This study is an investigation of the chemical changes in the Mount St. Helens fumarole gases up to October 1981, the sources of the fumarole gases, and the stability of gas species in the shallow magma system. These problems are investigated by calculations of element compositions, thermodynamic equilibria, and magmatic volatile-hydrothermal steam mixing models. The fumarole gases are treated as mixtures of magmatic volatiles and hydrothermal steam formed by magma degassing and boiling of local waters in a dryout zone near conduit and dome magma. The magmatic volatile fraction is significant in fumaroles with temperatures in excess of the magma cracking-temperature (??? 700??C) - i.e., the temperature below which cracking is induced by thermal stresses during cooling and solidification. Linear composition changes of the fumarole gases over time appear to be the result of a steady decline in the magmatic volatile mixing fraction, which may be due to the tapping of progressively volatile-depleted magma. The maximum proportion of hydrothermal steam in the fumaroles rose from about 25-35% in September 1980 to around 50-70% by October 1981. Fractional degassing of magmatic CO2 and sulfur also contributed to the chemical changes in the fumarole gases. The steady chemical changes indicate that replenishment of the magma system with undegassed magma was not significant between September 1980 and September 1981. Extrapolations of chemical trends suggest that fumarole gases emitted at the time of formation of the first dome in mid-June 1980 were more enriched in a magmatic volatile fraction and contained a minimum of 9% CO2. Calculations show H2S is the predominant sulfur species in Mount St. Helens magma below depths of 200 m. Rapid release of gases from magma below this depth is a plausible mechanism for producing the high H2S/SO2 observed in Mount St. Helens plumes during explosive eruptions. This study suggests that dacite-andesite volcanos may emit gases richer in CO2 during the earlier episodes of an eruptive cycle and burden the atmosphere with much more H2S than SO2 during explosive eruptions. ?? 1986.