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|The Haunted Bookshop||Christopher Morley|
The Disappearing Volume
|Page 8 of 9||
"It is sad to have to confess it," said Mrs. Mifflin to Titania, "Mr. Mifflin can never read Dickens without having something to drink. I think the sale of Dickens will fall off terribly when prohibition comes in."
"I once took the trouble to compile a list of the amount of liquor drunk in Dickens' works," said Roger, "and I assure you the total was astounding: 7,000 hogsheads, I believe it was. Calculations of that sort are great fun. I have always intended to write a little essay on the rainstorms in the stories of Robert Louis Stevenson. You see R. L. S. was a Scot, and well acquainted with wet weather. Excuse me a moment, I'll just run down cellar and get up a bottle."
Roger left the room, and they heard his steps passing down into the cellar. Bock, after the manner of dogs, followed him. The smells of cellars are a rare treat to dogs, especially ancient Brooklyn cellars which have a cachet all their own. The cellar of the Haunted Bookshop was, to Bock, a fascinating place, illuminated by a warm glow from the furnace, and piled high with split packing-cases which Roger used as kindling. From below came the rasp of a shovel among coal, and the clear, musical slither as the lumps were thrown from the iron scoop onto the fire. Just then the bell rang in the shop.
"Let me go," said Titania, jumping up.
"Can't I?" said Aubrey.
"Nonsense!" said Mrs. Mifflin, laying down her knitting. "Neither of you knows anything about the stock. Sit down and be comfortable. I'll be right back."
Aubrey and Titania looked at each other with a touch of embarrassment.
"Your father sent you his--his kind regards," said Aubrey. That was not what he had intended to say, but somehow he could not utter the word. "He said not to read all the books at once."
Titania laughed. "How funny that you should run into him just when you were coming here. He's a duck, isn't he?"
"Well, you see I only know him in a business way, but he certainly is a corker. He believes in advertising, too."
"Are you crazy about books?"
"Why, I never really had very much to do with them. I'm afraid you'll think I'm terribly ignorant----"
"Not at all. I'm awfully glad to meet someone who doesn't think it's a crime not to have read all the books there are."
"This is a queer kind of place, isn't it?"
"Yes, it's a funny idea to call it the Haunted Bookshop. I wonder what it means."
"Mr. Mifflin told me it meant haunted by the ghosts of great literature. I hope they won't annoy you. The ghost of Thomas Carlyle seems to be pretty active."
"I'm not afraid of ghosts," said Titania.
Aubrey gazed at the fire. He wanted to say that he intended from now on to do a little haunting on his own account but he did not know just how to break it gently. And then Roger returned from the cellar with the bottle of sherry. As he was uncorking it, they heard the shop door close, and Mrs. Mifflin came in.
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