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The Haunted Bookshop Christopher Morley

The Corn Cob Club

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All this we mention only to explain how it was that Roger was dozing at his desk about midnight, the evening after the call paid by Aubrey Gilbert. He was awakened by a draught of chill air passing like a mountain brook over his bald pate. Stiffly he sat up and looked about. The shop was in darkness save for the bright electric over his head. Bock, of more regular habit than his master, had gone back to his couch in the kitchen, made of a packing case that had once coffined a set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

"That's funny," said Roger to himself. "Surely I locked the door?" He walked to the front of the shop, switching on the cluster of lights that hung from the ceiling. The door was ajar, but everything else seemed as usual. Bock, hearing his footsteps, came trotting out from the kitchen, his claws rattling on the bare wooden floor. He looked up with the patient inquiry of a dog accustomed to the eccentricities of his patron.

"I guess I'm getting absent-minded," said Roger. "I must have left the door open." He closed and locked it. Then he noticed that the terrier was sniffing in the History alcove, which was at the front of the shop on the left-hand side.

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"What is it, old man?" said Roger. "Want something to read in bed?" He turned on the light in that alcove. Everything appeared normal. Then he noticed a book that projected an inch or so beyond the even line of bindings. It was a fad of Roger's to keep all his books in a flat row on the shelves, and almost every evening at closing time he used to run his palm along the backs of the volumes to level any irregularities left by careless browsers. He put out a hand to push the book into place. Then he stopped.

"Queer again," he thought. "Carlyle's Oliver Cromwell! I looked for that book last night and couldn't find it. When that professor fellow was here. Maybe I'm tired and can't see straight. I'll go to bed."

The next day was a date of some moment. Not only was it Thanksgiving Day, with the November meeting of the Corn Cob Club scheduled for that evening, but Mrs. Mifflin had promised to get home from Boston in time to bake a chocolate cake for the booksellers. It was said that some of the members of the club were faithful in attendance more by reason of Mrs. Mifflin's chocolate cake, and the cask of cider that her brother Andrew McGill sent down from the Sabine Farm every autumn, than on account of the bookish conversation.

Roger spent the morning in doing a little housecleaning, in preparation for his wife's return. He was a trifle abashed to find how many mingled crumbs and tobacco cinders had accumulated on the dining-room rug. He cooked himself a modest lunch of lamb chops and baked potatoes, and was pleased by an epigram concerning food that came into his mind. "It's not the food you dream about that matters," he said to himself; "it's the vittles that walk right in and become a member of the family." He felt that this needed a little polishing and rephrasing, but that there was a germ of wit in it. He had a habit of encountering ideas at his solitary meals.

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The Haunted Bookshop
Christopher Morley

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