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“Christmas was approaching, and Betsey said to me one day that she had been guilty of a great extravagance.
“‘I know you will forgive me just this once,’ she went on. ‘My love for you is so extravagant that I had to keep pace with it. You’ve simply got to accept something very grand.’
“‘I can’t think of anything that I need unless it’s a new jack-knife,’ I said.
“‘Nonsense!’ she exclaimed. ‘You’ve got to let me spend some money for you. I’ve been held down in the expression of my affections as long as I can stand it. I’ve doubled my charities since we were married, as a token of my gratitude, and now I’ve a right to do something to please myself.’
“‘All right! We’ll lift the lid,’ I said. ‘We can lie about it, I suppose, and cover up our folly.’
“‘Well, of course we don’t have to tell what it cost,’ said Betsey; ‘and, Socrates, you can’t expect to reform me in a year. It’s taken half a lifetime to acquire my follies.’
“That’s one trouble with the whole problem. You can’t tear down a structure which has been slowly rising for half a century in a day, or in many days.
“Christmas arrived, and Betsey went down-stairs with me and covered my eyes in the hall and led me to the grand piano. Then I was permitted to look, and there was the most gorgeous set of books that my eyes ever beheld––a set of Smollett, in lovely brown calf, decorated with magnificent gold tooling! Yes, I love such things––who doesn’t?––and I gave Betsey a great hug, and we sat down with tears in our eyes to look at the pages of vellum and the wonderful etchings which adorned so many of them. They were charming. I knew that the books had cost at least a thousand dollars. Grandpa Smead looked awfully stern in his gold frame on the wall.
“‘Now don’t think too badly of me,’ she urged. ‘Every poor family within twenty miles is eating dinner at my expense this Christmas Day.’
“‘You are the dearest girl in all the land!’ I said. ‘There’s nobody like you.’
“‘I knew that you were fond of the classics,’ said Betsey, ‘so I consulted Harry Delance, and he suggested that I should give you a set of Smollett; said it would renew your youth. You know he’s devoted to Smollett.’
“‘And why shouldn’t we keep up with Harry?’ I said.
“‘Well, you know he took the first prize in literature, and ought to have excellent taste. Then the young man who sold the set to me is working his way through Yale. I was glad to help him, too; he recommended these books––said they were moral and uplifting––not at all like the modern trash. He knew that we enjoyed home reading. Mary will read them aloud to us, and we’ll enjoy them together.’
“This father of romance was not unknown to me, and I did not share her confidence in the joys ahead of us, but said nothing.
“After a fine dinner Betsey wanted to start in at once. We sat down by the fireside while her secretary began to read aloud from one of the treasured volumes. I had not read the story, and chose it as being the least likely to make trouble. In a short time we came to rough going and the young woman began to falter.
“‘That will do,’ said Betsey, suddenly, as I tried to conceal my emotions.
“She took the book from the hands of her secretary and read on in silence for a minute or so.
“‘My land!’ she exclaimed, with a look of horror. ‘That book would corrupt the morals of John Bunyan.’
“‘Never mind; John never lived in Pointview,’ I argued. ‘He didn’t have a chance to get hardened.’
“Betsey had a determined look in her face, and rang for the coachman.
“‘I’ll have them stored in the stable,’ said she, firmly.
“‘If you don’t keep it locked, all the women in the neighborhood’ll be in there,’ I warned her, knowing that she couldn’t help telling her friends of what had happened.
“‘That’s no reason why the men should be unduly exposed,’ said Betsey. ‘Poor things! It’s my duty to protect you as long as I can, Socrates.’
“I promised to get rid of the books somehow, and persuaded her to let them stay where they were until I had had time to think about it. Then she said:
“‘Socrates, forgive me. I didn’t mean it, and I wanted to be so nice to you. I guess it’s a just punishment for my extravagance. I thought the modern novels were bad enough. What can I do for you now?’
“‘Always, when you’re in doubt, do nothing,’ I suggested.
“‘Oh, I know what I’ll do!’ she exclaimed, joyfully. ‘I’ll knit you a pair of socks with my own hands.’
“‘Eureka!’ I shouted. ‘Those socks shall make footprints on the sands of time.’”
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