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The Haunted Bookshop Christopher Morley

Titania Learns the Business

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"I applaud your taste in furs," said Roger. "That is just the colour of tobacco smoke." He blew a whiff against it to prove the likeness. He felt very talkative, as most older men do when a young girl looks as delightfully listenable as Titania.

"What an adorable little place," said Titania, looking round at the bookshop's space of private pavement, which was sunk below the street level. "You could put tables out here and serve tea in summer time."

"The first thing every morning," continued Roger, "I set out the ten-cent stuff in these boxes. I take it in at night and stow it in these bins. When it rains, I shove out an awning, which is mighty good business. Someone is sure to take shelter, and spend the time in looking over the books. A really heavy shower is often worth fifty or sixty cents. Once a week I change my pavement stock. This week I've got mostly fiction out here. That's the sort of thing that comes in in unlimited numbers. A good deal of it's tripe, but it serves its purpose."

"Aren't they rather dirty?" said Titania doubtfully, looking at some little blue Rollo books, on which the siftings of generations had accumulated. "Would you mind if I dusted them off a bit?"

"It's almost unheard of in the second-hand trade," said Roger; "but it might make them look better."

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Titania ran inside, borrowed a duster from Helen, and began housecleaning the grimy boxes, while Roger chatted away in high spirits. Bock already noticing the new order of things, squatted on the doorstep with an air of being a party to the conversation. Morning pedestrians on Gissing Street passed by, wondering who the bookseller's engaging assistant might be. "I wish I could find a maid like that," thought a prosperous Brooklyn housewife on her way to market. "I must ring her up some day and find out how much she gets."

Roger brought out armfuls of books while Titania dusted.

"One of the reasons I'm awfully glad you've come here to help me," he said, "is that I'll be able to get out more. I've been so tied down by the shop, I haven't had a chance to scout round, buy up libraries, make bids on collections that are being sold, and all that sort of thing. My stock is running a bit low. If you just wait for what comes in, you don't get much of the really good stuff."

Titania was polishing a copy of The Late Mrs. Null. "It must be wonderful to have read so many books," she said. "I'm afraid I'm not a very deep reader, but at any rate Dad has taught me a respect for good books. He gets So mad because when my friends come to the house, and he asks them what they've been reading, the only thing they seem to know about is Dere Mable."

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The Haunted Bookshop
Christopher Morley

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