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|The Haunted Bookshop||Christopher Morley|
Aubrey Takes Lodgings
|Page 6 of 7||
CHAPMAN'S CHERISHED CHIPS
These delicate wafers, crisped by a secret process, cherish in their unique tang and flavour all the life-giving nutriment that has made the potato the King of Vegetables----But the face of Miss Titania kept coming between his hand and brain. Of what avail to flood the world with Chapman Chips if the girl herself should come to any harm? "Was this the face that launched a thousand chips?" he murmured, and for an instant wished he had brought The Oxford Book of English Verse instead of O. Henry.
A tap sounded at his door, and Mrs. Schiller appeared. "Telephone for you, Mr. Gilbert," she said.
"For ME?" said Aubrey in amazement. How could it be for him, he thought, for no one knew he was there.
"The party on the wire asked to speak to the gentleman who arrived about half an hour ago, and I guess you must be the one he means."
"Did he say who he is?" asked Aubrey.
For a moment Aubrey thought of refusing to answer the call. Then it occurred to him that this would arouse Mrs. Schiller's suspicions. He ran down to the telephone, which stood under the stairs in the front hall.
"Hello," he said.
"Is this the new guest?" said a voice--a deep, gargling kind of voice.
"Yes," said Aubrey.
"Is this the gentleman that arrived half an hour ago with a handbag?"
"Yes; who are you?"
"I'm a friend," said the voice; "I wish you well."
"How do you do, friend and wellwisher," said Aubrey genially.
"I schust want to warn you that Gissing Street is not healthy for you," said the voice.
"Is that so?" said Aubrey sharply. "Who are you?"
"I am a friend," buzzed the receiver. There was a harsh, bass note in the voice that made the diaphragm at Aubrey's ear vibrate tinnily. Aubrey grew angry.
"Well, Herr Freund," he said, "if you're the wellwisher I met on the Bridge last night, watch your step. I've got your number."
There was a pause. Then the other repeated, ponderously, "I am a friend. Gissing Street is not healthy for you." There was a click, and he had rung off.
Aubrey was a good deal perplexed. He returned to his room, and sat in the dark by the window, smoking a pipe and thinking, with his eyes on the bookshop.
There was no longer any doubt in his mind that something sinister was afoot. He reviewed in memory the events of the past few days.
It was on Monday that a bookloving friend had first told him of the existence of the shop on Gissing Street. On Tuesday evening he had gone round to visit the place, and had stayed to supper with Mr. Mifflin. On Wednesday and Thursday he had been busy at the office, and the idea of an intensive Daintybit campaign in Brooklyn had occurred to him. On Friday he had dined with Mr. Chapman, and had run into a curious string of coincidences. He tabulated them:--
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