The Alumni Dance

“I see the next Alumni affair will be a dance,” Don remarked, looking
across the table to Jim, who was studying.

“Yes. Looking in the _Bombardment_, are you?” his brother replied.

“Sure. I guess that is the affair at which Colonel Morrell intends to
clear George Long,” Don went on.

“It is. There will be a dinner and a dance and then the colonel will
tell his story. It will be a pleasant evening for Long and his wife.”

“Goodness knows they have it coming to them,” mused Don. “I’d hate to go
around for a number of years with a cloud like that hanging over me. If
I met an old fellow student I’d have to be prepared to see suspicion
showing in his face or even to meet with outspoken slighting. It has
been a fearful burden and I’m glad that it is to be lifted soon.”

“So am I,” agreed Jim. “Mr. Long must think we have forgotten him,
though. So many months have gone by since we went to see him about the
matter. Here it is the last of February already.”

“Yes, time has passed rapidly. It won’t be long before the spring is at
hand.”

“That was a terrible tongue-lashing that the colonel gave Gates the
other night, wasn’t it?”

“Nothing more than he deserved,” retorted Don, promptly. “Just imagine,
he wanted to pay the colonel to keep quiet and let Long go on with this
blight on his good name! Just as the colonel said, if the whole thing
had been some failing of the son’s in which he had injured no one but
himself, why we’d all be glad to keep still and give the man a chance.
But that particular type of outrage calls for extreme measures.”

“Right you are. Where is that red-headed friend of ours?”

“Out visiting,” grinned Don. “That boy surely has a multitude of
friends!”

Terry returned to the room just before the lights went out and brought
some news with him. But before he told them the news he played one of
the tricks of which he was so very fond. When he approached the room he
tapped on the door sharply, turned the knob and stepped briskly into the
room. Imitating to perfection the tones of Officer of the Section he
called out:

“Attention, gentlemen! Stand at attention for inspection, please!”

Once a day their rooms were rigidly inspected and although the officer
of that section was not in the habit of calling them to attention so
pointedly the boys fell into the trap. Terry’s voice was so like that of
the officer that the two boys put down their books, leaped to their feet
and were just about ready to stand at attention when they caught sight
of the grinning face of their friend.

“Ho, ha!” roared Terry, seeing the look of disgust on their faces.
“Wasn’t that a pretty picture? I almost expected you to salute,
gentlemen!”

“We’re going to salute you so that you won’t sit down for some time to
come,” growled Jim, moving around the table with his chemistry book in
his hands. Don leaped at Terry and bore him to the bed. The red-head was
too weak to offer any resistance and Jim paddled him vigorously with the
book, until he cried for mercy.

“I just heard something that will interest you,” Terry said, when the
fooling had stopped.

“What is it?” asked Jim. “Out with it, or we’ll paddle you some more!”

“The Gates family has moved out of town!” Terry said.

“I’m glad of it,” cried Don, promptly. “I’ve always thought it too bad
that such rascals should live in that fine, historic old place.”

“That isn’t such a sanctified place,” observed Jim. “Don’t forget the
spy that lived there.”

“But the spy had even purer motives in life than the Gates family did,”
Don defended. “The house is really a historic relic and I think some
fine American family ought to live in it.”

“I see your point,” nodded Jim. “So the Gates’ skipped, did they?”

“Yes, moved out completely,” Terry replied. “No one seems to know just
where they did go. Of course, they were dreading the time when the
colonel will tell the truth about them.”

“Oh, sure,” Don said. “Well, we’re not a bit sorry to see the last of
them. For a number of years the school has actually suffered from
contact with father and son and nothing is lost by their going.”

“By the way,” observed Terry. “What is to be done about the matter of
that scholarship that Woodcrest won so many years ago from Roxberry?
When the story is published the preparatory school will find out that we
didn’t win the contest fairly.”

“I imagine that it will be held all over again, or the matter entirely
dropped,” Jim said. “I’m pretty sure that Roxberry won’t care to say
much when they find that one of their professors gave Gates the list of
questions before the exams.”

That proved to be the case. The scholarship contest was never held again
and nothing was said by the Roxberry Alumni when the story got into the
papers. As for the dishonest professor, nothing more was ever heard of
him.

Just before the Alumni Dance certain cadets were appointed for the posts
of honor at the affair. A good many of the first classmen served as
waiters, but the cadets who had been most active in the establishing of
George Long’s innocence were given posts of honor at the long tables at
which the guests ate. In this class Don, Jim, Terry, Hudson, Douglas and
Vench found themselves on the night of the affair.

The colonel had made it a point to gather together all of the men of the
former 1933 class who could come and he was delighted to find that all
but five members of that class were present. Three of these men lay in
graves overseas and many more from that class were ex-servicemen from
the United States Army. Two members lived so far away that they were
unable to get there. Many from other classes were there and it was an
impressive gathering.

Mr. and Mrs. Long entered late and were just in time to sit down at the
table. The cadets and the colonel felt that Long had been purposely
late, so as not to have to face any unpleasantness that would have
spoiled Mrs. Long’s evening. Long had in his heart another and more
chivalrous purpose, of which his wife alone was aware. He did not want
to make any of his former classmates feel cheap by cutting him at first
and then having to apologize afterward.

The cadets were seated at the head of each table, a procedure that
puzzled the members of the alumni, for they had never seen such an
arrangement before, and they wondered why it had been done. They were
not long in finding out. After the dishes had been cleared away the
colonel arose. Beside him, on either side, sat Mr. and Mrs. Long,
purposely placed there so that no one could slight them. The colonel
spoke amidst an impressive silence.

“Gentlemen of the Alumni Association, I wish to tell you a story that
combines all the elements of tragedy, drama and fine courage. I will
waste no words in telling it for I predict that after I am through you
will all of you have some hand-shaking and talking to do. I wish the
members of the class of 1933 to pay special attention to my story.”

Here the colonel reached under the table and brought forth the class cup
which had been the cause of all the trouble and placed it on the table.
A murmur went around and Long turned pale with conflicting emotions. And
in the silence that followed the colonel carefully and quietly told the
whole story.

“And gentlemen,” wound up the colonel, when the murmurs of amazement and
indignation had subsided, “I wish to present to you the cadets you have
just heard about. These are the men who tracked this thing to its lair.
Mr. Donald Mercer, Mr. James Mercer, Mr. Hudson, Mr. Vench, Mr. Douglas
and Mr. Mackson, please stand up so that everyone can see who you are.”

A storm of handclapping greeted the modest cadets as they stood in their
places and instinctively the men of the school alumni stood up and
saluted the red-faced cadets. With a sense of the fitness of things the
uniformed cadets briskly returned the salutes and sat down. The colonel
now turned to Mr. Long.

“Mr. Long, please stand up.” As Long obeyed: “Gentlemen of the Alumni,
there is nothing that is necessary for me to say, except that in the
name of the school I apologize for the tremendous wrong done Mr. Long. I
present to you gentlemen in all his unspotted honor Cadet Captain George
Long!”

This time the present cadets rose with the company and clapped heartily
for George Long. Tears ran down Mrs. Long’s face and she was not in the
least ashamed for them. When the applause had died down Long said a few
words to the assembled men, thanking such of them who had believed in
him and graciously excusing those to whom the facts had looked so black
that they could not help suspecting him. Then the supper formation broke
up and Long was deluged with those who wished to shake his hand and
express their delight and beg his pardon for their past conduct.

The cadets came in for an overwhelming amount of praise and then the
entire body of alumni and their wives went over to the school hall for
dancing. Both Mr. and Mrs. Long embarrassed the boys with their thanks
and praise. During the evening all of the honor cadets danced with Mrs.
Long.

When it was all over the boys went back to their room and prepared for
bed. The evening had been a happy one for them and they discussed it
gravely, thankful for their opportunity to have been of service to
George Long.

“It must have been a wonderful feeling for him,” Don remarked, as he
washed for bed.

“Yes, indeed,” agreed Terry. “It was a happy evening for Mrs. Long,
too.”

“I’d rather be George Long, with all his years of carrying the shadow,
than Arthur Gates, whose life has practically been a failure,” Jim
observed.

“You’re dead right,” Don assented. “Well, now the mystery is solved, and
I wonder what we’ll do next? Settle down to a tame life, probably.”

On the following morning they looked out of the windows at a bleak,
rain-washed day. Jim growled in disgust.

“Golly, what rain!” he grumbled. “It is fairly coming down in buckets.
That means indoor sports for a time.”

“Yes, and it looks like the kind of a rain that lasts a while,” sighed
Don.

Terry grinned with his usual cheerfulness. “Don’t let a little water
dampen your spirits, my boys,” he advised. “A little rain won’t alter
our lives!”