Mischief on the Moral High Ground

Thoroughly enjoying Jonathan Smith’s “The Learning Game“. This anecdote is from his childhood. His Uncle Bert, a haemophiliac, always stayed with them.

“Every Christmas Day for many years we all gathered in his room for our dinner. After dinner, in my early childhood, we always played cards. I looked forward to this as much as to the turkey because I concentrated so fiercely and I wanted to win. The grown-ups gradually lost interest in the game and drank cider, with only half a mind on the cards. Taking full advantage of that, I usually ended up with the biggest pile of coins, and as the pile grew I pictured the fountain pen I was going to buy. A Platignum pen, or at least I think that’s what it was called. Anyway, I had seen them in the shops.
Uncle Bert, impressed by my judgement and my memory for the cards, egged me on.

I massacred everyone, and ‘By God, I was rich. Rich!’ By bedtime I had scooped the pool. As well as my Christmas presents the Platignum pen was as good as in my hand.
Uncle Bert then reached up with his long fingers to unhook the Haemophiliac Society Charity stocking which he always kept hanging by his bed. He passed it round, encouraging each of us to contribute. It was a small see-through stocking, so there was no disguising the size of your gift. It may have been easy being mean with the collection bag in church, but not here in his bedroom. He watched me intently across the table and I knew he was watching me. One bushy eyebrow raised, a big grin and his few teeth showing, he handed the stocking to me. With a sinking heart I dropped coin after coin in.
‘It’s very good of you,’ he said, nodding each coin down, flicking his eyes and his head back to my pile, watching it diminish, ‘very good of you indeed.’
That is a teacher at work: mischief on the moral high ground, coercion, charity and comeuppance: sometimes he was pure Dickens.”

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