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The Haunted Bookshop Christopher Morley

Aubrey Determines To Give Service That's Different

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Aubrey walked many miles, gradually throwing his despair to the winds. The bright spirits of Orison Swett Marden and Ralph Waldo Trine, Dioscuri of Good Cheer, seemed to be with him reminding him that nothing is impossible. In a small restaurant he found sausages, griddle cakes and syrup. When he got back to Gissing Street it was dark, and he girded his soul for further endeavour.

About nine o'clock he walked up the alley. He had left his overcoat in his room at Mrs. Schiller's and also the Cromwell bookcover-- having taken the precaution, however, to copy the inscriptions into his pocket memorandum-book. He noticed lights in the rear of the bookshop, and concluded that the Mifflins and their employee had got home safely. Arrived at the back of Weintraub's pharmacy, he studied the contours of the building carefully.

The drug store lay, as we have explained before, at the corner of Gissing Street and Wordsworth Avenue, just where the Elevated railway swings in a long curve. The course of this curve brought the scaffolding of the viaduct out over the back roof of the building, and this fact had impressed itself on Aubrey's observant eye the day before. The front of the drug store stood three storeys, but in the rear it dropped to two, with a flat roof over the hinder portion. Two windows looked out upon this roof. Weintraub's back yard opened onto the alley, but the gate, he found, was locked. The fence would not be hard to scale, but he hesitated to make so direct an approach.

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He ascended the stairs of the "L" station, on the near side, and paying a nickel passed through a turnstile onto the platform. Waiting until just after a train had left, and the long, windy sweep of planking was solitary, he dropped onto the narrow footway that runs beside the track. This required watchful walking, for the charged third rail was very near, but hugging the outer side of the path he proceeded without trouble. Every fifteen feet or so a girder ran sideways from the track, resting upon an upright from the street below. The fourth of these overhung the back corner of Weintraub's house, and he crawled cautiously along it. People were passing on the pavement underneath, and he greatly feared being discovered. But he reached the end of the beam without mishap. From here a drop of about twelve feet would bring him onto Weintraub's back roof. For a moment he reflected that, once down there, it would be impossible to return the same way. However, he decided to risk it. Where he was, with his legs swinging astride the girder, he was in serious danger of attracting attention.

He would have given a great deal, just then, to have his overcoat with him, for by lowering it first he could have jumped onto it and muffled the noise of his fall. He took off his coat and carefully dropped it on the corner of the roof. Then cannily waiting until a train passed overhead, drowning all other sounds with its roar, he lowered himself as far as he could hang by his hands, and let go.

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The Haunted Bookshop
Christopher Morley

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