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The Haunted Bookshop Christopher Morley

Aubrey Takes Lodgings

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It was blue twilight when he reached Gissing Street. The block between Wordsworth Avenue and Hazlitt Street is peculiar in that on one side--the side where the Haunted Bookshop stands-- the old brownstone dwellings have mostly been replaced by small shops of a bright, lively character. At the Wordsworth Avenue corner, where the L swings round in a lofty roaring curve, stands Weintraub's drug store; below it, on the western side, a succession of shining windows beacon through the evening. Delicatessen shops with their appetizing medley of cooked and pickled meats, dried fruits, cheeses, and bright coloured jars of preserves; small modistes with generously contoured wax busts of coiffured ladies; lunch rooms with the day's menu typed and pasted on the outer pane; a French rotisserie where chickens turn hissing on the spits before a tall oven of rosy coals; florists, tobacconists, fruit-dealers, and a Greek candy-shop with a long soda fountain shining with onyx marble and coloured glass lamps and nickel tanks of hot chocolate; a stationery shop, now stuffed for the holiday trade with Christmas cards, toys, calendars, and those queer little suede-bound volumes of Kipling, Service, Oscar Wilde, and Omar Khayyam that appear every year toward Christmas time--such modest and cheerful merchandising makes the western pavement of Gissing Street a jolly place when the lights are lit. All the shops were decorated for the Christmas trade; the Christmas issues of the magazines were just out and brightened the newsstands with their glowing covers. This section of Brooklyn has a tone and atmosphere peculiarly French in some parts: one can quite imagine oneself in some smaller Parisian boulevard frequented by the petit bourgeois. Midway in this engaging and animated block stands the Haunted Bookshop. Aubrey could see its windows lit, and the shelved masses of books within. He felt a severe temptation to enter, but a certain bashfulness added itself to his desire to act in secret. There was a privy exhilaration in his plan of putting the bookshop under an unsuspected surveillance, and he had the emotion of one walking on the frontiers of adventure.

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So he kept on the opposite side of the street, which still maintains an unbroken row of quiet brown fronts, save for the movie theatre at the upper corner, opposite Weintraub's. Some of the basements on this side are occupied now by small tailors, laundries, and lace-curtain cleaners (lace curtains are still a fetish in Brooklyn), but most of the houses are still merely dwellings. Carrying his bag, Aubrey passed the bright halo of the movie theatre. Posters announcing THE RETURN OF TARZAN showed a kind of third chapter of Genesis scene with an Eve in a sports suit. ADDED ATTRACTION, Mr. AND Mrs. SIDNEY DREW, he read.

A little way down the block he saw a sign VACANCIES in a parlour window. The house was nearly opposite the bookshop, and he at once mounted the tall steps to the front door and rang.

A fawn-tinted coloured girl, of the kind generally called "Addie," arrived presently. "Can I get a room here?" he asked. "I don't know, you'd better see Miz' Schiller," she said, without rancor. Adopting the customary compromise of untrained domestics, she did not invite him inside, but departed, leaving the door open to show that there was no ill will.

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The Haunted Bookshop
Christopher Morley

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