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The Haunted Bookshop Christopher Morley

Titania Tries Reading in Bed

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"Mr. Gilbert!" she cried. For an instant he thought she was going to laugh. Then a new expression came into her face. Without another word she turned and fled. He heard her run upstairs. A door banged, and was locked. A window was hastily closed. Again all was silent.

Stupefied with chagrin, he rose from his cramped position. What on earth was he to do? How could he explain? He stood by the pantry sink in painful indecision. Should he slink out of the house? No, he couldn't do that without attempting to explain. And he was still convinced that some strange peril hung about this place. He must put Titania on her guard, no matter how embarrassing it proved. If only she hadn't been wearing a kimono--how much easier it would have been.

He stepped out into the hall, and stood at the bottom of the stairs in the throes of doubt. After waiting some time in silence he cleared the huskiness from his throat and called out:

"Miss Chapman!"

There was no answer, but he heard light, rapid movements above.

"Miss Chapman!" he called again.

He heard the door opened, and clear words edged with frost came downward. This time he thought of a thin tumbler with ice in it.

"Mr. Gilbert!"

"Yes?" he said miserably.

"Will you please call me a taxi?"

Something in the calm, mandatory tone nettled him. After all, he had acted in pure good faith.

"With pleasure," he said, "but not until I have told you something. It's very important. I beg your pardon most awfully for frightening you, but it's really very urgent."

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There was a brief silence. Then she said:

"Brooklyn's a queer place. Wait a few minutes, please."

Aubrey stood absently fingering the pattern on the wallpaper. He suddenly experienced a great craving for a pipe, but felt that the etiquette of the situation hardly permitted him to smoke.

In a few moments Titania appeared at the head of the stairs in her customary garb. She sat down on the landing. Aubrey felt that everything was as bad as it could possibly be. If he could have seen her face his embarrassment would at least have had some compensation. But the light from a stair window shone behind her, and her features were in shadow. She sat clasping her hands round her knees. The light fell crosswise down the stairway, and he could see only a gleam of brightness upon her ankle. His mind unconsciously followed its beaten paths. "What a corking pose for a silk stocking ad!" he thought. "Wouldn't it make a stunning full-page layout. I must suggest it to the Ankleshimmer people."

"Well?" she said. Then she could not refrain from laughter, he looked so hapless. She burst into an engaging trill. "Why don't you light your pipe?" she said. "You look as doleful as the Kaiser."

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The Haunted Bookshop
Christopher Morley

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