The Haunted Bookshop
Part 3 out of 4
were bungalowed together. Young men have a pioneering imagination:
it is doubtful whether any young Orlando ever found himself side
by side with Rosalind without dreaming himself wedded to her.
If men die a thousand deaths before this mortal coil is shuffled,
even so surely do youths contract a thousand marriages before they go
to the City Hall for a license.
Aubrey remembered the opera glasses, which were still in
his pocket, and brought them out. The trio amused themselves
by watching Sidney Drew's face through the magnifying lenses.
They were disappointed in the result, however, as the pictures,
when so enlarged, revealed all the cobweb of fine cracks on the film.
Mr. Drew's nose, the most amusing feature known to the movies,
lost its quaintness when so augmented.
"Why," cried Titania, "it makes his lovely nose look like the map
"How on earth did you happen to have these in your pocket?"
asked Mrs. Mifflin, returning the glasses.
Aubrey was hard pressed for a prompt and reasonable fib,
but advertising men are resourceful.
"Oh," he said, "I sometimes carry them with me at night to study
the advertising sky-signs. I'm a little short sighted. You see,
it's part of my business to study the technique of the electric signs."
After some current event pictures the programme prepared to repeat
itself, and they went out. "Will you come in and have some cocoa
with us?" said Helen as they reached the door of the bookshop.
Aubrey was eager enough to accept, but feared to overplay
his hand. "I'm sorry," he said, "but I think I'd better not.
I've got some work to do to-night. Perhaps I can drop in on Monday
when Mr. Mifflin's away, and put coal on the furnace for you,
or something of that sort?"
Mrs. Mifflin laughed. "Surely!" she said. "You're welcome any time."
The door closed behind them, and Aubrey fell into a profound melancholy.
Deprived of the heavenly rhetoric of her eye, Gissing Street seemed flat
It was still early--not quite ten o'clock--and it occurred
to Aubrey that if he was going to patrol the neighbourhood
he had better fix its details in his head. Hazlitt, the next
street below the bookshop, proved to be a quiet little byway,
cheerfully lit with modest dwellings. A few paces down Hazlitt
Street a narrow cobbled alley ran through to Wordsworth Avenue,
passing between the back yards of Gissing Street and Whittier Street.
The alley was totally dark, but by counting off the correct number
of houses Aubrey identified the rear entrance of the bookshop.
He tried the yard gate cautiously, and found it unlocked.
Glancing in he could see a light in the kitchen window and assumed
that the cocoa was being brewed. Then a window glowed upstairs,
and he was thrilled to see Titania shining in the lamplight.
She moved to the window and pulled down the blind. For a moment he saw
her head and shoulders silhouetted against the curtain; then the light
Aubrey stood briefly in sentimental thought. If he only had a couple
of blankets, he mused, he could camp out here in Roger's back yard
all night. Surely no harm could come to the girl while he kept
watch beneath her casement! The idea was just fantastic enough
to appeal to him. Then, as he stood in the open gateway, he heard
distant footfalls coming down the alley, and a grumble of voices.
Perhaps two policemen on their rounds, he thought: it would be awkward
to be surprised skulking about back doors at this time of night.
He slipped inside the gate and closed it gently behind him,
taking the precaution to slip the bolt.
The footsteps came nearer, stumbling down the uneven cobbles
in the darkness. He stood still against the back fence.
To his amazement the men halted outside Mifflin's gate, and he heard
the latch quietly lifted.
"It's no use," said a voice--"the gate is locked. We must find
some other way, my friend."
Aubrey tingled to hear the rolling, throaty "r" in the last word.
There was no mistaking--this was the voice of his "friend and well-wisher"
over the telephone.
The other said something in German in a hoarse whisper.
Having studied that language in college, Aubrey caught only two words--
Thur and Schlussel, which he knew meant door and key.
"Very well," said the first voice. "That will be all right,
but we must act to-night. The damned thing must be finished to-morrow.
Your idiotic stupidity--"
Again followed some gargling in German, in a rapid undertone too fluent
for Aubrey's grasp. The latch of the alley gate clicked once more,
and his hand was on his revolver; but in a moment the two had passed
on down the alley.
The young advertising agent stood against the fence in silent horror,
his heart bumping heavily. His hands were clammy, his feet seemed
to have grown larger and taken root. What damnable complot was this?
A sultry wave of anger passed over him. This bland, slick,
talkative bookseller, was he arranging some blackmailing scheme
to kidnap the girl and wring blood-money out of her father?
And in league with Germans, too, the scoundrel! What an asinine
thing for old Chapman to send an unprotected girl over here into
the wilds of Brooklyn . . . and in the meantime, what was he to do?
Patrol the back yard all night? No, the friend and well-wisher had said
"We must find some other way." Besides, Aubrey remembered something
having been said about the old terrier sleeping in the kitchen.
He felt sure Bock would not let any German in at night without raising
the roof. Probably the best way would be to watch the front of the shop.
In miserable perplexity he waited several minutes until the two
Germans would be well out of earshot. Then he unbolted the gate
and stole up the alley on tiptoe, in the opposite direction.
It led into Wordsworth Avenue just behind Weintraub's drug store,
over the rear of which hung the great girders and trestles of the
"L" station, a kind of Swiss chalet straddling the street on stilts.
He thought it prudent to make a detour, so he turned east on Wordsworth
Avenue until he reached Whittier Street, then sauntered easily
down Whittier for a block, spying sharply for evidences of pursuit.
Brooklyn was putting out its lights for the night, and all was quiet.
He turned into Hazlitt Street and so back onto Gissing, noticing now
that the Haunted Bookshop lights were off. It was nearly eleven
o'clock: the last audience was filing out of the movie theatre,
where two workmen were already perched on ladders taking down the Tarzan
electric light sign, to substitute the illuminated lettering for the
After some debate he decided that the best thing to do was to return
to his room at Mrs. Schiller's, from which he could keep a sharp
watch on the front door of the bookshop. By good fortune there
was a lamp post almost directly in front of Mifflin's house,
which cast plenty of light on the little sunken area before the door.
With his opera glasses he could see from his bedroom whatever went on.
As he crossed the street he cast his eyes upward at the facade
of Mrs. Schiller's house. Two windows in the fourth storey were lit,
and the gas burned minutely in the downstairs hall, elsewhere all
was dark. And then, as he glanced at the window of his own chamber,
where the curtain was still tucked back behind the pane, he noticed
a curious thing. A small point of rosy light glowed, faded,
and glowed again by the window. Someone was smoking a cigar in
Aubrey continued walking in even stride, as though he had seen nothing.
Returning down the street, on the opposite side, he verified his
first glance. The light was still there, and he judged himself not far out
in assuming the smoker to be the friend and well-wisher or one of his gang.
He had suspected the other man in the alley of being Weintraub,
but he could not be sure. A cautious glance through the window
of the drug store revealed Weintraub at his prescription counter.
Aubrey determined to get even with the guttural gentleman
who was waiting for him, certainly with no affectionate intent.
He thanked the good fortune that had led him to stick the book cover
in his overcoat pocket when leaving Mrs. Schiller's. Evidently,
for reasons unknown, someone was very anxious to get hold of it.
An idea occurred to him as he passed the little florist's shop,
which was just closing. He entered and bought a dozen white carnations,
and then, as if by an afterthought, asked "Have you any wire?"
The florist produced a spool of the slender, tough wire that is
sometimes used to nip the buds of expensive roses, to prevent
them from blossoming too quickly.
"Let me have about eight feet," said Aubrey. "I need some to-night
and I guess the hardware stores are all closed."
With this he returned to Mrs. Schiller's, picking his way carefully and
close to the houses so as to be out of sight from the upstairs windows.
He climbed the steps and unlatched the door with bated breath.
It was half-past eleven, and he wondered how long he would have to wait
for the well-wisher to descend.
He could not help chuckling as he made his preparations,
remembering an occasion at college somewhat similar in setting
though far less serious in purpose. First he took off his shoes,
laying them carefully to one side where he could find them again
in a hurry. Then, choosing a banister about six feet from the bottom
of the stairs he attached one end of the wire tightly to its base
and spread the slack in a large loop over two of the stair treads.
The remaining end of the wire he passed out through the banisters,
twisting it into a small loop so that he could pull it easily.
Then he turned out the hall gas and sat down in the dark to
He sat for a long time, in some nervousness lest the pug dog might come
prowling and find him. He was startled by a lady in a dressing gown--
perhaps Mrs. J. F. Smith--who emerged from a ground-floor room
passed very close to him in the dark, and muttered upstairs.
He twitched his noose out of the way just in time. Presently, however,
his patience was rewarded. He heard a door squeak above,
and then the groaning of the staircase as someone descended slowly.
He relaid his trap and waited, smiling to himself. A clock
somewhere in the house was chiming twelve as the man came groping
down the last flight, feeling his way in the dark. Aubrey heard him
swearing under his breath.
At the precise moment, when both his victim's feet were within the loop,
Aubrey gave the wire a gigantic tug. The man fell like a safe,
crashing against the banisters and landing in a sprawl on the floor.
It was a terrific fall, and shook the house. He lay there groaning
Barely retaining his laughter, Aubrey struck a match and held it
over the sprawling figure. The man lay with his face twisted
against one out-spread arm, but the beard was unmistakable.
It was the assistant chef again, and he seemed partly unconscious.
"Burnt hair is a grand restorative," said Aubrey to himself,
and applied the match to the bush of beard. He singed off a couple
of inches of it with intense delight, and laid his carnations
on the head of the stricken one. Then, hearing stirrings in
the basement, he gathered up his wire and shoes and fled upstairs.
He gained his room roaring with inward mirth, but entered cautiously,
fearing some trap. Save for a strong tincture of cigar smoke,
everything seemed correct. Listening at his door he heard Mrs. Schiller
exclaiming shrilly in the hall, assisted by yappings from the pug.
Doors upstairs were opened, and questions were called out.
He heard guttural groans from the bearded one, mingled with oaths
and some angry remark about having fallen downstairs. The pug,
frenzied with excitement, yelled insanely. A female voice--
possibly Mrs. J. F. Smith--cried out "What's that smell of burning?"
Someone else said, "They're burning feathers under his nose to bring him
"Yes, Hun's feathers," chuckled Aubrey to himself. He locked his door,
and sat down by the window with his opera glasses.
Again the Narrative is Retarded
Roger had spent a quiet evening in the bookshop. Sitting at his
desk under a fog of tobacco, he had honestly intended to do some
writing on the twelfth chapter of his great work on bookselling.
This chapter was to be an (alas, entirely conjectural)
"Address Delivered by a Bookseller on Being Conferred the Honorary
Degree of Doctor of Letters by a Leading University," and it presented
so many alluring possibilities that Roger's mind always wandered
from the paper into entranced visions of his imagined scene.
He loved to build up in fancy the flattering details of that fine
ceremony when bookselling would at last be properly recognized as
one of the learned professions. He could see the great auditorium,
filled with cultivated people: men with Emersonian profiles,
ladies whispering behind their fluttering programmes.
He could see the academic beadle, proctor, dean (or whatever he is,
Roger was a little doubtful) pronouncing the august words
A man who, in season and out of season, forgetting private gain
for public weal, has laboured with Promethean and sacrificial ardour
to instil the love of reasonable letters into countless thousands;
to whom, and to whose colleagues, amid the perishable caducity
of human affairs, is largely due the pullulation of literary taste;
in honouring whom we seek to honour the noble and self-effacing
profession of which he is so representative a member----
Then he could see the modest bookseller, somewhat clammy in his extremities
and lost within his academic robe and hood, nervously fidgeting
his mortar-board, haled forward by ushers, and tottering rubescent
before the chancellor, provost, president (or whoever it might be)
who hands out the diploma. Then (in Roger's vision) he could
see the garlanded bibliopole turning to the expectant audience,
giving his trailing gown a deft rearward kick as the ladies do on
the stage, and uttering, without hesitation or embarrassment, with due
interpolation of graceful pleasantry, that learned and unlaboured
discourse on the delights of bookishness that he had often dreamed of.
Then he could see the ensuing reception: the distinguished savants
crowding round; the plates of macaroons, the cups of untasted tea;
the ladies twittering, "Now there's something I want to ask you--
why are there so many statues to generals, admirals, parsons,
doctors, statesmen, scientists, artists, and authors, but no statues
Contemplation of this glittering scene always lured Roger into
fantastic dreams. Ever since he had travelled country roads,
some years before, selling books from a van drawn by a fat white horse,
he had nourished a secret hope of some day founding a Parnassus
on Wheels Corporation which would own a fleet of these vans and send
them out into the rural byways where bookstores are unknown.
He loved to imagine a great map of New York State, with the daily
location of each travelling Parnassus marked by a coloured pin.
He dreamed of himself, sitting in some vast central warehouse
of second-hand books, poring over his map like a military chief
of staff and forwarding cases of literary ammunition to various bases
where his vans would re-stock. His idea was that his travelling
salesmen could be recruited largely from college professors,
parsons, and newspaper men, who were weary of their thankless tasks,
and would welcome an opportunity to get out on the road. One of his
hopes was that he might interest Mr. Chapman in this superb scheme,
and he had a vision of the day when the shares of the Parnassus on
Wheels Corporation would pay a handsome dividend and be much sought
after by serious investors.
These thoughts turned his mind toward his brother-in-law Andrew McGill,
the author of several engaging books on the joys of country living,
who dwells at the Sabine Farm in the green elbow of a Connecticut valley.
The original Parnassus, a quaint old blue wagon in which Roger
had lived and journeyed and sold books over several thousand miles
of country roads in the days before his marriage, was now housed
in Andrew's barn. Peg, his fat white horse, had lodging there also.
It occurred to Roger that he owed Andrew a letter, and putting
aside his notes for the bookseller's collegiate oration, he began
THE HAUNTED BOOKSHOP
163 Gissing Street, Brooklyn,
November 30, 1918.
MY DEAR ANDREW:
It is scandalous not to have thanked you sooner for the annual cask
of cider, which has given us even more than the customary pleasure.
This has been an autumn when I have been hard put to it to keep
up with my own thoughts, and I've written no letters at all.
Like everyone else I am thinking constantly of this new peace that has
marvellously come upon us. I trust we may have statesmen who will
be able to turn it to the benefit of humanity. I wish there could
be an international peace conference of booksellers, for (you will
smile at this) my own conviction is that the future happiness of
the world depends in no small measure on them and on the librarians.
I wonder what a German bookseller is like?
I've been reading The Education of Henry Adams and wish he might
have lived long enough to give us his thoughts on the War. I fear
it would have bowled him over. He thought that this is not a world
"that sensitive and timid natures can regard without a shudder."
What would he have said of the four-year shambles we have watched
with sickened hearts?
You remember my favourite poem--old George Herbert's Church Porch--
where he says--
By all means use sometimes to be alone;
Salute thyself; see what thy soul doth wear;
Dare to look in thy chest, for 'tis thine own,
And tumble up and down what thou find'st there--
Well, I've been tumbling my thoughts up and down a good deal.
Melancholy, I suppose, is the curse of the thinking classes;
but I confess my soul wears a great uneasiness these days!
The sudden and amazing turnover in human affairs, dramatic beyond
anything in history, already seems to be taken as a matter of course.
My great fear is that humanity will forget the atrocious sufferings
of the war, which have never been told. I am hoping and praying
that men like Philip Gibbs may tell us what they really saw.
You will not agree with me on what I am about to say, for I know you
as a stubborn Republican; but I thank fortune that Wilson is going to
the Peace Conference. I've been mulling over one of my favourite books--
it lies beside me as I write--Cromwell's Letters and Speeches,
edited by Carlyle, with what Carlyle amusingly calls "Elucidations."
(Carlyle is not very good at "elucidating" anything!) I have heard
somewhere or other that this is one of Wilson's favourite books,
and indeed, there is much of the Cromwell in him. With what a grim,
covenanting zeal he took up the sword when at last it was forced
into his hand! And I have been thinking that what he will say
to the Peace Conference will smack strongly of what old Oliver used
to say to Parliament in 1657 and 1658--"If we will have Peace without
a worm in it, lay we foundations of Justice and Righteousness."
What makes Wilson so irritating to the unthoughtful is that he operates
exclusively upon reason, not upon passion. He contradicts Kipling's
famous lines, which apply to most men--
Very rarely will he squarely push the logic of a fact
To its ultimate conclusion in unmitigated act.
In this instance, I think, Reason is going to win. I feel the whole
current of the world setting in that direction.
It's quaint to think of old Woodrow, a kind of Cromwell-Wordsworth,
going over to do his bit among the diplomatic shell-craters. What
I'm waiting for is the day when he'll get back into private life
and write a book about it. There's a job, if you like, for a man
who might reasonably be supposed to be pretty tired in body and soul!
When that book comes out I'll spend the rest of my life in selling it.
I ask nothing better! Speaking of Wordsworth, I've often wondered whether
Woodrow hasn't got some poems concealed somewhere among his papers!
I've always imagined that he may have written poems on the sly.
And by the way, you needn't make fun of me for being so devoted
to George Herbert. Do you realize that two of the most familiar
quotations in our language come from his pen, viz.:
Wouldst thou both eat thy cake, and have it?
Dare to be true: nothing can need a ly;
A fault, which needs it most, grows two thereby.
Forgive this tedious sermon! My mind has been so tumbled up and down this
autumn that I am in a queer state of mingled melancholy and exaltation.
You know how much I live in and for books. Well, I have a curious
feeling, a kind of premonition that there are great books coming
out of this welter of human hopes and anguishes, perhaps A book
in which the tempest-shaken soul of the race will speak out as it
never has before. The Bible, you know, is rather a disappointment:
it has never done for humanity what it should have done. I wonder why?
Walt Whitman is going to do a great deal, but he is not quite
what I mean. There is something coming--I don't know just what!
I thank God I am a bookseller, trafficking in the dreams and beauties
and curiosities of humanity rather than some mere huckster of merchandise.
But how helpless we all are when we try to tell what goes on within us!
I found this in one of Lafcadio Hearn's letters the other day--I marked
the passage for you--
Baudelaire has a touching poem about an albatross, which you would
like--describing the poet's soul superb in its own free azure--but
helpless, insulted, ugly, clumsy when striving to walk on common earth--
or rather, on a deck, where sailors torment it with tobacco pipes, etc.
You can imagine what evenings I have here among my shelves,
now the long dark nights are come! Of course until ten o'clock,
when I shut up shop, I am constantly interrupted--as I have been
during this letter, once to sell a copy of Helen's Babies and once
to sell The Ballad of Reading Gaol, so you can see how varied
are my clients' tastes! But later on, after we have had our
evening cocoa and Helen has gone to bed, I prowl about the place,
dipping into this and that, fuddling myself with speculation.
How clear and bright the stream of the mind flows in those late hours,
after all the sediment and floating trash of the day has drained off!
Sometimes I seem to coast the very shore of Beauty or Truth, and hear
the surf breaking on those shining sands. Then some offshore wind
of weariness or prejudice bears me away again. Have you ever come
across Andreyev's Confessions of a Little Man During Great Days?
One of the honest books of the War. The Little Man ends his
My anger has left me, my sadness returned, and once more the tears flow.
Whom can I curse, whom can I judge, when we are all alike unfortunate?
Suffering is universal; hands are outstretched to each other,
and when they touch . . . the great solution will come. My heart
is aglow, and I stretch out my hand and cry, "Come, let us join hands!
I love you, I love you!"
And of course, as soon as one puts one's self in that frame of mind
someone comes along and picks your pocket. . . . I suppose we must
teach ourselves to be too proud to mind having our pockets picked!
Did it ever occur to you that the world is really governed by BOOKS?
The course of this country in the War, for instance, has been largely
determined by the books Wilson has read since he first began to think!
If we could have a list of the principal books he has read since the
War began, how interesting it would be.
Here's something I'm just copying out to put up on my bulletin board
for my customers to ponder. It was written by Charles Sorley,
a young Englishman who was killed in France in 1915. He was only
twenty years old--
You are blind like us. Your hurt no man designed,
And no man claimed the conquest of your land.
But gropers both through fields of thought confined
We stumble and we do not understand.
You only saw your future bigly planned,
And we, the tapering paths of our own mind,
And in each other's dearest ways we stand,
And hiss and hate. And the blind fight the blind.
When it is peace, then we may view again
With new-won eyes each other's truer form
And wonder. Grown more loving-kind and warm
We'll grasp firm hands and laugh at the old pain,
When it is peace. But until peace, the storm
The darkness and the thunder and the rain.
Isn't that noble? You see what I am dumbly groping for--some way
of thinking about the War that will make it seem (to future ages)
a purification for humanity rather than a mere blackness of stinking
cinders and tortured flesh and men shot to ribbons in marshes
of blood and sewage. Out of such unspeakable desolation men
MUST rise to some new conception of national neighbourhood.
I hear so much apprehension that Germany won't be punished
sufficiently for her crime. But how can any punishment be devised
or imposed for such a huge panorama of sorrow? I think she has
already punished herself horribly, and will continue to do so.
My prayer is that what we have gone through will startle the world
into some new realization of the sanctity of life--all life,
animal as well as human. Don't you find that a visit to a zoo can
humble and astound you with all that amazing and grotesque variety of
What is it that we find in every form of life? Desire of some sort--
some unexplained motive power that impels even the smallest insect
on its queer travels. You must have watched some infinitesimal red
spider on a fence rail, bustling along--why and whither? Who knows?
And when you come to man, what a chaos of hungers and impulses keep
thrusting him through his cycle of quaint tasks! And in every human
heart you find some sorrow, some frustration, some lurking pang.
I often think of Lafcadio Hearn's story of his Japanese cook.
Hearn was talking of the Japanese habit of not showing their emotions
on their faces. His cook was a smiling, healthy, agreeable-looking young
fellow whose face was always cheerful. Then one day, by chance,
Hearn happened to look through a hole in the wall and saw his
cook alone. His face was not the same face. It was thin and drawn
and showed strange lines worn by old hardships or sufferings.
Hearn thought to himself, "He will look just like that when he is dead."
He went into the kitchen to see him, and instantly the cook
was all changed, young and happy again. Never again did Hearn
see that face of trouble; but he knew the man wore it when he
Don't you think there is a kind of parable there for the race as a whole?
Have you ever met a man without wondering what shining sorrows he hides
from the world, what contrast between vision and accomplishment
torments him? Behind every smiling mask is there not some cryptic grimace
of pain? Henry Adams puts it tersely. He says the human mind appears
suddenly and inexplicably out of some unknown and unimaginable void.
It passes half its known life in the mental chaos of sleep.
Even when awake it is a victim of its own ill-adjustment, of disease,
of age, of external suggestion, of nature's compulsions; it doubts
its own sensations and trusts only in instruments and averages.
After sixty years or so of growing astonishment the mind wakes to find
itself looking blankly into the void of death. And, as Adams says,
that it should profess itself pleased by this performance is all
that the highest rules of good breeding can ask. That the mind
should actually be satisfied would prove that it exists only
I hope that you will write to tell me along what curves your mind
is moving. For my own part I feel that we are on the verge
of amazing things. Long ago I fell back on books as the only
permanent consolers. They are the one stainless and unimpeachable
achievement of the human race. It saddens me to think that I shall
have to die with thousands of books unread that would have given
me noble and unblemished happiness. I will tell you a secret.
I have never read King Lear, and have purposely refrained from doing so.
If I were ever very ill I would only need to say to myself "You
can't die yet, you haven't read Lear." That would bring me round,
I know it would.
You see, books are the answer to all our perplexities! Henry Adams
grinds his teeth at his inability to understand the universe.
The best he can do is to suggest a "law of acceleration," which seems
to mean that Nature is hustling man along at an ever-increasing rate
so that he will either solve all her problems or else die of fever
in the effort. But Adams' candid portrait of a mind grappling
helplessly with its riddles is so triumphantly delightful that one
forgets the futility of the struggle in the accuracy of the picture.
Man is unconquerable because he can make even his helplessness
so entertaining. His motto seems to be "Even though He slay me,
yet will I make fun of Him!"
Yes, books are man's supreme triumph, for they gather up and transmit all
other triumphs. As Walter de la Mare writes, "How uncomprehendingly must
an angel from heaven smile on a poor human sitting engrossed in a romance:
angled upon his hams, motionless in his chair, spectacles on nose,
his two feet as close together as the flukes of a merman's tail,
only his strange eyes stirring in his time-worn face."
Well, I've been scribbling away all this time and haven't given
you any news whatever. Helen came back the other day from a visit
to Boston where she enjoyed herself greatly. To-night she has gone
out to the movies with a young protegee of ours, Miss Titania Chapman,
an engaging damsel whom we have taken in as an apprentice bookseller.
It's a quaint idea, done at the request of her father,
Mr. Chapman, the proprietor of Chapman's Daintybits which you
see advertised everywhere. He is a great booklover, and is very
eager to have the zeal transmitted to his daughter. So you can
imagine my glee to have a neophyte of my own to preach books at!
Also it will enable me to get away from the shop a little more.
I had a telephone call from Philadelphia this afternoon asking
me to go over there on Monday evening to make an estimate
of the value of a private collection that is to be sold.
I was rather flattered because I can't imagine how they got hold of
Forgive this long, incoherent scrawl. How did you like Erewhon?
It's pretty near closing time and I must say grace over the
Roger Raids the Ice-Box
Roger had just put Carlyle's Cromwell back in its proper place
in the History alcove when Helen and Titania returned from
the movies. Bock, who had been dozing under his master's chair,
rose politely and wagged a deferential tail.
"I do think Bock has the darlingest manners," said Titania.
"Yes," said Helen, "it's really a marvel that his wagging muscles
aren't all worn out, he has abused them so."
"Well," said Roger, "did you have a good time?"
"An adorable time!" cried Titania, with a face and voice so sparkling
that two musty habitues of the shop popped their heads out of
the alcoves marked ESSAYS and THEOLOGY and peered in amazement.
One of these even went so far as to purchase the copy of Leigh Hunt's
Wishing Cap Papers he had been munching through, in order to have
an excuse to approach the group and satisfy his bewildered eyes.
When Miss Chapman took the book and wrapped it up for him,
his astonishment was made complete.
Unconscious that she was actually creating business, Titania resumed.
"We met your friend Mr. Gilbert on the street," she said,
"and he went to the movies with us. He says he's coming
in on Monday to fix the furnace while you're away."
"Well," said Roger, "these advertising agencies are certainly enterprising,
aren't they? Think of sending a man over to attend to my furnace,
just on the slim chance of getting my advertising account."
"Did you have a quiet evening?" said Helen.
"I spent most of the time writing to Andrew," said Roger.
"One amusing thing happened, though. I actually sold that copy
of Philip Dru."
"No!" cried Helen.
"A fact," said Roger. "A man was looking at it, and I told him it was
supposed to be written by Colonel House. He insisted on buying it.
But what a sell when he tries to read it!"
"Did Colonel House really write it?" asked Titania.
"I don't know," said Roger. "I hope not, because I find in myself
a secret tendency to believe that Mr. House is an able man.
If he did write it, I devoutly hope none of the foreign statesmen in
Paris will learn of that fact."
While Helen and Titania took off their wraps, Roger was busy closing
up the shop. He went down to the corner with Bock to mail his letter,
and when he returned to the den Helen had prepared a large jug of cocoa.
They sat down by the fire to enjoy it.
"Chesterton has written a very savage poem against cocoa,"
said Roger, "which you will find in The Flying Inn; but for my part
I find it the ideal evening drink. It lets the mind down gently,
and paves the way for slumber. I have often noticed that the most
terrific philosophical agonies can be allayed by three cups
of Mrs. Mifflin's cocoa. A man can safely read Schopenhauer all
evening if he has a tablespoonful of cocoa and a tin of condensed
milk available. Of course it should be made with condensed milk,
which is the only way."
"I had no idea anything could be so good," said Titania.
"Of course, Daddy makes condensed milk in one of his factories, but I
never dreamed of trying it. I thought it was only used by explorers,
people at the North Pole, you know."
"How stupid of me!" exclaimed Roger. "I quite forgot to tell you!
Your father called up just after you had gone out this evening,
and wanted to know how you were getting on."
"Oh, dear," said Titania. "He must have been delighted to hear
I was at the movies, on the second day of my first job!
He probably said it was just like me."
"I explained that I had insisted on your going with Mrs. Mifflin,
because I felt she needed the change."
"I do hope," said Titania, "you won't let Daddy poison your mind about me.
He thinks I'm dreadfully frivolous, just because I LOOK frivolous.
But I'm so keen to make good in this job. I've been practicing
doing up parcels all afternoon, so as to learn how to tie
the string nicely and not cut it until after the knot's tied.
I found that when you cut it beforehand either you get it too short
and it won't go round, or else too long and you waste some.
Also I've learned how to make wrapping paper cuffs to keep my
"Well, I haven't finished yet," continued Roger. "Your father wants
us all to spend to-morrow out at your home. He wants to show us
some books he has just bought, and besides he thinks maybe you're
"What, with all these lovely books to read? Nonsense! I don't
want to go home for six months!"
"He wouldn't take No for an answer. He's going to send Edwards
round with the car the first thing to-morrow morning."
"What fun!" said Helen. "It'll be delightful."
"Goodness," said Titania. "Imagine leaving this adorable bookshop
to spend Sunday in Larchmont. Well, I'll be able to get that
georgette blouse I forgot."
"What time will the car be here?" asked Helen.
"Mr. Chapman said about nine o'clock. He begs us to get out there
as early as possible, as he wants to spend the day showing us
As they sat round the fading bed of coals, Roger began hunting
along his private shelves. "Have you ever read any Gissing?"
Titania made a pathetic gesture to Mrs. Mifflin. "It's awfully
embarrassing to be asked these things! No, I never heard of him."
"Well, as the street we live on is named after him, I think you
ought to," he said. He pulled down his copy of The House of Cobwebs.
"I'm going to read you one of the most delightful short stories I know.
It's called 'A Charming Family.'"
"No, Roger," said Mrs. Mifflin firmly. "Not to-night. It's eleven
o'clock, and I can see Titania's tired. Even Bock has left us
and gone in to his kennel. He's got more sense than you have."
"All right," said the bookseller amiably. "Miss Chapman,
you take the book up with you and read it in bed if you want to.
Are you a librocubicularist?"
Titania looked a little scandalized.
"It's all right, my dear," said Helen. "He only means are you fond
of reading in bed. I've been waiting to hear him work that word
into the conversation. He made it up, and he's immensely proud
"Reading in bed?" said Titania. "What a quaint idea!
Does any one do it? It never occurred to me. I'm sure when I
go to bed I'm far too sleepy to think of such a thing."
"Run along then, both of you," said Roger. "Get your beauty sleep.
I shan't be very late."
He meant it when he said it, but returning to his desk at the back
of the shop his eye fell upon his private shelf of books which he kept
there "to rectify perturbations" as Burton puts it. On this shelf
there stood Pilgrim's Progress, Shakespeare, The Anatomy of Melancholy,
The Home Book of Verse, George Herbert's Poems, The Notebooks
of Samuel Butler, and Leaves of Grass. He took down The Anatomy
of Melancholy, that most delightful of all books for midnight browsing.
Turning to one of his favourite passages--"A Consolatory Digression,
Containing the Remedies of All Manner of Discontents"--he was happily lost
to all ticking of the clock, retaining only such bodily consciousness
as was needful to dump, fill, and relight his pipe from time to time.
Solitude is a dear jewel for men whose days are spent in the tedious
this-and-that of trade. Roger was a glutton for his midnight musings.
To such tried companions as Robert Burton and George Herbert he was wont
to exonerate his spirit. It used to amuse him to think of Burton,
the lonely Oxford scholar, writing that vast book to "rectify" his
By and by, turning over the musty old pages, he came to the following,
The fittest time is two or three hours after supper, whenas the meat
is now settled at the bottom of the stomach, and 'tis good to lie
on the right side first, because at that site the liver doth rest
under the stomach, not molesting any way, but heating him as a fire
doth a kettle, that is put to it. After the first sleep 'tis not
amiss to lie on the left side, that the meat may the better descend,
and sometimes again on the belly, but never on the back.
Seven or eight hours is a competent time for a melancholy man
In that case, thought Roger, it's time for me to be turning in.
He looked at his watch, and found it was half-past twelve.
He switched off his light and went back to the kitchen quarters to tend
I hesitate to touch upon a topic of domestic bitterness,
but candor compels me to say that Roger's evening vigils invariably
ended at the ice-box. There are two theories as to this subject
of ice-box plundering, one of the husband and the other of the wife.
Husbands are prone to think (in their simplicity) that if they take
a little of everything palatable they find in the refrigerator,
but thus distributing their forage over the viands the general effect
of the depradation will be almost unnoticeable. Whereas wives say
(and Mrs. Mifflin had often explained to Roger) that it is far better
to take all of any one dish than a little of each; for the latter
course is likely to diminish each item below the bulk at which it
is still useful as a left-over. Roger, however, had the obstinate
viciousness of all good husbands, and he knew the delights of cold
provender by heart. Many a stewed prune, many a mess of string beans
or naked cold boiled potato, many a chicken leg, half apple pie,
or sector of rice pudding, had perished in these midnight festivals.
He made it a point of honour never to eat quite all of the dish
in question, but would pass with unabated zest from one to another.
This habit he had sternly repressed during the War, but Mrs. Mifflin had
noticed that since the armistice he had resumed it with hearty violence.
This is a custom which causes the housewife to be confronted the next
morning with a tragical vista of pathetic scraps. Two slices of beet
in a little earthenware cup, a sliver of apple pie one inch wide,
three prunes lowly nestling in a mere trickle of their own syrup,
and a tablespoonful of stewed rhubarb where had been one of those
yellow basins nearly full--what can the most resourceful kitcheneer
do with these oddments? This atrocious practice cannot be too
But we are what we are, and Roger was even more so. The Anatomy of
Melancholy always made him hungry, and he dipped discreetly into various
vessels of refreshment, sharing a few scraps with Bock whose pleading
brown eye at these secret suppers always showed a comical realization
of their shameful and furtive nature. Bock knew very well that Roger
had no business at the ice-box, for the larger outlines of social
law upon which every home depends are clearly understood by dogs.
But Bock's face always showed his tremulous eagerness to participate
in the sin, and rather than have him stand by as a silent and
damning critic, Roger used to give him most of the cold potato.
The censure of a dog is something no man can stand. But I rove,
as Burton would say.
After the ice-box, the cellar. Like all true householders,
Roger was fond of his cellar. It was something mouldy of smell,
but it harboured a well-stocked little bin of liquors, and the florid
glow of the furnace mouth upon the concrete floor was a great
pleasure to the bookseller. He loved to peer in at the dancing
flicker of small blue flames that played above the ruddy mound
of coals in the firebox--tenuous, airy little flames that were
as blue as violets and hovered up and down in the ascending gases.
Before blackening the fire with a stoking of coal he pulled up
a wooden Bushmills box, turned off the electric bulb overhead,
and sat there for a final pipe, watching the rosy shine of the grate.
The tobacco smoke, drawn inward by the hot inhaling fire, seemed dry
and gray in the golden brightness. Bock, who had pattered down
the steps after him, nosed and snooped about the cellar. Roger was
thinking of Burton's words on the immortal weed--
Tobacco, divine, rare, superexcellent tobacco, which goes far
beyond all the panaceas, potable gold, and philosopher's stones,
a sovereign remedy to all diseases. . . . a virtuous herb,
if it be well qualified, opportunely taken, and medicinally used;
but as it is commonly abused by most men, which take it as tinkers
do ale, 'tis a plague, a mischief, a violent purger of goods,
lands, health, hellish, devilish, and damned tobacco, the ruin
and overthrow of body and soul----
Bock was standing on his hind legs, looking up at the front wall
of the cellar, in which two small iron-grated windows opened onto
the sunken area by the front door of the shop. He gave a low growl,
and seemed uneasy.
"What is it, Bock?" said Roger placidly, finishing his pipe.
Bock gave a short, sharp bark, with a curious note of protest in it.
But Roger's mind was still with Burton.
"Rats?" he said. "Aye, very likely! This is Ratisbon, old man,
but don't bark about it. Incident of the French Camp:
'Smiling, the rat fell dead.'"
Bock paid no heed to this persiflage, but prowled the front
end of the cellar, looking upward in curious agitation.
He growled again, softly.
"Shhh," said Roger gently. "Never mind the rats, Bock. Come on,
we'll stoke up the fire and go to bed. Lord, it's one o'clock."
Titania Tries Reading in Bed
Aubrey, sitting at his window with the opera glasses, soon realized
that he was blind weary. Even the exalted heroics of romance are not
proof against fatigue, most potent enemy of all who do and dream.
He had had a long day, coming after the skull-smiting of the night before;
it was only the frosty air at the lifted sash that kept him at all awake.
He had fallen into a half drowse when he heard footsteps coming down
the opposite side of the street.
He had forced himself awake several times before, to watch
the passage of some harmless strollers through the innocent blackness
of the Brooklyn night, but this time it was what he sought.
The man stepped stealthily, with a certain blend of wariness
and assurance. He halted under the lamp by the bookshop door,
and the glasses gave him enlarged to Aubrey's eye. It was Weintraub,
The front of the bookshop was now entirely dark save for a curious
little glimmer down below the pavement level. This puzzled Aubrey,
but he focussed his glasses on the door of the shop. He saw Weintraub
pull a key out of his pocket, insert it very carefully in the lock,
and open the door stealthily. Leaving the door ajar behind him,
the druggist slipped into the shop.
"What devil's business is this?" thought Aubrey angrily.
"The swine has even got a key of his own. There's no doubt about it.
He and Mifflin are working together on this job."
For a moment he was uncertain what to do. Should he run downstairs
and across the street? Then, as he hesitated, he saw a pale
beam of light over in the front left-hand corner of the shop.
Through the glasses he could see the yellow circle of a flashlight
splotched upon dim shelves of books. He saw Weintraub pull a volume
out of the case, and the light vanished. Another instant and the man
reappeared in the doorway, closed the door behind him with a gesture
of careful silence, and was off up the street quietly and swiftly.
It was all over in a minute. Two yellow oblongs shone for a minute
or two down in the area underneath the door. Through the glasses
he now made out these patches as the cellar windows. Then they
disappeared also, and all was placid gloom. In the quivering light
of the street lamps he could see the bookseller's sign gleaming whitely,
with its lettering THIS SHOP IS HAUNTED.
Aubrey sat back in his chair. "Well," he said to himself,
"that guy certainly gave his shop the right name. This is by me.
I do believe it's only some book-stealing game after all.
I wonder if he and Weintraub go in for some first-edition faking,
or some such stunt as that? I'd give a lot to know what it's
He stayed by the window on the qui vive, but no sound broke the stillness
of Gissing Street. In the distance he could hear the occasional rumble
of the Elevated trains rasping round the curve on Wordsworth Avenue.
He wondered whether he ought to go over and break into the shop
to see if all was well. But, like every healthy young man, he had
a horror of appearing absurd. Little by little weariness numbed
his apprehensions. Two o'clock clanged and echoed from distant steeples.
He threw off his clothes and crawled into bed.
It was ten o'clock on Sunday morning when he awoke. A broad swath
of sunlight cut the room in half: the white muslin curtain at the window
rippled outward like a flag. Aubrey exclaimed when he saw his watch.
He had a sudden feeling of having been false to his trust.
What had been happening across the way?
He gazed out at the bookshop. Gissing Street was bright and demure
in the crisp quietness of the forenoon. Mifflin's house showed
no sign of life. It was as he had last seen it, save that broad
green shades had been drawn down inside the big front windows,
making it impossible to look through into the book-filled alcoves.
Aubrey put on his overcoat in lieu of a dressing gown, and went in search
of a bathtub. He found the bathroom on his floor locked, with sounds
of leisurely splashing within. "Damn Mrs. J. F. Smith," he said.
He was about to descend to the storey below, bashfully conscious
of bare feet and pyjamaed shins, but looking over the banisters he saw
Mrs. Schiller and the treasure-dog engaged in some household manoeuvres.
The pug caught sight of his pyjama legs and began to yap.
Aubrey retreated in the irritation of a man baulked of a cold tub.
He shaved and dressed rapidly.
On his way downstairs he met Mrs. Schiller. He thought that her
gaze was disapproving.
"A gentleman called to see you last night, sir," she said.
"He said he was very sorry to miss you."
"I was rather late in getting in," said Aubrey. "Did he leave
"No, he said he'd see you some other time. He woke the whole house
up by falling downstairs," she added sourly.
He left the lodging house swiftly, fearing to be seen from the bookshop.
He was very eager to learn if everything was all right, but he did
not want the Mifflins to know he was lodging just opposite.
Hastening diagonally across the street, he found that the Milwaukee Lunch,
where he had eaten the night before, was open. He went in and had
breakfast, rejoicing in grapefruit, ham and eggs, coffee, and doughnuts.
He lit a pipe and sat by the window wondering what to do next.
"It's damned perplexing," he said to himself. "I stand to lose
either way. If I don't do anything, something may happen to the girl;
if I butt in too soon I'll get in dutch with her. I wish I knew what
Weintraub and that chef are up to."
The lunchroom was practically empty, and in two chairs near
him the proprietor and his assistant were sitting talking.
Aubrey was suddenly struck by what they said.
"Say, this here, now, bookseller guy must have struck it rich."
"Yeh; did ya see that car in front of his place this morning?"
"Believe me, some boat."
"Musta hired it, hey? Where'd he go at?"
"I didn't see. I just saw the bus standing front the door."
"Say, did you see that swell dame he's got clerking for him?"
"I sure did. What's he doing, taking her joy-riding?"
"Shouldn't wonder. I wouldn't blame him----"
Aubrey gave no sign of having heard, but got up and left the lunchroom.
Had the girl been kidnapped while he overslept? He burned with shame
to think what a pitiful failure his knight-errantry had been.
His first idea was to beard Weintraub and compel him to explain
his connection with the bookshop. His next thought was to call up
Mr. Chapman and warn him of what had been going on. Then he decided
it would be futile to do either of these before he really knew
what had happened. He determined to get into the bookshop itself,
and burst open its sinister secret.
He walked hurriedly round to the rear alley, and surveyed
the domestic apartments of the shop. Two windows in the second
storey stood slightly open, but he could discern no signs of life.
The back gate was still unlocked, and he walked boldly into the yard.
The little enclosure was serene in the pale winter sunlight.
Along one fence ran a line of bushes and perennials, their roots
wrapped in straw. The grass plot was lumpy, the sod withered
to a tawny yellow and granulated with a sprinkle of frost.
Below the kitchen door--which stood at the head of a flight of steps--
was a little grape arbour with a rustic bench where Roger used
to smoke his pipe on summer evenings. At the back of this arbour
was the cellar door. Aubrey tried it, and found it locked.
He was in no mood to stick at trifles. He was determined
to unriddle the mystery of the bookshop. At the right of
the door was a low window, level with the brick pavement.
Through the dusty pane he could see it was fastened only by
a hook on the inside. He thrust his heel through the pane.
As the glass tinkled onto the cellar floor he heard a low growl.
He unhooked the catch, lifted the frame of the broken window,
and looked in. There was Bock, with head quizzically tilted,
uttering a rumbling guttural vibration that seemed to proceed
automatically from his interior.
Aubrey was a little dashed, but he said cheerily "Hullo, Bock!
Good old man! Well, well, nice old fellow!" To his surprise,
Bock recognized him as a friend and wagged his tail slightly, but still
continued to growl.
"I wish dogs weren't such sticklers for form," thought Aubrey.
"Now if I went in by the front door, Bock wouldn't say anything.
It's just because he sees me coming in this way that he's annoyed.
Well, I'll have to take a chance."
He thrust his legs in through the window, carefully holding up
the sash with its jagged triangles of glass. It will never be known
how severely Bock was tempted by the extremities thus exposed to him,
but he was an old dog and his martial instincts had been undermined
by years of kindness. Moreover, he remembered Aubrey perfectly well,
and the smell of his trousers did not seem at all hostile.
So he contented himself with a small grumbling of protest.
He was an Irish terrier, but there was nothing Sinn Fein
Aubrey dropped to the floor, and patted the dog, thanking his
good fortune. He glanced about the cellar as though expecting to find
some lurking horror. Nothing more appalling than several cases of beer
bottles met his eyes. He started quietly to go up the cellar stairs,
and Bock, evidently consumed with legitimate curiosity, kept at his heels.
"Look here," thought Aubrey. "I don't want the dog following me
all through the house. If I touch anything he'll probably take
a hunk out of my shin."
He unlocked the door into the yard, and Bock obeying the Irish
terrier's natural impulse to get into the open air, ran outside.
Aubrey quickly closed the door again. Bock's face appeared at
the broken window, looking in with so quaint an expression of indignant
surprise that Aubrey almost laughed. "There, old man," he said,
"it's all right. I'm just going to look around a bit."
He ascended the stairs on tiptoe and found himself in the kitchen.
All was quiet. An alarm clock ticked with a stumbling, headlong hurry.
Pots of geraniums stood on the window sill. The range, with its
lids off and the fire carefully nourished, radiated a mild warmth.
Through a dark little pantry he entered the dining room.
Still no sign of anything amiss. A pot of white heather
stood on the table, and a corncob pipe lay on the sideboard.
"This is the most innocent-looking kidnapper's den I ever heard of,"
he thought. "Any moving-picture director would be ashamed not to
provide a better stage-set."
At that instant he heard footsteps overhead. Curiously soft,
muffled footsteps. Instantly he was on the alert. Now he would
know the worst.
A window upstairs was thrown open. "Bock, what are you doing
in the yard?" floated a voice--a very clear, imperious voice that
somehow made him think of the thin ringing of a fine glass tumbler.
It was Titania.
He stood aghast. Then he heard a door open, and steps on the stair.
Merciful heaven, the girl must not find him here. What WOULD she think?
He skipped back into the pantry, and shrank into a corner.
He heard the footfalls reach the bottom of the stairs. There was
a door into the kitchen from the central hall: it was not necessary
for her to pass through the pantry, he thought. He heard her enter
In his anxiety he crouched down beneath the sink, and his foot,
bent beneath him, touched a large tin tray leaning against the wall.
It fell over with a terrible clang.
"Bock!" said Titania sharply, "what are you doing?"
Aubrey was wondering miserably whether he ought to counterfeit a bark,
but it was too late to do anything. The pantry door opened,
and Titania looked in.
They gazed at each other for several seconds in mutual horror.
Even in his abasement, crouching under a shelf in the corner,
Aubrey's stricken senses told him that he had never seen so fair
a spectacle. Titania wore a blue kimono and a curious fragile lacy
bonnet which he did not understand. Her dark, gold-spangled hair
came down in two thick braids across her shoulders. Her blue eyes
were very much alive with amazement and alarm which rapidly changed
"Mr. Gilbert!" she cried. For an instant he thought she was
going to laugh. Then a new expression came into her face.
Without another word she turned and fled. He heard her run upstairs.
A door banged, and was locked. A window was hastily closed.
Again all was silent.
Stupefied with chagrin, he rose from his cramped position.
What on earth was he to do? How could he explain? He stood
by the pantry sink in painful indecision. Should he slink out of
the house? No, he couldn't do that without attempting to explain.
And he was still convinced that some strange peril hung about this place.
He must put Titania on her guard, no matter how embarrassing it proved.
If only she hadn't been wearing a kimono--how much easier it would
He stepped out into the hall, and stood at the bottom of the stairs
in the throes of doubt. After waiting some time in silence
he cleared the huskiness from his throat and called out:
There was no answer, but he heard light, rapid movements above.
"Miss Chapman!" he called again.
He heard the door opened, and clear words edged with frost came downward.
This time he thought of a thin tumbler with ice in it.
"Yes?" he said miserably.
"Will you please call me a taxi?"
Something in the calm, mandatory tone nettled him. After all,
he had acted in pure good faith.
"With pleasure," he said, "but not until I have told you something.
It's very important. I beg your pardon most awfully for frightening you,
but it's really very urgent."
There was a brief silence. Then she said:
"Brooklyn's a queer place. Wait a few minutes, please."
Aubrey stood absently fingering the pattern on the wallpaper.
He suddenly experienced a great craving for a pipe, but felt that
the etiquette of the situation hardly permitted him to smoke.
In a few moments Titania appeared at the head of the stairs in her
customary garb. She sat down on the landing. Aubrey felt that
everything was as bad as it could possibly be. If he could have seen
her face his embarrassment would at least have had some compensation.
But the light from a stair window shone behind her, and her features
were in shadow. She sat clasping her hands round her knees.
The light fell crosswise down the stairway, and he could see only
a gleam of brightness upon her ankle. His mind unconsciously followed
its beaten paths. "What a corking pose for a silk stocking ad!"
he thought. "Wouldn't it make a stunning full-page layout.
I must suggest it to the Ankleshimmer people."
"Well?" she said. Then she could not refrain from laughter,
he looked so hapless. She burst into an engaging trill.
"Why don't you light your pipe?" she said. "You look as doleful
as the Kaiser."
"Miss Chapman," he said, "I'm afraid you think--I don't know
what you must think. But I broke in here this morning because I--
well, I don't think this is a safe place for you to be."
"So it seems. That's why I asked you to get me a taxi."
"There's something queer going on round this shop. It's not
right for you to be here alone this way. I was afraid something
had happened to you. Of course, I didn't know you were--were----"
Faint almond blossoms grew in her cheeks. "I was reading,"
she said. "Mr. Mifflin talks so much about reading in bed,
I thought I'd try it. They wanted me to go with them to-day
but I wouldn't. You see, if I'm going to be a bookseller I've got
to catch up with some of this literature that's been accumulating.
After they left I--I--well, I wanted to see if this reading in bed
is what it's cracked up to be."
"Where has Mifflin gone?" asked Aubrey. "What business has he got
to leave you here all alone?"
"I had Bock," said Titania. "Gracious, Brooklyn on Sunday morning
doesn't seem very perilous to me. If you must know, he and Mrs.
Mifflin have gone over to spend the day with father. I was to have
gone, too, but I wouldn't. What business is it of yours? You're as
bad as Morris Finsbury in The Wrong Box. That's what I was reading
when I heard the dog barking."
Aubrey began to grow nettled. "You seem to think this was a mere
impertinence on my part," he said. "Let me tell you a thing or two."
And he briefly described to her the course of his experiences
since leaving the shop on Friday evening, but omitting the fact
that he was lodging just across the street.
"There's something mighty unpalatable going on," he said.
"At first I thought Mifflin was the goat. I thought it might
be some frame-up for swiping valuable books from his shop.
But when I saw Weintraub come in here with his own latch-key,
I got wise. He and Mifflin are in cahoots, that's what.
I don't know what they're pulling off, but I don't like the looks
of it. You say Mifflin has gone out to see your father?
I bet that's just camouflage, to stall you. I've got a great
mind to ring Mr. Chapman up and tell him he ought to get you out
"I won't hear a word said against Mr. Mifflin," said Titania angrily.
"He's one of my father's oldest friends. What would Mr. Mifflin say
if he knew you had been breaking into his house and frightening me
half to death? I'm sorry you got that knock on the head, because it
seems that's your weak spot. I'm quite able to take care of myself,
thank you. This isn't a movie."
"Well, how do you explain the actions of this man Weintraub?"
said Aubrey. "Do you like to have a man popping in and out of the shop
at all hours of the night, stealing books?"
"I don't have to explain it at all," said Titania. "I think it's
up to you to do the explaining. Weintraub is a harmless old thing
and he keeps delicious chocolates that cost only half as much
as what you get on Fifth Avenue. Mr. Mifflin told me that he's
a very good customer. Perhaps his business won't let him read
in the daytime, and he comes in here late at night to borrow books.
He probably reads in bed."
"I don't think anybody who talks German round back alleys at night
is a harmless old thing," said Aubrey. "I tell you, your Haunted
Bookshop is haunted by something worse than the ghost of Thomas Carlyle.
Let me show you something." He pulled the book cover out of his pocket,
and pointed to the annotations in it.
"That's Mifflin's handwriting," said Titania, pointing to the upper
row of figures. "He puts notes like that in all his favourite books.
They refer to pages where he has found interesting things."
"Yes, and that's Weintraub's," said Aubrey, indicating the numbers
in violet ink. "If that isn't a proof of their complicity,
I'd like to know what is. If that Cromwell book is here,
I'd like to have a look at it."
They went into the shop. Titania preceded him down the musty aisle, and it
made Aubrey angry to see the obstinate assurance of her small shoulders.
He was horribly tempted to seize her and shake her. It annoyed him
to see her bright, unconscious girlhood in that dingy vault of books.
"She's as out of place here as--as a Packard ad in the Liberator"
he said to himself.
They stood in the History alcove. "Here it is," she said.
"No, it isn't--that's the History of Frederick the Great."
There was a two-inch gap in the shelf. Cromwell was gone.
"Probably Mr. Mifflin has it somewhere around," said Titania.
"It was there last night."
"Probably nothing," said Aubrey. "I tell you, Weintraub came
in and took it. I saw him. Look here, if you really want to know
what I think, I'll tell you. The War's not over by a long sight.
Weintraub's a German. Carlyle was pro-German--I remember that much
from college. I believe your friend Mifflin is pro-German, too.
I've heard some of his talk!"
Titania faced him with cheeks aflame.
"That'll do for you!" she cried. "Next thing I suppose you'll
say Daddy's pro-German, and me, too! I'd like to see you say
that to Mr. Mifflin himself."
"I will, don't worry," said Aubrey grimly. He knew now that
he had put himself hopelessly in the wrong in Titania's mind,
but he refused to abate his own convictions. With sinking heart
he saw her face relieved against the shelves of faded bindings.
Her eyes shone with a deep and sultry blue, her chin quivered
"Look here," she said furiously. "Either you or I must leave this place.
If you intend to stay, please call me a taxi."
Aubrey was as angry as she was.
"I'm going," he said. "But you've got to play fair with me.
I tell you on my oath, these two men, Mifflin and Weintraub, are framing
something up. I'm going to get the goods on them and show you.
But you mustn't put them wise that I'm on their track. If you do,
of course, they'll call it off. I don't care what you think of me.
You've got to promise me that."
"I won't promise you ANYTHING," she said, "except never to speak
to you again. I never saw a man like you before--and I've seen
a good many."
"I won't leave here until you promise me not to warn them,"
he retorted. "What I told you, I said in confidence. They've already
found out where I'm lodging. Do you think this is a joke?
They've tried to put me out of the way twice. If you breathe a word
of this to Mifflin he'll warn the other two."
"You're afraid to have Mr. Mifflin know you broke into his shop,"
"You can think what you like."
"I won't promise you anything!" she burst out. Then her face altered.
The defiant little line of her mouth bent and her strength seemed to run
out at each end of that pathetic curve. "Yes, I will," she said.
"I suppose that's fair. I couldn't tell Mr. Mifflin, anyway. I'd be
ashamed to tell him how you frightened me. I think you're hateful.
I came over here thinking I was going to have such a good time,
and you've spoilt it all!"
For one terrible moment he thought she was going to cry.
But he remembered having seen heroines cry in the movies, and knew it
was only done when there was a table and chair handy.
"Miss Chapman," he said, "I'm as sorry as a man can be.
But I swear I did what I did in all honesty. If I'm wrong in this,
you need never speak to me again. If I'm wrong, you--you can tell
your father to take his advertising away from the Grey-Matter Company.
I can't say more than that."
And, to do him justice, he couldn't. It was the supreme sacrifice.
She let him out of the front door without another word.
Aubrey Determines to give Service that's Different
Seldom has a young man spent a more desolate afternoon than Aubrey
on that Sunday. His only consolation was that twenty minutes after
he had left the bookshop he saw a taxi drive up (he was then sitting
gloomily at his bedroom window) and Titania enter it and drive away.
He supposed that she had gone to join the party in Larchmont, and was
glad to know that she was out of what he now called the war zone.
For the first time on record, O. Henry failed to solace him.
His pipe tasted bitter and brackish. He was eager to know what
Weintraub was doing, but did not dare make any investigations
in broad daylight. His idea was to wait until dark.
Observing the Sabbath calm of the streets, and the pageant of baby
carriages wheeling toward Thackeray Boulevard, he wondered again
whether he had thrown away this girl's friendship for a merely
At last he could endure his cramped bedroom no longer.
Downstairs someone was dolefully playing a flute, most horrible
of all tortures to tightened nerves. While her lodgers were at
church the tireless Mrs. Schiller was doing a little housecleaning:
he could hear the monotonous rasp of a carpet-sweeper passing back
and forth in an adjoining room. He creaked irritably downstairs,
and heard the usual splashing behind the bathroom door.
In the frame of the hall mirror he saw a pencilled note:
Will Mrs. Smith please call Tarkington 1565, it said.
Unreasonably annoyed, he tore a piece of paper out of his notebook
and wrote on it Will Mrs. Smith please call Bath 4200. Mounting to
the second floor he tapped on the bathroom door. "Don't come in!"
cried an agitated female voice. He thrust the memorandum under the door,
and left the house.
Walking the windy paths of Prospect Park he condemned himself
to relentless self-scrutiny. "I've damned myself forever with her,"
he groaned, "unless I can prove something." The vision of Titania's face
silhouetted against the shelves of books came maddeningly to his mind.
"I was going to have such a good time, and you've spoilt it all!"
With what angry conviction she had said: "I never saw a man like
you before--and I've seen a good many!"
Even in his disturbance of soul the familiar jargon of his profession
came naturally to utterance. "At least she admits I'm DIFFERENT,"
he said dolefully. He remembered the first item in the Grey-Matter Code,
a neat little booklet issued by his employers for the information
of their representatives:
Business is built upon CONFIDENCE. Before you can sell Grey-Matter
Service to a Client, you must sell YOURSELF.
"How am I going to sell myself to her?" he wondered. "I've simply got
to deliver, that's all. I've got to give her service that's DIFFERENT.
If I fall down on this, she'll never speak to me again.
Not only that, the firm will lose the old man's account.
It's simply unthinkable."
Nevertheless, he thought about it a good deal, stimulated from time
to time as in the course of his walk (which led him out toward
the faubourgs of Flatbush) he passed long vistas of signboards,
which he imagined placarded with vivid lithographs in behalf of
the Chapman prunes. "Adam and Eve Ate Prunes On Their Honeymoon"
was a slogan that flashed into his head, and he imagined
a magnificent painting illustrating this text. Thus, in hours
of stress, do all men turn for comfort to their chosen art.
The poet, battered by fate, heals himself in the niceties of rhyme.
The prohibitionist can weather the blackest melancholia by meditating
the contortions of other people's abstinence. The most embittered
citizen of Detroit will never perish by his own hand while he has an
automobile to tinker.
Aubrey walked many miles, gradually throwing his despair to the winds.
The bright spirits of Orison Swett Marden and Ralph Waldo Trine,
Dioscuri of Good Cheer, seemed to be with him reminding him that
nothing is impossible. In a small restaurant he found sausages,
griddle cakes and syrup. When he got back to Gissing Street it was dark,
and he girded his soul for further endeavour.
About nine o'clock he walked up the alley. He had left his overcoat
in his room at Mrs. Schiller's and also the Cromwell bookcover--
having taken the precaution, however, to copy the inscriptions into his
pocket memorandum-book. He noticed lights in the rear of the bookshop,
and concluded that the Mifflins and their employee had got home safely.
Arrived at the back of Weintraub's pharmacy, he studied the contours
of the building carefully.
The drug store lay, as we have explained before, at the corner of Gissing
Street and Wordsworth Avenue, just where the Elevated railway swings
in a long curve. The course of this curve brought the scaffolding
of the viaduct out over the back roof of the building, and this fact
had impressed itself on Aubrey's observant eye the day before.
The front of the drug store stood three storeys, but in the rear
it dropped to two, with a flat roof over the hinder portion.
Two windows looked out upon this roof. Weintraub's back yard
opened onto the alley, but the gate, he found, was locked.
The fence would not be hard to scale, but he hesitated to make so direct
He ascended the stairs of the "L" station, on the near side,
and paying a nickel passed through a turnstile onto the platform.
Waiting until just after a train had left, and the long, windy sweep
of planking was solitary, he dropped onto the narrow footway that runs
beside the track. This required watchful walking, for the charged
third rail was very near, but hugging the outer side of the path
he proceeded without trouble. Every fifteen feet or so a girder ran
sideways from the track, resting upon an upright from the street below.
The fourth of these overhung the back corner of Weintraub's house,
and he crawled cautiously along it. People were passing on
the pavement underneath, and he greatly feared being discovered.
But he reached the end of the beam without mishap. From here a drop
of about twelve feet would bring him onto Weintraub's back roof.
For a moment he reflected that, once down there, it would be impossible
to return the same way. However, he decided to risk it. Where he was,
with his legs swinging astride the girder, he was in serious danger of
He would have given a great deal, just then, to have his overcoat
with him, for by lowering it first he could have jumped onto it
and muffled the noise of his fall. He took off his coat and carefully
dropped it on the corner of the roof. Then cannily waiting until
a train passed overhead, drowning all other sounds with its roar,
he lowered himself as far as he could hang by his hands, and let go.
For some minutes he lay prone on the tin roof, and during
that time a number of distressing ideas occurred to him.
If he really expected to get into Weintraub's house, why had
he not laid his plans more carefully? Why (for instance)
had he not made some attempt to find out how many there were
in the household? Why had he not arranged with one of his
friends to call Weintraub to the telephone at a given moment,
so that he could be more sure of making an entry unnoticed?
And what did he expect to see or do if he got inside the house?
He found no answer to any of these questions.
It was unpleasantly cold, and he was glad to slip his coat
on again. The small revolver was still in his hip pocket.
Another thought occurred to him--that he should have provided
himself with tennis shoes. However, it was some comfort to know
that rubber heels of a nationally advertised brand were under him.
He crawled quietly up to the sill of one of the windows.
It was closed, and the room inside was dark. A blind was pulled
most of the way down, leaving a gap of about four inches.
Peeping cautiously over the sill, he could see farther inside
the house a brightly lit door and a passageway.
"One thing I've got to look out for," he thought, "is children.
There are bound to be some--who ever heard of a German without offspring?
If I wake them, they'll bawl. This room is very likely a nursery,
as it's on the southeastern side. Also, the window is shut tight,
which is probably the German idea of bedroom ventilation."
His guess may not have been a bad one, for after his eyes became
accustomed to the dimness of the room he thought he could perceive
two cot beds. He then crawled over to the other window.
Here the blind was pulled down flush with the bottom of the sash.
Trying the window very cautiously, he found it locked. Not knowing just
what to do, he returned to the first window, and lay there peering in.
The sill was just high enough above the roof level to make it
necessary to raise himself a little on his hands to see inside,
and the position was very trying. Moreover, the tin roof had a
tendency to crumple noisily when he moved. He lay for some time,
shivering in the chill, and wondering whether it would be safe to light
"There's another thing I'd better look out for," he thought,
"and that's a dog. Who ever heard of a German without a dachshund?"
He had watched the lighted doorway for a long while without seeing
anything, and was beginning to think he was losing time to no profit
when a stout and not ill-natured looking woman appeared in the hallway.
She came into the room he was studying, and closed the door.
She switched on the light, and to his horror began to disrobe.
This was not what he had counted on at all, and he retreated rapidly.
It was plain that nothing was to be gained where he was.
He sat timidly at one edge of the roof and wondered what to
As he sat there, the back door opened almost directly below him,
and he heard the clang of a garbage can set out by the stoop.
The door stood open for perhaps half a minute, and he heard a male voice--
Weintraub's, he thought--speaking in German. For the first time
in his life he yearned for the society of his German instructor
at college, and also wondered--in the rapid irrelevance of thought--
what that worthy man was now doing to earn a living. In a rather
long and poorly lubricated sentence, heavily verbed at the end,
he distinguished one phrase that seemed important. "Nach Philadelphia
gehen"--"Go to Philadelphia."
Did that refer to Mifflin? he wondered.
The door closed again. Leaning over the rain-gutter, he saw the light
go out in the kitchen. He tried to look through the upper portion
of the window just below him, but leaning out too far, the tin
spout gave beneath his hands. Without knowing just how he did it,
he slithered down the side of the wall, and found his feet on
a window-sill. His hands still clung to the tin gutter above.
He made haste to climb down from his position, and found himself
outside the back door. He had managed the descent rather more quietly
than if it had been carefully planned. But he was badly startled,
and retreated to the bottom of the yard to see if he had aroused notice.
A wait of several minutes brought no alarm, and he plucked up courage.
On the inner side of the house--away from Wordsworth Avenue--
a narrow paved passage led to an outside cellar-way with
old-fashioned slanting doors. He reconnoitred this warily.
A bright light was shining from a window in this alley.
He crept below it on hands and knees fearing to look in until he had
investigated a little. He found that one flap of the cellar door
was open, and poked his nose into the aperture. All was dark below,
but a strong, damp stench of paints and chemicals arose.
He sniffed gingerly. "I suppose he stores drugs down there,"
Very carefully he crawled back, on hands and knees, toward the
lighted window. Lifting his head a few inches at a time, finally he got
his eyes above the level of the sill. To his disappointment he found
the lower half of the window frosted. As he knelt there, a pipe set
in the wall suddenly vomited liquid which gushed out upon his knees.
He sniffed it, and again smelled a strong aroma of acids.
With great care, leaning against the brick wall of the house,
he rose to his feet and peeped through the upper half of the pane.
It seemed to be the room where prescriptions were compounded.
As it was empty, he allowed himself a hasty survey. All manner
of bottles were ranged along the walls; there was a high counter
with scales, a desk, and a sink. At the back he could see the bamboo
curtain which he remembered having noticed from the shop.
The whole place was in the utmost disorder: mortars, glass beakers,
a typewriter, cabinets of labels, dusty piles of old prescriptions
strung on filing hooks, papers of pills and capsules, all strewn
in an indescribable litter. Some infusion was heating in a glass
bowl propped on a tripod over a blue gas flame. Aubrey noticed
particularly a heap of old books several feet high piled carelessly
at one end of the counter.
Looking more carefully, he saw that what he had taken for a mirror
over the prescription counter was an aperture looking into the shop.
Through this he could see Weintraub, behind the cigar case,
waiting upon some belated customer with his shop-worn air of affability.
The visitor departed, and Weintraub locked the door after him and pulled
down the blinds. Then he returned toward the prescription room,
and Aubrey ducked out of view.
Presently he risked looking again, and was just in time to see
a curious sight. The druggist was bending over the counter,
pouring some liquid into a glass vessel. His face was directly
under a hanging bulb, and Aubrey was amazed at the transformation.
The apparently genial apothecary of cigar stand and soda fountain was gone.
He saw instead a heavy, cruel, jowlish face, with eyelids hooded
down over the eyes, and a square thrusting chin buttressed on a mass
of jaw and suetty cheek that glistened with an oily shimmer.
The jaw quivered a little as though with some intense suppressed emotion.
The man was completely absorbed in his task. The thick lower lip
lapped upward over the mouth. On the cheekbone was a deep red scar.
Aubrey felt a pang of fascinated amazement at the gross energy and power of
that abominable relentless mask.
"So this is the harmless old thing!" he thought.
Just then the bamboo curtain parted, and the woman whom he had seen
upstairs appeared. Forgetting his own situation, Aubrey still stared.
She wore a faded dressing gown and her hair was braided as though
for the night. She looked frightened, and must have spoken,
for Aubrey saw her lips move. The man remained bent over his counter
until the last drops of liquid had run out. His jaw tightened,
he straightened suddenly and took one step toward her, with outstretched
hand imperiously pointed. Aubrey could see his face plainly:
it had a savagery more than bestial. The woman's face,
which had borne a timid, pleading expression, appealed in vain
against that fierce gesture. She turned and vanished. Aubrey saw
the druggist's pointing finger tremble. Again he ducked out of sight.
"That man's face would be lonely in a crowd," he said to himself.
"And I used to think the movies exaggerated things. Say, he ought to play
opposite Theda Bara."
He lay at full length in the paved alley and thought that
a little acquaintance with Weintraub would go a long way.
Then the light in the window above him went out, and he gathered
himself together for quick motion if necessary. Perhaps the man
would come out to close the cellar door----
The thought was in his mind when a light flashed on farther down
the passage, between him and the kitchen. It came from a small
barred window on the ground level. Evidently the druggist had gone
down into the cellar. Aubrey crawled silently along toward the yard.
Reaching the lit pane he lay against the wall and looked in.
The window was too grimed for him to see clearly, but what he could
make out had the appearance of a chemical laboratory and machine
shop combined. A long work bench was lit by several electrics.
On it he saw glass vials of odd shapes, and a medley of tools.
Sheets of tin, lengths of lead pipe, gas burners, a vise,
boilers and cylinders, tall jars of coloured fluids. He could
hear a dull humming sound, which he surmised came from some sort
of revolving tool which he could see was run by a belt from a motor.
On trying to spy more clearly he found that what he had taken for
dirt was a coat of whitewash which had been applied to the window
on the inside, but the coating had worn away in one spot which gave
him a loophole. What surprised him most was to spy the covers
of a number of books strewn about the work table. One, he was ready
to swear, was the Cromwell. He knew that bright blue cloth by
For the second time that evening Aubrey wished for the presence
of one of his former instructors. "I wish I had my old chemistry
professor here," he thought. "I'd like to know what this bird is up to.
I'd hate to swallow one of his prescriptions."
His teeth were chattering after the long exposure and he was wet
through from lying in the little gutter that apparently drained
off from the sink in Weintraub's prescription laboratory.
He could not see what the druggist was doing in the cellar,
for the man's broad back was turned toward him. He felt as though
he had had quite enough thrills for one evening. Creeping along
he found his way back to the yard, and stepped cautiously among
the empty boxes with which it was strewn. An elevated train
rumbled overhead, and he watched the brightly lighted cars swing by.
While the train roared above him, he scrambled up the fence and dropped
down into the alley.
"Well," he thought, "I'd give full-page space, preferred position,
in the magazine Ben Franklin founded to the guy that'd tell me
what's going on at this grand bolshevik headquarters. It looks
to me as though they're getting ready to blow the Octagon Hotel off
He found a little confectionery shop on Wordsworth Avenue that was
still open, and went in for a cup of hot chocolate to warm himself.
"The expense account on this business is going to be rather heavy,"
he said to himself. "I think I'll have to charge it up to the
Daintybits account. Say, old Grey Matter gives service that's DIFFERENT,
don't she! We not only keep Chapman's goods in the public eye,
but we face all the horrors of Brooklyn to preserve his family from
unlawful occasions. No, I don't like the company that bookseller
runs with. If 'nach Philadelphia' is the word, I think I'll tag along.
I guess it's off for Philadelphia in the morning!"
The Battle of Ludlow Street
Rarely was a more genuine tribute paid to entrancing girlhood than
when Aubrey compelled himself, by sheer force of will and the ticking
of his subconscious time-sense, to wake at six o'clock the next morning.
For this young man took sleep seriously and with a primitive zest.
It was to him almost a religious function. As a minor poet has said,
he "made sleep a career."
But he did not know what train Roger might be taking,
and he was determined not to miss him. By a quarter after six
he was seated in the Milwaukee Lunch (which is never closed--
Open from Now Till the Judgment Day. Tables for Ladies,
as its sign says) with a cup of coffee and corned beef hash.
In the mood of tender melancholy common to unaccustomed early rising
he dwelt fondly on the thought of Titania, so near and yet so far away.
He had leisure to give free rein to these musings, for it was ten
past seven before Roger appeared, hurrying toward the subway.
Aubrey followed at a discreet distance, taking care not to
The bookseller and his pursuer both boarded the eight o'clock
train at the Pennsylvania Station, but in very different moods.
To Roger, this expedition was a frolic, pure and simple.
He had been tied down to the bookshop so long that a day's excursion
seemed too good to be true. He bought two cigars--an unusual luxury--
and let the morning paper lie unheeded in his lap as the train
drummed over the Hackensack marshes. He felt a good deal of
pride in having been summoned to appraise the Oldham library.
Mr. Oldham was a very distinguished collector, a wealthy Philadelphia
merchant whose choice Johnson, Lamb, Keats, and Blake items were
the envy of connoisseurs all over the world. Roger knew very well
that there were many better-known dealers who would have jumped at
the chance to examine the collection and pocket the appraiser's fee.
The word that Roger had had by long distance telephone was that
Mr. Oldham had decided to sell his collection, and before putting
it to auction desired the advices of an expert as to the prices
his items should command in the present state of the market.
And as Roger was not particularly conversant with current events
in the world of rare books and manuscripts, he spent most of the trip
in turning over some annotated catalogues of recent sales which
Mr. Chapman had lent him. "This invitation," he said to himself,
"confirms what I have always said, that the artist, in any line
of work, will eventually be recognized above the mere tradesman.
Somehow or other Mr. Oldham has heard that I am not only a seller of old
books but a lover of them. He prefers to have me go over his treasures
with him, rather than one of those who peddle these things like so
Aubrey's humour was far removed from that of the happy bookseller.
In the first place, Roger was sitting in the smoker, and as Aubrey
feared to enter the same car for fear of being observed, he had to do
without his pipe. He took the foremost seat in the second coach,
and peering occasionally through the glass doors he could see the bald
poll of his quarry wreathed with exhalements of cheap havana.
Secondly, he had hoped to see Weintraub on the same train,
but though he had tarried at the train-gate until the last moment,
the German had not appeared. He had concluded from Weintraub's
words the night before that druggist and bookseller were bound
on a joint errand. Apparently he was mistaken. He bit his nails,
glowered at the flying landscape, and revolved many grievous fancies
in his prickling bosom. Among other discontents was the knowledge
that he did not have enough money with him to pay his fare back
to New York, and he would either have to borrow from someone in
Philadelphia or wire to his office for funds. He had not anticipated,
when setting out upon this series of adventures, that it would prove
The train drew into Broad Street station at ten o'clock, and
Aubrey followed the bookseller through the bustling terminus
and round the City Hall plaza. Mifflin seemed to know his way,
but Philadelphia was comparatively strange to the Grey-Matter solicitor.
He was quite surprised at the impressive vista of South Broad Street,
and chagrined to find people jostling him on the crowded pavement
as though they did not know he had just come from New York.
Roger turned in at a huge office building on Broad Street and took
an express elevator. Aubrey did not dare follow him into the car,
so he waited in the lobby. He learned from the starter that there
was a second tier of elevators on the other side of the building,
so he tipped a boy a quarter to watch them for him, describing Mifflin
so accurately that he could not be missed. By this time Aubrey was
in a thoroughly ill temper, and enjoyed quarrelling with the starter
on the subject of indicators for showing the position of the elevators.
Observing that in this building the indicators were glass tubes in
which the movement of the car was traced by a rising or falling column
of coloured fluid, Aubrey remarked testily that that old-fashioned
stunt had long been abandoned in New York. The starter retorted
that New York was only two hours away if he liked it better.
This argument helped to fleet the time rapidly.
Meanwhile Roger, with the pleasurable sensation of one who expects
to be received as a distinguished visitor from out of town,
had entered the luxurious suite of Mr. Oldham. A young lady,
rather too transparently shirtwaisted but fair to look upon,
asked what she could do for him.
"I want to see Mr. Oldham."
"What name shall I say?"
"Mr. Mifflin--Mr. Mifflin of Brooklyn."
"Have you an appointment?"
Roger sat down with agreeable anticipation. He noticed the shining
mahogany of the office furniture, the sparkling green jar of
drinking water, the hushed and efficient activity of the young ladies.
"Philadelphia girls are amazingly comely," he said to himself,
"but none of these can hold a candle to Miss Titania."
The young lady returned from the private office looking
a little perplexed.
"Did you have an appointment with Mr. Oldham?" she said.
"He doesn't seem to recall it."
"Why, certainly," said Roger. "It was arranged by telephone
on Saturday afternoon. Mr. Oldham's secretary called me up."
"Have I got your name right?" she asked, showing a slip on which she
had written Mr. Miflin.
"Two f's," said Roger. "Mr. Roger Mifflin, the bookseller."
The girl retired, and came back a moment later.
"Mr. Oldham's very busy," she said, "but he can see you for a moment."
Roger was ushered into the private office, a large, airy room lined
with bookshelves. Mr. Oldham, a tall, thin man with short gray
hair and lively black eyes, rose courteously from his desk.
"How do you do, sir," he said. "I'm sorry, I had forgotten
"He must be very absent minded," thought Roger. "Arranges to sell
a collection worth half a million, and forgets all about it."
"I came over in response to your message," he said. "About selling
Mr. Oldham looked at him, rather intently, Roger thought.
"Do you want to buy it?" he said.
"To buy it?" said Roger, a little peevishly. "Why, no.
I came over to appraise it for you. Your secretary telephoned me
"My dear sir," replied the other, "there must be some mistake.
I have no intention of selling my collection. I never sent you
Roger was aghast.
"Why," he exclaimed, "your secretary called me up on Saturday
and said you particularly wanted me to come over this morning,
to examine your books with you. I've made the trip from Brooklyn
for that purpose."
Mr. Oldham touched a buzzer, and a middle-aged woman came into the office.
"Miss Patterson," he said, "did you telephone to Mr. Mifflin
of Brooklyn on Saturday, asking him----"
"It was a man that telephoned," said Roger.
"I'm exceedingly sorry, Mr. Mifflin," said Mr. Oldham. "More sorry
than I can tell you--I'm afraid someone has played a trick on you.
As I told you, and Miss Patterson will bear me out, I have no idea
of selling my books, and have never authorized any one even to suggest
such a thing."
Roger was filled with confusion and anger. A hoax on the part
of some of the Corn Cob Club, he thought to himself. He flushed
painfully to recall the simplicity of his glee.
"Please don't be embarrassed," said Mr. Oldham, seeing the little
man's vexation. "Don't let's consider the trip wasted.
Won't you come out and dine with me in the country this evening,
and see my things?"
But Roger was too proud to accept this balm, courteous as it was.
"I'm sorry," he said, "but I'm afraid I can't do it. I'm rather busy
at home, and only came over because I believed this to be urgent."
"Some other time, perhaps," said Mr. Oldham. "Look here, you're
a bookseller? I don't believe I know your shop. Give me your card.
The next time I'm in New York I'd like to stop in."
Roger got away as quickly as the other's politeness would let him.
He chafed savagely at the awkwardness of his position. Not until
he reached the street again did he breathe freely.
"Some of Jerry Gladfist's tomfoolery, I'll bet a hat," he muttered.
"By the bones of Fanny Kelly, I'll make him smart for it."
Even Aubrey, picking up the trail again, could see that Roger
"Something's got his goat," he reflected. "I wonder what he's
They crossed Broad Street and Roger started off down Chestnut.
Aubrey saw the bookseller halt in a doorway to light his pipe,
and stopped some yards behind him to look up at the statue of William
Penn on the City Hall. It was a blustery day, and at that moment a gust
of wind whipped off his hat and sent it spinning down Broad Street.
He ran half a block before he recaptured it. When he got back
to Chestnut, Roger had disappeared. He hurried down Chestnut Street,
bumping pedestrians in his eagerness, but at Thirteenth he halted
in dismay. Nowhere could he see a sign of the little bookseller.
He appealed to the policeman at that corner, but learned nothing.
Vainly he scoured the block and up and down Juniper Street. It was eleven
o'clock, and the streets were thronged.
He cursed the book business in both hemispheres, cursed himself,
and cursed Philadelphia. Then he went into a tobacconist's and bought
a packet of cigarettes.
For an hour he patrolled up and down Chestnut Street, on both
sides of the way, thinking he might possibly encounter Roger.
At the end of this time he found himself in front of a newspaper office,
and remembered that an old friend of his was an editorial writer on
the staff. He entered, and went up in the elevator.
He found his friend in a small grimy den, surrounded by a sea
of papers, smoking a pipe with his feet on the table.
They greeted each other joyfully.
"Well, look who's here!" cried the facetious journalist.
"Tamburlaine the Great, and none other! What brings you to this
Aubrey grinned at the use of his old college nickname.
"I've come to lunch with you, and borrow enough money to get
"On Monday?" cried the other. "Tuesday being the day of stipend
in these quarters? Nay, say not so!"
They lunched together at a quiet Italian restaurant,
and Aubrey narrated tersely the adventures of the past few days.
The newspaper man smoked pensively when the story was concluded.
"I'd like to see the girl," he said. "Tambo, your tale hath the ring
of sincerity. It is full of sound and fury, but it signifieth something.
You say your man is a second-hand bookseller?"
"Then I know where you'll find him."
"It's worth trying. Go up to Leary's, 9 South Ninth.
It's right on this street. I'll show you."
"Let's go," said Aubrey promptly.
"Not only that," said the other, "but I'll lend you my last V. Not
for your sake, but on behalf of the girl. Just mention my name to her,
"Right up the block," he pointed as they reached Chestnut Street.
"No, I won't come with you, Wilson's speaking to Congress to-day,
and there's big stuff coming over the wire. So long, old man.
Invite me to the wedding!"
Aubrey had no idea what Leary's was, and rather expected it to be
a tavern of some sort. When he reached the place, however, he saw why
his friend had suggested it as a likely lurking ground for Roger.
It would be as impossible for any bibliophile to pass this famous
second-hand bookstore as for a woman to go by a wedding party
without trying to see the bride. Although it was a bleak day,
and a snell wind blew down the street, the pavement counters
were lined with people turning over disordered piles of volumes.
Within, he could see a vista of white shelves, and the many-coloured
tapestry of bindings stretching far away to the rear of the building.
He entered eagerly, and looked about. The shop was comfortably busy,
with a number of people browsing. They seemed normal enough
from behind, but in their eyes he detected the wild, peering glitter
of the bibliomaniac. Here and there stood members of the staff.
Upon their features Aubrey discerned the placid and philosophic
tranquillity which he associated with second-hand booksellers--
all save Mifflin.
He paced through the narrow aisles, scanning the blissful throng
of seekers. He went down to the educational department in the basement,
up to the medical books in the gallery, even back to the sections of
Drama and Pennsylvania History in the raised quarterdeck at the rear.
There was no trace of Roger.
At a desk under the stairway he saw a lean, studious, and
kindly-looking bibliosoph, who was poring over an immense catalogue.
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