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The Haunted Bookshop Christopher Morley

The Disappearing Volume

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With the politeness desirable in a well-bred youth, Aubrey's first instinct was to make himself square with the hostess. Resolutely he occluded blue eyes, silk shirtwaist, and admirable chin from his mental vision.

"It's awfully good of you to let me come in," he said to Mrs. Mifflin. "I was here the other evening and Mr. Mifflin insisted on my staying to supper with him."

"I'm very glad to see you," said Helen. "Roger told me about you. I hope he didn't poison you with any of his outlandish dishes. Wait till he tries you with brandied peaches a la Harold Bell Wright."

Aubrey uttered some genial reassurance, still making the supreme sacrifice of keeping his eyes away from where (he felt) they belonged.

"Mr. Gilbert has just had a queer experience," said Roger. "Tell them about it."

In the most reckless way, Aubrey permitted himself to be impaled upon a direct and interested flash of blue lightning. "I was having dinner with your father at the Octagon."

The high tension voltage of that bright blue current felt like ohm sweet ohm, but Aubrey dared not risk too much of it at once. Fearing to blow out a fuse, he turned in panic to Mrs. Mifflin. "You see," he explained, "I write a good deal of Mr. Chapman's advertising for him. We had an appointment to discuss some business matters. We're planning a big barrage on prunes."

"Dad works much too hard, don't you think?" said Titania.

Aubrey welcomed this as a pleasant avenue of discussion leading into the parkland of Miss Chapman's family affairs; but Roger insisted on his telling the story of the chef and the copy of Cromwell.

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"And he followed you here?" exclaimed Titania. "What fun! I had no idea the book business was so exciting."

"Better lock the door to-night, Roger," said Mrs. Mifflin, "or he may walk off with a set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica."

"Why, my dear," said Roger, "I think this is grand news. Here's a man, in a humble walk of life, so keen about good books that he even pickets a bookstore on the chance of swiping some. It's the most encouraging thing I've ever heard of. I must write to the Publishers' Weekly about it."

"Well," said Aubrey, "you mustn't let me interrupt your little party."

"You're not interrupting," said Roger. "We were only reading aloud. Do you know Dickens' Christmas Stories?"

"I'm afraid I don't."

"Suppose we go on reading, shall we?"

"Please do."

"Yes, do go on," said Titania. "Mr. Mifflin was just reading about a most adorable head waiter in a London chop house."

Aubrey begged permission to light his pipe, and Roger picked up the book. "But before we read the items of the coffee-room bill," he said, "I think it only right that we should have a little refreshment. This passage should never be read without something to accompany it. My dear, what do you say to a glass of sherry all round?"

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The Haunted Bookshop
Christopher Morley

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