The Alumni Dinner

“I don’t know whether this case gets better or worse as it goes on,”
remarked the colonel, after Hudson, Don and Jim had told him Long’s
story.

“As far as the proposition of clearing Long is concerned, it’s turning
out just right,” Hudson remarked.

“That’s right,” the colonel agreed. “But now I find that Woodcrest
didn’t win the interscholastic scholarship contest at all. In time the
truth will have to be made known and then we will receive an additional
black eye.”

“Perhaps not, sir,” Don put in. “When the professor from Roxberry who
sold the examination to Gates is known they may wish to keep it quiet.
There is no way of telling just how it will all turn out.”

“Maybe so,” the colonel replied. “Now, let me tell you what I plan to
do. In about three weeks I am going to have the first alumni dinner in
Clanhammer Hall, when we will change the name of the place to Alumni
Hall. I am going to write to Arthur Gates to attend that affair and
while he is here we’ll see if there is anything to be learned about the
events of the past. Gates has never attended an alumni dinner before,
possibly because he has feared to meet Long at one.”

“Then how will you get him to attend this one?” Jim asked.

“I’m going to write and tell him that as this is the most important
meeting that we have ever had it is absolutely necessary that we have
the winner of the interscholastic contest with us.” The colonel’s face
became suddenly red and his gray eyes glinted dangerously. “I’m sorry to
think that I’ll have to shake hands with him and pretend that he is the
same as any other man, but that is the only thing I can do under the
circumstances. It is all important that George Long be cleared and that
we find out why Gates took that cup. That is as much as we can do right
now, and I’ll let you know when something new turns up.”

They left the colonel then and for the next week very nearly forgot the
affair of the cup. They were now in the full swing of their school life,
enjoying it as never before. Both Don and Jim were on the football
squad, and although they were not permitted to play in every game they
did get some part in most games. The red-headed boy was still with the
track, rapidly making a name for himself as a fast and steady runner.

At the end of a week the colonel called Don and the senior cadet into
his office. He had a letter in his hand.

“I just received a reply to my letter,” he stated. “Arthur Gates will be
here on the night of our alumni dinner. He writes to say that he has
never had the opportunity to come before, but that he’ll be very glad to
come and help open Clanhammer as the new Alumni Hall. That’s very nice
of him, I’m sure. If he knew what we know, he wouldn’t come near the
school.”

“That’s true,” nodded Don. “What are your plans for the evening?”

“I haven’t decided as yet,” the headmaster admitted. “But I shall want
you and Hudson and Jim to be in the room and watching Gates. I am going
to ask most of the seniors to act as waiters, and I’ll see to it that
you and Jim are on the table with Gates.”

On Monday of the following week a corps of carpenters and painters
swooped down on old Clanhammer Hall and went to work. In between periods
and after school the cadets watched them with interest. Old and rotting
boards were ripped off and new ones put in their places, old paint was
scraped and in a short time the old building stood out in glowing
splendor. Leaves were raked up and broken windows replaced. The hall was
completely transformed.

On the inside the work was even more thorough. Old benches were torn
out, one or two old partitions followed, and the entire left side of the
original school was turned into a huge dining hall. In the days of its
infancy Clanhammer had had a small dining room, because enrollment had
been small there. Now two classrooms joined with that original room made
up the new and spacious alumni dining room.

Upstairs was left pretty much as it had been and then the new furniture
was moved in. Long tables and plenty of chairs composed the new
equipment, and in a few days the new sign, Alumni Hall, was painted over
the front door.

A number of seniors had been chosen as waiters and Don and Jim had been
told to join them. On the night of the dinner they assembled early in
the kitchen of the hall and began preparations. The kitchen had been
refitted and at present was full of steam and the odors of half a dozen
foods. The cooks had their hands full watching the restless cadets, who
sampled the food at every opportunity.

“I’m warning you,” shouted Pat Donohue, the chief cook, as he wiped the
perspiration from his red face. “The next fellow I see dipping bread in
the gravy will catch a frying pan back of his ears! Don’t you boys never
get fed during meal times?”

“No, Pat,” said one of the seniors, gravely. “Your food is so good that
we never get enough of it! Don’t blame us for snitching a little now and
then, for it is out of this world!”

“Humph,” snorted the cook, suspiciously. “That sounds fine, but I got a
sneaking suspicion you just said it to make me feel good. Get your
fingers out of that salad!”

“Isn’t there anything we can have without being jumped on for it?”
demanded Hudson.

There were a half dozen rolls which had fallen into some heavy grease
earlier in the evening. They were now on a plate nearby and the grease
did not show. Pat pointed to them.

“There’s some fine rolls that you can have,” he said, a twinkle in his
eye. A dozen hands reached for the rolls and the lucky ones began to eat
hastily. But in a minute there came a chorus of protesting cries.

“What in the world did you put in these rolls?” gasped a senior, as he
tasted the grease.

“Who, me?” asked Pat, innocently. “I didn’t put nothing in ’em. I guess
they was that way when they came. I dunno, I haven’t tasted ’em.”

After that the cadets let the food alone. By this time they could hear
the old graduates coming in, and soon the old hall echoed and re-echoed
to the talk and laughter of the old students. From time to time the
alumni wandered within sight of the busy corps of waiters, and then the
cadets got a glimpse of them.

Working busily the cadets soon had the supper on the table and then the
graduates marched in, the old-timers in the lead and the others
following.

Just before they sat down the colonel beckoned to Hudson and spoke to
him in a low tone. “The man at my right is Arthur Gates,” he said. “Not
on this table, but on the second table. Just watch him closely and see
what his reaction is to any announcement about class trophies.”

Hudson nodded and carried the message to Don and Jim. The meeting opened
with a word of thanks by the colonel and then with a noisy scraping of
chairs the old cadets sat down. It was now a busy period for the young
waiters. They walked rapidly from the kitchen to the dining room,
putting on the food, replenishing the supply of rolls, and seeing to it
that everyone was well served.

It was during a pause between courses that Don and Jim got their first
real look at Arthur Gates. He was sitting at the end of the second
table, conversing with some of his old classmates. He was stout and
pale, wore glasses and had very little hair on his head. His eyes were
shifty and they decided, even discounting what they knew about him, that
they did not like him.

After the final coffee cups had been cleared away several speeches were
made. They recalled the earlier days of the school, when the colonel was
a very young man, and one of them told of mistaking him for the janitor.

Eventually Gates was called upon and the three boys listened to him in
amazement. He spoke of the glorious year in which the school had won the
cup and seemed not in the least abashed.

Jim whispered to Don, “I’ll be doggone glad when we can produce proof
and show that fellow up. Can you imagine a guy like that taking credit
while Long is in disgrace?”

“I won’t mind spiking his guns,” whispered Don indignantly, in return.

Gates concluded his speech in a burst of handclapping, in which the
colonel did not take part. The headmaster rose slowly and addressed the
gathering.

“I have a very pleasant surprise for you, gentlemen. During the last few
months I have had a committee of my boys look through the school for the
trophies of former years. They have recovered every one of them, and in
a very short time I shall show them to you. Every one, gentlemen.”

The three cadets looked quickly at Gates. He was paying strict attention
to Colonel Morrell and his face had become very pale. Nervously his
hands crumpled the tablecloth.

“I have made over one room into a trophy room,” continued Colonel
Morrell. “In that room you will find the walls lined with the emblems
which speak of the glories of the past, the standards for the winning of
which you gave so much courage and loyalty. Cups, flags, banners,
shields—all are there and in looking at them I am sure you will find
many a stirring memory. I propose that we now go directly to the trophy
room and look over the collection, and I challenge any of you to show me
wherein we of the present day have left a single historic trophy out.”

There was a pushing back of chairs and the graduates followed the
colonel out of the dining room into a smaller room which had been
beautifully decorated. The last glimpse that the three cadets had of
Gates he was close on the heels of the colonel.

“I guess I see the colonel’s point,” whispered Hudson, as they prepared
to clear the tables. “Wait until you hear what he has to say.”

The next two hours were busy ones, as the cadets were compelled to clear
all the tables, eat, and help stack away the piles of dishes. When they
returned to the empty dining room they found that most of the guests had
left the hall. After a time the colonel sought them.

“Did you observe anything?” he asked guardedly.

“Mr. Gates looked ill at ease when you said you had all of the
trophies,” Don answered.

The colonel nodded. “I watched him closely when we got into the Trophy
Room,” he said. “His eyes eagerly swept the room, and after that he
seemed ill at ease no more. He saw that the class of 1933 cup was not
there. But he must have known that it was not there in the first place.”

“He must have the cup at home somewhere,” said Jim.

“I believe he has. But listen while I tell you what happened. One of the
graduates said, ‘Too bad we haven’t the interscholastic cup of 1933.’
There was a dead silence and then Gates said, ‘Let’s forget that
altogether, fellows.’ I guess he would like everyone to forget about
that cup.”

“No doubt,” agreed Hudson. “Well, what is the next move?”

“Let’s wait awhile,” answered the colonel. “I had a talk with Gates and
he told me that he and his family were about to move here to Portville
to live! That may mean something definite in the future.”