The Glories of the Past

A group of pleasant-looking young men, neatly dressed in the spruce,
gray uniforms of the cadet corps of Woodcrest Military Institute, stood
at ease in one of the halls downstairs in Locke Hall. They were
representatives from the various classes, ranging from the senior, or
first class, to the third or sophomore class. As yet the two
representatives from the fourth or freshman class had not arrived, and
it was for these two cadets that the others were waiting.

“A special meeting, huh?” spoke up Cadet Don Mercer, one of the
representatives from the third class. “Anybody got any idea what Colonel
Morell has in mind?”

“I haven’t,” replied Senior Cadet Captain Bob Hudson. “I guess none of
us have. Farley and I got a notice to report to the study room here for
a special meeting, and that’s all we know.”

“Here comes the rest of the party,” announced the second class
representative, as the two fourth class men hurried up. “Now as soon as
the colonel comes we can get down to business.”

It was a fall day at the military academy, and Colonel Morrell, the
headmaster, had sent word early in the day that he wished to meet the
leaders of the various classes briefly after the last lesson period. The
boys were waiting now, talking light-heartedly among themselves, for
they were all friends of long standing, except for the two men from the
fourth class, who were newcomers.

Don Mercer, the cadet who had spoken first, was now entering his second
year at Woodcrest Military Institute. With his brother Jim and his
friend Terry Mackson he had entered the academy the previous year. Jim,
Terry and Don were old friends, and their first real adventures had
taken place two summers ago, when they had gone for a summer cruise and
had captured some marine bandits, details of which were related in the
first volume of this series, _The Mercer Boys’ Cruise in the Lassie_. In
the second volume, _The Mercer Boys at Woodcrest_, they came to military
school and helped to solve the mystery of old Clanhammer Hall and to
rescue their beloved headmaster, Colonel Morrell. Then, on the previous
summer the three chums had taken a trip to Lower California with a
former history teacher, Professor Scott, where, after many thrilling
adventures, they had uncovered the buried wreck of a Spanish treasure
ship. All of this, told in The _Mercer Boys on a Treasure Hunt_, had
contributed to make their lives adventurous and active, and they were
now back in school to take up the duties and pleasures of a new fall
term.

Don and Jim Mercer were both healthy-looking young boys in their late
teens, curly-haired, and well-built. Their friend Terry was tall, bony
and red-headed, chiefly noted for a cheerful disposition and a wide
grin.

A short fat man came rapidly down the hall, a good-humored-looking man
who was nearing old age but who was not allowing it to get the better of
him. He was clad in the gray uniform of a cadet colonel, the sight of
which brought the cadets to instant attention, although the colonel
himself, and not the uniform, inspired their respect and sincerity. He
was the idol of the school, for his sympathetic understanding had won
all of the student body to him, and the young men of the cadet corps
would have cheerfully gone to the end of the world for their headmaster.
When the colonel approached the cadets, he gestured with his hand and
said, “Rest.”

“Well, young men, all here I see,” remarked Colonel Morrell, as he
opened the door of the study room. “Come right in and be seated. Make
yourselves at home, as you generally do when you come here to study.”

The colonel chuckled at his own joke. He knew that sometimes other
things than study went on in the study rooms, but he had always known
how to give his lively boys enough rope with which to have a good time,
and at the same time just how far to go with them on the point of study.
The result had been that the cadets had their fun and still kept up a
good average of scholarship. They appreciated the headmaster’s sally and
entered the room. The colonel sat down in a large chair and they sat on
the long window seats facing him.

“All of you are wondering what is in the wind, no doubt. I’ll get to the
point at once. All of you know that I have planned for some time to turn
old Clanhammer Hall into an Alumni Hall. It has outgrown its usefulness
as a school building, and yet its associations are so fine that we don’t
wish to tear the place down.” He smiled at Don and continued. “Inasmuch
as it once served the part of a prison for Mercer and me, we feel more
sentiment for it than the rest of you do! But it is really a fine old
place, and it will be the most fitting place in the whole school for our
Alumni Hall.

“Now, in order to make that hall live in the memory of the men who will
come back here on annual visits we must find all of the trophies that
teams in the past have won. What made me think of it was this: I went
into an old closet on the top floor of this hall yesterday and down in a
corner I found a moth-eaten blue banner which the class of 1893 won in a
football championship. I don’t know if it is the right of a soldier to
be sentimental, boys, but I couldn’t help feeling as I saw the faded
blue color and the small white letters that some fine young fellows had
fought very hard in days gone by for that particular piece of cloth and
what it represented, and that the bottom of an obscure closet was not
the place for it. Later on, when I thought it all over I realized that
we have been mighty careless here at Woodcrest in the matter of our
trophies and the glories of the past.”

“I have often wondered why we didn’t have trophies around the school,”
smiled Cadet Douglas, Don’s brother representative of the class.

“The whole trouble is that we have never had a regular committee to
attend to that matter,” the colonel explained. “Each class has won some
kind of a trophy in years gone by and has cared for it just as they
wanted to. Some few of them were hung up in the various study halls,
some in the assembly room, and I’m afraid some of them have just been
carelessly stowed away somewhere. I want all of you men, as
representatives, to scour the halls from end to end and unearth as many
of these emblems of victory as can be found. We’ll check up against a
list until we have all the trophies that Woodcrest ever received.”

“Have you a list of all trophies, sir?” asked Hudson.

“No, but I know where we can get one. Ever since the founding of the
school we have had our school magazine, the _Woodcrest Bombardment_, and
surely each number will tell of the class winning any emblem and what
that emblem was. Fortunately, you will find a complete set in the
library, each monthly volume intact, and you will find the set of the
greatest value in your quest. My suggestion is that the representative
read through the school notes of each book and find out just what each
class won and then make a list up, against which we will check the
recovered cups, flags, banners or whatever we have.”

“When we get them all it is your plan to place them in Clanhammer Hall,
isn’t it?” Don asked.

“Yes, that is my thought. Early this winter I want to open the old
historic hall as the Alumni Hall. At that time I want to have the old
graduates come back and see the banners and cups hanging on the walls,
showing them that we of today appreciate their struggles, their spirit
and their loyalty. Nothing keeps a school up like the spirit of loyalty
and the remembrance of past deeds of courage and self-sacrifice. You
boys can see how it is. If you won a silver cup for Woodcrest this year
by hard, determined struggle you wouldn’t want to come here to school
ten years from now and find out that no one remembered the first thing
about it or even so much as knew where the trophy was. I want all of
those old students to come back here and see that the school remembers
them and appreciates what they have done in the past to make the
institution a place to be proud of.”

“That’s what I’d like to see,” murmured Farley.

“Of course you would, we all would. Well, suppose we meet again on
Friday afternoon at the same time and see what we have discovered? If
you want to get into any closet or room that is locked up just let me
know and I’ll gladly give you the key. That will be all, boys.”

After the colonel had left the room the cadets gathered to talk the
situation over. They were all in favor of his plan and they felt
confident that they would succeed in bringing to light all of the
trophies of the past. Hudson suggested that they go directly to the
assembly hall and make out a list of the things to be found in there. As
there was still some time before drill they went in a body to the
assembly room.

Douglas had a pad and pencil and noted down the trophies as they were
called. In the general assembly room they found four banners, two silver
cups, one silver football with a figure of a man running the ball
mounted on it, and a wooden shield with two small cups on it, the result
of a debating team victory. When these items had been written down they
all bent over the pad in Douglas’ hand.

“The red banner, the baseball trophy, is dated 1901,” remarked Hendon,
of the second class. “How far back do we have to go in the search?”

“How old is the school?” asked a fourth class man.

“The date on Clanhammer Hall is 1885,” supplied Don.

“Then that is the date of the school,” replied Hudson. “Clanhammer Hall
is the original building, you know. I guess we’ll find the initial
number of the _Bombardment_ is dated that year, too. So it looks as
though we’d have to dig back a number of years.”

“Yes, but the school didn’t win a trophy every year,” grinned Farley. “A
good old school and all that, but it didn’t win something every year.”

“Perhaps not, but pretty nearly,” came back Don. “Don’t forget, there
were baseball, football, basketball, track, debating and tennis teams,
to say nothing of swimming teams. I guess we’ll find there are quite a
few trophies when we come to look for them.”

The call for drill sounded and the cadets quickly separated to assemble
with their several units. Don was now a lieutenant in the infantry, but
Jim was far ahead of him in his particular section, the cavalry unit,
the first man in the history of the school to attain that honor who was
not in the second or first class. His steady attention to drill and his
heroism in saving Cadet Vench on Hill 31 had placed him in that
responsible position. Terry was, to use his own expression, “still
coaxing the big ladies to speak out in meeting,” by which he meant he
was still serving in the artillery, around his beloved guns, whose
workings fascinated him.

That evening in their room Don told Jim and Terry about the hunt for
trophies. He had obtained some copies of the school magazine and
together they pored over the early school notes. They found that there
had been many trophies in days gone past.

“There must be some up in the storage room in the attic,” Jim said.

“Yes, and I saw a battered cup in the locker of the senior study room,”
Terry said. “Looked like somebody heaved it at somebody else. After it
has been repaired it will do very nicely to put on a shelf.”

“I’m glad the colonel is going to fix up the old hall and set up the
prizes,” Don said. “I think every school should take pride in its past
history.”

In the days that followed the committee of young soldiers were very
busy. During their spare hours between study, drill and classes, they
scoured the school for trophies. The results were astonishing. From old
closets, from lockers, from under window seats and from the storage room
they brought cups, flags and banners. For some time they were baffled in
their search for a big silver cup, but at last found it in the workshop
of a former janitor, down in the cellar of the old school. Some of the
flags came from the walls of dormitories, though most of them were in
Locke Hall, the main hall of the school.

A careful list had been made from the back numbers of the school paper
and at last all trophies but one had been found. By checking up they
found that a silver cup, given to the class of 1933, was nowhere to be
found. Had they gone to the colonel at once they would have saved
themselves a lot of fruitless searching, but they did not and so after
fairly turning the school upside down they had to admit failure.

“We’ll have to admit we’re licked on that cup,” Hudson decided. “The
meeting is to be this afternoon and if there is a corner in this school
that we haven’t peeked into I don’t know where it is!”

The colonel met them that afternoon and was pleased with their good
work. Hudson explained that fifteen flags and banners, three silver
footballs, a number of trophy shields and ten cups had been found.

“These represent victories in every department of work, both athletic
and scholastic,” the cadet captain said. “The oldest banner is dated
1887 and is for a football championship. The last trophy is a silver cup
dated 1947 and brings our list up to date. From now on we can keep a
better record of our trophies and set them up in Clanhammer Hall as we
get them.”

“A total of fifty-five trophies,” put in Douglas. “There are quite a
number of shields with descriptive plates and small silver cups on them,
the prizes of debating teams.”

“Are they all in good order?” asked the colonel.

“Most of them are,” replied Hudson. “Suppose we take a look at them soon
and you may see for yourself. One or two of the cups have been bent and
the banners are somewhat dirty and in some cases decidedly moth-eaten.
But the lettering is all intact, even on the 1887 banner, and I’m sure
we can exhibit them without fear of their falling apart.”

“Then you have made a success of the job,” began the colonel, but Hudson
stopped him.

“I’m afraid we haven’t quite done that, sir,” he said. “We cannot find
the silver cup donated to the class of 1933 anywhere.”

The colonel looked puzzled. “I don’t remember that cup. What are the
details?”

“According to the issue of the _Bombardment_ of that time the cup was
awarded by Melvin Gates to the school with the highest rate of
individual scholarship, and Woodcrest won it, in fact, the son of the
donor won the cup. Well, we cannot find that particular cup anywhere in
the school.” He paused as a look of recognition came over the colonel’s
face. “Do you remember it, sir?”

The colonel spoke slowly. “Yes, boys, from the details you have given, I
do remember that cup. There is a story connected with it, a story that
is by no means pleasant. I do not know where the cup is, but I’ll tell
you the story of its strange disappearance.”