A Visit to Mr. Long

Don allowed Sunday to go by without saying anything to the colonel about
the cup and the story attached to it. He had already told it all to his
brother and Terry, and they spent fruitless hours trying to figure out
why Gates had stolen his own cup.

“Beats me,” Jim finally confessed, giving it up in despair.

“It is something like that old story of the man who stole his own
wedding present,” suggested Terry. “Only, that fellow had some plan in
mind when he did it. He wanted to stop the wedding.”

“Arthur Gates had some scheme in mind, don’t doubt that,” Don said,
seriously. “But what was it?”

On Monday he told his story to the colonel. The headmaster was
astonished and in one sense pleased.

“Then Long is innocent!” he exclaimed. “That’s splendid! My former cadet
comes out with flying colors!”

“But another one does not!” Don reminded him.

“Well, yes, that is so,” admitted the colonel. “But still I would rather
see it the way it is than to have to think George Long is guilty. Not
that I wish to see either or any of my boys guilty of dishonor, but what
I mean is this: Long was such a fine clean fellow that it hurt to think
that anything was wrong with him. Gates, on the other hand, was not so
straightforward. I can’t even say that he was dishonest, but he was less
frank than the cadet captain.”

“I see what you mean.” Don nodded. “But now we will have to admit that
Gates was dishonest, for he allowed the blame to settle on Long and
never said anything about it at all.”

“That is so,” the colonel said. “What do you propose next? Shall Long be
told of the story?”

“Privately, yes,” Don replied. “But suppose we keep it rather quiet for
a time? We do want to find out just why Gates took it, and a significant
story may underlie his reason. My plan is to have a regular committee go
and call on Mr. Long!”

“To see if he can add anything to the facts gathered?” the colonel
asked.

“Yes, just that. It may be that he has since found out something that
will help. It won’t do any harm to try. Do you know where he is living?”

“The last time I wrote to him he was living in White Plains. I’ll give
you his address and you can write and ask for an appointment.”

“Do you think that is wise?” Don asked.

“Why not?”

“Well, he may still be hurt at the way the whole thing was received
years ago and tell us very briefly but politely that he will not be at
home to us. My plan is to drop in on him some evening and then he will
have to receive us.”

After thinking it over the colonel agreed that Don’s plan was best and
they decided on a committee. As they desired to keep the thing as quiet
as possible it was finally agreed that Don, Jim and Senior Cadet Captain
Hudson should do the calling on George Long. As soon as lessons were
over Don hunted up the cadet captain and told him what was in the wind.

He was deeply interested and when Jim found that he was to be part of
the committee his joy was great. Terry was slightly disappointed, but
felt that he would eventually have some part in things. At least, he
would hear how things turned out, and that in itself served to comfort
him.

It was one night during the following week that the three cadets
composing the committee arrived in White Plains. They started early in
the afternoon and it was nearly eight o’clock when they arrived in the
city. Their first step was to go into a drugstore and look up the name
of George Long.

“Here it is,” the tall senior captain said, pointing the name out to his
companions. “He is still living at the address that the colonel gave us.
Now, if he is at home we’ll be in luck.”

After some inquiry they found the street and half way down it a neat
white house. There was a light in the living room and sounds of a radio
could be heard as they stood on the front porch. Hudson touched the bell
and they waited.

“Here’s hoping he won’t throw us out,” whispered Jim.

“He won’t,” Don promised. “Not when I tell him what I have learned.”

A very pleasant looking man in his early thirties opened the front door
and turned on the front porch light. His face was thoughtful and he
carried himself with an erect carriage that revealed his military
training. In unconcealed astonishment he surveyed the three trim-looking
cadets in their gray uniforms and gray overcoats. Quickly his eyes
flashed to the W. M. I. on their hats and he knew that they came from
Woodcrest Military Institute. His face was a study.

“Are you Mr. George Long?” asked Don, whom the others had agreed would
be the spokesman of the party.

“Yes, I am,” the man responded. “Won’t you step in?”

The three cadets stepped inside a comfortable hall, removing their hats
and loosening their overcoats as they did so. Long continued to look
fixedly at them.

“We have come to see you on some very important business, Mr. Long,”
said Hudson, as there was a slight pause.

“Come in the living room,” Long invited, leading the way. It was evident
that he was deeply puzzled and fighting to get a grip on himself.

As they entered the living room, a neat, vigorous lady of about the same
age as Long got up quickly from an easy chair in which she had been
sitting. She looked from the cadets to her husband.

“If it is on business, George, I’ll leave you to yourselves,” she began,
but Don quickly interrupted her.

“Please do not go,” he said. “I am sure you will be quite anxious to
hear what we have to say to Mr. Long. Before we go any further I want to
introduce my companions and myself. This is Senior Cadet Captain Hudson,
and this is my brother, Mr. Mercer. I am Donald Mercer, of the third
class at Woodcrest.”

“I’m glad to know you,” Long said, having regained some of his composure
by this time. “This is Mrs. Long. Won’t you be seated?”

He turned off the radio music and they all sat down, the Longs expectant
and the cadets cool. Don spoke slowly and calmly.

“Mr. Long, we have come to ask you to tell us what you know about that
unfortunate affair of the Gates trophy of 1933.”

A sudden dark look passed over the man’s face and his eyes blazed. His
voice had lost its friendliness when he spoke again.

“I had hoped you weren’t here to talk about that,” he said, excitement
in his tone. “I won’t answer a single question. I never was a thief!”

The three cadets sat unmoved and Don went on unevenly. “It was thought
by a great many that you were, and it is still thought. There are very
few persons in the world who know that you never were, but before very
long everyone will know it. I think you will answer questions, Mr. Long,
and willingly so, since it will help us to solve the whole mystery of
that cup.”

Mrs. Long was sitting up eagerly in her chair and her husband was
staring. “Do you mean to say that you have found out anything about that
cup?” Long asked, eagerly.

“I found out several things,” Don answered. “But I think the wisest
thing would be to hear what you have to say first. It may help us a lot,
and then we’ll tell you what we know. You may save yourself most of the
details, for Colonel Morrell, who has always believed in you, has told
us most of them.”

“I know that the colonel has always believed in me, and I’m mighty proud
of the fact,” Long said. “Well, gentlemen, I must first beg your pardon
for my outburst. The subject has long been a deep hurt to me, so you can
understand just how I felt.”

“Perfectly,” nodded Hudson, the others assenting.

“Well, you know that the Gates cup was turned over to me and that it
disappeared on the day of the presentation. I’m afraid that is all there
is to it. I was accused by the senior Gates, but generously protected by
Arthur.”

A swift glance passed between the cadets, a glance which the Longs
noticed and wondered at. Don again took the lead.

“Are you sure you have told us everything, Mr. Long?” he asked, looking
directly into the former cadet captain’s eyes. “Can’t you tell us why
you went around so glumly after Gates won the chance to compete against
Roxberry, and again in the same manner after he had won against that
school and had claimed the highest honors? It looked to everyone then as
though you were jealous, but we have a feeling that there was something
else. Suppose you tell us now.”

Long hesitated, and his wife reached over and touched his arm. “George,
you must tell everything to these boys. I know that you consider it
honorable to keep quiet, and that you have done so for all of these
years during which you have been cruelly misjudged, but I think it is
high time you made some effort to clear yourself.”

Long came to a decision. “Very well, boys. I’ll tell you everything.
Perhaps I’ve been foolish to keep it all to myself in this way, but I’ve
thought it the honorable thing to do. The reason I looked so glum at the
time Arthur Gates won in the competition examinations and later again
Roxberry, is simply because Gates won them dishonestly!”

“Both of them?” asked Jim sharply.

“Yes, both of them! Copied his answers out of textbooks for the
elimination and later bribed a professor from Roxberry on the big
examination! His money did it, and the professor mentioned gave him a
complete list of the questions to be answered before the interscholastic
contest. No wonder he won hands down!”

“How did you learn this?” Don asked.

“I knew, judging by our class records, that I should have defeated Gates
in the eliminations. But I didn’t say anything until he won the big
event with one hundred per cent. Then, on the night that I first placed
that cup on my dresser, I pinned him down to the facts and made him
confess that he had stolen the entire thing. Gates was always rather
weak and he admitted it readily, even telling me the methods employed.

“As you can imagine, I was utterly appalled. We were always a school
noted for our cadet spirit and our honor, and it had been literally
smeared by Gates’ hideous act. The next day he was to step up on the
platform and take a cup that belonged to another school, or at least one
which he had not won cleanly, and he was going to do it with a smile on
his face. Boys, I’m no cry-baby, but I did cry a bit then for the utter
hopelessness of a man who would do that. Now I know where I was wrong. I
should have dragged him to the colonel or have beaten the life out of
him, but I thought I knew of a better way. I talked for two solid hours
to him about honor and then left him alone in my room, after he had
promised to write down a confession and stand clean. It wasn’t an easy
thing to do on his part, but he agreed, and he said he’d write it where
it would be eternal and there would be no mistake about it. I didn’t
understand that, but I went outside for a walk, to cool off in the fresh
air.

“And on the next morning the cup was there, but it later disappeared. He
stepped up to the platform and took all the honors, and that knocked the
theory I had held in the head. I thought that he had had the trophy
stolen in order that he wouldn’t have to accept it, thinking that he’d
back out altogether. But he didn’t. As I said before, he was mighty
generous about it all, but of course, he had to be. He knew I was in a
position to grind him to powder with a word, and he acted accordingly. I
think that is the only reason his father didn’t prosecute me.”

“The story gets blacker each time we hear it,” murmured Hudson.

“That explains a whole lot,” Don said. “Now, I’ll tell you what we
know.” He began at the point where he had read the notice of the
resigning janitor in the issue of the _Bombardment_ and told it to the
finish. “So you can see, Mr. Long, that Gates stole his own cup. I guess
he did it so as not to have to accept it.”

“Perhaps he was brazen enough to accept all of the praise, but the cup
was too much for him, and he knew he could not face that,” Mrs. Long
suggested.

“And yet that doesn’t make it any the less dishonorable,” Jim
interposed.

“You still think there is some other reason for taking his own cup?”
asked Long.

“I’m afraid so,” confessed Jim. “Simply taking the cup, and still
accepting all of the honors doesn’t seem logical.”

They talked on for some time, the Longs delighted at the good fortune
which had come to them. It had grown so late that the cadets knew they
could not return to the school that night. They talked of going to a
hotel but the Longs promptly vetoed the suggestion, declaring that they
could and would put them up for the night.

The cadets gladly accepted the invitation, and knowing that they were in
no hurry, spent a happy evening with the Longs. Now that some of the
bitterness was lifted from his mind George Long talked freely of the
days during which he had been in the school.

“For the time being nothing will be said publicly,” Don told Long, as
they were leaving the next day. “We are not yet satisfied as to why
Gates took the cup and we mean to make an effort to find out. In time,
however, you will be completely cleared.”

“With as many of them as are still alive,” said Long quietly. “Some of
them were killed in the war. I was in the war, too, and it is just by
the mercy of the Almighty that I am not resting there now.”

With the thanks and good wishes of the Longs echoing in their ears, the
three cadets left and were soon on the way back to Woodcrest.