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The Haunted Bookshop Christopher Morley

Roger Raids the Ice-Box

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But we are what we are, and Roger was even more so. The Anatomy of Melancholy always made him hungry, and he dipped discreetly into various vessels of refreshment, sharing a few scraps with Bock whose pleading brown eye at these secret suppers always showed a comical realization of their shameful and furtive nature. Bock knew very well that Roger had no business at the ice-box, for the larger outlines of social law upon which every home depends are clearly understood by dogs. But Bock's face always showed his tremulous eagerness to participate in the sin, and rather than have him stand by as a silent and damning critic, Roger used to give him most of the cold potato. The censure of a dog is something no man can stand. But I rove, as Burton would say.

After the ice-box, the cellar. Like all true householders, Roger was fond of his cellar. It was something mouldy of smell, but it harboured a well-stocked little bin of liquors, and the florid glow of the furnace mouth upon the concrete floor was a great pleasure to the bookseller. He loved to peer in at the dancing flicker of small blue flames that played above the ruddy mound of coals in the firebox--tenuous, airy little flames that were as blue as violets and hovered up and down in the ascending gases. Before blackening the fire with a stoking of coal he pulled up a wooden Bushmills box, turned off the electric bulb overhead, and sat there for a final pipe, watching the rosy shine of the grate. The tobacco smoke, drawn inward by the hot inhaling fire, seemed dry and gray in the golden brightness. Bock, who had pattered down the steps after him, nosed and snooped about the cellar. Roger was thinking of Burton's words on the immortal weed--

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Tobacco, divine, rare, superexcellent tobacco, which goes far beyond all the panaceas, potable gold, and philosopher's stones, a sovereign remedy to all diseases. . . . a virtuous herb, if it be well qualified, opportunely taken, and medicinally used; but as it is commonly abused by most men, which take it as tinkers do ale, 'tis a plague, a mischief, a violent purger of goods, lands, health, hellish, devilish, and damned tobacco, the ruin and overthrow of body and soul----

Bock was standing on his hind legs, looking up at the front wall of the cellar, in which two small irongrated windows opened onto the sunken area by the front door of the shop. He gave a low growl, and seemed uneasy.

"What is it, Bock?" said Roger placidly, finishing his pipe.

Bock gave a short, sharp bark, with a curious note of protest in it. But Roger's mind was still with Burton.

"Rats?" he said. "Aye, very likely! This is Ratisbon, old man, but don't bark about it. Incident of the French Camp: `Smiling, the rat fell dead.'"

Bock paid no heed to this persiflage, but prowled the front end of the cellar, looking upward in curious agitation. He growled again, softly.

"Shhh," said Roger gently. "Never mind the rats, Bock. Come on, we'll stoke up the fire and go to bed. Lord, it's one o'clock."

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The Haunted Bookshop
Christopher Morley

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