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The Haunted Bookshop Christopher Morley

The Corn Cob Club

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As I explained to you, I want her to think she is really earning her way. Of course I don't want the routine to be too hard for her, but I do want her to get some idea of what it means to face life on one's own. If you will pay her ten dollars a week as a beginner, and deduct her board from that, I will pay you twenty dollars a week, privately, for your responsibility in caring for her and keeping your and Mrs. Mifflin's friendly eyes on her. I'm coming round to the Corn Cob meeting to-morrow night, and we can make the final arrangements.

Luckily, she is very fond of books, and I really think she is looking forward to the adventure with much anticipation. I overheard her saying to one of her friends yesterday that she was going to do some "literary work" this winter. That's the kind of nonsense I want her to outgrow. When I hear her say that she's got a job in a bookstore, I'll know she's cured.

Cordially yours,

"Well?" said Roger, as Mrs. Mifflin made no comment. "Don't you think it will be rather interesting to get a naive young girl's reactions toward the problems of our tranquil existence?"

"Roger, you blessed innocent!" cried his wife. "Life will no longer be tranquil with a girl of nineteen round the place. You may fool yourself, but you can't fool me. A girl of nineteen doesn't REACT toward things. She explodes. Things don't `react' anywhere but in Boston and in chemical laboratories. I suppose you know you're taking a human bombshell into the arsenal?"

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Roger looked dubious. "I remember something in Weir of Hermiston about a girl being `an explosive engine,'" he said. "But I don't see that she can do any very great harm round here. We're both pretty well proof against shell shock. The worst that could happen would be if she got hold of my private copy of Fireside Conversation in the Age of queen Elizabeth. Remind me to lock it up somewhere, will you?"

This secret masterpiece by Mark Twain was one of the bookseller's treasures. Not even Helen had ever been permitted to read it; and she had shrewdly judged that it was not in her line, for though she knew perfectly well where he kept it (together with his life insurance policy, some Liberty Bonds, an autograph letter from Charles Spencer Chaplin, and a snapshot of herself taken on their honeymoon) she had never made any attempt to examine it.

"Well," said Helen; "Titania or no Titania, if the Corn Cobs want their chocolate cake to-night, I must get busy. Take my suitcase upstairs like a good fellow."

A gathering of booksellers is a pleasant sanhedrim to attend. The members of this ancient craft bear mannerisms and earmarks just as definitely recognizable as those of the cloak and suit business or any other trade. They are likely to be a little-- shall we say--worn at the bindings, as becomes men who have forsaken worldly profit to pursue a noble calling ill rewarded in cash. They are possibly a trifle embittered, which is an excellent demeanour for mankind in the face of inscrutable heaven. Long experience with publishers salesmen makes them suspicious of books praised between the courses of a heavy meal. When a publisher's salesman takes you out to dinner, it is not surprising if the conversation turns toward literature about the time the last of the peas are being harried about the plate. But, as Jerry Gladfist says (he runs a shop up on Thirty-Eighth Street) the publishers' salesmen supply a long-felt want, for they do now and then buy one a dinner the like of which no bookseller would otherwise be likely to commit.

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The Haunted Bookshop
Christopher Morley

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