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At The Bookstall
by [?]

But he has other things than papers to sell. He knows who buys those little sixpenny books of funny stories–a problem which has often puzzled us others; he understands by now the type of man who wants to read up a few good jokes to tell them down at old Robinson’s, where he is going for the week-end. Our bookstall clerk doesn’t wait to be asked. As soon as this gentleman approaches, he whips out the book, dusts it, and places it before the raconteur. He recognizes also at a glance the sort of silly ass who is always losing his indiarubber umbrella ring. Half-way across the station he can see him, and he hastens to get a new card out in readiness. (“Or we would let you have seven for sixpence, sir.”) And even when one of those subtler characters draws near, about whom it is impossible to say immediately whether they require a fountain pen with case or the Life and Letters, reduced to 3s. 6d., of Major-General Clement Bulger, C.B., even then the man behind the bookstall is not found wanting. If he is wrong the first time, he never fails to recover with his second. “Bulger, sir. One of our greatest soldiers.”

I thought of these things last Monday, and definitely renounced the idea of becoming a grocer; and as I wandered round the bookstall, thinking, I came across a little book, sixpence in cloth, a shilling in leather, called Proverbs and Maxims. It contained some thousands of the best thoughts in all languages, such as have guided men along the path of truth since the beginning of the world, from “What ho, she bumps!” to “Ich dien,” and more. The thought occurred to me that an interesting article might be extracted from it, so I bought the book. Unfortunately enough I left it in the train before I had time to master it. I shall be at the bookstall next Monday and I shall have to buy another copy. That will be all right; you shan’t miss it.

But I am wondering now what the bookstall clerk will make of me. A man who keeps on buying Proverbs and Maxims. Well, as I say, they see life.