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  The Dawn of A To-morrow Frances Hodgson Burnett

Chapter II

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As he went down the narrow staircase, covered with its dingy and threadbare carpet, he found the house so full of dirty yellow haze that he realized that the fog must be of the extraordinary ones which are remembered in after-years as abnormal specimens of their kind. He recalled that there had been one of the sort three years before, and that traffic and business had been almost entirely stopped by it, that accidents had happened in the streets, and that people having lost their way had wandered about turning corners until they found themselves far from their intended destinations and obliged to take refuge in hotels or the houses of hospitable strangers. Curious incidents had occurred and odd stories were told by those who had felt themselves obliged by circumstances to go out into the baffling gloom. He guessed that something of a like nature had fallen upon the town again. The gas-light on the landings and in the melancholy hall burned feebly--so feebly that one got but a vague view of the rickety hat-stand and the shabby overcoats and head-gear hanging upon it. It was well for him that he had but a corner or so to turn before he reached the pawnshop in whose window he had seen the pistol he intended to buy.

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When he opened the street-door he saw that the fog was, upon the whole, perhaps even heavier and more obscuring, if possible, than the one so well remembered. He could not see anything three feet before him, he could not see with distinctness anything two feet ahead. The sensation of stepping forward was uncertain and mysterious enough to be almost appalling. A man not sufficiently cautious might have fallen into any open hole in his path. Antony Dart kept as closely as possible to the sides of the houses. It would have been easy to walk off the pavement into the middle of the street but for the edges of the curb and the step downward from its level. Traffic had almost absolutely ceased, though in the more important streets link-boys were making efforts to guide men or four-wheelers slowly along. The blind feeling of the thing was rather awful. Though but few pedestrians were out, Dart found himself once or twice brushing against or coming into forcible contact with men feeling their way about like himself.

"One turn to the right," he repeated mentally, "two to the left, and the place is at the corner of the other side of the street."

He managed to reach it at last, but it had been a slow, and therefore, long journey. All the gas-jets the little shop owned were lighted, but even under their flare the articles in the window--the one or two once cheaply gaudy dresses and shawls and men's garments--hung in the haze like the dreary, dangling ghosts of things recently executed. Among watches and forlorn pieces of old-fashioned jewelry and odds and ends, the pistol lay against the folds of a dirty gauze shawl. There it was. It would have been annoying if someone else had been beforehand and had bought it.

Inside the shop more dangling spectres hung and the place was almost dark. It was a shabby pawnshop, and the man lounging behind the counter was a shabby man with an unshaven, unamiable face.

"I want to look at that pistol in the right-hand corner of your window," Antony Dart said.

The pawnbroker uttered a sound something between a half-laugh and a grunt. He took the weapon from the window.

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The Dawn of A To-morrow
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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