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The Haunted Bookshop Christopher Morley

The Disappearing Volume

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"So he found it again, eh? I must go and have a talk with that chap. If he's a Carlyle fan I'd like to know him."

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"Wait a minute. I had seen the LOST ad in the paper this morning, because I always look over that column. Often it gives me ideas for advertising stunts. If you keep an eye on the things people are anxious to get back, you know what they really prize, and if you know what they prize you can get a line on what goods ought to be advertised more extensively. This was the first time I had ever noticed a LOST ad for a book, so I thought to myself "the book business is coming up." Well, when I saw the chef with the book in his hand, I said to him jokingly, "I see you found it again." He was a foreign-looking fellow, with a big beard, which is unusual for a chef, because I suppose it's likely to get in the soup. He looked at me as though I'd run a carving knife into him, almost scared me the way he looked. "Yes, yes," he said, and shoved the book out of sight under his arm. He seemed half angry and half frightened, so I thought maybe he had no right to be riding in the passenger elevator and was scared someone would report him to the manager. Just as we were getting to the fourteenth floor I said to him in a whisper, "It's all right, old chap, I'm not going to report you." I give you my word he looked more scared than before. He went quite white. I got off at the fourteenth, and he followed me out. I thought he was going to speak to me, but Mr. Chapman was there in the lobby, and he didn't have a chance. But I noticed that he watched me into the grill room as though I was his last chance of salvation."

"I guess the poor devil was scared you'd report him to the police for stealing the book," said Roger. "Never mind, let him have it."

"Did he steal it?"

"I haven't a notion. But somebody did, because it disappeared from here."

"Well, now, wait a minute. Here's the queer part of it. I didn't think anything more about it, except that it was a funny coincidence my seeing him after having noticed that ad in the paper. I had a long talk with Mr. Chapman, and we discussed some plans for a prune and Saratoga chip campaign, and I showed him some suggested copy I had prepared. Then he told me about his daughter, and I let on that I knew you. I left the Octagon about eight o'clock, and I thought I'd run over here on the subway just to show you the LOST notice and give you this tobacco. And when I got off the subway at Atlantic Avenue, who should I see but friend chef again. He got off the same train I did. He had on civilian clothes then, of course, and when he was out of his white uniform and pancake hat I recognized him right off. Who do you suppose it was?"

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The Haunted Bookshop
Christopher Morley

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