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  The Haunted Bookshop Christopher Morley

Aubrey Walks Part Way Home--and Rides The Rest of the Way

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It was a cold, clear night as Mr. Aubrey Gilbert left the Haunted Bookshop that evening, and set out to walk homeward. Without making a very conscious choice, he felt instinctively that it would be agreeable to walk back to Manhattan rather than permit the roaring disillusion of the subway to break in upon his meditations.

It is to be feared that Aubrey would have badly flunked any quizzing on the chapters of Somebody's Luggage which the bookseller had read aloud. His mind was swimming rapidly in the agreeable, unfettered fashion of a stream rippling downhill. As O. Henry puts it in one of his most delightful stories: "He was outwardly decent and managed to preserve his aquarium, but inside he was impromptu and full of unexpectedness." To say that he was thinking of Miss Chapman would imply too much power of ratiocination and abstract scrutiny on his part. He was not thinking: he was being thought. Down the accustomed channels of his intellect he felt his mind ebbing with the irresistible movement of tides drawn by the blandishing moon. And across these shimmering estuaries of impulse his will, a lost and naked athlete, was painfully attempting to swim, but making much leeway and already almost resigned to being carried out to sea.

He stopped a moment at Weintraub's drug store, on the corner of Gissing Street and Wordsworth Avenue, to buy some cigarettes, unfailing solace of an agitated bosom.

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It was the usual old-fashioned pharmacy of those parts of Brooklyn: tall red, green, and blue vases of liquid in the windows threw blotches of coloured light onto the pavement; on the panes was affixed white china lettering: H. WE TRAUB, DEUT CHE APOTHEKER. Inside, the customary shelves of labelled jars, glass cases holding cigars, nostrums and toilet knick-knacks, and in one corner an ancient revolving bookcase deposited long ago by the Tabard Inn Library. The shop was empty, but as he opened the door a bell buzzed sharply. In a back chamber he could hear voices. As he waited idly for the druggist to appear, Aubrey cast a tolerant eye over the dusty volumes in the twirling case. There were the usual copies of Harold MacGrath's The Man on the Box, A Girl of the Limberlost, and The Houseboat on the Styx. The Divine Fire, much grimed, leaned against Joe Chapple's Heart Throbs. Those familiar with the Tabard Inn bookcases still to be found in outlying drug-shops know that the stock has not been "turned" for many a year. Aubrey was the more surprised, on spinning the the case round, to find wedged in between two other volumes the empty cover of a book that had been torn loose from the pages to which it belonged. He glanced at the lettering on the back. It ran thus:


Obeying a sudden impulse, he slipped the book cover in his overcoat pocket.

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The Haunted Bookshop
Christopher Morley

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