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The Haunted Bookshop Christopher Morley

The Disappearing Volume

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"Can't imagine," said Roger, highly interested by this time.

"Why, the professor looking guy who came in to ask for the book the first night I was here."

"Humph! Well, he must be keen about Carlyle, because he was horribly disappointed that evening when he asked for the book and I couldn't find it. I remember how he insisted that I MUST have it, and I hunted all through the History shelves to make sure it hadn't got misplaced. He said that some friend of his had seen it here, and he had come right round to buy it. I told him he could certainly get a copy at the Public Library, and he said that wouldn't do at all."

"Well, I think he's nuts," said Aubrey, "because I'm damn sure he followed me down the street after I left the subway. I stopped in at the drug store on the corner to get some matches, and when I came out, there he was underneath the lamp-post."

"If it was a modern author, instead of Carlyle," said Roger, "I'd say it was some publicity stunt pulled off by the publishers. You know they go to all manner of queer dodges to get an author's name in print. But Carlyle's copyrights expired long ago, so I don't see the game."

"I guess he's picketing your place to try and steal the formula for eggs Samuel Butler," said Aubrey, and they both laughed.

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"You'd better come in and meet my wife and Miss Chapman," said Roger. The young man made some feeble demur, but it was obvious to the bookseller that he was vastly elated at the idea of making Miss Chapman's acquaintance.

"Here's a friend of mine," said Roger, ushering Aubrey into the little room where Helen and Titania were still sitting by the fire. "Mrs. Mifflin, Mr. Aubrey Gilbert, Miss Chapman, Mr. Gilbert."

Aubrey was vaguely aware of the rows of books, of the shining coals, of the buxom hostess and the friendly terrier; but with the intense focus of an intelligent young male mind these were all merely appurtenances to the congenial spectacle of the employee. How quickly a young man's senses assemble and assimilate the data that are really relevant! Without seeming even to look in that direction he had performed the most amazing feat of lightning calculation known to the human faculties. He had added up all the young ladies of his acquaintance, and found the sum total less than the girl before him. He had subtracted the new phenomenon from the universe as he knew it, including the solar system and the advertising business, and found the remainder a minus quantity. He had multiplied the contents of his intellect by a factor he had no reason to assume "constant," and was startled at what teachers call (I believe) the "product." And he had divided what was in the left-hand armchair into his own career, and found no room for a quotient. All of which transpired in the length of time necessary for Roger to push forward another chair.

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The Haunted Bookshop
Christopher Morley

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