What They Say

16th October 1906

To the editor,

As I wake this morning, I hear one of your boys shouting outside my flat, and as I am curious individual, I made quick work to read what you were telling. Now, I don’t presume to fulfil your work, yet I’ve got you an updated beat on that bookseller story. As I’m sure you know already, they say he stole it from a corpse. They even say he killed his father for it. You know they say he’ll soon find vengeance over his death, over his murderer. They said he’d slay any man or woman who wore it and they said he did. They said, yet no one heard their heads hit the stone, and now we tremble. What exactly do we tremble over?

See to contacting Commissioner Hershly if you wish for the truth.

Yours,

Anonymously

Concerning that tall fellow,

The legends of stupendous hats are not always of flowers and sunshine — though I will most likely mention at least one flower — there are, as curious as it may be, dark shadows with fangs and nails lurking about a corner here or there. However, I implore you, with this acknowledgement in mind, not to tell our dear Bartholomew Jones this fact, for he does not concern himself with such discussion. Books are far more his interest.

You see, Bartholomew Jones is a bookstore keeper — specialising in older volumes, as would only be appropriate. He is a tall, gauntly, and lengthy man who enjoys tailed coats, bowties, and greased back hair (flyaways are not Bartholomew’s interest, after all). And, as his appearance may suggest, he is a particularly awkward individual, boding unwell in most socially demanding situations. However, when the right seeker of good story comes to ring his little bell on his little door, the person that is Bartholomew Jones lightens up like a blazing torch in a darkened alleyway.

“It is a very lovely read, my friend! A very lovely read!” proudly states Bartholomew, in his ever so high and scratchy voice, his hands clasped in front of him, and grinning wildly.

The visitor, of course, looks up from the dusty volume grasped in hand and catches a sight of Bartholomew Jones’ astounding excitement. And, as contagious as joy may be, on a particular moment with a particular visitor on each day, the visitor of Bartholomew Jone’s little dusty bookshoppe purchases said volume with a click in their heels of excitement.

So, you see my friend, that is the daily occurrence of Bartholomew Jones. A visitor enters through his little door and, when he leaves that cozy little paperbound emporium, he leaves with story’s joy strapped over his face, a well loved novel wrapped in hands.

“It is a very lovely read, a very lovely!” shouts Bartholomew, passing the contagion to another.

“Fantastic, is it not?! One of my utmost favourites!” each time, each visitor , each catching this inky cold.

And yet, then, also each day, like a fated curse of the leviathan catching its own tail, a visitor listens to the ding of the cash register with their curious little eyes falling down from Bartholomew’s enlightened mask of joy to a unique hat, unpriced, sitting unexpectedly beside the rusty old cash machine. “What ever is this delightful thing?” they interrogate of our gauntly bookkeeper, who purposefully keeps it unpriced and unsightly.

“Oh, that is nothing, nothing at all,” quietly exhales Bartholomew Jones, “Those pages in your hand are far more intriguing than that, I do promise.”

Of course, the visitors to Bartholomew Jones are never so dull to merely purchase a delightful read, to merely ignore that curious felt. No, my friend, if they happen to notice its allure, they most certainly must purchase its ownership.

“Sixty!” they exclaim, determined to make the purchase, “I will give you sixty for this wondrous item!”

“It is really nothing. I implore you, forget it,” hushes out the slender man behind the counter, “You do not want it. I promise.”

“I will add another six. What of that?” persistently, “I simply must have it!  I am a cobbler sir, a cobbler! My shoes necessitate a matching northern cap. I insist, sir!”

Of course, our bookkeeper is a bit of a pushover when it comes to enthusiasm; so, with a sigh and another ding of that old metal coin machine, Bartholomew Jones’s stubborn visitor leaves with a unique hat upon his almond shaped head.

For every visitor a “Very lovely read!” is insisted, and for our reluctant hatter an “I must insist,” is persuaded.

Again, and again, and again, every day passes by with the spreading of paper wings and the leaving of an odd little cap. Each day passes and each day begins with the warm embrace of felt and ink. This is the daily life of Bartholomew Jones. Until the little bell on his little door shouts adieu to the slender bookseller and the evening takes its place, all who pass will leave with a new accompaniment, and enthusiasm in their hearts.

When night falls with fog forming on that little bookshoppe, the narrow roads of old stone and gently lit lamps creep into a sombre quietly. Heavy and thick shadows wash through the city’s various crevices. The howls of dogs turn to whimpering dreams. And, with a passing adieu, Bartholomew Jones wanders, looking behind his shoulder after each passing corner, from his little door to the confined chamber of his bedding. The wild night rages about his little store. The horrible darkness floods from closed pages. Then slowly, ever so slowly, as night consumes, the moon passes across the clouded sky. Then slowly still, the darkness shifts through vacant roads, till a soft blue haze glows over wetted rooftops. And, with enthusiasm, the paperboys enter the pebbled streets and shout of the horrors from the closing dark pages.

“Wuxtry, wuxtry! Hear the yell, cobbler on 2nd found dead on 3rd!”

The orchestra of murders and terrors surround Bartholomew Jones as he slides from corner to corner to his little book laden hole in the wall.

“Wuxtry, wuxtry! Hear the yell, cobbler on 2nd found dead on 3rd!”

Clop, clop, clop, Bartholomew’s monk strapped loafers dance until a climatic exeunt with a little bell on a little door, flooded with the amber smell of old paper leaves. The lights of his shelves flicker and cricket on to a flip of a switch, the tall gaunt man settles his seat behind the little metal machine, and a tall unique hat, returned from its slow and dark night, sits lonesomely beside him, awaiting its next companion’s embrace.

The day shifts into life and glows dimly through lace curtained windows.

About eleven, when his visits frequent the most — the adjacent shoppe of quaint teas drawing a crowd — and being a likewise lover of especially dark brews, an unusual visitor wandered through his little door. One to play a more unique role in his daily endeavour, one to amend our Bartholomew Jone’s daily routine forever. One to concern herself with a different route that fall laden day.

She were a tall woman, dark, though not entirely sombre. Hair tied behind ears with a lace and ribbon bow, she wore a well fitting dress of proper, black lace, with a surprisingly low, yet still modest cut. She was, perhaps, not as much a beauty as the well dressed vase of roses, which happened to sit on Bartholomew’s desk, yet she was also quite the looker. However, I must admit that our Mr. Jones found the woman particularly pausing. No other visitor that day seemed to matter much in the sequential hours.

She lingered about his back shelves for quite a few moments, not at all the usual prologue to any of Mr. Jones’s sales, as most immediately make his acquaintance. She, however, was not at all his usual routine. She did not find his little shoppe for desire of direction, but rather quite knew her beloved pages; in truth, she had perhaps read more than our tall, gauntly bookkeeper, which is quite a feat if you knew him personally, though few did. She wandered his shelves, pulling out volume after volume, opening page to page, inhaling their alluring perfume, and gaily grinning — not entirely different than Mr. Jones himself.

When she did finally find her way to our coattailed, bowtied, greasy haired bibliophile, he was silenced by social weariness and, of course, infatuation. “Good luncheon, my tall gentleman,” she exclaimed with an enthusiasm unlike himself, holding a red bound novel, “a rather lovely little emporium you have yourself here. I knew the moment that little bell rang, that I had found just the right sort of place,” she leaned upon his counter, her large forestry eyes fixed upon his own, “You know what I mean, hon?”

For once, not by the sake of business or questions unconcerned with inked paper, Bartholomew Jones found himself without much reply; he simply smiled giddily and nodded.

She turned and leaned her backside against his counter, her lace-bowed hair brushing the countertop; he still stared, smiling; “I simply love how delightful it smells in here!” she esteemed — Bartholomew noticed that she herself smelled of light frankincense, rose, and a sweet powdery perfume, like the leaves of a beautiful book — “Do you think Katrina was innocent, hon?”

Bartholomew still said nothing; she were such an odd publication.

“You know what I think?” she swung around and stared intently into his eyes, “I think she found Ichabod beloved, found him…” she spoke in a hushed tone, “unique. Do you think she may have?” She giggled, but in a mature sort of way, not that of children laughing but of an intimate partner. Then, walking with long strides across the room, fiddling her hair with one hand as the other still held the book, she continued, “I believe that Katrina had ofttimes seen Mr. Ichabod, had observed his demeanour, and especially the excitement that overcame him in respectable times. I believe that when others observed his oddities as unfortunate symptoms, she found them to be an endearment.”

Returning back to Bartholomew’s counter, the woman laid her hands down, pushing the book toward him, “How much, hon?” she asked, looking again, intently into his eyes. “One, umm, one shilling,” he returned awkwardly.

Gently tickling his hand as she gave him the coin, she left with a flirty wave and a, “See you again, hon,” as the ding of his little bell rang. The rest of that day was rather uneventful, besides an insistent baker who left with his head well dressed: the newsboys spoke of him in the morning.

The following day, after wuxtrys and morning routines, Bartholomew Jones was once more welcomed to the presence of a tall and dark woman of lace ties. She bought another old dusty volume, having already naturally finished the one prior, and conversed at Mr. Jones for a little bit longer than the previous — he spoke, perhaps, a few additional words back at her — and then she left once more with a, “See you again, hon,” ringing through his little door with a new little book in hand.

For the days to come, she became a routine of Bartholomew Jones, growing him more and more from that awkward, lengthly socialite of pages to something new. She were the brightest part of his days, even brighter than the excitement found in dusty pages about him. She were the daily moment he awaited, the ding that excited him most.

Somedays, especially, when his visitors are more serious than usual, she is particularly welcome. For, about three weeks following their slowly met relation, an  exceptionally serious, and not too brightly kept visitor, found Bartholomew Jones’s little shoppe. “G’morning, sir,” he said darkly, coming into his shoppe about the same hour he met his dear new lover of words, “you the keeper of this dusty closet?”

Of course he were the keeper; he sat behind the register, did he not? Bartholomew nodded with a mellow face. It was a near disappointment not to find her joining him at this hour, as opposed to this stuffy visitor.

“You sell this wee volume?” he asked, holding up an old green book.

Bartholomew Jones’ face lit up with enthusiasm, at last something of interest, “I most certainly do, my friend.  A very, very lovely read. Do you inquire another, perhaps?”

The serious visitor narrowed his eyes and pinched his lips, placing the book on Bartholomew’s counter without leaving his eye-hold of the gaunt bookseller. “You sell this volume to a short gentleman a few weeks prior: wore nice shoes?” he asked, far too soberly.

Bartholomew Jones’ face lost interest — never quite the business enthusiast after all, “Yes, I suppose I may have.”

The man gauntly, slightly, “You have record of this sale? You seen him since, have you?”

Bartholomew Jones sighed — business, business — and, reaching beneath his counter, pulled out his record of sale; Leonard Rutley, he read, then showed the serious visitor, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights 1s., old hat £66.

“Old hat?” the man paused, inquiring, “for 66 pounds?” He paused again, noticing a more recent sale, Marly Buckins — Doyle’s The Sign of the Four 2s., old hat £59. “You sell an old hat to the deceased often, do you? Buckins payed less, I see. Trade pastries for it, huh?” then, looking beside the record book and to the unique hat that sat beside the old money machine, he continued, “You bargain a high price for old hats.”

Bartholomew sighed once more, “They insisted.”

The serious visitor looked up at Bartholomew with a clever and certain face, then picked up the unique hat and held it up like an arrogant trophy, eyeing it, “Neither bodies were found with a hat, you know?” peeking at Bartholomew and then back at the hat, “Wonder where it went,” the visitor snuffed.

“I am a bookseller, sir, not a hatter. Can I interest you in a read?” Bartholomew Jones truly did not enjoy his conversations revolving that hat: far too much business.

“What would make a man buy such an old hat for such a large sum,” the visitor continued, ignoring Bartholomew’s interjection, “doesn’t look too fancy at all.” The serious visitor once more eyed Bartholomew and then returned to the hat.

Sighing, our bookkeeper returned the record of sale to its drawer and replied to the visitor, “I cannot say why either man or any person, for that instance, has such interest in the hat. It is not my intent to sell any sort of hat — I am a bookseller, nothing more — but the hat insists what the hat insists and so it is sold. Yet, please sir, can I interest you in anything besides this felt cap, perhaps an ever delightful read?”

The visitor set the hat back beside the metal coin machine, stared intently at it for  a moment, and then returned his gaze to a slightly flustered Bartholomew, “Very well, Mr. Bookseller,” he said, with an intention besides literature on mind, “what read would you liken to me?”

Bartholomew paused for a moment, regained his composure, and then, returning to his usual self, lit up and strode with long steps to the back of his shoppe. He pulled a small amber novel from the book-cladded shelf and returned. He paused once more before the visitor, holding the novel in his hands, and similarly staring intently at the other, said, “Here, my good sir, I am quite certain you will appreciate these pages. C. Auguste Dupin should more readily fit your posolute disposition.”

The visitor hesitated, taken back by Bartholomew’s absoluteness; yet, as is the custom with all who wander in through that little door to that little bookstore, the moment he took the volume from its keeper’s hands, the enthusiasm, which flowed through the veins of Bartholomew, washed into hisself, likewise. The remainder of the visitor’s time was as usual book-business with as usual conversing, besides a slight interjection for speak over his aforementioned questions of hattery.

Eventually, when it came the time, the bell rang once again for his visitor’s departure, and Bartholomew, retuning to his drawer, etched into his records, Chief Inspector Carmen Adams — Edgar Allen Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue: The Dupin Tales 1s., old hat £83. It is, you know, an odd thing how enthusiasm can drive any man to purchase quite nearly anything that demands certain attention. Quite nearly anything, I admit.

After an hour or so, his dear bibliophile lady joined him and they held a long conversation on the modern Prometheus, which shifted into a discussion on Anna Karenina, followed by an unusual discussion on brews of tea. The remainder of Bartholomew’s day was rather usual, with few mentionables. However, as we shift into these final acts, it should be noted that our Mr. Jones tends to find sleep an occasional wanderer. The night is such a lonesome thing, after all.

The next day, as is the custom with newsboys to exclaim nightly concerns, “Wuxtry, wuxtry!” they yelped throughout the streets, “Hear the yell, bobby dead on 10th ave!” The crick-cricket and flick-flicker of lights welcomed Bartholomew Jones once more, and he once more joined the accompaniment of the felt phantom that sat beside his little metal machine of little metal coin. His days progressed as usual, sitting and awaiting the ding of his little bell, and finding particular joy when his particularly tall and lacy visitor rang.

On a certain day, when the dew across wet rooftops had finally turned to a sludgy ice, and gentle breezes stung too early in the day, the usual routines of Bartholomew Jones retracted to yet another alternating alternation.

Morning haze, as is usual, stalked our Bartholomew up to his shoppe, yet not alone, which is not usual. For the first time, he was not met unoccupied by his door, but was met by a lovely little voice from the cold fog about its opening, “Mr. Jones,” it spoke, “you received a telegram hon, clapped to your little dear door.”

“I believe I might appreciate this new sort of morning,” he said joyfully, smiling when he found his tall lovely lady standing in the morning fog of his doorstep, “Read it, would you, for me,” he said with a starey smile.

She nodded gladly, “MR. BARTHOLOMEW JONES,” she began, in a deeper  and precise voice, imitating its formality, “You are summoned for questioning in matters of justice. Please report to — wait now, Mr. Jones!” she interjected, “You never said you were a member of the court!”

Bartholomew smiled and unlocked the door. “What do you think it’s about, hon?” she asked, entering in with him, “What ever could they insist a bookseller for.”

“I have read my fair share of murder mysteries, you know,” he replied, smiling, as he tidied up his counter and flickered the lights on. She, however, did not reply. Rather, it was silent, darkly cold and amber, as though her presence was entirely vacant from the shoppe, her ghost saved from even a shadow.

Bartholomew froze what he were doing, stood, and turned to her.

Stilly, as though the sight of burning Sodom had encaptured her carcass, she stared with an intoxicated awe, like how a child watches events unfold beyond their understanding.

“Weren’t it bought?” she finally spoke, quietly.

Bartholomew sighed a breath and then walked about the counter to her, taking hold of her hands with his gentle book handling fingers, “You shouldn’t concern yourself with it. It does what it pleases.”

“But it wasn’t,” she paused, “it wasn’t here last night, Mr. Jones.”

Letting up her hands, Bartholomew graced his finger on her chin, turning her gaze from the hat, “You shouldn’t concern yourself with it,” he repeated.

She smiled, then raised her hand to his cheek, and chuckled, “Mr. Jones, darling.”

He returned to his tidying, propping the leaning novels and closing the opened dark gothics. It was about time for opening.

“You know what, hon!” she shouted from the front, “I think I might fancy that odd little cap! I might borrow it for the day even.”

Bartholomew bolted to the front of the shoppe, “I will have no such thing!” he demanded.

She laughed, lifting it from the counter, “I’ll bring it back, of course.”

“I forbid it!” he shouted, as he tore it from her hands.

Her face fell red, redder than he had ever seen it, nearly as red as her own lipstick, “Bartholomew Jones,” she spoke sternly, “I am not your commonplace tramp, which you can boss about however you please. You should know this. If you would have me be any other customer, then so be it. Yet, if you hold any affection for me, then I expect to be treated with far more respect and affection than your usual inept sightseer.”

Bartholomew trembled, and his face fell solemn, “I,” he stuttered out, “I apologise,” he sighed heavily, “If you wish to take it, then you may, but please return it to the counter before nightfall. It doesn’t appreciate being gone past nightfall. It’s not safe in those hours.”

She sighed, and then affectionately walked to him, “Who knows,” she said coyly, taking the hat from his trembling fingers and placing it upon Bartholomew’s own head, “maybe it would make a nice addition to your wedding suit.”

He smiled with his eyes, too reserved to fulfil a ceremonial bridal kiss that very moment.

“Before nightfall,” she repeated, taking the hat back from his head and turning it to her own.

He wanted to stop her, wanted to call out, wanted to burn it, but she walked from him, blowing a kiss in his direction as her heels clicked in a pendulumic sway out the door, while a new costumer entered in from behind her. His little door’s bell rang.

The day shifted on: brunch, elevenses, noon, and teatime. The day shifted on slowly and steadily. About the time he began to notice the lowering of the clouded sun’s glow, there came a hammering at his door — not a knocking, as one might suppose, but a hammering.

Bartholomew left his counter and opened the door, curious for what to find. A short and stalky fellow with polished boots, brass buttons, and a bell shaped helmet was hammering a formal notice to his doorframe. “By order of the court,” the man began, not looking over to his shoppe keeper, but continuing to hammer, “we are necessitating that this here facility be closed until further notice, pending future investigations.”

The man then stopped hammering, turned, looked straight into — or was it straight through — Bartholomew Jones, “Good day,” he spoke shortly, and then walked away.

Unsure what to do, he returned to his counter and emptied the register, turning out the lights.

“She can bring it to my home, then I can return it here,” he thought to himself, locking the door with its newly accompanied plaque, “She will,” he reminded himself.

The twilight turned to dusk and the dusk turned to evening, and the evening turned to yet another night without a hat in its rightful place. Bartholomew Jones slept little this night.

He was late leaving his flat the next morning, as would be expected with his shoppe now deemed closed. The dawn and mist still went on, however, filling its streets with a smoggy fume. It was about eleven, the peak of his working day, that he finally left his room, and made his way to the little door of his little shoppe. Most the paperboys were gone by then, having rid themselves of all their printed press; yet one, who was still recovering from an ill throat, was also later than his usual routine, and thus still standing on a pebble corner, shouting with a broken voice, “Wuxtry, wuxtry! Hear the yell, daughter of wealthy craftsman found dead in corridor!”

Bartholomew Jones entered his shoppe, yet did not flicker the lights. He was gone for a moment, disappeared into its precluded mouth, yet eventually returned back out, locked his door, and left his dusty little bookstore with his favourite old volume in hand and a unique old hat upon his head. The little bell on the little door said adieu one last time to the keeper of this little shoppe and he lastly wandered home through the fog-laden cobble streets of his final flâner.

The newsboys would call out their usual wuxtrys that following morning, “Wuxtry, wuxtry! Hear the yell, bookman…” and you know the rest. The little store would collect an added layer of dust for a time, then be taken up by a baker or hatter or something or the other. I’ve heard it said a market of some sort may look into acquiring it in the following months.

When the evening comes, and the moon returns itself into vacant roads and draughty windows, they say between the whistle of breezes in foggy airs, you can catch a glimpse of a gauntly man in a tailed coat walking besides a lacy woman with long hair. You know, of course, what they say, just as you know of the old and unpriced hat that sat upon a wooden counter, till another tenant tossed it elsewhere. They say, you know, so many odd little things about odd little people and hats. Concerning such, that is what they say, after all.

Most cordially,

Sire

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