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A Fog In Santone
[Published in The Cosmopolitan , October, 1912. Probably written in 1904, or shortly
The drug clerk looks sharply at the white face half concealed by the high-turned overcoat
"I would rather not supply you," he said doubtfully. "I sold you a dozen morphine tablets
less than an hour ago."
The customer smiles wanly. "The fault is in your crooked streets. I didn't intend to call
upon you twice, but I guess I got tangled up. Excuse me."
He draws his collar higher, and moves out, slowly. He stops under an electric light at the
corner, and juggles absorbedly with three or four little pasteboard boxes. "Thirty-six," he
announces to himself. "More than plenty." For a gray mist had swept upon Santone that
night, an opaque terror that laid a hand to the throat of each of the city's guests. It was
computed that three thousand invalids were hibernating in the town. They had come from
far and wide, for here, among these contracted river-sliced streets, the goddess Ozone has
elected to linger.
Purest atmosphere, sir, on earth! You might think from the river winding through our
town that we are malarial, but, no, sir! Repeated experiments made both by the
Government and local experts show that our air contains nothing deleterious—nothing
but ozone, sir, pure ozone. Litmus paper tests made all along the river show—but you can
read it all in the prospectuses; or the Santonian will recite it for you, word by word.
We may achieve climate, but weather is thrust upon us. Santone, then, cannot be blamed
for this cold gray fog that came and kissed the lips of the three thousand, and then
delivered them to the cross. That night the tubercles, whose ravages hope holds in check,
multiplied. The writhing fingers of the pale mist did not go thence bloodless. Many of the
wooers of ozone capitulated with the enemy that night, turning their faces to the wall in
that dumb, isolated apathy that so terrifies their watchers. On the red stream of
Hemorrhagia a few souls drifted away, leaving behind pathetic heaps, white and chill as
the fog itself. Two or three came to view this atmospheric wraith as the ghost of
impossible joys, sent to whisper to them of the egregious folly it is to inhale breath into
the lungs, only to exhale it again, and these used whatever came handy to their relief,
pistols, gas or the beneficent muriate.
The purchaser of the morphia wanders into the fog, and at length, finds himself upon a
little iron bridge, one of the score or more in the heart of the city, under which the small
tortuous river flows. He leans on the rail and gasps, for here the mist has concentrated,
lying like a foot-pad to garrote such of the Three Thousand as creep that way. The iron