolute certainties. It means a leaping forward. Why, think! How little even the advanced scientists actually know of the phenomena of wireless! They are in the dark and I—I am in the light. I shall be the grand benefactor of mankind.”
There was a little silence, broken only by the rustling of the papers as Karl Lunt turned them over.
“There will be radio everywhere. There will be universal vision. Power will be transmitted through the air. The limitation of sight abolished. I shall give men and women eyes which will see into space, ears which will hear the lightest whisper from the ends of the earth, and even the music of the spheres.”
“Universal vision!” The voice of Karl was deep and deliberate. “Tell me just what you mean.”
“Exactly what I say,” was the eager response. “Have not scientists groped and toyed with the idea of television? In the wireless era, which is now possible, sight will be added. Men and women will see by radio. The man speaking in New York will see his correspondent in London. Think of it—space annihilated!”
“And hearing?” Karl spoke quietly, but a spot of colour burned in his cheeks.
“Yes! Hearing will be extended beyond the dreams of scientists who have tried to pierce the mystery of wave lengths. In every home there will be the tiny instrument repeating sounds from the other side of the world.”
“What is the secret of all this, Professor?
“The secret? You have the plans before you.”
“Oh, yes!” The strong tones grew contemptuous. “These,” and he touched them with his hand, “are but guides to manufacture certain instruments. But there is something missing. A formula—a secret—call it what you will. That is what is vital.”
Professor Calos took off his great glasses and polished them thoughtfully. Karl Lunt continued to scrutinise the plans before him on the table. For some moments there was silence in the room; then suddenly Lunt, with an impatient gesture, pushed away the papers that littered the table, as if contemptuous of them.
“Professor,” he said, “that is all very well as far as it goes, but I have not financed you for this trifling; I have not found time and money for you, backed you up when even your own friends threw you down, believed in you, for this sort of thing.”
Karl Lunt extended a lean forefinger towards Professor Calos.
“Calos,” he said, his voice taking on the tone of command. “You must do more—you have done more, I believe, and I demand that you play fair and open with me. You are keeping something back. Whether you have achieved the full object of your researches or not I do not know, but I do know that your mind has sought out greater problems in radio than you have spoken of to-night. Tell me, Professor, is it not so?”
Professor Calos continued to wipe his glasses thoughtfully for some seconds.
“You must make allowances,” he said at last, “for the scientific mind. I am no boaster, though those fools at Whitehall think me a mad crank; I make no claims that I cannot fulfil, and that is why I have not spoken freely of all that I am at work upon—”
“Then I am right?”
“Yes, Lunt. You are right. Behind these things of which we have spoken to-night there lie others of even greater importance. As yet they are undiscovered, but I am on the threshold of the secret; my mind is groping for the key, and it is for the reason that I have not made further progress than I have—that I have not told you all.”
A smile flickered across the saturnine face of Karl Lunt. “You can trust me. Am I not your partner?” he asked.
“You are my partner, and I trust you, Lunt; but sometimes I think you are not interested in these matters as I am interested. I seek only the advancement of the science of radio and the benefit of the human race; you are a lover of money and of power. I would rather die and my secret perish with me than place what I know and what I hope to discover in the hands of one who would use it to his selfish ends, for personal enrichment, or the enslavement of his fellow creatures.”
“You need have no fear of me, Calos. If I have spoken too much of money, it is because without it not the greatest scientist who ever lived could carry on his experiments; could tide over the lean years when the world jeers at him and scoffs at his so-called crazy ideas. Where would you be, Professor, had it not been for the money I could command to put at your disposal—still kicking your heels in the waiting-rooms of Whitehall? How could you hope to work out your schemes for the benefit of mankind, were it not for the money-lover who finances you?”
Professor Calos dropped his eyes, as if wavering in his intentions to keep his hopes and aspirations to himself before the powerful, dominating personality of the other man.
“You are right again, I suppose,” he said at last, lamely. “I will tell you all I know.”
“Good! You are a sensible man, Professor.”
“It was perhaps three years ago that I first began the series of experiments about which you already know, but it was only towards the latter end of them that I began to interest myself in what is known to radiographers as ‘beam wireless.’ I may state that I have already perfected a system of transmitting wireless messages in any given direction as opposed to broadcasting; but out of my researches in that direction has come an even more important idea. Mind you, I am but groping in the dark at the present, but light will come—I am sure of it. I believe that I am on the track of learning the secret of the ‘Z’ Ray—how to eliminate from the ether all radio waves sent out by any other station than my own. I believe that I shall some day be able to sweep, as it were, the ether clean as a path for the reception of my own wireless beam.”
“Yes, yes! Professor.” Karl Lunt’s eyes gleamed with satisfaction. “Now you interest me. And,” he added craftily, “now you are working on lines that will indeed lead you towards fame, that will place the name of Calos in the mouths of all the world. Go on, Professor. Tell me all you know.”
Warmed by the praise and the apparent geniality of Lunt, Professor Calos flung aside all reticence.
“Think,” he cried, “of what this invention will mean. Our Government, with this power in its hands, could silence the wireless stations of any opposing power in war, could make itself master of the ether whereby only its own wishes could be sent across the world. It could stamp out all opposing ‘death rays,’ no matter how potent or how advanced in technical discovery they had become, could throw opposing nations into confusion, forcing them to a return of the days before the simplest wireless discoveries had been made. When I have completed my discoveries I shall renew my offers to the Government, and then we shall see what they think of the poor inventor, Calos.”
There was a pregnant silence, broken by Lunt:
“Master of the ether, eh? That was the term you used, was it not, Professor? And a very well-chosen term, too. Master of the ether! A term that appeals to me! And you think you will be able to perfect this invention? Soon? Will it require much money? I am at your back, remember, in your work for bestowing this very great benefit upon your fellows.” Lunt smiled, but if it was sardonically, it passed unnoticed by Professor Calos, who gripped the hand extended to him.
“Thank you, Lunt, a hundred times,” he said. “I am glad I confided in you. I feel inspired to-night; I feel that the secret for which I am groping is about to reveal itself. It will mean work, hard work, but with the encouragement you give me I know I cannot fail, and rest assured you shall be the first to share my knowledge.”
“I am glad he has gone, Daddy. I never feel happy when that man is in the house.” Sylvia took her father’s arm in hers as they turned back from the door after seeing Lunt disappear into the night in his high-powered car.
Professor Calos patted his daughter’s hand affectionately. “I think, my dear, you are a trifle prejudiced against Mr. Lunt. I have not always seen eye to eye with him myself, but he has proved himself to-night to be truly interested in the advance of science. He has promised to finance me still further in the latest of my investigations, and we must not forget that it is to him we owe the roof over our heads and the food we eat. I have been mistaken in him; and I believe that when I place in his hands the completed plans of my next invention—”
Sylvia stopped suddenly and turned towards her father.
“Father!” she cried. “You haven’t told him of that, have you? Has he forced you to promise him the greatest of all your inventions? Oh, I wish you had said nothing about it to him.”
“Have no fear, my child. I do not even myself know yet how completely I shall succeed; yet when I am with that man I feel as if possessed with greater power, as if some of Lunt’s potent personality had entered into me, driving me on towards success. He is a wonderful man.”
Sylvia pouted her pretty lips petulantly.
“Oh, I am tired of Karl Lunt,” she cried. “I know we were happier when we were poor and almost starving. But ever since that man came into our lives I have felt uneasy, as if a shadow were hanging over our lives. I can never believe that he means you well, or that he will use your brains and your inventions as you would wish them used. Father, Lunt is an evil man. Something seems to tell me that he is working for ends about which we do not know anything. He is a man of mystery; he will take your discoveries from you one by one, and heaven knows what use he will make of them. You say his presence inspires you to greater effort: I say that he fills me with distrust, and that both you and I, and perhaps thousands of others, will live to rue the day when he became master of your secrets.”
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