“It is so good that if I knew any way of doing so I’d insist on Mr. Wilson reading it on his voyage to France. I wish I could get it onto his ship. My, what a book! It makes one positively ill with pity and terror. Sometimes I wake up at night and look out of the window and imagine I hear Hardy laughing. I get him a little mixed up with the Deity, I fear. But he’s a bit too hard for you to tackle.”
Titania was puzzled, and said nothing. But her busy mind made a note of its own: Hardy, hard to read, makes one ill, try it.
“What did you think of the books I put in your room?” said Roger. He had vowed to wait until she made some comment unsolicited, but he could not restrain himself.
“In my room?” she said. “Why, I’m sorry, I never noticed them!”
“Well, my dear,” said Roger after supper that evening, “I think perhaps we had better introduce Miss Titania to our custom of reading aloud.”
“Perhaps it would bore her?” said Helen. “You know it isn’t everybody that likes being read to.”
“Oh, I should love it!” exclaimed Titania. “I don’t think anybody ever read to me, that is not since I was a child.”
“Suppose we leave you to look after the shop,” said Helen to Roger, in a teasing mood, “and I’ll take Titania out to the movies. I think Tarzan is still running.”
Whatever private impulses Miss Chapman may have felt, she saw by the bookseller’s downcast face that a visit to Tarzan would break his heart, and she was prompt to disclaim any taste for the screen classic.
“Dear me,” she said; “Tarzan—that’s all that nature stuff by John Burroughs; isn’t it? Oh, Mrs. Mifflin, I think it would be very tedious. Let’s have Mr. Mifflin read to us. I’ll get down my knitting bag.”
“You mustn’t mind being interrupted,” said Helen. “When anybody rings the bell Roger has to run out and tend the shop.”
“You must let me do it,” said Titania. “I want to earn my wages, you know.”
“All right,” said Mrs. Mifflin; “Roger, you settle Miss Chapman in the den and give her something to look at while we do the dishes.”
But Roger was all on fire to begin the reading. “Why don’t we postpone the dishes,” he said, “just to celebrate?”
“Let me help,” insisted Titania. “I should think washing up would be great fun.”
“No, no, not on your first evening,” said Helen. “Mr. Mifflin and I will finish them in a jiffy.”
So Roger poked up the coal fire in the den, disposed the chairs, and gave Titania a copy of Sartor Resartus to look at. He then vanished into the kitchen with his wife, whence Titania heard the cheerful clank of crockery in a dishpan and the splashing of hot water. “The best thing about washing up,” she heard Roger say, “is that it makes one’s hands so clean, a novel sensation for a second-hand bookseller.”