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Book-Borrowing Nearly Always Means Book-Stealing
by [?]

Whenever I lend a book–and, in parenthesis, I never lend a book of which I am particularly fond–I always say “good-bye” to it under my breath. I have found that, whereas the majority of people are perfectly honest when dealing with thousands, their sense of uprightness suddenly leaves them when it is only a question of a thr’penny-bit. As for books and umbrellas, people seem to possess literally no conscience in regard to them. Umbrellas you may, perhaps, get back–if you were born under the “lucky star” with a “golden spoon” in your mouth, and had an octogenarian millionaire, with no children, standing–or peradventure propped up–as god-parent at your christening. Few people have qualms about asking for the return of an umbrella, whereas a book always gets either “Not-quite-finished-been-so-busy” for an answer, or else the borrower has been so entranced by it that he has “taken the liberty” to lend it to a friend because he knew you wouldn’t mind! (Of course you don’t–you only feel like murder!) Nor do you really mind, providing that you are indifferent as to the ultimate fate of the volume. If you are not indifferent . . . well, you won’t have lent it, that’s all; it will recline on the bookshelf of the literary “safe”–which is in your own bedroom, because your own bedroom is the only place where a book ever is really safe. (Have you noticed how reluctant people always are to ask for the loan of a book which lies beside your bed? It is as if this traditional lodgment of the family Bible restrained them. Usually they never even examine bedside books. They are always so embarrassed when they happen to pick up a volume of the type of “Holy Thoughts for Every Day of the Year.” They never know what to say to that!) But a book which lies about downstairs is the legitimate prey of every book “pincher” who strays across your threshold. Moreover, no one has yet invented a decent excuse for refusing to lend a book. I wish they had; I would use it until it was threadbare. You can’t very well say what you really think, since no one likes to be refused the loan of anything because the owner feels convinced that he will never get it back. So, unless you have a particular gift for the Lie-Immediate, which embraces either the assertion that the book in question does not belong to you or else that you have promised it to somebody else, you meekly utter the prayer that you will be delighted if the borrower thereof will only be kind enough to let you have it back soon, which, all the time, you know he won’t, and he knows he won’t, and you know that he knows he won’t, and he knows that you know that he won’t–all of which passes through your respective minds as he pockets the book, and you in your heart of hearts bid it a fond farewell!