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The Pig And Whistle
by [?]

‘I possess a capital of thirty thousand pounds. One-third of this is invested in railway shares, which bear interest at three and a half per cent.; another third is in Government stock, and produces two and three-quarters per cent.; the rest is lent on mortgages, at three per cent. Calculate my income for the present year.’

This kind of problem was constantly being given out by Mr. Ruddiman, assistant master at Longmeadows School. Mr. Ruddiman, who had reached the age of five-and-forty, and who never in his life had possessed five-and-forty pounds, used his arithmetic lesson as an opportunity for flight of imagination. When dictating a sum in which he attributed to himself enormous wealth, his eyes twinkled, his slender body struck a dignified attitude, and he smiled over the class with a certain genial condescension. When the calculation proposed did not refer to personal income it generally illustrated the wealth of the nation, in which Mr. Ruddiman had a proud delight. He would bid his youngsters compute the proceeds of some familiar tax, and the vast sum it represented rolled from his lips on a note of extraordinary satisfaction, as if he gloried in this evidence of national prosperity. His salary at Longmeadows just sufficed to keep him decently clad and to support him during the holidays. He had been a master here for seven years, and earnestly hoped that his services might be retained for at least seven more; there was very little chance of his ever obtaining a better position, and the thought of being cast adrift, of having to betake himself to the school agencies and enter upon new engagements, gave Mr. Ruddiman a very unpleasant sensation. In his time he had gone through hardships such as naturally befall a teacher without diplomas and possessed of no remarkable gifts; that he had never broken down in health was the result of an admirable constitution and of much native cheerfulness. Only at such an establishment as Longmeadows–an old-fashioned commercial ‘academy,’ recommended to parents by the healthiness of its rural situation–could he have hoped to hold his ground against modern educational tendencies, which aim at obliterating Mr. Ruddiman and all his kind. Every one liked him; impossible not to like a man so abounding in kindliness and good humour; but his knowledge was anything but extensive, and his methods in instruction had a fine flavour of antiquity. Now and then Mr. Ruddiman asked himself what was to become of him when sickness or old age forbade his earning even the modest income upon which he could at present count, but his happy temper dismissed the troublesome reflection. One thing, however, he had decided; in future he would find some more economical way of spending his holidays. Hitherto he had been guilty of the extravagance of taking long journeys to see members of his scattered family, or of going to the seaside, or of amusing himself (oh, how innocently!) in London. This kind of thing must really stop. In the coming summer vacation he had determined to save at least five sovereigns, and he fancied he had discovered a simple way of doing it.

On pleasant afternoons, when he was ‘off duty,’ Mr. Ruddiman liked to have a long ramble by himself about the fields and lanes. In solitude he was never dull; had you met him during one of these afternoon walks, more likely than not you would have seen a gentle smile on his visage as he walked with head bent. Not that his thoughts were definitely of agreeable things; consciously he thought perhaps of nothing at all; but he liked the sunshine and country quiet, and the sense of momentary independence. Every one would have known him for what he was. His dress, his gait, his countenance, declared the under-master. Mr. Ruddiman never carried a walking-stick; that would have seemed to him to be arrogating a social position to which he had no claim. Generally he held his hands together behind him; if not so, one of them would dip its fingers into a waistcoat pocket and the other grasp the lapel of his coat. If anything he looked rather less than his age, a result, perhaps, of having always lived with the young. His features were agreeably insignificant; his body, though slight of build, had something of athletic outline, due to long practice at cricket, football, and hockey.