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The Haunted Bookshop Christopher Morley

The "Cromwell" Makes its Last Appearance

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"You seem to have done me the honour of thinking me a very complete rascal," said Roger.

Aubrey's lips trembled with irritable retort, but he checked himself heroically.

"What was your particular interest in the Cromwell book?" he asked after a pause.

"Oh, I read somewhere--two or three years ago--that it was one of Woodrow Wilson's favourite books. That interested me, and I looked it up."

"By the way," cried Aubrey excitedly, "I forgot to show you those numbers that were written in the cover." He pulled out his memorandum book, and showed the transcript he had made.

"Well, one of these is perfectly understandable," said Roger. "Here, where it says 329 ff. cf. W. W. That simply means `pages 329 and following, compare Woodrow Wilson.' I remember jotting that down not long ago, because that passage in the book reminded me of some of Wilson's ideas. I generally note down in the back of a book the numbers of any pages that interest me specially. These other page numbers convey nothing unless I had the book before me."

"The first bunch of numbers was in your handwriting, then; but underneath were these others, in Weintraub's--or at any rate in his ink. When I saw that he was jotting down what I took to be code stuff in the backs of your books I naturally assumed you and he were working together----"

"And you found the cover in his drug store?"


Roger scowled. "I don't make it out," he said. "Well, there's nothing we can do till we get there. Do you want to look at the paper? There's the text of Wilson's speech to Congress this morning."

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Aubrey shook his head dismally, and leaned his hot forehead against the pane. Neither of them spoke again until they reached Manhattan Transfer, where they changed for the Hudson Terminal.

It was seven o'clock when they hurried out of the subway terminus at Atlantic Avenue. It was a raw, damp evening, but the streets had already begun to bustle with their nightly exuberance of light and colour. The yellow glitter of a pawnshop window reminded Aubrey of the small revolver in his pocket. As they passed a dark alley, he stepped aside to load the weapon.

"Have you anything of this sort with you?" he said, showing it to Roger.

"Good Lord, no," said the bookseller. "What do you think I am, a moving-picture hero?"

Down Gissing Street the younger man set so rapid a pace that his companion had to trot to keep abreast. The placid vista of the little street was reassuring. Under the glowing effusion of the shop windows the pavement was a path of checkered brightness. In Weintraub's pharmacy they could see the pasty-faced assistant in his stained white coat serving a beaker of hot chocolate. In the stationer's shop people were looking over trays of Christmas cards. In the Milwaukee Lunch Aubrey saw (and envied) a sturdy citizen peacefully dipping a doughnut into a cup of coffee.

"This all seems very unreal," said Roger.

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The Haunted Bookshop
Christopher Morley

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