The Haunted Bookshop
Part 2 out of 4
And what a funny kind of book for an assistant chef to read.
No wonder their lunches have been so bad lately!"
When Roger and Helen rejoined her in the den a few minutes later she
showed the bookseller the advertisement. He was very much excited.
"That's a funny thing," he said. "There's something queer
about that book. Did I tell you about it? Last Tuesday--
I know it was then because it was the evening young Gilbert was here--
a man with a beard came in asking for it, and it wasn't on the shelf.
Then the next night, Wednesday, I was up very late writing, and fell
asleep at my desk. I must have left the front door ajar, because I
was waked up by the draught, and when I went to close the door I saw
the book sticking out a little beyond the others, in its usual place.
And last night, when the Corn Cobs were here, I went out to look up
a quotation in it, and it was gone again."
"Perhaps the assistant chef stole it?" said Titania.
"But if so, why the deuce would he advertise having done so?"
"Well, if he did steal it," said Helen, "I wish him joy of it.
I tried to read it once, you talked so much about it, and I found it
"If he did steal it," cried the bookseller, "I'm perfectly delighted.
It shows that my contention is right: people DO really care
for good books. If an assistant chef is so fond of good books
that he has to steal them, the world is safe for democracy.
Usually the only books any one wants to steal are sheer piffle,
like Making Life Worth While by Douglas Fairbanks or Mother Shipton's
Book of Oracles. I don't mind a man stealing books if he steals
"You see the remarkable principles that govern this business,"
said Helen to Titania. They sat down by the fire and took up
their knitting while the bookseller ran out to see if the volume
had by any chance returned to his shelves.
"Is it there?" said Helen, when he came back.
"No," said Roger, and picked up the advertisement again.
"I wonder why he wants it returned before midnight on Tuesday?"
"So he can read it in bed, I guess," said Helen. "Perhaps he suffers
"It's a darn shame he lost it before he had a chance to read it.
I'd like to have known what he thought of it. I've got a great mind
to go up and call on him."
"Charge it off to profit and loss and forget about it," said Helen.
"How about that reading aloud?"
Roger ran his eye along his private shelves, and pulled down
a well-worn volume.
"Now that Thanksgiving is past," he said, "my mind always turns
to Christmas, and Christmas means Charles Dickens. My dear,
would it bore you if we had a go at the old Christmas Stories?"
Mrs. Mifflin held up her hands in mock dismay. "He reads them to me every
year at this time," she said to Titania. "Still, they're worth it.
I know good old Mrs. Lirriper better than I do most of my friends."
"What is it, the Christmas Carol?" said Titania. "We had to read
that in school."
"No," said Roger; "the other stories, infinitely better.
Everybody gets the Carol dinned into them until they're weary of it,
but no one nowadays seems to read the others. I tell you,
Christmas wouldn't be Christmas to me if I didn't read these tales
over again every year. How homesick they make one for the good old
days of real inns and real beefsteak and real ale drawn in pewter.
My dears, sometimes when I am reading Dickens I get a vision of rare
sirloin with floury boiled potatoes and plenty of horse-radish, set on a
shining cloth not far from a blaze of English coal----"
"He's an incorrigible visionary," said Mrs. Mifflin. "To hear him
talk you might think no one had had a square meal since Dickens died.
You might think that all landladies died with Mrs. Lirriper."
"Very ungrateful of him," said Titania. "I'm sure I couldn't ask
for better potatoes, or a nicer hostess, than I've found in Brooklyn."
"Well, well," said Roger. "You are right, of course. And yet
something went out of the world when Victorian England vanished,
something that will never come again. Take the stagecoach drivers,
for instance. What a racy, human type they were! And what have we
now to compare with them? Subway guards? Taxicab drivers? I have
hung around many an all-night lunchroom to hear the chauffeurs talk.
But they are too much on the move, you can't get the picture of them
the way Dickens could of his types. You can't catch that sort
of thing in a snapshot, you know: you have to have a time exposure.
I'll grant you, though, that lunchroom food is mighty good. The best
place to eat is always a counter where the chauffeurs congregate.
They get awfully hungry, you see, driving round in the cold,
and when they want food they want it hot and tasty. There's a little
hash-alley called Frank's, up on Broadway near 77th, where I guess
the ham and eggs and French fried is as good as any Mr. Pickwick
"I must get Edwards to take me there," said Titania.
"Edwards is our chauffeur. I've been to the Ansonia for tea,
that's near there."
"Better keep away," said Helen. "When Roger comes home from those
places he smells so strong of onions it brings tears to my eyes."
"We've just been talking about an assistant chef," said Roger;
"that suggests that I read you Somebody's Luggage, which is all about
a head waiter. I have often wished I could get a job as a waiter
or a bus boy, just to learn if there really are any such head
waiters nowadays. You know there are all sorts of jobs I'd like to have,
just to fructify my knowledge of human nature and find out whether
life is really as good as literature. I'd love to be a waiter,
a barber, a floorwalker----"
"Roger, my dear," said Helen, "why don't you get on with the reading?"
Roger knocked out his pipe, turned Bock out of his chair, and sat
down with infinite relish to read the memorable character sketch
of Christopher, the head waiter, which is dear to every lover of taverns.
"The writer of these humble lines being a Waiter," he began.
The knitting needles flashed with diligence, and the dog by
the fender stretched himself out in the luxuriant vacancy of mind
only known to dogs surrounded by a happy group of their friends.
And Roger, enjoying himself enormously, and particularly pleased
by the chuckles of his audience, was approaching the ever-delightful
items of the coffee-room bill which is to be found about ten pages
on in the first chapter--how sad it is that hotel bills are not
so rendered in these times--when the bell in the shop clanged.
Picking up his pipe and matchbox, and grumbling "It's always the way,"
he hurried out of the room.
He was agreeably surprised to find that his caller was the young
advertising man, Aubrey Gilbert.
"Hullo!" he said. "I've been saving something for you.
It's a quotation from Joseph Conrad about advertising."
"Good enough," said Aubrey. "And I've got something for you.
You were so nice to me the other evening I took the liberty of
bringing you round some tobacco. Here's a tin of Blue-Eyed Mixture,
it's my favourite. I hope you'll like it."
"Bully for you. Perhaps I ought to let you off the Conrad quotation
since you're so kind."
"Not a bit. I suppose it's a knock. Shoot!" The bookseller
led the way back to his desk, where he rummaged among the litter
and finally found a scrap of paper on which he had written:
Being myself animated by feelings of affection toward my fellowmen,
I am saddened by the modern system of advertising. Whatever evidence
it offers of enterprise, ingenuity, impudence, and resource
in certain individuals, it proves to my mind the wide prevalence
of that form of mental degradation which is called gullibility.
"What do you think of that?" said Roger. "You'll find
that in the story called The Anarchist."
"I think less than nothing of it," said Aubrey. "As your friend
Don Marquis observed the other evening, an idea isn't always
to be blamed for the people who believe in it. Mr. Conrad has been
reading some quack ads, that's all. Because there are fake ads,
that doesn't condemn the principle of Publicity. But look here,
what I really came round to see you for is to show you this.
It was in the Times this morning."
He pulled out of his pocket a clipping of the LOST insertion
to which Roger's attention had already been drawn.
"Yes, I've just seen it," said Roger. "I missed the book from
my shelves, and I believe someone must have stolen it."
"Well, now, I want to tell you something," said Aubrey. "To-night I
had dinner at the Octagon with Mr. Chapman." "Is that so?" said Roger.
"You know his daughter's here now."
"So he told me. It's rather interesting how it all works out.
You see, after you told me the other day that Miss Chapman was
coming to work for you, that gave me an idea. I knew her father
would be specially interested in Brooklyn, on that account,
and it suggested to me an idea for a window-display campaign here
in Brooklyn for the Daintybits Products. You know we handle all his
sales promotion campaigns. Of course I didn't let on that I knew
about his daughter coming over here, but he told me about it himself
in the course of our talk. Well, here's what I'm getting at.
We had dinner in the Czecho-Slovak Grill, up on the fourteenth floor,
and going up in the elevator I saw a man in a chef's uniform
carrying a book. I looked over his shoulder to see what it was.
I thought of course it would be a cook-book. It was a copy of
"So he found it again, eh? I must go and have a talk with that chap.
If he's a Carlyle fan I'd like to know him."
"Wait a minute. I had seen the LOST ad in the paper this morning,
because I always look over that column. Often it gives me
ideas for advertising stunts. If you keep an eye on the things
people are anxious to get back, you know what they really prize,
and if you know what they prize you can get a line on what goods
ought to be advertised more extensively. This was the first time I
had ever noticed a LOST ad for a book, so I thought to myself "the
book business is coming up." Well, when I saw the chef with the book
in his hand, I said to him jokingly, "I see you found it again."
He was a foreign-looking fellow, with a big beard, which is unusual
for a chef, because I suppose it's likely to get in the soup.
He looked at me as though I'd run a carving knife into him, almost scared
me the way he looked. "Yes, yes," he said, and shoved the book out
of sight under his arm. He seemed half angry and half frightened,
so I thought maybe he had no right to be riding in the passenger
elevator and was scared someone would report him to the manager.
Just as we were getting to the fourteenth floor I said to him in
a whisper, "It's all right, old chap, I'm not going to report you."
I give you my word he looked more scared than before. He went
quite white. I got off at the fourteenth, and he followed me out.
I thought he was going to speak to me, but Mr. Chapman was there
in the lobby, and he didn't have a chance. But I noticed that
he watched me into the grill room as though I was his last chance
"I guess the poor devil was scared you'd report him to the police
for stealing the book," said Roger. "Never mind, let him have it."
"Did he steal it?"
"I haven't a notion. But somebody did, because it disappeared
"Well, now, wait a minute. Here's the queer part of it.
I didn't think anything more about it, except that it was a funny
coincidence my seeing him after having noticed that ad in the paper.
I had a long talk with Mr. Chapman, and we discussed some plans
for a prune and Saratoga chip campaign, and I showed him some
suggested copy I had prepared. Then he told me about his daughter,
and I let on that I knew you. I left the Octagon about eight
o'clock, and I thought I'd run over here on the subway
just to show you the LOST notice and give you this tobacco.
And when I got off the subway at Atlantic Avenue, who should I
see but friend chef again. He got off the same train I did.
He had on civilian clothes then, of course, and when he was out
of his white uniform and pancake hat I recognized him right off.
Who do you suppose it was?"
"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
"I guess he's picketing your place to try and steal the formula
for eggs Samuel Butler," said Aubrey, and they both laughed.
"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
"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.
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
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.
"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?"
"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?"
"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
"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
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.
"Well, Roger," she said; "if you think so much of your old Cromwell,
you'd better keep it in here. Here it is." She laid the book on
"For the love of Mike!" exclaimed Roger. "Who brought it back?"
"I guess it was your friend the assistant chef," said Mrs. Mifflin.
"Anyway, he had a beard like a Christmas tree. He was mighty polite.
He said he was terribly absent minded, and that the other day he was
in here looking at some books and just walked off with it without knowing
what he was doing. He offered to pay for the trouble he had caused,
but of course I wouldn't let him. I asked if he wanted to see you,
but he said he was in a hurry."
"I'm almost disappointed," said Roger. "I thought that I had turned
up a real booklover. Here we are, all hands drink the health
of Mr. Thomas Carlyle."
The toast was drunk, and they settled themselves in their chairs.
"And here's to the new employee," said Helen. This also was dispatched,
Aubrey draining his glass with a zeal which did not escape Miss
Chapman's discerning eye. Roger then put out his hand for the Dickens.
But first he picked up his beloved Cromwell. He looked at it carefully,
and then held the volume close to the light.
"The mystery's not over yet," he said. "It's been rebound.
This isn't the original binding."
"Are you sure?" said Helen in surprise. "It looks the same."
"The binding has been cleverly imitated, but it can't fool me.
In the first place, there was a rubbed corner at the top;
and there was an ink stain on one of the end papers."
"There's still a stain there," said Aubrey, looking over his shoulder.
"Yes, but not the same stain. I've had that book long enough
to know it by heart. Now what the deuce would that lunatic want
to have it rebound for?"
"Goodness gracious," said Helen, "put it away and forget about it.
We'll all be dreaming about Carlyle if you're not careful."
Aubrey Walks Part Way Home--and Rides The Rest of the Way
It was a cold, clear night as Mr. Aubrey Gilbert left the Haunted
Bookshop that evening, and set out to walk homeward. Without making
a very conscious choice, he felt instinctively that it would be
agreeable to walk back to Manhattan rather than permit the roaring
disillusion of the subway to break in upon his meditations.
It is to be feared that Aubrey would have badly flunked any
quizzing on the chapters of Somebody's Luggage which the bookseller
had read aloud. His mind was swimming rapidly in the agreeable,
unfettered fashion of a stream rippling downhill. As O. Henry puts
it in one of his most delightful stories: "He was outwardly decent
and managed to preserve his aquarium, but inside he was impromptu
and full of unexpectedness." To say that he was thinking of Miss
Chapman would imply too much power of ratiocination and abstract
scrutiny on his part. He was not thinking: he was being thought.
Down the accustomed channels of his intellect he felt his mind ebbing
with the irresistible movement of tides drawn by the blandishing moon.
And across these shimmering estuaries of impulse his will, a lost
and naked athlete, was painfully attempting to swim, but making
much leeway and already almost resigned to being carried out
He stopped a moment at Weintraub's drug store, on the corner
of Gissing Street and Wordsworth Avenue, to buy some cigarettes,
unfailing solace of an agitated bosom.
It was the usual old-fashioned pharmacy of those parts of Brooklyn:
tall red, green, and blue vases of liquid in the windows threw
blotches of coloured light onto the pavement; on the panes was
affixed white china lettering: H. WE TRAUB, DEUT CHE APOTHEKER.
Inside, the customary shelves of labelled jars, glass cases
holding cigars, nostrums and toilet knick-knacks, and in one corner
an ancient revolving bookcase deposited long ago by the Tabard
Inn Library. The shop was empty, but as he opened the door
a bell buzzed sharply. In a back chamber he could hear voices.
As he waited idly for the druggist to appear, Aubrey cast
a tolerant eye over the dusty volumes in the twirling case.
There were the usual copies of Harold MacGrath's The Man on the Box,
A Girl of the Limberlost, and The Houseboat on the Styx.
The Divine Fire, much grimed, leaned against Joe Chapple's Heart Throbs.
Those familiar with the Tabard Inn bookcases still to be found
in outlying drug-shops know that the stock has not been "turned"
for many a year. Aubrey was the more surprised, on spinning
the the case round, to find wedged in between two other volumes
the empty cover of a book that had been torn loose from the pages
to which it belonged. He glanced at the lettering on the back.
It ran thus:
Obeying a sudden impulse, he slipped the book cover in his
Mr. Weintraub entered the shop, a solid Teutonic person with discoloured
pouches under his eyes and a face that was a potent argument
for prohibition. His manner, however, was that of one anxious
to please. Aubrey indicated the brand of cigarettes he wanted.
Having himself coined the advertising catchword for them--They're mild--
but they satisfy--he felt a certain loyal compulsion always to smoke
this kind. The druggist held out the packet, and Aubrey noticed
that his fingers were stained a deep saffron colour.
"I see you're a cigarette smoker, too," said Aubrey pleasantly,
as he opened the packet and lit one of the paper tubes at a little
alcohol flame burning in a globe of blue glass on the counter.
"Me? I never smoke," said Mr. Weintraub, with a smile which somehow
did not seem to fit his surly face. "I must have steady nerves
in my profession. Apothecaries who smoke make up bad prescriptions."
"Well, how do you get your hands stained that way?"
Mr. Weintraub removed his hands from the counter.
"Chemicals," he grunted. "Prescriptions--all that sort of thing."
"Well," said Aubrey, "smoking's a bad habit. I guess I do too much
of it." He could not resist the impression that someone was listening
to their talk. The doorway at the back of the shop was veiled
by a portiere of beads and thin bamboo sections threaded on strings.
He heard them clicking as though they had been momentarily
pulled aside. Turning, just as he opened the door to leave,
he noticed the bamboo curtain swaying.
"Well, good-night," he said, and stepped out onto the street.
As he walked down Wordsworth Avenue, under the thunder of the L,
past lighted lunchrooms, oyster saloons, and pawnshops, Miss Chapman
resumed her sway. With the delightful velocity of thought his mind
whirled in a narrowing spiral round the experience of the evening.
The small book-crammed sitting room of the Mifflins, the sparkling fire,
the lively chirrup of the bookseller reading aloud--and there,
in the old easy chair whose horsehair stuffing was bulging out,
that blue-eyed vision of careless girlhood! Happily he had been
so seated that he could study her without seeming to do so.
The line of her ankle where the firelight danced upon it put Coles
Phillips to shame, he averred. Extraordinary, how these creatures
are made to torment us with their intolerable comeliness! Against the
background of dusky bindings her head shone with a soft haze of gold.
Her face, that had an air of naive and provoking independence,
made him angry with its unnecessary surplus of enchantment.
An unaccountable gust of rage drove him rapidly along the frozen street.
"Damn it," he cried, "what right has any girl to be as pretty as that?
Why--why, I'd like to beat her!" he muttered, amazed at himself.
"What the devil right has a girl got to look so innocently adorable?"
It would be unseemly to follow poor Aubrey in his vacillations
of rage and worship as he thrashed along Wordsworth Avenue,
hearing and seeing no more than was necessary for the preservation
of his life at street crossings. Half-smoked cigarette stubs glowed
in his wake; his burly bosom echoed with incoherent oratory.
In the darker stretches of Fulton Street that lead up to the Brooklyn
Bridge he fiercely exclaimed: "By God, it's not such a bad world."
As he ascended the slope of that vast airy span, a black midget
against a froth of stars, he was gravely planning such vehemence
of exploit in the advertising profession as would make it seem less
absurd to approach the President of the Daintybits Corporation
with a question for which no progenitor of loveliness is ever
 NOTE WHILE PROOFREADING: Surely this phrase was unconsciously
lifted from R. L. S. But where does the original occur?
C. D. M.
In the exact centre of the bridge something diluted his mood;
he halted, leaning against the railing, to consider the splendour
of the scene. The hour was late--moving on toward midnight--
but in the tall black precipices of Manhattan scattered lights gleamed,
in an odd, irregular pattern like the sparse punctures on the
raffle-board--"take a chance on a Milk-Fed Turkey"--the East Indian
elevator-boy presents to apartment-house tenants about Hallowe'en.
A fume of golden light eddied over uptown merriment: he could see
the ruby beacon on the Metropolitan Tower signal three quarters.
Underneath the airy decking of the bridge a tug went puffing by,
her port and starboard lamps trailing red and green threads over
the tideway. Some great argosy of the Staten Island fleet swept
serenely down to St. George, past Liberty in her soft robe of light,
carrying theatred commuters, dazed with weariness and blinking
at the raw fury of the electric bulbs. Overhead the night was
a superb arch of clear frost, sifted with stars. Blue sparks
crackled stickily along the trolley wires as the cars groaned over
Aubrey surveyed all this splendid scene without exact observation.
He was of a philosophic turn, and was attempting to console his
discomfiture in the overwhelming lustre of Miss Titania by the thought
that she was, after all, the creature and offspring of the science
he worshipped--that of Advertising. Was not the fragrance of her presence,
the soft compulsion of her gaze, even the delirious frill of muslin
at her wrist, to be set down to the credit of his chosen art?
Had he not, pondering obscurely upon "attention-compelling" copy
and lay-out and type-face, in a corner of the Grey-Matter office,
contributed to the triumphant prosperity and grace of this
unconscious beneficiary? Indeed she seemed to him, fiercely tormenting
himself with her loveliness, a symbol of the mysterious and subtle
power of publicity. It was Advertising that had done this--
that had enabled Mr. Chapman, a shy and droll little person,
to surround this girl with all the fructifying glories of civilization--
to foster and cherish her until she shone upon the earth like a
morning star! Advertising had clothed her, Advertising had fed her,
schooled, roofed, and sheltered her. In a sense she was the crowning
advertisement of her father's career, and her innocent perfection
taunted him just as much as the bright sky-sign he knew was flashing
the words CHAPMAN PRUNES above the teeming pavements of Times Square.
He groaned to think that he himself, by his conscientious labours,
had helped to put this girl in such a position that he could hardly dare
He would never have approached her again, on any pretext,
if the intensity of his thoughts had not caused him, unconsciously,
to grip the railing of the bridge with strong and angry hands.
For at that moment a sack was thrown over his head from behind
and he was violently seized by the legs, with the obvious
intent of hoisting him over the parapet. His unexpected grip
on the railing delayed this attempt just long enough to save him.
Swept off his feet by the fury of the assault, he fell sideways against
the barrier and had the good fortune to seize his enemy by the leg.
Muffled in the sacking, it was vain to cry out; but he held furiously
to the limb he had grasped and he and his attacker rolled together
on the footway. Aubrey was a powerful man, and even despite
the surprise could probably have got the better of the situation;
but as he wrestled desperately and tried to rid himself of his hood,
a crashing blow fell upon his head, half stunning him. He lay
sprawled out, momentarily incapable of struggle, yet conscious enough
to expect, rather curiously, the dizzying sensation of a drop through
insupportable air into the icy water of the East River. Hands seized him--
and then, passively, he heard a shout, the sound of footsteps running
on the planks, and other footsteps hurrying away at top speed.
In a moment the sacking was torn from his head and a friendly
pedestrian was kneeling beside him.
"Say, are you all right?" said the latter anxiously.
"Gee, those guys nearly got you."
Aubrey was too faint and dizzy to speak for a moment.
His head was numb and he felt certain that several inches of it
had been caved in. Putting up his hand, feebly, he was surprised
to find the contours of his skull much the same as usual.
The stranger propped him against his knee and wiped away a trickle
of blood with his handkerchief.
"Say, old man, I thought you was a goner," he said sympathetically.
"I seen those fellows jump you. Too bad they got away. Dirty work,
I'll say so."
Aubrey gulped the night air, and sat up. The bridge rocked under him;
against the star-speckled sky he could see the Woolworth
Building bending and jazzing like a poplar tree in a gale.
He felt very sick.
"Ever so much obliged to you," he stammered. "I'll be all right
in a minute."
"D'you want me to go and ring up a nambulance?" said his assistant.
"No, no," said Aubrey; "I'll be all right." He staggered to his feet
and clung to the rail of the bridge, trying to collect his wits.
One phrase ran over and over in his mind with damnable iteration--"Mild,
but they satisfy!"
"Where were you going?" said the other, supporting him.
"Madison Avenue and Thirty-Second----"
"Maybe I can flag a jitney for you. Here," he cried,
as another citizen approached afoot, "Give this fellow a hand.
Someone beat him over the bean with a club. I'm going to get him
The newcomer readily undertook the friendly task, and tied
Aubrey's handkerchief round his head, which was bleeding freely.
After a few moments the first Samaritan succeeded in stopping a touring
car which was speeding over from Brooklyn. The driver willingly
agreed to take Aubrey home, and the other two helped him in.
Barring a nasty gash on his scalp he was none the worse.
"A fellow needs a tin hat if he's going to wander round Long
Island at night," said the motorist genially. "Two fellows tried
to hold me up coming in from Rockville Centre the other evening.
Maybe they were the same two that picked on you. Did you get a look
"No," said Aubrey. "That piece of sacking might have helped me
trace them, but I forgot it."
"Want to run back for it?"
"Never mind," said Aubrey. "I've got a hunch about this."
"Think you know who it is? Maybe you're in politics, hey?"
The car ran swiftly up the dark channel of the Bowery, into Fourth Avenue,
and turned off at Thirty-Second Street to deposit Aubrey in front
of his boarding house. He thanked his convoy heartily, and refused
further assistance. After several false shots he got his latch key
in the lock, climbed four creaking flights, and stumbled into his room.
Groping his way to the wash-basin, he bathed his throbbing head,
tied a towel round it, and fell into bed.
Titania Learns the Business
Although he kept late hours, Roger Mifflin was a prompt riser.
It is only the very young who find satisfaction in lying abed
in the morning. Those who approach the term of the fifth decade
are sensitively aware of the fluency of life, and have no taste to
squander it among the blankets.
The bookseller's morning routine was brisk and habitual.
He was generally awakened about half-past seven by the jangling
bell that balanced on a coiled spring at the foot of the stairs.
This ringing announced the arrival of Becky, the old scrubwoman
who came each morning to sweep out the shop and clean the floors
for the day's traffic. Roger, in his old dressing gown of
vermilion flannel, would scuffle down to let her in, picking up
the milk bottles and the paper bag of baker's rolls at the same time.
As Becky propped the front door wide, opened window transoms, and set
about buffeting dust and tobacco smoke, Roger would take the milk
and rolls back to the kitchen and give Bock a morning greeting.
Bock would emerge from his literary kennel, and thrust out his
forelegs in a genial obeisance. This was partly politeness,
and partly to straighten out his spine after its all-night curvature.
Then Roger would let him out into the back yard for a run, himself
standing on the kitchen steps to inhale the bright freshness of the
This Saturday morning was clear and crisp. The plain backs of
the homes along Whittier Street, irregular in profile as the margins
of a free verse poem, offered Roger an agreeable human panorama.
Thin strands of smoke were rising from chimneys; a belated baker's
wagon was joggling down the alley; in bedroom bay-windows sheets and
pillows were already set to sun and air. Brooklyn, admirable borough
of homes and hearty breakfasts, attacks the morning hours in cheery,
smiling spirit. Bock sniffed and rooted about the small back yard
as though the earth (every cubic inch of which he already knew by rote)
held some new entrancing flavour. Roger watched him with the amused
and tender condescension one always feels toward a happy dog--
perhaps the same mood of tolerant paternalism that Gott is said to have
felt in watching his boisterous Hohenzollerns.
The nipping air began to infiltrate his dressing gown, and Roger
returned to the kitchen, his small, lively face alight with zest.
He opened the draughts in the range, set a kettle on to boil, and went
down to resuscitate the furnace. As he came upstairs for his bath,
Mrs. Mifflin was descending, fresh and hearty in a starchy morning apron.
Roger hummed a tune as he picked up the hairpins on the bedroom floor,
and wondered to himself why women are always supposed to be more tidy
Titania was awake early. She smiled at the enigmatic portrait
of Samuel Butler, glanced at the row of books over her bed,
and dressed rapidly. She ran downstairs, eager to begin her experience
as a bookseller. The first impression the Haunted Bookshop had made
on her was one of superfluous dinginess, and as Mrs. Mifflin refused
to let her help get breakfast--except set out the salt cellars--
she ran down Gissing Street to a little florist's shop she had
noticed the previous afternoon. Here she spent at least a week's
salary in buying chrysanthemums and a large pot of white heather.
She was distributing these about the shop when Roger found her.
"Bless my soul!" he said. "How are you going to live on your wages
if you do that sort of thing? Pay-day doesn't come until next Friday!"
"Just one blow-out," she said cheerfully. "I thought it would
be fun to brighten the place up a bit. Think how pleased your
floorwalker will be when he comes in!"
"Dear me," said Roger. "I hope you don't really think we have
floorwalkers in the second-hand book business."
After breakfast he set about initiating his new employee
into the routine of the shop. As he moved about, explaining
the arrangement of his shelves, he kept up a running commentary.
"Of course all the miscellaneous information that a bookseller has
to have will only come to you gradually," he said. "Such tags of
bookshop lore as the difference between Philo Gubb and Philip Gibbs,
Mrs. Wilson Woodrow and Mrs. Woodrow Wilson, and all that sort of thing.
Don't be frightened by all the ads you see for a book called "Bell
and Wing," because no one was ever heard to ask for a copy. That's one
of the reasons why I tell Mr. Gilbert I don't believe in advertising.
Someone may ask you who wrote The Winning of the Best, and you'll
have to know it wasn't Colonel Roosevelt but Mr. Ralph Waldo Trine.
The beauty of being a bookseller is that you don't have to be
a literary critic: all you have to do to books is enjoy them.
A literary critic is the kind of fellow who will tell you that
Wordsworth's Happy Warrior is a poem of 85 lines composed entirely
of two sentences, one of 26 lines and one of 59. What does it
matter if Wordsworth wrote sentences almost as long as those of Walt
Whitman or Mr. Will H. Hays, if only he wrote a great poem?
Literary critics are queer birds. There's Professor Phelps of Yale,
for instance. He publishes a book in 1918 and calls it The Advance
of English Poetry in the Twentieth Century. To my way of thinking
a book of that title oughtn't to be published until 2018.
Then somebody will come along and ask you for a book of poems
about a typewriter, and by and by you'll learn that what they
want is Stevenson's Underwoods. Yes, it's a complicated life.
Never argue with customers. Just give them the book they
ought to have even if they don't know they want it."
They went outside the front door, and Roger lit his pipe.
In the little area in front of the shop windows stood large empty
boxes supported on trestles. "The first thing I always do----,"
"The first thing you'll both do is catch your death of cold,"
said Helen over his shoulder. "Titania, you run and get your fur.
Roger, go and find your cap. With your bald head, you ought to
When they returned to the front door, Titania's blue eyes were
sparkling above her soft tippet.
"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."
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
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."
Roger chuckled. "I hope you don't think I'm a mere highbrow,"
he said. "As a customer said to me once, without meaning to
be funny, 'I like both the Iliad and the Argosy.' The only thing
I can't stand is literature that is unfairly and intentionally
flavoured with vanilla. Confectionery soon disgusts the palate,
whether you find it in Marcus Aurelius or Doctor Crane.
There's an odd aspect of the matter that sometimes strikes me:
Doc Crane's remarks are just as true as Lord Bacon's, so how is it
that the Doctor puts me to sleep in a paragraph, while my Lord's essays
keep me awake all night?"
Titania, being unacquainted with these philosophers,
pursued the characteristic feminine course of clinging to
the subject on which she was informed. The undiscerning have
called this habit of mind irrelevant, but wrongly. The feminine
intellect leaps like a grasshopper; the masculine plods as the ant.
"I see there's a new Mable book coming," she said. "It's called
That's Me All Over Mable, and the newsstand clerk at the Octagon
says he expects to sell a thousand copies."
"Well, there's a meaning in that," said Roger. "People have a craving
to be amused, and I'm sure I don't blame 'em. I'm afraid I haven't
read Dere Mable. If it's really amusing, I'm glad they read it.
I suspect it isn't a very great book, because a Philadelphia schoolgirl
has written a reply to it called Dere Bill, which is said to be
as good as the original. Now you can hardly imagine a Philadelphia
flapper writing an effective companion to Bacon's Essays.
But never mind, if the stuff's amusing, it has its place.
The human yearning for innocent pastime is a pathetic thing,
come to think about it. It shows what a desperately grim thing
life has become. One of the most significant things I know is
that breathless, expectant, adoring hush that falls over a theatre
at a Saturday matinee, when the house goes dark and the footlights
set the bottom of the curtain in a glow, and the latecomers tank over
your feet climbing into their seats----"
"Isn't it an adorable moment!" cried Titania.
"Yes, it is," said Roger; "but it makes me sad to see what tosh
is handed out to that eager, expectant audience, most of the time.
There they all are, ready to be thrilled, eager to be worked upon,
deliberately putting themselves into that glorious, rare,
receptive mood when they are clay in the artist's hand--and Lord!
what miserable substitutes for joy and sorrow are put over on them!
Day after day I see people streaming into theatres and movies,
and I know that more than half the time they are on a blind quest,
thinking they are satisfied when in truth they are fed on paltry husks.
And the sad part about it is that if you let yourself think you
are satisfied with husks, you'll have no appetite left for the
Titania wondered, a little panic-stricken, whether she had been
permitting herself to be satisfied with husks. She remembered how
greatly she had enjoyed a Dorothy Gish film a few evenings before.
"But," she ventured, "you said people want to be amused.
And if they laugh and look happy, surely they're amused?"
"They only think they are!" cried Mifflin. "They think they're amused
because they don't know what real amusement is! Laughter and prayer
are the two noblest habits of man; they mark us off from the brutes.
To laugh at cheap jests is as base as to pray to cheap gods.
To laugh at Fatty Arbuckle is to degrade the human spirit."
Titania thought she was getting in rather deep, but she
had the tenacious logic of every healthy girl. She said:
"But a joke that seems cheap to you doesn't seem cheap to the person
who laughs at it, or he wouldn't laugh."
Her face brightened as a fresh idea flooded her mind:
"The wooden image a savage prays to may seem cheap to you, but it's
the best god he knows, and it's all right for him to pray to it."
"Bully for you," said Roger. "Perfectly true. But I've got away
from the point I had in mind. Humanity is yearning now as it never did
before for truth, for beauty, for the things that comfort and console
and make life seem worth while. I feel this all round me, every day.
We've been through a frightful ordeal, and every decent spirit is
asking itself what we can do to pick up the fragments and remould
the world nearer to our heart's desire. Look here, here's something I
found the other day in John Masefield's preface to one of his plays:
'The truth and rapture of man are holy things, not lightly to be scorned.
A carelessness of life and beauty marks the glutton, the idler,
and the fool in their deadly path across history.' I tell you,
I've done some pretty sober thinking as I've sat here in my bookshop
during the past horrible years. Walt Whitman wrote a little poem
during the Civil War--Year that trembled and reeled beneath me,
said Walt, Must I learn to chant the cold dirges of the baffled,
and sullen hymns of defeat?--I've sat here in my shop at night,
and looked round at my shelves, looked at all the brave books
that house the hopes and gentlenesses and dreams of men and women,
and wondered if they were all wrong, discredited, defeated.
Wondered if the world were still merely a jungle of fury.
I think I'd have gone balmy if it weren't for Walt Whitman.
Talk about Mr. Britling--Walt was the man who 'saw it through.'
"The glutton, the idler, and the fool in their deadly path across history.
. . . Aye, a deadly path indeed. The German military men
weren't idlers, but they were gluttons and fools to the nth power.
Look at their deadly path! And look at other deadly paths, too.
Look at our slums, jails, insane asylums. . . .
"I used to wonder what I could do to justify my comfortable existence
here during such a time of horror. What right had I to shirk in a
quiet bookshop when so many men were suffering and dying through
no fault of their own? I tried to get into an ambulance unit,
but I've had no medical training and they said they didn't want
men of my age unless they were experienced doctors."
"I know how you felt," said Titania, with a surprising look
of comprehension. "Don't you suppose that a great many girls,
who couldn't do anything real to help, got tired of wearing neat
little uniforms with Sam Browne belts?"
"Well," said Roger, "it was a bad time. The war contradicted
and denied everything I had ever lived for. Oh, I can't tell
you how I felt about it. I can't even express it to myself.
Sometimes I used to feel as I think that truly noble simpleton
Henry Ford may have felt when he organized his peace voyage--
that I would do anything, however stupid, to stop it all.
In a world where everyone was so wise and cynical and cruel,
it was admirable to find a man so utterly simple and hopeful
as Henry. A boob, they called him. Well, I say bravo for boobs!
I daresay most of the apostles were boobs--or maybe they called
Titania had only the vaguest notion about bolsheviks, but she
had seen a good many newspaper cartoons.
"I guess Judas was a bolshevik," she said innocently.
"Yes, and probably George the Third called Ben Franklin a bolshevik,"
retorted Roger. "The trouble is, truth and falsehood don't come laid
out in black and white--Truth and Huntruth, as the wartime joke had it.
Sometimes I thought Truth had vanished from the earth," he cried bitterly.
"Like everything else, it was rationed by the governments.
I taught myself to disbelieve half of what I read in the papers.
I saw the world clawing itself to shreds in blind rage.
I saw hardly any one brave enough to face the brutalizing absurdity
as it really was, and describe it. I saw the glutton, the idler,
and the fool applauding, while brave and simple men walked in the horrors
of hell. The stay-at-home poets turned it to pretty lyrics of glory
and sacrifice. Perhaps half a dozen of them have told the truth.
Have you read Sassoon? Or Latzko's Men in War, which was so damned
true that the government suppressed it? Humph! Putting Truth
He knocked out his pipe against his heel, and his blue eyes shone
with a kind of desperate earnestness.
"But I tell you, the world is going to have the truth about War.
We're going to put an end to this madness. It's not going to
be easy. Just now, in the intoxication of the German collapse,
we're all rejoicing in our new happiness. I tell you, the real
Peace will be a long time coming. When you tear up all the fibres
of civilization it's a slow job to knit things together again.
You see those children going down the street to school?
Peace lies in their hands. When they are taught in school that war
is the most loathsome scourge humanity is subject to, that it
smirches and fouls every lovely occupation of the mortal spirit,
then there may be some hope for the future. But I'd like to bet
they are having it drilled into them that war is a glorious and
"The people who write poems about the divine frenzy of going
over the top are usually those who dipped their pens a long,
long way from the slimy duckboards of the trenches. It's funny
how we hate to face realities. I knew a commuter once who rode
in town every day on the 8.13. But he used to call it the 7.73.
He said it made him feel more virtuous."
There was a pause, while Roger watched some belated urchins hurrying
"I think any man would be a traitor to humanity who didn't pledge
every effort of his waking life to an attempt to make war impossible
"Surely no one would deny that," said Titania. "But I do think
the war was very glorious as well as very terrible. I've known
lots of men who went over, knowing well what they were to face,
and yet went gladly and humbly in the thought they were going
for a true cause."
"A cause which is so true shouldn't need the sacrifice of millions
of fine lives," said Roger gravely. "Don't imagine I don't see
the dreadful nobility of it. But poor humanity shouldn't be asked
to be noble at such a cost. That's the most pitiful tragedy of it all.
Don't you suppose the Germans thought they too were marching off
for a noble cause when they began it and forced this misery on
the world? They had been educated to believe so, for a generation.
That's the terrible hypnotism of war, the brute mass-impulse,
the pride and national spirit, the instinctive simplicity of men
that makes them worship what is their own above everything else.
I've thrilled and shouted with patriotic pride, like everyone.
Music and flags and men marching in step have bewitched me,
as they do all of us. And then I've gone home and sworn
to root this evil instinct out of my soul. God help us--
let's love the world, love humanity--not just our own country!
That's why I'm so keen about the part we're going to play at
the Peace Conference. Our motto over there will be America Last!
Hurrah for us, I say, for we shall be the only nation over
there with absolutely no axe to grind. Nothing but a pax
It argued well for Titania's breadth of mind that she was not dismayed
nor alarmed at the poor bookseller's anguished harangue. She surmised
sagely that he was cleansing his bosom of much perilous stuff.
In some mysterious way she had learned the greatest and rarest of
the spirit's gifts--toleration.
"You can't help loving your country," she said.
"Let's go indoors," he answered. "You'll catch cold out here.
I want to show you my alcove of books on the war."
"Of course one can't help loving one's country," he added.
"I love mine so much that I want to see her take the lead
in making a new era possible. She has sacrificed least for war,
she should be ready to sacrifice most for peace. As for me,"
he said, smiling, "I'd be willing to sacrifice the whole
"I don't see why you call the war an absurdity," said Titania.
"We HAD to beat Germany, or where would civilization have been?"
"We had to beat Germany, yes, but the absurdity lies in the fact that we
had to beat ourselves in doing it. The first thing you'll find,
when the Peace Conference gets to work, will be that we shall have
to help Germany onto her feet again so that she can be punished in
an orderly way. We shall have to feed her and admit her to commerce
so that she can pay her indemnities--we shall have to police her
cities to prevent revolution from burning her up--and the upshot
of it all will be that men will have fought the most terrible war
in history, and endured nameless horrors, for the privilege of nursing
their enemy back to health. If that isn't an absurdity, what is?
That's what happens when a great nation like Germany goes insane.
"Well, we're up against some terribly complicated problems.
My only consolation is that I think the bookseller can play
as useful a part as any man in rebuilding the world's sanity.
When I was fretting over what I could do to help things along,
I came across two lines in my favourite poet that encouraged me.
Good old George Herbert says:
A grain of glory mixed with humblenesse
Cures both a fever and lethargicknesse.
"Certainly running a second-hand bookstore is a pretty humble calling,
but I've mixed a grain of glory with it, in my own imagination
at any rate. You see, books contain the thoughts and dreams
of men, their hopes and strivings and all their immortal parts.
It's in books that most of us learn how splendidly worth-while life is.
I never realized the greatness of the human spirit, the indomitable
grandeur of man's mind, until I read Milton's Areopagitica.
To read that great outburst of splendid anger ennobles the meanest
of us simply because we belong to the same species of animal
as Milton. Books are the immortality of the race, the father
and mother of most that is worth while cherishing in our hearts.
To spread good books about, to sow them on fertile minds,
to propagate understanding and a carefulness of life and beauty,
isn't that high enough mission for a man? The bookseller is the real
"Here's my War-alcove," he went on. "I've stacked up here most
of the really good books the War has brought out. If humanity has
sense enough to take these books to heart, it will never get itself
into this mess again. Printer's ink has been running a race against
gunpowder these many, many years. Ink is handicapped, in a way,
because you can blow up a man with gunpowder in half a second,
while it may take twenty years to blow him up with a book.
But the gunpowder destroys itself along with its victim, while a book can
keep on exploding for centuries. There's Hardy's Dynasts for example.
When you read that book you can feel it blowing up your mind.
It leaves you gasping, ill, nauseated--oh, it's not pleasant
to feel some really pure intellect filtered into one's brain!
It hurts! There's enough T. N. T. in that book to blast war from
the face of the globe. But there's a slow fuse attached to it.
It hasn't really exploded yet. Maybe it won't for another fifty years.
"In regard to the War, think what books have accomplished.
What was the first thing all the governments started to do--
publish books! Blue Books, Yellow Books, White Books, Red Books--
everything but Black Books, which would have been appropriate in Berlin.
They knew that guns and troops were helpless unless they could get
the books on their side, too. Books did as much as anything else
to bring America into the war. Some German books helped to wipe
the Kaiser off his throne--I Accuse, and Dr. Muehlon's magnificent
outburst The Vandal of Europe, and Lichnowsky's private memorandum,
that shook Germany to her foundations, simply because he told the truth.
Here's that book Men in War, written I believe by a Hungarian officer,
with its noble dedication "To Friend and Foe." Here are some of
the French books--books in which the clear, passionate intellect
of that race, with its savage irony, burns like a flame.
Romain Rolland's Au-Dessus de la Melee, written in exile in Switzerland;
Barbusse's terrible Le Feu; Duhamel's bitter Civilization;
Bourget's strangely fascinating novel The Meaning of Death.
And the noble books that have come out of England: A Student in Arms;
The Tree of Heaven; Why Men Fight, by Bertrand Russell--I'm hoping
he'll write one on Why Men Are Imprisoned: you know he was locked
up for his sentiments! And here's one of the most moving of all--
The Letters of Arthur Heath, a gentle, sensitive young Oxford tutor
who was killed on the Western front. You ought to read that book.
It shows the entire lack of hatred on the part of the English.
Heath and his friends, the night before they enlisted, sat up singing
the German music they had loved, as a kind of farewell to the old,
friendly joyous life. Yes, that's the kind of thing War does--
wipes out spirits like Arthur Heath. Please read it.
Then you'll have to read Philip Gibbs, and Lowes Dickinson
and all the young poets. Of course you've read Wells already.
"How about the Americans?" said Titania. "Haven't they written
anything about the war that's worth while?"
"Here's one that I found a lot of meat in, streaked with
philosophical gristle," said Roger, relighting his pipe.
He pulled out a copy of Professor Latimer's Progress.
"There was one passage that I remember marking--let's see now,
what was it?--Yes, here!
"It is true that, if you made a poll of newspaper editors,
you might find a great many who think that war is evil.
But if you were to take a census among pastors of fashionable
"That's a bullseye hit! The church has done for itself with most
thinking men. . . . There's another good passage in Professor Latimer,
where he points out the philosophical value of dishwashing.
Some of Latimer's talk is so much in common with my ideas that I've
been rather hoping he'd drop in here some day. I'd like to meet him.
As for American poets, get wise to Edwin Robinson----"
There is no knowing how long the bookseller's monologue might
have continued, but at this moment Helen appeared from the kitchen.
"Good gracious, Roger!" she exclaimed, "I've heard your voice
piping away for I don't know how long. What are you doing,
giving the poor child a Chautauqua lecture? You must want
to frighten her out of the book business."
Roger looked a little sheepish. "My dear," he said, "I was only laying
down a few of the principles underlying the art of bookselling----"
"It was very interesting, honestly it was," said Titania brightly.
Mrs. Mifflin, in a blue check apron and with plump arms floury to
the elbow, gave her a wink--or as near a wink as a woman ever achieves
(ask the man who owns one).
"Whenever Mr. Mifflin feels very low in his mind about the business,"
she said, "he falls back on those highly idealized sentiments.
He knows that next to being a parson, he's got into the worst line
there is, and he tries bravely to conceal it from himself."
"I think it's too bad to give me away before Miss Titania,"
said Roger, smiling, so Titania saw this was merely a family joke.
"Really truly," she protested, "I'm having a lovely time.
I've been learning all about Professor Latimer who wrote The Handle
of Europe, and all sorts of things. I've been afraid every minute
that some customer would come in and interrupt us."
"No fear of that," said Helen. "They're scarce in the early morning."
She went back to her kitchen.
"Well, Miss Titania," resumed Roger. "You see what I'm driving at.
I want to give people an entirely new idea about bookshops.
The grain of glory that I hope will cure both my fever and my lethargicness
is my conception of the bookstore as a power-house, a radiating place
for truth and beauty. I insist books are not absolutely dead things:
they are as lively as those fabulous dragons' teeth, and being sown up
and down, may chance to spring up armed men. How about Bernhardi?
Some of my Corn Cob friends tell me books are just merchandise.
"I haven't read much of Bernard Shaw" said Titania.
"Did you ever notice how books track you down and hunt you out?
They follow you like the hound in Francis Thompson's poem.
They know their quarry! Look at that book The Education of Henry Adams!
Just watch the way it's hounding out thinking people this winter.
And The Four Horsemen--you can see it racing in the veins
of the reading people. It's one of the uncanniest things I know
to watch a real book on its career--it follows you and follows
you and drives you into a corner and MAKES you read it.
There's a queer old book that's been chasing me for years:
The Life and Opinions of John Buncle, Esq., it's called.
I've tried to escape it, but every now and then it sticks up
its head somewhere. It'll get me some day, and I'll be compelled
to read it. Ten Thousand a Year trailed me the same way until
I surrendered. Words can't describe the cunning of some books.
You'll think you've shaken them off your trail, and then one day
some innocent-looking customer will pop in and begin to talk,
and you'll know he's an unconscious agent of book-destiny. There's
an old sea-captain who drops in here now and then. He's simply
the novels of Captain Marryat put into flesh. He has me under a kind
of spell; I know I shall have to read Peter Simple before I die,
just because the old fellow loves it so. That's why I call this
place the Haunted Bookshop. Haunted by the ghosts of the books I
haven't read. Poor uneasy spirits, they walk and walk around me.
There's only one way to lay the ghost of a book, and that is to read
"I know what you mean," said Titania. "I haven't read much Bernard Shaw,
but I feel I shall have to. He meets me at every turn, bullying me.
And I know lots of people who are simply terrorized by H. G. Wells.
Every time one of his books comes out, and that's pretty often,
they're in a perfect panic until they've read it."
Roger chuckled. "Some have even been stampeded into subscribing
to the New Republic for that very purpose."
"But speaking of the Haunted Bookshop, what's your special interest
in that Oliver Cromwell book?"
"Oh, I'm glad you mentioned it," said Roger. "I must put it back
in its place on the shelf." He ran back to the den to get it,
and just then the bell clanged at the door. A customer came in,
and the one-sided gossip was over for the time being.
Aubrey Takes Lodgings
I am sensible that Mr. Aubrey Gilbert is by no means ideal as the leading
juvenile of our piece. The time still demands some explanation why
the leading juvenile wears no gold chevrons on his left sleeve.
As a matter of fact, our young servant of the Grey-Matter Agency
had been declined by a recruiting station and a draft board
on account of flat feet; although I must protest that their
flatness detracts not at all from his outward bearing nor from
his physical capacity in the ordinary concerns of amiable youth.
When the army "turned him down flat," as he put it, he had entered
the service of the Committee on Public Information, and had
carried on mysterious activities in their behalf for over a year,
up to the time when the armistice was signed by the United Press.
Owing to a small error of judgment on his part, now completely forgotten,
but due to the regrettable delay of the German envoys to synchronize
with over-exuberant press correspondents, the last three days
of the war had been carried on without his active assistance.
After the natural recuperation necessary on the 12th of November,
he had been re-absorbed by the Grey-Matter Advertising Agency,
with whom he had been connected for several years, and where his sound
and vivacious qualities were highly esteemed. It was in the course
of drumming up post-war business that he had swung so far out of his
ordinary orbit as to call on Roger Mifflin. Perhaps these explanations
should have been made earlier.
At any rate, Aubrey woke that Saturday morning, about the time Titania
began to dust the pavement-boxes, in no very world-conquering humour.
As it was a half-holiday, he felt no compunction in staying away from
the office. The landlady, a motherly soul, sent him up some coffee and
scrambled eggs, and insisted on having a doctor in to look at his damage.
Several stitches were taken, after which he had a nap. He woke up
at noon, feeling better, though his head still ached abominably.
Putting on a dressing gown, he sat down in his modest chamber, which was
furnished chiefly with a pipe-rack, ash trays, and a set of O. Henry,
and picked up one of his favourite volumes for a bit of solace.
We have hinted that Mr. Gilbert was not what is called "literary."
His reading was mostly of the newsstand sort, and Printer's Ink,
that naive journal of the publicity professions. His favourite
diversion was luncheon at the Advertising Club where he would pore,
fascinated, over displays of advertising booklets, posters,
and pamphlets with such titles as Tell Your Story in Bold-Face. He
was accustomed to remark that "the fellow who writes the Packard
ads has Ralph Waldo Emerson skinned three ways from the Jack."
Yet much must be forgiven this young man for his love of O. Henry.
He knew, what many other happy souls have found, that O. Henry
is one of those rare and gifted tellers of tales who can
be read at all times. No matter how weary, how depressed,
how shaken in morale, one can always find enjoyment in that master
romancer of the Cabarabian Nights. "Don't talk to me of Dickens'
Christmas Stories," Aubrey said to himself, recalling his adventure
in Brooklyn. "I'll bet O. Henry's Gift of the Magi beats anything
Dick ever laid pen to. What a shame he died without finishing
that Christmas story in Rolling Stones! I wish some boss writer
like Irvin Cobb or Edna Ferber would take a hand at finishing it.
If I were an editor I'd hire someone to wind up that yarn.
It's a crime to have a good story like that lying around half
He was sitting in a soft wreath of cigarette smoke when his landlady
came in with the morning paper.
"Thought you might like to see the Times, Mr. Gilbert," she said.
"I knew you'd been too sick to go out and buy one. I see the President's
going to sail on Wednesday."
Aubrey threaded his way through the news with the practiced eye
of one who knows what interests him. Then, by force of habit,
he carefully scanned the advertising pages. A notice in the HELP
WANTED columns leaped out at him.
WANTED--For temporary employment at Hotel Octagon, 3 chefs,
5 experienced cooks, 20 waiters. Apply chef's office, 11 P.M. Tuesday.
"Hum," he thought. "I suppose, to take the place of those fellows
who are going to sail on the George Washington to cook for Mr. Wilson.
That's a grand ad for the Octagon, having their kitchen staff chosen
for the President's trip. Gee, I wonder why they don't play that up
in some real space? Maybe I can place some copy for them along
An idea suddenly occurred to him, and he went over to the chair
where he had thrown his overcoat the night before. From the pocket
he took out the cover of Carlyle's Cromwell, and looked at it carefully.
"I wonder what the jinx is on this book?" he thought. "It's a queer
thing the way that fellow trailed me last night--then my finding
this in the drug store, and getting that crack on the bean.
I wonder if that neighbourhood is a safe place for a girl to work in?"
He paced up and down the room, forgetting the pain in his head.
"Maybe I ought to tip the police off about this business," he thought.
"It looks wrong to me. But I have a hankering to work the thing out on
my own. I'd have a wonderful stand-in with old man Chapman if I saved
that girl from anything. . . . I've heard of gangs of kidnappers.
. . . No, I don't like the looks of things a little bit.
I think that bookseller is half cracked, anyway. He doesn't believe
in advertising! The idea of Chapman trusting his daughter in a place
The thought of playing knight errant to something more personal
and romantic than an advertising account was irresistible.
"I'll slip over to Brooklyn as soon as it gets dark this evening,"
he said to himself. "I ought to be able to get a room somewhere along
that street, where I can watch that bookshop without being seen,
and find out what's haunting it. I've got that old .22 popgun
of mine that I used to use up at camp. I'll take it along.
I'd like to know more about Weintraub's drug store, too. I didn't
fancy the map of Herr Weintraub, not at all. To tell the truth, I had
no idea old man Carlyle would get mixed up in anything as interesting
He found a romantic exhilaration in packing a handbag.
Pyjamas, hairbrushes, toothbrush, toothpaste--("What an ad it
would be for the Chinese Paste people," he thought, "if they
knew I was taking a tube of their stuff on this adventure!")--
his .22 revolver, a small green box of cartridges of the size commonly
used for squirrel-shooting, a volume of O. Henry, a safety razor
and adjuncts, a pad of writing paper. . . . At least six nationally
advertised articles, he said to himself, enumerating his kit.
He locked his bag, dressed, and went downstairs for lunch.
After lunch he lay down for a rest, as his head was still very painful.
But he was not able to sleep. The thought of Titania Chapman's blue
eyes and gallant little figure came between him and slumber. He could
not shake off the conviction that some peril was hanging over her.
Again and again he looked at his watch, rebuking the lagging dusk.
At half-past four he set off for the subway. Half-way down
Thirty-third Street a thought struck him. He returned to his room,
got out a pair of opera glasses from his trunk, and put them in
It was blue twilight when he reached Gissing Street.
The block between Wordsworth Avenue and Hazlitt Street is peculiar
in that on one side--the side where the Haunted Bookshop stands--
the old brownstone dwellings have mostly been replaced by small
shops of a bright, lively character. At the Wordsworth
Avenue corner, where the L swings round in a lofty roaring curve,
stands Weintraub's drug store; below it, on the western side,
a succession of shining windows beacon through the evening.
Delicatessen shops with their appetizing medley of cooked and pickled
meats, dried fruits, cheeses, and bright coloured jars of preserves;
small modistes with generously contoured wax busts of coiffured ladies;
lunch rooms with the day's menu typed and pasted on the outer pane;
a French rotisserie where chickens turn hissing on the spits before
a tall oven of rosy coals; florists, tobacconists, fruit-dealers, and
a Greek candy-shop with a long soda fountain shining with onyx
marble and coloured glass lamps and nickel tanks of hot chocolate;
a stationery shop, now stuffed for the holiday trade with
Christmas cards, toys, calendars, and those queer little suede-bound
volumes of Kipling, Service, Oscar Wilde, and Omar Khayyam that
appear every year toward Christmas time--such modest and cheerful
merchandising makes the western pavement of Gissing Street a jolly
place when the lights are lit. All the shops were decorated
for the Christmas trade; the Christmas issues of the magazines were
just out and brightened the newsstands with their glowing covers.
This section of Brooklyn has a tone and atmosphere peculiarly
French in some parts: one can quite imagine oneself in some
smaller Parisian boulevard frequented by the petit bourgeois.
Midway in this engaging and animated block stands the Haunted Bookshop.
Aubrey could see its windows lit, and the shelved masses of books within.
He felt a severe temptation to enter, but a certain bashfulness added
itself to his desire to act in secret. There was a privy exhilaration
in his plan of putting the bookshop under an unsuspected surveillance,
and he had the emotion of one walking on the frontiers of adventure.
So he kept on the opposite side of the street, which still maintains
an unbroken row of quiet brown fronts, save for the movie theatre
at the upper corner, opposite Weintraub's. Some of the basements
on this side are occupied now by small tailors, laundries,
and lace-curtain cleaners (lace curtains are still a fetish
in Brooklyn), but most of the houses are still merely dwellings.
Carrying his bag, Aubrey passed the bright halo of the movie theatre.
Posters announcing THE RETURN OF TARZAN showed a kind of third chapter
of Genesis scene with an Eve in a sports suit. ADDED ATTRACTION,
Mr. AND Mrs. SIDNEY DREW, he read.
A little way down the block he saw a sign VACANCIES in a parlour window.
The house was nearly opposite the bookshop, and he at once mounted
the tall steps to the front door and rang.
A fawn-tinted coloured girl, of the kind generally called "Addie,"
arrived presently. "Can I get a room here?" he asked. "I don't know,
you'd better see Miz' Schiller," she said, without rancour.
Adopting the customary compromise of untrained domestics, she did
not invite him inside, but departed, leaving the door open to show
that there was no ill will.
Aubrey stepped into the hall and closed the door behind him.
In an immense mirror the pale cheese-coloured flutter of a gas jet
was remotely reflected. He noticed the Landseer engraving hung against
wallpaper designed in facsimile of large rectangles of gray stone,
and the usual telephone memorandum for the usual Mrs. J. F. Smith
(who abides in all lodging houses) tucked into the frame of
the mirror. Will Mrs. Smith please call Stockton 6771, it said.
A carpeted stair with a fine old mahogany balustrade rose into
the dimness. Aubrey, who was thoroughly familiar with lodgings,
knew instinctively that the fourth, ninth, tenth, and fourteenth steps
would be creakers. A soft musk sweetened the warm, torpid air:
he divined that someone was toasting marshmallows over a gas jet.
He knew perfectly well that somewhere in the house would be
a placard over a bathtub with the legend: Please leave this tub
as you would wish to find it. Roger Mifflin would have said,
after studying the hall, that someone in the house was sure
to be reading the poems of Rabbi Tagore; but Aubrey was not
Mrs. Schiller came up the basement stairs, followed by a small pug dog.
She was warm and stout, with a tendency to burst just under the armpits.
She was friendly. The pug made merry over Aubrey's ankles.
"Stop it, Treasure!" said Mrs. Schiller.
"Can I get a room here?" asked Aubrey, with great politeness.
"Third floor front's the only thing I've got," she said.
"You don't smoke in bed, do you? The last young man I had burned
holes in three of my sheets----"
Aubrey reassured her.
"I don't give meals."
"That's all right," said Aubrey. "Suits me."
"Five dollars a week," she said.
"May I see it?"
Mrs. Schiller brightened the gas and led the way upstairs.
Treasure skipped up the treads beside her. The sight of the six
feet ascending together amused Aubrey. The fourth, ninth, tenth,
and fourteenth steps creaked, as he had guessed they would.
On the landing of the second storey a transom gushed orange light.
Mrs. Schiller was secretly pleased at not having to augment the gas
on that landing. Under the transom and behind a door Aubrey could
hear someone having a bath, with a great sloshing of water.
He wondered irreverently whether it was Mrs. J. F. Smith. At any rate
(he felt sure), it was some experienced habitue of lodgings, who knew
that about five-thirty in the afternoon is the best time for a bath--
before cooking supper and the homecoming ablutions of other tenants have
exhausted the hot water boiler.
They climbed one more flight. The room was small, occupying half
the third-floor frontage. A large window opened onto the street,
giving a plain view of the bookshop and the other houses across the way.
A wash-stand stood modestly inside a large cupboard. Over the mantel
was the familiar picture--usually, however, reserved for the fourth
floor back--of a young lady having her shoes shined by a ribald
Aubrey was delighted. "This is fine," he said. "Here's a week
Mrs. Schiller was almost disconcerted by the rapidity of the transaction.
She preferred to solemnize the reception of a new lodger by a little
more talk--remarks about the weather, the difficulty of getting "help,"
the young women guests who empty tea-leaves down wash-basin pipes,
and so on. All this sort of gossip, apparently aimless,
has a very real purpose: it enables the defenceless landlady
to size up the stranger who comes to prey upon her. She had
hardly had a good look at this gentleman, nor even knew his name,
and here he had paid a week's rent and was already installed.
Aubrey divined the cause of her hesitation, and gave her his
"All right, Mr. Gilbert," she said. "I'll send up the girl
with some clean towels and a latchkey."
Aubrey sat down in a rocking chair by the window, tucked the muslin
curtain to one side, and looked out upon the bright channel
of Gissing Street. He was full of the exhilaration that springs
from any change of abode, but his romantic satisfaction in being
so close to the adorable Titania was somewhat marred by a sense
of absurdity, which is feared by young men more than wounds and death.
He could see the lighted windows of the Haunted Bookshop quite plainly,
but he could not think of any adequate excuse for going over there.
And already he realized that to be near Miss Chapman was not at all
the consolation he had expected it would be. He had a powerful desire
to see her. He turned off the gas, lit his pipe, opened the window,
and focussed the opera glasses on the door of the bookshop.
It brought the place tantalizingly near. He could see the table at
the front of the shop, Roger's bulletin board under the electric light,
and one or two nondescript customers gleaning along the shelves.
Then something bounded violently under the third button of his shirt.
There she was! In the bright, prismatic little circle of the lenses
he could see Titania. Heavenly creature, in her white V-necked
blouse and brown skirt, there she was looking at a book.
He saw her put out one arm and caught the twinkle of her wrist-watch.
In the startling familiarity of the magnifying glass he could see
her bright, unconscious face, the merry profile of her cheek and chin.
. . . "The idea of that girl working in a second-hand bookstore!"
he exclaimed. "It's positive sacrilege! Old man Chapman must be
He took out his pyjamas and threw them on the bed; put his toothbrush
and razor on the wash-basin, laid hairbrushes and O. Henry on
the bureau. Feeling rather serio-comic he loaded his small revolver
and hipped it. It was six o'clock, and he wound his watch.
He was a little uncertain what to do: whether to keep a vigil
at the window with the opera glasses, or go down in the street
where he could watch the bookshop more nearly. In the excitement
of the adventure he had forgotten all about the cut on his scalp,
and felt quite chipper. In leaving Madison Avenue he had attempted
to excuse the preposterousness of his excursion by thinking that
a quiet week-end in Brooklyn would give him an opportunity to jot
down some tentative ideas for Daintybits advertising copy which
he planned to submit to his chief on Monday. But now that he was
here he felt the impossibility of attacking any such humdrum task.
How could he sit down in cold blood to devise any "attention-compelling"
lay-outs for Daintybits Tapioca and Chapman's Cherished Saratoga Chips,
when the daintiest bit of all was only a few yards away?
For the first time was made plain to him the amazing power of young
women to interfere with the legitimate commerce of the world.
He did get so far as to take out his pad of writing paper and jot
CHAPMAN'S CHERISHED CHIPS
These delicate wafers, crisped by a secret process, cherish in their
unique tang and flavour all the life-giving nutriment that has made
the potato the King of Vegetables----
But the face of Miss Titania kept coming between his hand and brain.
Of what avail to flood the world with Chapman Chips if the girl
herself should come to any harm? "Was this the face that launched
a thousand chips?" he murmured, and for an instant wished he had
brought The Oxford Book of English Verse instead of O. Henry.
A tap sounded at his door, and Mrs. Schiller appeared.
"Telephone for you, Mr. Gilbert," she said.
"For ME?" said Aubrey in amazement. How could it be for him,
he thought, for no one knew he was there.
"The party on the wire asked to speak to the gentleman who arrived
about half an hour ago, and I guess you must be the one he means."
"Did he say who he is?" asked Aubrey.
For a moment Aubrey thought of refusing to answer the call. Then it
occurred to him that this would arouse Mrs. Schiller's suspicions.
He ran down to the telephone, which stood under the stairs in the
"Hello," he said.
"Is this the new guest?" said a voice--a deep, gargling kind of voice.
"Yes," said Aubrey.
"Is this the gentleman that arrived half an hour ago with a handbag?"
"Yes; who are you?"
"I'm a friend," said the voice; "I wish you well."
"How do you do, friend and well-wisher," said Aubrey genially.
"I schust want to warn you that Gissing Street is not healthy for you,"
said the voice.
"Is that so?" said Aubrey sharply. "Who are you?"
"I am a friend," buzzed the receiver. There was a harsh, bass note
in the voice that made the diaphragm at Aubrey's ear vibrate tinnily.
Aubrey grew angry.
"Well, Herr Freund," he said, "if you're the well-wisher I met
on the Bridge last night, watch your step. I've got your number."
There was a pause. Then the other repeated, ponderously, "I am a friend.
Gissing Street is not healthy for you." There was a click,
and he had rung off.
Aubrey was a good deal perplexed. He returned to his room,
and sat in the dark by the window, smoking a pipe and thinking,
with his eyes on the bookshop.
There was no longer any doubt in his mind that something sinister
was afoot. He reviewed in memory the events of the past few days.
It was on Monday that a bookloving friend had first told him of the
existence of the shop on Gissing Street. On Tuesday evening he had gone
round to visit the place, and had stayed to supper with Mr. Mifflin.
On Wednesday and Thursday he had been busy at the office, and the idea
of an intensive Daintybit campaign in Brooklyn had occurred to him.
On Friday he had dined with Mr. Chapman, and had run into a curious
string of coincidences. He tabulated them:--
(1) The Lost ad in the Times on Friday morning.
(2) The chef in the elevator carrying the book that was supposed
to be lost--he being the same man Aubrey had seen in the bookshop
on Tuesday evening.
(3) Seeing the chef again on Gissing Street.
(4) The return of the book to the bookshop.
(5) Mifflin had said that the book had been stolen from him.
Then why should it be either advertised or returned?
(6) The rebinding of the book.
(7) Finding the original cover of the book in Weintraub's drug store.
(8) The affair on the Bridge.
(9) The telephone message from "a friend"--a friend with an obviously
He remembered the face of anger and fear displayed by the Octagon
chef when he had spoken to him in the elevator. Until this oddly
menacing telephone message, he could have explained the attack
on the Bridge as merely a haphazard foot-pad enterprise;
but now he was forced to conclude that it was in some way connected
with his visits to the bookshop. He felt, too, that in some
unknown way Weintraub's drug store had something to do with it.
Would he have been attacked if he had not taken the book cover from
the drug store? He got the cover out of his bag and looked at it again.
It was of plain blue cloth, with the title stamped in gold on the back,
and at the bottom the lettering London: Chapman and Hall. From the width
of the backstrap it was evident that the book had been a fat one.
Inside the front cover the figure 60 was written in red pencil--
this he took to be Roger Mifflin's price mark. Inside the back cover
he found the following notations--
vol. 3--166, 174, 210, 329, 349
329 ff. cf. W. W.
These references were written in black ink, in a small, neat hand.
Below them, in quite a different script and in pale violet ink,
153 (3) 1, 2
"I suppose these are page numbers," Aubrey thought. "I think I'd
better have a look at that book."
He put the cover in his pocket and went out for a bite of supper.
"It's a puzzle with three sides to it," he thought, as he descended
the crepitant stairs, "The Bookshop, the Octagon, and Weintraub's;
but that book seems to be the clue to the whole business."
Aubrey Goes to the Movies, and Wishes he Knew More German
A few doors from the bookshop was a small lunchroom named after
the great city of Milwaukee, one of those pleasant refectories
where the diner buys his food at the counter and eats it sitting
in a flat-armed chair. Aubrey got a bowl of soup, a cup of coffee,
beef stew, and bran muffins, and took them to an empty seat by the window.
He ate with one eye on the street. From his place in the corner
he could command the strip of pavement in front of Mifflin's shop.
Halfway through the stew he saw Roger come out onto the pavement and
begin to remove the books from the boxes.
After finishing his supper he lit one of his "mild but they satisfy"
cigarettes and sat in the comfortable warmth of a near-by radiator.
A large black cat lay sprawled on the next chair. Up at the service
counter there was a pleasant clank of stout crockery as occasional
customers came in and ordered their victuals. Aubrey began to feel
a relaxation swim through his veins. Gissing Street was very bright
and orderly in its Saturday evening bustle. Certainly it was grotesque
to imagine melodrama hanging about a second-hand bookshop in Brooklyn.
The revolver felt absurdly lumpy and uncomfortable in his hip pocket.
What a different aspect a little hot supper gives to affairs!
The most resolute idealist or assassin had better write
his poems or plan his atrocities before the evening meal.
After the narcosis of that repast the spirit falls into a softer mood,
eager only to be amused. Even Milton would hardly have had
the inhuman fortitude to sit down to the manuscript of Paradise
Lost right after supper. Aubrey began to wonder if his unpleasant
suspicions had not been overdrawn. He thought how delightful it would
be to stop in at the bookshop and ask Titania to go to the movies
Curious magic of thought! The idea was still sparkling in his mind
when he saw Titania and Mrs. Mifflin emerge from the bookshop
and pass briskly in front of the lunchroom. They were talking
and laughing merrily. Titania's face, shining with young vitality,
seemed to him more "attention-compelling" than any ten-point Caslon
type-arrangement he had ever seen. He admired the layout of her face from
the standpoint of his cherished technique. "Just enough 'white space,'"
he thought, "to set off her eyes as the 'centre of interest.'
Her features aren't this modern bold-face stuff, set solid,"
he said to himself, thinking typographically. "They're rather French
old-style italic, slightly leaded. Set on 22-point body, I guess.
Old man Chapman's a pretty good typefounder, you have to hand it
He smiled at this conceit, seized hat and coat, and dashed out
of the lunchroom.
Mrs. Mifflin and Titania had halted a few yards up the street,
and were looking at some pert little bonnets in a window.
Aubrey hurried across the street, ran up to the next corner, recrossed,
and walked down the eastern pavement. In this way he would meet
them as though he were coming from the subway. He felt rather more
excited than King Albert re-entering Brussels. He saw them coming,
chattering together in the delightful fashion of women out on a spree.
Helen seemed much younger in the company of her companion.
"A lining of pussy-willow taffeta and an embroidered slip-on,"
she was saying.
Aubrey steered onto them with an admirable gesture of surprise.
"Well, I never!" said Mrs. Mifflin. "Here's Mr. Gilbert.
Were you coming to see Roger?" she added, rather enjoying the young
Titania shook hands cordially. Aubrey, searching the old-style
italics with the desperate intensity of a proof-reader, saw no
evidence of chagrin at seeing him again so soon.
"Why," he said rather lamely, "I was coming to see you all.
I--I wondered how you were getting along."
Mrs. Mifflin had pity on him. "We've left Mr. Mifflin to look after
the shop," she said. "He's busy with some of his old crony customers.
Why don't you come with us to the movies?"
"Yes, do," said Titania. "It's Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew, you know
how adorable they are!"
No one needs to be told how quickly Aubrey assented.
Pleasure coincided with duty in that the outer wing of the party
placed him next to Titania.
"Well, how do you like bookselling?" he asked.
"Oh, it's the greatest fun!" she cried. "But it'll take me ever and ever
so long to learn about all the books. People ask such questions!
A woman came in this afternoon looking for a copy of Blase Tales.
How was I to know she wanted The Blazed Trail?"
"You'll get used to that," said Mrs. Mifflin. "Just a minute,
people, I want to stop in at the drug store."
They went into Weintraub's pharmacy. Entranced as he was by the
proximity of Miss Chapman, Aubrey noticed that the druggist eyed him
rather queerly. And being of a noticing habit, he also observed
that when Weintraub had occasion to write out a label for a box of
powdered alum Mrs. Mifflin was buying, he did so with a pale violet ink.
At the glass sentry-box in front of the theatre Aubrey insisted
on buying the tickets.
"We came out right after supper," said Titania as they entered,
"so as to get in before the crowd."
It is not so easy, however, to get ahead of Brooklyn movie fans.
They had to stand for several minutes in a packed lobby while a stern
young man held the waiting crowd in check with a velvet rope.
Aubrey sustained delightful spasms of the protective instinct
in trying to shelter Titania from buffets and pushings.
Unknown to her, his arm extended behind her like an iron rod
to absorb the onward impulses of the eager throng. A rustling
groan ran through these enthusiasts as they saw the preliminary
footage of the great Tarzan flash onto the screen, and realized they
were missing something. At last, however, the trio got through
the barrier and found three seats well in front, at one side.
From this angle the flying pictures were strangely distorted,
but Aubrey did not mind.
"Isn't it lucky I got here when I did," whispered Titania.
"Mr. Mifflin has just had a telephone call from Philadelphia asking
him to go over on Monday to make an estimate on a library that's
going to be sold so I'll be able to look after the shop for him
while he's gone."
"Is that so?" said Aubrey. "Well, now, I've got to be in Brooklyn
on Monday, on business. Maybe Mrs. Mifflin would let me come
in and buy some books from you."
"Customers always welcome," said Mrs. Mifflin.
"I've taken a fancy to that Cromwell book," said Aubrey.
"What do you suppose Mr. Mifflin would sell it for?"
"I think that book must be valuable," said Titania. "Somebody came
in this afternoon and wanted to buy it, but Mr. Mifflin wouldn't
part with it. He says it's one of his favourites. Gracious, what a
weird film this is!"
The fantastic absurdities of Tarzan proceeded on the screen,
tearing celluloid passions to tatters, but Aubrey found the strong man
of the jungle coming almost too close to his own imperious instincts.
Was not he, too--he thought naively--a poor Tarzan of the advertising
jungle, lost among the elephants and alligators of commerce,
and sighing for this dainty and unattainable vision of girlhood
that had burst upon his burning gaze! He stole a perilous side-glance
at her profile, and saw the racing flicker of the screen reflected
in tiny spangles of light that danced in her eyes. He was even so
unknowing as to imagine that she was not aware of his contemplation.
And then the lights went up.
"What nonsense, wasn't it?" said Titania. "I'm so glad it's over!
I was quite afraid one of those elephants would walk off the screen
and tread on us."
"I never can understand," said Helen, "why they don't film
some of the really good books--think of Frank Stockton's stuff,
how delightful that would be. Can't you imagine Mr. and Mrs. Drew
playing in Rudder Grange!"
"Thank goodness!" said Titania. "Since I entered the book business,
that's the first time anybody's mentioned a book that I've read.
Yes--do you remember when Pomona and Jonas visit an insane asylum
on their honeymoon? Do you know, you and Mr. Mifflin remind me
a little of Mr. and Mrs. Drew."
Helen and Aubrey chuckled at this innocent correlation of ideas.
Then the organ began to play "O How I Hate To Get Up in the Morning"
and the ever-delightful Mr. and Mrs. Drew appeared on the screen in one
of their domestic comedies. Lovers of the movies may well date a new
screen era from the day those whimsical pantomimers set their wholesome
and humane talent at the service of the arc light and the lens.
Aubrey felt a serene and intimate pleasure in watching them from a seat
beside Titania. He knew that the breakfast table scene shadowed before
them was only a makeshift section of lath propped up in some barnlike
motion picture studio; yet his rocketing fancy imagined it as some
arcadian suburb where he and Titania, by a jugglery of benign fate,
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