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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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"Say, are you all right?" said the latter anxiously. "Gee, those guys nearly got you."

Aubrey was too faint and dizzy to speak for a moment. His head was numb and he felt certain that several inches of it had been caved in. Putting up his hand, feebly, he was surprised to find the contours of his skull much the same as usual. The stranger propped him against his knee and wiped away a trickle of blood with his handkerchief.

"Say, old man, I thought you was a goner," he said sympathetically. "I seen those fellows jump you. Too bad they got away. Dirty work, I'll say so."

Aubrey gulped the night air, and sat up. The bridge rocked under him; against the star-speckled sky he could see the Woolworth Building bending and jazzing like a poplar tree in a gale. He felt very sick.

"Ever so much obliged to you," he stammered. "I'll be all right in a minute."

"D'you want me to go and ring up a nambulance?" said his assistant.

"No, no," said Aubrey; "I'll be all right." He staggered to his feet and clung to the rail of the bridge, trying to collect his wits. One phrase ran over and over in his mind with damnable iteration--"Mild, but they satisfy!"

"Where were you going?" said the other, supporting him.

"Madison Avenue and Thirty-Second----"

"Maybe I can flag a jitney for you. Here," he cried, as another citizen approached afoot, "Give this fellow a hand. Someone beat him over the bean with a club. I'm going to get him a lift."

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The newcomer readily undertook the friendly task, and tied Aubrey's handkerchief round his head, which was bleeding freely. After a few moments the first Samaritan succeeded in stopping a touring car which was speeding over from Brooklyn. The driver willingly agreed to take Aubrey home, and the other two helped him in. Barring a nasty gash on his scalp he was none the worse.

"A fellow needs a tin hat if he's going to wander round Long Island at night," said the motorist genially. "Two fellows tried to hold me up coming in from Rockville Centre the other evening. Maybe they were the same two that picked on you. Did you get a look at them?"

"No," said Aubrey. "That piece of sacking might have helped me trace them, but I forgot it."

"Want to run back for it?"

"Never mind," said Aubrey. "I've got a hunch about this."

"Think you know who it is? Maybe you're in politics, hey?"

The car ran swiftly up the dark channel of the Bowery, into Fourth Avenue, and turned off at Thirty-Second Street to deposit Aubrey in front of his boarding house. He thanked his convoy heartily, and refused further assistance. After several false shots he got his latch key in the lock, climbed four creaking flights, and stumbled into his room. Groping his way to the wash-basin, he bathed his throbbing head, tied a towel round it, and fell into bed.

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The Haunted Bookshop
Christopher Morley

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