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The Haunted Bookshop Christopher Morley

Aubrey Goes to the Movies, and Wishes he Knew More German

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After some debate he decided that the best thing to do was to return to his room at Mrs. Schiller's, from which he could keep a sharp watch on the front door of the bookshop. By good fortune there was a lamp post almost directly in front of Mifflin's house, which cast plenty of light on the little sunken area before the door. With his opera glasses he could see from his bedroom whatever went on. As he crossed the street he cast his eyes upward at the facade of Mrs. Schiller's house. Two windows in the fourth storey were lit, and the gas burned minutely in the downstairs hall, elsewhere all was dark. And then, as he glanced at the window of his own chamber, where the curtain was still tucked back behind the pane, he noticed a curious thing. A small point of rosy light glowed, faded, and glowed again by the window. Someone was smoking a cigar in his room.

Aubrey continued walking in even stride, as though he had seen nothing. Returning down the street, on the opposite side, he verified his first glance. The light was still there, and he judged himself not far out in assuming the smoker to be the friend and wellwisher or one of his gang. He had suspected the other man in the alley of being Weintraub, but he could not be sure. A cautious glance through the window of the drug store revealed Weintraub at his prescription counter. Aubrey determined to get even with the guttural gentleman who was waiting for him, certainly with no affectionate intent. He thanked the good fortune that had led him to stick the book cover in his overcoat pocket when leaving Mrs. Schiller's. Evidently, for reasons unknown, someone was very anxious to get hold of it.

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An idea occurred to him as he passed the little florist's shop, which was just closing. He entered and bought a dozen white carnations, and then, as if by an afterthought, asked "Have you any wire?"

The florist produced a spool of the slender, tough wire that is sometimes used to nip the buds of expensive roses, to prevent them from blossoming too quickly.

"Let me have about eight feet," said Aubrey. "I need some to-night and I guess the hardware stores are all closed."

With this he returned to Mrs. Schiller's, picking his way carefully and close to the houses so as to be out of sight from the upstairs windows. He climbed the steps and unlatched the door with bated breath. It was half-past eleven, and he wondered how long he would have to wait for the wellwisher to descend.

He could not help chuckling as he made his preparations, remembering an occasion at college somewhat similar in setting though far less serious in purpose. First he took off his shoes, laying them carefully to one side where he could find them again in a hurry. Then, choosing a banister about six feet from the bottom of the stairs he attached one end of the wire tightly to its base and spread the slack in a large loop over two of the stair treads. The remaining end of the wire he passed out through the banisters, twisting it into a small loop so that he could pull it easily. Then he turned out the hall gas and sat down in the dark to wait events.

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The Haunted Bookshop
Christopher Morley

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