He turned his own faucet and drew a glassful. “It is normally quite clear,” he added, holding the glass up.
It was in fact perfectly clear, and when he passed some of the gas through it nothing happened at all.
Just then a man lounged into the store.
“Hello, Doctor,” greeted the druggist. “Here are a couple of fellows that have been investigating the water up at Pearcy’s. They’ve found lead in it. That ought to interest you. This is Dr. Gunther,” he introduced, turning to us.
It was an unexpected encounter, one I imagine that Kennedy might have preferred to take place under other circumstances. But he was equal to the occasion.
“We’ve been sent up here to look into the case for the New York Star,” Kennedy said quickly. “I intended to come around to see you, but you have saved me the trouble.”
Dr. Gunther looked from one of us to the other. “Seems to me the New York papers ought to have enough to do without sending men all over the country making news,” he grunted.
“Well,” drawled Kennedy quietly, “there seems to be a most remarkable situation up there at Pearcy’s and Minturn’s, too. As nearly as I can make out several people there are suffering from unmistakable signs of lead poisoning. There are the pains in the stomach, the colic, and then on the gums is that characteristic line of plumbic sulphide, the distinctive mark produced by lead. There is the wrist-drop, the eyesight affected, the partial paralysis, the hallucinations and a condition in old Pearcy’s case almost bordering on insanity—to enumerate the symptoms that seem to be present in varying degrees in various persons in the two houses.”
Gunther looked at Kennedy, as if in doubt just how to take him.
“That’s what the coroner says, too—lead poisoning,” put in the druggist, himself as keen as anyone else for a piece of local news, and evidently not averse to stimulating talk from Dr. Gunther, who had been Pearcy’s physician.
“That all seems to be true enough,” replied Gunther at length guardedly. “I recognized that some time ago.”
“Why do you think it affects each so differently?” asked the druggist.
Dr. Gunther settled himself easily back in a chair to speak as one having authority. “Well,” he began slowly, “Miss Pearcy, of course, hasn’t been living there much until lately. As for the others, perhaps this gentleman here from the Star knows that lead, once absorbed, may remain latent in the system and then make itself felt. It is like arsenic, an accumulative poison, slowly collecting in the body until the limit is reached, or until the body, becoming weakened from some other cause, gives way to it.”
He shifted his position slowly, and went on, as if defending the course of action he had taken in the case.