Bones in London (Chapter 1, page 1 of 18)


 
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Chapter 1

There was a slump in the shipping market, and men who were otherwise
decent citizens wailed for one hour of glorious war, when Kenyon Line
Deferred had stood at 88 1/2, and even so poor an organization as
Siddons Steam Packets Line had been marketable at 3 3/8.

Two bareheaded men came down the busy street, their hands thrust into
their trousers pockets, their sleek, well-oiled heads bent in dejection.

No word they spoke, keeping step with the stern precision of soldiers.
Together they wheeled through the open doors of the Commercial Trust
Building, together they left-turned into the elevator, and
simultaneously raised their heads to examine its roof, as though in its
panelled ceiling was concealed some Delphic oracle who would answer the
riddle which circumstances had set them.

They dropped their heads together and stood with sad eyes, regarding
the attendant's leisurely unlatching of the gate. They slipped forth
and walked in single file to a suite of offices inscribed "Pole
Brothers, Brokers," and, beneath, "The United Merchant Shippers'
Corporation," and passed through a door which, in addition to this
declaration, bore the footnote "Private."

Here the file divided, one going to one side of a vast pedestal desk
and one to the other. Still with their hands pushed deep into their
pockets, they sank, almost as at a word of command, each into his
cushioned chair, and stared at one another across the table.

They were stout young men of the middle thirties, clean-shaven and
ruddy. They had served their country in the late War, and had made
many sacrifices to the common cause. One had worn uniform and one had
not. Joe had occupied some mysterious office which permitted and,
indeed, enjoined upon him the wearing of the insignia of captain, but
had forbidden him to leave his native land. The other had earned a
little decoration with a very big title as a buyer of boots for Allied
nations. Both had subscribed largely to War Stock, and a reminder of
their devotion to the cause of liberty was placed to their credit every
half-year.

 
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