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The Haunted Bookshop Christopher Morley

The Disappearing Volume

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"Why" she exclaimed, "Gissing Street--that's here! And what a funny kind of book for an assistant chef to read. No wonder their lunches have been so bad lately!"

When Roger and Helen rejoined her in the den a few minutes later she showed the bookseller the advertisement. He was very much excited.

"That's a funny thing," he said. "There's something queer about that book. Did I tell you about it? Last Tuesday-- I know it was then because it was the evening young Gilbert was here-- a man with a beard came in asking for it, and it wasn't on the shelf. Then the next night, Wednesday, I was up very late writing, and fell asleep at my desk. I must have left the front door ajar, because I was waked up by the draught, and when I went to close the door I saw the book sticking out a little beyond the others, in its usual place. And last night, when the Corn Cobs were here, I went out to look up a quotation in it, and it was gone again."

"Perhaps the assistant chef stole it?" said Titania.

"But if so, why the deuce would he advertise having done so?" asked Roger.

"Well, if he did steal it," said Helen, "I wish him joy of it. I tried to read it once, you talked so much about it, and I found it dreadfully dull."

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"If he did steal it," cried the bookseller, "I'm perfectly delighted. It shows that my contention is right: people DO really care for good books. If an assistant chef is so fond of good books that he has to steal them, the world is safe for democracy. Usually the only books any one wants to steal are sheer piffle, like Making Life Worth While by Douglas Fairbanks or Mother Shipton's Book of Oracles. I don't mind a man stealing books if he steals good ones!"

"You see the remarkable principles that govern this business," said Helen to Titania. They sat down by the fire and took up their knitting while the bookseller ran out to see if the volume had by any chance returned to his shelves.

"Is it there?" said Helen, when he came back.

"No," said Roger, and picked up the advertisement again. "I wonder why he wants it returned before midnight on Tuesday?"

"So he can read it in bed, I guess," said Helen. "Perhaps he suffers from insomnia."

"It's a darn shame he lost it before he had a chance to read it. I'd like to have known what he thought of it. I've got a great mind to go up and call on him."

"Charge it off to profit and loss and forget about it," said Helen. "How about that reading aloud?"

Roger ran his eye along his private shelves, and pulled down a well-worn volume.

"Now that Thanksgiving is past," he said, "my mind always turns to Christmas, and Christmas means Charles Dickens. My dear, would it bore you if we had a go at the old Christmas Stories?"

Mrs. Mifflin held up her hands in mock dismay. "He reads them to me every year at this time," she said to Titania. "Still, they're worth it. I know good old Mrs. Lirriper better than I do most of my friends."

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The Haunted Bookshop
Christopher Morley

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