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The Haunted Bookshop Christopher Morley

The "Cromwell" Makes its Last Appearance

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Aubrey held out his watch in front of Roger. The latter nodded.

"Do you understand?" he said. "Do you hear me all right?"

"Yes, splendidly. I think it's wonderful! You know I never talked on long distance before----"

"Don't touch the bag," repeated Roger doggedly, "and don't let any one take it until we--until I get back."

"I promise," said Titania blithely.

"Good-bye," said Roger, and set down the receiver. His face looked curiously pinched, and there was perspiration in the hollows under his eyes. Aubrey held out his watch impatiently.

"We've just time to make it," cried Roger, and they rushed from the shop.

It was not a sprightly journey. The train made its accustomed detour through West Philadelphia and North Philadelphia before getting down to business, and the two voyagers felt a personal hatred of the brakemen who permitted passengers from these suburbs to straggle leisurely aboard instead of flogging them in with knotted whips. When the express stopped at Trenton, Aubrey could easily have turned a howitzer upon that innocent city and blasted it into rubble. An unexpected stop at Princeton Junction was the last straw. Aubrey addressed the conductor in terms that were highly treasonable, considering that this official was a government servant.

The winter twilight drew in, gray and dreary, with a threat of snow. For some time they sat in silence, Roger buried in a Philadelphia afternoon paper containing the text of the President's speech announcing his trip to Europe, and Aubrey gloomily recapitulating the schedule of his past week. His head throbbed, his hands were wet with nervousness so that crumbs of tobacco adhered to them annoyingly.

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"It's a funny thing," he said at last. "You know I never heard of your shop until a week ago to-day, and now it seems like the most important place on earth. It was only last Tuesday that we had supper together, and since then I've had my scalp laid open twice, had a desperado lie in wait for me in my own bedroom, spent two night vigils on Gissing Street, and endangered the biggest advertising account our agency handles. I don't wonder you call the place haunted!"

"I suppose it would all make good advertising copy?" said Roger peevishly.

"Well, I don't know" said Aubrey. "It's a bit too rough, I'm afraid. How do you dope it out?"

"I don't know what to think. Weintraub has run that drug store for twenty years or more. Years ago, before I ever got into the book business, I used to know his shop. He was always rather interested in books, especially scientific books, and we got quite friendly when I opened up on Gissing Street. I never fell for his face very hard, but he always seemed quiet and well-disposed. It sounds to me like some kind of trade in illicit drugs, or German incendiary bombs. You know what a lot of fires there were during the war--those big grain elevators in Brooklyn, and so on."

"I thought at first it was a kidnapping stunt," said Aubrey. "I thought you had got Miss Chapman planted in your shop so that these other guys could smuggle her away."

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The Haunted Bookshop
Christopher Morley

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