Bierce’s Bookshop, continued
“I’m Lovecraft,” he said.
“Named after your father, or mother?”
“A man of letters?” I asked him.
“I have had a few short pieces published in less reputable publications,” he said ruefully, “alas perhaps my works are not for everyone. I see you’ve encountered my friend Mrs Wallace Spencer. A very spirited woman, is she not? She is helping me locate some rare volumes, as you can see. She is a very great help.”
Mrs Spencer and the proprietor, who I assumed must be some relation of Mr Bierce’s, were now yelling obscenities at each other.
“Forgive me. I usually keep myself to myself, but I’ve seen you have I not – with Mr Crowley?”
“Oh? You two know each other?”
“Chiefly through Mrs Spencer. Though he is a fellow enthusiast of Sumerian mythology.”
“Any friend of Mr Crowley is a friend of mine,” I assured him, trying to remember where I had met this worrisome creature. I wondered if it was only the gas light that gave the peculiar sickly greenish tinge to his complexion. I was sure that I would have remembered such an un-usual character. Then it occured to me that I had indeed seen him before, at a tea dance given by Ms Innsmouth at the local finishing school the week before, a presence felt more than seen, lurking furtively in a corner.
Many of the faces there at Ms Innsmouth’s had something of the same fraggled Rhode Island look, as I had come to think of it, as our Mr Lovecraft.
“Mr Lovecraft, I -”
“Call me Howard,” he insisted, changing his tune from earlier, perhaps having decided I was all right after all. “But you’re a fellow scribe, I see?” referring to the book I happened to have picked up and now held under my arm – a volume on the gods of ancient Babylon.
“Ah yes, oh, more of a hobby…” I bluffed. “I’m a journalist by trade. A few rough pieces published in some of the less reputable newspapers. Aleister has been educating me.”
“A fellow scholar. How quite absurd.” And he laughed, like a madman: “You must see Griffith’s film on the subject. Terrible Hollywood trash of course, but Aleister has a couple of deleted reels from the orgy scene that didn’t make it into the theatrical version. We ought to arrange for a screening some time.”
“Wonderful, I love the pictures,” opined Mrs Spencer, who was by now disentangling herself having seemingly made a succesful purchase, the item in question being wrapped up and held under her arm, a rare volume by some arabic writer on the occult whose name escapes me now. The faded, chapped brown cover peered from the top of the brown paper into which it had been ceremoniously inserted, not calfskin I decided, but some other more exotic animal hide.
“Mr Beckett is going to join us for one of Mr Crowley’s films.”
“Even better,” said Mrs Spencer, winking at me. “But now we really must be getting along. I’ll be late for my appointment with Doctor West.”
“Yes, of course my dear. But please tell our mutual friend Mr Becket to call by. I live at the old Phillips house with my aunt. Anyone in town can direct you. We men of imagination must stick together. For otherwise our vain gropings after art are little more than faint cries lost to the void.”