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The Brand of Silence A Detective Story

The Brand of Silence
A Detective Story

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Now the fog was clearing and the mist was lifting, and the bright sunshine was struggling to penetrate the billows of damp vapor and touch with its glory the things of the world beneath. In the lower harbor there still was a chorus of sirens and foghorns, as craft of almost every description made way toward the metropolis or out toward the open sea.

The Manatee, tramp steamer with rusty plates and rattling engines and a lurch like that of a drunken man, wallowed her way in from the turbulent ocean she had fought for three days, her skipper standing on the bridge and inaudibly giving thanks that he was nearing the end of the voyage without the necessity for abandoning his craft for an open boat, or remaining to go down with the ship after the manner of skippers of the old school.

Here and there showed a rift in the rolling fog, and those who braved the weather and lined the damp rail could see other craft in passing.

A giant liner made her way past majestically, bound for Europe, or a seagoing tug clugged by as if turning up her nose at the old, battered Manatee.

Standing at the rail, and well forward, Sidney Prale strained his eyes and looked ahead, watching where the fog lifted, an eager light in his face, his lips curved in a smile, a general expression of anticipation about him.

Sidney Prale himself was not bad to look at. Thirty-eight he was, tall and broad of shoulder, with hair that was touched with gray at the temples, with a face that had been browned by the weather. Sidney Prale had the appearance of wearing clothes that had been molded to his form. He had a chin that expressed decision and determination, lips that could form in a thin, straight line if occasion required, eyes that could be kind or stern, according to the needs of the moment. A man of the world would have said that Sidney Prale was a gentleman of broad experience, a man who had presence of mind in the face of danger, a man who could think quickly and act quickly when such things were necessary.

He was not alone at the rail—and yet he was alone in a sense, for he gave no one the slightest attention. He bent over and looked ahead eagerly, waving a hand now and then at the men on passing craft, like a schoolboy on an excursion trip. He listened to the bellowing sirens and foghorns, drank in the raucous cries of the ship's officers, strained his ears for the land sounds that rolled now and then across the waters.

"It's great—great!" Sidney Prale said, half aloud.

He bent over the rail again. A hand descended upon his shoulder, and a voice answered him.

"You bet it's great, Prale!"

Sidney Prale's smile weakened a bit as he turned around, but there was nothing of discourtesy in his manner.

"You like it, Mr. Shepley?" he asked.

"Do I like it? Does Rufus Shepley, forced to run here and there around the old world in the name of business, like it when he gets the chance to return to New York? Ask me!"

"I have my answer," Prale said, laughing a bit. "And judge, then, how I like it—when I have not seen it for ten years."

"Haven't seen New York for ten years?" Rufus Shepley gasped....